Electoral Politics

Election 2016 – Breaking

UPDATED 10/25/16 – 4:30 PM CT

Just after I spotted an interesting twist in the statistics underlying my post “Election 2016,” I noted a spate of related items; for example:

Scott Adams, “The Bully Party,” Scott Adams’ Blog, October 25, 2016

Arnold Cusmarlu, “Trump ‘87% Certain’ to Win in November,” American Thinker, October 25, 2016

Jonathan Easley, “War Over Polls Intensifies” (URL tag: are-the-polls-skewed-against-trump), The Hill, October 25, 2016

Steven Hayward, “Michael Moore Voting for Trump?Power Line, October 25, 2016

Jeffrey Lord, “Hillary: Queen of Corruption,” The American Spectator, October 25, 2016

Greg Richards, “Rigging the Election: James O’Keefe’s Third Video,” American Thinker, October 25, 2016

Andrew Grant White, “November 8: Trump +5,” American Thinker, October 25, 2016

It all adds up to this: There’s a good possibility that between now and election day — when most votes are cast despite early voting — growing realization of the corrupt, thuggish, big-spending, authoritarian, and anti-American character of a Clinton regime will turn the tide and lead to a victory by Donald Trump.

As I’ve said many times, the only thing worse than a Trump victory would be a Clinton victory.

Now for the twist that I spotted. There’s a glimmer of hope in the RealClearPolitics (RCP) “poll of polls,” which I adjust so that the various polling results are dated properly. Since October 9, the date of the second Trump-Clinton debate, there’s been a noticeable trend away from Clinton; thus:


The trend line points to a slight edge for Trump by election day, November 8. It’s too soon to take this forecast to the bank, but I’ll update it frequently — and keep my fingers crossed.


Here’s what’s happening with some other indicators that I’m tracking. (You can read about them at “Election 2016.”)


The Reuters poll has been moving toward Trump, while the USC/LA Times has been moving toward Clinton, producing a slight trend toward Trump in the average of the two polls. The RCP 4-way poll has been moving toward Trump since October 14, while the IBD/TIPP poll has begun to move toward Clinton. All in all, it looks like a tightening of the poll results as election day approaches, with a pro-Trump undercurrent, as shown in the first graph.

My Platform

A voting guide published in my local newspaper asks seven questions of the presidential candidates. I list them below, with the answers that I would give were I a candidate for the presidency of the United States.

Question 1: What is your personal statement?

I am sick and tired of the nanny state, which is centered in Washington DC and extends into almost every city, town, and village in America.

Question 2: What are your top three goals?

Economic and social liberty for all Americans; protection of the lives, liberty, and property of innocent Americans; defense of Americans’ legitimate overseas interests.

Question 3: What will you do to support a vibrant economy across the U.S.?

I will send legislative proposals to Congress that will deregulate the economy; eliminate the death tax and corporate income taxes; reduce the central government to its essential and legitimate functions (mainly national defense), and cut taxes accordingly; and phase out all unconstitutional federal programs (which is most of them), beginning with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I will revoke all executive-branch policies that are contrary to the program spelled out in the preceding sentence.

Question 4: What, if any, actions will you support to create a pathway to citizenship?

I will ask Congress to deter illegal immigration by eliminating welfare programs that attract it; to provide the manpower and technical means to prevent, detect, and prosecute illegal immigration; and to establish more stringent citizenship requirements, including demonstrated proficiency in English. I will revoke all executive-branch policies that are contrary to the program spelled out in the preceding sentence.

Question 5: What should government do to provide an equitable, quality public education for all children pre-K through grade 12?

The central government should have no role in the funding of education or in the making of policies related to it. I will make one exception, for liberty’s sake, which is to propose an amendment to the Constitution that would require every State (and therefore the subordinate jurisdictions in every State) to allow parents to choose the schools to which they send their children, and to give vouchers to parents who choose private schools. The value of each State’s voucher would be the average cost of educating a child in grades K-12 in that State. (It would be up to each State to decide how to recover the shares owed by local jurisdictions.)

Question 6: What actions would you support the U.S. undertake to protect its interests abroad?

In view of the rising Russian and Chinese threats to Americans’ overseas interests — and the persistent threat posed by terrorist organizations — I will ask Congress to rebuild the nation’s armed forces, at least to the levels attained as a result of President Reagan’s buildup; to provide for the acquisition of superior, all-source intelligence capabilities; to support a robust research and development program for defense and intelligence systems; and to provide the funding needed to fully man our armed forces with well-trained personnel, and to keep the forces in a high state of readiness for sustained combat operations.

Regarding the use of armed forces, I will act immediately and vigorously to defend Americans’ legitimate overseas interests, which include international commerce around the globe, and to protect resources that directly affect international commerce (e.g., oil-rich regions on land and at sea). As necessary, I will seek the authorization of Congress to conduct sustained combat operations for those purposes.

I will not otherwise use or seek the approval of Congress to use the armed forces of the United States, which are maintained at great cost to Americans for the benefit of Americans. Those forces are not maintained for the purpose of defending countries that refuse to spend enough money to defend themselves, nor to “build nations” or engage in humanitarian operations that have no direct bearing on the safety of Americans or their interests. By the same token, America’s armed forces should be used to help defend nations that attempt to defend themselves and whose defeat would destabilize regions of strategic value to Americans’ interests.

Finally, I will not enter into treaties or agreements of any kind with the leaders of nations whose aim is clearly to undermine Americans’ legitimate economic interests. To that end, I will renounce Barack Obama’s agreement with Iran, his endorsement of the Paris agreement regarding so-called anthropogenic global warming, and all other agreements detrimental to the interests of Americans.

I will further ask to Congress to direct by law that the United States withdraw from the United Nations, which serves mainly as a showplace for regimes hostile to Americans’ constitutional ideals and interests. The U.N. will be given two years in which to remove all of its offices and personnel from the United States. I expect the U.N. to become overtly hostile to the United States when this country has withdrawn from it, but those member states who provoke and finance hostile acts on the part of the U.N. will be held to account, and will not be able to hide behind the false front of the United Nations.

Question 7: What kinds of policies will you pursue to promote social and racial justice for all Americans?

I will nominate judges and executive-branch officials who are demonstrably faithful to the Constitution of the United States, as its various portions were understood when they were ratified or modified through Article V amendments. This will mean the reversal of many judicial and executive actions that are contrary to the moral traditions that underlie the greatness of America, and which have been contravened arbitrarily to serve narrow interests and misguided ideologies. I am especially eager to defend life against those who seek to destroy and defile it, and to see that there is truly “equal protection of the law” by restoring freedom of speech and association where they have been suppressed in the name of equal protection.

Social and moral issues such as same-sex marriage should be decided by the States, and preferably by the people themselves, through the peaceful and voluntary evolution and operation of social norms. Such issues are outside the constitutional purview of the central government.

