Category Archives: Elections

Institutional Combat and Republican Takeover in the Reagan Era

An in-depth look at Democratic entrenchment, the Republicans offensive, and institutional combat.

The election of 1932 forever changed the course of American politics and American society. 1932 ushered in an era of liberal feelings, expanding government, and an all-together Democratic entrenchment. For the next four decades, the government continued to expand its role and a strong system of benefits (welfare) was created and expanded, primarily through Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson. Since the 1930s, the Democrats have become entrenched in Congress and government agencies, allowing the New Deal, New Frontier, and Great Society programs to stay in place and fight the Republican offensive of the 1980s. Though the Republicans were (and so far are) unable to remove the programs and strip away the welfare system, they were successful in creating intense institutional struggles that have become the focus of politics and many discussions throughout the nation. Moreover, continued institutional combat stops the two parties from acting in the best interests of America – rather, the two parties act in fashions deemed best to bring down the other.

Following the onset of the Great Depression, Democrats were entrenched in Congress for six decades. This was possible thanks to the New Deal coalition, which included labor unions, farmers, the elderly, southerners, Jews, Catholics, and, of course, liberals. The New Deal coalition was formed because the general populace was seeking a change from the failed laissez-faire policies of Republican Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. Roosevelt offered hope and new ideas to help the country escape the throes of depression. His policies of government intervention in the private markets on behalf of citizens were quite popular throughout the country and allowed for the coalition to remain intact. Such a far-reaching and inclusive coalition kept the Democrats in Congress for close to 60 years, and in the Presidency for 36 years (asides from Eisenhower, whose policies would be considered somewhat liberal today). Though FDR intended for the New Deal programs to temporary, he soon made them “permanent features of the American governmental system” (84). Being the dominant party in Congress and controlling the Presidency for numerous terms allowed the Democrats to create many social welfare programs, thus becoming entrenched in the domestic state.

Democratic entrenchment in Congress and in the Presidency allowed them to gain a firm footing in “federal social service[s], labor and regulatory agencies, and government bureaucracies and nonprofit organizations on the state and local levels that help administer national social programs” (81). At first, it was easy for the Democrats to maintain control because a liberal Congress and Democratic president allowed for safe passage of agency funding. Even when the White House was run by a Republican, Democrats are able to maintain high levels of influence and control on the aforementioned government agencies and subsidiaries. This is due to those who work in the agencies, bureaucratic networks, and administrative capabilities. Individuals who work in the agencies are generally “committed to these organizations’ goals” and are “commit to the public sector”, a trait generally found in Democrats rather than Republicans (82). Bureaucratic networks let Democrats establish links directly with voters, which played a key role in the creation of Democratic voting tendencies amongst “unionized workers and ethnic minorities” as well as “some middle-class homeowners, professionals, and members of the business community” (83). In these ways, agencies are able to resist efforts “by Republican presidents to redirect or limit their activities” (84).

By the 1960s, the Democrats were reeling and became “fully dependent on its base of power in the domestic state” (88). Perhaps the biggest challenge to the New Deal coalition was the Democratic support of civil rights for African-Americans. While Northern Democrats were “sympathetic to the plight of the blacks” (88), southern conservatives (who voted Democratic out of tradition) were not. Civil right legislation passed in the New Frontier and Great Society caused a party dealignment, with Southern Democrats slowly leaving the party to vote Independent or Republican. Blacks soon replaced white Southern Democrats. Federally funded community development corporations, community action centers, and neighborhood service centers “provided an institutional framework through which blacks could be organized to provide local political support for [Great Society] programs” (90). When blacks go out and vote, Democrats almost always win. However, the struggle for liberals is getting African-American citizens to vote, a problem President Obama was able to solve through his nationality and focus on Get Out The Vote initiatives.

During Lydon Johnson’s presidency, the conflict in Vietnam escalated into a war. Due to this, liberals within the administration and throughout the country “launched a full-scale attack on the national security establishment”, seeking to “subject the military-industrial complex to stricter external control” (91). This attack was successful in cutting defense spending throughout the 1970s. However, Democrats were charged with weakening national defenses to a critical level following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Republicans were thus able to gain support in the South and West among those who had a stake in defense spending, hence further challenging the New Deal coalition.

The 1968 Democratic National Convention saw numerous changes designed to show the party’s racial acceptance as well as to pass reforms for primaries and campaign finance. Considered by many to be the biggest change, a new rule required that “delegations to future national conventions be composed of blacks, women, and youths in a ‘reasonable relationship to their presence in the population of the state’” (93). Another platform agenda was encouraging states to use open primaries and caucuses in order to limit the “slate-making efforts of party organizations” (93). The Common Clause group sought campaign finance laws that would include limitations on individual contributors. These proposed reforms by the liberal Democrats steered the party in the direction of middle-class citizens and racial minorities. However, this came with the destruction of the local party organizations, leaving the Democrats even more “dependent upon their bastions within the domestic state” (94).

