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Seven people to watch in 2017

Seven people to watch in 2017

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse addresses CPAC in 2016

A Trump Administration promises to scramble the poles of our political universe. Despite the usual claims of a mandate, election results were an indecisive muddle. Trump “won” by losing the election, and it wasn’t close. Clinton beat him by a whopping three million votes. He finished half a point ahead of Michael Dukakis’ 1988 blowout disaster. Republican Congressional candidates earned a similar asterisk over their win. They racked up a lackluster 48% of the vote while still retaining their majority. Geography, not popularity, handed Republicans control of Washington.

Our political system was the big loser of the 2016 Election, defeated by the rise of celebrity politics and white nationalism. Republicans are no longer the party of conservatism. Democrats are no longer the party of “Third Way” centrism. New alignments are clearly in the works, though they remain hazy. Our way forward is shrouded by the smoke hanging over the ruins of the Third Republic.

From chaos comes opportunity. Prepare to see new faces and hear new voices. As we begin what will likely be a long, painful struggle toward the Fourth Republic, these seven people may have interesting roles to play.

Ben Sasse

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is an unusual Republican. After earning an undergraduate degree at Harvard and a PhD in history at Yale, he became a professor while also serving in several advisory positions in government. In 2009, he took over leadership of a small Lutheran College in his home state before being elected to the Senate in 2014. His career arc, his youth, and his manner invite comparisons to Barack Obama.

Not unusually for a Republican, Sasse is deeply religious and his beliefs play a powerful role in his politics. However, Sasse was the first Republican in the Senate to openly reject Donald Trump and unlike others, he never wavered. Also unlike others, Sasse follows his religious convictions all the way out to their logical conclusions. He is pro-life is the truest sense of the term, not only opposing abortion, but opposing racism and promoting justice. Integrity and humility have been his trademarks.

Most importantly for this blog, Sasse grasps the technology-driven economic transformation that is shaking our world. He has chided Trump and others in both parties for backward-looking economic policies while pointing to the role of automation in job losses.

His career so far points to the emergence of a new generation of principled conservatives, offering hope for our future. What should you watch for with Sasse: How will he respond to calls for welfare reform and a basic income?

Russell Moore

More than 150 years after the Civil War, there is still a Southern Baptist Church. Long after the Methodists and Presbyterians made peace with their Yankee brethren, Southern Baptists are still defined, down to the name on the church-sign, by their 19th century decision to support slavery.

When Southern Baptist professor and theologian Russell Moore became the head of the SBC’s public policy arm in 2013, it put the domination on a collision course with that heritage. Southern Baptists as a denomination have lined up on the wrong side of every major development in the march toward justice and civil rights. Moore has tackled that history in a very vocal way without watering down the church’s commitment to personal righteousness.

Moore has spoken out against the use of the Confederate flag. He has criticized politicians on the religious right for their anti-Muslim demagoguery. Moore has encouraged Christians to embrace refugees, take compassionate stands on immigration, and condemn police brutality against African-Americans. Most controversial of all, Moore challenged evangelicals in very strong language to resist Donald Trump.

Moore has maintained doctrinal consistency on concerns Baptists like to emphasize while pressing Baptists to address the concerns Jesus liked to emphasize. It will be interesting to see if he keeps his job against the resistance building against him inside the denomination.

Erica Grieder

Someone needs to explain Texas to the rest of the world. Ideal translation would come from a smart, sane, articulate commentator who, by some magic, still somehow likes the place. That’s where Texas Monthly writer Erica Grieder finds her special niche.

Grieder made her big splash as the author of Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas. Her book celebrates the qualities that inspired me to leave the place, the same traits that put me on the edge of nausea whenever I return. Where I see a political tradition of corrupt indifference and calloused bigotry, she sees a “business friendly culture” and a “socially moderate electorate.” She has become the most persuasive apologist for that awkward Confederate legacy Texans mistake for “small government.”

When Republicans lose the likes of Erica Grieder they’ve entered uncharted territory. Grieder wrote favorably of Ted Cruz all through the primary season. After Trump’s nomination, she backed Hillary Clinton. She is far and away the smartest, most honest proponent of the Texas political model. No one else has described Texas’ unique contributions to our politics in a way that combines so much insight with admiration. As such, her criticism of Texas Republicans carries particular weight. Grieder stuck to her guns in opposition to Trump (unlike some Texans) and has held other Republicans accountable for their compromises.

Her articulate defense of Texas’ unique model paired with her commitment to integrity place her in an opportune position at the dawn of the Trump years. She could become a pivotal commentator if a rational Republican coalition begins to emerge from the South’s increasingly contested suburbs.

William Barber II

North Carolina has emerged in recent years as ground zero in a campaign by southern conservatives to roll back the gains of the civil rights movement. One of the last Confederate states to complete the switch from one-party Democratic rule to one-party Republican rule, the Tar Heel state is racing to make up lost time.

Pastor William Barber has become a leading voice in the effort to protect basic civil rights in North Carolina. In 2013, he helped organize the Moral Mondays protests drawing attention to the legislature’s actions. His campaign has taken an interesting and provocative strategy that makes him a unique figure of interest in 2017.

Barber has picked up the theme of King’s very controversial “Poor People’s Campaign,” King’s final great push that was cut short by his assassination. True to King’s last ambition, Barber is trying to transcend traditional racial politics to build a new interracial coalition around class. This places Barber squarely at the center of the left’s most promising and volatile emerging strategy, one that could transform the Democratic Party if it takes hold.

