Tuesday, December 27, 2016

We need to learn to appreciate what America’s Founders gave us

Donald Trump was unofficially declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election early in the morning on November 9, and that victory survived the slow vote counting in some states, and challenges of voting irregularities. And last Monday that victory was finally verified when the electors of the 50 states and the District of Columbia that comprise the Electoral College gathered in their respective districts to officially cast their votes.

The integrity of the Electoral College survived both the illegal and legal efforts of Trump opponents to bribe, intimidate or otherwise persuade Trump electors to not vote for him, with unexpected results: While a few electors did not vote as they were instructed by the voters they represented, the vast majority did as they should have done. And Trump won this contest, too. Of the 538 electors only seven of them did not vote according to the voting in their districts. Five of the “faithless” electors withheld their vote from Hillary Clinton, while only two withheld their vote from Trump.

Democrats and liberals have been crazy since the election, and now want the Electoral College to go the way of those thousands of missing emails from Clinton’s private server, since she won the popular vote by 2.1 percent, but lost the electoral vote. However, the Electoral College did precisely what it was designed to do; it did not “misfire,” as the Clinton camp charges.

The opinions of scholars and other commentators uphold the value of the Electoral College. For example, The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky explains: “In creating the basic architecture of the American government, the Founders struggled to satisfy each state’s demand for greater representation while attempting to balance popular sovereignty against the risk posed to the minority from majoritarian rule.”

In addition to those concerns, “as students of ancient history, the Founders feared the destructive passions of direct democracy, and as recent subjects of an overreaching monarch, they equally feared the rule of an elite unresponsive to the will of the people. The Electoral College was a compromise, neither fully democratic nor aristocratic,” writes Jarrett Stepman, an editor for The Daily Signal.

The University of Buffalo’s James Campbell explains that had the popular vote been the mechanism that chose the president, candidates would have focused their campaigns on the population centers, ignoring the rest of the country. And he further suggests that then voters probably would have behaved differently, too. Many in the less populated areas, for example, might have stayed home, feeling that their vote didn’t matter, effectively disenfranchising them.

California essentially provided Clinton the 2.8 million votes that comprised her popular vote victory. The Electoral College protected the interests of those millions of Americans who do not live in the population centers.

The other side of that argument is that under the Electoral College system, candidates would limit their campaigns to the swing states, producing a similar effect as the popular vote method does. However, swing states change from time to time, whereas population centers do not.

Looking at the final version of the electoral map, Clinton’s strength lay primarily in the coastal areas and a few spots in the middle, while Trump’s support covered a tall and wide swath across the area between the coasts. Clinton’s ballot power came primarily from New York, California and Chicago, the population centers, while the huge area of the country that went for Trump covers primarily small towns/cities and sparsely populated areas, the heartland of America.

And that is the value of the Electoral College system: it protects Americans in flyover country from the tyranny of big city dwellers, who generally have a much different set of values and desires. And remember that the president’s job is to act in the best interests of the entire country, not to satisfy the desires of a voting majority or of the big cities.

What if instead of the football team that scores the most points winning the game, the winner is the team that gained the most yards? That is a similar situation to electing a president: The number of votes – like the number of yards – is not necessarily the most important factor.

So don't do away with the Electoral College, as the spurned Clinton voters want. It provides the balance of national interests the Founders understood was necessary.

One change that makes sense is to stop having electors that must get together in a formal ceremony to vote. Since the results are known when the vote count is done, this step is unnecessary; it serves no useful purpose, costs money, delays the finalizing of the voter’s decision, and provides losing parties an opportunity for harmful mischief, as we witnessed.

And while the aggrieved are creating mischief, they are also building false hopes, which will cause even more grief when their mischief fails to change the results of the election, and generates bad feelings that will endure long after the election is over.

These days some group wants to change virtually everything about America that made it the unqualified success it has been since it was founded.

Stop trying to change it and instead enjoy its abundant benefits.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Can the Democrat Party recover and rehabilitate in time for 2020?

