With Republicans taking victory laps and crowing about the decimation of the Democratic Party, Eugene Volokh has a good summary of why Democrats should not despair.
The Democratic Party won a plurality of the popular vote.
It dominates California, the most populous state; it has huge power in New York and Illinois, two of the next four states by population.
It won the last two presidential elections before this one, by substantial margins.
It would have won the electoral vote in this election if there had been tiny swings in a few states.
The mainstream media, which continue to be extremely influential (though less so than before), overwhelmingly lean Democratic.
The incoming Republican president — though undeniably, if surprisingly, effective at getting elected — has shown himself quite capable of unforced errors.
Precisely because the party will have control of the presidency, the Senate and the House, as well as a Supreme Court that will be seen as sympathetic to Republicans, it will be held responsible if it fails to adequately address the nation’s problems — and those problems, foreign and domestic, are going to be very hard to address.
I’d add in that the results last Tuesday would most probably been very different if the Democrats had not nominated Hillary Clinton.
The day after the election last week, we discussed the results in each of my classes. There were some kids who were pretty upset and depressed. My message to them was understand that America’s political history swings in a pendulum. I can remember how it seemed the Democratic Party would never recover after George McGovern won only one state in 1972. And then after Nixon resigned, it seemed that the Republicans would never recover. And then came Reagan and his landslide victory in 1984. There were stories then about how the Democrats were headed into a permanent decline. Then came Clinton and the Democrats seemed in control again until 1994. And after Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012, we started to hear that the Republicans couldn’t win again because of demographic changes in the country. I told my students that, as depressed as they are now, the pendulum will swing back. And one day they’ll be telling their grandchildren about how funny it was back in 2016 that people were talking about the disaster that was the Democratic Party.
Jeff Jacoby warns conservatives that they’re going to have a tough time with President Trump.
Trump is no conservative and never has been. The classic Reaganite principles of limited government, free markets, peace through strength, robust internationalism, American exceptionalism, and traditional social values have little resonance for the president-elect. His “vision thing,” to the extent he has one, is of a neo-isolationist populism. “Don’t forget, this is called the Republican Party,” Trump said last May. “It’s not called the Conservative Party.”
It was a fair point. Conservatives don’t own the Republican Party. At best, they have been its largest and most influential faction. Yet even in Ronald Reagan’s heyday, prominent Republicans rejected Reaganite values. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, for example, Bob Dole spent much of the 1980s opposing the Gipper’s supply-side economic reforms. The federal behemoth grew more swollen, not less, during Reagan’s years in office — and swelled still more under his successor, George H.W. Bush. Even William F. Buckley Jr. famously battled Reagan over his opposition to giving up the Panama Canal.
Yet while Republicans never really marched in lockstep to a conservative drummer, most of them came to see the GOP as the natural home for Reaganite values and the most reliable defender of conservative governance.
That will change under Trump. He is the new head of the Republican Party, and his influence will be felt throughout the ranks. Many on the right were dismayed by the stream of conservatives, both in and out of government, who set aside their philosophical objections and embraced Trump during the campaign. Now, as he prepares to move into the White House, that stream will become a torrent….
It would be wonderful if Trump, having captured the highest office in the land, resolves to abandon the smash-mouth style for which he is known and makes a point of listening to and learning from those who disagree with him. That would be a decided improvement over the last eight years of Obama’s my-way-or-the-highway superciliousness.
Hope springs eternal, but realists must assume that Trump will remain true to form. Which means it will take courage for Republicans — especially the committed conservatives among them — to oppose him when he’s wrong. That proved hard enough to do when Trump was merely the party’s nominee. It’s about to get a lot harder.
I was amused to see how quickly liberals started advocating for dissent as soon as Trump was elected. For eight years, we’ve been told that any dissent against President Obama’s agenda smacked of racism. It was quite a change from when we were told that dissent was the highest form of patriotism when Bush was president. Sean Davis follows up on that wobservationenwill be cool to make jokes about the president. That wasn’t possible when Obama was president because comedians just didn’t see him as a source for jokes. That certainly won’t be true with Trump. And gridlock and obstruction will be patriotic now that it will be Democrats blocking Republicans. And Democrats have suddenly found new wisdom in checks and balances and limits on executive power.
Under the presidency of Barack Obama, progressives came to love executive power. Congress doesn’t want to pass a law you like? No biggie: just make it happen with an executive order. Congress won’t change a law that you promised would be amazing? Easy: just tell a federal agency to promulgate a rule to “re-interpret” the law into something you prefer. Want to start a bunch of new wars without congressional authorization? Congress, shmongress. Just use a pen and a phone to order the invasion of another country.
