What should Democrats do about supporting an infrastructure spending bill? They need to make it a win-win proposition and by win-win, we mean that it’s a win for the Democrats whether the bill passes or fails. This needs to be a true ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ coin flip in favor of the Democrats. The stakes are too high. How do they pull that off?
The Republicans won’t be able to pass this without Democrat support as this will need 60 votes to pass unlike the majority of bills considered in 2017. The Democrats have a lot of leverage. Add to the fact that a lot of Republicans will be opposed to this anyway and the Democrats hold the keys to its passage. This bill is more likely to pass with full Democratic support and a dozen GOP members than it is with full Republican support and a handful of Democrats.
With that in mind, don’t be the Party of No. That’s the Republican brand so let them own it. Don’t compromise, either. Go public with your own spending bill. Make it a true infrastructure package devoid of special pet projects. Build bridges, roads and tunnels. And, here’s the kicker – use the opportunity to firm up Social Security. How? Most of the public doesn’t realize that Social Security taxes are only paid on the first $128,400 of income (this is the 2018 amount which is only a slight increase over 2017). After that you get a free ride. So the more money you make the less percentage of your income you pay in. Everyone pays 6.2% of income on Social Security unless you make more than $128,400 in which case the more you make, the less percentage you pay. It’s a truly regressive tax meaning the less you make, the greater percentage of your income you pay. Let’s look at an example. If you make $25,000, you’ll pay 6.2%. If you make $1,000,000, you’ll pay less than 1%. Make it a flat tax. Let everyone pay the same percentage no matter how much they make. No more cap. Keep a cap on the employer contribution side so it doesn’t affect jobs but no more on the individual side. It’s a much fairer system and it will save Social Security for the foreseeable future.
No compromising on this. If the Republicans balk, then let the bill die. Get in front of this and place all of the blame on the Republicans. Blame them for its failure as they are coddling the rich again and failing the American worker.
If it does pass, this will without a doubt be a Democratic victory that Democrats can run on in 2018. Democrats can take full credit for all economic gains that come from its passage. The Democrats can’t lose if they stick to their principles, own the messaging on the bill, and refuse to compromise.
As Congressional hearings on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch get underway this week, we would love to hear a line of questioning around the 14th Amendment of the Consititution. Republicans love to advocate that they prefer "strict constructionists" on the court. We think the Democrats have a golden opportunity to hold them to that standard. Here is our suggested series of questions.
"Mr. Gorsuch, if you were on the Supreme Court, would you be a strict constructionist when interpreting the Constitution?"
Presumably the answer would be yes.
"Do you believe the Constitution applies to all US citizens?"
Again, the presumption is the answer will be yes.
"Do you believe the 14th Amendment applies to all US citizens?"
Another presumed yes answer.
"Let me read a particular clause of the 14th Amendment. 'Nor shall any State...deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.' Now, I ask you specifically if that clause applies to all citizens within a state."
Another yes answer.
"Certainly, to be legally married offers a whole number of legal protections. As a Supreme Court justice, will you ensure that every State follows this strict construction of our Constitution and ensures the equal protection of the law to all of its citizens and affords each of its citizens their Constitutional right to marry who they want?"
We're guessing the answer won't be yes, but rather some high level mental gymnastics about state's rights. The problem with any such answer that this should be left to the States is that the Constitution is extremely clear that States cannot deny its citizens equal protection of the laws. There are hundreds of federal and state legal protections associated with mariage including visitation rights, social security benefits, property rights, etc.
While there are certainly many other critical areas of questioning for nominee Gorsuch, we'd love to hear this line of questioning as it goes to the heart of the "strict constructionist/state's rights" arguments that Republicans cherish.
Let's contemplate how any potential impeachment proceedings of President Trump could play out. We are going to assume a couple of things. First, that an impeachable offense will present itself but not one so bad that it would be a clear slam dunk. Next, we are going to assume that each member of Congress will act in the interests of their party rather than the country (not a big stretch) and treat this as a big Game of Thrones.
Let's review how an impeachment works. Under Article II of the Constitution, impeachment proceedings originate in the House and a simple majority is needed to approve. If that happens, the proceedings go to a "trial" in the Senate where a 2/3 majority is needed to convict and remove from office. So, unless the make-up of the Senate radically changes in the 2018 mid-terms, bipartisan support will be needed for an impeachment and subsequent conviction.
