A business state of emergency

It’s amazing in a way to think that we’ve only gone a week and change since the NBA suspended its season in an effort to stifle the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. Since then we have endured a week of drastic bad news the likes of which we haven’t seen since 9/11 and perhaps longer. What was shaping up to be a pleasant spring routine has now been destroyed, along with the hopes and dreams of anyone who wanted to participate in the NCAA basketball tournament, their senior proms, and graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020, among countless other annual and special events.

On Tuesday night we resumed our bowling season under different rules, splitting the league squads into two shifts to keep the number in the bowling alley below 50. Unfortunately, that change was short-lived as Governor Carney expanded his previous State of Emergency order the next day to demand the closing of bowling alleys, among other businesses.

While I get the necessity of the closings to “flatten the curve” my problem is the open-endedness of such an order. While there is CDC guidance suggesting this will last about eight weeks, the reality is that many people and businesses can’t survive an eight-week shutdown, at least not without some sort of mitigation. I love how the private sector has moved into action in a lot of cases.

Now let me make a confession: I was sort of stuck as to how to continue this post, at least until I got a comment to Wednesday’s Patriot Post commentary that I shared by Mark Alexander. This response is from a person I’ve known for awhile who is well over on the other side of the political fence, and is quoted verbatim:

Jesus christ ppl are losing jobs, dying, mass hysteria, and hoarding of vital medical supplies. I am working as so many other low paid workers in constant contact with people of high and low risk of severe illness. This is not political. The facts are this we are not prepared and a clown is running the circus. I dont want people to lose their homes, jobs, lives. Or leader need to put their big girl panties on and do what’s right for the millions of Americans and not ask first what party or income bracket they belong in.

Reaction to social media post

This whole situation has been a balancing act I wouldn’t wish on anyone because you have two bad choices: go about normal life, leave the disease essentially unchecked, and overwhelm our health system, OR, shut down everything and place people out of work. President Trump has advised for the latter course but has left enforcement up to state and local officials. To me that’s the proper way to address this because they are more familiar with conditions on the ground, and besides: you can’t completely shut everything down because people have to eat.

And I have to ask: how do you prepare for something like this, a once-in-a-century disease? If we had somehow stocked up on respirators, medicine, and so forth ten years ago, say, as part of the stimulus, wouldn’t someone have complained that we were spending money to store supplies that might have deteriorated to the point of being useless by now anyway? It’s one thing to fill an oil reserve but quite another to stock up on testing kits for a disease that doesn’t exist at the time. Leaders can be prescient but I don’t think they’re often psychic.

So I will grant that we weren’t prepared, but then again that’s the nature of a crisis. We can only prepare ourselves so much for any particular risk so we go with what we know about risks we have experienced at the expense of other ones. (Cases in point: terrorist attacks begat the PATRIOT Act and Department of Homeland Security, both of which have survived nearly two decades now, and school shootings have necessitated upgrades to school buildings which do not necessarily improve the educational process.) After this Chinese virus has run its course we will probably go overboard with products and procedures that will be infringements on our wallets and liberty. (If it brings pharmaceutical manufacturing back from China, though, that would be a benefit.)

On the other hand, I don’t think we have a clown running the circus. A President Hillary Clinton would have dictated a more bureaucratic and more politically correct solution – in my opinion it would have paralleled Italy’s and sadly, that’s been a disaster for the Italian people who are sharing their misery with a huge Chinese national contingent within their nation. The experts have agreed that clamping down on travel from China when President Trump did may have saved thousands from getting the virus and overwhelming the American health care system. And, unfortunately, I don’t think slow Joe Biden would have fared any better than Hillary had this crisis occurred next year after his election. To a greater extent than we are already saddled with, the folks in a Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden administration would have seen this as a crisis they could have used to permanently secure more federal government power.

(That’s not to say those under Trump are immune – I’m somewhat leery of how we will address the financial end by setting a precedent of government payments. One can argue, however, that this direct payment would be compensation for the taking of one’s livelihood since many places of business were forced to close. Perhaps a complementary way to address this, though, would be to bolster state unemployment accounts.)

So thanks to my friend for giving me the inspiration to revise and extend these remarks – I started this on Wednesday but hadn’t felt the need to return to it until that response.

Splitting the opposition: the power couple

Editor’s note: Back in January I promised a multi-part series of posts based on a book I started on the Indivisible movement that, simply put, just wasn’t coming together as I would have liked. So I decided to serialize that beginning of a book draft – with a little more editing as I see fit – and add more writing to make this into a multi-part series of posts.

This is the second part, which will talk about the two primary leaders of Indivisible, the husband-and-wife team of Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg. To pick this series up from the beginning, go here.

It’s not just any out-of-town wedding that makes the New York Times, but among families of a certain social class and structure nuptials become part of all the news that’s fit to print regardless of their location. That station in life was where Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg fit in, thus their March 28, 2015 wedding was a short feature in the following day’s Gray Lady. As described at the time:

Greenberg works in Washington for Humanity United, a philanthropic foundation dedicated to peace and freedom. She manages grants and projects to combat human trafficking and slavery. She graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and received a master’s degree in law and diplomacy from Tufts.

Her father is the acting assistant secretary at the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, for which the bride’s mother, now retired, was a lawyer.

(…)

Mr. Levin, 29, is an associate director in Washington, specializing in the advocacy and research of tax and asset-building policies, for the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit organization that fights poverty. He also graduated from Carleton College and received a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton.

“Friends, First And Always”, New York Times, March 29, 2015.

Perhaps the only thing unusual about the event was the fact Levin was a Washington outsider by upbringing, as his parents were residents of Austin, Texas. Regardless, the wedding united two prototypical Beltway progressives and insiders in matrimony, and their future seemed bright in 2015: a Quinnipiac Poll earlier that month had Hillary Clinton with a vast lead for the Democratic nomination and, more importantly, an edge over leading GOP contenders former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. While it was a precarious 3-point edge over Jeb, Clinton led Walker by 9 points and all other prospective Republicans by 5 points or more.

Even as the Greenberg-Levin ceremony became a pleasant memory later that fall, there was still a feeling that the same formula which worked for the Left in 2008 and 2012 in electing and re-electing Barack Obama would be more than enough to defeat a Republican candidate who had either alienated enough of the moderate electorate to already be a loser (GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, who had announced his bid a few months earlier in June) or the rest of the field that would invariably place themselves at a disadvantage by not calling out the subtly-biased political commentary of a reporting establishment that would be in the Democratic nominee’s corner. And while the Democrats in Washington were still laboring under a TEA Party Republican-controlled Congress, there seemed to be a confidence among the Beltway insiders that, if he were able to remain the frontrunner through the nominating process, Donald Trump’s abrasive personality and tendency to spout off on Twitter could drag the GOP ticket down enough to perhaps allow Democrats to regain control of Congress after two to six years in the minority wilderness for the Senate and House, respectively.

On the Democrat side, since Vice-President Joe Biden eventually begged off the race because of the untimely illness and death of his son Beau from a brain tumor, the “next-in-line” mantle fell squarely on the 2008 runner-up Hillary Clinton. Hillary, who eight years earlier ran against eventual nominee Barack Obama as more or less of a continuation of her husband’s triangulated policies – which worked best when enacted hand-in-hand with a Republican-controlled Congress – was now the 2016 version who believed she was entitled to the opportunity to be the first woman to be president. In her quest to win a primary campaign where its skids were already being greased for her through the Democrats’ superdelegate process, Hillary had already “evolved” leftward on some issues, such as immigration, and was being pushed even farther that way by the skunk at the coronation garden party named Bernie Sanders. Yet behind the scenes as the 2016 campaign evolved and the Clinton election looked more and more likely, progressive groups of every stripe began plotting how they could get Hillary to enact their dreamed-about policies given the reputation and expectation (cemented by her husband) that she would govern as a new type of centrist Democrat.

For politicos like Levin and Greenberg, another four or more years of Democratic dominance would perhaps enable the couple to move up the food chain into quasi-government positions with more power and prestige, while a victory by Jeb! or some other establishment Republican not named Donald Trump would just place the lovebirds in a four- or eight-year holding pattern. Of course, we all know who beat the odds and defied the so-called experts.

Just as it did for millions of others in the progressive ranks, the ascent of Donald Trump to become our 45th President threw the couple for a loop. But instead of flailing around or complaining just as soon as it was apparent that Trump would prevail, Levin and Greenberg established a goal: disrupt the new administration by any means possible. It began with the Indivisible Guide, which melted its distribution channels upon its release, and turned into a full-fledged group just weeks later.

