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Celebration and warning from Virginia

Celebration and warning from Virginia

It was a big night for Democrats. There have been signs early in 2017 that anti-Trump feeling is building into a Democratic wave. Last night confirmed that this wave may be bigger and angrier than we dared believe. It was a hopeful, promising night, but serious dangers remain. A map of Virginia’s results reveals one of those more critical challenges. Take a look at this graphic from the New York Times:


Do you see the problem?

Our founders built into the fabric of our political system an epic gerrymander. Rural areas carry vastly more electoral power than cities. Voters in rural states are in some cases exponentially more powerful in our system than voters in states with large cities. If the interests and cultural values of urban and rural residents are relatively consistent, than this imbalance matters very little. That isn’t the case right now, as you can see from the map of Virginia’s election results.

A vast majority of Americans live in cities. That concentration is growing ever more extreme as our economy increasingly rewards innovation and knowledge work over farming, tourism and resource extraction. Under our present system, by 2040, 30% of America’s voters will elect 70% of the Senate. Thanks to our apportionment algorithms, they will continue to elect a disproportionate share of the House of Representatives.

There are two ways to resolve this disconnect. Build a political agenda capable of appealing to both urban and rural voters. Or, have a revolution and change the system. If we can’t do the first thing, then the second thing is built in by political physics. We will not live for long under a system in which people who are otherwise the most socially and culturally powerful are denied their accompanying political power.

That brings us to the most important election this year – Alabama’s Senate seat. It is unlikely under any circumstances that Doug Jones can win that seat. However, a political formula capable of granting him 47%+ of the vote in Alabama is a program that could change the shape of the country.

One more note. A binary political system, in which every viable political candidate must either line up with a national Democratic agenda or a national Republican agenda cannot sustain us. One more very important thing happened last night that points to a way out of our present dysfunction. On paper, a Democrat won the race for District Attorney in Philadelphia last night. In reality, the Working Families Party led a coalition that defeated the Democratic Party’s favorite in a primary in the spring. That is a roadmap to greater political diversity and more authentic democracy. Larry Krasner’s win in the race for DA in Philadelphia is a powerful blow against once-dominant institutions of the Democratic machine. Krasner was a de facto third-party candidate. What he did in Philadelphia should be repeated by dissident liberals and conservatives all over the country.

How can a national Democrat win in Alabama? They probably can’t. But a local party, loosely aligned with Democrats or Republicans and running in their primaries can win. Frankly, that’s how crazy old Roy Moore became the Republican nominee. It is a formula that can work for centrists, as long as they are fiery and determined enough to define themselves clearly.

It was a good night that holds the promise of many difficult fights ahead.


  1. David Brooks column in the NY Times today was interesting. It follows Chris’ thoughts in his previous post regarding transience and this column as well. The link is:

    David basically breaks people into the “somewheres” and the “anywheres”. The “somewheres” are the people who have stayed in one area and the “anywheres” are the people who have the skills to relocate to anywhere in the global economy. That is they are the knowledge workers. They have basically gathered in the urban, suburban and exurban areas.

    Donald Trump’s message of “Make America Great Again” by definition is reactionary and wants to revert to a “past and better time”. A reactionary message such as that is not acceptable to the knowledge workers, as they are looking for upward mobility. David then uses that to clarify why the urban, suburban and exurban areas rejected Trumpism so forcefully on Tuesday.

    I have extended that thought to the West Coast. Essentially the populated areas on the West Coast have overwhelmed the rural areas and they are all urban, suburban or exurban. That is certainly what has happened in Pugetopolis.

    It also helps explain the leftward drift of the Spokane area in Eastern WA with the impacts on the 5th CD. A very significant Medical complex has developed there to serve the rural populations of Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The area has a significant research university, Washington State, located nearby and has some respected liberal arts schools in the area. There are two medical schools – one associated with Washington State and the other with the University of Washington, the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) program. That is a program developed to train physicians for rural areas in the aforementioned states. It is largely based in Spokane, but also some of the Seattle facilities are used. The foremost international manufacturer of protective relays and systems for electrical power systems is located in the area. It is a spinoff from WSU. Accordingly, a significant number of knowledge workers live and work in the area. It is showing suburban and exurban characteristics.

    A similar situation is developing in the 3rd CD. Portland, OR has become a significant technology hub. Some of the that is beginning to move across the Columbia River to the Vancouver area. Vancouver then is beginning to show the modern suburban and exurban characteristics.

    Likewise the 8th CD is being impacted. The Eastern Pugetopolis s area is almost exclusively exurban. Even the two Eastern Washington counties, because they are not too distant from the Pugetopolis area are showing exurban characteristics. Some knowledge workers in those counties are working from home with occasional trips to the big city.

    My two posts on this are kind of lengthy, but I believe they help explain why the “blue wall” on the West Coast has developed and continues to strengthen. The same phenomenon is becoming apparent in the Denver area, the Salt Lake City area and the Phoenix-Tucson area.

    1. I’ve been casually following Saudi Arabia for the past few years. It’s been fascinating ever since the new Crown Prince took power. There’s far too much detail to expand here but here’s a brief summary:

      For decades, the KSA has been ruled by the sons of the original founder Ibn al-Saud. Successors were chosen by a consensus process driven by intense rivalries between factions that were largely based on who their mothers were (Ibn al-Saud had multiple wives).

      After the death of the last King Abdullah, there was essentially a palace coup in which the lines of succession were re-arranged to allow the current King’s son, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) to become the Crown Prince. He has also become the de-facto ruler as the nominal King Salman, his father, has largely become a figurehead.

      MBS is only 32. He is the first ruler from the next generation of princes. And he’s been super interesting to watch. On the domestic front he seems to be genuinely good: he’s determined to move the economy away from oil, recently gave women the right to drive (small steps…), and seems to genuinely want to move Saudi society into a more modern era. On the foreign policy side, he’s been a disaster: he started the war with Yemen which was supposed to be a quick victory but has predictably turned into a quagmire, led the effort to punish and isolate Qatar, and overall, has been inserting his country into a bunch of (IMHO doomed) conflicts in a paranoid effort to counter perceived Iranian encroachment.

