Thursday, November 17, 2016

Last Call For Methinks You Doth Protest Too Much

One silver lining in the election of Donald Trump to head a GOP government: gleeful Republicans aren't even trying to cloak their authoritarian impulses anymore and are making it perfectly clear that they plan to use the power of government to crush those that they see as enemies.  We're now seeing the first small signs of this just a week after the election, and I expect them to grow larger, even in blue states like Washington.

A Republican state senator who campaigned for President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday he plans to propose a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would take a firm stand against what he calls "illegal protests."

Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale said in a news release his bill would create a new crime of "economic terrorism" and would allow felony prosecution of people involved in protests that block transportation and commerce, damage property, threaten jobs and put public safety at risk, he said.

"I respect the right to protest, but when it endangers people's lives and property, it goes too far," Ericksen said. "Fear, intimidation and vandalism are not a legitimate form of political expression. Those who employ it must be called to account."

But some people believe the term "economic terrorism" goes too far.

"To call it economic terrorism is just another way to silence it and another way to gain popular support." said Seattle resident Molly Boord.

"Frankly, I'm appalled," said Seattle city councilman Miked O'Brien.

He was detained by the Coast Guard when he joined kayaktivists protesting a Shell oil rig last summer.

"To me (it) strikes a complete disregard of the US constitution and our First Amendment rights," said O'Brien. "Our country is based, in part, on the ability to have free speech and public dissension."

Public dissension against Trump will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the (new) law, if the GOP gets its way.  And it's hard to imagine them not getting a bill like this passed in states where they have total control soon.

Being able to round up hundreds, maybe thousands and charge them with felonies will of course require a new for-profit private prison regime to handle political dissidents (maybe the most Republican party thing ever) and of course the automatic loss of the right to vote in many states for being felons.

This will never pass in Washington state, but in say, Texas or Missouri or Florida or Ohio, where there are large blue cities and the possibility of months, if not years of protest against Trump that are in states dominated by the GOP, or more likely, Black Lives Matter protests after another police killing of people of color?

You'd better believe legislation like this is in the works.  How far it will get, well who knows at this point?

The Gaslight Express

I'm definitely afraid of the havoc that the Trump administration will wreak in just a few months.  But what I'm also afraid of is that the "new, improved" Democratic party will make a hard right turn in order to placate the "white working-class" voter and that will lead to then abandoning voters of color.

Real Clear Politics pundit Sean Trende all but blames voters of color for Clinton's loss last week in his version of the Democratic party "autopsy" report that Republicans went through in 2008.

I have little doubt that a belief that demographics would save them at the presidential level led Democrats to take a number of steps that they will soon regret, from going nuclear on the filibuster to aggressive uses of executive authority. But one thing deserves special attention. A good deal of e-ink has been spilled describing the ways in which the culturally superior attitudes of the left drove Trumpism. This too, I think, derived from a belief that history had a side and that progressives were on it, combined with a lack of appreciation of just how many culturally traditionalist voters there are in this country. 
Consider these factoids: In 2004, white evangelicals were 23 percent of the electorate, and they cast 78 percent of their vote for fellow evangelical George W. Bush. In 2012, they were 26 percent of the electorate, and gave Mormon Mitt Romney 78 percent of the vote. In 2016, Donald J. Trump, a thrice-married man who bragged about sleeping with married women and whose biblical knowledge at times seemed confined to the foibles of the two Corinthians, won 81 percent of their vote. Notwithstanding the fact that I have been assured repeatedly that these voters represent a shrinking demographic and that Republicans had maxed out their vote share among them, they were once again 26 percent of the electorate. 
Two points demand attention. The first, which “demographics-is-destiny” types typically gloss over, is that Trump received more votes from white evangelicals than Clinton received from African-Americans and Hispanics combined. This single group very nearly cancels the Democrats’ advantage among non-whites completely. This isn’t a one-off; it was true in 2012, 2008 and 2004. 
Second, you may wonder why this group voted in historic numbers for a man like Trump. Perhaps, as some have suggested, they are hypocrites. Perhaps they are merely partisans. But I will make a further suggestion: They are scared. 
Consider that over the course of the past few years, Democrats and liberals have: booed the inclusion of God in their platform at the 2012 convention (this is disputed, but it is the perception); endorsed a regulation that would allow transgendered students to use the bathroom and locker room corresponding to their identity; attempted to force small businesses to cover drugs they believe induce abortions; attempted to force nuns to provide contraceptive coverage; forced Brendan Eich to step down as chief executive officer of Mozilla due to his opposition to marriage equality; fined a small Christian bakery over $140,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding; vigorously opposed a law in Indiana that would provide protections against similar regulations – despite having overwhelmingly supported similar laws when they protected Native American religious rights – and then scoured the Indiana countryside trying to find a business that would be affected by the law before settling upon a small pizza place in the middle of nowhere and harassing the owners. In 2015, the United States solicitor general suggested that churches might lose their tax exempt status if they refused to perform same-sex marriages. In 2016, the Democratic nominee endorsed repealing the Hyde Amendment, thereby endorsing federal funding for elective abortions. Democrats seemingly took up the position endorsed by critical legal theorist Mark Tushnet:

The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. . . . For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who – remember – defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.) I should note that LGBT activists in particular seem to have settled on the hard-line approach, while some liberal academics defend more accommodating approaches. When specific battles in the culture wars were being fought, it might have made sense to try to be accommodating after a local victory, because other related fights were going on, and a hard line might have stiffened the opposition in those fights. But the war’s over, and we won. 
Perhaps comparing evangelicals to the Japanese in World War II was a bit much, and helped push evangelicals into a defensive crouch. Before my Democratic friends warm up their keyboards to protest “but we’re correct,” let me say that on some of these issues I agree with you! My point here is descriptive, not prescriptive. An aggressive approach to the culture wars and the sneering condescension of the Samantha Bees and John Olivers of the world may be warranted, but it also probably cost liberals their best chance in a generation to take control of the Supreme Court. That’s a pretty steep price to pay. It may well be that Democrats would be better able to achieve their goals if they were less, for lack of a better word, fundamentalist about those goals. Henry Clay famously declared that he would rather be right than president; he at least got his way on the latter.

If Republicans were told to pursue Latino and black votes in 2008, the advice to Democrats is now to kick these groups to the curb and actively court white evangelicals, the only group that matters politically anymore.

It's terrible advice, but I'm afraid Democrats are winding up to do just that, and should they do so, they will be lost for a generation.

And so will people of color.  We've seen 18 months of the most racist presidential campaign in modern history, and the analysis is that not only Republicans won by directly appealing to the racism of white voters, but that to have any hope in the future as a political party, the Democrats must embrace the same message.

That is wrong, and I will fight that every step of the way.

The Obamacare Repeal Reveal Deal

Barring sudden change in heart by the GOP, Obamacare is dead and gone in 2017, folks.  What will come after it is now the important fight once Republicans decide how to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and move forward with their crusade.  And as Jon Chait reminds us, what will come after is most likely "absolutely nothing".

So how will Republicans handle it? One possibility is to compromise with Democrats. Republican staffers speaking to reporter Caitlin Owens said they would not use the repeal bill their party had sent to Obama endlessly for vetoes. (“We’re not going to use that package. We’re not dumb,” said one.) They described their approach as “more massive reform” and “a rewrite of Obamacare.” The plan they loosely describe would keep Obamacare’s structure, and change the law to make it friendlier to Republican priorities. They could strip out some of the essential benefits required by the law. They could allow insurers, who are now allowed to charge older customers no more than three times as much as they charge a young one, something more (like, say, five times as much). And they could change the subsidies in a more Republican-friendly way — which generally means making them more generous to the affluent and stingier for the poor. This kind of compromise would impose a lot of hardship on vulnerable people. (A good summary of the impact of these changes can be found here— it would hurt more people than it would help.) But it might attract some Democrats eager to sustain some kind of safety net for the health-care system. Republicans could satisfy the blood lust of their base by framing this as a “repeal” of the law and a replacement with a somewhat altered version. 
After he met with President Obama, Trump seemed to endorse a version of this strategy. “We’re going to do it simultaneously. It’ll be just fine. That’s what I do. I do a good job,” he said. “We’re not going to have like a two-day period and we’re not going to have a two-year period where there’s nothing. It will be repealed and replaced. It’ll be great health care for much less money.” As is often the case, Trump’s verbiage did not convey any clear and definable course of action. But to the extent meaning could be extracted, he was promising not to pass a quick repeal bill or to wreck the law completely. 
Yet such a course of action seems likely to enrage conservative activists, who could ignite a firestorm of protest against the sellout leadership capitulating to nefarious congressional Democrats. Indeed, much of the conservative movement has invested itself heavily into the notion that Obamacare is an act of singular evil that must be destroyed — the very impulse that prevented Republicans from negotiating on the law in the first place. 
And so a second course of action seems more likely. Republicans would quickly vote, through a reconciliation bill, to dismantle the law’s subsidies. They could do this in a massive reconciliation bill that also advanced other priorities, like a large upper-bracket tax cut, cuts in spending on anti-poverty programs, defunding agencies that regulate Wall Street, polluters, and so on. But the defunding of Obamacare would be delayed for two years, until after the 2018 midterm elections, to shield the GOP from the political impact. In the meantime, Trump could deliberately impair the law’s functioning through administrative action, so that the exchanges lost customers rather than gained them. 
This plan would give Republicans two more years to design their alternative. By 2019, they would likely have eliminated the filibuster over some other dispute. If not, eliminating the law might give them leverage to try to force Democrats to participate in some kind of ultra-threadbare replacement plan. The leverage would be that, if they fail to support it, Obamacare would disappear without anything at all taking its place. When thinking through the Republican Party’s incentives, the option that makes the most sense is the immediate repeal vote with a two-year delay before it takes effect.

In other words, defund Obamacare subsidies immediately, blame Democrats when the individual market and state exchanges collapse and red state voters get out the long knives to decapitate the remaining Senate Dems in 2018, and then come up with a "new" plan in 2019.

It's a smart plan.  Sure, it'll cost tens of millions of Americans health insurance and affordable care and some of them won't be around in 2019 as a result, but hey, it'll be Obama's fault.

Voters have repeatedly rewarded the GOP for behaving like this.  Why would they stop now?


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