Yet while Levin and Greenberg got the credit for Indivisible’s birthing process, they were just the public face of a cadre of “about 30 staffers from Congress and non-profit groups” who participated in shaping the initial Indivisible Guide. Since its origin, though, the couple’s stewardship has evolved the group from a small protest to a left-wing juggernaut, and in doing so has provided Indivisible with something the TEA Party really never had: clearly identifiable leaders.

In that respect Indivisible was quite unlike the TEA Party, where two major national groups (Tea Party Express and Tea Party Patriots) traded on the TEA Party name and local groups splintered in a number of different directions: many fiercely guarded their independence while others morphed into subsets of already-existing organizations such as Americans for Prosperity or the Campaign for Liberty. Add in various state and national TEA Party umbrella groups with overlapping but different agendas and it was clear not all of them were pulling in the same direction. But that was the beauty of a grassroots group.

On the other hand, while there are local Indivisible chapters who may deal with local issues as a sideline, their job 1 is to encourage resistance to Donald Trump and his Congressional allies while promoting a far left wing agenda chock full of socialized medicine, unfettered immigration, steeply progressive taxation, promotion of gender-bending policy, and overall government control.

One aside that I was contemplating for inclusion within the book: from time to time on Facebook I have commented on what I call the “traveling roadshow:” a group of maybe 20 to 30 malcontents and cranks who make it their life’s work to troll the social media of Congressman Andy Harris – who used to be my Congressman before I moved to Delaware – and show up at one of his regular town hall meetings around the sprawling district that spans nearly half the length of the state of Maryland thanks to Democrat gerrymandering. If I wanted to be a Facebook stalker, I imagine that I would find most of these fine folks are members of some Indivisible group within the district or pretty close by: according to their group roster Maryland is home to 56 member or partner organizations.

Over on this side of the Transpeninsular Line here in Delaware I counted 16 Indivisible and affiliated groups; most of those are in New Castle County, which is the Wilmington area. Since all three of the federal representatives from Delaware are Democrats, the job of Indivisibles (at least on social media) seems to be that of an amen chorus, with the sidebar of dismissing any conservative who speaks up as a Putin-paid troll. Since my representatives don’t seem to have the mostly rural western part of Sussex County on their GPS I haven’t yet been to a townhall-style meeting to see them in action to know how our version of Indivisible receives them. (It’s telling, though, that Senator Chris Coons – most famous for having Christine O’Donnell lose to him – has a primary opponent taking him on from his left, which is already pretty far over.)

Returning to point: another key and important distinction between Indivisible and your average TEA Party is in the backgrounds of its leaders. Just take the few dozen initial leaders of the TEA Party and you’ll find only a handful with any sort of government experience – while they often were local political organizers, they did so from outside the system. Conversely, Levin and Greenberg, as the Times profile shows, made their living in the belly of the Beltway beast. As Congressional staffers for Democrats, they were often on the receiving end of TEA Party anger so they had a pretty good idea how the other side lived. Whether it was perceived to be revenge or whether they admired the success of the tactics, even before the Trump administration began Greenberg and Levin were plotting out strategy to thwart the GOP’s best-laid plans of building a border wall with Mexico, securing a significant tax cut, and repealing the atrocity of Obamacare. Hence, the Indivisible Guide.

And you have to admit, looking back at these events from our hindsight of three-plus years later, that Indivisible’s method of defense was very successful. While the border wall is slowly being erected, Americans (with the exception of many well-to-do folks living in Democrat strongholds) received their tax cut, and Obamacare is being deconstructed piece by piece, one can just imagine how much more could have been accomplished if not for the misguided resistance and constant investigation by the not-so-loyal opposition. Every bit of success Donald Trump has had was either through his own initiative or took so much political capital that it cost the GOP its federal trifecta – they lost the House in 2018 and, had the Senate not been so heavily stacked against the Democrats, who had to defend the majority of their seats (26 of 35 seats up in 2018 were held by Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents) they may have taken the Senate as well.

(Just as a means of comparison, the 2010 TEA Party wave was bigger in terms of net gain of seats by the GOP, but the Senate landscape was considerably different: they needed to add ten seats to gain a majority in an election cycle where the seats being contested were almost evenly split. Had a situation analogous to 2018, with Democrats defending a vast majority of seats, been present in 2010, the GOP may have pulled off the coup of winning both houses of Congress; conversely, in a landscape where seats up for election were about evenly split on a partisan basis as it was in 2010 the Democrats may well have prevailed in taking the Senate back in 2018.)

Leah Goldberg and Ezra Levin look the part of a personable young couple; one who you probably would love to have move in next door. Personally I hope they get all they want out of life, with the one exception of stopping what little progress we are making on rightsizing the federal government. There’s no denying that they have played the political game in a masterful way, and it indeed proves a point that motivated people can make a difference, even if it’s not the change you want to see.

But there is a legitimate question one must ask about just how organic this call for change was. Granted, there were nearly 3 million more votes for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump, but – based on overall voter registration and turnout – the true winner was “none of the above.” So was it really a groundswell of support for continuing the Obama agenda or did Indivisible get a little push along the way?

I have quite a bit of research to do for what will be the third part, so I’m thinking it will take me until the latter part of March or early April to finish. There I look at how Indivisible got so wealthy so fast and how its priorities on that front have changed over time.

Splitting the opposition: the upset

Editor’s note: Back in January I promised a multi-part series of posts based on a book I started on the Indivisible movement that, simply put, just wasn’t coming together as I would have liked. So I decided to serialize that beginning of a book draft – with a little more editing as I see fit – and add more writing to make this into a multi-part series of posts.

This first post begins with the introduction I had wrote, which covered “the biggest upset in U.S. history.”

For (Hillary) Clinton, the loss is especially brutal. She had meticulously planned her victory party at the Javits Center in Manhattan, symbolically under an enormous glass ceiling that she hoped to break through. Instead, it was the dreams and aspirations of her supporters that were shattered.

Trump pulls off biggest upset in U.S. history“, Shane Goldmacher and Ben Schreckinger, Politico, November 9, 2016

If you had done a “man on the street” interview in the days before the 2016 Presidential election and asked about its potential outcome, most respondents would likely have followed the conventional wisdom that the election was going to be, at long last, the second consecutive rectification of a long-standing wrong in American history: after electing (and re-electing) the first African-American president in Barack Obama, the fairer sex would get its first opportunity at the Oval Office by the election of a woman with a familiarity to the premises in Hillary Clinton, the long-suffering wife of our 42nd President, Bill Clinton.

That’s not to say, however, that the Clinton campaign didn’t endure some bumps in the road in the process: specifically, her coronation as the favored Democratic candidate was all but interrupted by the insurgent bid of Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders, who temporarily dropped his independent moniker in order to seek the Democratic nomination. Old-style machine politics coupled with rules that made the party anything but democratic, such as the significant roles played by the superdelegates and the thumb placed on the scale by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, made sure that a large slice of the left-wing electorate was going to have hard feelings regarding Clinton’s nomination. However, looking at the election from an early-November perspective, all that funny business with Sanders was going to become a mere footnote in the poorhouse-to-penthouse political success story that Hillary was putting the finishing touches on.

Yet believing the conventional wisdom may have been the mistake that unraveled Clinton’s campaign – a going-through of motions that ignored several Rust Belt states assumed to be in the Democratic column. Perhaps the Clinton camp felt safe in believing she would win because Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin had a heavy union influence and, with the exception of Ohio, had voted Democratic blue in every Presidential election since 1988 – a trend first made possible by Hillary’s husband. Moreover, placed against a divisive candidate who had alienated a large cross-section of the Republican Party – a group called the #NeverTrump Republicans – it was thought that GOP turnout could be depressed in swing states like Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia, further securing the Clinton victory. One week out, polling showed that Clinton was indeed winning in her “firewall” states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and within the margin of error in Florida. Ohio was not in as good of shape, but historians could assure Hillary’s backers that, while no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio, there have been a handful of GOP stalwarts who won the state but lost the overall race – the last being Richard Nixon in 1960.

The factor no one ever considered in handicapping the 2016 race, though, was the amount of pent-up frustration churning in the residents of America’s heartland. Going into Election Day, Hillary’s campaign probably knew she was in a bit of trouble in Florida and Ohio, but all that would do was temper her Electoral College victory to something below 300 votes. In assuming that Hillary would win Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, they believed she would have squeaked out a 278-260 Electoral College win even while losing Florida and Ohio. But for want of 77,747 votes combined in the three “firewall” states Hillary lost – far fewer than Green Party candidate Jill Stein received in the trio – Donald Trump won the Electoral College and the Presidential election despite drawing nearly 3 million fewer votes nationwide. No amount of cajoling or laying on of guilt by certain members of the public could convince members of the Electoral College to switch their Trump votes to Hillary, although a half-dozen changed their votes to others. On January 6, 2017 Congress counted the votes and it became official: January 20, 2017 would mark the beginning of the Trump administration.

