H.L. Mencken once said “On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
If that doesn’t sum up the result of the 2016 General Election night, I’m not sure what does.
Before I really get into the meat and potatoes of this post, let me make a few clarifying remarks. While I am honestly still processing the repercussions of what a Donald Trump presidency means, I do accept the legitimacy of what happened Tuesday night. I happen to know more than a few people that voted for Trump – some of whom I hope read this all the way through. I do not believe those friends of mine are misogynists or racists or xenophobes, nor do I believe that even a majority of those who voted for Trump adhere to any of those philosophies. But the fact of the matter is over 61 million people (and counting) voted for a person that gave those extreme views a national outlet and platform.
I also understand the frustration and dissatisfaction that many Americans feel…rising GDP and lower unemployment rate aside, there are many folks that very much feel left behind. The news is rife with people that voted for Obama, many twice, who never saw the hope and change materialize. I must also say, in big bold letters, I HOPE I AM WRONG AND I HOPE THAT THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY CAN UNITE AND BE SUCCESSFUL. But there are many things that happened during the campaign, and others that have just happened since election night, that give me some serious pause and concern for our future. In this post, I will address some of those things: the rhetoric that he used during the campaign and is now being echoed (and often amplified) by his supporters and, now, his proposed cabinet members and advisors; Trump’s tax plan that will mostly harm some of the very people that tended to vote for him; the social agenda that he and Pence (who is arguably worse on that score than Trump himself) have promoted; and Trump’s disavowal of climate change as an honest threat.
But let us first discuss the election itself. As I stated above, I accept the outcome as valid according to the current structure of the Electoral College and the way most states choose their Electors. But let’s look at some facts:
- As of this writing, Trump has received 61,864,015 votes (46.7%) and Clinton received 63,541,056 votes (48.0%) which is a margin of 1,667,041 in favor of Clinton.
- I was listening to NPR radio one morning and they played a clip of Speaker Paul Ryan a couple days after the election. He actually used the word ‘mandate’ when describing Trump’s victory over Clinton. Last time I checked, a popular vote loss of well over one million votes is not a good definition of ‘mandate’.
- Voter turnout for this election, depending on the data set you look at, looks to be around 58.2%, which, when all is said and done, would actually be a slight increase from 2012 (again, depending on the data set you look at). Yes, you read that right…58.2% is an improvement. When less than three out of every five eligible voters found the time to get to the polls is ‘doing better’, we have a serious problem. That is shameful.
- When you look at the time spent in individual states, Trump and Clinton spent two-thirds of the campaign in six states, and 94% of the campaign in 12 states. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia had exactly zero public campaign events. National campaign my ass.
- This is the first presidential election since Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision. That ruling effectively decimated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, removing pre-clearance provisions that many states had to receive before enacting voting laws. I am not aware of any verifiable way to show what kind of effect that had on voter turnout, but to claim it had no effect is just not being honest.
Article 2 Section 1 of the United States Constitution reads “…Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress…” In the wake of the second election in the last 16 years where the winner of the popular vote will not be president, I have seen a lot of posts by people urging a movement to eliminate the Electoral College. Since this would necessitate a constitutional amendment, ‘unlikely’ doesn’t begin to describe the chances of that happening. But is there something we can do within the framing of the Constitution?
The ‘winner take all’ model that most states currently use when appointing their Electors is not prescribed by the Constitution. Each state can change their system at any time. Some states already have. There is a movement called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. This Compact states that the electors from the member states will vote for the candidate who receives the plurality of votes nationwide, ensuring that the candidate with the most votes actually ascends to the Presidency. Before you start saying this is crying over spilled milk by Democrats, the Compact has already received wide bipartisan support – passing the Republican controlled Oklahoma Senate 57-4 and the Republican controlled Arizona House 28-18. Heck, even Newt Gingrich supports this idea. As of now, the compact has been signed into law in 11 states totaling 165 electoral votes. Once that number hits 270, the compact becomes active and the member states will then have their Electors vote for the candidate that wins the popular vote. There is no Constitutional conflict as it is clear that states have the power to choose how their Electors vote. Perhaps with this, we can actually get back to having a national campaign instead of a race where, as Scott Walker said, “the nation as a whole won’t elect the next president, 12 states are.” He wasn’t just whistling Dixie. You can read more about the compact here and here.
