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.

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.

Losing the middle class

Most of my readers know that, after months of speculation as to his fate, former Delaware Senator and Vice-President Joe Biden entered the 2020 tournament for the Democratic presidential nomination a couple weeks back.

I had the opportunity to find this out a little in advance as I’ve been on his American Possibilities e-mail list for awhile. Of course, that’s morphed into the Biden 2020 mailing list so now I get regular missives from him on a variety of topics. Most of them I ignore, but this one begged for a counterpoint. I’ll pick it up after the formalities and omit the appeals for money as I go point-by-point. He’ll be in italics and I’ll be in regular font since it works better than a blockquote.

Michael, this country wasn’t built by bankers, CEOs, or hedge fund managers. This country was built by the American middle class.

It’s nice that you know my name, Joe, and in many respects you are correct. But most “bankers, CEOs, or hedge fund managers” were once members of the middle class – they just used hard work, talent, and aptitude to rise above the rabble that may not have had those same priorities, abilities, or desire to succeed. And the country needs ditch-diggers, too: there’s no shame in hard work. America was built by this team effort.

But today, the middle class is under attack, and too many families are being left out. They are working longer hours for less pay.

That’s why I’m calling for a $15 minimum wage — so we can build an economy where everyone has a chance to get ahead. (Emphasis in original.)

An hour is really still 60 minutes, but I get the point. But it seemed to me that median wages were increasing faster than inflation was since your successor took office, and government figures bear me out. They also prove that the Trump administration is succeeding much better than your old boss in addressing the situation.

I’ll grant the numbers come in at the tail end of the Great Recession (on the cited chart they begin in 2010) but in constant dollars the time period from 2010-2016 saw a net increase of just $5 a week during that six-year period. Moreover, while women’s earnings increased $10, men’s earnings actually declined $2 a week in constant dollars (based on 1982-84.)

Conversely, under Trump men have increased by a full $10 in nine quarters and women are up $2. Overall, the numbers are up $6 despite a hiccup at the end of 2017 that saw a sharp decrease in all categories. In 2018-19 men are up $11 a week, women $4 a week, and overall we have gained $10 a week. (Remember, that’s in 1980’s-vintage constant dollars. In actual 2018-19 terms the numbers since the end of 2017 are $51 a week for men, $29 for women, and $44 overall. A full $20 of that overall figure came upon the enactment of the Trump tax cuts between 2017Q4 and 2018Q1.)

Given that the average wage is now $23.31 an hour (and has risen about $1.50 since Trump came into office): I think the middle class is doing pretty well in this economy. But let’s soldier on:

And Michael, I’m asking you to stand with me on this, Sign your name to call for an increase of the national minimum wage to $15:

No, you’re standing by yourself on this one, Joe. Aren’t I already on your mailing list anyway? (By the way, that was originally a link to the money page.)

The middle class isn’t a number — it’s a set of values. Owning your own home. Sending your kids to college. Taking care of your geriatric parents.

The cost of all of these things is rising. And wages? Those aren’t.

We need to fix that. (Emphasis in original.)

Didn’t I just prove that wages were rising? Surely not everyone has an equal bump in pay, but as a whole they are.

And let’s talk about these milestones, shall we? One huge issue for the Millennials is the student loan debt they carry thanks to a society (aided by government regulatory policies at all levels) which requires a college degree for most of the desirable jobs. But not every degree is created equal; hence you get the proverbial womyn’s history majors working part-time as a barista at Starbucks while many engineering majors make serious coin. (Moreover, a large percentage of STEM majors are foreign students – look at a list of graduates from any engineering program and you won’t see a lot of common American names.)

And why is college so expensive in the first place? Conveniently, this chart happens to go back to my senior year of college and is in constant 2015-16 dollars – so you can see how the cost has grown so much faster than inflation. It’s been almost twenty years since I set foot on the campus of my alma mater but even in that fifteen years between graduation and my last visit there was a LOT of building on that campus – mainly in the category of student amenities such as a recreation center and complete renovation of the student center. Yeah, there were a couple new academic buildings (and they were gutting and expanding the architecture department building at the time) as well but that’s not what really attracts the kids.

Add to that the multitude (as in growing at a rate twice as fast as student enrollment) of new administrators – who surely receive an upper-middle-class salary and benefit package – and you have the beginning of a rampant increase in costs.

But the kicker was finalized by your old boss. Once the government shifted from guaranteeing loans – a practice for which the modern incarnation began in the early 1990s as a pilot program under Bush 41 – to becoming the sole provider in 2010 as a codicil to the Obamacare act, schools had no incentive to keep costs in line – why not dip your greedy mitts into that sweet manna of taxpayer dollars and keep everyone working on campus fat and happy? They had their money, so who cared if the government didn’t get theirs? That was on the student!

So the graduates (if they finished at all) have no money for a house, which is why many millions still live at home. And since their Boomer parents seldom put enough away (perhaps because they’re still supporting Johnny and Sally) for retirement and old age – believing Social Security and Medicare would somehow be enough to cushion their lavish lifestyles – those Boomers and their kids got a rude awakening when it was time for long-term care: Medicare doesn’t cover it and Medicaid will help itself to your estate for reimbursement.

Maybe it’s time to reconsider how much the government has already “fixed” for the middle class here? And don’t worry, I didn’t forget about ol’ “Creepy Joe.” Here he is again:

We need to restore the basic bargain for Americans so that if you work hard, you are able to share in the prosperity your work helped create.

To do this, we need to start with paying fair wages from the beginning.

Joe, did you forget that the true minimum wage is zero? Chances are, if you work hard and learn the skills needed to succeed in the workplace, you won’t be a minimum-wage worker for long. Yes, you may have to relocate or do tasks you might think are “beneath” you, but there are still paths to success in America – even in states where the minimum wage is set to the federal minimum.

Honestly, if we wanted “fair” wages we would have no minimum wage. That would be the ultimate in fairness as you are paid what you are worth to the employer. Don’t forget: employers aren’t there to give you a job, they are working to make a profit for themselves. If that doesn’t suit you, there are many opportunities to be your own boss – be cautioned, though, that there’s a much smaller safety net underneath you. But you would definitely “share in the prosperity your work helped create.”

I’m asking you to speak up, with me, and call for a raise of the national minimum wage, as the first step of many to have the back of American workers.

I told you no once, Joe. Get the government off the back of American workers.

This is just the first step. I look forward to sharing more about my plan for America in the future. Stay tuned.

Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of. When your plan consists of rightsizing government to conform to the Constitution – that would be a good first step. Until then, you’re just a guy who’s lived on the taxpayer dime for way too long.

You know, Joe, I was only six years old when you were first elected, and in that interim time I’ve worked in the private sector for thirty years or so. (For about fifteen of those I was paying off student loans – and that was only for about $10,000, plus scads of interest.) You made it all the way to vice-president, and I’ll give you props for dealing with the tragedies in your life. But arguably you have less in common with a working man than Donald Trump does, even though you talk a good game and he’s a billionaire or whatever. Trump took risks and had spectacular failures but he’s signed the front of checks for thousands of employees, too.

And comparing his economic record to that of your former boss – well, I don’t think there are too many who want to go back to that malaise. I know I don’t.

I don’t know what your domestic situation is, but I would be curious: what do you pay your hired help? Hopefully it was more than your charity giving once was.

Anyway, it was nice talking to you, Joe. Good luck in the debates – you’ll need it.

The coming Constitutional crisis

Editor’s note: On Friday, as usual, I had a piece in The Patriot Post. Normally it is published pretty much as I send it in, but when I got the response from my editor Nate Friday morning he noted that my submission was a little long and he boiled it down to some extent. So I decided to do this post with the deleted parts added back in as originally written.


While he’s in the news, based on his recent podcast interview with Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post, for a different reason, it’s interesting to hear these words from a certain Senator: “I trust the wisdom of people. And I’m confident – especially after having traveled (my state) for two years – people are good, fundamentally, and if given the choice to do the right thing, they will. To do the good thing, they will.”

Robert “Beto” O’Rourke may or may not be running for President in 2020, but we can be assured that neither his previous comments on the “exhaustion” of the Constitution nor his favored “progressive” policies square with that stated philosophy of trusting people will do the right thing. Naturally, conservatives have had a field day criticizing Beto’s notion that the Constitution is an outdated document, but they’re also giving some thought to the state of our government and whether it’s even trying to keep the checks and balances that were designed into it. Exhibit one: David French at National Review:

We’ve reached this point in large part because Congress has utterly abdicated to the president its constitutional responsibility and authority to declare war. It’s simply handed over one of its most important powers, and it stubbornly refuses to take it back. And that’s not the only power it’s given to the president. Donald Trump has lately been able to make sweeping, unilateral decisions about immigration (the travel ban, for example) and tariffs (our trade war with China) precisely because of previous congressional acts delegating an enormous amount of authority to the executive branch.

“Beto’s Constitutional Folly,” David French, National Review, January 16, 2019.

Is Congressional oversight really a thing of the past? The answer may be “yes” if you believe French’s cynicism. But the funny thing about the situation is that even those who inhabit the progressive Left get it. This passage comes from one of their more recent political Bibles, the Indivisible Guide:

(C)onstant reelection pressure means that MoCs (members of Congress) are enormously sensitive to their image in the district or state, and they will work very hard to avoid signs of public dissent or disapproval. What every MoC wants – regardless of party—is for his or her constituents to agree with the following narrative: “My MoC cares about me, shares my values, and is working hard for me.” (Emphasis mine.)

The Indivisible Guide

Our nation came into being because men with foresight and a sense of altruism wanted to allow the rest of us to have the freedom of controlling our own lives without answering to a tyrant not of our choosing. They carefully set up a government with three co-equal parts in the hope the triangular split would keep itself in balance, not allowing one side – especially the Executive Branch – to dominate. But that freedom came with the responsibility of maintaining diligence and a strong sense of morality, and as we became farther and father removed from the generation that founded our nation, our people backslid into trying to take shortcuts and passing the buck away from being responsible for our actions. “It’s not my job” became the national mantra.

In the case of Congress it meant figuring out ways not to have to take unpopular votes – and risking electoral defeat – by delegating its authority, as French points out. So something had to fill the vacuum, and ambitious progressive chief executives have too often been the ones who stepped up to do so, winning elections on the emotional appeal of promising a life of ease (or at least taking from those who have the means) if you didn’t mind ceding a just a little bit more of your freedom and fortune in the process.

Perhaps the earliest example of this was President Woodrow Wilson, whose election in 1912 (by a mere plurality of the vote thanks to a Republican Party rent between its own Roosevelt progressives and those who were Taft conservatives) ushered in a plethora of radical changes in the form and powers of government: in his first term the Constitution was changed to allow for taxation of income and direct election of Senators, and the Federal Reserve was formed. Wilson’s second term brought further Constitutional changes on a more social front with Prohibition and women’s suffrage. All those changes, enacted within an eight-year period, permanently altered the direction of the American republic and set the stage for a century of liberty erosion through the New Deal, Great Society, and, finally, Obamacare.

Some might call that which Wilson began “fundamental change,” but the problem with its evolution from Wilson to Barack Obama was succinctly addressed by our Mark Alexander: “If you believe government has whatever power it desires and is the answer to every problem, as Obama clearly does, you should at least competently run it. Instead, systemic bureaucratic corruption and craven political considerations rule the day.” Career bureaucrats have carved out their own fiefdoms in this modern-day age of kings.

So those who – perhaps naively – believed the days of incompetent progressive government were over when Donald J. Trump rolled into town have certainly been disappointed with his lack of progress in draining the Swamp. Surely many of those Trump believers were also the ones confident the TEA Party would restore the vision of our Founding Fathers based on a single election only to be disappointed by the excuse – passing the buck at its finest – that they only controlled half of one-third of the government by virtue of a House majority; however, that majority in the House became one in the Senate four years later and grabbed the White House in 2016, meaning work could be done on righting the Judicial Branch.

So the good people thought, finally, all the pieces are in place for a reform where the right things would be done to restore our Constitutional republic. But they failed to foresee a process that started out being made doubly difficult by the national Fourth Estate and its unrelenting negative coverage of everything Trump and became all but impossible because of a midterm election where the issues were subordinate to the personalities and emotions involved.

Given the midterm results, a better question to ask regarding the Constitution is whether the people really want it at all? In the midst of the 2017 Obamacare battle, writer W. James Antle pointed out an inconvenient truth about modern America, noting, “In practice, the American people want a much bigger federal government than the Constitution currently authorizes. Not long ago, a conservative wag quipped that if a president actually tried to enforce the Constitution’s limits on federal power, he or she would be impeached.”

On January 3, 2019, articles of impeachment against President Trump were re-introduced in Congress. While it’s claimed that the impeachable offense is obstruction of justice, the reality is that Trump was obstructing the transfer of power to the unelected bureaucrats amassing their fiefdoms and making their favored friends wealthy on the backs of the long-suffering taxpayer. It’s a process that makes a nation one of well-connected “haves” lording it over the hapless “have-nots” who see opportunities snatched away and reserved to a select few.

