2 Ironies. Greens Just Gutted Environment & Climate Progess. And…

Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s votes don’t quite tip Hillary to victory in key states (like Florida).  But they were the nails in the coffin.

  • Irony 1:  The Green Party will have contributed mightily to an across-the-board rollback and repeal of pretty much everything they care about.
  • Irony 2:  The Green Party and its individual voters will find some complicated way to avoid facing this uncomfortable truth.  What a piece of work is man, how noble in his reason….
  • Bonus Irony 3:  This is all good news for professional “environmentalists” trying to put kids through college.  Lots of disappointment, anger, and quiet guilt to convert into funding.  Re-fighting old ground.  The DC log-rolling machine goes on….

The non-irony is, well, the environment.  Just don’t buy property in Miami Beach.

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I Just Don’t Understand (Suburban Republican) Women. But the Mandate is STILL for “CHANGE.”

I spent the last two days at a conference trying to wrap my brain around the emerging infrastructure of cloud computing.  Actually a welcome distraction from trying to comprehend the election.  But I woke up at 5:40 AM with brain buzzing so starting the catharsis here.

Mandate?  There is a mandate here, but its the SAME mandate for “change” that got Obama elected.   Seriously.  It is clearly NOT a mandate FOR Trump or FOR the Republican party (as much as they are trying to claim one).  Trump had 60% unfavorable ratings.  So a lot of Trump voters were holding their noses to vote against Hillary and the “establishment” she represents. An un-published post of mine from September 22 (full text below).   In 2008, Americans voted for CHANGE = Obama.

  • They didn’t get CHANGE.  At best, they got “change.. ish?”  Obama himself is a cautious centrist.  Calling him a socialist doesn’t change the fact that, policy-wise, he’s a late 80’s Republican.  Hint – ObamaCare is just Massachusetts’ RomneyCare re-warmed.
  • Moreover, the Republican Congress held CHANGE hostage.  Obama would get no victories large or small.  The threat was clear.  No CHANGE unless you elect a Republican President.  The assumption was that would be Jeb Bush, Rubio or some other guardian of the status quo.

8 years later, Americans are voting louder and angrier for CHANGE.

  • They are calling the Republican’s hostage bluff.  Backing a (nominally Republican) change agent (and total wacko).  Same goes for Sanders.  The obvious common thread is CHANGE.

Worryingly, that message already seems to be slipping away in the post-election chatter.  I guess the chattering classes can’t handle the self-scrutiny.  Although that self-scrutiny is the key first step in real CHANGE.  So it could be a tough few years in that regard.

One thing that will help Trump is a stronger economy.  We will finally get the fiscal stimulus we’ve so desperately needed. That will take the form of un-paid-for tax cuts under Trump, but stimulus is still stimulus so I’ll take it.

Will that be enough to paper over the cracks in the Republican coalition?  It’s a certainty we’ll get an orgy of small-ball corporate special interest legislation (why the market is up).  But that’s not the CHANGE Trumps voters are looking for.  A question for later…

For the market, the interesting question now is the inter-play between equities and fixed income as money flees bonds as yields go up (pricing in inflation not real rate rises). Equities are a better inflation hedge, so they should benefit. Plus we have a recovering economy so we could be off to the races for actual fundamental reasons.

What did I get wrong?  

What did I get right?

  • I did get the “angry populists vs elites” dynamic right.  I didn’t under-estimate rural, white working class despair.  I did under-estimate the white upper class’s loyalty to “Team Republican” even with Trump at the helm.  I think that’ll be a bad bet for them long-term (see below) but they made it.
  • I did expect actual voters to differ wildly from the “likely voter” models of the polls.  I just thought it would skew the other way (disheartened women not showing up, Hispanics showing up).
  • I did get that Hillary was the wrong candidate for the time.  My pre-election joke was “I wish Hillary had won in 2008 (grinding it out through the financial crisis) and Obama was running on “CHANGE” in 2016.”  Its not a joke anymore.  I just misunderstood how deeply that would prove to be true.

Kiss the Gig Economy Goodbye?  Repealing ObamaCare is going to be the first major “but can you govern?” challenge for those Republican majorities…  I’ve just married a wonderful woman with a steady job so I still have access to healthcare.  But how many other self-employed people are waking up to that worry right now?  All those Uber drivers…  Repealing ObamaCare is going to be the first major “but can you govern?” challenge for those Republican majorities.  I’d guess they make an even bigger mess of it than Obama….