The thing about executive power, though, is that even executives you don’t like have the same power. That’s one reason why conservatives were so consistently warning progressives about executive overreach: Anything President Obama can do, President Trump can do, too.
A Trump presidency will do wonders in restoring beliefs in limits on executive power. The unitary executive is old and busted. The new hotness is bipartisan compromise across each branch of government.
Davis points out that we’ll start seeing war protests again. The country was full of such protests, but under Obama…not so much.
Something else that Trump’s victory makes possible is respect for denying the president’s legitimacy.
Just weeks ago, the media and the entire Democratic political establishment (but I repeat myself) were rending their garments over Donald Trump’s refusal to concede an election that hadn’t even been decided yet. They made that refusal the centerpiece of their coverage of that particular presidential debate. They told us that Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the election (which, by the way, is not actually what he said, but that’s a digression for another day) would tear the fabric of America apart. His refusal to accept the legitimacy of Hillary Clinton’s presidency was tantamount to taking a hammer to the foundations of American democracy.
That was then. That was when they were all convinced that Hillary Clinton was going to be the 45th president. Refusing to accept the legitimacy of the next president is suddenly back en vogue now. If you want to know how cool it is to deny the legitimacy of a duly elected president, peruse the #NotMyPresident hashtag on Twitter.
Kevin Williamson is also amused at how quickly things have flipped now that Trump has won.
We conservatives sometimes get bored of pointing out double standards, but recall that when well-behaved Republican protesters gathered to criticize some aspects of the Florida recount in 2000, the media described it as a riot — the “Brooks Brothers riot” — and Democrats such as Representative Jerry Nadler wailed that there was a “whiff of fascism” in the air. If the election had gone the other way and crowds of angry Trump voters were out in the streets beating people (they aren’t, though there are hate-crime hoaxes aplenty) there would be klaxons of alarum sounding 24 hours a day — and zero talk of how the protests were “mostly peaceful.”
Perversely, the Trump presidency is bearing some worthwhile fruit before it even begins: Once more, dissent is the highest form of patriotism, free speech is an absolute right that must be defended at all costs rather than regulated away in the name of reform, presidential power is to be limited, and the anti-war movement on the left, which went silent right around the time the fellow who won the Nobel Peace Prize started assassinating American citizens in extralegal drone strikes, has once again found its voice.
Two cheers for all that.
For eight years, Democrats celebrated the aggrandizement of the already inflated presidency left to Barack Obama by George W. Bush. You remember the greatest hits: “If Congress won’t act, I will.” “I have a pen and a phone.” “Elections have consequences.” And, my personal favorite: “I won.”
Somebody else won this time around.
The pretensions of the imperial presidency are going to haunt Democrats for the immediate future, but they’ll quickly rediscover their belief in limits on the executive. While they’re rediscovering old virtues, they might take a moment to lament Senator Harry Reid’s weakening of the filibuster, an ancient protection of minority interests in the less democratic house of our national legislature. They might also lament Senator Reid’s attempt to gut the First Amendment in order to permit the federal government — which in January will be under the management of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and — incredibly enough — President Donald Trump — to regulate political speech, deciding who can speak, about what and when, and on what terms. Perhaps they’ll thank those wicked “conservative” justices on the Supreme Court for saving basic political-speech rights. If they are smart, they will rediscover federalism, too, and the peacemaking potential of a school of thought that says in a diverse nation of 320 million souls, there is no reason that life in rural Idaho must be lived in exactly the same way as it is in Brooklyn or Santa Monica. As Charles C. W. Cooke pointed out, the same people who until ten minutes ago denounced federalism — which they mischaracterize as the doctrine of “states’ rights” — as an instrument for the suppression of African Americans are now embracing secession, which, in the American context at least, has a little bit of its own racial baggage.
We’ve seen days of protests to Trump’s election in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Portland, and Chicago. There’s been some violence, particularly in Portland. I’m not sure what the protesters want to accomplish by shutting down traffic in blue cities that voted against Trump. Adam O’Neal went among the protesters to try to figure out what they wanted.
But why protest at all, given the unambiguous results of Tuesday’s election? The demonstrators’ signs offered a few clues. The “F” word was ever-present: as in “F—”—take your pick—Trump, Giuliani, the police, family values, that guy, the electoral system, Newt, Arpaio, Trump’s Amerikkka, and even “you.” One woman carried a sign pledging that she would pay taxes only when Mr. Trump does. Other placards derided “Adolf Trump” and the new “groper in chief,” warning “tiny hands off.”