After a few years and elections of political turmoil, following Nixon’s demise at Watergate and the failure of the Carter administration, Republicans were successful in winning back the presidency in 1980 and began to implement an agenda with an idea of undermining Democratic strongholds and dismantling the social welfare programs. In order to curtail the Democratic entrenchment, Republicans used a mixture of tax reductions, domestic spending cuts, and deregulation. Doing so “diminished the Democrats’ ability to achieve their policy objectives…and provide benefits to groups allied within the party” (103). Significant tax decreases resulting less money for the government and a ballooning annual deficit. To remedy this, a number of domestic spending cuts ensued, putting domestic programs under pressure by cutting of funding (the Anaconda plan). New programs could not be created and funding levels for existing programs were always at risk of being cut. Republicans also sought to deregulate key industries, including transportation, energy, and finance, which limited regulatory agencies as they were not “able to intervene against business on behalf of groups disadvantaged by market process” (106). Deregulation also helped business break with labor, weakening the unions and thus the Democrats. Through these means, the “Republican Offensive” was successful in damaging the Democratic entrenchment; however the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 prevent the destruction of Democratic control.

As the Republicans undermined the “capacities of institutions” (107) controlled by Democrats, they also began to weaken the Democratic social base and New Deal coalition, focusing on business, the middle-class, blue-collar workers, and white southerners. Republicans were able to take business from the Democrats with Reagan’s promises of cutting “costly social programs”, weakening the “influence of labor”, and deregulation. These promises lured businesses to the right, where many of them remain today. In order to win over the middle-class, conservatives “attempted to convince” them that they weren’t “beneficiaries of federal expenditure programs”, but rather “taxpayers” (110). They were successful in creating an issue out of taxes; there was a 21% increase in voters who identified taxation as a problem between 1976 and 1984 (111). By focusing on the aspect of taxation rather than benefits, Republicans were able to lure away middle-class voters with promises of lower tax rates, stealing another block of the Democrat’s New Deal coalition. Republicans won blue-collar workers by stressing “moral and religions convictions” as well as patriotic appeals (114). In addition, Republicans subtly used the issue of race to win over blue-collar workers (115). The race issue, as well as moral convictions and beliefs – such as abortion – , helped Republicans win the votes of white Southerners, who were mostly Evangelicals. By taking these voting groups, Republicans were successful in dismantling the New Deal coalition.

Republicans also made popular bounds with their national security platform and monetary and fiscal policies. The first Reagan term saw the “largest peacetime military buildup” (117). Doing so let Reagan claim the Republican Party was the one of power, both domestically and abroad. It has been acknowledged that the Department of Defense is a Republican entrenchment. While the Reagan administration’s policies led to a soaring national debt, the decline of the dollar, and a growing trade deficit, his policies made it impossible for Democrats to campaign on their core issue: entitlement programs. Since there was a large deficit, it was impossible to run with idea of creating new domestic spending programs, hence hurting Democratic candidates. All in all, national security and monetary and fiscal policies by Republicans strengthened their institutional standing and their capacities of governance all while weakening the Democrats.

Unfortunately, rather than serving the people, the two major political parties have come to use the institutions of government as a means of battling the other. For example, budget deficits via tax cuts were used as a Republican weapon to prevent new spending programs that would have benefited many people throughout the country. Luckily, the debt was financed by foreign governments who sought to capitalize on the high interest rates used by the Federal Reserve to tame inflation. Democrats responded by passing the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act to try and pressure Reagan into tax increases. They also pursued protectionism as a means of cutting off the foreign investment that financed the burgeoning debt. This political fighting hurt the country as markets were sent into a flurry of panics, culminating in Black Monday. In national security, the Reagan administration spent huge sums of money to appear powerful and make Americans think that Republicans were the party of power. Coupled tax decreases, Reagan managed to run extraordinarily high deficits, resulting in the aforementioned disempowerment of Democrats. Federal courts of expanded their powers by “rescind[ing] the abstention doctrine” and by “creat[ing] new rights” (147). Socially, institutional combat deprived America of health care reform when a Republican Congress blocked the Clintons’ health care plan. Impeachment charges, ironically led by Newt Gingrich, were brought on Clinton despite his lack of breaking any formal law. Clearly, rather than focusing on how to best help Americans, the two major parties instead focused on how to damage the other.

Overall, institutional combat and struggles between the two major parties deprives the country of a governing body devoted to advancing policies best suited for the progression of societal well-being. Ever since the Democratic entrenchment of Congress, the presidency, and other agencies in the 1930s, Republicans have sought a way to demean the Democrats and shift the country right. This manifested itself in 1980 after New Deal coalition slowly disintegrated and the Democrats found themselves in a crisis, per se, with a crumbling base and a number of issues that seemed bound to destroy the party – among them national security and the military, as well as growing inflation caused by ample government spending. The reestablishment of the Republican Party has only served to worsen institutional combat as now the two sides are on equal grounds from which to wage political war. As long as institutional combat continues, little will be accomplished by the government and the general populace will suffer as a result.