Having blown the 2016 "sure thing" coronation of Hillary Clinton; having magnificently failed to realize how badly they had alienated the people who live between the two coastal liberal strong-holds, not noticing their growing displeasure and desire for change, we are left to wonder if the Democrats can return to Earth in time to rebuild their party and find good candidates to head the party ticket in 2020.

In their effort to figure out what happened the Democrats have blamed James Comey and the FBI, Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders, Wikileaks, racism, sexism, fake news, Russia, and voters: everyone and everything is to blame except the DNC itself and its candidate.

After the election there were demonstrations by Clinton supporters that turned into riots, crying sessions and a search for safe spaces, suggestions that Russian hacking impacted the election, which led to efforts to undermine the Electoral College by persuading Republican electors to not vote for Trump, as their voters has instructed them. There were instances of intimidation and death threats against some electors.

But no evidence has been advanced suggesting that the Russians actually changed votes or affected the results of the election. One analysis says all the Russians did was hack Democrat emails that were then released by Wikileaks, which exposed the lies, deceit, corruption, and collusion of the Clinton campaign, the DNC, and the media to the public. Since their dirty little secrets were exposed to the world, naturally the Democrats had to try to get the electors to overturn the results of the election, right?

Of course, Democrats disagree with this analysis, but the fact remains that they are so badly flummoxed and disoriented that we have every reason to wonder if they can recover rationality in time for their party to function well enough to field competent candidates for the next presidential election.

Assuming the DNC is able to establish lucidity, who are the potential candidates? Odds are that if Hillary Clinton is still alive and well, she will put herself out there again, despite her weak performance in 2008 and her substantial defeat this year.

But there are alternatives, too.

The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto cites a poll by Public Policy Polling showing that “Joe Biden leads the way for Democrats with 31 percent to 24 percent for Bernie Sanders, and 16 percent for Elizabeth Warren.” As if to underscore the depths of confusion among Democrats, however, Taranto goes on to say that they also expressed preference for younger candidates: “57 percent of Democrats say they want their candidate to be under the age of 60, and 77 percent say they want their candidate to be under the age of 70. Only 8 percent actually want a candidate who’s in their [sic] 70s.”

He points out that by the time of the 2020 election the favored potential candidates will be north of 70: Biden will be 77, Sanders will be 79, and Warren, the baby of the group, will be 71. Based upon the ages of the favored Democrats, Taranto termed the DNC the “Great-Grand Old Party.”

James Hohmann, national political correspondent for The Washington Post, suggests that since VP candidate Sen. Tim Kaine, D-VA, has declined to seek the presidency in 2020 that the door is open for other recognizable faces to enter the fray, such as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, who took over Clinton’s Senate seat when she became secretary of state.

In addition to the aforementioned possibilities, Post opinion writer Chris Cillizza names some other lesser-known potential candidates in a commentary published by the Chicago Tribune.

California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November, is the first African-American woman elected to the Senate since Carol Moseley-Braun in 1992, Cillizza notes. He points out that she also represents the largest and most-Democrat state in the country, and that her “law-and-order-background” as AG will help her.

With first a business background, then serving as a mayor, and now Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper would have broad appeal, Cillizza believes. One negative is Hickenlooper’s moderate political position, which may not appeal to the current very-liberal Democrats.

Having demonstrated an ability to work across the aisle to achieve things for veterans and child adoption, Callizza believes Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has a positive profile for national office. Despite that her state is not exactly a fundraising hotbed for national politics, her ambitious demeanor may be attractive to Democrats.

Cillizza also notes that while current First Lady Michelle Obama has never run for office or expressed interest in doing so, she has excellent name recognition and “star power,” and would go into a race for the nomination as a beloved figure. He noted his approval of two of her political speeches, which he termed the two best in the last two years.

So, after Biden, Sanders, Warren, Booker, and Obama, the other possibilities have the name recognition hurdle to clear, so watching who says and does what during Trump’s first four years will help clarify the DNC’s dilemma.