I have heard many arguments that were it not for California, Clinton would have lost the popular vote by over 1.8 million votes. And if you also throw New York out, Trump would have won the popular vote by over 3.3 million votes. But, last time I checked, we have 50 states, not 48 or 49. It is simply fact that votes in those states do not count in the same way as votes in Pennsylvania or Colorado. I seriously wonder if people making the ‘throw out California’ argument yearn for the days when Blacks were only 3/5 of a person. Every vote should matter. The current system of choosing the Electors doesn’t take that into account.
Being the math guy I am, I made a spreadsheet with every state’s current vote totals (as of morning of November 19) and calculated Electoral College totals if states simply allocated electors based on proportion of vote received instead of winner take all (spreadsheet can be viewed here) I can hear the argument being ‘Clinton still didn’t reach 270 – so there!’ But, under the current system, no candidate is required to get a majority of votes to receive all of the electors, a simple plurality will do. And Clinton clearly has a plurality of electors when allocated proportionally. The winner take all model that most states currently use is about power, not about fairness. It’s time to change that.
“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” – H.L. Mencken
My overall view of Donald Trump and the campaign he ran can be read at my previous post I Have Found My Limit. I suppose what still shocks me is the apparent surprise that many Trump supporters show when faced with news of Blacks or Muslims or LGBT folk being openly harassed in Trump’s name. Sure the reasonable supporters are rightfully outraged and denounce such things, but it was all over his campaign. In August, Steve Bannon was brought on as Chief Executive of the Trump campaign, and he has just been named as chief strategist and senior counselor to the President-elect. Bannon has been the executive chairman of Breitbart News which, in his own words, serves as a “platform for the alt-right.” The vast majority of people viewed Breitbart as a conservative fringe website that didn’t deserve much serious consideration, but now its chairman will have an office in the West Wing. Pretty ironic for a guy that described his role at Breitbart as ‘virulently anti-establishment’ to be headquartered at the very symbol of political establishment.
When white nationalist (read supremacist) groups, not the least of which being the KKK, openly applaud the election of Trump, we should all take pause. The vast majority of Trump voters are not racist, but it is ridiculous to say there was not a racial undertone to much of his rhetoric. I’ve had several people tell me that Hillary is way worse because she once praised the late Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, even calling him her ‘mentor’ in 2010 (after Byrd’s death). Byrd was undoubtedly a member and leader of the KKK in his younger years and he led a filibuster against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But he later repeatedly denounced the KKK, calling it ‘the greatest mistake of [his] life.” Thankfully the alt-right is still a small minority, but their voice is now much louder and has a legitimacy that they just didn’t have before election night. All the non-racist Trump supporters and voters need to take ownership of that.
While Trump has walked back his previous idea to ban Muslims from entering the country, some of his surrogates apparently haven’t caught up. Kris Kobach, a member of the transition team, suggested that the administration may institute a registry of immigrants from Muslim countries. Another Trump surrogate, Carl Higbie, justified such a move by invoking the Japanese internment camps in the 1940s. That prompted George Takei to write a scathing response to that idea.
It continues to amaze me that our President-elect is a man who openly mocked a disabled reporter, brushed off comments bragging about marital infidelity and sexual assault as ‘locker room talk’, and described Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists. It continues to amaze me that our Vice President-elect once claimed (in 2000!) that cigarette smoking doesn’t kill you and has been critical of women serving in the military.
While there have been anti-Trump protests that have turned violent – which I unequivocally denounce – there have been a large number of documented hate-crimes against minorities. And even state legislatures are getting into the act. House Bill 3 in Georgia would add language to a law already on the books that would specifically target Muslim women from wearing a hijab in public. One of my Hispanic former students told me he ‘does not feel comfortable…being…anymore’. His roommate at college, a hardworking, wildly intelligent young man, is now faced with the prospect of possibly not finishing his education and realizing his dream of becoming a US citizen…because he happens to be undocumented.