Assessing the Effect of Ads and Candidate Visits on the 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (along with outside groups) spent a staggering $2.65 billion in their quest to win the White House. The two crisscrossed the country in search of votes and with hopes of energizing partisans. Ads became universal; rallies nightly spectacles mirrored across news stations and social media feeds. But did the billions spent on television ads, long the staple in political marketing, actually boost candidate vote totals? Did the tireless thousands of miles traveled bear fruit on election night?

Probably not, at least when controlling for a state’s partisan tilt and its demographics. In fact, just four variables explain 96 percent of Hillary Clinton’s vote variance across the 50 states and the District of Columbia: A given state’s partisan voter index (PVI) as determined by the Cook Political Report, the state’s GDP per capita, its percent minority, and the percent of the state’s population with at least a bachelor’s degree. These variables track a state’s electoral history and its demography – the measures themselves stand independent of 2016’s torrent of advertisements and other campaign activities.

Regressing Clinton’s vote share on those variables shows that all are significant at the 90 percent confidence level; PVI, percent minority, and percent with at least a bachelor’s degree are all significant at the 99 percent confidence level (see table 1 for complete regression output).

do campaigns matter
Table 1: Regressing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vote share on state GDP per capita, a given state’s PVI, its percent minority, and percent with at least a bachelor’s degree explains 96 percent of her vote share variance.

Table 1 shows that as each state’s GDP per capita grows, so does Donald Trump’s vote share (each $1 increase decreases Clinton’s expected vote share by the amount shown, miniscule at the margin but meaningful when speaking about tens of thousands of dollars).  Self-evdientily, the more Democratic a state’s been in the past, the higher Clinton’s expected vote share.  The database codes Democratic PVIs as negative numbers, so the more the negative number, the more Clinton’s vote share should rise.  Also intuitive, the more minorities within a state, the higher Clinton’s vote share — this effect is both statistically significant and profound.  Each 1 percentage point increase in a state’s minority population share increases Clinton’s vote share by 0.149 points, around the margin by which she lost Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.  Lastly, the regression points to a well-documented shift in electoral coalitions: When controlling for income, each 1 percentage point increase in a state’s college-educated population increased Clinton’s vote share by 0.005 percentage points.

Importantly, swing states do not dominate the residuals, or states whose predicted results deviate from their actual results. In other words, the four aforementioned variables quite accurately explain results in the states bombarded by ads and frequented by the two candidates – had swing states been subject to large errors, it might have implied that ads and candidate visits tinkered at the margins, enough, perhaps, to swing a few percent of voters. Simulating Clinton’s vote share 25,000 times with the above regression formula produces chart 1, which shows that swing state results can be explained largely by underlying forces unaffected by Clinton’s dramatic fundraising and advertising advantage.

do political campaigns matter
(Click for much higher quality)

The states with the biggest errors are Hawaii and North Dakota, by no means swing states and whose discrepancies can be easily explained. Hawaii, without its native on the ballot, moved towards its historical Democratic mean; North Dakota, an energy-rich state, swarmed to Trump in numbers greater than the simulation predicted because of Trump’s pro-energy, anti-regulation stance. Clinton also underperformed in New Mexico and Colorado, the former because of former New Mexico Gary Johnson’s presence. Colorado is the only swing state error likely attributable to ad and appearance discrepancy (Clinton went off the air in Colorado quite early in the campaign though Trump continued to purchase ad time).

Including ad spending by each candidate and the number of events held in each state by the presidential and vice presidential candidates yields no additional explanatory value. Using Ad Age data on Clinton and Trump spending from April 2015 up through election day, by state and nationally – an admittedly imperfect dataset because it includes primary ad spending and misses some spending from outside groups, though the patterns it shows still offers considerable explanatory value – and the National Popular Vote’s party event tracker (which begins after the conventions), I included ad spending and candidate events in the regression and met statistical insignificance.

Each Democratic dollar spent in a state increased, ever so slightly, Clinton’s vote share; similarly, each event she or Tim Kaine held increased their expected vote share. Republican ad spending and events had the opposite effect. But these findings are not statistically significant, meaning that we cannot say, with a resounding degree of confidence, that the relationship is causal (though it likely is). Table 2 has the complete regression results with ad spending and candidate visits.

Table 2: Regressing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vote share on state GDP per capita, a given state’s PVI, its percent minority, percent with at least a bachelor’s degree, number of events by her and Trump, and amount spent by the campaigns on ads within the state. Note that the R^2 hardly increases, meaning that these additional variables add no explanatory value. Click for higher quality.

Accepting that these relationships are not spurious, or due to chance, the coefficients imply that, all else equal, it would have taken 500 Clinton/Kaine events in a given state to improve their vote share by just 1 percentage point (this assumes Trump/Pence simply ignored that state).  Similarly, even if the Trump campaign spent $0 in a certain state, it would still take $100,000,000 worth of ads in a single state to shift expected vote share by a single point.

After $2.6 billion and 399 events, it cannot be said that a year and a half of activity caused the vote to change. What does this mean going forward into a cycle of renewed Democratic activism and looking ahead to 2020, which promises to be no less ferocious or expensive than 2016? Arguably, Donald Trump’s star power and media dominance – his broadcast and cable omnipresence amounted to billions in free media – likely played a role in disseminating his message and creating or expanding the character he has for years cultivated. Perhaps in a more normal year, ads and events would have causally effected voting outcomes. Or perhaps in times of heightened partisanship formed, increasingly, around segregated demographic groups, ads and events might only influence turnout.

