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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Why Recruitment Matters


So far, Democrats have a big recruitment edge in the 2018 elections for the House.  At FiveThirtyEight, Seth Masket writes:
Why do we see such a strong relationship? It’s not precisely that the number of candidates causes a party to win more seats. After all, there are only so many House seats in play. What a large number of challengers does create is a better recruitment environment. If there are several challengers from whom to choose in a particular race, a party can pick the strongest nominee. 
Political science research suggests that the recruitment of high-quality candidates explains a good deal of election outcomes — if a party can convince a large number of skilled and experienced candidates to run for office, those candidates tend to do better and the party tends to win more seats. Indeed, the recruitment of quality candidates helps explain the development of the incumbency advantage in 20th century American politics. Finding strong candidates was Newt Gingrich’s approach prior to the 1994 Republican landslide, just as it was Rahm Emanuel’s strategy for 2006.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Incompetence Update

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's approach to governing.

Bannon is gone. Kelly is in place, for now.  and chaos reigns.

At The Washington Post, James Pfiffner writes:
[C]onsider Trump’s efforts to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act, which first failed to make it through the House before a second attempt passed, and then failed twice to pass the Senate. In urging Congress to act, Trump changed his position at least five times. The shifting positions and responsibility showed the lack of a coherent approach to policy and an inability to coordinate with Republicans in Congress.

Many other White House misfires reveal general dysfunction. Trump’s skeptical attitude toward NATO was opposed by his vice president and his national security team of McMaster, Mattis and Tillerson. In his Oval Office meeting with Russian diplomats, Trump revealed sensitive intelligence received from Israel. Trump wanted to dump the nuclear deal with Iran, but Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster disagreed. Trump’s tweets declaring a ban on transgender service members caught the Pentagon by surprise. Trump did not discuss his Aug. 8 threat that North Korea would be met “with fire and fury” with Mattis, Tillerson, McMaster or Kelly. After Tillerson said that Americans should “have no concerns about … the rhetoric of the past few days,” Trump tweeted that U.S. forces were “locked and loaded.”
These disconnects between Trump, his White House staff and Cabinet members seem to validate Republican Sen. Lindsey O. Graham’s quip to The Washington Post: “I don’t believe Trump colluded with the Russians, because I don’t believe he colludes with his own staff.”

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sasse on Charlottesville

Sen. Sasse on Facebook: "I doubt that Donald Trump will be able to calm and comfort the nation in that moment. He (and lots of others) will probably tell an awful combination of partial truths and outright falsehoods."

Friday, August 18, 2017

Bannon Out

Daily Beast:
He’s out.
Late this week, President Donald Trump began telling senior staffers and outside confidants that he intended to sack Steve Bannon, the nationalist firebrand and White House chief strategist who helped steer Trump’s chaotic presidential campaign to victory.
Two Trump administration officials told The Daily Beast on Friday that the president has said that he wanted Bannon “out” and “gone” this week.
On Friday afternoon, they made it official, with chief of staff John Kelly informing Bannon of the change in direction.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Honoring the Confederacy Is Honoring White Supremacy

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's relationship to bigotry.

On March 21, 1861, Alexander H. Stephens frankly explained the basis of the  Confederacy, of which he was vice president. 
The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

Bannon Speaks

Bannon spoke to Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect, then made the ridiculous claim that he didn't know it was an interview.
Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.” Bannon went on to describe his battle inside the administration to take a harder line on China trade, and not to fall into a trap of wishful thinking in which complaints against China’s trade practices now had to take a backseat to the hope that China, as honest broker, would help restrain Kim.
“To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover.”
Bannon scoffs at officials who disagree.
“Oh, they’re wetting themselves,” he said, explaining that the Section 301 complaint, which was put on hold when the war of threats with North Korea broke out, was shelved only temporarily, and will be revived in three weeks. As for other cabinet departments, Bannon has big plans to marginalize their influence.

“I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in. I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Racists Cheer Trump

Rosie Gray at The Atlantic:
White nationalist and alt-right activists are cheering President Trump for defending white-nationalist protesters and placing equal blame on counterprotesters for the violence that ensued in Charlottesville this past weekend at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
“Really proud of him,” the alt-right leader Richard Spencer said in a text message. “He bucked the narrative of Alt-Right violence, and made a statement that is fair and down to earth. C’ville could have hosted a peaceful rally — just like our event in May — if the police and mayor had done their jobs. Charlottesville needed to police the streets and police the antifa, whose organizations are dedicated to violence.”
Spencer said he didn’t necessarily view Trump’s remarks as an endorsement of the protesters’ goal; the Unite the Right rally was held to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. “He was calling it like he saw it,” Spencer, who was one of the leaders of the protest, said. “He endorsed nothing. He was being honest.” Spencer held a press conference in his office and home in Alexandria on Monday in which he said he did not believe Trump had condemned white nationalists in his comments on Monday, in which the president said “racism is evil” and specifically called out white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan. Trump made those remarks after intense criticism for failing to specifically condemn white-nationalist groups in his initial response.