From a Republican point of view, on the surface, it would seem unlikely that they would support any proceedings. Let's go a little deeper, though. If they don't trust Trump, either for the perceived damage to their brand or because he strays too far from their conservative orthodoxy, then they could get behind impeachment proceedings. They control congress so they could certainly take it at least to a trial in the Senate. Why would they want to do it? We can think of a few reasons. If they view Trump as particularly vulnerable in 2020, Pence may, in their opinion, make a more formidable candidate. Trump could prove too unpredictable where, again, Pence may be much more likely to implement a conservative agenda. Or, they may get sick and tired of being put in the awkward position of defending his behavior and statements knowing that it could have a negative impact on both the mid-terms and the next Presidential cycle.
Remember, though, it takes a 2/3 majority of the Senate to convict. The Democrats could form an alliance with Trump to prevent a conviction. Why would they want to do that? Again, there are a few reasons. They may consider Trump a much more vulnerable candidate in 2020. They may hope to win the House in 2018 in which case the new Speaker of the House would be next in line for the Presidency after the Vice President. If Pence could be implicated in whatever impeachment charges are brought forth, then there is a chance for them to take back the White House. This is a far fetched scenario for a few reasons. First, it is unlikely the Democrats will take back the House. Even if they were to win the overall vote, with the amount of gerrymandering in the districts, it is almost an impossible task. Next, a Republican Senate would be hard pressed to convict both Trump and Pence with a Democrat next in line. For this scenario to work, you would need indisputable evidence of Treason on both Trump and Pence's part.
The Democrats would, however, have a vested interest in either running against a vulnerable Trump in 2020 or delaying impeachment proceedings until right before the election to maximize their chances for winning in 2020.
These are just a few scenarios and it is impossible to predict what charges could be brought and how it would play out. We are, however, fairly confident that politics will play a big part.
We're not three days into a new President Trump administration and we have already witnessed an amazing series of events -- most notably the highly visible protest demonstrations around the country. The big question is this -- Will this turnout lead to political action?
Let's contrast January 2017 with January 2009. At President Obama's inauguration, there was a massive turnout with very little visible counter protests. However, the Republican leadership was already plotting and planning how to obstruct the new President. A grass roots movement was taking shape backed by big donor money that would emerge as the "Tea Party." Regardless of your political views, that movement utlimately had a huge impact on the political landscape across the country. Republican candidates in safe districts became more worried about a Tea Party challenger in a primary election than a democratic opponent in a general election. As a result, the party overall swung more conservative. That movement led to appreciable gains at every level in government starting with the 2010 mid term elections. Those elections led to substantial gains not only at the federal level, but at the state level. Which, in turn, led to more gerrymandering and more "safe" Republican districts leading to an even further turn rightward for the Republican party. Don't think the gerrymandering made a difference? In the 2012 election, Democrats won the overall popular vote in the House of Representatives but still lost the House.
The movement begun almost immediately after President Obama's election and led to the current state of Republican control of the White House, Senate, House of Representatives and the majority of state executive and legislative branches. It's hard to argue with the political success of that movement.
We just witnessed a rather impressive display of opposition this weekend. Looking at the sheer numbers and passion generated, it would be easy to forecast significant Democratic gains over the next few election cycles. Politics isn't always that simple, though. It takes money and a sustained and cohesive operation to win seats. 2018 will be a real litmus test. Historically, the party out of power does well in the mid-terms. On the flip side, Democratic turnout has been lacking in non Presidential election years. To make matters worse, there are more Democratic Senate seats up for grabs than Republican ones with many in states Trump won. The Democrats have their work cut out for them. If they are to make sizeable gains, they need to channel the passion and turnout of this past weekend into "a boots on the ground" "get out the vote" "send a clear and convincing message" "raise money" political operation that can win them elections. With no clear leadership nor a singular voice, it is a real inflection point for the Democratic party.
Much has been made of how the pre-election polls were way off and that somehow that was a reflection of a liberal media bias. Yes, just about every poll had Hillary winning and the Trump's victory was shocking to many. If Hillary had lost the popular vote, a better case could be made that there were some real problems with the polls. That would have showed a wider gap than usual between pre-election polls and the results.
Most polls on the eve of the election had Hillary ahead by about 3-4 points. Here is a post from fivethirtyeight.com which showed a 3.3% lead based on a national average: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trump-is-just-a-normal-polling-error-behind-clinton/.
Historically, the margin of error for Presidential polls has been around 2%. Hillary ended up winning the popular vote by 2.1% which reflected a 1.2% poll discrepancy -- less than historical average and certainly less than the 2.7% margin difference from 2012.
The media got a lot of things wrong including some of the polling in critical states in the rust belt, but as far as the national polls were concerned, they polls were pretty accurate and there was no bias.