A Lesson in Election-Rigging

A leading story on yesterday’s NBC evening news broadcast trumpeted an ABC News poll showing Hillary with a 12-point lead over The Donald. It could have been a story about polls in which NBC News participates: The latest NBC News/SM poll gives Clinton an 8-point edge, and the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Clinton up by 10 points. Or it could have been about the latest CBS News poll, which has Clinton leading by 11 points.

Why single out a poll that’s not representative of the world of polling? Why not trumpet the the overall average computed by FiveThirtyEight, a reputable outfit spawned by The New York Times? The answer is that FiveThiryEight‘s consensus forecast gives Clinton only a 6-point edge. (As do I.)

Why do you suppose FiveThirtyEight reports “only” a 6-point edge for Clinton? Because it adjusts for the bias inherent in polls like those conducted by ABC, CBS, and NBC.

And why do you suppose that the three networks conduct and report polls biased in Clinton’s direction, just as they routinely conduct and report polls biased toward Democrats? To ask the question is to answer it.

What better way to rally Clinton voters (and Democrats generally) while discouraging Trump voters (and Republicans generally) than to make a Clinton victory (or any Democrat victory) seem inevitable?

If presidential elections in America are in any sense “rigged,” they’re rigged by the pro-Democrat bias of the mainstream media, which comes through loud and clear on ABC, CBS, and NBC (and others). The bias shows up not only in what stories those networks choose to run and how they report those stories; it also shows up in the polls that they conduct and their reporting on those polls.

Election 2016 Forecast Updated

I have updated my forecast, here, to reflect adjustments in polling data and the addition of an authoritative poll that (surprisingly) favors Trump. Go forth and read.

I won’t update the forecast again unless there’s a significant change. But I will continue to update the underlying statistics, and hold them in readiness.

The Trump Tape

You know the one I mean, and you know what Trump says on it. So I won’t link to it or quote it. What I will do is ask (and try to answer) the crucial question: What happens now?

Specifically, is Trump a goner? Well, there’s evidence that he was already a goner. So what happens now is that a lot of people who were planning to vote for Trump, or who might have voted for him, will switch to Clinton, Johnson, Stein, or “other” — or they simply won’t bother to vote. As a result, there’ll be a lot fewer down-ballot votes for Republicans in other races. Perhaps not enough to give Democrats control of the House, but perhaps enough to give Democrats control of the Senate.

And therein lies the really bad news. If the Dems can muster 50 senators, they will control the Senate because the VP will be a Democrat. And even if the election ends with, say, 52 Republicans in the Senate, it won’t be hard for the Democrats to entice two RINOs to move across the aisle.

You know what will happen to the Supreme Court with Hillary in the White House and her party in control of the Senate. That’s the really bad news.

Would it matter if Trump were to withdraw from the race? As I understand the States’ laws about putting names on ballots, Trump’s name would remain at the top of the GOP ticket. But the party could heavily advertise the idea that the electors from each State nominally won by Trump would instead vote for Pence. (The electors couldn’t be forced to do so, but as party loyalists, I expect that most of them would do so.)

Would that stratagem prevent a lot of voters from switching their votes away from Trump or sitting it out? I doubt it. It’s just too damn sophisticated and uncertain And a lot of voters simply won’t want to associate themselves in any way with Trump. It’s psychological thing. And it will weigh heavily, even in the secrecy of the voting booth.

Bottom line: Trump is toast. Hillary wins (unless there’s a bigger counter-scandal in the wings). Democrats have a good shot at taking control of the Senate. The Supreme Court may then continue to violate the Constitution and march Americans more rapidly down the road to serfdom.

Election 2016

REVISED 10/24/16

This is my fearless forecast of the popular and electoral vote for president, and the balance of power in Congress. It reflects all of the anti-Trump backlash since the release of the infamous tape on October 7 (see this related post), and even some predictable reversion to the mean. But Clinton still seems to have a comfortable lead going into the third debate.

I begin with the popular vote, then use statistical relationships that I’ve derived from past elections to translate the popular vote split into electoral votes and changes in the numbers of House and Senate seats held by Republicans.

My forecast of the popular vote is based partly on the “poll of polls” at RealClearPolitics (RCP), which I’ve adjusted as discussed in this post. The following graph shows the results of 16 polls that have been conducted at least twice since August 1, on well-separated dates:



Only 3 of the 16 polls show a pro-Trump trend. One of them is the credible IBD/TIPP poll (discussed below); the other two are badly out of date. The rest are trending  toward Clinton, some rather sharply.


The daily average, despite its smooth trendline (heavy black line), is an erratic series because it represents a constantly changing mix of polls. I therefore smoothed it by computing a 5-day moving average. The next graph shows the 5-day moving average, which is clustered tightly around the trendline. The moving average starts in mid-September, when polling began in earnest (and coincidentally the pro-Clinton trend began).



The trendline hits +6 for Clinton on the day before election day, which translates to a 53-47 split of the two-party popular vote in Clinton’s favor.

I also consider these four sources, which overlap to some extent with RCP’s poll of polls:

  • the Reuters poll, which is heavily skewed toward Clinton, but which I’ve adjusted to the  account for the likely direction of respondents who now say that they’ll vote for Johnson, Stein, or “other,” or who respond “wouldn’t vote” or “don’t know” (more below)
  • the 4-way poll (Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein) at RealClearPolitics, adjusted to account for likely defections from Johnson and Stein
  • and, for balance, the IBD/TIPP poll, which has a good track record, a high rating from FiveThirtyEight, and is somewhat of an outlier in that  it has Trump ahead (unlike the other three polls and most polls). As with the Reuters and RCP 4-way polls, I’ve adjusted this poll to account for the likely direction of respondents who say that they’ll vote for Johnson, Stein, or “other,” or who respond “not sure.”

Averaging the current popular-vote projections of the four polls (as adjusted), I get a 52-48 split in Clinton’s favor. Thus my forecast:

  • Clinton takes 52 or 53 percent of the two-party popular vote, as against 47 or 48 percent for Trump.
  • Clinton takes 303-353 electoral votes to Trump’s 185-235.
  • If Trump doesn’t lose bigger — a big if — the GOP will lose no more than 6 House seats, retaining a solid majority of at least 241-194, though a loss of as many as 19 seats (for a 228-207 split) isn’t out of the question.
  • And — given the same big if — the GOP might lose only 1 Senate seat, leaving that chamber with 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats (counting the so-called independents as Democrats). However, if the GOP loses 2 or 3 seats to retain a nominal majority, the defection of 1 or 2 RINOs would leave the Senate tied at 50-50. Assuming the very likely event that the vice-president will be a Democrat, his tie-breaking vote would hand control of the Senate to the Democrats.

The following graph covers the Reuters poll, RCP’s 4-way poll, the IBD/TIPP poll, and other indicators that I’m tracking:



The key events represented by vertical black lines are the first Trump-debate on September 26, the release of the infamous “Trump tape” on October 7, the second debate on October 9, and the third debate on October 19.