If power is ceded to the unelected few, or if differences in philosophy become so great as to be irreconcilable, the last resort becomes violent revolution – and our nation already tried that, twice. The harder but necessary responsibility for good people to undertake and – more importantly – demand from their leaders would be that of getting back to honoring the intentions of those who wrote the document we’re supposed to be living by. Restore our checks and balances.

The safe harbor is receding

Whether it’s a reaction to the perceived unpopularity of President Trump or the desire to get out in front of what promises to be a crowded field, the 2020 Presidential race is getting underway even as we finish packing the Christmas stuff and shatter any remaining New Year’s resolutions.

2020 will be the fourth Presidential race to occur since I began this website, and it seems the two parties handle things differently. We didn’t get the first formal announcement on the opposition GOP side in 2016 until March of 2015, when Texas Senator Ted Cruz was first to move. Four years earlier, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson was first in when he declared in April of 2011. (Some might count political consultant and gay rights activist Fred Karger as the first in; if so, he came online in March of 2011.)

On the other hand, when the Democrats were the opposition party they have started way early. Since I’ve been of the Republican persuasion for most of the nearly four decades I’ve been a registered voter, I had forgotten that the 2008 Democratic field was well into taking shape by this dawning stage of 2007, nearly a year out from the Iowa caucuses. If you believe Wikipedia, before January of that year was through we already had a number of Democrat candidates who had announced, with some having already formed exploratory committees:

  • Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (April, 2006)
  • outgoing Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack (November, 2006)
  • 2004 VP nominee John Edwards (December, 2006)
  • Delaware Senator Joe Biden (January, 2007)
  • Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd (January, 2007)
  • Illinois Senator Barack Obama (January, 2007)
  • New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton (January, 2007)
  • New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (January, 2007)

Note that 2008 was an “open-seat” race, not one where there was a Republican incumbent. Also note that Biden and Clinton are considering yet another run but haven’t made a final decision yet.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised 18 months ago when Rep. John Delaney made it known he was skipping a fourth Congressional term (and a potential race for Maryland governor) to make a bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination. We hadn’t made the new year yet when Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren jumped in and now we have a couple others: Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro. Another candidate who declared last fall after losing a Congressional bid and could be taken as a second-tier hopeful is Maj. Richard Ojeda, an Army veteran and former West Virginia state senator best known as a passionate supporter of his state’s teachers unions – and for being called “stone cold crazy” by President Trump – who is running a populist campaign.

The upshot of all this is that I decided it was time to put together a widget for my Democrat friends – and of course, for the Republicans it will include Donald Trump as well since he has declared for re-election. Also included are some of the Libertarians who are also running. I did a soft opening for it yesterday afternoon, but it’s placed down the page a bit so you may not have noticed. Now you should, as I did it in the style of my 2018 widgets with social media links included.

Odds and ends number 91

It’s amazing how much stuff one thinks is newsworthy at the time and thus collects in an e-mail account, but by the time they think about writing on it the moment is gone. In this case, it’s items I thought were important enough at the time to keep around and still hold enough interest to me to make the cut days or weeks later.

As usual, it’s a sentence to a few paragraphs. So here goes…

Obama goes all-in on redistricting

Back in December I (along with millions of others) received an e-mail from our most recent past President telling us he’s joining forces with Eric Holder:

Next year, OFA is fully combining forces with the redistricting effort of my former attorney general, Eric Holder. We’re going all-in on the fight against gerrymandering — because for all the hard-fought progress we’ve achieved together, the lack of truly representative government has too often stood in the way of change.

Now, that structural gridlock has been frustrating, no doubt. But if we capitalize on the opportunity to reverse these undemocratic and unrepresentative maps, the bounds of what is possible will fundamentally change.

With maps that deliver on the promise of equal representation, our political leaders will be forced to actually prioritize the will and well-being of the American people on the most pressing issues of our time.

“What’s Next,” e-mail from Organizing for Action, December 20, 2018.

Traditionally the federal government has pretty much left states alone in how they apportion their given number of representatives, which means you get diametrically differing results: some states have it done by a commission, others by their legislature, and Maryland has the governor do it. (Obviously it’s no issue in Delaware as they get just one at-large House member.)

Since attaining office in 2014, Larry Hogan has tried to reform redistricting to no avail. Perhaps this is because Democrats have controlled the process for every redistricting since 1960, a census that led the state to having an “at-large” representative until the shape and placement of an eighth district could be agreed on. (The state was allotted an eighth representative in the 1960 census.) The dirty work of reform could be carried out by the Supreme Court, too, which is the hope of Democrats (like Obama) who think the GOP should blink first because they control more states.

But it’s certain Maryland’s situation is closer to the Obama-Holder idea of “fairness” than other, Republican-drawn states are. I notice they haven’t made a big deal about our state’s blatant attempts at shifting districts from Republican to Democrat – a case that led to the district court ruling mandating a redraw of our Sixth District before the 2020 election.

An Indivisible shutdown

Not surprisingly, the left-wing Astroturf group is taking credit for egging on the Schumer-Pelosi shutdown and calling on the Senate to consider no legislation until a “clean” continuing resolution is sent up for approval.

Just (Tuesday), Senate Democrats, lead (sic) by Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), backed our strategy to refuse to proceed with business as usual until Mitch McConnell brings a bill to the floor to reopen the government. They played hardball, and they won – blocking the first bill that Mitch McConnell tried to bring up.

“When autocrats abuse the tools of democracy,” Indivisible e-mail, January 9, 2019

But listen to the rhetoric they are using: did you know concrete and steel are racist? This is from the “Republican Senator” call script (there’s one for Democrats, too.)

Will [Senator] commit to passing the House funding bills that would reopen our government instead holding our government hostage over Trump’s racist wall?

Indivisible action page

Look, I get the argument about how more of our illegal immigrants are those overstaying visas than those sneaking across the border. So I know a wall is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem, since there also needs to be enforcement personnel put in place as well as measures to make being here illegally less attractive, such as an end to “birthright citizenship” and punishment for businesses that routinely hire illegal aliens. I would listen to an argument that allows those here illegally to become citizens, but it would involve them starting the process from within their home country.