I’m including below a piece I wrote Sept 22 but never got around to publishing.  Its embarrassingly “right” in its analysis and “wrong” in actually reaching the (now obvious) conclusion.  I guess I just don’t understand women (or at least Suburban Republican ones…).  But I still think this is best seen as part of a leftward swing although “establishment” Republicans already seem to be ignoring that at their (eventual) peril.

——————————————————————————————————

This is NOT a Democrats vs Republicans election.  This is a Plutocrats vs Plebes election.  A majority of American voters are clearly voting to re-balance a system they see as tilted in favor of the powerful.  The powerful are trying to keep things as they are.  Masses of people vs. masses of money…

A useful way to re-narrate the last decade is to cast the dynamic in power/class terms.  This is deeply uncomfortable for many in the national dialogue, but that’s sort’ve the point….  Anything to void acknowledging “everyone” isn’t middle class.

In 2008, Americans voted for CHANGE = Obama.

  • They didn’t get CHANGE.  At best, they got “change.. ish?
  • Obama himself is a cautious centrist.  Calling him a socialist doesn’t change the fact that, policy-wise, he’s a late 80’s Republican.  Hint – ObamaCare is just Massachusetts’ RomneyCare re-warmed.
  • Moreover, the Republican Congress held CHANGE hostage.  Obama would get no victories large or small.  The threat was clear.  No CHANGE unless you elect a Republican President.  The assumption was that would be Jeb Bush, Rubio or some other guardian of the status quo.

Standing behind that stasis was a numerically small number of people wielding a collectively HUGE pool of money.  They liked things just the way they are.  I call them Le Pouvoir.  But “Plutocrats” or “Davos Man” or “the 1%” (really the 1% and their 9-15% enablers) will do….  No need for a vast conspiracy.  A lot of elbow rubbing and group-think is all that needed to cohere them into a school-of-fish-like collective (non) action.  Extend and pretend….  Hope the bread and circuses are enough to keep the status quo rolling under a new set of slogans.

8 years later, Americans are voting louder and angrier for CHANGE.

  • They are calling the Republican’s hostage bluff.  Backing a (nominally Republican) change agent (and total wacko).  Same goes for Sanders.  The obvious common thread is CHANGE.
  • Le Pouvoir is in a bind.  Trying to thread the needle between avoiding Trump while sustaining gridlock in Congress.  And keeping Elizabeth Warren at bay at ALL costs (see below).  Funding Republican Senatorial candidates alongside a whole lot of foxhole conversions to the Clinton camp.

What is surprising is that anyone is surprised at voter’s deep disenchantment with Clinton.  She is nakedly the candidate of Le Pouvoir.  Sure I’ll vote for her.  Anything over Trump and the wack-a-doodle wing of the Republican party.  But I don’t think she’s going to satisfy “them.” And “they” are saying that loud and clear…

So the battle will continue on past November.  Who wins?  I’d bet on the side of the Plebes (spluttered out as “mob rule/the 47%/those people” over in the trenches of the status quotidians).

  • The Plebes have little to lose (see “Trump”) and the prod of sheer awfulness across huge swathes of the American experience (on-demand flexible scheduling of part time jobs, Epi-Pen’s price increases, WalMart’s neutron bomb effect on small downtowns, Meth, etc… etc….).
  • Le Pouvoir’s coalition will break down out of naked self-interest.  The plebes are a mass, but Le Pouvoir is small enough for individual action to matter.  And those individuals will defect.  Putting personal gain over collective self interest.  Discreetly starting to fund the “winning team.”
  • Of course those change agents are just seeking power for their own ends (see Elizabeth Warren).  But that pursuit of power will still drive change.

Looked at another way, it is really hard to thread that needle of populism vs Pouvoirism.  I think there will be too much money that leaks into funding CHANGE.  They’re in that metaphorical sled pursued by wolves.  They’ve already thrown out a whole passel of the weaker, less important passengers to those snapping jaws.  Why stop now?

So what to do?  Don’t plan for the status quo to remain.  I would position your portfolios and plans for a long swing left.  How long?  The same 20-30 year cycle as the post-Reagan swing to the right.