As with the RCP poll of polls, I plot all of the values against the dates on which polling was conducted, not the dates on which results were released. And in the case of multi-day polling, I use the central date of the polling period. Almost all of the indicators are slightly out-of-date, a fact that one should consider when interpreting the indicators — especially if the race tightens.

The scale for polling results is on the left axis. In addition to the Reuters, RCP 4-way, and IBD/TIPP polls, the graph includes two other polling indicators:

  • an average of the Reuters and USC/LA Times polls, which differ markedly. The average is represented by the vertical gray bars. The vertical height of the bars represents the broad range of uncertainty around polling results, as discussed here. (Note that the points representing recent IBD/TIPP polling results are below the gray bars.)

These additional indicators are measured on the right axis:

  • the Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM) Winner-Take-All (WTA) market, where the IEM WTA line represents the percentage-point spread between the percentage of money bet on Clinton and Trump
  • Rasmussen’s approval index for Obama (percentage of respondents strongly approving of his performance minus the percentage strongly disapproving), which I report because perceptions of Obama’s performance are likely to rub off on Clinton.

In summary: Clinton’s comeback began in mid-September, well before the first debate. She got a boost from the first debate, and probably from the Trump tape. According to the polls, her support has since leveled off, and may have dropped a bit. But she retains a comfortable lead.

As the USC/LA Times and IBD/TIPP polls suggest, there’s still room for doubt that Clinton will handily beat Trump. But I am pessimistic about Trump’s chances — and the balance of power in the Senate. Clinton’s Supreme Court picks will extinguish the last spark of constitutional government.

Should You Vote for a Third-Party Candidate?

Inspired by Brandon Morse’s simple-minded posts at RedState.

If you live in a State where there’s little or no doubt as to which candidate will prevail, your vote doesn’t matter. Your vote for a third-party candidate may make you feel good, but it almost certainly won’t affect the outcome of the election. In fact, a lot of such votes probably won’t affect the outcome of the election. So cast that third-party vote and make your day.

But if you live in a State where the race is likely to be tight, it may matter — especially if there are enough voters who choose to withhold their votes from Trump or Clinton. It mattered in 2000, for example, when the votes cast in for Nader in Florida would have given that State to Gore, who was probably the second choice of most pro-Nader voters.

Consider a voter with a plausible set preferences who lives in a “battleground” State:

  1. You’re a fiscal and social conservative, and you usually vote Republican but can’t stand Trump. Protest votes for a third-party candidate (probably Gary Johnson) will mean fewer votes for Trump, and therefore a boost for Clinton. So protest votes for Johnson (vice Trump) will help Clinton, who cannot possibly be more conservative than Trump on fiscal or social issues.
  2. You’re a fiscal and social liberal, and you usually vote Democrat but can’t stand Clinton. Protest votes for a third-party candidate (probably Jill Stein) will mean fewer votes for Clinton, and therefore a boost for Trump. So protest votes for Stein (vice Clinton) will help Trump, who cannot possibly be more liberal than Clinton on fiscal or social issues.
  3. You’re a middle-of-the-roader who usually votes for the Republican or Democrat who most appeals to you, but you can’t stand Trump or Clinton. Regardless of your distaste for Trump and Clinton, you probably consider one of them to be the lesser of two evils on issues of most importance to you. Protest votes for third-party candidates will help the greater of two evils by reducing the vote count of the lesser of two evils.


  1. Only Trump or Clinton will win the election. No one else has a chance of winning.
  2. If you’re truly indifferent between Trump and Clinton, it doesn’t matter what you do. You can flip a coin to choose between them; you can flip a coin (or two) and choose among the third-party candidates; or you can abstain from voting for a presidential candidate.
  3. But if you’re not truly indifferent between them, if one of them is merely the lesser of two evils, then your vote for someone else (Johnson, Stein, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy) means one less vote for the lesser of two evils. In which case, you’re voting against your own interest because you’re giving an edge to the greater of two evils.

Enough said.

Related post: Economists and Voting

RealClearPolitics’ Misleading “Poll of Polls”


A lot of commentators cite the “poll of polls” at RealClearPolitics.com. You know the one I mean; it looks like this:


The graph is followed by a long list of historical polling results, on which the graph is based. It all looks authoritative. But it’s misleading.

Take the values for September 22, 2016, which show a spread of 2.1 points in favor of Clinton.  However, the values for September 22 represent polling that was done between September 8 and September 21. That’s quite a lag and it badly distorts what’s really happening in the Trump-Clinton race.

So I reconstructed the “poll of polls,” as follows:

  • Assigned a date to each poll that coincides with the central date of the polling period it represents.
  • Computed, for each poll, the spread in favor of (or against) Clinton.
  • Arranged the polls in chronological order, according to central date.
  • Averaged the spreads for polls having the same central date.

Because only one or two polls are assigned to many dates, I added a trendline to emphasize the pattern that emerges from the many polls included in RCP’s “poll of polls.” Here’s a graph of the result, for polls conducted since August 1:


That’s a much more realistic depiction, and it’s consistent with the trends depicted in the first graph of “Election 2016,” a post that you should read for further enlightenment.

The “Shy Trump Supporter” Hypothesis

Scott Adams — the creator of Dilbert — has some thoughts about the “shy Trump supporter” hypothesis:

For starters, we can say with certainty that they exist…. People feel comfortable telling me privately, and also anonymously online, that they hide their Trump support from their spouse and coworkers. So we know they exist. We just don’t know how many.

We know that sometimes robocall surveys and online surveys show more Trump support than human-to-human polling. So that might be an indicator, but we don’t know what other variables are in play.

…I’m guessing some Shy Trump Supporters “park” their votes with Gary Johnson (polling at 9.3%) or Jill Stein (polling at 3.3%).

But I wonder if the Shy Trump supporters are mostly parked with Johnson because of gender (consciously or unconsciously), whereas Stein is more of a real protest vote against Clinton. Anecdotally, Shy Trump Supporters tell me they do park their pre-vote preferences with Johnson….

Then you also have the question of turnout. Trump is clearly generating the most enthusiasm in public appearances. I would think that translates into more new voters….

I predict that 3% of voters are Shy Trump Supporters. As polls continue to tighten, especially in battleground states, that will be enough for an electoral landslide for Trump.

Here’s my take. It’s unlikely that much of Gary Johnson’s support comes from disaffected Democrats. He’s a fiscal-conservative-small-government-is-best candidate. If there are disaffected Democrats who aren’t yet ready to push the button for Clinton — or who never will be ready — they’re in the Jill Stein camp.

Johnson’s support, which is running around 9 percent, is improbably high for a Libertarian candidate. Johnson got 1 percent of the popular vote in 2012. The only Libertarian candidate to do better was Ed Clark in 1980, with 1.1 percent.

What about “respectable” (non-segregationist) third-party upstarts like John Anderson and Ross Perot, who garnered 7 to 19 percent of the popular vote in the elections of 1980, 1992, and 1996? Well, the Libertarian Party isn’t an upstart. It’s been around since the election of 1976, and has never gained traction. Johnson just isn’t making the waves that Anderson and Perot did.

