• Federal Judge: No DACA? No Bueno
• Supreme Court Appears Split Along Ideological Lines on Texas Gerrymandering Case
• Trump Pivots 180 Degrees and Praises Little Rocket Man
• VA Nominee is a Dead Man Walking
• Pelosi Rejects Litmus Tests
• The Dow Jones Is Grumpy
Elections took place in New York and in Arizona yesterday. Taking a short-term view, things went the GOP's direction. In the longer view, however, the Democrats had the much better day.
To start, there were two contests for state senate seats in New York. In district 32, Democrat Luis Sepúlveda trounced his opponents, taking 90.4% of the vote. Much more closely watched was district 37, which leans blue but generally turns into a swing district in non-presidential years. The last time voters went to polls in an off year, the incumbent Democrat won by 4 points. This time around a non-incumbent Democrat, Shelley Mayer, crushed a non-incumbent Republican, Julie Killian, by more than 15 points, 57.7% to 42.3%. What we have, then, is an 11-point shift towards the blue team versus the last non-presidential election.
Despite the two victories, it wasn't quite time for a wild celebration at the headquarters of the New York Democratic party, though. Although the blue team now controls 32 state senate seats to the red team's 31 (along with the state legislature and the governor's mansion), Simcha Felder (D) announced on Tuesday afternoon that he would continue to caucus with the Republicans. It's not a terribly surprising decision; as a de facto kingmaker, he has been able to squeeze a lot of concessions out of the "majority" party, including a higher salary and less regulation of ultra-Orthodox Jewish private schools. However, Felder has only given the GOP a temporary reprieve. In November, every state senate seat will be on the ballot, and Tuesday's result suggests that the Democrats will be able to complete the New York trifecta (both legislative chambers plus the governor's mansion) for only the second time since World War II. For what it is worth, Republicans Kemp Hannon (District 6), Elaine Phillips (7), Terrence P. Murphy (40), Susan Serino (41), Christopher Jacobs (60) all won tough elections in 2016, and so will presumably be big targets this November.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Republican Debbie Lesko prevailed over Democrat Hiral Tipirneni in the race to represent AZ-08, a seat that opened up when Rep. Trent Franks (R) got himself enmeshed in a sex scandal and had to resign (Tip for other congressmen: Don't ask your female staffers to bear your child). But again, it's a short-term victory for the GOP. First of all, Lesko will have to go before the voters again in six months, and the next time she won't have a seven-figure war chest provided by the national party, and she might have an opponent who better matches AZ-08 than Tipirneni does. Second, Lesko won by only 5 points, 52.6% to 47.4%, while Donald Trump won the same district by 20 points, and Franks won his election by 37. That's either a shift of 15 points or 32, depending on how one looks at it.
The New York Times has a breakdown of the eight special elections that have been held for seats in the House of Representatives since Donald Trump took office. Compared to the previous election, the GOP's vote total has plunged by 10, 15, 17, 19, 24, 18, 30, and 32 points. That's an average drop of 20.6 points, and none where the bleeding was limited to single digits. It is true that the Democrats will not be able to lavish attention and enthusiasm on 435 races in November the way that they did these eight one-offs. It is also true that many of the elections in November will feature Republican incumbents, while these eight—by definition—did not. However, even if we knock off the 3-4 points that incumbency is generally "valued" at, and another 2-3 for reduced Democratic attention and donations, we're still left with more than a 10 point swing towards the blue team, on average. And if that is what happens, it will be nearly impossible for the GOP to hold the House, unless the Koch brothers up the ante and decide to spend $500 million on House races. (Z)
Yet another judge—this time John Bates, a George W. Bush appointee who serves on the US District Court for the District of Columbia—has told Donald Trump that DACA must remain in place. That makes three, though Bates is the first Republican-appointed judge to join the club. He did use some of the same language in his decision as his Democratic-appointed colleagues, like "arbitrary and capricious" and "[the DHS failed to] adequately explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful."
If we judge by his tweets over the past several months, the President should be thrilled with this news:
I have offered DACA a wonderful deal, including a doubling in the number of recipients & a twelve year pathway to citizenship, for two reasons: (1) Because the Republicans want to fix a long time terrible problem. (2) To show that Democrats do not want to solve DACA, only use it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2018
The Democrats are all talk and no action. They are doing nothing to fix DACA. Great opportunity missed. Too bad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2018
Cannot believe how BADLY DACA recipients have been treated by the Democrats...totally abandoned! Republicans are still working hard.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2018
OK, he was bloviating in those tweets, but he probably really is secretly happy. Part of his coalition (the populists) hates immigrants, but most of the rest wants DACA sustained, for one reason or another. So, if Trump can go to his rallies and say, "I did my best, but those gosh-darned activist judges stuck their noses into my business," he gets the best of both worlds. (Z)
Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a lower-court ruling that the Texas legislature had gerrymandered the congressional and state maps to reduce the power of minority voters. From the questioning, it looks like the Court's conservatives will win 5 to 4. Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that the Texas legislature deserved "some presumption of good faith." In contrast, liberal justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor suggested that Texas was very much trying to dilute the power of minorities.