      Being only 32, he combines a refreshing idealism with a dangerous niavete and inexperience. Plus he seems to be a bit of a hothead.

      All this is on display currently. Last week MBS announced an anti-corruption drive and abruptly arrested a hundred people, including several powerful princes and other govt figures. This number is rapidly expanding as he spreads the dragnet further. But the real question is how much of this is anti-corruption and how much is this MBS attempting to consolidate power? This has all the signs of a classic MBS move: some genuine idealism mixed with ruthless realpolitik, executed rapidly, and with little thought to how it all plays out.

      The Lebanese minister has been caught in this power play. How exactly, I’m not sure, but it probably has to do with a) Al-Waleed bin Talal, KSA’s richest man, currently held in this anti-corruption drive, who is half Lebanese and grandson of Lebanon’s first prime minister b) the rising power of Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy, in Lebanon’s politics (although Hariri, the detained PM, is anti-Hezbollah).

      Following KSA politics is like the inscrutable Kremlinology of old. Given how many crimes are punishable by execution in KSA, it’s not inconceivable that some of these people will die soon (beheading by a sword-wielding executioner; KSA doesn’t do humane in its criminal code), which adds even more gravity to the situation.

      1. Mary-
        Not sure… Everything is so secretive, it’s hard to say. MBS may have run a few names by Jared to make sure Trump’s okay with going after them (i.e. make sure none of them do business with Trump’s empire). Or Jared might have been kept entirely in the dark, and his visit timing was a coincidence. Tough to say…

      2. Kushner has been caught in lie after lie – about his Russia connections, interaction, and about his personal finances. Yet, “zip”. Can you envision what a similar situation that involved Obama would have engendered? The “horror, disgrace, call for his head, treason” – yet, nothing. Still has top secret clearance, leaves the country, has not been questioned publicly by the leadership in the GOP….it’s disgusting.

    1. What I’ve found is that people have at most 1 or 2 issues that they’re very interested in. They then find the party that supports that one issue, then adopts the rest of their platform without much thought. It’s why, say, a Christian fundamentalist whose primary issue is anti-abortion becomes a Republican and starts supporting un-Christ-like tax cuts for the rich. Or an African American evangelical whose primary issue is civil rights becomes a Democrat and starts supporting the pro-choice movement even though she herself is anti-abortion.

      Very few people care about more than 1 or 2 issues (if that) passionately enough to influence their vote because of it. And once they find their “team” with that, then they outsource the rest of their policy positions to their team.

      The interesting moments are the breaking points when an issue becomes important enough to drive a big shift. For example, Reagan Democrats were working class white people who supported Dems for the economic platform (pro-union, protectionist, etc.) and overlooked their growing social liberalism (civil rights, feminism, etc.) until finally, they switched issues, choosing the culture war over economic class warfare. All of a sudden, a pro-union guy with at least grudging respect for civil rights becomes a white supremacist who believes unions are proxies for communist sympathizers.

      1. EJ

        I read a paper once (can’t find it now, alas) which suggested that people’s opinions on issues were determined by their ideology, which in turn is determined by environment as shiro says. In other words, people don’t choose to be Republicans because they oppose tax hikes; they oppose tax hikes because they’re Republicans.

      2. I need to give this concept of one or two issues being determinant of one’s political affiliation some analysis. If one supports: entitlement programs – but does expect and want them to be efficiently run; taxes – but does expect them to be fairly drawn and wisely spent; health care for the masses – but does expect it to be quality, affordable, and accessible for all people and adequately financed; and one expects America to have a strong defense but also expects the amount of money spent thereof to be in balance with other basic needs in the economy; and, one expects and wants our nation’s infrastructure to not only be well maintained but also to offer variety and access to working class people; and, one supports the importance of government to conduct the basic affairs of our country and does not believe that government is “bad” nor need to be so small it drowns in a bathtub; and, one supports equal access to education and employment opportunities and expects women to be paid equally for equal work with their gender opposites; and, one expects the right to vote is precious and should be made as easy as possible not selectively difficult; and, one believes in the constitution that affirms the right of accused to a fair judicial process; and, one believes in the right to own and bear arms but also expects that right to be governed by reasonable regulations that are fairly and broadly enforced; and, one believes that the right to practice one’s faith does not abridge the rights of others to practice (or not) their own faith, and, further, that separation of church and state is not only a good thing, it is constitutionally protected; and, that freedom of speech is protected but should not be abused regardless of position; and, finally, that the interests of the people of America are best protected when governing is conducted in the light of day, in a bi-partisan manner, with decision-making by consensus.

        For me, it is not one or two issues, it is all these issues. I don’t know what that makes me but it is what I believe in and what I expect, and it is about far more than two issues. It is about principle and belief in fairness and accountability for all people, not some of the people. It is the America I want and I miss.

      3. Mary-
        That’s why you’re hardly the “average” voter 🙂

        Most voters would hardly be able to articulate a cohesive opinion about 1 or 2 of those issues, much less all of them as you’ve done.

        I guess I should have prefaced my remarks by saying *at best*, the average voter has 1 or 2 positions. Many, many people have no real positions, and merely pick a side with the same criteria that they pick sports teams (what does my family and community and friends support?). Indeed, pollsters have shown, for example, that late undecideds ultimately vote for whomever the polls say is ahead. Because, lacking a clear preference, they just want to be on the winning side.

        For the “informed” voter, they usually are only informed of, or passionate about, 1 or 2 issues. After picking a team based on those issues, they adopt the default position on the rest of the issues.

        The number of people who actually are genuinely informed of, or passionate about, more than a few issues is truly rare. And quite frankly, we’re more trouble than we’re worth to most campaigns (always asking pesky questions and refusing to tow the party line) unless we can write large checks. Which is why we’re not the ones they focus on recruiting.

