Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trump Might Just Destroy Himself

There's no doubt that I've underestimated Donald Trump. I was wrong about him in the Republican nomination race and I was wrong about him in the general election. I could be wrong about him now, but I consider my disagreements with the president's media strategy as merely advice. Right now, I think Trump could use some good advice.

Though polls have lost their credibility in the wake of the 2016 election, it's hard to believe that his latest approval ratings are off by wide margins. A Gallup poll shows him with only a 37 percent approval rating. When it came to the election, the national polls were off by 1 or 2 percent (remember that Hillary Clinton still won the popular vote). I hardly believe the Gallup poll is somehow off by ten and his real approval rating is something like 47 percent. Polls can be inaccurate at time, but they don't miss something by that much.

Nevertheless, a very loyal Trump supporter could tell me that polls don't matter anymore because the his re-election bid isn't until 2020. What I am concerned about is the way the president is destroying himself and the Republican Party with the way he handles the press.

In the past, I've mentioned something called political capital. Think of it as the money a president has. That money is then spent on things they need to do. They aren't just spending political capital on policies, but also in defending themselves against the media and handling spontaneous problems that arise in any administration. Lower approval ratings and media unpopularity do drain political capital and make it harder to pass and implement legislation.

Now it is important to recognized that all of the blame should not go to Trump. I think a handful Republicans in Congress are complete imbeciles when it comes to health care reform. Even though it's a only small number who are causing trouble, the ramifications will hit almost every Republican member of Congress in the 2018 midterms.

Trump comes into the equation because most midterm elections are simply referendums on the president. Political analyst Sean Trende pointed this out in the 2014 midterms. In the states where President Obama's approval rating was at 44 percent or lower, Republicans gained Senate seats. The Republicans do have some good news. There's only a handful of seats they have to defend and most of the states they're in are very conservative. Republican voters are also more likely to show up in midterm elections. That being said, even one defeat makes governing harder. They only have 52 of the 100 seats. We should also want to gain seats in the Senate, not lose them.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who didn't vote for Trump, has consistently noted that the president has no character. That isn't likely to change, since he's over seventy, but a lack of character only hurts himself. This isn't The Apprentice. Shapiro writes:
Trump, his conservative defenders said, was a real-estate mogul — the most powerful real-estate mogul in America. That made him, by inductive reasoning, a decent person, despite his adulterous liaisons.  
But many conservatives refused to acknowledge the two points about Trump that should have given them cause for concern, even if they believed the somewhat flawed meritocracy-character link. First, Trump didn’t earn his magnate status; Trump inherited a massive amount of wealth from his father and, by most available estimates, has significantly underperformed the real-estate market. Second, and more important, there is at least one area of meritocracy where conservatives discard the supposed character-success link: in the entertainment industry. Conservatives have always understood that talent for entertaining and quality of character may actually be inversely linked: You’d be hard-pressed to find a conservative touting Kim Kardashian’s success as proof of her good character.  
Trump is an entertainer. He acts like an entertainer. He obsesses about his ratings, he spends hours on his hair, he agonizes over public perceptions of his successes and failures. He cannot bear to be out of the spotlight, and he feels personally threatened by those who occupy it more than he does for any period of time. 
Conservatives wouldn’t pretend that Paris Hilton would make a good president because she’s so successful in her other ventures. Yet many conservatives told themselves a story whereby Trump was more Warren Buffett than Paris Hilton, so they could continue to maintain the positive image of his character.
When the president isn't busy attacking MSNBC hosts for their facelifts, he is on the defensive over the Russian investigation. There's still no shred of evidence to prove Trump personally colluded with the Russians, but his son Donald Jr. certainly attempted to do so. Actions like these only damage the popularity of the Trump administration and force his team to deflect new questions. It also gives Robert Mueller the justification he needs to continue his investigation

Trump's tweets and interviews only seem to hurt himself. His attacks on his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, only damages his agenda and allows the media to focus on the negative parts of his presidency. The president said he would've never hired Sessions if he knew he was going to recuse himself. Worse, Trump hasn't backed down from his criticisms, calling Sessions "weak" on crimes committed by Hillary Clinton. Comments like these only draw suspicion.

Mueller has strong credentials and is respected by both sides of the aisle. With twelve years of experience as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he has little to be worried about and a seemingly limitless abundance of resources. Trump might have a history of handling litigation, but when it comes to the presidency things are very different. Social media offers our politicians a new medium to communicate with the people, but this can be good and bad. Right now, Trump's use of social media is create self-inflicted wounds.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Revisiting Seattle's Minimum Wage

Restaurant jobs have stagnated in Seattle MSA since the $15 proposal
Any regular reader of this blog knows that I'm no fan of minimum wage hikes, especially the latest calls by Democrats for $15 an hour. Despite the lack of empirical data backing such a policy proposal, the left has pushed this as an issue for years. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer all support the creation of a "living wage" to help workers. These lawmakers should read the latest findings on how the minimum wage has impacted businesses and workers.

Across many cities, mayors have signed these $15 an hour policies. Seattle is one of the cities that is currently underdoing a phase-in to the new wage rate. Back in 2015, I posted about an unusually large closure of restaurants in Seattle as the minimum wage increase began. This should have been an early warning sign for Mayor Ed Murray and the city council, but they did nothing to avert the economic consequences, even though the trend of closing restaurants has continued. Now the empirical findings are starting to come out and they don't look good for the "Fight for 15" crowd.

First, a little background. Seattle had been funding research on their minimum wage increase at the University of Washington. When the latest budget was being proposed, the city decided to end the funding after preliminary results were provided because they didn't like the methodology, Councilwoman Kshama Sawant calling it "flawed" (I wouldn't trust any politician with no economic background on knowing what the right methodology is for studies).

When the study was published by the University of Washington economists, it revealed just how disastrous the minimum wage hike has been. The number of hours worked by low-wage earners has been reduced by 9 percent. This resulted in a loss of 3.5 million hours worked per calendar quarter. Even though hourly wages in these jobs increased by 3 percent, total payroll fell and low-wage workers saw their earnings decrease by an average of $125 per month. The study also took into account alternative estimates that show the number of low-wage jobs declining by 6.8 percent. That's less 5,000 jobs. Keep in mind that Seattle hasn't even reached $15 yet. The current hourly minimum wage is $13.

The politicians running Seattle knew that bad news was coming, so they decided to call up economists at the University of California-Berkeley to hastily rush a study showing the minimum wage hike has no negative impact. It was published a week before the University of Washington study came out. This study, however, has many flaws. Unlike Sawant though, I will cite someone who does have a background researching the minimum wage.