The appointment of Steve Bannon as a senior advisor has been roundly criticized. But the other names that have been floated for Trump’s cabinet have not exactly been welcomed with opened arms.
- Some more about Mike Pence: As governor of Indiana, he led the charge to close the majority of Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. He has also resisted adding language to include anti-LGBTQ instances to hate-crimes bills. In 2000, he suggested that money designated to help those with HIV/AIDS should instead go to groups ‘which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior’, also known as conversion therapy. Groups such as the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Counseling Association and many others have derided conversion therapy as ineffective, risky and actually harmful.
- Trump has offered the Attorney General spot to Senator Jeff Sessions. He has called the NAACP ‘un-American’, thought the KKK ‘was ok until [he] found out they smoked pot’, described Islam as a ‘toxic ideology’, favors mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses and called the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ‘an intrusive piece of legislation’. As a Senator, Sessions has opposed every piece of legislation that included any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He once voted against an amendment that would have banned ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ of prisoners. He also voted against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 which included bias motivated violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Trump has asked Mike Pompeo to head the CIA. Pompeo continues to believe there has been an extensive cover-up related to Benghazi, even after millions of dollars and dozens of Congressional hearings found no such cover up. Even Trey Goudy, the Republican chair of the select committee that investigated Benghazi, declined to sign on to the addendum that Pompeo tacked on to the final report. Pompeo has also criticized Obama’s policy closing ‘black-sites’ and has described the Bush administration’s policy of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ such as water-boarding as being ‘within the law and within the U.S. Constitution’.
- Michael Flynn has been offered the position of National Security Advisor. Flynn has said Islam is not a religion but rather a political ideology that has become a ‘malignant cancer’. The consulting firm he has led since being fired from the Defense Intelligence Agency has possible business ties to the Middle East and he recently accepted a paid speaking gig sponsored by a Kremlin supported television network in Moscow, after which he sat next to Vladimir Putin at the network’s anniversary party.
- Myron Ebell is rumored to be a lead contender for Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency or possibly the Secretary of Energy. He is the leader of the ‘Cooler Heads Coalition’ which is ‘focused on dispelling the myths of global warming’. Ebell even called Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change ‘scientifically ill informed, economically illiterate, intellectually incoherent and morally obtuse.’ He wrote a post on Forbes espousing the virtues of global warming as a way to lessen the number of people that die each winter in northern climates. And it wasn’t satire. I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise since Trump himself has called climate change a Chinese hoax (a stance that just this week was hilariously slammed by, you guessed it, a Chinese Vice Foreign Minister).
- Michelle Rhee is rumored to be at the top of the list for Secretary of Education. Rhee is former chancellor of the DC public school system and has been a leading voice in the privatization of public schools. She advocates for vouchers and is a major proponent of the Common Core, which is widely derided by people in both parties. Rhee also favors evaluating teachers and instituting merit pay based on standardized test scores.
- As a public high school teacher and a smoldering, if not flaming, liberal, I would actually be ok with the abolishment of the federal department of education as long as federal funding (Title I, free/reduced lunch program, etc) was not adversely affected. As bad as No Child Left Behind was, Obama’s version (Race to the Top) is arguably worse. His Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, has been, for lack of a better term, a disaster. Both political parties have a long way to go on public education.
- As much as I am against vouchers, charter schools and the like, Rhee would be more acceptable than another person that was on Trump’s list: Ben Carson. Thankfully he pulled his name from a cabinet post position saying he lacked experience. (Wasn’t he a presidential candidate not too long ago? Wouldn’t the experience thing be important for that too? Oh, wait…) That aside, Carson is a Creationist who believes that the theory of evolution is encouraged by the devil and calls the Big Bang theory ‘ridiculous’. I’ll deal with Common Core as long as we don’t have to teach our kids that humans were kibitzing with dinosaurs.