So I believe that Scott Adams is right. A lot of “shy Trump supporters” are claiming that they’ll vote for Johnson, but most of them will vote — if they do vote — for Trump. My evidence? Trump’s standing in Rasmussen’s poll is strongly (r-squared = 0.6) and negatively correlated with Johnson’s standing. As voters decide that they aren’t going to waste votes on Johnson, they’ll turn (mainly) to Trump.

Does that mean a win for Trump on election day? Not necessarily. I’ve run some numbers on the polling relationships to date. Here’s what they imply:

If Johnson’s popular-vote share slips from its current 9 percent to 3 percent on election day — which is 3 times better than his showing in 2012 — Trump would pick up 3 percentage points. On the other hand, if Stein’s support slips from its current 2 percent to 1 percent on election day — 3 times better than her showing in 2012 — Clinton would pick up 0.7 percentage point. So far, so good, for Trump.

But as the “other-undecided” vote shrinks from its present level of 7 percent to 1 percent (a bit higher than in recent elections), Clinton will pick up 5.5 percentage points while Trump picks up only 1.3 percentage point.

Adding it up, there’s a likely gain for Trump of 4+ percentage points and a likely gain for Clinton of 6+ percentage points. Adding those numbers to Rasmussen’s latest results for Trump (39 percent) and Clinton (43 percent) yields something like 43 or 44 percent for Trump and 49 or 50 percent for Clinton.

That’s consistent with the results of another method. Based on trends to date, if Trump and Clinton take 95 percent of the total popular vote (leaving 3 percent for Johnson, 1 percent for Stein, and 1 percent for “other”), Clinton will get 50 percent of the total,  as against 45 percent for Trump. Clinton’s margin of 5 percent exceeds the 3-percent margin of error in Rasmussen’s polling. With 52 or 53 percent of the two-party popular vote (50 percent divided by 95 percent), Clinton would win at least 60 percent of the electoral vote. (In 2012, Obama won 62 percent of  the electoral vote with 52 percent of the two-party popular vote.) So it’s looking good for Clinton.

All of this is predicated on trends over the past several months.  Those trends might continue, allowing Clinton to “run out the clock.” But a major event could change everything. For example, Clinton might have a stroke, Assange might reveal truly damning e-mails, Trump might demolish Clinton in the debates, etc. Those are the “known unknowns.” It’s impossible to list the “unknown unknowns” — but they’re out there.

As I’ve said before, the only thing worse than a Trump victory would be a Clinton victory. There’s a chance that Trump would nominate constitutionalists to the Supreme Court; there’s no chance that Clinton would  do so.

Fascism, Pots, and Kettles

The syllabus for a “course” called Trump 101 is entertaining, especially for this anti-Trump (but not pro-Clinton) reader. But there’s a lot of tailoring in the selections and descriptions thereof to fit the popular view of Trump. Take fascism. Here’s a proper (non-genocidal) definition of fascism, straight from the pen of Benito Mussolini:

Fascism conceives of the State as absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, on to be conceived of in their relation to the State….

The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual. The latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential. The deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone [emphasis added].

Trump, if elected, would fit right into an American political tradition that dates back to Woodrow Wilson, and which is associated with the party of the Clintons. (See, for example, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.) A Democrat calling Trump a fascist is exactly like the pot calling the kettle black.

Individualism, Society, and Liberty

In “How Our Individualism Has Trapped Us in a Welfare State,” Heather Judd has taken a stab at an issue that I’ve pondered for a long time: the tension between individualism and society. Now, by “society” I mean true society:

Society — true society — consists of people who, among other things, agree as to the limits on what one may do. That shared view isn’t imposed by regulation, statute, or judicial decree — though such things will arise from the shared view in a true society. Rather, the shared view arises from the experience of living together and finding the set of customs and prohibitions that yields peaceful, willing coexistence and its concomitant: beneficially cooperative behavior. Liberty, in other words.

“The experience of living together and finding” a common “set of customs and prohibitions” seems consistent with Judd’s view of society, which she calls “an organized group of people sharing a common culture.” Judd doesn’t directly address the libertarian aspect of true society, but the thrust of her essay points in that direction. She laments the fact that

[c]ultural individualization has…cornered us into a welfare state mentality from which we cannot escape unless we replace our concept of a society of individuals with something more ordered and interconnected.

Toward the end of her essay she puts it this way:

Living together in isolation is not a sustainable social model. So long as we continue to think of the individual as the basic unit of society, our progression toward the disenchanted welfare state will continue, even while no amount of socialized government intervention will provide the human cohesion we need.

Judd’s view is that family is the backbone of society. And the drift away from families to individuals is destroying that backbone, which must be reconstructed. In her words,

government is incapable of buttressing our crumbling human connections. That task must start with rebuilding individuals into families and families into society. Like every great undertaking, the process will be slow and require sacrifice, but the recompense will be not only a healthy and sustainable society, but also, paradoxically, a stronger sense of our individual identity as we reconnect with other human beings.

I think she’s right about the breakdown of family, but her vague exhortation at the end leaves me wondering what can actually be done about it And even if there were some restoration of the family on a relatively large scale, I don’t think it would do much to alleviate the fragmentation of the United States, which has never been a society in the true meaning of the word.

Why have family ties loosened and broken? The answer, in two words: prosperity and mobility. Even without the welfare state (and despite it), a large fraction of the populace can afford to buy things like housing and elder-care that until World War II were often provided by families.

Greater mobility goes hand in hand with greater prosperity; the expansion of economic activity has been both intensive and extensive. Modern people are no different than their hunter-gatherer forbears; they go where their labors earn greater rewards. And in doing so they leave behind grandparents, parents, and siblings — most of whom are prosperous enough to fend for themselves. American families have been drifting apart for many generations. The drift was masked to some extent by the influx of European immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s, whose strong bonds were forged by economic necessity and mutual self-defense against xenophobic natives. But those bonds, too, have dissolved to the point that the exceptions (e.g., Amish and Hasidic communities) are notable for their rarity. And so it will be with the Hispanic immigration of recent decades, though economic necessity and ethnic differences probably will bind Hispanic immigrants far longer than they bound European ones.

So I don’t see the restoration of the family as likely — barring another World War II or Great Depression. Nor do I see the restoration of the family as necessary to the demotion of the welfare state. The welfare state does feed on individualism, but it also feeds on widespread economic ignorance and the cupidity of politicians and bureaucrats.

Economic ignorance abets cupidity, in that politicians and bureaucrats are able to feed their power-lust and line their pockets because most Americans have no grasp of the huge economic cost of the welfare state — or more accurately, the regulatory-welfare state. If the regulatory-welfare state is to be contained and diminished by electoral means, a huge number of Americans must be convinced of its exorbitant cost in dollars and liberty.