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Who Allowed Stumpf to Be Liz Warren’s Pinata? Epic Elite Collective-Self-Interest Fail…

I just watched Elizabeth Warrren chew up Wells Fargo CEO Stumpf.  Its good theater.  But who allowed this guy up there?  Why give her a pinata?  She’s only going to beat it!  Brilliantly too (see below).

This is the elite failure that’s crept in over the 2000’s.  Bringing us all a lot of trouble.

Collective self-interest mandates that Well Fargo’s CEO Stumpf resigns loudly and bloodily after a scandal.  A Bugs Bunny opera death all over the TV news.  That would serve his own class’s interests, but not his own pride (and notably absent sense of shame).

In the good old days, the collective self-interest would have prevailed.  The boys down at the Metropolitan Club would have sat Stumpf down and delivered the hard truth.  He would have been given a moment to collect himself, left in a locked room with a loaded revolver, and immolated in an appropriately cinematic funeral pyre.  He NEVER would have gotten in front of her committee except as a “broken man deeply remorseful for his shameful actions.

Of course,  3-6 months later, he’d be back from the dead.  Serving on a few boards.  Enjoying his riches-minus-a-token-show-of -monetary-remorse.  Golfing with the guy who handed him his resignation letter.  Good sports one and all.

This is the elite breakdown that will, eventually, break down the current elites.

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Elite Cynicism – The Most Valid (And Worrying) Brexit/Trump Parallel

I still think Hillary wins, but I’m incrementally more worried.  Its not the latest polling.  Its the absence of rational, principled opposition to Trump from people who should (and privately do) know better.  This is the most worrying parallel to the BREXIT debacle.

There was a lot of ink spilled over parallels between the BREXIT vote and Trump’s support – rage of the underclass, xenophobia, racism, etc…  There was remarkably little said about a more direct, valid connection.  The cynicism and cowardice of the elites who started that ball rolling, egged it on, lost control, and ultimately ran their country in the ditch.

The BREXIT vote might have been take over by an angry mob, but the campaign was begun by a cynical, self-serving, gaggle of self-aggrandizing politicians.  Most notably Boris Johnson pursuing his dreams of becoming Prime Minister.

The monster got away from them.  Their (deeply cynical) plan was for “noble failure.” Counting on the sensible center to hold while they postured and pandered on the right.  But there was no-one left in that “sensible center.” So Boris found himself facing the poisoned chalice of becoming PM only to negotiate an actual BREXIT.  A chalice he wiggled his way out of taking – proof of the cynicism underlying it all.

The monster got away from them.  This is worrying me more as the weeks go by.  Anyone with a claim to rationality knows Trump would be a dangerous, potentially disastrous president.  And they also know that Hillary would be, at worst, merely objectionable.   Yet they keep lying in public to avoid saying what they know in private…

  • Why hasn’t John McCain renounced Trump?  The excuse was he was waiting to win his primary.  But he’s won it!  So where’s the promised pivot to the center?  This goes for almost all elected “country club” Republicans.  Paul Ryan where are you?  Are they waiting for one last, epic Trump provocation?  I’m less convinced now.  They are clearly cowards (or they would have stepped up months ago).  But they are quite possibly too cynical to step up.  Deserting their posts in that “sensible center” they pretend to uphold.
  • Why haven’t more business leaders stepped up?  Where is the Chamber of Commerce?  Where are John Chambers, Jack Welch, and Jamie Dimon?  They know Trump would be a disaster.  They also know he’s a sociopath.  Can they really believe a sociopath is a better alternative to Clinton?  Or are they just hoping someone else does the heavy lifting?
  • Why is the media elite not weighing in more heavily?  I don’t expect Fox News to step up, but CNBC?  They totally rolled over during a Trump interview on Monday.  WTF?   Is it just muscle memory reflex support for “their team?”  Are they just that brain damaged by years of soft news?
  • Is this just the end game of politics-as-team-sports?  The equivalent of Penn State fans sticking up for a convicted child abuser and his (proven) enablers out of some sick tribal loyalty?

The dynamic of that cowardice are clear if indefensible.  No-one wants to step up to the bully.  To step up to the mob.  Hoping that “someone else” will do the heavy lifting.  While we all slide toward what “everyone” agrees will be disaster.  And “no-one” steps up.