A lower court found that two Texas congressional districts violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It also found similar problems with the Texas legislative maps. The Court is also looking at two other gerrymandering cases, but those are about political, rather than racial, gerrymandering. In those cases, the issue is whether a partisan legislature may draw maps that are specifically designed to keep them in power. Decisions on these cases are likely in June. (V)
Last year, Donald Trump condemned the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, whom he calls "Little Rocket Man," as brutal and deceitful. Yesterday, all was forgiven and Kim is now "very honorable." For what it is worth, the U.S. State Department doesn't quite agree with that assessment. Last week it brought out a report that cited Kim for "egregious human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings; disappearances; arbitrary arrests and detentions; torture; political prison camps in which conditions were often harsh, life-threatening, and included forced and compulsory labor." Apparently being a vicious murderous dictator and being an honorable man are quite compatible in Trump's view.
The reason Trump is flattering Kim, of course, is that he is scheduled to meet Kim later this year, probably in June. He might be reasoning that by flattering him, he can get Kim to give up his nuclear weapons. That is exceedingly unlikely as they are his only real defense against "regime change," something he is not at all keen on. (V)
Donald Trump likes to govern by the seat of his pants, and that extends to the process of choosing his nominees for key posts. That is how we ended up with presidential physician Ronny Jackson as VA Secretary-designate. It was typical Trump. He nominated a person who is quite competent in one area for a job for which he is totally unprepared and unqualified. Well, he does have one qualification—he does whatever Trump asks him to do. For example, after Trump's annual physical exam, he pronounced Trump to be the picture of health, and even made him 1 inch taller than he actually is, in order to prevent his body mass index from falling into the category "obese."
As it turns out, there's a reason that most presidents vet their nominees (particularly their vet nominees) very carefully. On Monday, it began to leak out that Jackson might have a few...issues. And on Tuesday, the floodgates opened. Several first-hand witnesses reported that in 2015, while part of an entourage traveling with Barack Obama, Jackson got drunk and began banging on the door of a female staffer in the middle of the night. The volume was great enough that the Secret Service put a stop to it, partly out of concern that the President might be awakened. Meanwhile, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) appeared on CNN and told Anderson Cooper that he had spoken to nearly two dozen co-workers of the admiral, who reported that Jackson hands out prescriptions "like candy."
Inasmuch as there were already serious concerns about Jackson's lack of experience, these revelations effectively torpedo the nomination. The problem is that even if Trump recognizes that fact—as he surely does—he does not like to admit fault, and he also lacks the testicular fortitude to withdraw the nomination (though the President might like to know about a new technique that medical science has developed). Consequently, the Donald is letting Jackson twist in the wind, neither fully supporting him (as George W. Bush did with his ill-considered nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court) nor cutting him loose (as most presidents would do, once they saw the battle had been lost). Trump's remarks on Tuesday:
The fact is I wouldn't do it. What does he need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren't thinking nicely about our country? I really don't think personally he should do it. But it's totally his—I would stand behind him—totally his decision."
It's a fair point that if a senator opposes an unqualified candidate with possible drinking problems and potentially serious ethical lapses, he or she must hate America.
In any case, it's going to be up to Jackson to lop his own head off. And given that he's undoubtedly a man of some ambition, it won't be easy for him to swing the ax. At the moment, he says he's sticking with it. The question is whether he will quickly conclude it's just not worth it and throw in the towel, or if he'll subject himself to the public embarrassment of being grilled and then rejected by the Senate. Odds are good that he holds on to the dream for another day or two, and then does what Trump should already have done and withdraws his name. (Z & V)
For years, Democrats have been wracked by internal battles between progressives, who have clear ideological and moral goals, and pragmatists, who generally think the worst Democrat is better than the best Republican, so all that matters to them is that little (D) after the name. In 2016, this split displayed itself as the battle between Team Bernie and Team Hillary, but it has been going on much longer. Yesterday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who represents San Francisco and who is fairly progressive, clearly rejected the idea of "litmus tests" for candidates on hot-button issues such as abortion. She made it clear that winning back the House is far more important than the views of any one candidate on a particular issue. Pelosi has been a fierce defender of women's reproductive rights her whole career and said that unless the Democrats have political power, they will not be able to defend those rights.