Michael Saltsman, the research director of the Employment Policies Institute, read the Berkeley study. He found a deep level of coordination between the economists at Berkeley and pro-minimum wage advocates. The studies out of Berkeley are always positive, making it a place progressive lawmakers want to go to when they need good news. They aren't exactly known for their accuracy and in the case of Seattle the University of Washington had access to better data on individual workers, giving it more depth.

The Seattle minimum wage drama will continue and it will be interesting to see what other research is published on the effects of $15 an hour. This experiment has the chance to impact proposed policies at state and even a national level in the future. As of now, it isn't looking good for minimum wage increase proponents.

Friday, July 14, 2017

More Government in Health Care Fails

When it comes to debating policy issues like health care, Democrats regularly use emotional arguments to advocate for more government intervention. Many politicians on the left are starting to advocate for a single-payer system in which everyone is covered by the government. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren go on and on about it. One of Paul Ryan's candidates, Cathy Myers, wants a single-payer system.

There are two factors that account for the foundation of the argument. The first is the failure of the Affordable Care Act. Having insurers provide coverage to people below market levels was never going to work. With the insurers losing money, they're forced to pull out of exchanges across the country. You can find news about these departures monthly. Ohio has lost two in two months. The worst case is Iowa, which has lost its last major health care provider.

This problem isn't going to go away. Forty-nine counties are expected to not have any Obamacare providers in 2018. Another 1,300 counties are projected to only have one next year. That's over 40 percent of the counties in the United States, covering 2.4 million people who receive coverage from the Affordable Care Act. In 2009, the expected cost of Obamacare over ten years was suppose to be $848 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The law, of course, didn't go into effect until 2014 and now the CBO's projected cost is $1.805 trillion over 10 years. This policy is not sustainable, but many Democrats are arguing for more government spending as way to explain the ACA's failure.

The second factor that has led to calls for a single-payer system is the ludicrous belief that health care is a right rather than a commodity. Worse, these new "rights" impose burdens on others. In the case of a single-payer system, it would be taxpayers and doctors. These are not the rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" that are inalienable in this nation. They are instead any privilege that politicians believe should be transformed into rights, the costs of them aside.

Since health care is a commodity, the only thing that can make it cheaper are incentives and labor freedom. Government intervention does not encourage people to become doctors because of the heavy regulations they will be forced to follow. Many may not even accept government-sponsored health insurance. A single-payer system offers no incentives to make health care more efficient. All it does is decrease the quality of care and leads to larger supply shortages in order to cover everyone.

At least there are some good signs across the political landscape. The failure of Obamacare led to the rise of Donald Trump and Republican control of Congress. It's an agonizingly slow process, but it is likely that the country will get health care reform that reduces government intervention. Offering expanded tax-free Health Savings Accounts and tax credits based on income, location, and age are a step in the right direction.

With the death of Obamacare imminent, proponents of the law are using increasingly emotional rhetoric to prevent repeal. The most dramatic of these is the argument that thousands of people will be killed with the end of the ACA, but a report by Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute refutes these political statements. While there are people who have benefitted from various portions of the law, it has not improved the health outcomes of recipients. No lives have been saved from the ACA.

Another good indicator is that Democrats in California (of all places) are turning on a state proposal for a single-payer system. It sounds nice to give everyone free health care until you realize it isn't free at all. If California implemented a single-payer system, the annual cost would be a gigantic $400 billion. That's more than double the state's budget. In order to finance the program, the proposal called for the state to refinance $200 billion towards single-payer with the rest being made up in (you guessed it) new taxes. Revenue is a problem for any lawmaker who proposes a massive government overhaul of a health care market. That problem created a massive wall for the legislation, which isn't going to be voted on in the Assembly.

The costs of excessive government programs is starting to catch up with the Democrats. Republican victories in Congress and the White House are leading to the end of Obamacare. The costs of expanding government further with single-payer are beginning to drawn on many members within the Democratic Party. No matter how spirited the left is in America, established single-payer in states or at a national level would be ruinous.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Friday the 13th Review


In late May, the survival horror game Friday the 13th was released by developer IllFonic and publisher Gun Media. In the game, you're randomly chosen to play either counselors or Jason in a multiplayer match. If you're one of the counselors, then you have to escape or survive the night before Jason kills you. If you play Jason, then you're job is to kills as many counselors as possible and sabotage their means to leave the camp.

Overall, I have enjoyed the game and both player modes are very fun. While most players want to be Jason, I actually find playing a counselor more exciting. The developers of the game certainly pay homage to the original movies. The ten counselors you can play are all classic 1980s horror movie stereotypes. There's a nerd, a prep, a flirt, a rocker, and so on. These characters aren't all playable at the beginning, but they will be unlocked as a player gets more XP. Each character has different pros and cons. Some have better stamina, while others are very good at repairing the cars and boats you need to escape.

When you play a counselor during a session, it is your mission to escape. This is very tricky because you don't where Jason is or who he will kill first, but you can acquire weapons to defend yourself. If he attacks you, then you can fight back with something as small as a pot or as large as an axe. There's two firearms in the game, a flare gun and a shotgun, but these only have one round of ammunition in them (and there's always the chance you can miss).

As a counselor, you'll be running from cabin to cabin in order to gather what you need to escape. Usually, there are two vehicles in a session. There's a car and a boat, but they both need to be repaired. You have to search for the car battery, the propeller, gasoline, and a key to get them working. Another way to escape is by calling the police, which can be done by repairing the fuse box for the phone.

Sometimes player like to team up together. Doing this has advantages and drawbacks. If Jason attacks you, then someone will be there to have your back. However, Jason will always pursue where more players are and the larger your group the bigger the target. Ways to slow him down include setting up bear traps, using pocketknives, and distracting him with fire crackers. When driving in the car, you often face the moral dilemma of wanting to rescue other people or just escaping on your own. The longer you're in the map, the longer you are in danger, but that also goes for your fellow counselors.

There is one super character in the game who can kill Jason. His name is Tommy Jarvis (a character from three films in the movie series) and he's a hunter that can be radioed for assistance. A player will be randomly assigned as Jarvis if he is radioed and he is a significantly better character than the other ten. The ability to kill Jason will only happen if certain conditions are met in the game.

While I like playing a counselor in the game, Jason is fun because he's almost completely unstoppable. In order to make the game fair, he is generally slower than the counselors, but he makes up for it by having four special abilities to locate the counselors and surprise them. You are given the option to play a variety of Jasons from the different movies, but only as you gain more XP. As with the counselors, there are differences with each one. I don't have a personal favorite, so I usually just randomize it.

Jason's mission is quite simple. All he has to do is kill all the counselors and he stop their progress several ways. You can cut the power, set up your own bear traps, destroy windows in cabins so the broken glass can injure them, and using throwing knives. The best part about playing Jason is the many different ways you can kill a counselor. Before starting a game, you can customize the signature moves of your Jason and use them in the session. Many of these kills come from the original movies.