What is most worrying is that the parallels echo back beyond BREXIT to a whole string of recent “Elite” failures.  Facing tough choices, “everyone” looks for “someone else” to step up to what “no-one” ultimately does.  And disaster ensues…

  • The housing crisis
  • The 2008 financial crisis, bailouts, and subsequent flubbed response.
  • The Euro Crisis.
  • The absence of meaningful fiscal stimulus.
  • The Fed’s flounderings
  • etc….

I am still mostly hopeful.  I don’t see America actually electing a madman.  But I am dismayed that so many with claims to respectability are just standing aside in the face of such clear and obvious danger.  Is it cowardice?  Cynicism?  Just pig-headed magical thinking in service of tribal loyalty?  Does it matter?  They are just colored different shades of shameful.

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The Fed Is Not Going To Raise Rates In September….

Why no rate rise in September?  Because there is a US Election in November.  An unwritten Fed commandment is “Thou shalt not appear to overtly meddle in politics.“**  Without a gun-to-the-head turn of events, they will put it off until December.

What I am still trying to figure out why we keep getting these saber-rattling hints from various Fed governors trying to keep the idea of a September rate rise in play?  They mostly serve to diminish the Fed’s already-battered credibility.  So what is driving them?

  • The internal debate played out on a public stage?
  • An effort to keep the markets on edge?  To what end?
  • Some sort of “talk-tough before we raise the inflation target to 3% whilst raising rates” strategy?

My hope is that the more consequential Fed news was the SF Fed governor’s recent piece questioning today’s (totally arbitrary) 2% inflation “target.  2% has become a de facto ceiling – as “targets” are wont to become.  Which has condemned us to 1%-2% inflation.  Which is pretty obviously too low.  Why?  See “negative interest rates, general malaise, and Donald Trump…”  I’d have though that was all obvious enough, although clearly a lot of people haven’t grokked it yet.

The SF Fed’s paper is short and worth a read.  Excerpts and a link below.  My takes are…

  • It is hopefully a sign of a shift as much as a plea for it.  Does the Fed shift to a 3% inflation target post election?  He certainly suggests they should.  Because the target has become a ceiling (as predicted by many), 3% really means about 2%-3% inflation vs todays 1%-2%.  2%-3% would be in line with the original idea of 2% as the mid-point target of the inflation range, not the cap.
  • This is about as close to a Fed Governor begging for fiscal stimulus.  Message to Congress etc… “stop diddling around with the politics already!.  We’re out of bullets and this is deadly serious!
  • The other sub-text is “We all know nothing will happen until after the election but we need to get teed up on this messaging shift now!
  • He is right IMHO.  Especially about fiscal policy and the Fed being out of bullets.
  • The market’s recent pep might be a sign we resolve this intelligently and positively.  Which would be a pleasant change…

** Note that its OK for the Fed to meddle in politics by NOT doing anything.  See Greenspan’s quiet contribution to Bush II’s re-election by leaving rates too low for too long.  Remember that the Fed leans Republican (see “regulatory capture“).  That was pretty obvious “action,” but in a passive aggressive way that didn’t risk blame.  Just a subsequent housing bubble and financial crisis…

Monetary Policy in a Low R-star World Excerpts Below

The critical implication of a lower natural rate of interest is that conventional monetary policy has less room to stimulate the economy during an economic downturn, owing to a lower bound on how low interest rates can go. This will necessitate a greater reliance on unconventional tools like central bank balance sheets, forward guidance, and potentially even negative policy rates.

In this new normal, recessions will tend to be longer and deeper, recoveries slower, and the risks of unacceptably low inflation and the ultimate loss of the nominal anchor will be higher (Reifschneider and Williams 2000). We have already gotten a first taste of the effects of a low r-star, with uncomfortably low inflation and growth despite very low interest rates.

Unfortunately, if the status quo endures, the future is likely to hold more of the same—with the possibility of even more severe challenges to maintaining price and economic stability.

To avoid this fate, central banks and governments should critically reassess the efficacy of their current approaches and carefully consider redesigning economic policy strategies to better cope with a low r-star environment. This includes considering fiscal and other policies aimed at raising the natural interest rate, as well as alternative monetary and fiscal policies that are more likely to succeed in the face of a low natural rate.