It was an administration I didn’t vote for, but these events gave birth to a fascinating political movement and eventually inspired this series I’m writing as a way to document its unique history and effects and to present a proposal on how right-thinking Americans can split up this supposedly unbreakable entity.

You may ask, then: what piqued my interest in the Indivisible movement?

In 2019, a decade after it came into being as a protest against the billions of dollars being proposed as economic stimulus by then-President Obama, I released a book called The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party, a historical and analytical book that featured several of its early leaders. As I learned in researching that book, it turned out the ragtag irregular rear-guard regiments of the loosely-organized TEA Party were the ones who didn’t get polled (or couldn’t bring themselves to admit backing Donald Trump, or flat-out lied to the pollsters) but came out in droves in those aforementioned heartland states to cast their ballot against Hillary. They were a voter bloc left for dead in American politics, in large part because these initial supporters now viewed the national organizations claiming that TEA Party mantle as just another set of inside-the-Beltway interest groups. Combine that with the percentage of voters who “felt the Bern” and were disgruntled enough with the Democratic Party and their gaming of the system to push them into supporting someone like Jill Stein over Hillary, and you get the result we received: Donald Trump pulling the “biggest upset in U.S. history.”

However, once the shock of Hillary’s loss wore off, those who believed she was the better candidate decided not to get mad – they vowed to get even. In writing the Indivisible Guide – more formally known as Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, but I’ll just call it the Indivisible Guide or simply Guide – the authors made it clear their movement was borrowing heavily from the tactics and techniques of the TEA Party but doing so in order to oppose Donald Trump and advocate for the progressive agenda they believed would have been both an extension of Barack Obama’s policies and the starting point for a Hillary Clinton presidency. Quoting from its introduction:

Donald Trump is the biggest popular-vote loser in history to ever call himself President. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the Members of Congress (MoCs) who would do his bidding. Together, we have the power to resist – and we have the power to win.

We know this because we’ve seen it before. The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism – and they won.

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda – but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

Opening statement to Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.

Having the direct comparison available between Indivisible and the TEA Party may have led readers to believe this will be a short summary, but it’s made much more complex by the nature of the opposition. Unlike the TEA Party, which I found to be percolating beneath the political surface for over a year before it was galvanized by random early morning remarks by a TV pundit by the name of Rick Santelli in February, 2009, Indivisible was put together almost overnight – yet it gathered the momentum it needed in a few short weeks thanks to the backing of large organizations which make Indivisible much more of an Astroturf group than it may appear to be from the outside.

In the understatement of the decade, it’s fair to say that the prospect of a Trump presidency didn’t sit well with a lot of people, and their anger was intense. At the same time Indivisible was being planned out, social media organizers were putting together the Women’s March on Washington. Held the day after Trump was sworn in, their event outdrew the inauguration, according to news reports. Quoted in The Atlantic, an “expert on nonviolent protest” by the name of Erica Chenowith gushed that the Women’s March “has some of the hallmarks of the beginning of a successful movement. The ability to mobilize large numbers of people is often associated with the creation of an effective campaign.” Yet, charges of anti-Semitism against its leadership and its embrace of political values far outside the mainstream have led the March on a downward spiral, with the 2020 event drawing a mere fraction of the 2017 crowd. It’s even taken a back seat to the annual March for Life put on by abortion opponents, which continues to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital year after year and was buoyed this year with President Trump’s personal appearance – the first time a sitting President has addressed the gathering. (Let’s pray it’s the pro-life support that becomes the “effective campaign.”) Whether it was because the Women’s March had folded most of its support into other aspects of progressive politics, such as Indivisible, or if the anti-Semitism repelled prospective marchers, the Women’s March as an organized group doesn’t appear to have the staying power that Indivisible has maintained.

Given that Indivisible has presented itself as inspired by the TEA Party, having the experience of writing and researching on that particular political caprice provided me with a number of questions about Indivisible and its place in the progressive movement which needed to be looked at to provide a complete accounting. And, to borrow from the Rules for Radicals penned by progressive icon Saul Alinsky, it’s an effort to make Indivisible conform to the rules they themselves set by making such a comparison. By far, that aspect of this series will be the most fun to write because, frankly, the Indivisible narrative has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese.

Naturally, the comparison can’t be an exact one. Setting aside the difference in policy prescriptions the respective winners ran on in 2008 and 2016, the situation that gave birth to Indivisible was far different than the circumstance that led to the formation of the TEA Party. Unlike his predecessor, President Trump did not come in facing a nation amidst the direst economic circumstances since the Great Depression, one simultaneously troubled by ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. Instead, what Donald Trump inherited was a sense of unfinished business felt by the populace: as 2017 dawned, America was in a dawdling, “jobless” economic recovery while its foreign policy wrestled with the rise of the al-Qaeda successor Islamic State – Barack Obama’s idea of the “JV team.” Donald Trump’s blueprint for fundamental change, then, was the idea of reversing what he saw as the excesses of big government, such as eliminating Obamacare, providing tax relief, and securing the border with Mexico. Those three agenda items formed Trump’s appeal to the TEA Party’s political diaspora.

But Trump didn’t go as far as the initial TEA Party leaders would have. While they shared much of the platform of thwarting Obama’s initiatives, Trump wasn’t as keen during his campaign about returning the federal government to what TEA Party believers deemed a more proper, Constitutional role by limiting its size and scope. For example, early on Trump took entitlement reform off the table, believing a more robust economy would work the problem out for us.

Conversely, Indivisible was about one thing and one thing only: stopping Donald Trump. Yet the most important consideration when talking about Indivisible’s origins is knowing its organizers are products of a political culture. Instead of outsiders tilting at the windmills of the political field like most of the original TEA Party leaders were, Indivisible’s two key founders, the husband-and-wife team of Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, were already well-placed inside the castle because they were both Congressional staffers at some point during their careers and continually worked inside the Beltway swamp. Knowing all the inside baseball allowed them to dictate an anti-Trump agenda, pull the proper levers, and implement their agenda in the stealthiest manner possible, with minimum fingerprints thanks to a bureaucracy (the Swamp, or “deep state”) that also loathed Trump from the get-go.

Thus, at the time of its inception, Indivisible was only interested in what they termed “playing defense” and settling in for a waiting game until progressive reinforcements could arrive in the 2018 midterm elections. Once the changing of the House guard came, thanks to the 2018 midterms, Indivisible began advocating for a number of policy changes their supporters could originate in the House as its way of going on offense.

I’m relishing the chance to share my conclusions, but my next part will begin with a look at the couple that’s the public face of Indivisible.

Thinning the field

I missed this last week, or should I say I didn’t get to post on it right away. But we learned who was in and who was out of next week’s first two Democrat presidential candidate debates. Obviously the front-runners made the criteria established by the Democratic National Committee, but there were a couple surprising omissions in light of how I seeded the race a few weeks ago. (See how useful that is for constructing a narrative within my website? Now you have to go back and check that out.)

Each night’s field was somewhat randomly set, and there was the idea of spreading “top-tier” candidates out so that neither night was overly weighted toward one group – but as it turned out they unwittingly came close to the “kiddie table” debate concept employed by the 2016 Republicans.

Without further ado, and listed in my previous seeding order, this is the lineup for debate #1:

  • #5 Beto O’Rourke
  • #6 Elizabeth Warren
  • #7 Amy Klobuchar
  • #8 Cory Booker
  • #14 Bill de Blasio
  • #16 Jay Inslee
  • #17 John Delaney
  • #18 Julian Castro
  • #19 Tim Ryan
  • #21 Tulsi Gabbard

To be quite honest, the star of this debate is probably Warren, who’s picked up some polling support lately. But there is an interesting dynamic at play among the three women included and this field could end up helping Tulsi Gabbard.

As for the men, the five lower-seeded men are fortunate to be placed in a field that has the fading star of Beto and gaffe-prone Cory Booker. If any of them have a robust debate, they could move up in the polls – especially as the front-runners take shots at each other.