One might as well try to melt an iceberg with a hair dryer. Only a minority of economists understands or is willing to admit the dire economic consequences of the regulatory-welfare state, and only a minority of constitutional scholars understands or is willing to admit the anti-libertarian consequences of the regulatory-welfare state. More importantly — because only a small fraction of Americans is aware of what those “fringe” economists and constitutional scholars say — relatively few politicians and pundits on the national stage understand, agree with, and accurately relay those views to Americans. For every Ted Cruz there are probably two or three Bernie Sanderses.

To repeat the themes of recent posts, leftists are ruthless and they have the rhetorical advantage over principled politicians because they are very good at promising things without knowing or caring about the economic and social costs of what they promise. Their appeal to Mr. and Ms. Average and Below-Average — which is most Americans — rests on envy. Leftists are always on the lookout for privilege, which they promise to uproot:

Privilege…implies that the possessors of certain positive attributes (high intelligence, good looks, high income, access to political power) have come by those things undeservedly, and even at the expense of those who lack them: the underprivileged. [Leftists] believe implicitly in a state of nature wherein everyone would have equal endowments of intelligence, looks, etc., if only it weren’t for “bad luck.” [Leftists] believe it necessary to use the power of government to alleviate (if not eliminate) unequal endowments and to elevate the “victims” of inequality.

If you were Mr. or Ms. Average or Below-Average, would you willingly sacrifice the (illusory) prosperity of the regulatory-welfare state and reject its promise of making everyone a winner? What’s more disheartening — but unsurprising given the state of political discourse — is that  Mr. and Ms. Above-Average are not only reluctant to abandon the regulatory-welfare state, but are its staunchest proponents.

In sum, individualism is here to stay, regardless of what happens to the regulatory-welfare state, unless there is a return to the dire days of 1930-1945. And even then, the regulatory-welfare state is here to stay, unless there is a negotiated partition of the country, a (successful) secession movement, or a coup by liberty-loving patriots.

I’m sorry, but that’s the way it looks from here.

About Those High-Ranking Shills

In the midst of a funny post about the likely failure of an attempted military coup to keep Obama in office, Kurt Schlichter makes this observation:

The problem for Obama is that a significant portion of the most important element, the military, has nothing but contempt for him.

That does not include the military’s senior leadership. The sorry spectacle of senior officers slavishly going along with troop-imperiling idiocy like transsexual integration instead of throwing their stars on the table and walking out is a disgrace. So a significant number of generals would be intimidated into doing whatever Obama asks – if they can’t tell him that “No, America’s greatest strategic challenge is not slightly warmer weather,” then they haven’t the intestinal fortitude to tell him “No, I’m not putting a mech battalion on Capitol Hill.”

As I’ve pointed out before (e.g., here), a pro-liberty coup is unlikely, even if it might be the only way of restoring liberty to the land:

Military personnel (careerists, in particular) are disciplined, have direct access to the tools of power, and many of them are trained in clandestine operations. Therefore, a cadre of properly motivated careerists might possess the wherewithal necessary to seize power. But a plot to undertake a coup is easily betrayed. (Among other things, significant numbers of high-ranking officers are shills for the regulatory-welfare state.) And a coup, if successful, might deliver us from a relatively benign despotism into a decidedly malign despotism.

But unless there is a negotiated partition of the country — perhaps in response to a serious secession movement — a coup is probably the only hope for the restoration of liberty under a government that is true to the Constitution.

The alternative is a continuation of America’s descent into despotism, which — as many Americans already know — is no longer the “soft” despotism foreseen by Tocqueville.

It shouldn’t be surprising that many high-ranking officers become shills for the regulatory-welfare state. Military life demands a high degree of conformity, and academy graduates are drilled in conformity from the moment that they become plebes. And from then until they die, they are paid employees and pensioners of the state.

It takes great strength of character for a careerist to distinguish between the real Constitution that he is sworn to uphold and the statist dogmas that have replaced it. I have known such persons. But I have known, and know of, too many of the other kind — the line-toers and authority-fetishists whose allegiance is to a “system” and not to liberty.

Society, Polarization, and Dissent

One definition of liberty is the “right or power to act as one chooses.” This seems to be the usual view of the matter. But it should be obvious that liberty depends on restraint. Acting as one chooses covers a lot of ground, including acts that prevent others from doing as they choose (e.g., murder and fraud). Liberty is therefore a matter of mutual restraint, where there are agreed limits on what one may do.

Society — true society — consists of people who, among other things, agree as to the limits on what one may do. That shared view isn’t imposed by regulation, statute, or judicial decree — though such things will arise from the shared view in a true society. Rather, the shared view arises from the experience of living together and finding the set of customs and prohibitions that yields peaceful, willing coexistence and its concomitant: beneficially cooperative behavior. Liberty, in other words.

Some of the customs and prohibitions of a society will seem arbitrary and foolish to an outsider. But it is the observance of those customs and prohibitions that binds a people in mutual trust and respect. Peaceful, willing coexistence and beneficially cooperative behavior depend on mutual trust and respect.

Customs are positive acts — the ways in which people are expected to comport themselves and behave toward each other. A good example is the degree to which emotion is openly expressed or suppressed, which varies from the reserve of Japanese to the exuberance of Italians. Consistent failure to observe a society’s customs brands one as an outsider, someone who isn’t to be trusted. Such a person will find it hard to make more than a menial living, and is unlikely to have friends other than renegades like himself.

Strict prohibitions are like those found in the last six of the Ten Commandments: do not dishonor your parents; don’t commit murder, adultery, or theft; don’t lie maliciously; and don’t covet what others have. (The last of these is dishonored regularly by “social justice warriors” who liken redistribution by force to Christian charity.) The violation of prohibitions calls for prosecution by those who have been entrusted by society to enforce its norms. Punishments — which will range from execution to public shaming — are meant not only to punish wrong-doing but also deter it. Rehabilitation is the responsibility of the wrong-doer, not society.

The United States has long since ceased to be anything that resembles a society. And therein lies the source of political polarization. Governance is no longer based on shared customs and a common morality that arise from eons of coexistence. Governance and the rules on which it is based are imposed from outside of society. Those who use “society” when they mean government are ignorant and evasive.

Those of us who remember something that resembled a society bitterly resent the outsiders within (to coin a phrase) who seek to impose on everyone their version of customs and morals. It is a corrupt version that has no roots in society; it is meant, instead, to destroy what is left of it.

The path to total destruction began in the late 1800s, with the rise of the Progressive movement. Progressivism then and now is corrupt at its core because it seeks to replace the evolved social, economic, and political order with “science.” Scratch a Progressive and you find a fascist with an agenda to be imposed by the force of government.