      4. Just for the record, I love being “more trouble than I’m worth”, in fact, I work really hard at being a pain in the derriere….in political circles, with adversaries…otherwise, I’m just another opinionated broad (-;

        Since we’re on the subject of how much fun it is to be a pain in the ***, I’ll share this recent campaign story. I worked election day for my candidate, from 7am-3pm, and again from 5:00 til polls closed. It was just me and one person who held a sign up for the opposing candidate. Traffic was steady and lots of my push cards were gettin’ inside. Pretty soon, another guy shows up…he’s a former TX Legislator and can schmooze pretty good. No problem. More pushcards, more handshakes, and pretty soon, I inherit yet a third person helping the other side…It was getting a little more tricky but, as they say in Indivisible, “I persisted”. More pushcards, more handshakes, then, voila! The head of the TX Tea Party Patriots shows up! I thought, hmm….this is getting real interesting. I was having so much fun doing my thing that they could have sent Attila the Hun out and I’d have eaten him for supper. Best time I’ve had in a long time….Guess I’m just will never be the sort of girl that is content to stand there looking pretty. Just isn’t my style. Vive la differance!

        Memory lane is so fun.

    1. What Moore is saying. Boy, Clinton and Obama have super powers or something.

      “The Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs just launched the most vicious and nasty round of attacks against me I’ve EVER faced! We are are in the midst of a spiritual battle with those who want to silence our message,” Moore said in a statement Thursday.”

      I confess, I’m getting burned out on all these sexual misconduct/rape accusations coming out. If all are true than there are a lot more predatory men than I ever thought and they all seem to be drawn to politics and entertainment.

      1. “I confess, I’m getting burned out on all these sexual misconduct/rape accusations coming out. If all are true than there are a lot more predatory men than I ever thought and they all seem to be drawn to politics and entertainment.”

        If the #metoo social media drive should have done anything, it should have clarified that this is an issue on every level of society. Prestige industries such as entertainment and politics merely amplify it through the exaggerated public power of fame and the cult of personality.

        The thing that sucks about these allegations aren’t that they’re coming out about politicians and celebrities, but that they’re not coming out about CEOs and board members, who wield high levels of gatekeeping influence and hold power over people’s paychecks and careers without the public oversight of voting or in a lot of ways the ability to cleanly boycott or transfer to another equal quality product like in the entertainment industry. What I’m saying here is that these people are a lot harder to stand against, a lot less known or personally cared for by the public, and not directly accountable.

        Travis Kalanick is one example, but part of the reason why is he was running his business like a rock star. Silicon Valley is attracting a lot of 1%ers seeking the cult of personality. Nobody is holding CEOs in ‘boring’ industries accountable because they are boring people.

        Furthermore, this extends into the lower ranks and gets more complicated there, from coworkers dating to misunderstandings to bad jokes to endemic behaviors that men are struggling to recognize and are often hard to define. 5 women coming out against Louis CK is memorable and it’s easy to punch upward at a specific wealthy guy you can’t meet. Thousands of women complaining about customer treatment when they work as waitresses is harder because there’s nobody specific to knock down and it very much might implicate YOU.

        Overall the default structure of gender relations in the United States and over much of the world holds the interests, power, and self-representation of women either second or outright subservient to men’s interest, power, and self-representation. These recent purges at the top are barely scratching the surface of what might happen if women start punching back, and hard.

        And for those that feel threatened by that warning, I will appropriate a conservative’s answer to questions of surveillance: if you did nothing wrong, then why are you worried?

      2. Thank you for that, Aaron. It happens a lot to women who are in clerical positions, too, and your waitress observation is right on. I attended a series on diversity recently and one of the suggestions offered by a panelist really struck home with me. She suggested: when you are checking out in a store with multiple lines, pick one where you can stand next to someone who is a different race or ethnicity than your own. Then, start a little conversation with them. Make them feel welcome. The same is true when choosing a chair in a waiting area. Treating people with respect who are normally in the shadows validates their existence. We’ll never change the people in power whose egos require they subjugate others, but we can reach out to people in our own daily lives in little ways that make them feel better about who they are by offering recognition of them. It’s such a small thing but it means so much.

      3. More predatory men than you thought existed? Undoubtedly there are women who will make false claims but talk to your friends who are in the workforce, and you may be surprised what they will tell you about this subject. I have two lady friends who served as pages and staff to a MoC. Both have corroborated that they were hit upon daily. Every day. That’s just two people but I know these ladies and they are fine people, not prone to grandstand. I asked them straight up and that’s what they said.

      4. “Treating people with respect who are normally in the shadows validates their existence”

        I do a similar, even easier thing. In my city, it’s common for people walking on the sidewalk to nod, smile, or even say “hello” to each other as they pass by, even strangers.

        So, when I walk down the sidewalk, if I see a black man walking the other way, I smile and say hello as I walk by. Their reaction never ceases to amaze me. It starts with a look of utter surprise and amazement, then turns to a broad smile, then usually a quick, stumbling “hello” back.

        For must of us, this common courtesy is so common we barely think about it. But most black men are just happy if people don’t cross the street to walk on the other side, or clutch their purse, or put a protective arm around their children. If they deign to look at them at all, it’s usually with either fear or disgust. Someone who actually treats them like a normal, fellow human being is so rare it throws them off guard.

      5. Mary, yes, I used to live in the DC area. It’s notorious for sexual harassment on capitol hill. Almost expected. On the other hand, a lot of young women and men are there for the sole purpose of sleeping with powerful people. They think if they play their cards right, they might be next Mrs. Senator or a well-kept mistress.

      1. Lisa Murkowski (who normally I respect) is suggesting to Strange that he pursue a “write-in” campaign. I am waiting for T to tweet out “See, I told you to vote for Strange!” So we would swap a crazy, morally sick judge for a smarter, morally corrupt Attorney General….I guess this is progress in the Republican Party.

    2. Here’s what is the most telling for me- the twisted excuses some of Moore’s supporters are spewing. They just could say that they believe Moore’s side of the story. But no, they are rationalizing and even attempting to normalize a 30 something adult being inappropriate with a 14 year old girl. I’m not shocked, just more disgusted (my disgust is a bottomless pit, sadly).

      1. The GOP crossed the line a long time ago…so many times. Their stands on religion are seldom faith-driven; rather, base-driven. Every action is calculated to win elections and consolidate power. The fact that they’ve sold their party principles down the river and their souls in the process (looking at you Paul Ryan) , is just another step in the process of total and complete degradation.

        DJT is a mean, self-centered person who likely has been the same despicable man his entire life. He was likely a bully as a young man, and certainly has lived his life in the same adolescent, narcissistic way. But, as we all know from reading Chris’ posts over the years, the Republican Party used to be a party of principled people – one which put nation before party, and cared about their fellow man – all of them – not just those that bankrolled their campaigns.