Here’s debate #2:

  • #1 Joe Biden
  • #2 Bernie Sanders
  • #3 Pete Buttigieg
  • #4 Kamala Harris
  • #9 Kirsten Gillibrand
  • #10 John Hickenlooper
  • #12 Michael Bennet
  • #13 Andrew Yang
  • #15 Eric Swalwell
  • #22 Marianne Williamson

The top 4 are either going to destroy each other or bury the other six. It sort of reminds me of the old Big 10 days when all the teams played each other but you knew it would be Michigan-Ohio State for the title at the end – we just have four teams instead of two, but they are all way ahead of the rest. And I would be curious to see what sort of Ron Paul effect the non-politicians Williamson and Yang have on the field here – after all, you can’t out-outsider them in this group.

The non-contenders who didn’t get in:

  • #11 Steve Bullock
  • #20 Seth Moulton
  • #23 Mike Gravel
  • #24 Wayne Messam

They are still soldiering on, hoping to get into the next round of debates in July. Bullock claims he’s already qualified, which is possible because he got a very late start in the campaign – obviously that will knock someone else out if he makes it in. Moulton is probably the one serious candidate most likely to drop out because Messam is whining about not getting a town hall meeting and Gravel was simply in it to get on the debate stage.

This has inspired another post but I think I’ll save it for next week, just before the debates.

Odds and ends number 94

I’ve been meaning to get to this for maybe a month or so as my e-mail box kept filling up. So finally I’m writing all these quick takes of a couple sentences to a few paragraphs as I have done 93 times prior. Let’s begin with this one.

The Biden Rules

Because I was on the American Possibilities e-mail list, I’m now on the Biden 2020 e-mail list, and that gives me no shortage of amusement because the e-mail come across to me as gaffetastic as the real thing.

First came the e-mail where Biden pledged to not take money from “corporate PACs, federal lobbyists, and registered foreign agents.” Better than his old boss, I guess, but all that means is that some entity will be laundering the money through a series of contributions first. So this is essentially meaningless.

But even better was the one where Joe took it as an insult from President Trump that he “abandoned Pennsylvania.” I always like it when he talks to me:

Well Michael, I’ve never forgotten where I came from. My family did have to leave Pennsylvania when I was 10 — we moved to Delaware where my Dad found a job that could provide for our family.

Let’s be clear Michael: this isn’t just about me. This is proof that Donald Trump doesn’t understand the struggles working folks go through.

He doesn’t understand what it’s like to worry you will lose the roof over your head. He doesn’t understand what it’s like to wonder if you’ll be able to put food on the table.

Biden e-mail, May 21, 2019.

Bear in mind that Biden could have moved back to Pennsylvania at any time once he reached adulthood. But Joe made his life in Delaware, or at least got his start there since he’s truly a creature of Washington, D.C.

But my real point is that there were a lot of people who faced that issue when Barack Obama was in office. I’ll grant that Obama’s was a situation inherited from the Bush administration but the “jobless recovery” we struggled through meant a lot of kids had to hear that same sort of news. And speaking of Obama…

Who does the gerrymandering?

Another legacy e-mail list that’s led to some howlers is my ending up on the list of an entity called “All On The Line” – that’s a result of being on the Organizing For Against America list. Every so often AOTL sends me what they consider egregious examples of blatant gerrymandering: one was Wisconsin’s First District (until recently represented by Rep. Paul Ryan), for which they claimed:

You won’t look at Wisconsin’s districts and see weird shapes. State legislators have used a more sophisticated, subtle form of gerrymandering — but the intentional manipulation is undeniably there. That’s why even though Democrats won 54 percent of the state’s congressional votes in November 2018, they won only 38 percent of the Congressional seats.

“All On The Line” e-mail, May 22, 2019.

By that same logic, Maryland Republicans should be more fairly represented as they won 32% of the Congressional votes but only got 13% of the seats – a larger disparity than Wisconsin’s.

Another of their complaints came about from North Carolina’s 11th District, which was once competitive (but won by Democrats) but now – not so much. And it has crazy boundaries in the city of Asheville to boot. In this case, they blamed the idea of exactly equal population. It’s now represented by Mark Meadows, who chairs the Freedom Caucus – that’s why they are upset.

Before that, I got a missive about Jim Jordan’s Ohio’s 4th District, where they whined about Oberlin College being included therein. Yes, he’s another member of the Freedom Caucus, and yes, that map was drawn by Republicans. In other words, you will never see them complain about Maryland, which is arguably the worst example of gerrymandering.

I have some ideas on how to address this, but it will be a future post.

Saying the right things

This was an interesting article from the Capital Research Center, as it talked about how language is used to shape public perception of an issue. It’s the first part of what I consider a must-read series from the group, which is really worth following if you’re into being a policy wonk.

I also have the CRC to thank for revealing that, while the Left howled in protest about President Trump’s short list of judicial nominees, they’re quite reticent about who they would select. Wonder why?

Old ideas become new, or just stay timeless?

I know that education needs to be reformed, but perhaps our old friend Bobby Jindal can do a little better than just dusting off an old proposal. Perhaps setting the groundwork for a 2024 or 2028 run, Jindal’s America Next group dusted off the e-mail list to send me this, which I noticed was from 2015 – just before he got into the 2016 race. Good stuff, but a bit dated. And of course, it was enclosed with a fundraising appeal.

The force for good

Last week my update from API has an item that hit a nail on the head. From their blog:

John Watson, then the chairman and CEO of Chevron, once was asked how the natural gas and oil industry is perceived since so much of the climate discussion is aimed solely at producing fossil fuels.

Unflinchingly, Watson countered that his industry is a noble one – delivering light, heat, transportation, food, clothing and other benefits to people every day – and that natural gas and oil are foundational for almost everything that we use and do. Simply put, Watson asserted that natural gas and oil are forces for good in human development and far from a deterrent (and instead an enabler) of climate progress.

It was an argument for the societal value of natural gas and oil and the opportunities they create, thanks to U.S. energy abundance. Connecting communities with energy and opportunity remains a pillar of our industry today – especially when you consider America’s growing capacity to share energy with the rest of the world, where many areas haven’t benefited from abundant or reliable energy.

“A Force For Good”, Megan Bloomgren, Energy Tomorrow blog, June 13, 2019.

Of course, she works for API, but working for them doesn’t discount her point of view. When our CO2 emissions are on the decline while those of many other nations are increasing, you have to say we’re on to something.

It boils down to this: at this stage, the top renewables are not the top reliables. While we are at the time of year we receive the most sunlight per day, it doesn’t mean you won’t have a cloudy day… and unfortunately, those warm, still days of summer are the days you don’t receive a whole lot of wind to push those turbines around.

The career stepping stone?

You know, I’ve never thought of my humble little site as a job provider. Shoot, as little as I’ve blogged here over the last three years it’s a wonder the lights are still on.

So I was somewhat surprised to get an e-mail from “Jessica Stewart,” who’s leaving her “role” as a finance and business writer to building a freelance portfolio. But this is what she told me:

I have some ideas, I think your monoblogue.us audience will enjoy.

Are you open to accepting free guest post content for publication on monoblogue.us?

Her ideas were (and I’m quoting verbatim):

  • Why Direct Lending is Surging in 2019
  • Why the Small Business Administration can’t help in a small Business loan?
  • Why rising interest rates are creating refinancing headaches for small Businesses?

Problem was – I did a Google search of the titles and found them on other sources. So I wonder what overseas writer making a pennies a day is really writing as Jessica Stewart?

After all, if I had a paying writing gig why would I leave it? Why do you think I’ve stayed with Patriot Post for all these years?

That’s enough for these odds and ends, until next time.

Hogan takes a pass…on 2020

It’s no surprise that Larry Hogan, the now term-limited governor of our fair state of Maryland, decided to disappoint the #NeverTrump whisperers in the moderate wing of the Republican Party and skip his chance at being cannon fodder for Donald Trump on The Donald’s way to the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. As CNN put it:

“I truly appreciate all of the encouragement I received from people around the nation urging me to consider making a run for President in 2020,” Hogan tweeted Saturday. “However, I will not be a candidate.”

Hogan said that he would instead focus on his second term as governor and his upcoming role chairing the National Governors Association.

“That work is important, and I believe both of those roles will give me the opportunity to make an impact on the direction of my party and our nation,” he added.

“Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan says he won’t challenge Trump in 2020,” Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN, June 1, 2019.

I’m sure Larry won’t be voting for Trump next year given our governor’s track record, and truth be told he’ll have the advantage of a fairly dull campaign year in 2020. Barring a heretofore unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate, there are no statewide races on the 2020 docket, and aside from the possibility of a spirited race in a redrawn Sixth Congressional District, the House races will likely be decided in their respective primaries. So Larry won’t have to demean himself by campaigning for any of those icky conservatives – not that he has much in the way of practice.