One thing seems clear, though: Going forward, campaign practitioners must rethink the accepted playbook. Ads and events might not drive votes, certainly not to the extent portrayed or imagined. Candidates and candidate committees – not to mention the outside groups with wealthy benefactors – must find ways to Make Campaigns Matter Again through useful and effective spending and a willingness to buck the long-ingrained campaign norm.

campaign finance reform

A Brief Overview of Campaign Finance Reforms

Over the years, there have been many changes to campaign finance laws and policy. The goal of Congress, regulatory agencies, and courts has been to increase contribution and expenditure transparency while reducing potential corruption. From Buckley v. Valeo, to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, and finally to the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, Congress and the Supreme Court have gone back and forth on how to balance freedom of speech with electoral influence. Unfortunately, the decision in Citizens United v. FEC has damaged the American electoral process as corporations and unions have unwarranted power over elections because they can spend unlimited amounts to promote or tear down a certain candidate and/or idea. By equating money with speech and deeming corporations citizens, the Supreme Court has created an environment where candidates need to court the support of the wealthy rather than that of the people, disempowering the lower and middle classes.

Following the Watergate scandal, Congress sought to weed out corruption and limit the contributions that could be made to political candidates. This was done by passing the Federal Elections Campaign Act, which brought about new disclosure requirements, limited the “amount of money individuals could donate per election cycle” (Oyez), imposed contribution reporting, and created the Federal Election Commission to enforce the new campaign laws. In 1976, the Federal Elections Campaign Act was challenged in the case Buckley v. Valeo, with the prosecution arguing that limits on electoral contributions were a violation of First Amendment freedom of speech. The Court held in a 7-1 decision that limiting direct campaign contributions was constitutional, but money spent to influence elections “is a form of constitutionally protected free speech” (Nelson). Only speech that advocated the election or defeat of a candidate could be regulated; issue advertising (supporting a certain issue rather than a candidate) via soft money could not be regulated, as long as the words “vote for”, “vote against”, “support”, “defeat”, and/or “elect” were not used. The impact of Buckley v. Valeo was a large influx of money around candidates and parties.

After dramatic increases in soft money contributions to national parties because of a number of loopholes from the Buckley v. Valeo decision, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) in 2000, which banned party committees from accepting or using soft money. Local, state, and federal candidates and officeholders were also banned from “soliciting, receiving, receiving, directing, transferring, and spending soft money in connection with any local, state, or federal election” (Cornell Law). Additional restrictions were placed on pre-election advocacy and electioneering communications. One of the most important aspects of the BCRA, the electioneering communications provision “prohibited corporations and unions from using their treasury funds to air broadcast ads referring to clearly identified federal candidates within 60 days of a general elections or 30 days of a primary of a primary or caucus” (Congressional Research Service). These provisions were largely upheld in the case McConnell v. Federal Election Committee. While the BCRA didn’t overhaul campaign finance, it did close many loopholes from Buckley v. Valeo, thus limiting corruption and removing the “corrosive and corrupting effect of special interests” (Wheeler).

Most recently, the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee struck down the advocacy clause of the BCRA, invalidated “prohibitions on corporate and union treasury funding of independent expenditures and electioneering communications” (Congressional Research Service), and allowed for unlimited contributions to independent-expenditure-only political action committees (aka Super PACs). As Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority: “if the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging political speech”. By writing “associations of citizens”, Justice Kennedy paved the way for the labeling of citizens and unions as citizens, the topic of many debates throughout the country. Consequently, corporations and unions are now able to air advertisements calling for the election or defeat of candidates, as long as they don’t use the words “vote for”, “vote against”, “elect”, and/or “support”. Though giving soft money to candidates and parties is still prohibited, Political Action Committees (PACs) can raise unlimited funds from corporations and unions and use those funds to advocate a political issue, all while paying no taxes (IRS). The only restriction on PACs is the provision stating they cannot coordinate with candidates and their campaigns. Overall, Citizens Uniteddrastically changed campaign finance as PACs are now allowed to raise unlimited funds and spend the money around candidates and issues with next to no regulations.

All in all, the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC has damaged the integrity of the American electoral system as citizens lose political power to the well-off. By allowing corporations to make unlimited donations to Super PACs, the Supreme Court allowed the indirect buying of candidates as Super PACs can spend millions of dollars advocating for a certain candidate while tearing down others. Since money equals speech, those with the most amount of money speak the loudest, creating an inherently unequal political environment. In the primaries, candidates need to appeal to the wealthy so they can bankroll a Super PAC, rather than directly appealing to voters. Citizens lose their say in politics as their political donation cannot rival the deep pockets of unions or corporations. Instead of being indebted to the voters, candidates feel indebted to corporations and unions and will thus work to help them over citizens. Unlimited funding and spending by PACs succeeds only in allowing corporations and unions to have an iron-grasp on America’s politics.