        No. More. The saddest aspect is that in ensuring their success they have poisoned the minds and hearts of so many Americans and brought forth opportunities for men like Trump. Still – Republicans – rank and file as well as the party – had a choice in this election and they backed men like Trump and Moore who are hell-bent on destroying our country. They deserve one another but I don’t deserve them and I will fight against men like this (yes, most of them are men) until I die.

      2. Rachel Maddow did a retrospective on AL politics last night. She started with rather recent AL political history (I assume there is a much longer list), beginning with the corrupt Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, then Gov. Bentley whose juvenile, sexually explicit phone recordings were sickening but not apparently injurious enough to get him indicted, the ever despicable, irrational, twice discharged from the bench Judge Roy Moore, then the incredibly compromised AL AG Luther Strange..who made his own deal with the devil…only to lose to Moore…It was most interesting but what struck me as saddest of all is that the people of AL keep electing people like this to office.

        I can tell you this much: I would never live in a state like this where people elect men like this (always men!) and re-elect them even knowing their personal moral history. I am amazed that Bryan Stevenson continues his work in Montgomery, AL given the political quagmire that exists. He is the only shining light I see in that state. He is doing God’s work in a very tough state.

  2. How Republican tax plans help the rich and hurt those with fewer resources:

    “According to an analysis in January from the Joint Committee on Taxation, most taxpayers who claim the [medical] deduction have incomes below $100,000, with about 40 percent below $75,000.”

    More than half of those who claim it are older than 65, according to AARP, the lobby for older Americans. They often face staggering medical and long-term care costs.

    “The Joint Committee estimated that the deduction for medical expenses would cost the federal government $10 billion next year, if it were not eliminated.

    That is far less than the two big deductions the Republican bill would preserve: one for interest paid on home mortgages is expected to cost $63.6 billion, and one for charitable donations, $47.8 billion.

    Most taxpayers claiming those deductions have incomes above $100,000.”

    1. This tax cut plan (never will I call this plan a tax reform plan!) is devastating for older people. The Senate bill is better than the House bill as it allows the medical deductions but who knows what will be passed?

      I understand the value of tax reform – I believe that our tax system should be studied and modified to adapt to our world which is changing so fast. Our tax system needs to keep pace. If the goal of the tax reform bill were to update to accommodate changing commerce, global economic forces, while addressing issues that impact the income divide in our nation, I would not only support it, I would be willing to pay more if my fair share needed to rise.

      That is NOT what this is. This is about reward. America needed an infrastructure program following the Great Recession. It would have offered jobs to people who lost them, and much needed repair to our nation’s roads, etc. It would have circulated money in our economy and the working man and the wealthy would have all benefited. Obama was denied this opportunity, and the reason? It would have made his administration more successful and this could never be allowed by vindictive Republicans who were focused on denying this man any success “even if it helped our country”.

      The pitch that this tax cut plan will save people money (in the first five years…note the slide begins around year five…which, coincidentally falls just after the 2022 mid-terms and 2024 presidential election…(do the math!) is just “happens chance”. The pitch that says more jobs will result and higher wages will occur begs the question: our nation is in a very long bull run. Profits are through the roof, yet, what has happened to wages? Stagnation. These profits were either reinvested, paid to shareholders via dividends, or used for exorbitant executive salaries. Workers’ benefits? Flat. Fat Cat donors are putting up hundreds of millions of dollars to promote the GOP tax cut bill. Will America take the bait?

      So, I ask my question again. Will this tax cut bill be seen for what it is by the American people or is the GOP messaging so clever that once again, people will vote for changes that will end up hurting the masses while rewarding those at the top?

      Chris focused his post on whether Democrats can win elections given voter distribution. I think only the mid terms will answer that but I offer this as an alternative view to the challenges Chris offers: suburban voters turned out strong; women turned out very strong, and they overwhelmingly voted Democrat. This pattern repeated itself in most of the races that were held Tuesday. The question I repeat is: have the American people had enough of this sick, horribly compromised Republican Party that they will support Democrats and Progressives in mid-terms? Like many here, I am deeply, earnestly involved in political activism at the grassroots level, and I am hopeful that it can be done. Mid-terms is where the rubber will meet the road.

    2. Here’s what I’m communicating to my ‘reps:’

      Dear rep

      I feel strongly your current efforts to reform the nation’s income tax system are poorly timed and out of sync with new information about corporate tax avoidance.

      Before you grant corporations a sharp decrease in income taxes, I urge you to first regulate their off-shore tax avoidance activities.

      Data in the Paradise Papers indicates the United States loses about $70B each year in tax revenue due to corporate off-shore tax avoidance. That’s enough to cover our food stamp program, necessary for the health and safety of many American children.[1]

      Tax proposals by the House and the Senate ignore this situation and propose:

      -taking away tax deductions from those with severe health problems; such deductions are typically claimed by citizens in their 60s and older and who make less than $75K a year. [2]

      -making some proposed tax ‘deductions’ temporary so that middle-class citizens get a big surprise a few years down the road. [3]

      Changes like these make it seem you don’t like your constituents very much.

      I urge you to stop your current reform efforts now. Require corporations to pay income taxes on profits proportional to the amount of sales they make in the United States.

      You can do better.


      1 How Corporations and the Wealthy Avoid Taxes (and How to Stop Them), The New York Times, November 10, 2017.

      2 Ending Medical Tax Break Could Be a “Gut Punch’ to the Middle Class, The New York Times, November 9, 2017.

      3 Republicans Wonder How to Make the Rich Richer, The New York Times, November 9, 2017

      1. That’s a fine letter, Bobo, to which I’d add (regarding corporate tax cuts) – while you’re reducing corporate tax rates to 20% and individual businesses to 25%, how about you eliminate the other tax loopholes that you have so gratuitously left intact for them in the tax code in addition to this new, lower rate?

      1. Every day Republicans tweak their tax cut plan. As Chris noted, they are offending so many groups that will be a legislative feat to pass this plan but we know how Republicans do fall in line….and no better place than Congress. Good piece in this Politico article that illustrates the problems they are facing with their cuts.