While I like Friday the 13th, there are some negatives. Although it isn't a problem anymore, the first few weeks of the game were disappointing because of how long it took to enter a session. The developers fixed the problem with a patch, but many customers weren't happy. I do like how they rectified the problem for the player. One week they decided that everyone who played the game would get double XP.

My other criticism of the game is the that there are only three maps. These maps are fun, but they do get boring and I hope the developers add more. Aside from these two problems with the game, it's very enjoyable and if you're a fan of the movie series then you will love it.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Energized WI GOP Prepared for Dismayed Democrats

Republicans gathered in Wisconsin Dells this year - Fox 6
The contrast between then enthusiasm and degree of power between the two major political parties in Wisconsin couldn't be more striking. Members of both parties convened at annual conventions this month. The Republicans held their convention in Wisconsin Dells, while the Democrats gathered in Madison.

At the GOP convention, Scott Walker made it clear that he was going to run for a third term. He highlighted the reforms he has pursued as governor and is ready to do more for the state. Walker is in a good position to run for another term. President Trump's surprise victory in Wisconsin last year left the Democrats in shock. It's one thing to lose to the Republicans in midterms, but the Democrats haven't lost at the presidential level since 1988. Walker has proven again and again that he can win and the Democrats have little talent left.

Going into the Democratic convention, several potential candidates declined from running. Former State Senator Tim Cullen, Madison businessman Mark Bakken, and former Green Bay Packer offensive lineman Mark Tauscher have declared that they will not challenge the governor. Walker is simply too formidable an opponent for many Democrats.

Following the convention, there are only a few major players in the race for gubernatorial nominee. Mayor Paul Soglin of Madison is now considering a run for governor. He has greater name appeal than Mary Burke did in 2014, but most Wisconsinites weren't interested in electing a Madison liberal. It is unlikely that little has changed. The one thing he does have going for him is similarity to Bernie Sanders when it comes to politics. Soglin has been a hardcore leftist for decades and could certainly excite thousands of young liberals to back him.

The other serious candidate is State Senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma. She comes from a more rural area of the state, which means that she has less appeal than Soglin at the moment. Democratic voters are concentrated in Wisconsin cities like Madison, Milwaukee, and Eau Claire. She will need to do a lot of work if Soglin runs against her. The only Democrat is who is actually running is college graduate Bob Harlow, who just moved from California and has no chance of winning the election.

When it comes to the Senate, there are many Republicans who are intent on campaigning in 2018. State Senator Leah Vukmir, State Assemblyman Dale Kooyenga, Madison businessman Eric Hovde, and veteran Kevin Nicholson are all in the pot. Vukmir, who actually represented Walker's constituency when he became the Milwaukee county executive, was the favorite coming out of the convention. It didn't deter Hovde, who has sold $14 million in stock in order to have a large war chest for the primary. It might have stopped Green Bay philanthropist Nicole Schneider from running. She has announced that she will not run for Senate.

The Democrats will have to focus on defending Tammy Baldwin in 2018. They re-elected Martha Laning to another term as chairwoman of the state party. Laning's biggest problem is that she led the state party to electoral disaster last year. Not only did the Democrats lose the presidential election in Wisconsin, but also the Senate election against Ron Johnson. It won't be an easy task and many Democrats don't have a problem with aggressive rhetoric, Gwen Moore being the main culprit.

While Walker is likely to win again, the Senate race will probably be more difficult because it closely attaches with Trump, who has low approval ratings right now. Even so, I always like to note that everything is possible. Wisconsin Republicans are continuing to damage themselves with the battle over the state budget. Democrats could exploit this division to win. As always, Wisconsin is a battleground state. Our races are usually tight and that's unlikely to change in the future.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Don't Mock Otto Warmbier

Otto Warmbier  - DPRK
When Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia graduate student, travelled to China in 2015 he was given the opportunity to visit North Korea. He decided to go to the country, probably out of a sense of adventure. He was detained at Pyongyang International Airport on January 2, just after his arrival. Two months later, he confessed to the crime of stealing a North Korean propaganda poster. Whether he actually did or not is up to debate. After being in prison for seventeen months, Warmbier was finally released. It was then revealed that he had been in a coma for most of his time as a captive. He has now passed away, spending his final days in a Cincinnati hospital.

If given the chance to go to North Korea, I would immediately decline. The country takes advantage of westerners every chance it gets. It uses them for exchanges to gain resources and for public relations to bolster the regime. The socialist dictatorship prefers to build a nuclear program instead of feeding the people. The infrastructure is outdated and few North Koreans have electricity.

From what friends and teachers have remarked, Warmbier was a smart and fun guy to be around. That being said, I'm sure he was aware of the dangers of going to North Korea. He should have never went on that trip in the first place. Despite his fatally foolish decision, Warmbier's death is more about the nature of the North Korean government. In my view, it is a government that must be extinguished from the Earth. Kim Jong-Un should not be the leader, he should be the prisoner. Warmbier is not at fault for the existence of a genocidal regime.

As I heard the news about his death, I just assumed virtually everyone thought like I did about what happened to him. I still think that's true, but I am surprised at the leftists who are mocking Warmbier while ignoring the greater humanitarian crisis in North Korea. Thundering from The Huffington Post is La Sha with her article titled "North Korea Proves Your White Male Privilege Is not Universal." She posted:
What a mind-blowing moment it must be to realize after 21 years of being pedestaled by the world simply because your DNA coding produced the favorable phenotype that such favor is not absolute. What a bummer to realize that even the State Department with all its influence and power cannot assure your pardon. What a wake-up call it is to realize that your tears are met with indifference. 
As I’ve said, living 15 years performing manual labor in North Korea is unimaginable, but so is going to a place I know I’m unwelcome and violating their laws. I’m a black woman though. The hopeless fear Warmbier is now experiencing is my daily reality living in a country where white men like him are willfully oblivious to my suffering even as they are complicit in maintaining the power structures which ensure their supremacy at my expense. He is now an outsider at the mercy of a government unfazed by his cries for help. I get it.
Her attempt to compare Warmbier's punishment in North Korea with blacks in the United States is absurd. Her article makes his death a race issue, by arguing that he learned that his "white privilege" does not help him in Asian countries. There were others who took more time to criticize Warmbier rather than the North Koreans. A Salon article quoting comedian Larry Wilmore was titled "America's biggest idiot frat boy." It has now been removed. Left-wing Affinity Magazine joined the chorus with a tweet:
Watch whiteness work. He wasn't a "kid" or "innocent" you can't go to another country and try to steal from them. Respect their laws.
By now, I'm not surprised that social justice warriors want to make a race issue out of anything. We've seen it before with other topics, including Call of Duty: World War II. Analyzing the assassination of Otto Warmbier and merely seeing him as a white guy who's "privilege" doesn't work in North Korea shows exactly what is wrong with the modern left. There's no focus on addressing the government itself and how to finally dismantle its torturous reign.