Amy Klobuchar

As she approaches the end of a second relatively quiet term, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is a due for a more prominent role. She carries a reputation as a classic Minnesota liberal, a potential new force on the party’s left. Her record, however, has been pragmatic and her voice has been muted. Having promised to run for re-election in 2018 rather than entering the Governor’s race, it is likely she will speak out more in 2017. It is unclear exactly what we will hear.

She seems to be angling toward a more prominent role as a critic of the Trump administration. This may explain the alliance she seems to be forming across the aisle with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. That alliance could prove awkward for her though if she expects to court the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. Klobuchar traveled with McCain and Graham to Ukraine and Georgia this week, a high-profile move with military implications. It will be interesting to see how Klobuchar plays the hand she’s being dealt as the pressure and attention on her mounts.

Evan McMullin

When a collection of “NeverTrump” Republicans announced they would field a conservative challenger to the Republican nominee a lot of hearts raced. When they finally introduced their guy, everyone was left scratching their heads. No one had ever heard of Evan McMullin, a former CIA agent, Congressional staffer, and Goldman Sachs investment banker with no previous campaign experience.

Everyone dismissed McMullin…at first. When polls showed him in a three-way tie in Utah things began to change. The election is over now, but McMullin still hasn’t left the field. He is campaigning against Trump as aggressively now as he did last fall. At the start of his campaign he had about 100 Twitter followers. Now he is closing in on 200,000.

With flawless conservative messaging, a lot of charisma, and dogged determination, McMullin is emerging as a rallying point for the right’s resistance to Trump. There is, however, one little concern.

A previous post explored the implications of a breakdown in executive branch credibility likely to accompany the Trump era. One of those implications is the possibility of more open and dangerous rivalry among our security services, especially between the FBI and the CIA.

To place that concern in perspective, let’s look again at the McMullin campaign. In a certain light, it looks as if the CIA fielded a candidate for President – a candidate who was in fact one of its own clandestine agents. And that candidate has continued his campaign against the winner – a winner who was supported and assisted in the election by the CIA’s main domestic political rival, the FBI.

Pay close attention to how McMullin’s continuing campaign against Trump plays out in the context of that inter-agency rivalry. This could get interesting.

Avik Roy

Politics has not been kind to the Reformicons. For years they pressured Republicans to devote some minute level of interest to questions of real-world policy. They crafted nuanced positions on climate change, entertained semi-credible market alternatives to the ACA, and devised plans for wage support and welfare that might address the problems of working class Americans. In other words, they wasted a lot of time and ink.

Prospects of an electoral debacle at the hands of Trump offered a glimmer of hope. Perhaps a party chastened by failure might warm to a new, more credible set of reality-based ideas.

Then, you know, that thing happened.

For now, the political sun has apparently set on figures like David Frum, Reihan Salam, Josh Barro and Yuval Levin. Trumpian Republicans have little use for a bunch of poindexters sporting plans so complex that they might take a whole minute to read. Whatever part of Making American Great Again that can’t be executed from Trump’s Twitter account probably isn’t in the cards.

Avik Roy is still trying. If Republicans are serious about replacing the ACA with a real thing rather than just passing some sham of a repeal, he may get a chance to help Paul Ryan build it. Working through a new think tank he co-founded in Austin, the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, Roy has developed one of the few credible alternatives to the ACA. If you start seeing a lot of pictures of Roy with Congressional Republicans, it may mean that Republicans have decided to pass some grown-up legislation. We’ll see.

Who has lost relevance?

Who isn’t likely to matter politically 2017? Republican or former Republican figures like me who have been dissenting for years. There is just no organizational structure remaining in which we can leverage any influence.

Actual Nazis now carry more potential influence with the Republican base than most former Reagan officials, or even former Republican Presidents. If you aren’t white, don’t hear the audible voice of Jesus, and/or have your own white supremacist newsletter, your chances of guiding GOP policy in 2017 are pretty slim.

Perhaps the saddest irrelevant figures in 2017 are the ones who planned to cash in on a Trump victory. Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani are learning the hard way what they should have already known about the man they decided to serve. Trump apparently passed over John Bolton because of his mustache. Seriously, I’m not making this up.

For now, resistance to Trump and hope for a return to political sanity rests largely with people like those above. Disagreements aside, they all carry my best wishes and support.


  1. “Her book celebrates the qualities that inspired me to leave the place, the same traits that put me on the edge of nausea whenever I return. Where I see a political tradition of corrupt indifference and calloused bigotry, she sees a “business friendly culture” and a “socially moderate electorate.” She has become the most persuasive apologist for that awkward Confederate legacy Texans mistake for “small government.”

    Chris, as a fairly recent transplant to Texas (if you consider Austin part of Texas), I’d be curious for a longer post elaborating on these comments. I moved here somewhat reluctantly because my partner wanted to be close to family, and I find myself somewhat conflicted by the reality of the place, i.e. it ain’t the Deep South, sure, but its issues and peculiarities are similar and in many ways magnified.

    1. Yea, I’ve been mulling that. Austin, at least in the city limits, is the green zone – a colonial island walled off from the wild-eyed natives beyond. These days it’s kind of an imperial outpost of California. Leave the green zone and you encounter one of the craziest places on Earth.

      Our kids are getting older. The oldest is probably about to go to San Antonio for college. Texas is and will always be home for us. There are a lot of forces pulling us back there, but I really don’t want to go. It’s been on my mind a lot.