Of course, if none of the above finds favor with the Democrats, Kanye West has already thrown his hat into the ring, and Martin Sheen of the recent effort to persuade electors to not vote for Trump is available. He’s never been a president, but he did play one on TV.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trump's choices for administrative positions confound the left

The fact that Donald Trump, the President-Elect of the United States, is following an unconventional path toward assembling his administration is precisely what anyone who has paid attention to the campaign and election process should expect. And yet, more than a year after he started down the path to become president, the left still seemingly can’t quite figure out Donald Trump. Failing to exercise caution about what to do when they find themselves in unfamiliar territory, the left doles out generous criticism of that which they so poorly understand. Clearly, desperation, and more than a little hysteria, rules the left these days.

Most everyone else gets it: Trump does not think like, act like or speak like a typical politician, because he isn’t a politician.

Coming from the world of business, Trump selects his team like a CEO, using not political considerations, but focusing on competence in management: top retired military people and successful business people, people who have proved themselves in endeavors other than as a long-time or lifetime government functionary.

And that is really why the left is horrified. It’s not that they don’t understand Trump, it is that they are offended and in disbelief that the voters have given them and their idea of government a big thumbs down, and they simply cannot, and will not adapt to this reality.

The narrow view that you have to be a career bureaucrat or politician, or a manic ideologue in order to successfully handle an important government position is the height of arrogance. It ignores reality, the fact that there are tens of thousands of successful people outside government that are every bit as qualified and competent as is a career politician or bureaucrat, and it certainly is possible that such a person might actually be better at it, because they will bring a vastly different approach to the job. In business and the military, efficiency is a fundamental element for success, but in government, efficiency is not common.

They have forgotten, never knew, or perhaps have just ignored the fact that the first Americans to serve in executive or legislative positions were common people, business people: farmers, bankers, blacksmiths, lawyers, surveyors, printers, merchants, etc. And in the early decades they served their country in office part of the time, and plied their private sector trade at home the rest of the time. Given the generally below-par performance of the federal government, restoring this characteristic to government service is one of the better changes we can make.

President Obama used political and ideological factors to make his selections; relying on people he knew who shared his leftist viewpoint.

Contrast that with Trump’s approach, which is selecting people for important positions from a practicality standpoint: Who can do this job well? Who will follow the rules, appreciate and abide by Constitutional limits on government? Transition insiders suggest that he will carefully select these leaders, and then leave them to run their departments, and not micro-manage them.

Trump has named four retired military general officers for positions in his administration, so far. The left finds this to be a very scary exercise, given that our government is supposed to be a civilian government. It seems unpersuasive to the critics on the left that these four talented and successful gentlemen are – as required – civilians, given that their military careers ended with their retirement. Obama named three generals to his cabinet without so much as a peep from the lefties. And, of course, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, was a retired 5-star General of the Army.

Critics say that Trump’s choices to head massive federal agencies and departments fail the competency test because they have never run anything with thousands or tens of thousands of employees, as federal agencies have today. While the size of an operation is certainly a factor, the skill of management is not necessarily defined by how large the organization or department is. Further, this criticism rests on the absurd idea that the only person with input into the operation of a department is its director. This is one area where long-term government employees can be very useful, providing important guidance and input.

Obama’s disastrous 8-year presidency has been defined by ideological and political considerations. Remember the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal that cost the life of a Border Patrol agent? Lois Learner using the IRS against conservative applicants for tax-exempt status? The EPA’s unilateral creation of rules with the force of law that pitted the federal government against an American industry, and put tens of thousands of Americans working in and with the coal industry out of work? Jamming Obamacare down the throats of Americans, and preventing participation in that process by Congressional Republicans?

The different approach of a Trump presidency might shock people simply because it is not the same old process that we now have. However, “different” does not automatically mean “not as good,” and may very well be much better. Despite the damage to the nation of the Obama years, the nation survived. The chances that Trump’s approach to governing will be worse than that are highly unlikely.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

2016 is the year that saw both major political parties collapse

The election of 2016 will be remembered – and reviled, by many – for years to come.