Taking each of those in turn, I’ll start with policies aimed at raising r-star by affecting its underlying determinants.

  • One potential avenue is to increase longer-run growth an d prosperity through greater longterm investments in education, public and private capital, and research and development. Despite growing skepticism and endless column inches questioning whether college is worth the cost, the return on investment in post-secondary education is as high as ever (Autor 2014, Daly and Cao 2015). Likewise, returns on infrastructure and research and development investment are very high on average (Jones and Williams 1998, 2000, Fernald 1999).
  • Turning to policies that can help stabilize the economy during a downturn, countercyclical fiscal policy should be our equivalent of a first responder to re cessions, working hand-in-hand with monetary policy. Instead, it has too often been stuck in a stop-and-go cycle, at times complementing monetary policy, at times working against it. This is not unique to the United States; Japan, and Europe have also fallen victim to fiscal consolidation in the midst of an economic downturn or incomplete recovery.

One solution to this problem is to design stronger, more predictable, systematic adjustments of fiscal policy that support the economy during recessions and recoveries (Williams 2009, Elmendorf 2011, 2016). These already exist in the form of programs such as unemployment insurance but are limited in size and scope. Some possible ideas for the United States include Social Security and income tax rates that move up or down in relation to the national unemployment rate, or federal grants to states that operate in the same way. Such approaches could be designed to be revenue-neutral over the business cycle; they also could avoid past debates over fiscal stimulus by separating decisions on countercyclical policy from longer-run decisions about the appropriate role of the government and tax system. Indeed, economists across the political spectrum have championed these ideas (Elmendorf and Furman 2008, Taylor 2000, 2009).

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What Did I Get Wrong On Trump?

I didn’t think Trump would win the nomination.  What did I get wrong?

What did I expect?  A wall of Money to coalesce around a single alternative.  Probably Rubio.  Like one of those ugly goal line football plays.  Standing him up and pushing him across the line on mass alone.  Probably at the cost of deep voter dis-enthusiasm.  The result would have been a similar “battle of the unpopular” we’re seeing now, but with a better chance of success for the Republicans as a whole.

What did I get wrong?  I misjudged…

  • …The cohesion of the “money wing” of the party.  Enlightened self-interest should have led to the scenario above.  But they couldn’t coalesce.  Which is the clearest sign of the party’s deep fractures and likely fragmentation.  I under-estimated how fractured things are.
  • …The relative impotence of traditional media.  We all know about traditional media’s declining legitimacy and authenticity, but wow!  Although I should have figured this out.  I can barely stand to track the race except via comedy outlets myself….  Others have made this point better/deeper elsewhere so not going to belabor it.
  • …The Boaty McBoatFace phenomena (the joke name a flash-mob “voted” for a British research ship).  Part of the general “de-legitimization of the elites” problem.  Dis-empowered mobs doing what mobs do when they feel dis-empowered.   This is the clearest (and probably only) useful connection between the Brexit vote and the US election.  This problem is going to be with us for as long as the Internet is.  Its going to be interesting to see how “serious people society” adjust and(eventually, hopefully) cope with this.
  • …When Trump would implode.  I was pretty sure he would.  And his (eventual) disastrous reception by Suburban Republican women was pretty darn obvious.  But the narrative shift happened AFTER the nomination, not before.  I should have called this given media dynamics etc.  But I didn’t.

With that I am going to turn my attention more to other exciting things like Productivity, Fiscal Policy, the Senate Races, what happens after the election, and etc….  The presidential race is pretty done and dusted.  The main risk is that consensus leads to lower turnout by the anti-Trump vote.  But I think the “no Trump at all costs” voters will still turn up in greater numbers than the “I hate Hillary and maybe Trump isn’t really a racist sociopath” voters…  Sigh.

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Trump Has Peaked…

Trump has peaked.  Why?  Because he’s not making any new friends; just new enemies.  We’re at that moment of weightlessness at the peak.  Before the slide really begins…  I think it ends in a crushing defeat.  Trump is like a “story” stock.  They run up big.  Whoosh!  They fall big.  Splat!