Works Cited

“BCRA.” LII. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. <;.

“BUCKLEY v. VALEO.” Buckley v. Valeo. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. <;.

“Citizens United Decision Profoundly Affects Political Landscape.” – OpenSecrets Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. <;.

Nelson, Kevin. The Campaign Process. N.d. Outline.

Service, Congressional Research. The State of Campaign Finance Policy: Recent Developments and Issues for Change. Rep. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Wheeler, Nancy. “The BCRA and Campaign Financing.” Hartwick University, n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2012.

roy moore for senate

Roy Moore for Senate? I Think Not.

Voting Roy Moore for Senate Insults the Rule of Law

Perpetual bigot and shocking ignoramus Roy Moore has again dipped his toes into Alabama politics after again being forced off the state’s supreme court.  Unfortunately for the people of Alabama and those of the nation writ large, the Roy Moore for Senate campaign may be on its way to victory over establishment (and President Trump favored) candidate Luther Strange.  But let’s be clear: Supporting Roy Moore for Senate means ignoring his history of ignoring law and acting as if being a justice somehow means he’s immune from following the laws he interpreted.

In 2000, Roy Moore, then a controversial circuit court justice, made his first bid for the Alabama supreme court.  He ran on an avowedly theological platform, arguing the state needed “God [in] our public life [to] restore the moral foundation of our law.”  As any legal scholar should be able to tell you, the Founding Fathers sought a strict separation of church and state, wholly and purposefully keeping God out of public life to maintain a truly secular Republic with moral foundations premised on the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.  His legal and historical shortcomings also transcended to social ignorance as Moore argued that Christianity’s declining influence “corresponded directly with school violence, homosexuality, and crime.”

Moore, despite his contempt for America’s legal foundation and bizarrely incorrect views of religion and its role in society, somehow won his race and proceeded to legislate from the bench, an affront the judiciary’s role in government and a malady conservatives have long claimed to despise.  In D.H. vs. H.H., Moore wrote that the state should use a parent’s sexual orientation to be a deciding factor in refusing custody.  Such a demand did not have precedent in state law, but when it came to potential rights for homosexual individuals, Moore abandoned conservative legal principles and instead, in this case and others, let his moral beliefs define his rulings, acting without regard to state law when it didn’t align with his religious teachings.

God First, Constitution Second

roy moore for senate ten commandmentsHis allegiance stood only to religion, though a judge should value the law and the Constitution above all else.  Shortly after his election, Moore made plans for a large Ten Commandments monument for the Alabama supreme court building, again pointedly ignoring the secular basis of our law and society.  The 5,280 pound behemoth, once constructed, led Moore to declare “today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded. … May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land.”  Rather than idolize the state’s constitution, the federal Constitution, or the laws created by man with no divine influence or interference, Moore spent public dollars to erect a testament to his religion and his beliefs, not necessarily those of his peers, state lawmakers, or the entirety of Alabama.

Unsurprisingly — self-evidently, really — his waste of public funds to install a religious monument on state property prompted a lawsuit claiming that the monument “sends a message to all who enter the State Judicial Building that the government encourages and endorses the practice of religion in general and Judeo-Christianity in particular.”  The case, Glassroth v. Moore, presenting damning evidence about how the monument created an environment in which the government had endorsed a religion (a First Amendment violation).  Lawyers of different religious beliefs notably changed their work practices to avoid the religious atmosphere and public prayer the government sanctioned via the monument.

Fealty to a Higher Power

Moore’s defense used not the Constitution, but some supported higher power to which Moore supposed we must all pledge fealty.  He argued that the monument “serves to remind the Appellate Courts and judges of the Circuit and District Court of this State and members of the bar who appear before them, as well as the people of Alabama who visit the Alabama Judicial Building…that in order to establish justice we must invoke ‘the favor and guidance of almighty God.'”  For, Moore claimed, the Ten Commanders are the “moral foundation” of our law and that the monument marked “the beginning of the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people” by “recogniz[ing] the sovereignty of God
and “acknowledging God’s overruling power over the affairs of men.”  

roy moore removed from office

Of course, the Constitution does not claim divine guidance.  It does not say that only through the grace of a higher being did the document originate.  Our Constitution — the supreme law of the land — came not from a higher power but from the hearts, souls, and brains of the men present at the constitutional convention.  The Constitution is of man and for man, with no loyalty or subservience to a supposed higher power.  We are the sovereigns.