One party’s establishment had a coronation in mind; the other party’s had a primary process it thought would produce a milquetoast candidate along the lines of the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress that failed to stand their ground. Both parties were wrong, and what transpired during the primary process and the election shocked millions.

The Republican Party's collapse began years ago, when it forgot that it was the keeper of the nation’s conservative foundations, and squandered many opportunities to make positive and needed changes and to stop an imperialist president. That collapse peaked during the primary season. Among the 17 candidates was Donald Trump, a non-politician who attracted the attention of the voters with his intention to “Make America Great Again” and his promise to “drain the swamp.” His political inexperience was ridiculed and his appeal underestimated by nearly everyone, but against the desires of the establishment Republicans and despite their subversive efforts, he won the nomination comfortably.

Along the way to winning the GOP nomination, Trump churned up enormous amounts of bad will among both Republicans and Democrats. All of that chaos rendered the GOP so badly splintered that it was barely recognizable as a political party. But Trump won the all-but-destroyed GOP’s nomination, defied the conventional wisdom and the millions of Hillary faithful and won a significant Electoral College victory.

The Democrat Party's collapse began as a strong, blinding emotion for Hillary Clinton to again declare her desire to be crowned the first female President of the United States that had been on-hold for eight years. After all, it is time for a female president, right, and who is more deserving than she? With the exception of Bernie Sanders’ strong challenge to her anticipated coronation, the signs of collapse were obscured to Democrats and liberals by their overwhelming desire for a female president.

But on the campaign trail Clinton insulted Trump supporters, saying, “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables,” and generally ran a poor campaign. Her strategy was largely to slam Trump for nearly everything he did and said. She is not particularly likeable, and her list of scandals and bad judgment did not help her lagging popularity. That the jig was up became obvious early Wednesday morning, and Clinton was reportedly so disconsolate that she did not even concede the election until hours later. The pain lingers for Clinton and her supporters to this day.

What has happened to the two parties since their respective collapse is that the Republicans actually began a gradual restoration before Election Day, with some anti-Trumpers, perhaps grudgingly, coming around to give some degree of support to their party’s candidate. And as President-Elect Trump has been steadily assembling his administration, other prominent Republicans have been coming on board.

The GOP still has a long way to go, however, but is well ahead of the Democrats, who cannot accept the fact that Clinton did not win the election. They were so, so, so sure of their vision of a first-ever female president; but they were so, so, so wrong. Their disillusionment and desperation is palpable.

They didn’t notice the level of dissatisfaction of the people, and still haven’t realized what happened. Instead, they blame FBI Director James Comey’s crazy behavior in the email scandal investigation and Clinton’s inferior campaigning as causes for the loss, never aware that after eight years of President Barack Obama’s failed policies, the country wants change.

Having missed the reason for their defeat, they aren’t working to revitalize the party, but instead are indulging in playground-style name-calling and criticizing everything Trump says and does, labeling him and his choices for positions racists, sexists, misogynists, bigots, homophobes, and white nationalists. And last week rather than try someone new with different ideas, House Democrats re-elected California’s Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader.

While Trump focuses on carefully selecting people for administration positions – capable people the left would never have thought of – those selections are automatically considered bad and are setting the country up for major failure.

Democrats and the left media are stunned that the new president has different ideas about what the country needs than they have, and have lost all semblance of common sense over Trump accepting a congratulatory phone call from the democratically elected president of Taiwan, on the grounds that it would upset China. The idea that an American president ought to check with any nation before talking to a national leader is preposterous.

Trump has ably demonstrated that he, like all of us, is an imperfect being. He is not a politician; he does not think like a politician, act like a politician, nor speak like a politician. Those who support him and voted for him understand that he will have failures and shortcomings, and will make mistakes, as all previous presidents have, and all future presidents will. Nevertheless, all of this will become fuel for fires the left will kindle, and will throw misunderstood context, misconstrued comments and exaggeration on a flickering flame trying to start a blaze.