First things first, though: pony up the $5 billion and build the wall. (Dude, in the grand scheme of our overly-bloated federal government budget that’s a rounding error.) The last time I checked the Constitution – you know, that document public officials swear to uphold – common defense was supposed to be provided for, and to me a wall would be part of common defense, even if it’s not in the actual defense budget. Every day the Democrats obstruct is a day they putting politics above safety.

Meanwhile, in news being ignored…

Americans keep getting hired to build things. Remember a few years ago when the Alliance for American Manufacturing had a monthly count comparing the actual number of manufacturing jobs created under Barack Obama to the million he promised? I think that ended about 700,000 short. But instead of giving Donald Trump credit for eclipsing the half-million mark in that category in less than two years, they want more trade enforcement. Stop and smell the roses, guys.

But can the good times last?

There’s going to be a two-front war on prosperity conducted by the Left. On the public front there’s the so-called “Green New Deal,” which has been ably dissected by Hayden Ludwig of the Capital Research Center. Corollary to that is the contrarian advice to Democrats given by Bobby Jindal in the Wall Street Journal. I won’t take you behind the paywall, but the upshot is that “(a) more effective strategy (than impeachment threats, abolishing ICE, or installing “Medicare for All”) would be for House Democrats to take Mr. Trump’s populist campaign rhetoric seriously and seek to divide him from his more conventional Republican colleagues on the Hill.”

I don’t know just how far Jindal’s tongue is in his cheek, but I have to question how serious he is when he says:

Populist Democrats can help the president make good on his promises – and make Republicans shriek – by proposing a financial-transaction tax and a revenue tax on tech companies. They’d be following Europe’s lead. Democrats can force the issue by ending the carried-interest tax break, another of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises.

That new revenue would reduce annual deficits and make a down payment on another Trump campaign promise: eliminating the nation’s debt in eight years. Contrasting themselves with supposed small-government congressional Republicans, who presided over a $779 billion budget deficit during the last fiscal year, Democrats can be the party of fiscal responsibility, expanding government while reducing the deficit. There is no law mandating they spend all the new revenue they raise.

“If Democrats Were Shrewd…”, Bobby Jindal, Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2018

Wanna bet they won’t spend the revenue? See “Green New Deal” above.

Behind the scenes, though, the die has been cast for a rerun of 2007-2008, when a Republican President saddled with an unpopular war let a Democrat Congress that promised to be reformers walk all over him. To that end, the first thing the Democrats did when they got the reins of power was change the rules. This link came courtesy of my old friend Melody Clarke – longtime fans of the site (like her) may remember her as Melody Scalley, who twice ran for Virginia’s House of Delegates and used to have a conservative talk radio program I guested on back in the day. (Geez, that was almost a decade ago. *sigh*)

But the House rules are important because previous incarnations made it more difficult to raise taxes or create new spending without offsetting it somewhere else. Now they favor bigger, more intrusive government for the well-connected special interests that attach to Democrats like ticks to hound dogs.

Creating more choices for Maryland

If you recall my postmortem coverage of the most recent past election, you will note I was corrected in one of my assertions by state Libertarian Party Chair Bob Johnston. I thought it was any statewide candidate who could get 1% to keep a party on the ballot, but he said it had to be governor (or President) and despite my last-minute support Shawn Quinn got well less than 1% of the vote.

But, thanks to a previous court case brought by an independent candidate for statewide office, the threshold for statewide ballot inclusion is now 10,000 signatures. (That helped Neal Simon run for U.S. Senate.) Using that logic, the Maryland Libertarian Party is suing the state to further relax ballot standing rules:

Maryland law requires smaller parties – all those other than the Democrats and Republicans – to renew their official status every four years either by attracting more than 1% of the gubernatorial or presidential vote or by filing a petition with the signatures of 10,000 registered voters.  In 2014 the Libertarians became the first smaller party in Maryland to reach the 1% goal, but in 2018 they fell short.  Now state law requires them to collect 10,000 signatures—even though the state’s own records already show that there are 22,338 registered Libertarians.

“The state’s interest in ensuring that there is a significant modicum of support within Maryland for the Libertarian Party is simply not advanced one iota by requiring Maryland’s 22,000 Libertarians to petition their non-Libertarian neighbors for permission to participate in the political process,” say the plaintiffs in their complaint.

Maryland Libertarian Party press release, December 27, 2018.

If the Libertarians are successful, they would qualify for the 2020 and 2022 ballots – although I’m not sure how they don’t qualify for 2020 when Gary Johnson received well over 1% of the Maryland vote in 2016. (Perhaps it’s only for the remainder of the state’s four-year electoral cycle?) This would certainly make the game easier for the Libertarian Party as they don’t have to spend money chasing petition signatures nor would they have to convince another 18,000 or so voters to join their ranks to get them to 1% of the registered voters. (Getting a percentage of registered voters is a criteria for both Maryland and Delaware, but the numbers are easier to achieve in Delaware, which only requires 1/10 of a percent – and subsequently has seven balloted parties.)

And with 9,287 registered voters and a “Green New Deal” to support, it’s certain that Maryland’s Green Party is watching this case (Johnston v. Lamone) as well.

Coming up…

As I mentioned in yesterday’s piece I have a special record review coming. I was actually listening to it as I did this post, so it was good background music I’ll take another spin at this week before posting.

I’ve also been putting together a short series of posts – ones that are long on number-crunching and research, which make them even more fun for me – on something I enjoy. My friends watching the Hot Stove League should really appreciate it, too.

It all beats the political, which has degenerated to me almost to mind-numbingly boring because it’s so, so predictable. When it strikes my fancy I’ll delve into it again, but in the meantime it’s the other stuff.

What a party should be looking for

The other day I ran across a social media post from a friend of mine remarking how it was strange to see her name on the election ballot. Conversely. for the first time in 12 years, my name isn’t on a gubernatorial primary ballot in Wicomico County – so I retire with a record of 4-2. Granted, three of the four wins were situations where I could not lose, but a W is a W. (I won twice in three tries in Ohio, too.)

Anyway, since there are several former colleagues of mine who are running this time around, I didn’t want to make endorsements so much as give you an idea of what I think a good Central Committee member would be like.

In Maryland, Central Committee members for the GOP run on either a county level at-large or as part of a district within a county. In those instances where aspirants run for an entire county, there are normally seven to nine seats available and the race basically comes down to having enough name recognition to place in the top portion. For a district, it’s harder because there is generally just one seat to be had – so those seeking the seats often need to spend money or go knock on doors, or both.

One drawback in either case is being forced to compete with someone who’s already in elected office. For example, here in Wicomico County we have County Councilman Larry Dodd running both for County Council and the Central Committee. Obviously there’s no regulation against it (several elected officials around the state also sit on their county’s Central Committee) but one has to wonder whether they are doing it to boost their party or simply enhance their chances at re-election.