      1. It is quite a dichotomy. My job involves a public/private finance program, and I get to spend quite a bit of time outside of Austin dealing with Texas local governments all around the state. Sometimes it seems like the state is trying to caricature itself. I keep mulling whether it might be worth it after all to be here as it transitions to a purple state. Texas seems on the verge of a colossal shift (mainly due to demographics) and the possibilities of participating in that shift have their appeal.

        Despite the hot air from public officials like Dan Patrick, Greg Abbot, and Sid Miller, I’ve always been struck by the pragmatism of the state legislators I’ve met. For example, the coming Texas version of the “Bathroom Bill” is going to run into some pretty hefty opposition led by the business community – and that’s where many legislators take their lead. With a new session about to start, it could be a very interesting and very public few months in Austin.

      2. The current TX HHS rule that requires fetal remains to be buried is peeling the cover back on an agency that is being used by Patrick and Abbott to appease the far right. It is such an absurd ruling that one wonders why go there except that in TX, on matters relating to “life” (unless we’re talking about executions then “bring it on’), there is no limit to extremism. I hope Judge Sparks who is hearing the appeal on this rule will show judicial courage and a more than a little indignation over the crassness of the regulations being lampooned at womens’ rights.

        I will say this again: as a woman living in TX, clearly know that your rights are going to be under attack on all fronts. Do something about it – vote, call, register more women to vote. Fight back.

      3. The Houston metro region is also trending that way. If something changes in Austin (i.e. Public smoking ban), Houston is a likely second place for it to happen. We’re officially the most diverse region in the country. Harris and Ft. Bend counties flipped blue. Brazoria could be next. A lot of people with advanced degrees have been moving into the northern part of the county.

      4. ” I keep mulling whether it might be worth it after all to be here as it transitions to a purple state. Texas seems on the verge of a colossal shift (mainly due to demographics) and the possibilities of participating in that shift have their appeal.”

        Hang in there. It won’t be easy or quick, but it will be worth it. Texas with sane government could be one of the best places in the world to live.

    2. I also wondered about that comment. I don’t live in Texas, but I visit regularly (Austin, San Antonio, and the Hill Country, reasons include music, cycling, and a son who now lives in Austin.) As a visitor, I don’t have the same reactions as someone who grew up in the culture, and am probably not coming into contact with some of the more fevered aspects or going to some of the worst parts of the state. I do get a certain amount of anti-Obama and anti-Hillary stuff on Facebook through Texas contacts, but rarely in person.

  2. RE: House GOP effort to gut OCE

    NPR’s All Things Considered covered the House GOP effort to cripple the Office of Congressional Ethics quite thoroughly today. I listened carefully and gathered that the House GOP particularly dislikes its practice of considering anonymous complaints. Also I gathered that OCE will consider complaints from the public – I’m not sure of that, though. These apparently require congress people to hire attorneys and are difficult to defend against.

    By bringing OCE under the supervision of the House Ethics Committee, that immediately eliminates the independence of the OCE, even though the House Ethics Committee is evenly divided between the parties. The practice of taking anonymous complaints from the public can be eliminated. This essentially eliminates public oversight. The nature of bi-partisanship is to protect each other, i.e. you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back. That has historically been the practice of the bipartisan redistricting commission in Washington State. The mere fact of bringing OCE under the supervision of the House Ethics Committee cripples OCE’s effectiveness. The very reason that Pelosi developed the independent OCE is because that is the only way it can be truly effective. In 2008, the corruption of Congress was very much in the public’s mind with Abrahamoff, Delay and the other scandals being very fresh. That was during the first of Pelosi’s terms as Speaker.

    The real reason the GOP eliminated the revision of the rule, is because of the optics. Their alternative plan is to revisit the issue during the session and hopefully implement it quietly at a time when the media will not notice. That is basically what T said in his Tweets today. We will have to be observant on this and other things, and basically hold the R’s feet to the fire.

    This is a perfect example of the way the Republicans intend to run the 115th Congress. Be afraid, very afraid!

    1. The OCE can receive tips from the public. To be fair, both parties dislike the fact that House members who are charged have to spend a lot of money to defend themselves against charges that may turn out to be groundless. They want more protections against frivolous investigations, which I think is reasonable. What is unreasonable is folding this independent commission under the House Ethics Committee which would control what happens to recommendations from the OCE.

      1. If you have concerns about frivolous investigations, you can address them out in the open. This behind closed doors / no record of who voted how crap isn’t the way to fix anything.

        It’s really a toss up as to which is more offensive, the what they tried to do, or the how they tried to do it.

      2. It was an arrogant play….because they “could”over-reach. What doesn’t change is the total power Republicans hold to make more substantive changes which their majority will afford little recourse other than protest. This action was small potatoes compared to what is planned and that is why they backed off…not because they didn’t have the votes but because they have a bigger plan. This is going to be tough, tough and out the gate Republicans are demonstrating just how aggressive they are going to be. If anything, the media showed they were paying attention and little people like us as well, but on the stuff that matters deeply to the GOP, this won’t be enough.
        Watched Chuck Schumer on Maddow last night and was impressed with his commitment to fight. I also like that he has enlarged the leadership circle within the Senate to be more diverse. Democrats have the fight of their lives on their hands and as citizens, we will have to help in whatever way we can. Yesterday was just the beginning.