Enlightened college students carried apologetic messages: “Sorry for the inconvenience, we’re trying to change the world” or “I’m sorry my country is racist.” And “Not my president,” was a fan favorite, though many went with “Never my president.” Other slogans didn’t really add up, such as “You can’t drink oil” or one calling for Vice President-elect Mike Pence to be thrown over a fence.
It was difficult to find a unifying theme, since there was something for almost everybody: POWs are heroes, Black Lives Matter, Family MDs for ObamaCare, Steve Bannon must go.
The crowd’s chants were equally confused. Many simply expressed strong disagreement with Mr. Trump’s policy pronouncements and personal style. “Say it loud / Say it clear / Refugees are welcome here,” they shouted. Men declared, “Your body, your choice,” and women responded, “My body, my choice.” The policy-oriented crowd wasn’t entirely humorless: “Hands too small. He can’t build a wall.”
Flags—rainbow, Puerto Rican, anarchist, Socialist Alternative, Mexican, U.S. (sometimes desecrated, sometimes not)—were all present. But what unified banner were the protesters marching under?
It wasn’t a rally in support of Mrs. Clinton. Yes, her supporters made their presence known by holding up “#ImStillWithHer” signs. Referencing Mr. Trump’s “nasty woman” insult at the third presidential debate, many women affirmed that “We are nasty, yes we are.” They also chanted “We’re with her,” though that one died down quickly.
Any criticism of Mrs. Clinton’s role in losing to Mr. Trump was absent. The crowd was happy to chant, rather than ponder how Mrs. Clinton cleared the field in her primary or why the Democrats lost to one of the most disliked presidential candidates in U.S. history.
It slowly dawned on me that this protest wasn’t much more than a collection of angry people. A graying radical with an SDS button chatted up younger revolutionaries. A man wearing a Planned Parenthood button pushed children in a stroller. Teenage girls stopped to take selfies, while members of the Revolutionary Communist Party handed out fliers. A group of middle-aged women warned me to enjoy my freedoms as a journalist while I still could.
With such disparate messages, the march seemed to function mainly as a primal scream. The protesters I spoke with agreed. Claire Beach, a 23-year-old building-code consultant, told me, “It’s just like a cathartic thing. . . . The one thing you can do is protest.”
Ah, catharsis and primal screams…that is what politics has been reduced to.
Glenn Greenwald, no conservative, reminds liberals that the executive authority that they liked so much when Obama is president will now come back to haunt them with a President Trump. That’s just what conservatives warned about as Obama avoided checks and balances to implement what he wanted and the Congress wouldn’t enact. Nixon would have loved having the sort of imperial presidency that President Obama has had. He quickly ignored the complaints that Senator Obama had about Bush’s executive actions.
Blinded by the belief that Obama was too benevolent and benign to abuse his office, and drowning in partisan loyalties at the expense of political principles, Democrats consecrated this framework with their acquiescence and, often, their explicit approval. This is the unrestrained set of powers Trump will inherit. The president-elect frightens them, so they are now alarmed. But if they want to know whom to blame, they should look in the mirror.
Obama’s approach to executive power flipped so quickly and diametrically that it is impossible to say if he ever believed his campaign-era professions of restraint. As early as May 2009, Jack Goldsmith, a Justice Department official under George W. Bush, celebrated Obama’s abandonment of his promises to rein in these authorities, writing that “the new administration has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit.” He added that the “Obama practices will be much closer to late Bush practices than almost anyone expected in January 2009.”
By putting a prettier liberal face on these policies, and transforming them from a symbol of GOP radicalism into one of bipartisan security consensus, the president entrenched them as permanent fixtures of the American presidency. As Goldsmith put it, Obama’s actions were “designed to fortify the bulk of the Bush program for the long-run.”
Greenwald is particularly worried about the powers that Bush and Obama used in fighting terrorism. But, as we all know, that isn’t all that Obama has used executive power for.
David Bernstein wonders if liberal college students have a reason to worry about the coming Republican domination of all three branches of government spelling doom for their professional prospects. Maybe they’ve witnessed how conservatives have fared under progressive domination and worry that the same thing might happen to them.
[M]any of these students have grown up with progressivism dominant all around them — in the White House, to be sure, but even more so in their elite private and suburban public schools, in their summer camps, in their religious institutions, and especially at their universities.