So we eliminate the self-servers. What that leaves is a collection of some people who know the ropes and a number of prospective newcomers. Using the slate I face as an example, 5 of the 13 on the ballot are already on the Central Committee, with four elected in 2014 and one appointee who happened to be my replacement when I left. One of the four remaining is running for a fourth term (coming in the same time I did), two are running for a third, and one is seeking re-election for the first time.

Obviously I know these people well because I worked with most of them, so that clouds my judgement a little bit. But if you’re on the outside, the operative question to ask is whether the party you’re a member of is better off than when they started. For instance, one longtime goal of our Central Committee was to get an elected school board – it took 12 years and removing a number of elected officials who were standing in the way, but this year we finally get a choice. (Well, some of us do: my district happens to have just one person running. But there are options for the at-large seats.)

As far as elected officials go, over the last twelve years my county has gone from having a 4-3 Democrat majority on a County Council that handled both legislative and executive duties to a 6-1 GOP majority with a Democrat county executive that became a Republican in 2014. Republicans gained the Sheriff and State’s Attorney positions but lost a spot on the Orphan’s Court. The local GOP also lost one State Senate seat but picked up one Delegate seat at the same time. (In theory, the GOP lost a seat but that was because one Delegate was redistricted out of the county.) In 12 years, though, the Republicans have gone from trailing Democrats in registration by 4,145 at the end of 2006 (a D+8 county) to trailing by 3,703 as of April (a D+6 county.)

The gains have been incremental: the Sheriff came in with the 2006 election (along with one County Council seat), the State’s Attorney in 2010 (with 2 more Council seats), and County Executive in 2014. In 2010 we gained one GOP Delegate but that was because the Democrat moved up to Senator, replacing a Republican stalwart. So there’s been a pretty good record of success for the Central Committee incumbents in my county, but your mileage may vary. (It was also a very stable group: for one term – 2010 to 2014 – we had no turnover at all. The nine elected in 2010 all served their full term, although some did not wish to return.)

The final qualification, though, is pretty subjective and requires some thought on your part.

There are some people out there who believe in their party, wrong or right. They’re the ones who complained about everything Barack Obama and Bill Clinton did but defend Donald Trump and the legacy of George W. Bush simply based on the letter behind their name. In honor of onetime Maryland GOP Chair Audrey Scott, I call them the “party over everything” group.

Eight years ago when I was first standing for re-election down here I wrote a post called “Party uber alles?” In it, I said this:

Yes, I’m proud to be a Republican but the “R” next to the name doesn’t guarantee a vote when I think they fall short on principles. That’s why I am unabashedly a (2010 GOP gubernatorial challenger Brian) Murphy supporter – on the other hand, Wayne Gilchrest was one of those types who wasn’t what I considered a good Republican to be.

(…)

It’s what makes your local Central Committee elections almost as important as choosing the best Republican candidates to follow the party’s conservative, limited-government philosophy through to a seat in the General Assembly.

It’s no secret I am to the right of the GOP’s center – I’m only half-joking when I say I’m “barely left of militia.” I left my Central Committee when my party left me and supported Donald Trump, who I considered to be too far left. (As a President, he’s often been a pleasant surprise in his manner of governing but isn’t the Reaganesque leader I was seeking.)

On most local Republican Party websites they will have a list of principles, often called “Why I Am A Republican.” The problem is that party leaders and elected officials too often talk a good game, but fail when it comes to principle. Above all, a good Central Committee member has to have principles more or less in line with their party’s – but a great Central Committee member has principles in line with the Constitution and its original intent.

So next Tuesday I’m going to fill out my ballot with some of those running, although I’m not going to vote for the full nine. (Not that I ever have: no disrespect to my erstwhile colleagues, but I always bullet voted just for myself. I didn’t care so much about who I served with so long as I served.) But as long as you’re not on the ballot, feel free to vote for the candidates you believe will fulfill the Constitutional principles that made our nation great. That’s how I’m going to do it.

The GOP after 2020

It’s doubtful many people saw this with everything from a blue blood moon eclipse to the State of the Union address to the runup to the Super Bowl going on, but my first choice for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination weighed in at the Wall Street Journal (alas, behind a paywall) with his thoughts on the post-Trump GOP.

The reason I put 2020 in the title, despite the fact the Trump presidency could last until January of 2025, is that the moment the 2020 election is over Donald Trump is a lame duck. At that time we will either see the jockeying for position in case Vice-President Mike Pence doesn’t want the top job, like the last GOP veep Dick Cheney who didn’t run in 2008 (nor has he since.) So the new direction of the Republican Party will be determined after 2020. (This is in contrast to the Democratic Party, which is now having the fight they should have had in 2013-14 after Barack Obama was re-elected. Even had Joe Biden decided to run, there was going to be a battle between generations and philosophies on the Democratic side.

But Bobby Jindal sees the upcoming fight and wants to avoid it. His contention, though, is that the Trump philosophy is no bigger and has no more lasting effect than his direct participation in the presidency. In Jindal’s view, the new GOP should remember:

The Trump movement should and can be bigger than him. Now that elite Democrats have renounced the blue-collar working-class voters who supported them as recently as 2012, Republicans must learn to consolidate and build on that base. The next Republican presidential nominee after Mr. Trump will have a fighting shot at bringing home the people who like lower taxes and dead terrorists but bristle at his crude behavior.

(snip)

The moment immediately after Trump is the one that counts. It is possible that it took him to broaden us and that our subsequent existence will depend on his disappearance.

Where does all this leave us? We need to take over and reinvent the GOP. Mr. Trump won’t be the man to do it. We should create a more populist – Trumpian – bottom-up GOP that loves freedom and flies the biggest American flag in history, shouting that American values and institutions are better than everybody else’s and essential to the future.

It sounds to me like Jindal is looking for a Republican Party that takes a page from the Constitution Party. The problem is that too many people equate populist policy (hardline immigration but a willingness to compromise, and big government done more efficiently) with Republicans now. Despite the fact that President Trump is governing in many respects as conservatively (if not moreso) than Ronald Reagan, he shares the commonality with Reagan that his predecessor put in an unpopular big government program that he promised to kill – but in time wasn’t done. Reagan vowed to abolish the Department of Education but never had the Congress to do so, Trump evolved from “repeal” Obamacare to “repeal and replace” to “okay, we got rid of the penalty for not carrying insurance.” Trump, though, has Congress in his favor.