However, Larry has established an eerie parallel to his abortive 2010 campaign for governor; a campaign that barely got out of the starting block before he pulled the plug, deferring to his old boss Bob Ehrlich. Out of that came Hogan’s Change Maryland organization, which served as a foil to the governorship of Martin O’Malley and paved the way to Hogan’s 2014 victory – a victory he gloats about.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is not a career politician. He spent nearly his entire career as a small businessman. Fed up with high taxes, politics as usual, and decades of a one-party monopoly, he started Change Maryland, the largest non-partisan grassroots citizen organization in state history. In 2014, out-numbered in party registration by more than 2-1, and outspent by more than 5-1, Governor Hogan pulled off the biggest upset in America to become only the second Republican Governor elected in Maryland in 50 years.

Governor Hogan quickly got to work and set an example for the nation, accomplishing what many believed was no longer possible: reaching across the aisle, and working together to achieve real bipartisan, common sense solutions.

As Hogan was taking the hard pass on a 2020 run, he traveled a familiar road in setting up an organization primarily dedicated to keeping his name in the limelight. Dubbed An America United, Hogan is obviously setting this group up to prepare for a centrist run for the GOP nod in 2024 – basically the same lane John Kasich had in 2016 and held prior to that by guys like John McCain and Jon Huntsman. When most of the news glowingly featured on the site comes from the Washington Post, New York Times, or CNN – the farthest right source of his front-page news is the now-defunct home of #NeverTrump establishment Republicans The Weekly Standard – it’s a pretty safe bet that the group is not going to venture too far right of center.

Naturally the group has its goals, expressed in the standard bromides about “bipartisan, common-sense solutions to create more and better jobs, cut taxes, protect the environment, build our infrastructure, and improve education.” Unfortunately, based on his record in Maryland, what he considers “common sense” is just slowing the long-standing drift away from the ideals that made the nation great. After all, he turned his back on creating jobs in the energy industry (private-sector jobs), squandered opportunities to cut taxes further by asking for ever-larger budgets, and contracted the Democrat disease of believing that to “improve education” is to spend much more money on it rather than allowing the billions that’s already there to follow the child.

In 2024 the nation will be in a quandary: either facing an uncertain political future after eight years of Donald Trump or dealing with the backsliding which will be occurring should one of those in the Democrat “clown limousine” be running for re-election. I honestly suspect that’s what Larry is hoping for, knowing that only once in the last 90 years has a Republican president been elected to succeed a fellow Republican (Bush 41 after Reagan.) John McCain in 2008, Gerald Ford – who served as President but was never elected in his own right – in 1976, and Richard Nixon in 1960 were the last three to try, but you have to go back to Herbert Hoover winning in 1928 after Calvin Coolidge chose not to run to find the previous example before the late George H.W. Bush.

(However, the string is even longer for Democrats: the last time a Democrat succeeded a Democrat, aside from death in office, was 1856 as James Buchanan served one term after fellow one-termer Franklin Pierce. To tell you how long ago that was, Pierce in 1852 succeeded the last Whig to be President, Millard Fillmore. Your Presidential tidbit.)

So don’t think Larry is uninterested in the 2020 race. He’s just choosing to bide his time, perhaps believing that America electing a far-left President will allow him to escape the crocodile that will call any Republican “extremist.” But I have news for Larry: even if he became a “blue dog” Democrat to run, he would still be on the menu regardless.

I suppose this is proof of his statement…

Those who have followed me for many years know that I’ve put up an election widget to link to campaign sites, and now their social media pages. Since the 2020 campaign is underway I did the same for the Presidential race – it’s just not very prominent quite yet. (I’ll move it up as the year progresses and we get closer to the debates and Iowa caucus this time next year.)

So today I was reading a USA Today story on the candidates who are in and out, noting that Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was entering the race today in an outdoor rally in the Minnesota snow. But it also noted that one of those candidates on my original widget, West Virginia’s Richard Ojeda, had already withdrawn, which I was unaware of.

Granted, out of those who were on my widget I would have rated him as the longest shot, down there with Pete Buttigieg (the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana) and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney as a second tier of candidates behind the more nationally prominent Senators and others pursuing the chance to oppose President Trump. But it could have been argued that Barack Obama and Donald Trump were longshots in their respective races – Obama because he had been in the Senate for just 25 months when he announced in February, 2007, despite the conventional wisdom that the 2008 race was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s to win, and Trump because no one took a businessman running for President seriously when the field was deep, talented, and brimming with a number of politically experienced candidates. Maybe they weren’t the longshots like a state senator who lost his only federal election (a 2018 run for Congress) would be, but he was still in the race and stating his case.

So when Richard Ojeda withdrew from the race, it wasn’t much noticed – hence his parting shot.

Today I want to thank from the bottom of my heart all the people who have supported and believed in this campaign. The indications were very positive from an overwhelming response to our videos, to thousands of volunteers, and a level of grassroots fundraising support that grew every day. However, the last thing I want to do is accept money from people who are struggling for a campaign that does not have the ability to compete.  So today I am announcing that I am suspending this campaign.

When I was a child my grade school teachers told us all that anyone in America could grow up and become President.  I now realize that this is not the case.  Unless someone has extreme wealth or holds influence and power it just isn’t true.  Especially if you dare to step out of line and challenge the powers that be. The big donors won’t take your calls, the media won’t say your name, and the establishment will do everything they can to crush you.

I want you to know though that my fight does not end!   I may not have the money to make the media pay attention but I will continue raising my voice and highlighting the issues the working class, the sick and the elderly face in this nation. I expect to have an announcement very soon about what my next steps will be. But know this, this campaign was never about me but about the issues we care about, checking big pharma, ending corruption and elevating the working class citizen. Nothing and no one can stop me from fighting for what’s right.

Sappers clear the way. Airborne all the way.

Richard Ojeda withdrawal announcement, January 25, 2019. (Emphasis mine.)

Setting aside the desire of his supporters for Ojeda to run for either Governor or U.S. Senate from West Virginia, both of which have elections in 2020 and are held by Republicans, let’s take what Ojeda had to say about running for President and break it down.

Until President Trump came along and bolstered the “extreme wealth” argument, all of the Presidents who have served us in my lifetime (I was born in 1964) were products of one (or more) of three separate offices: Vice President (Johnson, Nixon, Ford – under the special circumstance of being appointed under the 25th Amendment – and Bush 41), governor of a state (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush 43), or Senator (Obama, but previous to being vice president also Johnson – who succeeded a former Senator in John F. Kennedy – and Nixon.) Gerald Ford was previously a member of Congress, but only represented a Michigan district in the House before being appointed to succeed former Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew after Agnew resigned in 1973.

Yet think of the money it takes now to win a Senate seat or run for governor, particularly from a major state. Obviously it takes a type of talent and attitude to be able to “smile and dial” in order to raise the money and the charisma to charm people into voting for you, knowing that the higher up in the food chain one goes, the fewer people can grab the brass ring. (A case in point: Klobuchar is the fourth sitting U.S. Senator to seek the Democratic nomination so far but only one – or none – will succeed.)

By that same token, the nation’s capital is ruled by political conventional wisdom that states either someone with a connection to Washington or with a statewide base that’s significant (i.e. a state with large population like California, Florida, or Texas) will succeed in running for President. That was the case with most of the Presidents in my lifetime, although one can argue that perhaps Jimmy Carter and certainly Bill Clinton did not come from high-profile states. In the 1970’s Georgia was still considered a sleepy, backwater state as Arkansas is to this day. Donald Trump turned that conventional wisdom on its ear to some extent; however, it can be theorized that his “significant base” were the millions who bought his books, watched The Apprentice, and so forth, and that they were a proxy for a medium-sized state.

[This phenomenon is similar to the fact that no one from the Eastern Shore has been elected to statewide office here in Maryland since the days of J. Millard Tawes. (I left out Harry Hughes, as I was reminded on his passing.) Those who have a base in populated areas have a definite leg up in gathering financing and supporters.]

So it’s sad but true: not that I would have been an Ojeda backer, but the media and establishment basically dictated his campaign would be short-lived. Ojeda wasn’t part of the “in” crowd and he didn’t have a name that attracted eyeballs based on previous reputation, so he would have never made the debate stage – perhaps not even the so-called “kiddie table debate” purgatory before campaign suspension.

Maybe this is why the Swamp can’t seem to be drained.

Odds and ends number 88

As you might guess, the mailbox groans with new items when it’s election time. So this is a fresh edition of stuff I can deal with in a sentence to a few paragraphs.

I regret not bringing one of these items up a few months back when it came out, but as we get ready for state elections there are two key pieces from the Maryland Public Policy Institute that voters should not miss.