Finally, I want to address Warmbier's "crime." I'm not buying anything the North Korean government said, which is known to create obvious falsehoods. Phil Robertson, the deputy director for Human Rights Watch's Asia division, hit the nail on the head when he called Warmbier's trial a "kangaroo court." I don't think he committed any crime and the accounts of when the police arrested him seem to confirm my views. Additionally, I don't believe he was placed in a coma because he contracted botulism. I think North Korean prison guards were behind his severe brain damage by beating him.

What happened to Otto Warmbier has nothing to do with race. It has to do with the real dangers that exist with North Korea. For the sake of humanity, the United States must find a way to overthrow the dictatorship and spread liberty to the millions of North Koreans who need it.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

May holds on to power, but barely

Theresa May forms a government with her husband Philip at her side - PA
It was expected to be an easy victory for the Conservative Party, but in our tumultuous era everything can change swiftly. Theresa May declared an early election in April to enlarge her majority in the House of Commons. It was going to be an overwhelmingly victory, comparable to the triumphs of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. The Labour Party, now controlled by the far left who pushed out Blairite moderates, was going to collapse. May's position as prime minister seemed to be unstoppable. Now, with the dust settled, where did it all go wrong?

First, a look at the results of the election:

Conservative Party (Theresa May) - 317 (-13)
Labour Party (Jeremy Corbyn) - 261 (+29)
Scottish National Party (Nicola Sturgeon) - 35 (-21)
Liberal Democrats (Tim Farron) - 12 (+4)
DUP (Arlene Foster) - 10 (+2)
Sinn Fein (Gerry Adams) - 7 (+3)
Party of Wales (Leanne Wood) - 4 (+1)
Green Party (Caroline Lucas) - 1 (+/-)
SDLP (Colum Eastwood) - 0 (-3)
UKIP (Paul Nuttall) - 0 (-1)
UUP (Mike Nesbitt) - 0 (-2)

Last blog post, I thought it was important to note that British voters were ditching smaller parties in favor of the top two. Strategic voting played a massive role in this general election. The Conservatives increased from 36.9 percent of the popular vote in 2015 to 42.3 percent. The Labour Party had an even more impressive surge, going from 30.4 percent to 40 percent.

David Cameron won 11.3 million votes in 2015 and May won 13.6 million this time. She won more votes than Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and 1983. Ed Miliband won 9.3 million votes in 2015, but Corbyn garnered 12.9 million votes. Not only did Corbyn manage to close the gap between him and May, but he won more votes than Blair did in 2001 and 2005.

Smaller parties collapsed. When Nigel Farage led the UK Independence Party in the 2015 general election, he was supported by almost 3.9 million voters (12.7 percent). UKIP only won less than 600,000 votes this time around (1.85 percent). Paul Nuttall, the UKIP leader, has resigned. An alarmed Farage is now considering returning as UKIP leader again because he is concerned that Brexit may be in jeopardy.

A similar phenomenon took place in Northern Ireland. Two parties, the Ulster Unionist Party on the right and the Social Democratic & Labour Party on the left, both lost all their seats. Northern Irish voters rallied behind the top two parties in their region. The Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein both made gains.

The Scottish Nationalists remain at third place, but they lost a large number of seats. Most of the changes went to the Conservatives. Sturgeon seems to have overplayed at the Scottish independence issue. No one can deny that Ruth Davidson's leader of the Scottish Conservatives was tremendously critical to keeping the Conservatives in power.

The odd exception to this result is the Liberal Democrats. The party received slightly less votes than it did in 2015, but managed to gain three seats. It just goes to show that in the British electoral system it matters where you expend your campaign resources.

Corbyn celebrates the 2017 election  - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
For the Labour Party, this isn't a political victory, but it is a moral victory. There were expectations that Labour would perform poorly and that Corbyn would resign. Now Corbyn has every reason to stay as party leader by showing that he has encouraged a large number of voters to enthusiastically support the party. Many of  his biggest supporters were younger and they will be voting in many elections to come. It would be foolish to get rid of him.

Corbyn's rise is also a great victory for socialism. The ideology hasn't proven to work and is economic disastrous. Billions of people have suffered from leaders who instrument with socialism to various degrees. Unfortunately, for many voters it does not matter what the historically and current results of socialism have been. It sounds very appealing by having the government solve everything. The election results in the UK, however, legitimize socialism in the very country that founded modern economics. Corbyn was the Bernie Sanders of Britain.

National security issues also benefitted Corbyn. Despite his poor record on terrorism, voters liked to see that he wanted expand the size of the police force. In the midst of terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, Corbyn's support continued to bloom. Rather than look strong and stable, May looked weak and unstable. A last minute attempt to prove herself by saying that she would potentially roll back human rights laws seemed to hurt more than help.

Now we come to the prime minister herself. Her gamble didn't pay off. She rivals Hillary Clinton for the worst campaign ever run in recent history. It's the kind of victory that feels more like a defeat. The way she ran the campaign is also to blame for the loss of the majority. The Conservatives rely on older voters in the elections and asking them to pay for more of their social care didn't sit well with many of those voters. Then there's the issue of May moving her own party to the center, looking like a "red Tory."

Like moderates in the Republican Party alienating Reaganites, May's decision to find a middle ground between the free market and socialism disappointed Britain's Thatcherites. May was criticized by some in her own party for appearing to abandon Thatcherism. Her problem now is that she made moderate promises that she must deliver on. The "dementia tax" was removed from the manifesto, but other policies were not. If she does plan to implement her proposals, then she could face resistance from the die-hard free marketers in the Conservative Party.

The path forward for May is going to be difficult. Luckily for her, the right has managed to win more than the left. She can still govern by the slimmest of margins by forming a coalition with the DUP. Northern Ireland's largest right-wing party managed to win the largest number of seats in their history. Adding the 317 Tories with the 10 Democratic Unionists gives us 327. The prime minister will have a majority of one.

Running a coalition isn't impossible. David Cameron did it with the Liberal Democrats. Before him John Major managed to do it with the Ulster Unionist Party, another right-wing political party in Northern Ireland that has lost a great deal of support in recent years. There is the matter of what the Democratic Unionist Party wants. DUP leader Arlene Foster is on the right, but she prefers a "soft Brexit" rather than the "hard Brexit" that May desires. The Democratic Unionists are also more socially conservative and are the only party left in the United Kingdom that does not support gay marriage. Several members of the DUP have made controversial statements in the past, which could hurt the government as a whole.