Unfortunately, we had a party like Jindal advocates once upon a time. Back when politics stopped at the water’s edge, the Great Society Democrats were fine with waving the flag but were also happy as clams promoting a bigger (and they thought a better) government. Absent the evidence Republicans (aside from Paul Ryan) want to significantly cut spending, I’m beginning to think we have a two-headed monster on our hands.

DLGWGTW: November 19, 2017

In the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments. I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this. 

Again, this looks like a two-part piece for tonight and Tuesday night.

You had to know there would be Democrat spin to counter with the GOP tax plan. It wasn’t just the Harris townhall. So I had a question for Steny Hoyer:

Maybe you can answer this question. The Bush tax cuts went into effect 2001 and 2003, and Reagan’s in 1983. Just how did tax cuts cause deficits when income tax revenue rose from $288.9 billion in 1983 to $445.7 billion in 1989 and $793.7 billion in 2003 to $1,163.4 billion in 2007 (before the Pelosi-Reid recession hit)?

There was plenty of money there, Too bad there were a lot of greedy hands that wanted to spend it.

A day later, Steny modified his propaganda offensive to point out the Republican opposition (based on the removal of state and local income tax deductions.) So some wag suggested we go back to the IRS code of 1956, marginal rates and all (when the top marginal rate was 90%.) So I said:

Okay, do I get the spending from 1956 too? You may have yourself a deal.

I reminded another it’s about the tax rates:

This is why you work to lower your state and local tax rates, too. Why should the rest of the country subsidize their spendthrift ways?

In that same vein, to another comment:

I would bet what Steny is leaving out is that (Rep. Peter) King’s constituents simply don’t want to lose the state/local tax deduction or have the mortgage interest limits reduced. It’s an issue somewhat unique to that area (high taxes + high home prices.)

As for the claim the GOP plan won’t help taxpayers like me:

Nope. Did the back of the envelope calculations – we stay in the 25% bracket and the increased standard deduction is just about a wash for losing the three individual exemptions. Where we will gain is the increased child tax credit, especially since they jump the phase out past our income level. It’s not a ton but it is more in OUR pockets since we don’t itemize. (And if we did the child tax credit would still help.)

My favorite, though, was the guy who blamed Steny for losing the Democrat majority.

“Why did you give (the House majority) to the Tea Party?”

Maybe because they earned it? “The people who stayed home and didn’t vote” didn’t exist anymore so than they did in the 2006 midterm since turnout was slightly higher as a percentage of voters (41.8 to 41.3, per the United States Election Project.)

It was the people motivated to come out that did the Democrats in.

A few days later, Steny came out with some pollaganda that needed to be addressed:

Well, if you ask the question that way you can expect that answer. How about asking them what they think of their own tax cut?

So when someone sniveled that they liked their taxes just fine but didn’t want tax cuts for millionaires because “the lost dollars will start a downward spiral of the economy,” well, you know I had to do some edumacashun.

I personally don’t care if millionaires get more tax cuts or not. Why should you? See, this is a teachable moment because your last statement tells me you have completely bought the notion that the government has first claim to our money, which is false – they do not perform the labor or create the value implicit in it, we do. There is no such thing as a “lost dollar” to them but there is to you and me.

He didn’t even like the fact the economy added a lot of jobs because wages went down a penny.

You say the same thing EVERY TIME. It’s like a broken record. And even the New York Times is admitting the wage loss is an anomaly. So what do you really have here besides a batch of hot air?

Once again, someone asserted that I’ll “have to learn the hard way.” Ma’am, I think I’ll do the educating here.

Okay, let’s go through this one point at a time.

“a giant giveaway to Corporations” – per the WSJ, about 2/3 of this package goes to corporations. Yes, $1 trillion may seem like a lot but it’s spread over 10 years – and in a $20 trillion economy $100 billion a year is a drop in the bucket. Of course, that’s a static analysis which doesn’t account for gains in GDP thanks to new investment, higher dividends, and so forth.

By the way, companies that “raise executive pay and buy back shares of stock to raise prices” find they lose market share over time to those that invest more wisely. And to be quite frank, the companies earned it in the first place – the government did nothing but put its hand out and maybe was even in cahoots with the company.

The naysayers also seem to assume that this package will “cost” the government the full $1.5 trillion over the decade, when it’s been properly referred to as “up to.” It could be 1.3, 1.0 or maybe even a wash. Do yourself a favor and look up income tax revenues in the periods after large tax cuts – you may be shocked to learn something new.

If a higher debt actually led to higher interest rates, we should have had Carteresque interest rates throughout both Bush 43 and (especially) Obama. But we did not.

This package will significantly limit deductions, but the question is: how many middle-class people itemize? If you don’t itemize deductions, which are often pegged to only apply if they add up to a significant percentage of income, then the changes which affect you most will be the expanded brackets at the lower end, the larger standard deduction, and the increased child tax credit.

“It likely cuts public services. It raises the specter of cutting Medicare and Medicaid.” Speculation at best. Besides, many of the functions the federal government has usurped for itself should properly be done by the states.

“The very rich will pay less taxes…” Well, wait a second – I thought we were eliminating all these deductions. The high-end rate is still the same, but they lose out with the mortgage interest and second home changes, among other things. Not that it truly matters anyway, since the so-called “1%” pay a share of the tax bill that is almost double their share of income. As I have often told Steny and now tell you, the class envy card is not accepted at my establishment. On principle alone the government should not be entitled to anyone’s estate just because they achieved their heavenly reward.

If the rich own 40% of the stock market, that means the rest of us own the other 60%. I don’t begrudge wise investors their success.

Now I will concede the point that the rich “don’t spend nearly as large a percentage of their income, as the middle class, and poor” to the extent that they don’t spend the same percentage on necessities: i.e. they eat, drive, heat their home, etc. But I argue they do spend a significant portion of their income as the drivers who bring prices on certain items down for the rest of us, which is a less tangible benefit. They also donate the large sums of money to charity that we can’t. (My wife’s employer is a beneficiary – a local philanthropist donated $1 million toward their renovation and expansion. I know I couldn’t do that.)

“It’s a dumb and backwards plan, written by people who either, don’t know what they are doing, or know it, but are prepared to lie about it.”

Or you could be swallowing the lies. I just know what I have seen, and the most prosperity I recall under a president is when Reagan was in office. Second was Bill Clinton when Newt Gingrich ran the House.

The one constant is that we were always told Republicans do tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s funny because I’m nowhere near wealthy but my taxes went down, too, and I put the money to good use.