Specifically, she referred to her support for Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), a seven-term anti-abortion blue dog who recently won a tough primary against a liberal woman who made reproductive rights the center of her platform. Pelosi, an Italian Catholic originally from Baltimore, has taken fire from her church for decades for her position, but hasn't budged. Her view is that in districts in which any Democrat can win, the Party should run progressives. But, in more conservative districts where a progressive candidate would probably lose to the Republican in the general election, a more conservative candidate, even one who is pro-life, is an unfortunate necessity to get to 218 seats in the House. (V)
The good news these days is that Wall Street appears to be ignoring Donald Trump, having learned that at any time any policy proclamation could be reversed, any legislative proposal could disappear into the vapor, any spat with a foreign leader could turn into a chorus of kumbayah. The bad news is that investors depend on presidential cues to know what to do. So, while Trump is in office, the folks on Wall Street are increasingly forced to act like a 17th century sea captain who can't see the North Star.
Consequently, for no particularly clear reason, the Dow Jones has had a lousy week. It has dropped for five straight days, including a 425-point slide on Tuesday. Will things improve from here? Will they get worse? Your guess is as good as theirs. The only thing we can be sure of is that Trump won't be tweeting about any Dow Jones records again anytime soon. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr24 Jackson Nomination in Trouble
Apr24 Trump Is Using His Cell Phone More to Evade Kelly
Apr24 Two Key Elections Will Take Place Today
Apr24 Six-Term Republican Congressman May Be Kept Off the Ballot
Apr24 GOP Midterm Campaign May Be Built Around Ghosts of Clintons Past
Apr24 Mueller Has Not Contacted Natalia Veselnitskaya
Apr23 Clyburn: If Dems Fail to Take the House, Leadership Should Resign
Apr23 Trump to Get One-Two Punch from Macron, Merkel This Week
Apr23 One Person's Denuclearization Is Not Another Person's Denuclearization
Apr23 Two Cabinet Nominations Hang in the Balance
Apr23 What Is Trump's Favorite TV Network? Hint: It Is Not Fox News
Apr23 Being President for Fun and Profit
Apr23 Senators Are Working on Election Security
Apr23 McCaskill Has a Slight Lead over Hawley in Missouri Senate Battle
Apr22 Kim: No More Nuclear Tests
Apr22 Trump Defends Cohen
Apr22 How Helpful Will Giuliani Be?
Apr22 More Skeletons Emerge from Pruitt's Closet
Apr22 Greitens Indicted, Hawley Flailing
Apr22 Romney Finishes Second at Utah GOP Convention, Will Face Primary
Apr21 DNC Sues the Trump Campaign, Russia, and Wikileaks
Apr21 Sessions: If Rosenstein Goes, I Might Too
Apr21 Trump Treated Cohen Like Garbage
Apr21 Cohen Reportedly Owes Back Taxes
Apr21 Why Did Trump Hire Giuliani as a Lawyer?
Apr21 Daniels and McDougal's Former Lawyer Cooperating with Cohen Probe
Apr21 Could Trump Be Defeated in the 2020 Primary?
Apr21 Cruz Walks a Thin Line
Apr20 Comey Memos Released
Apr20 Trump Finally Has a New Lawyer
Apr20 Trade War Continues to Develop
Apr20 Trump Says He's Willing to Walk Out on Kim
Apr20 Democrats Are Getting Involved in the West Virginia Senatorial Primary
Apr20 House Democrats Are Raising More Money Than House Republicans
Apr20 Independent Candidate Shakes Up Illinois Governor's Race
Apr19 McConnell Won't Bring Up Legislation to Protect Mueller
Apr19 Schneiderman Is Asking for a Change in the Law So He Can Prosecute Pardonees
Apr19 Cohen Might Not Take a Bullet for Trump
Apr19 Democrats Get Good News in Senate Races
Apr19 Republicans Are Trying to Save McCain's Seat
Apr19 McDougal Is Free to Tell Her Story
Apr19 Melania Trump to Attend Bush Funeral
Apr18 Pompeo Met with Kim
Apr18 Nikki Haley Isn't Jeff Sessions
Apr18 Republicans Book the First $48 Million Worth of Ads for House Races
Apr18 Joe Crowley Would Like to Be Speaker of the House
Apr18 Charlie Dent Will Retire from the House
Apr18 More Trouble for Greitens
Apr18 What Would Francisco Do?