        “Thanks to both Democrats and Republicans worried about being tagged as spendthrifts, the U.S. tax code has grown into a vast shadow budget, a massive law stacked with social programs, incentives for economic growth, and even special subsidies for sports stadiums and rum manufacturers.

        “Since the early 1990s, such shadow spending – known to budget wonks as “tax expenditures”— have grown from around $600 billion to $1.2 trillion, after adjusting for inflation. ”

        It was far easier to bury these cuts in tax code than pass them in the “light of day” (although Repubs seem to have perfected the art of secret room bill crafting), and they include subsidies and incentives that impact small programs to very large ones, such as employer sponsored health insurance and mortgage interest deductions. I have a little more sympathy for them in this regard as both parties have used this process and the tally has mounted to politically unsupportable levels. Still – cutting $200 from teachers supplies and cutting the deduction for hiring disable vets and long-term unemployed people?

        Read on.

  3. Adding to my comments of 11/8 regarding the WA State elections:

    1. The Port of Vancouver WA voted for a port commissioner that opposes a $110 million oil terminal on the Columbia River. This terminal would export oil from the shale oil fields in North Dakota to Asia. The oil would be shipped via rail trains through the Columbia River Gorge. Oil shipment of the shale oil has been problematical because of the flammability and the rail lines through the Columbia River Gorge are narrow and curvy and have not been maintained as well as they could. The Gorge is mountainous terrain. A major oil spill into the Columbia would be a national disaster. So there has been considerable opposition. Vancouver, WA is across the Columbia from Portland, OR and is in the Portland Metropolitan Area. It has historically been conservative.

    2. Spokane and the Spokane valley have elected progressive candidates. Spokane is the major city in Eastern Washington and is near Idaho. It has historically been fairly conservative.

    Even though these are minor local offices, these results are significant and interesting because they are unusual and the cities are in moderate to strong Republican Congressional Districts. Vancouver is in the 3rd CD with a Cook PVI of R+3 and Spokane is in the 5th CD with a Cook PVI of R+8. The 5th is Cathy McMorris-Rodgers’ district. Both CD’s have attracted strong Democratic interest and candidates for the 2018 elections. Add these to the contest for the 8th CD which is open (Reichert’s district) and has a Cook PVI of Even. We’ll have to see how things play out, but the 2018 elections could make for some significant surprises in WA state.

    1. Tmerritt, what are your thoughts about Michael Lewis’ expose on the creeping of underground nuclear waste towards the Columbia River? He feels strongly that this is a strong possibility given that nothing is being done to address the leaching into the soil and water tables from the nuclear materials.

      1. The Hanford cleanup is a serious problem. I haven’t read Michael Lewis’ expose so I cannot commit on it directly. But in essence I believe that the Federal Government would like to walk away from Hanford and essentially declare it a national sacrifice site. However, that is not possible. The State of Washington periodically has to go to court to hole their feet to the fire. The risks of the wastes contaminating the Columbia are too great.

        This is due to the geology of the area. The Hanford reservation is on top of the Columbia Plateau, which is basically composed of layers of basalt, in places thousands of feet thick. These layers are badly fractured. Radioactive waste can easily migrate through the fractures to the River.

      2. Mary,

        I just read Michael Lewis Vanity Fair Article regarding the DOE. I am aware of much of what he stated. The DOE is a critical department and needs to be properly funded and staffed.

        Lewis did touch upon several serious problems. The major one he touched on is the attitude of the Republican Party towards the Federal Government, i.e. shrink it to the point it can be drowned.

        In regard to the DOE, one of the most serious problems is the possibility of a cyberattack disabling the electrical grid. The electric utility industry is making a serious attempt to harden their control systems, accordingly. Much of that is being done due to the efforts of the DOE. But since the Trump Administration and Perry are so ignorant and are ideologues they dismiss those efforts. I had been involved peripherally in some of the efforts to design power plants that are cyber-secure, prior to retirement.

        In regards to Hanford specifically, many of the tanks are leaking radioactive waste and it is migrating towards the Columbia. Efforts are being made to design and build a waste disposal plant that would solidify these wastes enabling long term storage in secure locations. One such was the Yucca Mountain Project in Nevada. There are others, but designing and building such a facility in the US is essentially impossible because of politics and NIMBYism. On the other hand Sweden has built and is operating a plant that may accept much of the radioactive waste from European nuclear plants.

        Again developing a long term storage plan in the US is virtually impossible because of politics. The R’s have their ideological fixation with the private sector solving all problems, but as the article points out the private sector is only good at developing short term solutions, because of the profit motive. Certain long term solutions require a different mindset as does basic research. The Government is necessary for that. For Hanford, the R’s would be inclined to just make it a national sacrifice site (like Chernobyl) and walk away. On the other hand, the D’s attempt to actually do something, logical but the R’s typically block those attempts.

        Our schizophrenic approach to Government is creating all sorts of problems. The US desperately needs a better solution. So far the courts have been the only mechanism to ensure continuity. The effort to discuss and grope our way towards a better solution is the primary reason I am attracted to Political Orphans.

      1. Personally, I do not think it likely that Rodgers will lose. The 5th CD is a large district and basically depends on the agricultural, ranching and forestry industries. That being said, there is a definite progressive shift occurring in WA. That is even impacting Eastern WA, which seems to moderating a bit. The DNC has added the 5th CD to their target list for 2018.

        To explain the geopolitics of WA, the Cascade Range separates Western WA from Eastern WA. Western WA has a maritime climate and tends to be cool and moist, whereas Eastern WA has a Continental climate. It is to a certain extent the Northern extension of the Great Basin, between the Rockies and the Sierra and Cascade Ranges.

        In approximately the north-central part of Western WA is the Puget Sound area around Seattle where approximately 60-65% of the population resides. I refer to this area as Pugetopolis. The whole area is growing rapidly and is one of the major tech hubs on the West Coast. Both SW WA and NW WA are somewhat rural, although they do have moderate populations. SW and NW WA tend to be moderate to liberal, Eastern WA is conservative and Pugetopolis is liberal. SW WA is kind of a special case as it is heavily influenced by the Portland Metropolitan area, but it has tended to attract people who are tax averse. WA has a high sales tax, but no income tax. OR has no sales tax, but an income tax. I also believe that the area attracted a significant population of Southern Civil War refugees.