Removal from Office

US District Court Judge Myron Thompson declared the monument violated the Establishment Clause and the First Amendment, making it unconstitutional.  Thompson found that Moore “installed a two-and-a-half ton monument in the most prominent place in a government building, managed with dollars from all state taxpayers, with the specific purpose and effect of establishing a permanent recognition of the ‘sovereignty of God,’ the Judeo-Christian God, over all citizens in this country, regardless of each taxpaying citizen’s individual personal beliefs or lack thereof. To this, the Establishment Clause says no.”  He thus ordered Moore to remove the statue from public grounds (a circuit court agreed with Thompson’s findings).

roy moore for senate 2017Moore ignored the ruling, saying he would not remove the statue even though doing so would cost the citizens of Alabama $5,000 a day (the other state supreme court justices overruled Moore’s decision and moved the statue to a private location).  Refusing to obey the court order from a US judge clearly shows Moore’s contempt for the rule of law.  Because the monument so closely aligned with Moore’s religious beliefs and because the First Amendment prevented him from thrusting his beliefs on Alabama taxpayers, Moore decided that ultimate fealty should be paid to his deity, not to the Constitution he swore to uphold.  Furthermore, Moore revealed that if his personal beliefs told him a superior judge’s ruling fell short, Moore could simply ignore the orders and act as if the law did not apply to him.  He acted lawlessly and with clear disdain for court orders, our judicial system, and the US Constitution.

These actions prompted ethical complaints that culminated in Moore’s forced removal from office as his actions “undercut the entire workings of the judicial system…. What message does that send to the public, to other litigants? The message it sends is: If you don’t like a court order, you don’t have to follow it.”  (He appealed the decision up the state supreme court, but his former peers ruled against him.)

State Supreme Court Justice, Part Two

A decade after his removal, Moore decided to again run for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and, despite his earlier removal for lawless actions and clear contempt for the law when it means curtails his efforts to imperialize his beliefs, Alabamans once again elected him to the post.

roy moore for senate

Moore quickly showed that nothing had changed.  He had learned nothing from his first removal from office.  He hadn’t learned about American history or realized that in American law, we follow the Constitution, not an individual judge’s religion.

Roy Moore: Tyrant of the Bench

After a federal court legalized same-sex marriage across a handful of states, Moore refused to enforce the ruling despite falling below the federal court in the judicial hierarchy and illegally demanded state officials and judges to do the same.  A year later, Moore continued his dereliction of duty by ordering Alabama court judges to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (which legalized same-sex marriage across the country)

The Alabama state supreme court could not overrule the federal court, let alone the US Supreme Court.  Doing so ever so clearly violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”  McCulloch v. Maryland further solidified the supremacy clause and underpins the entire American judicial setup.

A rogue justice cannot stand in the way of court orders regardless of his religious convictions.  Doing so ignores and violates the Constitution and describes a tyrant of the bench.

Second Exit from Office

Later that year, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission submitted a list of six charges of ethical violations by Moore to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.  With Moore suspended, the case proceeded and culminated in recommended removal from office for:

  1. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for disregarding a federal injunction.
  2. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for demonstrated unwillingness to follow clear law.
  3. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for abuse of administrative authority.
  4. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for substituting his judgement for the judgement of the entire Alabama Supreme Court, including failure to abstain from public comment about a pending proceeding in his own court.
  5. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for interference with legal process and remedies in the United States District Court and/or Alabama Supreme Court related to proceedings in which Alabama probate judges were involved.
  6. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for failure to recuse himself from pending proceedings in the Alabama Supreme Court after making public comment and placing his impartiality into question.

Various appeals again provided Moore not hope.  The Alabama supreme court again upheld his term suspension.  Rather than face a second forced removal from office, Roy Moore resigned from his position to run for Senate.

Roy Moore for Senate

Now, Moore easily won first place in the GOP Senate primary’s first round and has a strong chance to win the runoff and likely become Alabama’s next senator.  Somehow, a number of Alabamans think it’s a good idea to vote Roy Moore for Senate despite his decidedly un-American attitudes.  This is a disgrace to the state, the nation, and the rule of law.

Vote Roy Moore for Senate to elect a man whose experiences show such incredible contempt for the law and the Constitution.  Moore, or an individual like him, shouldn’t ever be taken seriously or supported by a single soul.  The Roy Moore for Senate campaign is not one based on American values.  It’s based on Roy Moore’s values.

Moore doesn’t care about the Constitution.  He doesn’t respect the rule of law.  His one loyalty is to religion and, like the colonizers of old, Moore has an imperial attitude wherein his religious theories and beliefs must, at all costs, be thrust upon citizens either through judicial activism or, should the Roy Moore for Senate campaign be successful, intrusively moralistic laws that clearly do not align or follow the Constitution, as Moore should have learned in his two short stints as a justice.

Don’t support Roy Moore for Senate.  Stand for the Constitution and our laws, not the religious delusions of a man inclined towards enforced religious tyranny.

only trump can win

Could Other Republicans Have Beaten Hillary Clinton?

Would Another Republican Have Won?

Townhall recently published a piece entitled “It’s Time for Conservatives to Celebrate This President” (ie, Donald Trump).  The piece itself is utterly ridiculous and advances a number of silly claims that should not be taken seriously by any respectable person.  One of the most ludicrous arguments for why conservatives should celebrate Trump is because only he could have beaten Hillary Clinton.  That’s simply not true.  Here’s why.