Remember that Registered Republicans are only 26% of the electorate.  The “crowd” that voted Trump in the Primaries are only a sub-set of that 26%.  The other 74% of the country – undecided/uncomfortable/unsettled – aren’t going to break Trump’s way.

Sure, “Republican leaning” is at 42%.   But how many will pull the lever for Trump?  In particular, watch suburban, college educated Republican women fade away.  They might not vote Hillary, but they just won’t vote.

The election is becoming a referendum on Trump (sorry Hillary).  More on that later.  And the answer isn’t likely to be “Yes.”

The real campaign hasn’t really started.  Most Americans are still tuned out.  Wait for the ad campaigns after the Olympics.  A barrage of ads – “greatest hits of Trump insulting every voting group except white under-educated males.”  Trump has furnished an insult or snide remark for nearly every demographic out there.

The “likely voter” problem will skew polling toward Trump, which will help feed a landslide loss.  An effective ad barrage will drive new registration AND new turnout among the @60%-70% of the American electorate that Trump has alienated.  Republican no-shows will likely spike too.  NEITHER will show up in “likely voters” polls and predictions.  They will show up at the ballot box.  The Democrats’s will be working to make it seem like a close race…   They need the turnout.

The real game is the Senate races.  If Trump skews turnout enough, the Dems win the Senate.  3 Supreme Court Justices and a string of “uncomfortable” Warren/Sanders Senate hearings later, we’re living in a very different country.

We’re even seeing hints of the Democratic “stretch goal” to take the House.  Less likely, but Democratic gains will mostly unseat Republican moderates.  So the House, the only “national” face of the Republican party, will have a higher concentration of the wackiest wackos.  That is a road to ruin…

FYI, I drafted this on Sunday (before recent polls showed Trump tanking).  Really!  🙂

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Trump Will Lose Big. He’s Peaked.

Barring some major “Black Swan” event, Trump will lose and lose big.  That’s a Strong View Not-So-Lightly Held (grin).  What convinced me?  Among other things, see this photo I took Tuesday (after both conventions).

Not a single TRUMP sign...

Not a single TRUMP sign…

Note what isn’t in the window – no TRUMP signs.  In a Michigan county that put the “jerk” in “knee-jerk” Republican.  Prime Trump country.  Plenty of White, no-college voters and a fading manufacturing economy.  If the Republican party here can’t get behind him…

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Why I Don’t Think Warren Would Take the VP Job…

Lot of speculation that Clinton might pick Elizabeth Warren for VP.  It doesn’t seem likely…

  • Warren’s dream job is head of the Senate Finance Committee.  A platform for her message and brand.  Hearing after hearing with her patented pointed questions.  All the dirty laundry…  Plus personal payback for all the nasty things they said about her.  Hmmm… maybe the smart money on Wall Street should be begging Hillary to make her VP to avoid that?  Instead they’ll probably pour money into the Senate races to try and prevent a Democratic takeover.  And risk going down swinging….
  • Warren doesn’t need Hillary’s spotlight.  She is already powerful and influential as an independent force.  Becoming VP would diminish her stature not increase it.  Note how she withheld her endorsement until AFTER Hillary won enough delegates.  That’s the act of an independent power broker.
  • The real fight now is for Democratic control of the Senate.  Hillary’s better off with Warren out there fighting for Senate control.  And Warren is more effective doing that as an independent.
  • Senate control argues against Hillary picking ANY sitting senator.
  • Warren doesn’t seem to particularly trust or like Hillary.  Although that could be said for @55.7% of the country if you believe the polls.  🙂
  • The first “gotcha” VP debate question would link Hillary’s now infamous Goldman Sachs speeches to Warren’s position on the ticket.  Warren doesn’t (and can’t) have a good answer to that one…

My guess is Hillary goes for a Latino.  Why? Latinos now are energized and pissed off by Trump.  Hillary will want to start digging a Democratic-leaning groove into that nascent voting habit.  And voting habits tend to stick for generations….

Latinos have been the jump ball of US politics for a while now – low voting rates but increasing population numbers.  Socially conservative, but friendly to government.  And deeply wary of present-day Republicanism (NASCAR fans,  “dog whistle” bigotry of anti-immigration talk, and the general bad taste of the “Southern Strategy”).