        Extending that brief explanation to the Congressional races in 2018. I think Rodgers in the 5th CD (NC and NE WA) is likely safe, but I think Herrera-
        Beutler, in the 3rd CD (SW WA) is at definite risk. The 8th CD (Reichert) which bridges E Pugetopolis and two counties East of the Cascades, is open and has an even Cook PVI. It could easily flip. Both the 3rd and the 8th have been on the national and state target lists for some time. Still Rodgers in the 5th has a strong opponent and will not have an easy race.

      2. Mary, regarding McMorris-Rodgers, she is the designated woman on the House leadership team. Her role is to stand there, smile and look pretty. She is not to have any real policy role. Being an attractive woman from a West Coast blue state, raised in a conservative evangelical environment she is ideally suited to that role.

        WA has had experience with that before. During the 1990’s following the Gingrich revolution, Jennifer Dunn from the 8th CD had that role. Unfortunately, she was a strong intelligent woman – she is now deceased, did not appreciate that role. She tried to break out of it, but was constantly rebuffed. She eventually retired and was replaced by Dave Reichert.

      3. T – I believe that women have more to offer than to stand there, smile, and look pretty. I do not give her a pass for playing the pretty lady role. I expect women who are elected to Congress (or any office or in any job) to go toe to toe with their colleagues – male and female. Women work hard. They are smart. I do not want my daughter nor my grand daughters to ever feel they have to stand behind any man and look pretty when they have the capability and the right to demonstrate their abilities and accomplishments. You may recall this old goodie: “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels. ”

        I have the highest respect for working moms. They perform at home and on the job. And I deeply believe that women will help save this country from the egocentric men who are running it into the ground.

      4. No arguments from me. Look at the D MoC from WA – Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Suzan Delbene, Pramila Jayapal, even the R from the 3rd CD, Jaime Herrera-Beutler. She speaks up from time-to-time and refuses to follow the R leadership on many issues. I was just pointing out that is Rodgers’ designated role in the R hierarchy.

      5. Yes, but that was my whole point! All she does is stand there! What does this woman contribute? Is she content in this role? I hope at home she at least has an opportunity to demonstrate she has a mind, because playing “nice” for the Repub team sure doesn’t do it for me!

  4. There are no upstarts in no-mans land, only corpses of those who’ve tried to be one. Politics of the 21st century have changed just like the warfare of the 20th century.

    Unlike a hundred years ago, or two hundred, the parties are now immortal, calcified social constructs built up on self-serving imaginary lines, self-created rigged rules, social engineering philosophies; all petrified into a permanent existence with technology, contrarianism, and blessed by the non-participatory godfathers whose cascade of dollars challenge the electoral authority of singular votes each year.

    There will be no third party, no upstart, no fracture. If the GOP fails, it will remain, at worst, a zombie party sustained by loathing, contrarianism, and self-inflicted propaganda. The Democrats, in such a victory, have no incentive to suffer succor to the orphans of a failed party.

    Thanks to the GOP’s extremism, no operable party in America can truly try to represent ALL of America. You are an impure traitor to the Red Right, or a conspirator to inequality to the Left.

    We must now suffer the tyranny of not an autocracy, but a manic, schizophrenic duocracy of political parties that seek single-party rule by contrarian rejection of the authority of the other to govern. Both of which seek to tell its ‘base’ what is righteous and American, rather than be imbued by the will of the voters. To show up to vote is permission to stay the course. To stay home, concession.

  5. Chris – In a prior post during the emotionally draining time when it appeared highly possible that Congress would repeal the ACA, you made a bold statement: let it be repealed.

    Do you feel the same way about the current (evolving) tax cut plan? With mid-terms less than a year away, would the devastation wrought by the cuts in the GOP plan offer the best opportunity for change?

    1. Generally yes, but it seems like there is far less of a chance of this plan passing. They don’t even seem to be trying. Just dropping into the bill every dumbass tax idea their donors have ever asked for without making any calculations for political blowback.

      1. Good point, Chris. The tax bill is more and more seeming like a CYA effort for the donors. We tried, but those blankety-blank obstructionist whatever, would not cooperate, so don’t cut off the funding.

      2. More tax cuts cometh…. I wouldn’t want to be a staffer or a member of the CBO team about right now….Heck, I wouldn’t want to be a MoC now, either! Especially of the red variety!

        ” “Senate GOP to unveil tax bill that diverges from House plan: “GOP leaders will brief the conference on the details of their long-awaited tax overhaul legislation on Thursday morning at 11:30 a.m. in the Strom Thurmond room at the Capitol, according to two sources. The session is meant to walk senators who are not on the tax-writing Finance Committee through the intricacies of the GOP’s tax bill before unveiling it to the public. The plan is expected to have significant differences from the House legislation.”

      3. Much as I would relish the ‘Republicans can’t even passing a f’ing tax cut’ articles, it ain’t over until it’s over.

        That said, can someone explain to me what in the holy hell Republicans are doing going after the adoption tax credit? Seriously. This isn’t about money (it’s a f’ing drop in the federal budget that, evidently, practically pays for itself), so where is the movement to screw over families looking to help out a homeless kid? I really want to know where this is coming from.

      4. Ryan, one of the Reps admitted that that rich donors have said pass those tax cuts or we’re cutting off the donations. Like their failed attempt at healthcare “reform” this is giving me dog-who-caught-the-car vibes. They know how to bitch and how to obstruct, but not how to govern. The lack of calculation Chris mentions make me wonder it they want to fail, at least subconsciously.

        I’ll admit that I want them to fail, badly. First because this is a highly regressive plan, and second because I want them to come to the realization that they sold their souls for nothing. If they don’t get their tax cuts, they’ll either quit or maybe have some incentive to start doing a bit of checking and balancing.

      5. I don’t see how the tax bill WON’T pass. It’s not the same as the healthcare thing for these reasons:

        1) they actually want the bill they’re passing, personally. None of them wanted the health care bill they were trying to pass, they either wanted full repeal or not to think about it.