First of all, you all know that I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project for several years, with this year’s intention to wrap up that work.** While it doesn’t evaluate individual voters or bills like my evaluation does, their 2018 Annapolis Report is a useful, broad look at the overall picture and where it can stand some improvement in the next term, It’s nice work by Carol Park and our own Marc Kilmer.

It seems like a new Democrat strategy (besides cutting and running to Virginia) to combat Larry Hogan’s effective campaign is to talk down the state’s economy, but Park puts the lie to that in a more recent piece. Notes Park:

(I)t may be more helpful to look at Maryland’s future economic prospects than to focus on the historical figures to assess the validity of Jealous’s claim. After all, 2015–2017 was a period of strong growth nationally, so it may not be fair to attribute every aspect of improvement of Maryland’s economy to Hogan, nor may it be fair to criticize him for perceived shortcomings relative to other states.

There are a number of indicators that macroeconomists consider important for predicting a region’s long-term economic growth prospects: wage, entrepreneurship, innovation, and income inequality. We can look at these figures one-by-one to assess whether Maryland is in fact faring poorly compared with other states in the Mid-Atlantic region under Gov. Hogan.

It turns out Maryland isn’t doing so bad after all according to the selected figures. Now I know the whole deal about lies, damned lies, and statistics, but if you ask almost any Marylander whether he or she is better off than they were four years ago, the answer would likely be yes – unless you work for the federal government, in which case times may be a bit difficult. If – and this is a really, really big if considering we are over two years out – the Republicans can maintain their grip on Congress for the next two cycles and President Trump is re-elected – we may see a significant rightsizing of government that will likely put Maryland into recessionary status given our addiction to the federal crack pipe of taxpayer money and government jobs. (I’ve said it before – if not for the federal government, Maryland would be *pick your chronically high unemployment state.*) It will be painful, but it is necessary.

The MPPI also pointed out that small businesses will be able to take advantage of a modest tax break made necessary by the adoption of paid sick leave. (I say modest because it’s a pool of $5 million – as originally envisioned, the pool was far larger and assisted more employers. Both those provisions were killed or watered down in committee.)

Sliding over to another campaign, Dr. Ben Carson called him “a true patriot who has served our nation and made personal sacrifices for its well being.” But before he debated his two most prominent foes for the U.S. Senate seat on Sunday (more on that in a few paragraphs) Tony Campbell had one simple request: Pray.

This campaign is David vs. Goliath.  As a dear friend of mine told me this week, our job is to be in position to take advantage of God’s providential miracle.  Your prayers are crucial for our campaign’s success.

Now before the anti-“thoughts and prayers” crowd has a cow, they need to explain to me what harm comes from prayer. If it’s in the Lord’s plan to give Maryland a far more sane representative than that which we have now, why not give encouragement that thy will be done?

From calling on the Lord to calling out larceny: that’s the segue I make for the next item.

One minor topic that takes up a couple pages in my forthcoming book on the TEA Party is a look at the “scam PACs” that started up in the wake of Citizens United, conning well-meaning small donors into supporting the lavish consulting fees of companies related to the overall PAC rather than the candidates or causes they purported to support. A three-part series from the Capital Research Center called Caveat Donator delves into that topic as well, and is worth the read.

Back to that Senate debate. I have found my way onto Neal Simon’s mailing list, and his spin doctors were ready:

Throughout the one-hour debate, Simon focused much of his criticism on Cardin’s lack of leadership in moving forward legislation that focuses on Maryland’s interests. Simon went on the offensive right out of the gate, painting a picture of a career-focused politician focused on placating the party leadership and cow-towing to establishment donors in order to keep his job. Cardin’s voting record is the most partisan of all current sitting senators as he has voted with Chuck Schumer more than 97 percent of the time.

When referring to the numerous internal threats and dangers facing America today, Simon said, “I’m not sure which is most dangerous, Trump’s Twitter feed or Ben Cardin’s rubber stamp.”

As I watched the debate, I noticed it was Simon who was the more aggressive toward Cardin, which is to be expected because he really has to swing for the fences now. There’s a month to close what’s a 40-plus point deficit between him and “our friend Ben” (who’s no friend of common-sense voters.) To that end, Simon is emphasizing Cardin’s fealty to Democrat leadership based on voting record.

But we need to pray for Tony to get another bite of the apple because his debate performance was “meh…” Whoever prepped him needs to step up his or her game because there were a couple “deer in the headlights” moments for Tony – on the other hand, while Simon seemed scripted he was very personable. Cardin was his normal low-key self, almost like “okay, I have to do this debate, let’s get it over with.” But he was more or less prepared for what he would get.

The best possible scenario for this race involves Republicans staying loyal while slyly inviting their Democrat friends to send a message to Cardin by voting Simon – after all, what Republican ever wins in Maryland? I don’t care if it’s one of those 35-33-32 deals: as long as our guy has the 35, he has 6 years to build up the next campaign.

You may remember in the last Presidential go-round that the most centrist of Democrat candidates was onetime Reagan administration official Jim Webb of Virginia. While his campaign didn’t gain much in the way of traction, Jim landed on his feet nonetheless: he now draws a paycheck from the American Petroleum Institute and advocates for offshore energy exploration, to wit:

The United States can increase these advantages (in energy exploration) through renewed emphasis on safe and technologically advanced offshore exploration, which is increasingly in use throughout the world. Ninety-four percent of federal offshore acreage is currently off limits to energy development. The Trump administration’s National Offshore Leasing Program for 2019-2024 would change that by opening key areas off the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Recent advances in safety solutions, plus improvements in business practices and tighter government standards, guarantee that offshore exploration can be safe, targeted and productive.

Maybe that’s why Ben Jealous had the commonwealth on his mind the other day. But that’s the place I’ll use to bring this post home, and I have an old friend of mine to credit. My old “Rebeldome” cohort Bob Densic spied this in the Daily Signal and knew I’d be interested – it’s a piece on the current state of the TEA Party in Virginia.

So that will (almost) be a wrap for now. I might get enough to do another one before Election Day, but we will see.

**I’m thinking of getting the band back together, as it were, for a limited engagement. To me, it may be a useful exercise to maintain the Maryland edition of the mAP, but restrict it to the three districts (36, 37, and 38) on the Eastern Shore. Anyone else can do their own research on their members of the General Assembly.

The idea on taxes

A quick thought:

It’s been a week and a holiday since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed, and by and large the reaction from the political opposition has been predictable: more misinformation on top of the lies they had already been spreading.

Their favorite piece of half-truth is telling gullible voters that the middle class will pay more in taxes. Their dubious claim is that 80-odd million middle class taxpayers will see their taxes go up – problem is that this combines their increased income in a handful of years with the expiration date of the bill. Granted, the individual cuts have an expiration date but the chances are these rates would be here to stay unless a future Democrat administration raises them. Thanks to a Republican House and need to make a budget deal, even Barack Obama kept most of the Bush tax cut around when it came up for renewal.

Yet the Trump tax cuts (and I guess we can call them that) passed without a single vote from Democrats. Obviously they are banking on the misinformation fed to the willing press and lapped up by TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) sufferers to motivate them to come out next year and flip the House and Senate so they can paralyze the Trump administration with constant investigations and resume the slow-paced economy of the Obama years.

On the other hand, the GOP is also taking a risk. There are a lot of people who have bought the “tax cuts for the rich” narrative so if the economy stumbles despite the tax cuts for both individuals and businesses the Democrats may well have the House handed to them.

But imagine we hit 4% or even 5% economic growth in the second half of 2018 because people find out they have more money to spend and other nations find themselves unable to compete? Then the question has to be asked of Democrats: why did you object in such a kicking and screaming manner? Well, we know the answer: to them government is the true owner of all property, including yours. Why else would they object to citizens keeping their money?

I know I’m going to be pleased to have some of mine back.

A Sunday thought

This passage was on my heart a few days ago, but something told me I would want to refer to it today (this piece was started a few weeks back.)

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:3-11, KJV)

We are often told that we should not be judgmental and reminded that you shouldn’t throw stones unless you are without sin yourself. But they usually fail to continue the parable to its conclusion, “go, and sin no more.” That would require a course correction that would oftentimes eliminate the action for which the subject is being judged.

So in the last couple months we have seen numerous charges of all sorts of sexual impropriety; everything from simple harassment to child rape has been leveled at someone in the public eye. Yet I do not believe a single one of those charges came out of a relationship where the two people involved were married to each other.

The problem with these stories coming out in a sad drumbeat of disgust is that they make the story of a long-term monogamous relationship the “dog bites man” story. For every Harvey Weinstein whose story is played up, the idea of some other Hollywood figure who has a more or less trouble-free long-term marriage isn’t promoted. (I’m sure there are some, but you never hear of them.)