Let this be a lesson to those who read here.

I quit picking on Steny for a bit, but I had an observation on someone else’s writing:

It’s been almost a year since Donald Trump was elected as President by enough voters in enough states to win the Electoral College. (This said to satisfy those on the Left who whine about Hillary winning the popular vote overall.)

But something I noticed right away upon his election was a change in economic outlook among the average Joes of the country, and it’s something I am sensitive to. I was laid off from a great job in December of 2008 basically because of pessimism over how Barack Obama would handle the economy, seeing that we were in the depths of the Great Recession (or as I call it, the Pelosi-Reid recession.)

Eight years and a few months later, the good Lord blessed me with a return to that same great job because of optimism over how Donald Trump would fix a stagnant economy.

So I submit this as evidence of my suspicions.

I have also found out that even Andy Harris isn’t immune to people who don’t know about the benefits of tax cuts or limited government. They comment on his site, too. For example, the people who think killing the estate tax is a bad idea got this:

Why? It’s a tiny percentage of federal revenues but can be devastating to family businesses and farms.

Yet people try to give me left-wing claptrap that it’s a “myth” the estate tax threatens family businesses and farms, So I find an example of one that would be only to be told it’s a biased source. Fun little game they play.

So I found a really unimpeachable source:

If you can’t refute the evidence, question the source?

But you’re missing the point: the government has NO right to the money just because the person died. If my neighbor had an estate of $5.48 million and got to pass all of his along yet mine was $5.5 million and my heirs had to fork over 40% to the government, how is that right in your eyes? I consider that arbitrary and capricious.

Nor do I stand for communist principles, to wit:

“Democracy would be wholly valueless to the proletariat if it were not immediately used as a means for putting through measures directed against private property and ensuring the livelihood of the proletariat. The main measures, emerging as the necessary result of existing relations, are the following:

(i) Limitation of private property through progressive taxation, heavy inheritance taxes, abolition of inheritance through collateral lines (brothers, nephews, etc.) forced loans, etc.”

That comes straight from the Marxists themselves. Deny that.

Then someone tried to say that trickle-down economics didn’t work and the tax cuts in Kansas were proof. I pointed out there were extenuating circumstances:

First of all, the issue in Kansas wasn’t the tax cuts – it was the state’s lack of willingness to curtail its spending to match, along with some issues with low prices in the commodity markets they depend on that eroded tax revenue even further. This is a good explanation.

Similarly, what increased the federal deficit during the aughts was a lack of willingness to cut spending to match tax income (as it has been for every year this century, including some real doozies of deficits under the last President, But back then deficits didn’t matter.)

But given the fact that this district voted handily for our Congressman and for President Trump, by extension it would be logical for Andy to vote for a tax plan the President supports.

And if you don’t agree that tax cuts create an economic boom, let me ask you: are you working for yourself or are you working for an allowance from the government? I don’t see Uncle Sam doing the work for which I show up at 7 and work until 5 most days. I earned the money and I want to keep more of it.

(A good question for Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. – is the reason we don’t adopt the FairTax a worry about lack of revenue or worry about lack of control of our behavior through the tax code?)

And again, I got the charge of biased source because Koch brothers or something like that. I can play that game too.

The contributor is actually a member of the Tax Policy Center, which is more left-leaning. And note that it was a court order demanding increased education spending that caused their budgetary problems for the year.

I think the truth is probably somewhere closer to the KPI version of events (since they are actually on the ground in Kansas) as opposed to a Beltway-based Forbes contributor. Actually, that’s a pretty good metaphor for the role of government, too.

This will be enough for tonight. Stay tuned on Tuesday for more.

Harris hears the hullabaloo, Salisbury edition

Back in March Congressman Andy Harris hosted what could be described as a contentious town hall meeting at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. It was believed that yesterday’s event would be more of the same, but a disappointing fraction of that traveling roadshow of malcontents came down to Salisbury in their attempt to jeer, interrupt, goad, and otherwise heckle Andy Harris for the entire hour-long event.

There were a couple other departures from the Wye Mills townhall, one being the choice of moderator. In this case, we had Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis acting as the questioner and doing a reasonable job of keeping things in order.

Interestingly enough, the people at these “progressive” group tables outside have our Sheriff – the same one they were castigating for his “divisive rhetoric” a few weeks ago – to thank for their continued presence there.

As one would expect, the Harris campaign wasn’t cool with the presence of these tables outside and had asked them to leave, but they were overruled by Lewis. This was an event open to the public and not a school function, Lewis told me, so as long as they did not create a disturbance or block access or egress they were free to be there. The table on the left was run by volunteers for Democratic challenger Michael Pullen and the one on the right by “nonpartisan progressive grassroots volunteer organization” Talbot Rising. The latter group was there two hours early when I arrived.

The other departure was the lack of a PowerPoint presentation to open the townhall meeting, slated for an hour but lasting a few minutes extra. Harris rolled right into the questions, which were divided into tax-related questions and everything else.

Outbursts were frequent, but Lewis only had to intercede a couple of times. There was also a staged incident where a man dressed as Rich Uncle Pennybags thanked Harris for his tax cut, with two helpers holding a fake check – all three were escorted from the premises.

Speaking of tax cuts, this was to be the main emphasis of the program. It was the part that drew the sea of red sheets from the crowd.

(By the way, there was a young man there who passed red and green sheets to everyone. I was too busy writing and trying to follow to use them much, though.)

Now I will warn you: the rapid-fire way of getting questions in, coupled with the frequent jeering interruptions from the crowd (which was closer to me than the loudspeaker was) made it tough to get a lot of quotes so my post is going to be more of a summary.

I can say that Harris said the “vast majority” of the middle class would get tax cuts, and that was President Trump’s aim – to have them “targeted to middle income.” This was one of the few slides he showed.

He added that there were now competing House and Senate versions of the bill, with key differences: for example, the Senate bill has the adoption tax credit the House bill lacks, but the House has the $10,000 real estate tax deduction where the Senate bill still has the full elimination of state and local tax deductions. “We know they are areas of concern,” said Harris. Another area he worried about was losing the deduction for medical expenses, which he believed “we should retain.” He noted, too, that “my office door has been knocked down by special interests” who want to keep a particular deduction or credit intact. Later, he warned us this was the “first part of a very long process,” predicting nothing will be final until next spring at the earliest. (Remember, Trump wanted it for Christmas.)

Andy also contended that passing business tax reform would help to increase wages, which would increase productivity. That assertion was ridiculed, of course, although it would be interesting to know just how many of those objecting actually ran businesses and signed the front of paychecks.