        2) they already have the playbook for how to defend what they’re doing, and in many cases actually believe in it. These people aren’t lying in the sense of knowing contrary information. They honestly believe rich people spend more in hiring than in savings and investments when given raises.

        3) their constituents don’t care as much. Flat out, calls to Congress about the tax bill are a fraction of what was happening under the AHCA and Better Billy Budget Healthy Reconciliatory Buddy Bubbles Act or whatever it was called.

        4) Trump isn’t going to call it “Mean” because it gives his entire family more wealth.

        5, and most significantly) If it doesn’t pass, 110% guarantee both donors and base will hate you and you lose your job. If it does pass, 80% chance donors will like you and 50/50 with the base, depending on which part of the base it is and if they fall into those strange little cusp areas that increase or decrease their taxes.

        In a choice between super total guaranteed annihilation, and “Maybe we’ll just keep repeating the trickle down lie and pretend nothing else exists?”, it seems clear to me which one we’ll end up with.

        The only way I see the tax bill failing is they simply can’t manage to math it out in a manner that keeps it under the parliamentary procedure terms for reconciliation, and choose not to remove the filibuster as they try to square circles. Then other weird, unpredictable shit happens in the interim and the next thing we know it’s March 2018 and the Democrats pass a budget (like they did last year) that removes the ability for reconciliation to be used without an essentially revenue neutral bill.

      6. I mean don’t get me wrong, weird, unpredictable shit WILL happen, but weird, unpredictable shit is never advantageous to rely on and creates worse problems than the problems it may distract from.

        Yeah we won’t get a tax bill, but now we’re in war with North Korea,

        or 45’s had a stroke that his base are blaming on green Muslamic psychonauts and they’ve taken up arms and are attacking federal buildings;

        or some Airborne Toxic Event poisons Washington DC due to peculiar and unforeseen atmospheric amalgamations from climate change, and the entire city has to be evacuated, essentially freezing the federal government.

        or the whole thing Chris wrote about featuring 45 flying away to Russia.

        None of these things are things you want to happen just to win a moral victory.

      7. Aaron – you may be right about the tax cut bill passing, in which case, my hope is that there are consequences. It won’t come from T supporters who are dingy in the head, but it could come from those who were looking for a Clinton alternative and change. I simply cannot accept that the current scenario will repeat itself. I have to have hope that the American people will begin to assert themselves and say: enough!

  6. I’m happy to report that my congressional rep, Ted Poe, is leaving the House.

    From the day 45 was elected, Poe began hearing a lot from me.

    His responses to my concerns about health insurance, medicare, obamacare and social security were completely dishonest.

    He acted as if he thought his constituents only read his newsletter, nothing else.

    I did listen in on a surprise (to me) tele-conference once, and I heard one of his constituents proudly say she listened only “to the right news, Fox news.”

    I shall not miss him.

      1. Was the DDT comment? That particular RWNJ talking point is one of my biggest pet peeves. I remember arguing that one face to face a few years back and seeing a shocked look on the other person’s face when I said the words “pesticide resistance”.

        scientific illiteracy is why we are in danger of losing many nice things.

  7. EJ

    If I understand correctly, the Philadelphia District Attorney election consisted of two phases: a Democrat primary which acted much like people would like a real election to work, and a real election which rubber-stamped it.

    This sounds like a great idea. It not only allows a non-polarised election to happen, but also shuts out the rump of the Republican party from it. I’ve been saying this for a while.

    Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come.

    1. And SCOTUS still hasn’t ruled on gerrymandering……I happen to believe that living in the age of computers is a tool that voters should insist upon to draw voting districts. Just one of many things that will enhance voting rights as opposed to selective suppression.

      1. Computers are like any tool; they can be used for good or evil. If fair criteria are set for redistricting by law, then our redistricting would be much superior. The problem is under REDMAP the Republicans set the criteria to favor themselves. Look what happened. That is the reason redistricting must be given to INDEPENDENT commissions, that are required to follow specific guidelines. Bipartisan commissions required to follow specific guidelines are a quantum improvement over the present system, but the temptation then is to favor incumbents or one party can pull the wool over another party’s delegate, as happened in Washington State in 2011-12. Writing guidelines that cannot be bent one way or the other is devilishly difficult., plus the geopolitical situation is constantly in flux.

    2. That is how Democracy used to work in America, EJ. I, too, hope for its return. I am a strong supporter of a competitive two-party system. Both parties need to be kept honest and responsive to the people they represent by a viable, true balance of power. Bi-partisan decision-making offers the greatest chance for consensus which I happen to think is a pretty wise way to govern.

      1. A VA legislative seat was won by the former boyfriend of the young female newscaster who was shot on television. He ran in her memory and won decisively. Professional politicians have so sullied the thought of anyone seeking office to simply “serve” that good people with no political aspirations other than service are totally turned off by the idea of running. I’m happy to see some non-traditional candidates emerging. Maybe there’s still hope for democracy!

  8. In the near term, I am not concerned regarding issues with single-party rule. It will only be a single-seat majority. That will discipline the D’s. The R’s have enough power in the rural areas to preclude any Democratic overreaction. Our problem has been total obstructionism by the R’s combined with a refusal to compromise. That has been due to their weakness.

    The D’s had a huge majority in 1990 and lost it in 1992 due to enacting health care reform, which caused the individual insurance market to collapse. There were many elements in the plan similar to Obamacare and we know what has happened at the national level. For that reason, I believe that health care must be done at the national level, although CA is large enough that they may be able to accomplish it at the state level.

    In the longer term, I believe that our bi-partisan redistricting with guidelines will also function to prevent overwhelming Democratic power. I far prefer fully independent redistricting under strict guidelines such as CA has, but our system while not eliminating gerrymandering moderates it considerably.

    1. The only sensible thing to do is ignore these people. This is willful ignorance at its worst, and you cannot reason them out of it. Better to reach out to the Bernie wing and the people who didn’t vote and all the newly eligible voters. Maybe a few GOPe who repent and wish to do penance.

      You can’t fix stupid, but you can outvote it.

      1. I’d almost feel sorry for them but they are their own worst enemy. The majority of his voters voted out of spite and bigotry. I love the one guy’s little “niggers for life” comment. Explains it all.