- For Secretary of Treasury, Trump is reportedly considering Steve Mnuchin. Mnuchin followed in his father’s footsteps, working for Goldman Sachs for 17 years. When he left Goldman Sachs, he became head of OneWest, which was widely criticized, and sued, for its foreclosure practices in the early 2000s. Earlier this year, Mnuchin said that the Dodd-Frank 2010 law that strengthened regulations on Wall Street ‘needed to be looked at’. Outsider indeed.
- The person in charge of Trump’s domestic policy transition is former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. He believes homosexuality is ‘a choice, and that lifestyle can be changed.’ In 2014, Blackwell linked a shooting in California to ‘the attack on natural marriage’. I’m sure he and Pence get along just fine, just be sure to not call it a bro-mance.
- Forrest Lucas is reportedly on the short list for the top job in the Interior Department (a.k.a. Agriculture Secretary). Lucas is the co-founder of Lucas Oil and, if he is chosen, would oversee policy recommendations ranging from fracking to endangered species to offshore drilling to our national parks and wildlife refuges. He also donates to groups that that attack organizations like the Humane Society.
By getting over 270 electoral votes on election day, Donald Trump as earned the right to name his cabinet and advisors. As he names other positions, I’m sure I won’t be the only one to hold him to account.
Donald Trump’s tax plan doesn’t totally match what he said on the campaign trail. He plans to reduce the number of tax brackets to three (from seven), eliminate the head-of-household exemption (often used by single parents) and cap the tax rate at 33% for those earning more than $112,500. The current top tax bracket is 40% for those earning over $415,000. This equates to a tax cut of 6.5% for earners in the top 1% and a tax cut of 7.3% for those in the top 0.1%, even though he said in a town hall meeting that he favored raising taxes on the wealthy. (Analysis from Tax Policy Center) The elimination of the head-of-household could actually result in millions of middle-class and single parent families paying more in taxes. Trump also proposes lowering the corporate tax rate to 15%, a full 10 percentage points less than even the GOP House tax proposal. Depending on which analysis you read, this plan could cost between six and seven trillion dollars.
Many people point to Trump’s infrastructure spending plan as something both parties can get on board with. Steven Bannon recently told the Hollywood Reporter “I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.” If you want to see what throwing things against a wall looks like, take a look at China or Japan. We absolutely need work on our infrastructure, but it must be intelligently directed and done in such a way that it will actually stimulate growth, not contribute to economic downturn. (Good article can be read here)
As of two weeks before the election, there were at least 75 open lawsuits against Donald Trump. For a real estate magnate and businessman, I suppose that may not be totally surprising. But it is surprising for a President-elect. There are many documented cases of workers and contractors not being paid for services rendered. Court records also show Trump responding to even small disputes with overwhelming legal force (which is certainly his right, but still pretty sleazy). There are several claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior when he was overseeing beauty pageants. Just this week, the Trump University fraud case was settled for $25 million dollars. Of course, as part of the settlement Trump did not admit to any wrongdoing. In February, Trump said “I could settle it right now for very little money, but I don’t want to do it out of principle.” So either $25 million isn’t much money or his principles changed after he was elected president. Or maybe he just didn’t want to go to trial because he questioned the impartiality of the judge in the case. Even with no admittance of guilt, to have a person inaugurated to the highest office of the land settle a massive fraud case 62 days beforehand is pretty amazing, and not in a good way.
I am also concerned about the anti-press rhetoric Trump used during the campaign and the unprecedented lack of press access since he was elected. His spokespeople continue to say that there will be a traditional protective pool of reporters, but after the last week and a half, I’ll believe it when I see it. If the 4th Estate is not allowed full access, the public at large will be irrevocably harmed. This article outlines the current concerns .
If you’re still with me after 3000 words, let me state again, as I did near the beginning of this thing, that I hope I am wrong about the direction Trump, his cabinet and his policies will take our country. While there is always room for improvement, I do not believe American needs to be made great again. I am just afraid we will go in the opposite direction. I will continue to write as his cabinet continues to take shape and I will try to look at things in a logical way. But, I will not ‘get over it’, nor will I move on. I will accept Trump as my president, but I will not accept bigotry, or discrimination, or bullying or a failure to live up to American principles. If the popular vote is any indication, a lot of people agree with me.