Trump-proofing the Republican nomination process in the future

This post is speculation. It assumes that Trump will lose and lose big in November and that the Republican establishment as defined by a variety of rules committees has the power and the will to institute changes to the Republican primary process to Trump-proof the process.

The easiest way for the Republican Party to Trump-proof itself is to stop lying to its supporters. The Republican Party elite is fundamentally not trustworthy to its base voters. The core example is the promise that a Republican House and a Republican Senate could force President Obama to unwind PPACA while he sat in the White House. That was not going to happen. Trustworthy elites won’t happen as there is too much money to be made from fleecing the rubes. Once we take policy honesty off the table, rule changes are the next step.

Trump is the delegate leader (and presumptive delegate majority holder once the process plays out) with a low proportion of the total vote.

He benefited from a split field and a rules system that allowed factional plurality leaders to amass delegate strength out of proportion to their actual vote counts. Winner take all elections with more than two candidates have this common failure. There were two sets of winner take all elections in this current Republican primary. The first was state level delegates where the winner of a state received a significant bonus number of delegates and then winner take all at the Congressional District level. The Republicans assigned three delegates to each Congressional District without regard to how many Republicans actually lived or voted in that district.

538 has a good example of how this flat allocation of winner take all delegates by district helped Trump:

If Ted Cruz wins by a huge margin in Milwaukee’s suburbs, as expected tonight, he’ll get all three delegates from Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District, which cast 257,017 votes for Mitt Romney in the 2012 general election. But in two weeks, Donald Trump could capture just as many delegates by winning a majority of the vote in New York’s heavily Latino, Bronx-based 15th Congressional District, which cast only 5,315 votes for Romney four years ago.

Three weeks ago, Trump won three times as many delegates — nine — at the Northern Mariana Islands convention, which drew just 471 participants.

This is problem #1. The GOP primary delegation process favors plurality winners and it favors candidates who can win in very low turnout environments. There is a massive variance between the minimum number of votes needed per delegate and the maximum number of votes needed per delegate. Some districts are extremely efficient and some are extremely inefficient places to win. The Republicans treat districts like the Senate treats states. The first rule change would be to scale the delegate award to some measure of Republican vote strength.

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Thanks, Obama!

We’re so used to Republicans blaming President Obama for everything from Ebola to socks disappearing in the dryer that we have a sarcastic shorthand for it: Thanks, Obama! According to Republicans, even their own ignorant, racist, misogynist wrecking ball of a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, is somehow PBO’s fault.

Well! Last night, The Wall Street Journal published what may be the Platonic ideal of this plaintive wail:

Obama’s Greatest Triumph

He is six months away from destroying both the Republican Party and Reagan’s legacy.


Barack Obama will retire a happy man. He is now close to destroying his political enemies—the Republican Party, the American conservative movement and the public-policy legacy of Ronald Reagan.

As wonderful as it would be to credit PBO with skull-fucking Zombie Reagan, it didn’t exactly go down like that. In fact, PBO helpfully warned the Republicans that their oppositional defiant disorder would ultimately bite them on the ass, as Martin “Booman” Longman ably proves in this Washington Monthly column. An excerpt:

The Republicans should have listened to the president’s advice.

They thought they’d get more short-term bang for the buck by encouraging the Tea Party and the Birthers (including Trump). And they did.

And now their long-term reward is “Barack Obama will retire a happy man. He is now close to destroying his political enemies—the Republican Party, the American conservative movement and the public-policy legacy of Ronald Reagan.”

Yep. The whole piece is well worth a read (Longman’s piece, I mean, not Henninger’s).

Still, as gratifying as it is to see all those nasty chickens coming home to roost in the GOP henhouse, it would be foolish to count unhatched chickens in our own coop. I’ll believe the Republican Party is destroyed and Ronald Reagan’s legacy dismantled when I see a stake driven through its fat black heart and not a moment before.

Even so: Thanks, Obama!

Texas, Jake


ETA: Annnnnndddd….always read the fine print.  I was taken in by a fake news story at a parody site.  Mea culpa.

I’ll leave this up as (a) a warning to self not to be an idiot, and (b) as a reminder of how hard it is (at least for me), in this election year of our discontent, to tell the difference between what should be obvious parody, and what is.


I’ll start by saying that no state could withstand a characterization drawn only from its most batsh*t crazy denizens.  So I apologize in advance for painting the great, diverse and fascinating state of Texas with a broad brush.

I’ll also note that it does matter a bit that so many of the most batsh*t insane Texans seem to end up in state government.  What this says about the too many of their fellow citizens* who put them there I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader.