This is the situation May finds herself in, but things do get worse. A poll found that nearly 60 percent of Conservative Party members want her to resign. It could be just a shot of emotion following the election results, but if they continue to put pressure on her then she might have no choice. There is some good news for her. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the Tory who led the Brexit campaign, doesn't seem interested in challenging her. Nevertheless, May's battle to stay in Downing Street begins now. I'll finish this post with May's speech after the election:

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Tory Landslide or a Hung Parliament? Nobody Knows

May addresses the country over the London terrorist attacks - CNN
When Theresa May announced a general election to be held on June 8, the prime minister was hoping for a landslide Conservative victory to primarily help her negotiate Brexit. At the time of her announcement, she led in all the polls by double-digit margins:

ICM/The Guardian (4/18): Conservatives 46%, Labour 25%, Lib Dem 11% - Con +21
YouGov/The Times (4/18-4/19): Conservatives 44%, Labour 23%, Lib Dem 12% - Con +24
Survation/Mail on Sunday (4/21-4/22): Conservatives 40%, Labour 29%, Lib Dem 11% - Con +11

Since that announcement, the Labour Party has rocketed upwards in the polls. May has been hurt by terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. Her party's manifesto also took damage due to the infamous "dementia tax" to fund social care. There was a U-turn over the promise in four days.

Politically, the terrorist attacks and the Tory manifesto have helped Jeremy Corbyn immensely. His socialist economic proposals are wrong, but no one doubts that the emotional messaging they provide has worked. The Labour leader is pouncing on May's weaknesses. After all, she ran the Home Office, a department with control over law enforcement, before becoming the prime minister.

One of Corbyn's biggest promises is one to hire 10,000 additional police. He can make himself look stronger on law and order than her (since the Tories were returned to power in 2010 law enforcement has cut 20,000 police officers). He has called on May to resign because of the attacks have happened under her watch..

The most flawed part of his argument is that even if he hires more police, he hasn't proven to be capable at all with addressing terrorism. Police can prevent crimes, but more often than not they're reactionary. They're are the responders when a terrorist attack is committed. As for Corbyn's record on terrorism and conflict, it is abysmal.

The Labour leader once worked for a pro-Soviet newspaper called Straight Left. He has accepted payments to be featured on an Iranian television station numerous times. That television station has also taken part in broadcasting forced confessions by arrested journalists. He appears to have no problem with showing up on totalitarian regimes. He refuses to denounce terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which he considers to be "friends." Corbyn also believes Britain has not fought a "just war" since 1945, angering veterans of the Falklands War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The British are placed in a tight spot, but I think May is starting to realize that things need to change with how her government approaches terrorism. She has used increasingly forceful language over the last few days on the topic and when she leaves the European Union her country will have more flexibility to handle terrorists. She has pointed out that there is "far too much tolerance of extremism" in the United Kingdom.

Her options include further government surveillance of Islamist activity on the internet and returning to an older bill for broadening the number of people who can be investigated by law enforcement. The bill initially failed to pass because they couldn't properly define "extremism" and "British values." These terrorist attacks could renew interest in the legislation. She also backs the law enforcement use of "shoot to kill" while Corbyn opposes it.

The British general election is even more confusing with the large disparity in the polls. Here's what the three pollsters I showed above currently indicate:

Survation/Mail on Sunday (6/3): Conservatives 40%, Labour 39%, Lib Dems 8% - Con +1
YouGov  (5/29-6/3): Conservatives 42%, Labour 38%, Lib Dems 9% - Con +4
ICM/Guardian (6/2-6/4): Conservatives 45%, Labour 34%, Lib Dems 8% - Con +11

That's quite a difference. The YouGov is actually quite different than the other two. It asked over 50,000 people over several days. The two polls by ICM and Survation are more traditional and asked between 1,000 to 2,000 people. YouGov doesn't always ask such large samples (the one from April with The Times was a traditional poll), but this poll was their most recent.

Based on the polling data, this general election is looking more like one from the 1970s and before. This is due to the collapse of UKIP and the Liberal Democrats. Neither party is expected to make any major gains in the election. UKIP voters want Brexit, so they support the Conservatives. Liberal Democrats are center-left on the economy, so Labour aligns closer to their views. Even though Lib Dem leader Tim Farron is targeting the 48 percent of voters who opposed Brexit, few of the Remain camp have answered his call.

I think there's a variety factors that will decide the results of the British election. The Brexit referendum had very high turnout and many of the voters who supported it have an interest in keeping the Conservatives as the governing party. There's also the "shy Tory factor" that significantly tilted the 2015 election in favor of the Conservatives. If there is a greater number of Conservative voters than expected, then we could still see the Conservatives winning in the double-digits. However, momentum is on the side of Labour in this election. Corbyn is like Bernie Sanders. He has excited many young voters and they could be just as determined to vote in order to prevent Brexit and move the country in a more socialist direction.

The British election is highly unpredictable. I still think the Conservatives will win with a larger majority than before, but the tighter YouGov and Survation polls indicate a hung Parliament. May is still the favorite, but if I was her I would be concerned.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Scottish Nationalists Peaked in 2015

Nicola Sturgeon - The Herald
One big impact of the 2015 British general election was the rise of the Scottish National Party (SNP). Scotland's membership in the United Kingdom has been at risk in recent years. In 2014, a referendum in the country to leave the UK was defeated. Conservative and Labour politicians were united in opposing Scottish independence, but the referendum boosted the popularity of the SNP.

Many Scottish voters have lost faith in the Conservative Party and the Labour Party in recent decades. While Margaret Thatcher won large victories in her three elections, the Conservatives lost popularity in Scotland under her. Generally, Thatcherism was popular in England, but policies like the disastrous poll tax infuriated Scotland.

Scottish voters naturally turned to Labour and their support was necessary for Tony Blair to win his three elections. Blair, however, also cost Labour many Scottish voters. His New Labour brand acknowledged that Thatcher had changed British politics, so he moved his party to the center. Scotland is about as left-wing as California and New York. The rise of Blair led to the fall of Labour's socialism (at least until Jeremy Corbyn arrived).

To mitigate rising nationalism, Labour helped engineer devolution, which meant giving Scotland some autonomy and a parliament at Holyrood. Blair now says that devolution was a mistake because it gave the SNP the ability to harness more power and created a stronger Scottish identity. Many of the Labour Party's best politicians preferred to be MPs in Westminster rather than in Holyrood. There was no cultural unity with devolution.

Labour still held many seats in Scotland after the 2010 general election, which resulted in a hung parliament and a coalition government between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. This was largely because of Gordon Brown, the last Labour prime minister, who was Scottish. Then with independence referendum, the political landscape in Scotland drastically changed. Labour's neglect for Scotland allowed the SNP to win a landslide in 2015. They won 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland (a gain of fifty) and hold more political influence than ever before.