      2. This exchange is particularly damning:

        ‘ “You’re not a fan of equality?” I asked.

        “For people who deserve it and earn it,” he said. “All my ancestors, Italian, 100 percent Italian, the Irish, Germans, Polish, whatever—they all came over here, settled in places like this, they worked hard and they earned the respect. They earned the success that they got. Some people don’t want to do that. They just want it handed to them.”

        “Like NFL players?” I said. ‘

        The guy has zero clue about the irony.

      3. More total cluelessness and irony deficiency, watch this journalist from the Guardian interview Richard Spencer, the “intellect” of the alt-right:

        Younge’s points about unpaid labor are spot on.

        As long as we have so many White men believing that their group was the only one to make major contributions towards building this nation, we are not going to get past this racial divide. Or a gender divide, as women don’t get the credit they deserve either.

    2. The key takeaway for me in that politico article is that virtually anyone who voted for the tyrant will vote for him again. That means that a whole lot more people in specific states will have to vote Democrat that did not vote before. We saw that in Virginia on Tuesday night, as Gillespie actually got more votes than ever before, but so many more people participated and voted Democrat.

      Now, the fascists are not stupid. Evil yes, but not stupid. As I have said before, they will redouble their efforts on using social media and the newest weapon, the Sinclair broadcasting group, to propagate disinformation. They will most certainly crank up gerrymandering (if you think SCOTUS is going to shut that down, you are dreaming) and any means of voter suppression they can think of.

      And lastly, any voting machine that can be hacked, WILL be hacked.

  9. “There are two ways to resolve this disconnect. Build a political agenda capable of appealing to both urban and rural voters. Or, have a revolution and change the system. If we can’t do the first thing, then the second thing is built in by political physics.”

    Absolutely correct. Presently the US is drifting towards an urban-rural conflict. That is not sustainable. I’ve frequently commented on that in the past. The US must compromise.

    We have had a similar divide in the past, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as the cities developed. That also became part of the Progressive agenda. FDR was able to bridge that gap by building a coalition that appealed both to the working classes in the cities and the rural areas. That urban-rural divide was also an indirect causative factor in the Civil War. But now that gap has reasserted itself, once agin.

    Long term, I believe that some Constitutional revisions are required to give more power to the urban areas. Such would include elimination of the electoral college in favor of the popular vote for the Presidency. Another revision would be requiring redistricting be done by independent commissions following strict national guidelines not including political advantage.

    These two items would probably go a long way towards bridging the urban-rural gap. The third suggestion would be to somehow introduce a population component into the Senate. But that appears not to be possible as the Constitution in Article V states “that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of it’s equal Suffrage in the Senate.” That clause limits the Amendment process in that regard.

    1. Another suggestion would be eliminate the voter suppression. Just getting redistricting done by independent commissions in accordance with strict non-political national guidelines would help in that regard. Even if independent commission redistricting was limited to Congressional Districts, the states would have a difficult time maintaining legislative redistricting for state legislative districts. Over time that would extend to voter suppression as well.

      The nice thing about this is that the Congress already has the power under the Constitution to eliminate the gerrymandering and associated abuses at the national level. They just have to do it. See Article I, Section 4.

      1. TMerritt – As long as Republicans hold the reins of power, there will be little movement to change what has worked so well to their benefit…It will only happen if Dems take charge – or, if a new party should emerge.

    2. Part of the difficulty, to wit, is so little our politics is about policy. The recent election (the Trump one, not last night) gave me pause to think more about life “out there,” and perhaps enrich my policy assessments by keeping them in mind.

      But, my assessment is that more sensitivity from the administrative state is probably not going to move rural voters into my column.

      In the end, we’re probably going to have a two-party arrangement, and that arrangement is at least somewhat sustainable…the question is, what will the axes be? Rural vs. Urban might be a reasonable one if it were unloaded from the deeply destructive culture war stuff.

      Also, congratulations, I think, on Washington State achieving a Democratic trifecta. Given these polarized times, I hope they have the fortitude to enact electoral reforms (as Washington has done in the past) to mitigate some of the issues with single-party rule.

      1. Mary, I covered most of the significant news in some early morning posts in the Chris’ previous blog, but here are the highlights.

        1. Manka Dingra is leading in the 45th LD by 10 points. This gives WA a trifecta and there are no longer any holes in the Left Coast Blue Wall.
        2. There were no significant statewide races or issues.
        3. Locally, Seattle elected Jenny Durkan as Mayor. She was the former Western WA federal attorney who was instrumental in forcing through the consent decree to reform the Seattle Police Department. We have had a lot of turmoil in the Mayor’s office this year. She will be the 4th Mayor when she takes office later this month.
        4. King County is also elected a new Sheriff. The King County Sheriff’s office needs reform. Other than that I will not go into detail.

        These preliminary results need to be taken cautiously, since WA is exclusively vote by mail or deposition of the ballot in a drop box. It tends to take approximately a week for the results to stabilize. The ballots need to be post marked on election day.

        The important thing is that Manka’s lead is sufficient to hold, particularly since it exceeds her lead in the primary. With a D Senate the roadblock that the R’s have created will be eliminated and there should be some progress. As I mentioned they have been very obstructionist and have refused to compromise or participate in governance, similar to that at the national level. Movement towards really progressive legislation will take some time as I discussed earlier.

      2. Just as an interesting tidbit. Manka Dhingra is an Indian-American who is married to a Sikh – an interesting multiethnic combination, typical of the new America that is developing. Her husband is in the tech industry. She is an attorney in the King County Prosecutor’s Office and has been working on Juvenile issues.

  10. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but from this left of center Indy’s POV, Roy Moore’s votes on the issues that matter to me really wouldn’t differ from Luther Strange’s. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely alarmed at the notion of religious bigots like Moore getting into such a powerful office, but maybe he will be an especially nasty albatross around the necks of the GOP.

    Damn shame for Jones though, because he looks very worthy.

      1. Those of us living in TX are kind of hoping to sideline Cruz with Beto. It’s a “lift” but if the mood of the country is still heading left as it demonstrated yesterday, he might be the next to go.

        As for AL – which not only gave us Moore and Strange, but also Sessions, I hope Jones will move to a more progressive state. AL is still living in the dark ages.

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