At one point Andy was asked about the $1.5 trillion deficit figure that’s been bandied about by the Left in reaction to the GOP tax package, to which Harris asked the folks who applauded the question whether they applauded the $1.3 trillion in deficits Barack Obama ran up in his first year in office. (I thought I heard someone behind me say something along the lines of “but that did more good,” and I had to stifle a laugh.) Essentially, that $1.5 trillion figure assumes no economic benefit from tax reform, said Harris. That echoed his one concern about passage: “We need the economy growing now.”

And, yes, trickle-down does work, Andy added, and no, George W. Bush did not do trickle-down with his tax cuts because they were only for individuals, not businesses. We have had a stagnant corporate tax rate since the 1980s while the rest of the world went down. “If we don’t give relief to American corporations they will go offshore,” said Harris. (In one respect, the “progressives” are right on this one: Harris left out the salient point that corporations are over-regulated, too.)

Over the years, Andy continued later, he’s found out that Washington cannot or will not control spending, so they have to grow the economy to achieve the balanced budget he’s working toward. (Tax cuts have worked before – ask Coolidge, Kennedy, and Reagan.)

Toward the end, someone else brought up the estate tax, which Andy naturally opposes and these “progressive” folks, like the good Marxists they are, reflexively favor. Andy pointed out the examples of family farms and small businesses that work to avoid the estate tax that the opposition claims won’t affect them, but then Andy cited the example of a car dealer who spends $150,000 a year to avoid estate taxes. Someone had the audacity to shout out, “see, he’s helping the economy!” I really wish I had the microphone because I would have asked her: how much value is really created with that $150,000? If there were no estate tax the dealer could have used that to improve his business, hire a couple employees, or whatever he wanted.

Now for some of the other topics. First was a question on net neutrality. The crowd seemed to favor government regulation but Harris preferred to “leave the internet to prosper on its own.” (A lot of mumbling about Comcast was heard after that one.)

This one should have been a slam dunk, but even it was mixed. Harris pledged to allow people to keep and bear arms for whatever reason they wanted, and when some in the crowd loudly objected Andy reminded them his parents grew up in a communist country where the people had no guns but the government did. That doesn’t usually end well.

And after the recent Sutherland Springs church massacre, there was a question about the federal gun purchase form (Form 4473, as I found), because the shooter had deliberately omitted information on a conviction. Harris pointed out that he had asked then-AG Eric Holder that very question about how many people he had charged with lying to the government on that form and he said 10, because he had higher priority items. Okay, then.

There was a question asked that I didn’t really catch about the student savings program being extended to the unborn, and before Andy got real far into his answer someone behind me got in a way about this being a trick to “establish personhood” for the unborn. I thought they already were. This actually relates to a question asked later about the Johnson Amendment, which is generally interpreted as a prohibition on political activity from the pulpit so churches maintain their tax-exempt status. Harris called the Johnson Amendment “ridiculous,” opining that a church should be able to tell its parishioners which candidates have similar political views without fear of the IRS – much to the chagrin of the traveling roadshow.

This one was maybe my favorite. A questioner asked about a lack of women in leadership positions under Trump, but when that questioner was asked about Betsy DeVos – a woman in a leadership position as Secretary of Education – well, that didn’t count. “This President is going to appoint people who do the job,” said Harris. (Speaking of women seeking leadership positions, among those attending was state Comptroller candidate Angie Phukan. She was the lucky monocle returner.)

There was another questioner who asked if anything was being done in a bipartisan manner, to which Harris pointed out the House cleared a number last week. “Watch the bipartisan bills being passed on Monday,” said Harris.

Since I had time to kill before the event, I wrote a total of four questions to ask and it turned out three made the cut. Here were the three and a summary of the answers.

What are the factors holding back true tax reform? Is it a fear of a lack of revenue or the temptation of government control of behavior that stops a real change to the system?

The biggest factor Andy cited was the K Street lobbyists, which I would feel answers the second part of the question better than the first, Note that he had said earlier special interests were beating down his office door. He also said he would really prefer a flat tax.

We have tried the stick of forcing people to buy health insurance through Obamacare and it didn’t do much to address the situation. What can we do on the incentive side to address issues of cost control and a lack of access to health care?

For this question, Andy gave the state-level example of the former Maryland state-run health insurance program, which acted as an insurer of last resort. And when someone yelled out, “it went bankrupt!” Andy reminded her that the program was profitable until Martin O’Malley raided it to balance a budget. Then there was some shouting fit over how bad the program was from someone who was a social worker, but then could you not have that same issue with the Medicare for All these people want (and Andy says “is not going to work”)? After all, both were/are government programs.

On that same subject, Andy said the American Health Care Act that died in the Senate “would have been good for Maryland” if it had passed.

The recent election results would tend to suggest President Trump is unpopular among a certain segment of voters. Yet the other side won simply because they ran against President Trump, not because they presented an agenda. What agenda should the GOP pursue to benefit our nation going forward?

This one had a short, simple answer I can borrow from a Democrat: it’s the economy, stupid. Get tax cuts passed so we can keep this accelerating economy going.

Lastly, I get the feeling I’m going to be semi-famous.

Given the fact that probably half the audience was rabid left-wing and/or open supporters of at least one of his Democrat opponents were there, I’m thinking the camera belongs to them. So if you stumble across any of the video, I’m the guy sporting the Faith Baptist colors up front.

Seriously, I was shocked at the lack of a media presence there. I gathered the Daily Times was there and they will spin it into more proof that Harris is unpopular. Maybe the Independent, the Sun, and the WaPo were too. But don’t let it be said that Harris was afraid to face his opposition. “This (townhall) is what America is all about,” said Andy near the end.

Personally, I get the frustration some on the Left feel about being in this district since we on the Right feel that way about the state. There was actually a question about gerrymandering asked, and while Andy properly pointed out it’s a state-level issue he also added that Governor Hogan has attempted to address this without success. They may also be frustrated because I know there were at least a couple cards in the hopper trying to bait Andy into answering on the Roy Moore situation, which Andy already addressed.

Overall, now that I’ve experienced the phenomenon for myself, it seems to me that our friends on the Left can complain all they want about their Congressman not listening. But every one of us there had the right to ask questions and common courtesy would dictate that we get to hear the answers whether you like them or not. So maybe you need to listen too.

Oh, and one other question for my local friends on the Left: are you going to clamor for Senators Cardin and Van Hollen to have a town hall here like you did for Harris? I know I would like one.

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.