      3. Another point regarding the OCE issue: Ryan advised his members against this action. Given the public reaction, he has been vindicated and this strengthens his leadership position, which will be important. Not that I agree with Ryan’s agenda, but I have more concern for the Freedom Caucus.

  3. Let this sink in for a moment. Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler, a Republican appointee, will run unopposed for another 10-year term. Democrats didn’t even file a candidate to challenge her.


    Say whatever you will about the odds for victory, fiscal straits or whatever else; this is a perfect reflection of Democrats utter devastation at the local level. It’s a damned Supreme Court seat in the pivotal state of Wisconsin. What the frack does that say to Wisconsinites that Dems couldn’t even find a candidate to run? Honestly, what does it even matter if their state’s districts are redrawn if there’s no state bench to take advantage of it?

    Truth Punch: It doesn’t.

    1. That’s why I support Howard Dean for DNC chief. His 50-state strategy was a radical departure from the usual Democratic plan of concentrating resources inside the Beltway to focus on national short-term “toss-up” seats rather than long-term expanding the field and building up state and local parties. It laid the groundwork for Dem’s comeback in 2006 and 2008.

      I know a lot of Bernie supporters (including Sanders himself 🙂 don’t like him because he doesn’t pass all the idealogical purity tests. But he had the courage to take on GWB on the Iraq War in 2004, and to take on the DNC establishment afterwards. More importantly, in each case, he was proven right. Not a bad track record to run on.

      1. I like Howard Dean, but he dropped out of the running several weeks ago, iirc. There’s a few other contenders, but it’s essentially down to Perez and Ellison now. Between those two, Perez is effectively representing the Obama/Clinton wing of the party while Ellison is more in line with the Warren/Sanders wing.

        That said, Ellison has spoken out openly and vigorously about the need for Democrats to compete everywhere and speak to everyone. Claiming that Dems don’t need to decide between “social justice and economic justice”, he’s a sort of spiritual successor to Dean’s own efforts. For a party that’s fallen just about as low as it can go, that’s not a bad mindset to have.

        Perez has more or less said the same thing, talking about the need to speak to rural America, though he’s been notably less vocal about his efforts than Ellison has been.

        Momentum and endorsements are clearly on Ellison’s side right now, but we’ll see if they take him over the top.

      2. I supported Dean for the same reasons that Ryan mentioned and was sorry when he dropped out. At this point Ellison seems to be the best bet.

        Regardless, the Dems need to focus on all 50 states and be competitive everywhere. We need to quit focusing on “short-term” pick up seats and build the party nationally, particularly at the state and local level.

      3. Tmerritt – Did you see my response about PM?

        The problem with the challenge before Dems now is that we’ve lost a decade to Republicans. The re-building process is going to be slow but it has to be done. I prefer working from the bottom up but always paying attention to what’s happening at the top. Frankly, I think people are emotionally worn out from this election and that includes the DNC which wasn’t exactly a ball of fire to begin with. If Ellis can get things rolling, he should be elected. I was even pulling for someone other than Pelosi in the House…Got to shake things up.

      4. Mary, yes regarding the PM. I’ll resend.

        You are totally correct regarding the rebuilding process. It will be slow, but does have to be done. We cannot neglect the top. However, I do not think that the rebuilding process will be extraordinarily slow. People throughout the US are very disgusted with the dysfunctional Congress and the gridlock in Washington. T said he could get things moving again. Enough people in the right places believed him or said to themselves the Dems have had 8 years in control of the presidency, let’s give the Rs a chance. Many of them think the President can do magic – we know that’s not true, but their vote counts as much as ours. After the reality of Washington and the lack of a real mandate becomes apparent combined with the Rs overreach, the public will turn against the Rs very quickly, giving the Dems an opportunity in 2018.

      5. >] After the reality of Washington and the lack of a real mandate becomes apparent combined with the Rs overreach, the public will turn against the Rs very quickly, giving the Dems an opportunity in 2018.

        With all respect, tmerritt, stop right there. That’s exactly the kind of arrogant thinking that gets Democrats’ ass handed to them and what gave many of us a much-needed slice of humble pie on Election Night. This time, surely, Republicans will overreach and the public will turn against them, the thinking goes. Uh-huh. Conveniently, that lets Democrats off the hook of actually forming a message of their own and playing reactionary to the GOP. It’s weak.

        What Democrats need to do right now is focus on playing as solid a defense as they possibly can, because that’s all they can do. In the meantime, working on reforming the DNC via a 50-state strategy, slogging through the courts on gerrymandering reform and rebuilding the party from the ground up has to take top priority. Take advantage of Republican weakness and overreach whenever it comes, certainly, but don’t bet the farm on it.

      6. I agree Ryan. If Democrats weren’t motivated by the ugly obstruction by Republicans in the past 8 years, they will act now because Democrats finally will go back to basics. It takes work to be a successful party and I think Dems got complacent…they also were pretty beat down after 8 years of fighting tooth and nail, but that just means they need to fight smarter. I like what I see and hear from Schumer. I think he’s going to make a difference.

      7. He dropped out?? Darn. I guess I’ve been too mesmerized by Trump’s tweets to pay attention to everything else going on 🙂

        And Mary, you’ll be surprised how quickly a party can be rebuilt. It may look like the Dem bench is depleted but that’s because many good candidates who might be interested aren’t going to bother to run unless they know they have support and a reasonable shot at winning.