Cyclical Politics

Politics is cyclical – since 1952, a party has only held the White House for three consecutive terms one time (Reagan-Reagan-Bush from 1980-1992).  Couple natural “party fatigue” (as it’s called) with relatively slow economic growth (more on that later), and Republicans should have had an easy 2016 election.  
Econometric models, which have historically had a low error rate of error (though they also struggle with open races, as was the case in 2016, tending to overestimate the incumbent party), estimated a generic Republican would receive 51.4% of the major-party vote to a generic Democrat’s 48.6%. 

In reality, Donald Trump won 48.9% of the two-party vote (46.1% overall) and Clinton 51.1% (48.2% overall).  Trump actually under-performed a generic Republican’s expected result by 2.5 percentage points (put another way, President Obama won reelection in 2012 with 51.1% of the popular vote and 332 electoral votes.  A generic Republican in 2016 likely would have done at least as well).  
Trump substantially underperformed a generic Republican because of his deep unpopularity – he was the least popular presidential candidate ever, with Clinton coming in at number.  Someone like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Scott Walker, or even Ted Cruz would likely have had a popularity advantage over Clinton, allowing that candidate to perform in-line with expectations. 

The Trump Coalition

It could be argued that Trump’s unique coalition – winning a substantial share the white working class and driving them out in strong numbers – made his win possible and that of another Republican impossible.  I find that unlikely for two reasons: One, Republican senators running in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania both took “traditional” paths to statewide victory a generic Republican would have emulated; and two, a regular Republican would have maintained the favor of college-educated whites (Trump likely became the first Republican nominee to lose the college white vote) and likely would have improved on Mitt Romney’s 2012 showing among Latinos and African Americans by a greater amount than did Trump. 

To the first point, incumbent senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) both won their states through suburbs, the homes of college-educated whites who traditionally vote Republican but broke for Clinton in 2016.  Wisconsin has always been swing state that Democrats took for granted – President Bush only won by 0.6 percentage points in 2004 – and it had been trending away from the party for a while (see: Scott Walker winning three statewide races in just four years).  Reince Priebus, then RNC chairman, had built a strong party infrastructure ready to turnout votes for any Republican nominee.  Pennsylvania, too, has trended red with Republicans outpacing Democratic voter registration throughout the state, but especially outside of Philadelphia.  In both states, then, a strong nominee – whether with a particular coalition or simply popular – had an understated/estimated chance to break the so-called blue wall.  
With regards to the second point, a Republican candidate with moderate views on immigration (and, to an extent, race) would have fared better with Latinos and African Americans than did Trump.  While neither electoral group resides heavily in swing states as a whole, the propensity of Latinos in Nevada and Florida likely would have tipped both states to a moderate Republican candidate and a respectable showing among African Americans would have kept the Rust Belt competitive.  A moderate candidate also would have kept college-educated whites whose suburban votes have long propelled Republican candidates in swing states.  Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, or Scott Walker all would have done better with this group than did Trump.
For those reasons, I do not buy the argument that only Trump could beat Clinton.  Most Republicans would have been able to do so, and likely with more electoral votes.
kid rock for senate

Kid Rock and Anti-Anti-Trumpism

Kid Rock for Senate?

Conservatism continued descent into intellectual bankruptcy and anti-anti-Trumpism took another step with Kid Rock’s proposed Senate candidacy and the immediate support from the one-time conservative intelligentsia it quickly garnered.

Kid Rock, like Donald Trump, knows nothing of policy, has no political experience, and has no real interest in pushing for legislation or truly working for the public.  As with Trump, Kid Rock surely just wants to benefit himself, either by parlaying a potential Senate campaign into a concurrent marketing gimmick for his forthcoming album or simply enjoying the power and prestige that comes with serving in the Senate.  But that didn’t stop a Townhall writer from immediately embracing Kid Rock and calling for his election:

“The news that Southern-fried rock/rapper Kid Rock will be running for some timeserving Dem hack’s Senate seat in Michigan should make every normal American smile and spill a 40 to his homies. The future Senator Rock deserves your eager support for two critical reasons: First, it will drive the liberals insane. Second, it will make George Will and the rest of Team Fredocon soil themselves.”

This endorsement doesn’t mention policy.  It doesn’t mention how or why the writer thinks Kid Rock will help Michigan voters.  The writer has shown no awe for Kid Rock’s policy know-how and his vision for America.

No, this ringing endorsement arises for one reason: Kid Rock’s anger would anger those who don’t like Trump.


Increasingly, conservatism has fallen from its intellectual bedrock to a coalition of trolls determined to stand against those who oppose the likes of Donald Trump and in favor of policies insofar as they annoy liberals.

This can be seen throughout right-wing media, with outlets such as The Federalist and the National Review, which once warned and stood against Trump, defending the president usually by pointing out liberal reactions or descending to whataboutism (“but what about Hillary and her emails?”) or, always the failsafe, attacking the mainstream “fake news” media.

Fox News is the leading example of anti-anti-Trumpism.  Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson spend the majority of their shows launching diatribes against liberals and their opposition to the president.  They don’t defend Trump’s ideas and policies on their merits – no one has offered a succinct or persuasive defense of Trumpcare – but rather imply that if Trump’s actions anger liberals, they must be good. QED.