What is the legacy of Progressivism? This:

  • the income tax and Social Security, which together with a vast regulatory regime (also a product of Progressivism) enable the central government to control the economy
  • direct election of Senators, which robbed the States of a check on the actions of the central government
  • the Federal Reserve System, which helped to bring about the Great Depression, the Great Recession, and several other economic downturns
  • public education indoctrination by psychobbable-spouting leftists
  • identity politics
  • persecution and prosecution of business success (a.k.a. antitrust action)
  • control of the production of food and drugs, with consequences ranging from wasteful labeling regulations to murderous delays in the approval of medications
  • abortion
  • Prohibition (the only Progressive “reform” to have been rescinded)
  • left-wing economic theories (income redistribution, pump-priming)
  • the theft of private property and deprivation of freedom of contract through the empowerment of labor unions, which inevitably became thuggish.

There’s more, but that’s enough to bring down any civilization. And it has.

Perhaps — because of population growth and economic and political ambition — it was inevitable that America would be transformed from a collection of interlocking societies into a vast geopolitical entity ruled by Progressives and their intellectual heirs. But whatever the causes, the transformation is almost complete…

Except for those Americans who do remember something like a true society, those Americans who know instinctively what a true society would be like, and those Americans who want to preserve the bits of true society that haven’t yet been destroyed by the fascists in Washington, their enablers in the media and academia, and their dependents throughout the land.

That’s the real polarization in America. (As opposed to the false one between leftists at one pole and faux conservatives, who simply want to move left at a slower pace.) And the polarization will not end as long as dissent remains alive.

Which is why the left is killing dissent. First they came for the students; then they came for the Christians; then…

Independence Day 2016: The Way Ahead

Prudence…will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations…reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.… [A]nd such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history…is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

Declaration of Independence
(In Congress. July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration
of the thirteen united States of America)

*      *      *

It is fitting, in this summer of discontent, to be faced with a choice between the spiritual descendants of P.T. Barnum and Lady Macbeth. Washington, Jefferson, and Madison are spinning in their graves, at high velocity.

The candidacies of Trump and Clinton are symptoms of the looming demise of liberty in the United States. There hasn’t been a candidate since Ronald Reagan who actually understood and believed that Americans would be freer and therefore more prosperous if the central government were contained within the four corners of the Constitution. (And even Reagan had a soft spot in his heart for Social Security.) Nevertheless, it is appalling but unsurprising that liberty’s end is in sight just 27 years after Reagan left office.

What went wrong? And how did it go wrong so quickly? Think back to 1928, when Americans were more prosperous than ever and the GOP had swept to its third consecutive lopsided victory in a presidential race. All it took to snatch disaster from the jaws of delirium was a stock-market crash in 1929 (fueled by the Fed) that turned into a recession that turned into a depression (also because of the Fed). The depression became the Great Depression, and it lasted until the eve of World War II, because of the activist policies of Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, which suppressed recovery instead of encouraging it. There was even a recession (1937-38) within the depression, and the national unemployment rate was still 15 percent in 1940. It took the biggest war effort in the history of the United States to bring the unemployment rate back to its pre-depression level.

From that relatively brief but deeply dismal era sprang a new religion: faith in the central government to bring peace and prosperity to the land. Most Americans of the era — like most human beings of every era — did not and could not see that government is the problem, not the solution. Victory in World War II, which required central planning and a commandeered economy, helped to expunge the bitter taste of the Great Depression. And coming as it did on the heels of the Great Depression, reinforced the desperate belief — shared by too many Americans — that salvation is to be found in big government.

The beneficial workings of the invisible hand of competitive cooperation are just too subtle for most people to grasp. The promise of a quick fix by confident-sounding politicians is too alluring. FDR became a savior-figure because he talked a good game and was an inspiring war leader, though he succumbed to pro-Soviet advice.

With war’s end, the one-worlders and social engineers swooped on a people still jittery about the Great Depression and fearful of foreign totalitarianism. (The native-born variety was widely accepted because of FDR’s mythic status.) Schools and universities became training grounds for the acolytes of socialism and amoral internationalism.

Warren Henry is right when he says that

progressivism is…broadly accepted by the American public, inculcated through generations of progressive dominance of education and the media (whether that media is journalism or entertainment). Certainly Democrats embrace it. Now the political success of Donald J. Trump has opened the eyes of the Right to the fact that Republicans largely accept it….

Republicans have occasionally succeeded in slowing the rate at which America has become more progressive. President Reagan was able to cut income tax rates and increase defense spending, but accepted tax increases to kick the can on entitlements and could not convince a Democratic Congress to reduce spending generally. Subsequent administrations generally have been worse. A Republican Congress pressured Bill Clinton into keeping his promise on welfare reform after two vetoes. He did so during a period when the end of the Cold War and the revenues from the tech bubble allowed Washington to balance budgets on the Pentagon’s back. Unsurprisingly, welfare reform has eroded in the ensuing decades.

Accordingly, the big picture remains largely unchanged. Entitlements are not reformed, let alone privatized. To the contrary, Medicare was expanded during a GOP administration, if less so than it would have been under a Democratic regime…. Programs are almost never eliminated, let alone departments.

The Right also loses most cultural battles, excepting abortion and gun rights. Notably, the inroads on abortion may be due as much to the invention and deployment of the sonogram as the steadfastness of the pro-life movement. Otherwise, political and cultural progressivism has been successful in their march through the institutions, including education, religion, and the family.

Curricula increasingly conform to the progressive fashions of the moment, producing generations of precious snowflakes unequipped even to engage in the critical thinking public schools claim to prioritize over an understanding of the ages of wisdom that made us a free and prosperous people. Church membership and attendance continues their long-term decline. A country that seriously debated school prayer 30 years ago now debates whether Christians must be forced to serve same-sex weddings.

Marriage rates continue their long-term decline. Divorce rates have declined from the highs reached during the generation following the sexual revolution, but has generally increased over the course of the century during which progressivism has taken hold (despite the declining marriage rate). Those advocating reform of the nation’s various no-fault divorce laws are few and generally considered fringe.

There’s more, but disregard Henry’s reification of America when he should write “most Americans”:

Meanwhile, America has voted for decade after decade of tax-and-spend, borrow-and-spend, or some hybrid of the two. If the white working class is now discontented with the government’s failure to redress their grievances, this is in no small part due to the ingrained American expectation that government will do so, based on the observation that government typically hungers to increase government dependency (not that the white working class would use these terms).…

In sum, while it is correct to note that elites are not doing their jobs well, it is more difficult to conclude that elites have not been responding to the political demands of the American public as much as they have driven them.…

The presidential nominees our two major parties have chosen are largely viewed as awful. But Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump offer two slightly different versions of the same delusion: that progressivism works, if only the elites were not so stupid. This delusion is what most Americans currently want to believe.

Sad but disastrously true. Dependency on government has become deeply ingrained in the psyche of most Americans. As Timothy Taylor points out,

[g]overnment in the United States, especially at the federal level, has become more about transfer payments and less about provision of goods and services.…

[There has been an] overall upward rise [of transfer payments] in the last half-century from 5% of GDP back in the 1960s to about 15% of GDP in the last few years….