The current leader of the Scottish National Party is First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Her brand of nationalism is a product of Margaret Thatcher's hated leadership in the region and her economic views are more leftist than Blair's. She says the SNP is seeking a "progressive alliance" in Parliament. Even so, her party is still heavily focused on the dream of Scottish independence. This has created a problem for Sturgeon.

While she enjoyed a landslide victory, she said that the election was not about another independence referendum. It only took two years and the arrival of Theresa May for her to change her opinion. When Sturgeon asked for a new vote, the prime minister denied her the opportunity because the British government would be focusing on Brexit.

May's decision to reject a second Scottish independence referendum and Sturgeon's flip on the topic has led to a decline in support for her SNP. The Scottish Nationalists still lead in the polls, but not as strongly as before. The party's election manifesto still calls for another independence referendum at the end of the Brexit process.

Ruth Davidson -  Getty Images
Sturgeon faces a strong opponent in Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, who is leading a revival of her party in the northern region of the United Kingdom. Davidson's political views are more moderate than those of Conservatives in England, but she is a firm unionist. Her plan focuses on Scottish constituencies along the English border and others that came close to approving Brexit. She has been a fierce critic of Sturgeon's referendum proposal, while her party shows how they can get the best for Scotland while remaining in the union.

While the Scottish Conservatives are expected to make some gains, the SNP will still remain the dominant party. This is actually more of a problem for Labour than any other party. Polls continue to show the gap narrowing. A new YouGov poll now shows the Conservatives only leading by a margin of 3 percent (42-39). SurveyMonkey's new poll also shows a tighter race, though they still have her ahead by a margin of 6 percent (44-38).

The Labour Party's problem is how to get Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10. Theresa May has benefitted from the collapse of UKIP by guaranteeing the British a strong Brexit deal. Her whole reason for calling the election was to improve the Conservative Party's standing in Parliament so that it would be easier for her to negotiate with the European Union.

Let's say the scenario is catastrophic for May and the polls indicate a tie on the day of the election. If the polls are true, then there will be a hung parliament. Neither May nor Corbyn want a grand coalition between the two parties. The only alternative would be turning to the SNP and it is obvious what Sturgeon wants. It would be a hard pill to swallow, but it might be the only way to get Corbyn into Downing Street unless he wants to run a minority government. Right now he does not want a coalition, but the final choice will be his to make.

The Health Care and Budget "Apocalypse"

For years the United States has had to operate with accumulating an enormous debt. Now approaching $20 trillion, there's a series of reforms that need to be made in order to repair our financial stagnation. These reforms include changes to government spending, tax policy, regulations, and health care. If the reforms are not made, then America's economy could collapse. While the reforms Republicans want to implement help with these problems, their opponents engage in fearmongering.

After a disappointing first attempt with the American Health Care Act, the House Republicans were successful at their second try. Now moving into the Senate, the Democrats are going to continue to fight the bill. One of their major criticisms is that the bill would no longer protect pre-existing conditions. While Obamacare was not popular, that portion of it was. The problem with their criticism, however, is that pre-existing conditions are not eliminated from coverage under if the new bill is signed into law.

As American Action Forum deputy director of health care policy Tara O'Neill Hayes points out, no one is denied health care coverage if they have a pre-existing condition. What does happen is a one-year premium for those with a pre-existing condition that are not enrolled in a large group plan, are living in a state that obtains a waiver, and have let their insurance lapse in the previous year for sixty-three days or more. There is no rejection of people who have pre-existing conditions and the purpose of this provision is to get consumers with those conditions to buy and maintain health insurer. They are partly assisted with a health tax credit.

What many opponents of the GOP bill never consider is the alternative. Stopping the American Health Care Act means keeping costly the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. No one is helped when provides leave the health care markets. UnitedHealthcare is set to leave most of the exchanges this year, which means higher premiums for many consumers. Aetna has announced that it will leave Obamacare's exchanges in 2018. Insurers continue to lose capital, even as the federal government continues to increase spending, according to the Center for Health and Economy. Obamacare is completely unsustainable.

The American Health Care Act will fix many problems with Obamacare. If I'm a Republican congressman I would vote for that bill because it's the most conservative bill that can be passed. Nevertheless, some of the problems with health care will not go away because of continuous government intervention. For example, the pre-existing condition problem was established with the  Economic Stabilization Act of 1942. Assuming that demand for workers would skyrocket in the midst of the Second World War, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the law to implement price ceilings so that inflation wouldn't be too big a problem.

Health insurance, however, was not in the law and basically invited businesses to compete for labor through that form of compensation. It helped those who earn higher incomes, since non-taxable dollars under states' deductions provide a more generous health care plan. It ties employment and health insurance. If you lose your job and get sick, then insurers are under no obligation to cover you. Research on this topic includes a 2012 paper by Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an April 2009 National Bureau of Economic Research paper by Thomas Buchmueller and Alan Monheit.

Maybe in the future the country can implement a more market-oriented system that places more emphasis on individuals rather than employers, but that legislation will have to happen at another time.

Then there's the imperative budget proposal. The budget Trump wants makes a series of important reductions in projected spending. There are no real cuts in the budget, it is simply designed to have the government grow at a more limited pace to catch up with tax revenue. It also pushes people to get off the dole and back to work. With more people working, there are more taxpayers. This means that the country is pushed even further into a balanced budget. This is where tax reform and deregulation plays a role because businesses will need the incentives to expand further.

This hasn't stopped politicians who are against the budget from saying that fixing the deficit problem is "just cruel" and will "endanger American working families." In no surprise to anyone, the interest groups are firing up to stop reductions to funds that would affect their own industries. The budget process is going to be ugly, but there has to be a return to fiscal responsibility. The United States has many short-term problems, but if we continue to kick our long-term problems down the road then they will only get worse.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Manchester Attack Tightens British Election

Corbyn in 2015 - Getty Images
Theresa May attended her first NATO and G7 summits last week. They could be her last depending on the next few weeks. Originally, I thought that her path to a victory would be easy, but the gods of electoral politics don't seem to be on the side of the Conservatives. The terrorist attack in Manchester is a disaster for her government, which she touts as "strong and stable" compared to what the country would look like if Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party return to office.

This isn't to say that Corbyn would be a better choice than May. Personally I do think she will be a stronger leader and terrorist attacks are difficult to prevent even with a large surveillance apparatus. Despite this, one cannot ignore that the bombing has weakened her party.

The worst sign came from a YouGov poll for The Times. It showed that the Conservative Party's lead narrowed to a margin of only 5 percent. May's party has 43 percent and Corbyn's has 38 percent. It's worth acknowledging that this is the worst poll from the perspective of the Conservatives. A poll by SurveyMonkey shows them leading Labour by 8 percent (44-36) and ICM's poll shows them leading by 14 percent (46-32). YouGov was also notoriously inaccurate during the 2015 election. Their last poll before voting indicated a 34-34 tie. The Conservatives won the election by a margin of  6.5 percent.