Moreover, they have noticed how dissenters from dominant political orthodoxy have been treated in these institutions — they are ridiculed, ostracized, sometimes harassed and occasionally punished for their political views. They have seen that progressives have organized to deprive dissenters of their jobs and their livelihoods. The more politically aware among them may have even noticed that the Obama administration has been distinctly unwilling to accommodate religious dissenters. For example, the Obama Justice Department has refused to rule out the possibility that the government would seek to deny tax exemptions for religious institutions that refuse to recognize same-sex marriage.
With the federal government about to be dominated by presumptively regressive and evil Republicans — a tribe that elite students are barely personally familiar with but have heard terrible things about — it’s not wholly irrational for progressive students to wonder: Is this going to affect my job prospects in the future? Will the institutions I care about be threatened with federal retaliation? Will a wave of conservative sentiment sweep over the nation, and as a result, will I face ridicule, ostracism and perhaps even punishment for my beliefs?
Well, the progressives aren’t going to lose control over academia or the media any time soon. So I doubt that these thoughts are really going through the minds of college students in need of safe spaces after Trump’s victory. But Bernstein’s point does offer an interesting counter-image to imagine what would happen on campuses if their culture did indeed follow the election returns.
Frank Bruni acknowledges that Democrats should stop demonizing those with whom they disagree.
Other factors conspired in the party’s debacle. One in particular haunts me. From the presidential race on down, Democrats adopted a strategy of inclusiveness that excluded a hefty share of Americans and consigned many to a “basket of deplorables” who aren’t all deplorable. Some are hurt. Some are confused.
Liberals miss this by being illiberal. They shame not just the racists and sexists who deserve it but all who disagree. A 64-year-old Southern woman not onboard with marriage equality finds herself characterized as a hateful boob. Never mind that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton weren’t themselves onboard just five short years ago.
Political correctness has morphed into a moral purity that may feel exhilarating but isn’t remotely tactical. It’s a handmaiden to smugness and sanctimony, undermining its own goals.
I worry about my and my colleagues’ culpability along these lines. I plan to use greater care in how I talk to and about Americans more culturally conservative than I am. That’s not a surrender of principle or passion. It’s a grown-up acknowledgment that we’re a messy, imperfect species.
That is a worthwhile early New Year’s resolution. I also enjoyed Bruni’s efforts to exorcise the Clintons from the Democratic Party.
It’s hard to overestimate the couple’s stranglehold on the party — its think tanks, its operatives, its donors — for the last two decades. Most top Democrats had vested interests in the Clintons, and energy that went into supporting and defending them didn’t go into fresh ideas and fresh faces, who were shut out as the party cleared the decks anew for Hillary in 2016.
In thrall to the Clintons, Democrats ignored the copious, glaring signs of an electorate hankering for something new and different and instead took a next-in-line approach that stopped working awhile back. Just ask Mitt Romney and John McCain and John Kerry and Al Gore and Bob Dole. They’re the five major-party nominees before her who lost, and each was someone who, like her, was more due than dazzling.
After Election Day, one Clinton-weary Democratic insider told me: “I’m obviously not happy and I hate to admit this, but a part of me feels liberated. If she’d won, we’d already be talking about Chelsea’s first campaign. Now we can do what we really need to and start over.”
As I told my students about the pendulum of American politics, Bruni is crossing his fingers for the Democrats to make their comeback after the public gets thoroughly sick of President Trump.
But new presidents typically get an electoral whupping after their first two years, and there’s every reason to believe that Trump will govern — or fail to — in a fashion that prompts one. Will Democrats respond in a way that puts them in the best possible position to deliver it?
That hinges on whether they can look as hard at the errors in their party as at the ugliness in America.
The University of Michigan Law School responded to students’ distress at Trump’s victory by hosting a “stress-busting” activity complete with coloring, Play-Doh, Legos, and bubbles. THis was for students at one of the nation’s best law schools! Apparently, they got so much ridicule that they’ve pulled the announcement from their website. But the impulse was there – to meet an election result with Play Doh! The infantilization of our youth continues.
For all the cries that Trump’s election signals how racist America is, there is this fact that needs to be explained.
Across swing states — and others previously thought to be safe for Democrats — Trump colored dozens of counties red that hadn’t gone Republican in decades.
Of the nearly 700 counties that twice sent Obama to the White House, a stunning one-third flipped to support Trump.
Trump also won 194 of the 207 counties that voted for Obama either in 2008 or 2012.
By contrast, of those 2,200 counties that never supported Obama, Clinton was only able to win six. That’s just 0.3 percent crossover to the Democratic side.