This new awakening to the issue of sexual exploitation has moved over into the realm of politics in recent weeks, and the appearances of impropriety have resulted in the resignations of long, longtime Rep. John Conyers, Jr. from Michigan (until his resignation, the longest-serving House member – he was first elected when I was but an infant in 1964) and Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, who had similarly held office for many years (first elected in 2002.) Interestingly, Conyers allegedly had a reputation that preceded him but Franks was ousted for an entirely different reason – asking female staffers in his office to be surrogate parents. (It sounds unusual, but Franks has experience in the subject as his wife cannot have children – their two twin children were born via a surrogate mother and donor egg cell.)

The political side of the allegations began, though, with two other men – one a sitting Senator and the other seeking a seat there. Senator Al Franken tried for awhile to explain away the photographic evidence of harassment toward media personality Leeann Tweeden, but as other accusers stepped forward the calls for his resignation grew louder, particularly as he was the example Republicans could use to counter the one I’ll get to momentarily. Last week Franken relented, stating he would resign “in the next several weeks.” But Franken was critical of both President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who have their own issues with harassment claims.

The one commonality among all four men, though, is that they have been married a long time. I’m going to take the risk of trusting Wikipedia, but according to that repository of knowledge, Franken has been married to the same woman since 1975, Franks since 1980, Moore since 1985, and Conyers since 1990. (The latter two were married relatively later in life.) Obviously it doesn’t mean they have necessarily been faithful to their vows, but they have at least stuck it out under sometimes difficult circumstances.

Now Roy Moore presents a conundrum. To say his taste in women is unusual is probably an understatement, since he’s accused of dating girls roughly half his age back in the late 1970s. (Moore is currently 70 years old, so at the time he was in his early 30s.) But his defenders note that seeking younger women to marry wasn’t completely uncommon in that era and part of the country: earlier examples in other walks of life include Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. As it is, Moore’s wife is 14 years his junior and they first met when she was a teenager (although the marriage came several years later, reportedly after she had married and divorced.) There’s no doubt that Moore’s 1977 standards are not the 2017 norm.

Yet in a political sense Moore has very similar stances to mine. Back in 2011, Roy Moore formed an exploratory committee for the 2012 GOP nomination, and as such I evaluated his political views (insofar as I could discern them) and created a dossier. Turns out that to me he was the second-ranked candidate in the race as far as political views were concerned, just behind another fallen person in Herman Cain.

However, back in 2011 we weren’t treated to these claims from women who grew up and realized that maybe what Roy Moore did four decades ago ranged from super creepy to possible molestation. That seemed to be saved for the time when people at the Washington Post decided to see if the wisps of smoke were a fire. And the timing was interesting: the story came out November 9 and according to this account took six weeks to put together. That means they may have been informed of this prior to the primary, which occurred September 26. (Six weeks back from November 9 is September 28, so this timeline depends on whether editing time is considered part of the six weeks. But nowhere is it stated when the six weeks occurred; they claim the reporting began in early October.) Regardless, the timing is quite suspicious given the editorial leanings of the Post – especially since that very same day they featured a more glowing portrayal of his Democrat opponent, Doug Jones, and his prosecution of two church bombers from 1963.

That’s politics, though. We should be used to this in an era of “fake news.” I have no doubt that Moore dated these young women, although then the single charge of abuse becomes one of “he said, she said” and we will never have the opportunity to hear the answer to that accusation under oath.

To me, the question is this: does one believe that Roy Moore is defined by the girls he knew 40 years ago who are now those accusers threatening to stone him, or the one who has been married for 32 years and presumably, with the lack of evidence to the contrary, has gone and sinned no more? Only God knows the real truth, and I hope the people of Alabama engage (or engaged) in fervent prayer before they make their choice.

Post-election thoughts

So it seemed pretty brutal for the Republicans Tuesday night as they lost the two governor’s races that were available to them, including the one Chris Christie was vacating in New Jersey. There, incoming Governor-elect Philip Murphy gained a modest total of three seats in his 120-seat legislature, although it was already tilted heavily toward his party anyway. Going from 54-26 and 24-16 to 56-24 and 25-15 probably isn’t going to make a lot of difference in the scheme of things there as much as the change at the top.

On the other hand, the party at the top won’t change in Virginia as Democrat Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam will succeed his “boss” over the last four years, fellow Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe. The big sensation there was the Democrats’ pickup of 16 seats in their House of Delegates to suddenly turn an overwhelming 66-34 disadvantage to a 50-50 tie. The Virginia results have been trumpeted (pun intended) around the country as a repudiation of the President and the Republicans by a gleeful partisan media.

But if you take a look at the lay of the land, the results are less surprising than you may think. Consider, first of all, the geography of these 16 districts. Ten of these districts lie close to the Washington region, bordering the sea of blue on this map – so they read the WaPo, never liked Donald Trump to begin with, and for them it was open season on Republicans beginning November 9, 2016. Three of the other ones are in the suburbs of Richmond, two are within the Tidewater region, and one seeming outlier is along the West Virginia border. Yet that district along the border of one of Trump’s strongest states wasn’t the lone district of the sixteen that flipped which supported Trump in 2016 – that distinction went to the 85th District in Virginia Beach.

To become Republican districts in the first place, they obviously had to elect Republicans at the legislative level two years ago (when the GOP actually lost one seat to go from 67-33 to 66-34.) But a year before that 10 of the 16 supported Ed Gillespie in his run for the U.S. Senate against Mark Warner (the six that did not were all in northern Virginia.) Similarly, the districts split evenly between supporting Republican Ken Cuccinelli and McAuliffe in 2013, with the northern Virginia districts that threw out the Republicans this time around mostly favoring McAuliffe.

The election results of the last two years are beginning to prove that Virginia is becoming another, slightly larger Maryland – wide swaths of rural Republicans who get killed at the ballot box by government-addled junkies in cities which depend too much on it. Setting aside the vast number of Virginians that call the Potomac Valley home, it’s worth remembering that the Tidewater area is the largest concentration of cities but Richmond is also a significant urban area, too, and it’s the state capital.

So let’s shift our focus onto Maryland. There were two Republican mayors the state party was dearly hoping would win on Tuesday, but instead both were shellacked pretty handily. Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides couldn’t recreate his 59-vote escape act of 2013 nor could Randy McClement win a third term in Frederick – and neither could even sniff 40% of the vote. But then neither municipality is Republican-friendly territory as both their city councils are dominated by Democrats, so the success of both men was something of an outlier.

The knee-jerk reactions have been predictable. Establishment Republicans blame the unpopular Donald Trump for dragging down these candidates while the devout Trump backers say it’s the fault of a Congress that’s not enacting Trump’s agenda quickly enough. But you didn’t come here for knee-jerk reaction, do you?

Again, let’s look at where most of these voters in question reside. The Virginia voters who tossed out Republicans are by and large suburban voters. The Maryland voters who threw out these two mayors are in Annapolis and Frederick, which are suburban settings. (I would argue Annapolis has more in common with a suburb than a city, despite the fact it’s our state capital, because of its proximity to Baltimore and Washington.)

Above all, suburban people are conformist and they are the targets of the dominant media and the educational system – neither of which has been glowing in their praise for Donald Trump or any of his policies. Given that information and candidates who can make and break promises just like Republicans have done (except theirs for “free stuff” sound better) you get what we had Tuesday night.

So let me hit you with a platform from a suburban candidate and see how you like it. I slightly edited it to remove identifying information for the moment.

Simply put, these address issues that hold our city back. They all are also interconnected to the success not only of our city, but of our citizen. Why do I say that? Because we too often measure success by the health of the city’s checkbook. I believe we best measure the health of the city by the health of our fellow citizens checkbook. (Among other factors.)

LOWER TAXES: We are tied with only a few surrounding cities for the highest income tax rate. If the additional .25% rate passes, we will have the highest income tax rate in the area. This is among the highest concerns of people looking to move to a new area. It also is a strong factor in businesses looking for a new location. Simply put in order to grow at a rate needed to provide for the future, we CANNOT continue sabotaging our development efforts by being an expensive place to live or to work.

SAFE, AFFORDABLE WATER: Everyone I talked to on my campaign expressed great concern over water rates. Water is the life blood of a community. Same as above, how can we be a draw to new families and businesses when our water rates cripple the budgets of those we wish to welcome to (our city.) I will call for Performance Audits of (the local water suppliers) on my first council meeting if elected. We also must push for multiple sources of water, with a regional approach. We can not let one community hold others hostage for water.