Nevertheless, I think Labour has some momentum. In addition to Manchester, their rise in the polls is a result of the Conservative Party's election promises, some of which are ridiculous and have been criticized by party members. Some call May a "red Tory" because she departs from Margaret Thatcher's ideology in several ways. Her party has had to backtrack on a manifesto pledge to have the elderly contribute more to their social care. It is being called a "dementia tax" by her opponents.

Then there's a bunch of odd topics that she keeps getting herself into. Animal killings were once tradition in the United Kingdom. The aristocrats of British society loved to hunt foxes, but today the sport is very unpopular. For whatever reason, May thought it would be a good idea to bring the topic back again in support of the hunts.

Right now May has been damaging herself while Corbyn has pushed national security attacks on her. In addition to his promise for 10,000 new police, the Labour leader now says that he will hire 1,000 spies to help combat terrorism. However, May can fight back just as strongly. The Labour leader blamed British military intervention for the Manchester attack. To say there's some kind of parallel between Britain and ISIS shows why he should not be prime minister. Whereas British foreign policy is conducted in the national interest, Islamist extremists are motivated by Islamic scripture. An isolationist foreign policy, presumably including nuclear disarmament and a withdrawal from NATO, wouldn't change anything for terrorists who want to see the end of western civilization.

As of now the Conservatives still lead in the polls, some still by double-digits. As with 2015, it is likely that there are "shy Tories" who will rally behind their party at the last minute and give the prime minister a comfortable victory, but there's still reason to be cautious. May can count on a lead at the moment, but these last two weeks won't be smooth sailing for her campaign.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Rise of Leftist Authoritarianism

In a republic like the United States, you will encounter someone who disagrees with you over politics. This doesn't mean you should ignore people with different political views. In fact, it helps to understand both sides of an argument. I've always thought that debates between liberals and conservatives should be promoted, especially at places like universities. When people understand one another, the political environment becomes less toxic, angry, and divisive.

Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly clear that many on the left, especially those who are younger, are embracing their own version of authoritarianism in the name of social justice. This usually involves shutting down viewpoints they disagree with, but it can be expanded to anything they smear as a symbol of "white privilege" or being "racist," "sexist," and "fascist."

A burrito shop opened in Portland, Oregon was bashed by the left because the two owners were white. They were criticized for "stealing" the tortilla cooking techniques of Mexican women after they went on a vacation. Their business, Kooks Burritos, was inspired by what they learned and saw in the country. Not only was this a great way for two millennial women to get ahead in life, but it also exposed customers to a culture and a style of cooking. Left-wing social justice warriors didn't see it that way. The business was forced to shut down because of "cultural appropriation" and "exploiting already marginalized identities."

If there's one good side to this story, at least the two owners didn't get violently assaulted, which is now being used more often by leftist groups like Antifa (a term created for those who are "anti-fascist"). It's obvious that the members of Antifa have no idea what fascism really is, but that doesn't matter to them. What matters is that the people they're against are branded with the term to strike anger. Fascism is synonymous with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, so anyone who is called a fascist must represent their views. Therefore Antifa's "fascists" have to be stopped.

At the University of California-Berkeley, threats and violence are used on a regular basis to stop any speaker who is opposed by the left. It's sad because the free speech movement on campuses started at UC-Berkeley. Now events put on by conservative groups are prevented from occurring. The worst case at Berkeley was the fall semester event for Milo Yiannopoulos, where rioters damaged property and started fires. In the spring semester, Ann Coulter's event was cancelled out of safety for students.

The cover article of the latest issue of National Review highlights the roots of left-wing violence and successful attempts by Antifa to stop Heather Mac Donald, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute who's research I've cited before in previous posts. The author of The War on Cops (a book I highly recommend) was blocked from speaking at Claremont McKenna College and the campus administration yielded to the demands of the protestors, who called her "a notorious white supremacist fascist." The university's president later said it would create "unsafe conditions" but no good comes out of a lack of enforcement of the rules. She eventually spoke via livestream.

In Wisconsin, UW-Green Bay student Jessica Murphy, who's interning at the MacIver Institute, posted an article about the top five wasteful classes in the UW system. Many of them were classes featuring topics adored by the social justice warriors (the number one course being taught at my campus) and none of them actually helping students prepare for their lives after college. Her article was noticed by some leftists, one saying she "could punch her in the face."

Ideally, I would want the era of social justice warriors and the war on free speech to come to an end. Part of me thinks this will happen. Shutting down conservative voices and beating up people they disagree with does not help the cause. Another part of me, however, is worried that this movement will continue and grow. I think it's a generational thing. Most millennials don't consider democracy as important as previous generations. Add to it that liberals are more likely to remove friends from their lives who have conservative views and one can see where leftist authoritarianism in the United States is coming from.

I think there's many variables that can contribute to this new authoritarian thought. The first is that millennials are more leftist than their parents and I think it is fair to say there are a growing number of socialists within my generation rather than liberals. This was the great appeal of Bernie Sanders. The second is the willingness of the left to defeat the right with violence and censorship. The most effective way to win is to have no opponent, which is why it is essential for the left to make sure that opposing views are not heard. Power is craved in politics and many social justice warriors want to obtain power even if it means trampling on basic liberties.

A third and final factor is the complacency of others to let this happen. I think there's a large group of people on the left who don't like to see authoritarianism, but that does not mean they're willing to confront it because it's on their side. Most people with strong political views tend to ignore their own side's faults and attack the other side as being worse, but this will only allow an authoritarian ideology within the left to grow. I think leftist authoritarianism can be best challenged by those who are on the left. A perfect example is Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad), a YouTube commentator. I'll link one of his videos here:



His videos are excellent and can help stop the rise of authoritarianism in western nations, but there has to be more voices who are willing to call out socialist justice warriors and the members of Antifa for what they really are. Those who claim to be anti-fascists are the fascists and if their rise isn't checked then there will be damaging ramifications across the United States and the world for decades to come.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Two Paths for Illinois

Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois - Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register
While the Wisconsin gubernatorial race has been uneventful due to the lack of Democrats who want to challenge Scott Walker (who is obviously running for a third term). The battle for governor south of Wisconsin is heating up fast.

In 2014, Chicago millionaire Bruce Rauner won the Republican nomination and became the governor in a close race. Like other Republicans, Rauner wanted to initiate reforms that his state badly needed. The only problem was that his victory had no coattails. The Democrats continued to control the state legislature. This meant that the new governor couldn't do anything that involved a rightward policy direction.