Clinton had more opportunities to peel counties from the Republicans. Historically, Democrats rely on few (but very populous) counties to chart a path to victory. Republicans, by contrast, draw support from a wide swath of many more rural and suburban counties.
So voters who voted for the first African American president twice also voted for Donald Trump. Sure there are some people who support Trump because of his racist statements. But I bet there are a whole lot of those voters who just wanted change. Obama promised it and they didn’t like his sort of change once it arrived. So now they’re hoping that they’ll like Trump’s sort of change better.
The WSJ does not regret Harry Reid’s exit from the scene. They point out how much the Republican will now owe to Reid’s rule.
Mr. Reid will be gone with the current Congress but Republicans may miss him considering all he has done to help them. By killing the filibuster for nominees, he has made it easier for Mr. Trump to get his nominees confirmed and fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. By stretching the rules for budget reconciliation, he has set a precedent for Republicans to repeal much of ObamaCare by ducking a filibuster.
And by blocking vote after vote as Senate Majority Leader, Mr. Reid made it impossible for Democrats in swing states to differentiate themselves from President Obama and paved the way for a GOP Senate in 2014. A Republican Congress can now go far to repealing much of Mr. Obama’s legacy.
The WSJ recommends one further kick to Reid’s legacy.
Oh, and we hope the Trump Administration takes another look at the nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. In an under-reported political bargain, Mr. Reid promised Mr. Obama that he would do the President’s dirty work on Capitol Hill if the President blocked the Yucca project. Mr. Obama named Reid aide Gregory Jaczko as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2009, and a year later Mr. Jaczko shut it down.
Mr. Jaczko later resigned after the four other commissioners, Democrat and Republican, denounced his abusive management style. A pair of D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rulings have since rebuked the Administration for violating the law in relation to Yucca, and in 2014 a government study found that the Yucca design for waste is environmentally safe. The U.S. still needs a solution for nuclear waste that is piling up at sites around the country.
Mr. Trump owes no political debt to Nevada, which due to Mr. Reid’s efforts voted last week for Hillary Clinton and defeated the GOP’s Senate candidate. Reviving Yucca would be a sign the Senate is moving past Mr. Reid’s era of dishonest political manipulation and partisan rancor.
Trevor Burrus, ironically in The Federalist, has an excellent essay looking at the prediction of the Anti-Federalists. After acknowledging what they predicted correctly, he also lays out some recommendations they had that is still worth listening to today.
The Anti-Federalists were proved correct. When combined with other clauses, in particular the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause has been used precisely as they predicted. Applying the Necessary and Proper Clause to the Commerce Clause has permitted Congress to reach nearly every non-commercial activity imaginable, turning the Commerce Clause into more of a general powers clause.
Whether or not that is a good thing, it is certainly different than what the Framers contemplated, which was a government of limited and enumerated powers that left most questions of local governance—such as education and health care—to the states.
Burrus recommends that a federal government that were less involved in our lives would be less likely to divide us.
The Anti-Federalists were right. Those constitutional guardrails are almost non-existent and, insofar as they still exist, they are often based on tradition or maintained at the sufferance of the national government. The federal government, for example, merely tolerates marijuana use in states that have legalized it, the DOJ having instructed its officers to not generally enforce the national drug laws within those states.
If a President Chris Christie, however, decided to bring the full force of the federal government into the legalizing states, and to essentially override local governance, there would be no principled, constitutional reason he couldn’t. The only protection would be the unpopularity of such an action, which seems an awfully thin reed to rest our freedoms upon.
Regardless of your views on the proper size and scope of the government—whether the government should provide health care, prohibit drugs, guarantee education, create social safety nets, engage in environmental protection, or whatever—this situation should concern you. Americans are at war with each other, an increasingly primitive and tribal war, over fundamental questions that implicate our deepest values—which education plan we should have, which health-care plan we should have, and what drugs we’re allowed to ingest, just to name a few.
But why should Georgia and Massachusetts have the same health care, education, and drug laws? Many people in those states can hardly stand to be in the same room together, so why would we let them govern each other?
And the Republicans have been just as guilty as the Democrats. What would be ideal is to extract the federal government from all these elements of our lives.
Such unfettered majoritarianism can be dangerous in a large and diverse country. As Cato warned, a country with the “immense extent of territory” as the United States, that contains people with a “dissimilitude of interest, morals, and politics,” should not be brought under one general government. Otherwise, we would have “a house divided against itself.”
There was a lot of wisdom among many of the founding generation and it wasn’t all confined to the advocating the adoption of the new Constitution.
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