        In 2004, we felt the sky was falling as well. GWB was positively Trumpian and was re-elected after lying to the public and dragging us into a disastrous war after the worst national security failure since pearl Harbor, a lousy economy, turning surpluses into deficits, and a little thing called Enron involving his biggest donors. They controlled the house, Senate, and governorships.

        2 years later, we controlled everything but the presidency. 4 years later we got that and had supermajorities in Congress. We did that not by simply waiting for Republicans to implode, but by focusing on rebuilding. Without that focus, Obama would probably still be an obscure state legislator (or more likely, would have quit in frustration). And 2006 / 2008 would be lamented as another blown opportunity.

      8. Without the crisis of the Great Recession, things may have been very different, WX Wall. This motivated and angered people. It got them to the polls. I hope you are correct but Dems are going to have to suffer in order to get up off their duffs and become engaged. Republicans will make sure that the suffering part happens. The rest is up to Dems.

      1. That’s true of any of Trump’s possible nominees. Mattis at least appears to have the backbone (stubbornness?) to push back. Plus Trump is still nominating him. It’s not like he doesn’t know about Mattis’s views on torture, Isreali settlements, Russia, etc. So maybe he’ll have more leeway than we expect.

        Remember, Trump reportedly offered Kasich the VP spot and the power to essentially run the entire government. And he doesn’t even bother with the daily intelligence reports. This is not a man who has any interest in the boring details of governing after having won the prize of winning and beating the people that made fun of him in the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I doubt he’s even going to spend much time in the White House.

      2. Now, now, you know Trump gets all the intelligence he needs….filtered through Flynn…now, there’s a scary thought…Trump will tire of the tedious aspects of the job and I expect will delegate a great deal with instructions to bring it all back to him for decisions (from the gut since he won’t be knowledgeable about operations)….when he doesn’t leap-frog over cabinet members on a whim…..

        Don’t take your eyes off the real danger – the Republican majority. I know I keep saying this but they have a plan and it will be devastatingly well organized.

  4. Read this article today in my local paper.

    1.7 million people are felons in Florida and cannot vote. 500,000 of them are Blacks. If this gets passed Florida will turn Blue. This effort has been going on for awhile with those you would expect fighting it tooth and toenail. I hope the courts ok this for the ballot in 2018. But you still have to get to the 60% approval a super majority to become part of the state constitution.

    1. I did not know that FL was one of only 3 states in the country that denies voting privileges for convicted felons who have met their sentencing obligations. Hope that movement succeeds, Steven. Noteworthy was the fact that many of these convicted felons have never even been imprisoned….makes you wonder about the legitimacy of the charges and the integrity of the FL adjudication process.

    2. I too hope the effort succeeds. However, you can be sure that hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent to keep this measure from passing. The Rs are desperate to limit the voter rolls to the “right people”. They know they cannot maintain their power without voter suppression, gerrymandering and other devious actions such as is occurring in NC. Florida is one of the primary examples.


    Why create an unnecessary problem on the first leg of the glory road! Wiser heads prevailed which, of course, doesn’t mean it won’t come up again. Fight what you can when it is needed. It helped that Trump tweeted his concern (probably a whole lot more than our phone calls (-; but, it was good practice for the challenges ahead.

    1. I’m pleased to see that the public’s backlash was noted by the GOP House.

      I just checked my new Representative’s, Pramela Jayapal, campaign web page – she has not yet been sworn in. She posted the following tweets on the page.

      Pramila Jayapal ‏@PramilaJayapal 6h6 hours ago
      Gutting independent ethics office makes the Trump promise of “draining the swamp” more laughable than it already was.Pramila Jayapal added,

      Pramila Jayapal ‏@PramilaJayapal 6h6 hours ago
      If gutting independent ethics office is GOP first move, it is clear that corruption and scandals will be hallmark of next two years.

      This is the WA 7th Congressional District and Jayapal is a progressive D, replacing Jim McDermott who is retiring.

      1. When my son was in Seattle for a few months, he actually did some field work on her campaign. He was quite impressed with her as a candidate and how gutsy she was in challenging the original losing vote outcome, over which she ultimately prevailed in a re-count.

        Jayapal should be listed on our “people to watch” list…Maybe Chris would be amenable to a melding of lists… After all, we want to watch interesting people on both sides of the aisle (-;

      2. Thank you for your comments, Mary. But I would like to make a minor clarification.

        The recount that she spoke of was most likely when she ran for the WA Senate from the 37th Legislative District in 2014. Wikipedia does not mention one; it only says she defeated her opponent, another Democrat in the general election. I seem to recall a recount, but did not pay attention to it since I live in a neighboring district, the 43rd.

        In this last election she easily won both the primary and the general. Since WA is a top two state, her opponent in the general was also a progressive D from the 43rd. I did vote for him, because I was concerned that Jayapal might be a little less effective in Washington. But they both had similar positions and good resumes from the WA state legislature. That being said I am impressed with her and her willingness to both take progressive positions and to work across the aisle. In Olympia she did show a willingness to work with Republicans.

        She is an Indian-American immigrant and a person of color. She helped found One America to counter anti-muslim backlash following 9/11. There is some anti-muslim activity in the area, but it is minor and is almost uniformly decried. Generally, the neighborhoods support the mosques. One mosque in north Seattle is actively watched over by the neighborhood as is a mosque in Redmond, where the most recent incidents have occurred. There actually is a significant muslim community in Pugetopolis.