If that Democratic voting rhythm is established, Texas and Arizona go purple and then blue over the next few election cycles.  And losing Texas alone is a mathematical death-blow to Republican presidential hopes.

Unless the Republicans drastically renovate the party.  Lets hope they do.  Dysfunctional wacko-ism does no-one any good.

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Whither the House? A Legislative Golden Age? Possibly. Even Greater Wacko-ism? Definitely.

I just read a Bloomberg column by “conservative” writer Ramesh Ponnuru (AEI, National Review) all but awarding Democrats the Presidency AND the Senate?!?  “Republicans accept the conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidency, and they know that her election would probably end their majority in the Senate. But in a year that has upended political expectations, they have clung to one comforting assumption: Their hold on the House is secure.”  He goes on to question the hold on the House.

I’ve been musing around the same, but when did this become “the conventional wisdom?”  It seems a bit premature to award the Senate this early.  Maybe this is best read as a gauge of the despair?  Rational conservatives finally acknowledging “their” party’s take-over by the NASCAR fan base.  I’m guessing a guy named Ramesh Ponnuru doesn’t feel so welcome in the thick of of a NASCAR crowd (or at a Trump rally)…

But he’s right.  The House is definitely the most interesting question out there now.  There are two scenarios.

  1. The Democrats win the House outright.  That seems unlikely.
  2. The Democrats remain in minority, but take a bite out of the Republican majority.  This seems likely and a LOT more interesting…  Oddly enough, it might also usher in productive era for American politics…

Why?  Democrats will ONLY pick off Republican moderates.  The wacko wing of the House comes from districts that will never flip.  That’s why their elected Representatives are wackos – QED.  So any Democratic gains will come in “swing” districts voting out less-than-totally-wacko Republicans.

The end result is (probably) a smaller Republican majority with a larger percentage share of wackos.  As we have all learned in the last few years, that wacko wing is allergic to the actual business of government.  Cue a nihilistic procession of government shutdowns, tilting at windmills (voting down Obamacare) and general grandstanding.  Anything to avoid the actual messy, compromise-laden (ew! ech!)  duties of governing a diverse country with its cross-currents of interests.

So why is a larger wacko wing a good thing?  Because the beleaguered, non-wacko rump of the Republican could start doing deals across the aisle vs dealing (and failing) within “their” own party.  That has arguably already happened.  Very little real governing gets done in the House without Democratic votes these days…  De facto coalition government with Paul Ryan as the pivot point…  

And why could that be a productive era for American politics?  Paul Ryan is a twerp, but he is inclined to actual governance.  He will do deals.  A legislative balance between a resurgently Liberal Senate and a Right-of-Center-But-Not-Wacko coalition in the House.

Whatever passes muster through both Paul Ryan’s and Elizabeth Warren’s meatgrinders is probably going to be finely ground,well seasoned, and reasonably tasty political sausage.  Appetizing to political centrists at least.  A fix to the corporate tax code?  Some obvious tweaks to Social Security?  Real infrastructure investment?  The possibilities seem endless after so many years of obstructionism…

Or the House wackos just take over the asylum.  Then the legislative engine simply grinds to a halt.  Almost today’s status quo, but increasingly damaging if it goes on.  Those roads and bridges will still keep on rotting away….

  • The Democrats could pick off so many Republican moderates that there is no rump wing left to do those deals….
  • The wacko wing could de-throne Ryan & Co in the leadership.  They will most certainly try.  But that could result in a House “Majority” leader elected with votes from the House Minority party.  That event would take today’s de facto coalition government out of the shadows.
  • Ryan’s gets “primaried” and his constituents vote him out a la Eric Cantor.  Also a very real risk….

All interesting, but perhaps overly hopeful.  What is certain that November will yield a MORE extreme, ideological, nihilistic, “Ultra” Republican House.  More wackos, fewer moderates…  The wackos will go deeper into an impotent, foam-flecked rearguard battle against an increasingly diverse, tolerant, and urbanized America.  A battle they are already losing.  NASCAR peaked years ago…

The wackos will also be “the” national face of the Republican party.  Compounding the damage Trump will do to the Party’s standing.  All bad news for thoughtful conservatives out there.  For they will truly lack a home.  They have my sympathy.  But there is no deliverance from a deal with the devil.  The bill for Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” has come due.

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