PRIORITIZE SPENDING: Priority based budgeting is what every family and every business implements. Most government agencies do not. Lets bring in the experts at Priority Based Budgeting. Let’s stop playing the game of putting vital services such as police, fire and roads on the ballot. Those departments should be the first funded from the General Fund. This also applies to projects. Roundabouts are a luxury unless at a new intersection. Fix our roads FIRST! This also applies to developing proper maintenance plans and funding them first. It is always cheaper to care for equipment, buildings and roads than to let them fall into disrepair.

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: We cannot do this alone. If we try to succeed as (our city) alone, we will fail. The (regional) area is rich in so many key economic development factors: location, skilled labor, research, transportation resources and good, strong families. We hold ourselves back by other factors though. High taxes. Regulations. Expensive water. We also need to broaden our reach to different industries. We need to recognize we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket. (Our city) lived and died with (a defunct local business) many years ago. It took some effort to start to recover from the losses of our largest employer. Now we have a very heavy concentration on retail. While all growth is good, we are sliding back towards putting all our eggs in one basket again – except this time it is a retail basket which is far more subject to economic recessions. Our labor force is incredibly diverse. We need good paying jobs that provide a career to match.

I believe we can all work together on these four points. We can turn from trying to tax our way to prosperity and instead focus on growing our way to not only a prosperous (city), but prosperous families!

Now, let me ask you – is that a scary platform? Maybe to those who are invested in government as the solution, but the key here is the recognition of the role of government. And it was good enough to win. It’s the platform of an old friend of mine, Bob Densic, who this time won a seat on the Rossford (Ohio) City Council (his third try.) Bob and I are political soulmates, so it’s going to be interesting to see how he likes trying to put his ideas into practice.

Perhaps a key to Bob’s success is the fact that his city has non-partisan municipal elections. In a year like this one, I would submit to you that the issue was with the Republican brand and not the philosophy. Because the Democrats and media (but I repeat myself) have so successfully tied Donald Trump with the mainstream Republican Party (despite the fact Trump claimed to have identified more as a Democrat as recently as a decade ago) and have worked their hardest to drive his popularity down with negative coverage, the results from Tuesday are what you would expect. Democrats were motivated to come out, the people who believed the media hype about Trump being so bad were motivated to come out, and Republicans were discouraged.

So it may get worse for Republicans before it gets better. But my advice to the GOP, not that I expect them to take it: forget trying to work with Democrats and put up a conservative gameplan. No pale pastels for us.

Odds and ends number 84

After resurrecting one long-dormant series over the weekend, today we make it two. It hasn’t quite been a year since I did an ‘odds and ends” and there’s not a year’s worth of stuff, but the creative juices are flowing anyway.

Let’s begin with some good news from our national pastime. If you recall, back in July the Shorebirds made headlines for playing the longest game in their 21-season history, spreading out the drama against the Lexington Legends over two days thanks to a storm that broke over the stadium after 20 innings were in the books. It took just one inning the next evening to settle Delmarva’s 7-6 defeat, but the contest was the Fans’ Choice for a MiLBY Award. It had (ironically enough) 21% of the vote among 10 contenders. (Alas, the actual MiLBY went to some other game.)

The other sad part about that story, besides the folks at the Minor League Baseball site misidentifying us as Frederick: it turned out that one inning of baseball would be all that was played that evening as another heavy storm blew through just at scheduled game time. (I remember it well because I was at work.)

The Shorebirds were also a MiLBY bridesmaid in the blooper department with their September “goose delay.

And while Astros-Dodgers didn’t have the same cachet as the Cubs finally breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat last season, the 28 million viewers of Game 7 completed a World Series where it again kicked the NFL’s ass (as it should, since football season doesn’t start until the World Series is over anyway.) And with the erosion of the NFL’s appeal thanks to the anthem protests and – frankly – rather boring games where fundamentals are ignored, the window of NFL dominance may be closing.

Speaking of things that are dominant, a few weeks back I detailed the effort to bring the sanity of right-to-work to Sussex County, Delaware. An update from the Daily Signal detailed some of Big Labor’s reaction when it came up again. And again I respond – having the choice to join the union is better than not having the job at all.

Delaware was also the subject of one of a series of pieces that ran over the summer and fall from my friends at Energy Tomorrow. They cleverly chose a theme for each of the 50 states and the First State’s July piece was on “the beach life in Delaware.” Now what I found most interesting was just how little energy they produce compared to how much they consume, given they have no coal mines and little prospect of fracking or offshore drilling. And I was surprised how little tourism contributes to their state economy given the beach traffic in the summer.

Maryland’s, which came out last month, is quite different, as it has a companion piece about prosthetics. It obviously made sense with Johns Hopkins in the state, but what struck me was the quote included from Governor Larry Hogan. He’s the guy who betrayed the energy industry by needlessly banning fracking in the state. Unfortunately, Larry seems to suffer from the perception that energy companies are solely interested in profit when the industry knows they have to be good neighbors and environmentally responsible, too.

That’s quite all right: he doesn’t need those 22,729 votes in Allegany and Garrett counties when he can have a million liberals around the state say, “oh, Hogan banned fracking” and vote for Ben Jealous or Rushern Baker anyway.

Regularly I receive updates from the good folks at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, which tends to look at state politics in a conservative manner. But I can’t say this particular case is totally conservative or for limited government:

If Maryland lawmakers want to get serious about combating climate change and reducing pollution, they can simply tax the emission of carbon and other pollutants, thereby encouraging lower emissions and greater efficiency. No one likes a new tax, but it is a much cheaper and more effective way to cut pollution and fight climate change than a byzantine policy like the renewables mandate. Besides, revenue from a carbon tax could be used to reduce other taxes and fund other environmental initiatives. Problem is, though a carbon tax would be good for the environment and human health, it wouldn’t funnel money to politicians’ friends in corporate boardrooms and on Wall Street.

Maryland’s renewables standard isn’t about the environment and human health; it’s about money.

The last two sentences are the absolute truth, but the remainder of the excerpt is a case of “be careful what you wish for.” If the state indeed enacted a carbon tax, businesses and residents would waste no time fleeing the state for greener (pun intended) pastures. You can bet your bottom dollar that a carbon tax would be enacted on top of, not in place of, all the other taxes and fees we have.

Now it’s time for a pop quiz. Can you guess who said this?

Soon, our states will be redrawing their Congressional and state legislative district lines. It’s called redistricting, and it will take place in 2021, after the next Census takes place. That may seem far off, but the time to get started on this issue is now.

This is our best chance to eliminate the partisan gerrymandering that has blocked progress on so many of the issues we all care about. Simply put, redistricting has the potential to be a major turning point for our democracy. But we need to be prepared.

Maybe if I give you the next line you’ll have the answer.

That’s where the National Democratic Redistricting Committee comes in. Led by Eric Holder, my former Attorney General, they’re the strategic hub for Democratic activity leading up to redistricting. In partnership with groups like OFA, the NDRC is building the infrastructure Democrats need to ensure a fair outcome.

Our former President is now involved in this fight for a “fair” outcome – “fair” being defined as gerrymandered like Maryland is, I suppose.

To be honest, we won’t ever have truly fair districts until the concept of “majority-minority” districts is eliminated and districts are drawn by a computer program that strictly pays attention to population and boundaries such as county, city, or township lines or even major highways. With the GIS mapping we have now it’s possible to peg population exactly by address.

And if you figure that most people with common interests tend to gather together anyway – particularly in an economic sense – simply paying attention to geography and creating “compact and contiguous” districts should ensure fair representation. To me it’s just as wrong to have an Ohio Ninth Congressional District (where I used to live) that runs like a shoestring along the southern shore of Lake Erie and was created so as to put incumbent Democratic Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur in the same district – Kaptur won that primary – as it is to have a Maryland Third Congressional District that looks like a pterodactyl. When I was growing up, the Ninth basically covered the city of Toledo and its suburbs where we then lived but as the city lost population they had to take territory from the Fifth District that surrounded it at the time. After the 1980 census they decided to follow us and take the eastern half of Fulton County, west of Toledo – much to my chagrin, since my first election was the one Kaptur beat a one-term Republican. (She’s been there that long.) Since then, the Ninth has been pulled dramatically eastward along the lakeshore to the outskirts of Cleveland, connected at one point by a bridge.

Finally, I guess I can go to what one might call the “light-hearted stack of stuff.” Again from MPPI, when it came to the Washington Metro and how to pay for it, this was a tax proposal I could really get behind. I’m just shocked that it would make $200 million a year.

On that scary note we’ll see how long it takes before I get to the next rendition of odds and ends.