        My only concern at this time is that she does not reside in the 7th CD, though that is legal in WA and she has promised to move to the 7th. Her residence was in the 7th prior to redistricting in 2011, but was moved to the 9th to create a majority minority district when room was made for the new 10th CD. She presently lives in one of the most diverse areas of Seattle and likewise in WA.

        I concur that she should be added to the “people to watch list”.

        BTW, Mary, did you receive my reply to your PM, back 2-3 weeks ago. If you did not let me know and I will resend it.

  6. “House Republicans voted 119-74 Monday night in favor of a proposal that would gut Congress’ outside ethics watchdog and remove its independence.”

    “The full House is scheduled to vote on Tuesday on the rules, which would last for two years, until the next congressional elections.”

    I’m posting this here for primacy, but I’m going to try to see if I can find the actual vote breakdown and will move to action items to the Active Steps thread.

      1. Just spoke to Congressman Brady’s DC office. Very defensive. Inferred that this is only a due process change, that the work of the commission will proceed but under the current House Ethics Committee. Then she asked me if I knew this commission had been established by Nancy Pelosi in 2008.

        WTF difference does that make? I can only assume this staffer thought I was a Republican, because I live in TX, in Montgomery Cty. I told her I thought the independent commission was a great idea whoever created it…That finally got a pause in her non-stop verbal defense. I then called the TX office for Brady and had a 25 minute discussion on this issue and health care, etc. which was very rewarding. She even gave me her personal email address. I have no doubt that when I call her next time with an issue, she will remember me. (She told me that I was the most well informed constituent on the health care discussion that she had ever talked with….I suggested she follow Political Orphans because there are many here who are as well informed….)

        Here’s the actual amendment:

      2. I’ve received two emails from Congressman Brady’s field office director since I made my call on the OCE issue. Turns out I was able to offer her some info that she didn’t have. All positive. And, she clearly knows where I stand on health care as a Democrat (and a constituent) so lots was accomplished. She gave me some information that might be helpful to follow actions planned by the GOP which I list below. If you want to read the actual rules changes, amendments, emanating in the House, go to:

        If you want to follow health bills/changes, go to:


        Tag: Healthcare or Medicare. You can sign up for updates. Brady’s proposal regarding Healthcare is: Health Care Blueprint. Brady chairs the Ways and Means Committee which is a very powerful House position.

        When I mentioned I had read Avik Roy’s proposals and Apothecary blog, she was immediately responsive about how knowledgeable Roy is. I expect this is a clue as to Roy’s input into the final proposal. I wish Roy’s plans included more focus on universal coverage than “universal access” (now there’s a term that is fraught with lots of pin holes).

      3. “Then she asked me if I knew this commission had been established by Nancy Pelosi in 2008.”

        HA! There’s a hallmark of blind partisanship. Ideas ought to be judged primary on their own merits, rather than who came up with them. Good for you for calling her on that.

        Even Trump is tweeting against this.

      4. Charlie Crist is my new Democratic representative, so unfortunately I’m not in a position to apply much heat as far as the House is concerned, at least on this issue. Still, I’ve already sent an e-mail asking for his position on the ethics watchdog and whether he supports any proposed changes to it. I’ll be making an official call later if I don’t get a timely response.

      1. This modest achievement in thwarting a poorly worded and poorly timed amendment to the independent ethics commission feels good but it is likely merely to be postponed, necessitating another outcry.

        Get ready folks cause this is just bunts, the doubles, triples and home runs are on their way. Make your phone list up now both the DC numbers and local numbers. Try to find out who the legislative staffer is before you need to speak with them.

        Print this guide and start a file – either online or by hard copy so you can jump on issues efficiently and quickly. The small core group idea is excellent. Aaron is already doing that. I plan to do what I can to get 3-4 other people who can help respond on key issues.

    1. This isn’t really a Universal Basic Income experiment, it’s a Basic Income experiment since it only goes to the lowest income recipients, not everybody. There are economic consequences of this kind of subsidy (inflation, primarily) that would be greatly magnified if it were truly universal.

      Besides the social reasons that have been previously discussed for preferring a Job Guarantee over UBI, an economic reason for preferring JG is that the program is automatically “means tested,” with participants removing themselves from the program when they get a better offer from the private sector. The fact that the program is inherently far less than universal means that the economic consequences are much more manageable than for UBI.

      I’ll put a little more about the economic consequences and how they could be dealt with in an Off Topic post.

  7. Probably a wrong moment to mention it, but on reddit, especially on r/futurology and on r/basicincome there’s usually plenty of discussion pro basic income. You might want to check it out. (There are also usually some randroids saying why is it unacceptable and that’s an interesting perspective too)

  8. We haven’t touched upon the judiciary impact of Trump’s election in a while, but it can’t be stated enough that principled jurists are a critical check on abusive power . As the article states: (There is a) ….”difference between judicial engagement and judicial abdication…” Trump has a huge number of positions to fill throughout all levels of the judiciary…may he choose well………

      1. Note that your guy Avik Roy is one of the authors. Chris, Mr. Roy may have some concern about helping the poor, but all of the health plans he has his name assigned to essentially sacrifice the poor and elderly in return for health care privatization. I’ve read his joint plans, his big plan, his amended big plan, and while I don’t doubt he knows health care, his solutions are Republican to their core.