Today’s Texan OMG S/HE SAID WUT???!!!! comes from TX state rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Planet Ten), who’s got a problem with the idea of one particular subset of her fellow double-X Americans doing their ladybusiness in public:

Rep. Debbie Riddle requested that the bill be modified to contain some conditions that not all mothers are going to like. Namely, the modified bill states, among other things, that “only women who possess the breast size C-cup or smaller shall be allowed to breastfeed in public areas.” Asked to comment on the discriminatory clause in the bill, Riddle simply stated, “Nature knows what it’s doing.”

I have to say that I really hope that this is somehow a hoax, that Riddle really didn’t say what she’s reported to said.  Because here’s where she is described as going next:

She also added, “It’s for the greater good. We already have more than enough distractions when walking the streets, and we don’t need this one as well.”


You know that old line, “when you hit bottom, stop digging?”  Riddle apparently does not:

“…everybody knows what happens when a woman with a D-cup size breasts starts breastfeeding her child in the park or on the street. Everybody immediately stops and starts staring.

Riddle also added that“studies have shown that women with bigger breasts are not commonly associated with modest behavior.”


Alright.  If the Texan legislator really did say all that (and more! — check out the link!) I got nuthin.  Or perhaps, as our legal beagle friends might say, res ipsa loquitur.

Ladles and Jellyspoons, have at it.  For me, I despair of the Republic.  Or at least that part of it that gave us the Honorable Riddle.

*Somewhere Rousseau — and Jefferson — are weeping.

Image:  Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Virgin Giving Suck c. 1515


Schvantz Truthers Unite!

Not so very long ago I remember this guy, funny hair, blocky, ungainly posture, brash fantasist — a Noo Yawk equivalent of those our Texan friends describe as All Hat; No Cattle — infesting the green rooms and bloviator sets of Fox News, talking about President Obama’s birthplace and demanding the infamous “Long Form Birth Certificate.”

Well, we’ve got a new controversy now, a puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma:  can the Republican front runner boast masculine sufficiency — or is he a little leaguer, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.*

Given Donald Trump’s distinguished record as a campaigner for truth and unvarnished, unequivocal, impossible-to-falsify empirical evidence on the matter of our current president’s citizenship, there really is only one way forward.

Show us the long form!


Or rather…please don’t.  Not ever.

Or to put this another way:  perhaps the most remarkable thing about the GOP race this year is the way the Republicans have figured out a new and truly innovative way to kill American jobs.  After last night’s debate, any market for political satirists is dead.  Imagine the writer’s room at The Daily Show right now:  why bother with new copy when you can just revoice that transcript?

This thread?  It despairs of our democracy.  And it is open.

Image: Titian, The Rape of Europa, 1560-1562**

*With absolutely no offense intended to those young ‘uns who actually, you know, swing small bats and run around bases.

**A local favorite — check it out at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum should you ever happen to have a moment in Our Faire Citie

When Grown Ups Are In Charge

Here’s President Obama, writing in SCOTUSblog* on what he’ll look for in a Supreme Court nominee (h/t Washington Monthly):

First and foremost, the person I appoint will be eminently qualified.  He or she will have an independent mind, rigorous intellect, impeccable credentials, and a record of excellence and integrity.  I’m looking for a mastery of the law, with an ability to hone in on the key issues before the Court, and provide clear answers to complex legal questions.

Second, the person I appoint will be someone who recognizes the limits of the judiciary’s role; who understands that a judge’s job is to interpret the law, not make the law.  I seek judges who approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice, a respect for precedent, and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.

But I’m also mindful that there will be cases that reach the Supreme Court in which the law is not clear.  There will be cases in which a judge’s analysis necessarily will be shaped by his or her own perspective, ethics, and judgment.  That’s why the third quality I seek in a judge is a keen understanding that justice is not about abstract legal theory, nor some footnote in a dusty casebook.  It’s the kind of life experience earned outside the classroom and the courtroom; experience that suggests he or she views the law not only as an intellectual exercise, but also grasps the way it affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly changing times.  That, I believe, is an essential element for arriving at just decisions and fair outcomes.


Also — just in case you were worrying (I wasn’t and am not) that President Obama might take seriously for a moment any suggestion that he should punt on this choice, here’s all you need to know:

The Constitution vests in the President the power to appoint judges to the Supreme Court.  It’s a duty that I take seriously, and one that I will fulfill in the weeks ahead.

I will so miss this man.

*POTUS blogging FTW!

Image:  David Gilmour Blythe, Justicec. 1860

Aux Armes, Citoyenes!

It’s just being reported that the GOP caucus in the US Senate has decided that Presidenting while Democrat and/or Black is not to be allowed to happen.

That is — the majority party in The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body™ has decided that it will not entertain any piece of President Obama’s nomination for the still dead Scalia’s Supreme Court seat.  Zip, zero, nada, nothing:  no hearing, no vote, no respect for whatever jurist Obama chooses; for Obama himself, obviously; for the office of the President, clearly; and ultimately for the Constitution so many of those prating thugs assert they hold above all else.