The political economy of such a shift is simple enough: programs that send money to lots of people tend to be popular. But I would hypothesize that this ongoing shift not only reflects voter preferences, but also affect how Americans tend to perceive the main purposes of the federal government. Many Americans have become more inclined to think of federal budget policy not in terms of goods or services or investments that it might perform, but in terms of programs that send out checks.

What lies ahead? Not everyone is addicted to government. There are millions of Americans who want less of it — a lot less — rather than more of it. Here, with some revisions and an addition, are options I spelled out three years ago:

1. Business as usual — This will lead to more and more government control of our lives and livelihoods, that is, to less and less freedom and prosperity (except for our technocratic masters, of course).

2. Rear-guard action — This option is exemplified by the refusal of some States to expand Medicaid and to establish insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. This bit of foot-dragging doesn’t cure the underlying problem, which is accretion of illegitimate power by the central government. Further, it can be undone by fickle voters and fickle legislatures, as they succumb to the siren-call of “free” federal funds.

3. Geographic sorting — The tendency of “Blue” States to become “bluer” and “Red” States to become “redder” suggests that Americans are sorting themselves along ideological lines. As with rear-guard action, however, this tendency — natural and laudable as it is — doesn’t cure the underlying problem: the accretion of illegitimate power by the central government. Lives and livelihoods in every State, “Red” as well as “Blue,” are controlled by the edicts of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the central government. There is little room for State and local discretion. Moreover, much of the population shift toward “Red” must be understood as opportunistic (e.g., warmer climates, right-to-work laws) and not as an endorsement of “Red” politics.

4. Civil disobedience — Certainly called for, but see options 5, 6, and 7.

5. Underground society and economy — Think EPA-DOL-FBI-IRS-NSA, etc., etc., and then dismiss this as a serious option for most Americans.

6. The Benedict Option, about which Bruce Frohnen writes:

[Rod] Dreher has been writing a good deal, of late, about what he calls the Benedict Option, by which he means a tactical withdrawal by people of faith from the mainstream culture into religious communities where they will seek to nurture and strengthen the faithful for reemergence and reengagement at a later date….

The problem with this view is that it underestimates the hostility of the new, non-Christian society [e.g., this and this]….

Leaders of this [new, non-Christian] society will not leave Christians alone if we simply surrender the public square to them. And they will deny they are persecuting anyone for simply applying the law to revoke tax exemptions, force the hiring of nonbelievers, and even jail those who fail to abide by laws they consider eminently reasonable, fair, and just.

7. A negotiated partition of the country — An unlikely option (discussed in this post and in some of the posted linked to therein) because, as discussed in option 6, “Blue” will not countenance the loss of control over millions of lives and livelihoods.

8. Secession — This is legal and desirable — as long as the New Republic of free states is truly free — but (a) it is likely to be met with force and therefore (b) unlikely to attract a critical mass of States.

9. Coup — Suggested several years ago by Thomas Sowell:

When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.

Glenn Reynolds, who is decidedly anti-coup, writes

that the American Constitution, along with traditional American political culture in general, tends to operate against those characteristics, and to make the American polity more resistant to a coup than most. It is also notable, however, that some changes in the Constitution and in political culture may tend to reduce that resistance….

The civics-book statement of American government is that Congress passes laws that must be signed by the president (or passed over a veto), and that those laws must be upheld by thejudiciary to have effect. In practice, today’s government operates on a much more fluid basis, with administrative agencies issuing regulations that have the force of law – or, all too often, “guidance” that nominally lacks the force of law but that in practice constitutes a command – which are then enforced via agency proceedings.…

[I]t seems likely that to the extent that civilians, law enforcement, and others become used to obeying bureaucratic diktats that lack a clear basis in civics-book-style democratic process, the more likely they are to go along with other diktats emanating from related sources. This tendency to go along with instructions without challenging their pedigree would seem to make a coup more likely to succeed, just as a tendency to question possibly unlawful or unconstitutional requirements would tend to make one less likely to do so. A culture whose basis is “the law is what the bureaucrats say it is, at least unless a court says different,” is in a different place than one whose starting impulse is “it’s a free country.”…

[P]ersistent calls for a government-controlled “Internet kill switch”49 – justified, ostensibly, by the needs of cyberdefense or anti-terrorism – could undercut that advantage [of a decentralized Internet]. If whoever controlled the government could shut down the Internet, or, more insidiously, filter its content to favor the plotters’ message and squelch opposition while presenting at least a superficial appearance of normality, then things might actually be worse than they were in [Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey’s Seven Days in May, which imagined an attempted coup by a Curtis LeMay-like general].…

[T]he most significant barrier to a coup d’etat over American history has probably stemmed simply from the fact that such behavior is regarded as un-American. Coups are for banana republics; in America we don’t do that sort of thing. This is an enormously valuable sentiment, so long as the gap between “in America” and “banana republics” is kept sufficiently broad. But it is in this area, alas, that I fear we are in the worst shape. When it comes to ideological resistance to coups d’etat, there are two distinct groups whose opinions matter: The military, and civilians. Both are problematic….

[T]here are some troubling trends in civilian/military relations that suggest that we should be more worried about this subject in the future than we have been in the past…

Among these concerns are:

  • A “societal malaise,” with most Americans thinking that the country was on “the wrong track.”
  • A “deep pessimism about politicians and government after years of broken promises,” leading to an “environment of apathy” among voters that scholars regard as a precursor to a coup.
  • A strong belief in the effectiveness and honor of the military, as contrasted to civilian government.
  • The employment of military forces in non-military missions, from humanitarian aid to drug interdiction to teaching in schools and operating crucial infrastructure.
  • The consolidation of power within the military – with Congressional approval – into a small number of hands….
  • A reduction in the percentage of the officer corps from places outside the major service academies.…
  • A general insulation of the military from civilian life…. “Military bases, complete with schools, churches, stores, child care centers, and recreational areas, became never-to-be-left islands of tranquility removed from the chaotic crime-ridden environment outside the gates…. Thus, a physically isolated and intellectually alienated officer corps was paired with an enlisted force likewise distanced from the society it was supposed to serve [quoting from an essay by Charles J. Dunlap, “The Origins Of The American Military Coup of 2012,” Parameters, Winter, 1992-93, at 2]….

[D]istrust in the civilian government and bureaucracy is very high. A 2016 Associated Press/National Opinion Research Center poll found that more than 6 in 10 Americans have “only slight confidence – or none at all” that the federal government can successfully address the problems facing the nation. And, as the AP noted, this lack of confidence transcends partisan politics: “Perhaps most vexing for the dozen or so candidates vying to succeed President Barack Obama, the poll indicates widespread skepticism about the government’s ability to solve problems, with no significant difference in the outlook between Republicans and Democrats.”

As a troubling companion to this finding, the YouGov poll on military coups…also found a troubling disconnect between confidence in civilian government and confidence in the military: “Some 71% said military officers put the interests of the country ahead of their own interests, while just 12% thought the same about members of Congress.” While such a sharp contrast in views about civilian government and the military is not itself an indicator of a forthcoming coup, it is certainly bad news. Also troubling are polls finding that a minority of voters believes that the United States government enjoys the consent of the governed.63 This degree of disconnection and disaffection, coupled with much higher prestige on the part of the military, bodes ill.