This stems from and furthers tribal politics.  Loyalty is to the group (in this case, the Republican Party), not some higher set of principles or to an ideology.  Since Trump leads the tribe, loyalty naturally flows, by and large unquestioningly, to him and as with any tribe, an attack on the leader is attack on them all.  Similarly, any actions taken by Trump that weakens or hurts the other tribe must be good – the Republican, ostensibly conservative, tribe scores a win while the others lose.  Details about the supposed win be damned.

What it means

Such tribalism and a determination to defend the leader by the sheer virtue that the other side so dislikes him obviously hurts the country.  When politicians focus on forcing losses onto the other side, we end up with lousy policy created simply to hurt or anger a subset of the country.  Lawmakers don’t write bills to help the country as a whole; they write them to take away from the opposition.

It also means that we erode the strength of our democratic institutions.  Continually attacking the press because it criticizes the president has undermined faith in an institution that exists to help inform voters and hold politicians accountable for their actions.  Beyond the press, such anti-anti-Trumpism invites absurd candidates to run for office simply because their victory would really irk anti-Trumpers.

Democracy has always suffered from a demagogue problem, but throughout our history, fealty to the Constitution and not a political tribe has prevented such disastrous individuals from attaining power.  Now, that’s not the case: Increased tribalism, party polarization, and geographic sorting have all contributed to a degraded political system that’s susceptible to demagogues who emerge with rhetoric and ideas aimed at identity politics and really bothering the other side.  Since that now counts as a win, the most tribal voters – the most rabid partisans – now have every reason to seek out and support the candidates who will most bother the opposition.

So when populists and potential demagogues such as Kid Rock express interest in running for Senate – the upper chamber of what the Founders hoped would be the first branch among equals; the legislative body whose deliberations and grand oratory once commanded the respect of the nation and the world – rather than laughing at the very idea and condemning the political hobbyist to electoral nothingness, voters and the leaders from whom voters draw cues instead embrace the very idea and hope it will come to fruition because what could be better than angering and upsetting those who stand against you?

How Progressives for Prosperity Hopes to Revolutionize Campaigns

Leading the Push into Digital Campaigning

Traditional campaigns and outside organizations pour millions into television ads, flooding airwaves with positive and negative ads that the highest paid consultants claim sway and mobilize voters.  But campaign and political science research casts doubt on the ability for such ads to actually have a lasting effect on the electorate: Ads rarely have more than a week-long effect – sometimes, depending on campaign intensity, not even that.  Furthermore, such ads are not highly tailored.  Though campaigns claim that big data’s advent allows them to micro-target, the sheer number of individuals watching (or not watching, be it as it may) a given show at a given time renders these ads too broad in scope and with too low a return on investment.  That’s why some organizations are moving away from this traditional campaign method.

Progressives for Prosperity is one such organization.  Founded in 2012, the group has experienced a recent rebirth.  According to its data releases, the group reached more than 10 million voters in the 11 months before election day, all while spending less than $50 on paid media.  Since the election, when it’s doubled down on digital investment and technological development, that number has almost tripled.  The super PAC primarily uses Twitter to reach voters – Twitter, so their president claims, has an “active community of dedicated and passionate individuals who want to make a difference.  By providing a centralized hub for persuasion and mobilization, we can inspire widespread action and political engagement.”

The organization has no large donors.  Its funds, altogether insignificant, come directly from the grassroots.  So far, no donor has given more than $200, a point of pride for the organization as it remains one of the few super PACs that doesn’t “kowtow to the desires of its financial benefactor.”  Donated money, according to Federal Election Commission filings, goes to Twitter ads, though the organization hopes to move into Facebook soon.  Why?  Because doing so “allows us to become part of the voters’ digital lives.  Facebook and Twitter have dedicated user-bases and, through the platforms’ tools, we can micro-target voters based on any number of desired demographics.”

They have a point – Twitter and Facebook have hundreds of millions of users that use the social media sites every day.  And many are activists looking to become further involved in political activity.  Progressives for Prosperity hopes to reach more and more of those voters through its technological developments.  Coders at the group have developed tools to identify, log, and match with other available data – such as vote history and the demographics of their place of residence – with social media users, creating what they hope will be a robust data list that can then be used for persuasion and mobilization.

What’s next for the group?  They’re targeting Georgia’s upcoming special election as its first means of testing its methods and harnessing backlash to President Donald Trump.  It’s finalizing its list of district voters, readying for campaign mobilization that it hopes to “open-source” to other social media users living outside the district but hoping to make competitive a House seat in whose district Hillary Clinton lost by only one percentage point.  Whether they will be successful remains to be determined, but they have high hopes.  “We plan to reach tens of thousands of voters in the run up to the election with both persuasion and mobilization messages.  We also hope to determine a method for gauging our electoral efficacy so we can make amends and changes as we head into the 2017 gubernatorial elections.”

Even if the organization fails to flip the seat, its conclusions from the election will be quite interesting and will hopefully shed light into how campaigns and other organizations can better harness the online world to sway voters and drive them to the polls.  It’s a new world and Progressives for Prosperity hopes to lead the charge into it.