        I think this article has it exactly right. In the Forbes piece today, the third analysis by Chris Conyers, essentially what is going to happen is that really sick or hurt people will simply have to die. If you’re old and have a chronic illness, health insurance is just the beginning of your personal costs. Believe me when I say I know what I am talking about. When you’re sick enough to need catastrophic coverage, generally you need daily help and you have attendant expenses that can be very costly. If you’re poor, or working poor, you have great difficulty affording a car or house note, much less health insurance.

        This is why quality health care SHOULD be government provided. That wouldn’t eliminate the private health insurance market, but it would flat out remove the profit incentive that adds to costs. The only way to provide quality, affordable health insurance access to all Americans is to have universal coverage that is government run. It will likely never be perfect and the ACA has many shortcomings, but it makes complete sense to me to fix the ACA rather than try one of these newbies I’ve been reading about which ALL will leave millions of Americans without health coverage. That may be alright with Republicans, but it is not alright with me as a citizen of this country.

        The piece is dark. It is also on the money. I expect Republicans to do exactly what is stated in the article and this may be the ultimate political miscalculation for Republicans. There are some good ideas in these plans, but none which couldn’t be incorporated into the ACA. This is a pure ego push by Republicans. What will be interesting is how the people of America perceive this repeal effort. I know what I think of it and it is not for lack of study of their plans.

      2. I agree with you Mary.

        As intelligent as Avik Roy is, he’s still part of the problem. Every single country in the world has realized that a private insurance system is incompatible with the goals of ensuring care for those who need it. *Including ours*. Which is why we cover the sickest people i.e. the elderly, disabled, poor, and military, with public programs. Throw in SCHIP to cover kids, and the only people left for private insurance to cover is healthy, working people. That’s supposed to be the easiest demographic to cover, and yet they still fail at it.

        Roy is the most erudite of the conservatives trying to fit a square hole through a round peg. But it’s still a futile exercise. Until Roy owns up to the reality he still refuses to see, he’s the health-care equivalent of a climate change denier.

      3. An essay about why government shouldn’t be run like a business:

        Its main point, “not everything that is profitable has social value, and not everything that has social value can be profitable” applies to healthcare. It’s completely cruel and heartless to deny someone care because they can’t pay, but it’s also stupid to expect a business to follow a model that can’t make a profit.

    1. QFT:

      ” The most likely outcome is that Republicans keep extending the law until Democrats have the presidency again, at which point they’ll no longer have an incentive to prevent mass suffering, and can go back to opposing anything Democrats try to do to make the system work. Republicans just need to keep the system from collapsing on their watch.”

      They’re had 6+ years to come up with something “terrific”. If a collapse of the health insurance system is inevitable, let it happen sooner rather than later so that the guilty parties get the blame. Also so we can start picking up the pieces sooner.

      1. No, Fly, Republicans were touting universal affordable health care with the individual mandate going all the way back to 1989. President Reagan weighed in in 1986 with passage of universal health care mandate requiring hospitals to treat all who come to ER centers. This arose from a heinous practice called “patient dumping”. To his everlasting credit, President Reagan supported this law.

      2. Fly, here’s the background on the Heritage Foundation work on a comprehensive health care plan developed by request (but never adopted) for the Republican Party.

        The ACA is premised closely on the earlier Mass. comprehensive health care plan which is experiencing many of the same problems that ACA is….how will they resolve them? Repeal/delay?


      3. I know the history of the individual mandate/pre-existing condition idea. My point is to hold the GOP to their word. They bitched and moaned and threw political tantrums for 6 years instead of getting that replacement ready. The fact that a replacement is likely not possible shouldn’t let them off the hook here. They shut down the $$@%#€¥ government and played fiscal chicken for the opportunity to kill the ACA. So now the opportunity is here! Time to call and see if they’re bluffing (which a lot of us think they are).

    2. Chait’s analysis strikes me as more or less accurate, but there’s a particular monkey wrench in that plan that he doesn’t talk about. Paul Ryan can’t get those extensions through his Republican conference alone and that means that he’s going to have to rely on Democratic votes to do it, over and over and over again. Thus far, he’s been loathe to do that for… well, anything, and if he finds himself in the position to have to do, for all things, to save the dreaded Obamacare, how long is it before the Freedom Caucus goes for his throat in the same way that they did Boehner?

      1. Ryan (and McCarthy) both opposed tonight’s announcement that the GOP will terminate the independent ethics committee, putting such issues under the control of the House Ethics Committee…which means, the fox is guarding the hen house. Ryan to his credit, felt this is a wrong way to start the 115th Congress, so obviously, his leadership is already being subsumed.

        The Republicans have figured out ways to get the ACA repealed through reconciliation by simple majority. They won’t need any Dem votes for most of what they want to do. They also need the tax revenue built into the plan for their own purposes so that particular repeal may be delayed. The rest they are going to do but there is so much more on their agenda: Eliminate the Consumer Finance Bureau; eliminate most of the regs dealing with climate and energy; tax reform; medicaid/medicare reform; eliminate Dodd-Frank & the Volker Rule…and this is just the tip of the iceberg……How’s Sophie holding up?

  9. I imagine that I would have a few political/philosophical differences with Sen Sasse and Rev Barber. But I have a ton of respect for both of them because they recognize a bad deal when they see it, and they’re not afraid to say so. The fact that Sasse recognizes how tech will be a game changer and Barber is actually paying attention to what Jesus said means that here are people a center-left person like me could work with.

    1. I hate to state the obvious because it’s so ugly, but for the south to change, a lot of old white people need to croak. You can’t change stupid you just have to outnumber them. In addition, black people and other minorities need to find their own center of power and vote!