To which my response is:


Thank you.

You couldn’t have done a greater service to the Democratic Party’s hopes in November, and thus to the country.

It’s hard usually, as readers of this blog know, to cut through the noise of political blather and the insistent demands of daily life.  But this is one of those moments when stakes and character become clear — enough, I deeply hope, to move the dial in November. Most simply, if there were any enthusiasm gap between the parties, it’s going, going, gone now.

We have two jobs:  for one, elect the Democrat, whoever that may be, to the Presidency.  I’m more a Hillary person than a Bernie one, but I’ll pound the hills of New Hampshire for either one this coming fall, every damn chance I get.

The other:  these embarrassments as Senators must go:  Kirk, Johnson, Toomey, Portman, Ayotte.  The Florida open seat, and as distant hopes, McCain and Burr too.  I’ll be up in New Hampshire (as I may have mentioned a sentence or two ago), pounding the hills for Governor Hassan, every damn chance I get.  If you can get to a race that’s in the balance, do so.  If you can’t, do whatever else you can.

One last thought: I didn’t think that anything the GOP could do — especially an act as predictable as this — would do more than deepen my weary sense of “they are who we thought they were.” But this feels like a last straw. I’m just done with allowing any framing of this as “just politics” or what have you. I and a majority of my fellow citizens voted President Obama into office twice. The disrespect to him is something he can handle (better than I ever would). But it’s the delegitimizing of my vote, my choice, my place in American democracy that has just gotta stop. The current Republican Party has to be destroyed, root and branch. They are blight on policy, and a boil on the body politic. Time for them to go.

The Supreme Court thoughts

Here are a few thoughts on the Supreme Court vacancy as my kids are slowly quieting down for the night.

First, a 4-4 court from a liberal perspective is no worse than the current situation.  Crappy decisions like the DACA decision out of the 5th Circuit will continue to be affirmed.  However the affirmation will be on because the court can not come to a majority decision therefore the appeals court ruling holds only for that circuit and not for the nation.  Questions coming out of liberal rulings in the appeals courts where the four liberal votes are voting to uphold and where there is a conservative swing vote (Kennedy or Roberts most likely) do not change in their outcome as the alignment would be a 5-3  or 6-2 ruling with a clear majority.  The cases where Scalia would have been a member of a five person majority are the cases that are now being tossed back to the appeals courts as unresolved.

As of this year, most of the Appeals circuits including the DC circuit have a Democratic appointed judge majority.  Cases which were granted cert from these circuits and would have been 5-4 reactionary judgments will be kicked back to the circuits.  Those circuits will either have ruled with fairly liberal judges on the initial ruling or if the case was important enough and the randomly selected appeals panel was significantly out of line with the circuit consensus, en banc hearings would have final say.

If there is a long stretch of an 8 member court that can’t decide anything controversial, I predict that there will be a significantly higher number of en banc hearings conducting mini-reversals.  The probability of a Supreme Court bench-slapping goes down dramatically.

Now onto healthcare.  There are only two major healthcare cases on the docket right now.  The first case is a technical discussion as to whether or not ERISA pre-emption regulations prohibit states from requiring self-insured companies from providing data to all payer claims databases.  I don’t know if this was lining up to be a 5-4 decision nor what the configuration would have been.  My preference is that the Supreme Court rules that all payer claims databases can require self-insured companies to submit data without running afoul of ERISA.

The other major healthcare case is the Little Sisters of the Poor et al.   This is a birth control cases for religiously affiliated non-profits that think the mere act of signing a piece paper that states birth control is icky and the damn sluts should have the risk of pregnancy every time they spread their legs is an infringement on their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  This is a continuation of the line of logic that powered Hobby Lobby but it attacks the work-around that a third party administrator pays for birth control instead of the employer sponsor of the plan.  This would have been a priori a 5-4 loss for PPACA and the notion that female reproductive autonomy is between a woman and her doctor.  Now it is most likely a 4-4 case where the appeals courts have been slapping down the argument that the Little Sisters and others are making: signing a piece of paper is too much effort on their part.

As far as nominations, the only scenario where a nominee to the right of Atilla the Hun goes through is if by mid-May early polling and indicators show that the Democrats will most likely hold onto the White House and pick up at least four if not five or six Senate seats in November.  At that point, the calculation could be that from a policy perspective, a Republican majority in the Senate could not get any better than having some say in a nominee instead of seeing a Democratic president nominate a choice constrained by Manchin instead of Grassley and a 51 or 53 vote Democratic Senate effectively say that if the Republicans want to run the Senate like Parliament, then by god they’ll get that.