As a result of the political deadlock, Illinois operates without any major changes to the budget. This makes the economic outlook in the state very bleak. The editorial board of The State Journal-Register explains some of the divisions over lacking a budget:
One key question is whether Illinois needs to tighten its standards for “causation,” which deals with whether a worker’s injury was caused by, or aggravated by, their job. Other topics to examine include Illinois’ benefits structures — a 2015 report by the independent journalism website ProPublica concluded that Illinois consistently paid more than the national average for permanent partial disabilities. 
It’s clear that the state needs to take a meaningful look at how to improve the system. Both sides need to embrace the premise that it’s possible to strike a balance that would make Illinois more competitive on employers’ workers comp costs, while preserving protections for workers who suffer a legitimate on-the-job injury
Attorney Gerald Skoney wrote about the state's fiscal problems in The Wall Street Journal and he attacked the legislature for focusing on foolish initiatives that deal with a zombie apocalypse while Illinois owes $11 billion. That number is expected to climb. He concludes "instead of worrying about the Zombie Apocalypse, maybe lawmakers in Springfield should focus on the fiscal disaster that is entirely of their own making."

Easier said than done. The Democrats don't want to give Rauner an inch of reform, but continuing down the current path drives the Land of Lincoln down the edge of a cliff. No businessman would seriously invest in a state that ranks 47 out of 50 in fiscal solvency, a rank that comes from the Mercatus Center's 2016 fiscal condition report.

Democrats in the state have proposed tax increases to solve the state government's financial problems. The problem for Illinois is that it already has a large tax burden and a declining population. More people left Illinois in 2016 (37,508 to be exact) than any other state, many of them sighting problems like higher taxes, crime rates, and the budget. It would be wrong to raise taxes when the economy is so weak.

Raising revenue isn't the problem for Illinois. A report by Illinois Policy, a nonpartisan think tank, concluded that the real issue is spending. The state receives more than enough taxes, with per capita revenues growing 70 percent greater than inflation over the last 33 years. Funding for core public goods like education and law enforcement are down because state employee benefits have exploded. Worker pay, health care coverage, and pensions increased by almost 600 percent from 2000 to 2015.

Illinois needs to take the path of reducing spending and also easing the tax burden in order to foster a more pro-market environment. The problem is that Rauner can't get anything done and Democrats are determined to win back the governorship in 2018. The current frontrunner is Chris Kennedy, a former chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. If you're wondering, he is a member of that Kennedy family (a son of Robert F. Kennedy to be exact).

Even so, his support among Illinois Democrats is not set in stone. Big names in the state's Democratic Party are steering labor unions and other key liberal groups away from Kennedy and to billionaire J.B. Pritzker, a man who has more than enough cash to take on Rauner (the incumbent has given his own re-election campaign $50 million). Kennedy is leaving early in the Democratic race, but if Pritzker gets enough support then it might be close. As for Rauner, he has more time to prepare himself for a predictably rough campaign. It might just be the most expensive campaign in American history.

Finally, I want to briefly focus on campaign strategy. If you look at a political map of Illinois, it looks like the rest of the state is held hostage by Cook county (where Chicago is located). Rauner only won by a margin of 3.9 percent. Here's the 2014 gubernatorial election:


Democrats are probably looking for something like the gubernatorial race in 2002, when Rod Blagojevich became governor (though they don't want another governor like Blagojevich). This means a necessary appeal to downstate voters, who tend to be from rural communities. As proven by 2016, Democrats have serious problems with persuading these voters to get behind them, but they can't just rely on a large basket of support from Chicago to win. They need voters from elsewhere in the state. Here's the map:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Trump needs to be careful

Trump and Comey - NBC News
Charles Krauthammer, one of my favorite columnists, posted a good article recently on the mess President Trump has gotten himself into. Krauthammer points to three main problems the president has had, all of them arising within ten days. I wanted to bring these controversies up and add what I think on top of them.

First, there was the firing of James Comey. Comey should have been gone earlier, but Trump kept him until now. Firing the FBI director while he was in the midst of a probe that links Russian officials and members of the Trump administration made the Democrats look like a bunch of hypocrites, but it also hurt the president and made him increasingly defensive. At first his staff (including Vice President Mike Pence) said the Justice Department recommended the dismissal, but then Trump said he was going to fire Comey "regardless of the recommendation."

Okay, so this is one problem. Trump says what he wants, but this means ignoring (or perhaps forgetting) what his staff is trying to do. It wouldn't be too much to handle if he made two more mistakes after it.

The second was a meeting with Russian officials. Never mind the bad timing of it coinciding with the firing of a man involved in a Russo-American investigation, but the media had a new target when it was discovered that Trump may have disclosed confidential information on ISIS with the Russians. His aides rushed to his defense, saying that simply did not happen. Then Trump added confusion by tweeting that he had the right to share information "pertaining" to terrorism. He did not say he shared classified information, but it did put White House officials on the defensive. Meanwhile, national security adviser H.R. McMaster pointed out the very real problem of people in the White House leaking out information to the press, making the business of governing highly difficult.

Two problems means less time to do the things Trump should be focusing on. The White House is waiting time on scandal rather than on policy. It isn't easy for Paul Ryan to implement while the president is under fire. However, I don't think Trump contradicted his staff on this topic and McMaster has settled the issue at the moment. This is nothing compared to what comes next, which returns to Comey.

Only days after he was fired, it was discovered that Trump asked him to end the investigation into national security adviser Mike Flynn. This is according to a memo by Comey. Of all three controversies, this one is the most damaging. It led to the creation of an independent investigation and Comey will now testify before the Senate intelligence committee. The White House has received some good news. Flynn was cleared in the probe linking him to Russia.

Whatever the results of the investigation, none of it helps Trump and all of it will help the Democrats. Investigations are very good at eating up the political capital of whoever is being investigated. It slows tax reform, health care reform, and deregulation.

Part of this is a matter of communication. Trump manages to contradict statements from the White House and various departments all the time. The president doesn't seem to understand that a media strategy does matter, so he foolishly continues to generate his own dilemmas.

Another big issue is character, something the presidential considerably lacks. I think many Republicans who weren't thrilled about Trump, but still voted for him did so thinking that character wasn't important in the election. They focused on his proposals, which included a conservative Supreme Court choice (which he gave), Obamacare repeal and replace, border security, and tax cuts. These are good things, but his character flaws still matter. Trump rarely acknowledges when he makes mistakes and could be digging his own political coffin (and that of the Republican Party's).

When a president is doing terrible domestically, it makes sense for the White House to draw focus to international politics. Trump's first foreign visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Vatican City could deflect some media attention elsewhere, but there's no way the media is going to abandon the investigation any time soon.

Trump will be occupied with fixing the three controversies before him, but he has to address the two flaws of White House communication and character. The former can be easily fixed, but the latter is going to be difficult and does play a role in Trump's statements that contradict his staff. Either way, Trump might want to start building some character now because he needs more than ever.