      Remember, 42 million Americans did not vote in this election who could have. That’s a lot of apathy. That’s where change begins.

      1. The grandkids of those oldsters are much more progressive and open to change. Even a few of us oldster have figured it out. I have seen Orlando change from a place of power and influence for the Klan to progressive where Hillary won two to one. It will happen to the rest of the south in time.

    2. I believe that you are correct regarding the suburbs and cities. As I mentioned below, we have been seeing that pattern play out in the west.

      That is the pattern that is now playing out in NC. It is going to flip, because the Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham areas are gaining population and are slowly but surely going to gain political dominance. The Rs realize that and are deploying their tactics of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and now legislative actions to retain control by the rural and conservative areas. They got their chance after the 2010 election and are maximizing their advantage.

  10. I’d also add Trump’s defense nominee gen. Mattis. He is apparently not very enamored of the military industrial complex and also is known to fire officers who were incompetent, something exceedingly rare in the modern military. I think there’s a chance he might actually shake up the unholy alliance between the military and the MIC. Even policy-wise, he seems OK except for an obsession with Iran which may turn into war. But he believes in a 2 state solution, supported Kerry, and criticized Trump for complimenting putin.

    He may turn out to be an excellent secretary. Of course, my predictions are worthless: I supported Rumsfeld in his first year when he was forcing the military to refashion themselves to fight modern conflicts rather than preparing for Russian tanks marching through Germany. only to watch in horror a year later as he generated false intelligence, lied to the public, and proceeded to execute horribly in Iraq (and eventually Afghanistan).

    1. Rumsfeld lost me at “they don’t know what they don’t know”…. Can’t say I was ever a fan of his…Too much ego. The one good thing about having these retired generals is that they can easily walk away if they end up in a principled difference of opinion….which I expect Mattis would do…Flynn, probably not – he’s a power monger and “needs” to be in authority.

      Doris Kearns Goodwin story about a cabinet composed of a “team of rivals” is going to be put to the test with Trump….I’m concerned that other than the glory aspect of “being President”, Trump won’t like doing the job. Too much work – too much personal sacrifice…which means he will either delegate like crazy – a good and a bad thing – or he’ll try to micromanage it all and screw things up royally….Meanwhile, the GOP will be busily doing their best to undo democracy as we know it…..and they may just succeed.

    2. DS

      Mattis has a keen understanding of warfare, and was an outstanding theater commander, but he’s a political neophyte. There are substantial non-military dimensions to running the Pentagon, and I expect Mattis will fail spectacularly at them. Defense contractors and institutional military types are politically adept, and they will run circles around him

  11. The old chinese curse was may you live in interesting times. Well we do in spades. Florida finally enforced by court order the constitutional amendment to un- gerrymander districts that we the people overwhelmingly approved.
    Several new congress persons will be going to the congress this year. One is Stephanie Murphy who beat out Republican heavyweight John Mica. She is young and Vietnamese . Central Florida has a thriving Vietnamese community. They are a minority in a majority minority community. Also Gwen Graham won her bid for congress, the daughter of Bob Graham former governor and senator of Florida. Also young and female. Charlie Crist former governor of Florida who changed parties to Democrat after the GOP went nut right won his bid for congress. The women excite me the most as they are new blood and very unconventional. Florida was very close in the last election but is tending more cosmopolitan all the time. A significant part of our economy is export and import. Trump’s move against free trade is going to hurt us. Many Floridians are alarm with his white nationalists message. Even lily white people like me have brown and black relatives. If your family has lived long in Florida even from Scott Irish stock that is very probable . Oh yea there will be resistance to white nationalism, isolationism and policies to stop free trade. Southerners are not monolithic. A lot of the most energetic resistance will come from the south.

    1. Sounds like the best places to live for Dems are the west coast and FL (-; CO looks good in the central west…NM getting better. Dems have got to get back to local political organization and earn their way into leadership. I have no doubt that the majority of Americans agree with diversity, inclusion and equal rights but we need to do a better job selling what we stand together on.

    2. Yes, the Dems do have to get back to basics and focus on local political organization. They badly dropped the ball during the last eight years in that regard and it has cost the party dearly.

      Regarding the western states CO is almost a blue state now. NM is getting closer.

      AZ is not that far from flipping, thanks to the influence of the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas. The big problems are that the Republican Party and the rural areas are fighting tooth and nail to maintain their influence through voter suppression, gerrymandering and the other tactics with which we are familiar. AZ has adopted independent redistricting both for the state level and at the federal level. SCOTUS upheld the independent redistricting at the federal level in 2015. The Arizona legislature immediately filed another case regarding the state legislature. SCOTUS then ruled on that case in April 2016 again upholding the independent commission’s plan. This is typical of the delaying tactics the Rs are using. However, slowly but surely the obstructionism is being overcome. AZ is now a middle sized state with 9 congressional districts and will likely have 10 or 11 after the 2020 Census.

      A similar pattern is occurring in NV. The Las Vegas area is beginning to dominate with some assistance from Reno.

      We saw a similar pattern play out in FL. As Stephen wrote the situation in FL seems to be slowly trending blue. Again it was the People who finally forced the change via the ballot box. Incidentally, my brother lives in SW FL and is a strong D.

      In CA it was the people via the initiative process that implemented the independent redistricting commission. Even Orange County went D this past election by over 100K votes.

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