Or well, if you believe that a coup is the only possible salvation from despotism.

Military personnel (careerists, in particular) are disciplined, have direct access to the tools of power, and many of them are trained in clandestine operations. Therefore, a cadre of properly motivated careerists might possess the wherewithal necessary to seize power. But a plot to undertake a coup is easily betrayed. (Among other things, significant numbers of high-ranking officers are shills for the regulatory-welfare state.) And a coup, if successful, might deliver us from a relatively benign despotism into a decidedly malign despotism.

But unless there is a negotiated partition of the country — perhaps in response to a serious secession movement — a coup is probably the only hope for the restoration of liberty under a government that is true to the Constitution.

The alternative is a continuation of America’s descent into despotism, which — as many Americans already know — is no longer the “soft” despotism foreseen by Tocqueville.

*      *      *

Related posts (in addition to those linked to throughout this one):
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
A Declaration of Independence
A Declaration of Civil Disobedience
The States and the Constitution
And many more here

Big Losers and Donald Trump

Republican William Howard Taft lost his bid for re-election in 1912 to Democrat Woodrow Wilson , thanks to the candidacy of former Republican president Theodore Roosevelt, who ran on the Progressive ticket. Because of TR’s entry into the race, Taft won only 23 percent of the popular vote (he took 52 percent in the election of 1908), against Wilson’s 42 percent and TR’s 35 percent. Taft’s reverse coattails helped the GOP lose ground in the House and Senate. The GOP, which had won 41 percent of House seats in the election of 1910, dropped to 31 percent in 1912. And in the Senate the GOP went from 54 percent to 46 percent.

The next big loser was Democrat James Cox, who took only 34 of the popular vote in 1920, while Republican Warren G. Harding took 60 percent. With Harding’s big win, the GOP ran its House majority from 55 percent to 69 percent, and its Senate majority from 51 percent to 61 percent.

Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt won re-election in 1936 with 61 percent of the popular vote. FDR’s Republican opponent, Alfred Landon, won only 37 percent. The GOP’s share of House seats dropped from 24 percent to 20 percent. In the Senate, the GOP went from 26 percent to 17 percent. Both results are low-water marks for Republican representation in Congress.

Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson duplicated FDR’s feat by winning in 1968 with 61 percent of the popular vote. Republican Barry Goldwater garnered only 38 percent. The GOP’s shares of House and Senate dropped by 8 percentage points (from 40 percent to 32 percent) and 2 percentage points (from 34 percent to 32 percent).

Republican Richard Nixon won re-election in 1972, taking 61 percent of the popular vote to Democrat George McGovern’s 38 percent. Nixon’s win led to a mild GOP resurgence in the House, from 41 percent to 44 percent. But the GOP lost ground in the Senate, dropping from 45 percent to 43 percent.

The  most recent election that resembled a landslide victory was in 1984, when Republican Ronald Reagan won re-election with 59 percent of the popular vote. Democrat Walter Mondale managed 41 percent. Reagan’s big win helped the GOP increase its share of House seats from 38 percent to 42 percent. But the Senate went the other way, with the GOP share dropping from 55 percent to 53 percent.

It seems that ticket-splitting has become more usual. And that’s a good thing if, as expected, Donald Trump loses to Hillary Clinton in November. It doesn’t seem, as of now, that Trump will be a loser on the scale of Taft, et al., but a loser nonetheless (in two meanings of loser). The only thing that will keep Trump from joining the really big losers is the identity of his opponent, who in saner times would already be in jail — with her husband.

There’s still hope that the Republican convention will yield a nominee other than Trump, but that’s a faint hope at this point.

Now for Texit, and More

Unless the parliament of the so-called United Kingdom double-crosses the majority of English, Welsh, Scottish, and Northern Irish voters who approved Brexit, the UK will officially withdraw from the European Union. That’s good news for those of us who oppose dictatorship by distant bureaucrats.

There’s a parallel movement known as Texit, which is dedicated to the secession of Texas from the union known as the United States. Some backers of Texit believe wrongly that the Treaty of Annexation which made Texas a State has an escape clause. It doesn’t, but secession is nevertheless legal, not only for Texas but for all States.

It is telling — and encouraging — that even Donald Trump, the non-conservative and weak prospective GOP nominee, seems likely (at this date) to win the electoral votes of 20 States. In numbers there is strength. A secession movement would have a greater chance of success if it encompassed several States.

Sign me up.

Can Trump Win in November?

Standing back (way back) from Donald Trump — the physically repellent, serial adulterer, misogynist, liar, braggart, flip-flopper, xenophobic race-panderer, economic illiterate Donald Trump — I will here attempt to assess Trump’s electability.

For both major parties, 2016 is somewhat of a rerun of 2008, with hotly contested primaries and no incumbent in the race. It’s due to Trump that the total popular vote in GOP primaries is up by about 50 percent over 2008; whereas, the total popular vote in Democrat primaries is down by about a third over 2008. So, Trump has that going for him, out of the gate.

A lot of the extra GOP votes probably have been cast by disenchanted working-class Democrats in search of “equal treatment.” But so what? There are a lot more of them than there are disenchanted middle-and-upper-middle-class-small-government Republicans. And will all of those disenchanted middle-and-upper-middle-class-small-government Republicans vote for Hillary? A few might, but most of them will hold their noses, vote for Trump, and hope for the best. Those who don’t do that will just skip the top of the ticket and vote for down-ticket GOP candidates.

What about Bernie’s supporters, many of whom will be royally ticked-off by the Democrat Party’s cornonation of Queen Hillary? Bernie’s bunch will divide this way (though in what proportions I can’t say): Stay home, vote for Hillary, vote for Trump. This will prove to be a net gain for Trump.

What about women? Trump has lost the Democrat women’s vote, and maybe some of the GOP women’s vote. But the former doesn’t change anything, and the latter is probably small change relative to Trump’s gains  among working-class and middle-class men who are aggrieved about something (e.g., illegal immigration, same-sex “marriage,” higher health-insurance premiums due to Obamacare, Obama’s spineless foreign policy, and favoritism toward various “protected” groups, including feminazis).

Do those men care especially about Trump’s actual (if elusive) positions on various issues? Not really. He’s already shaped his image as the protest candidate who doesn’t like whiners (that’s what his “anti-protestor’ stance signifies). That image will stick to him for the next six months. And, to repeat, he’ll attract a goodly number of Bernie’s supporters, those who simply want to register their protest about something. (UPDATE 05/10/16: See “Over Four in 10 Sanders Voters in West Virginia Would Vote for Trump.”)

Perceptions: That’s what this election — like most others — is about. Trump has proved himself a master of the perception that he’s for the neglected “little guy.” A lot of people see themselves as the neglected “little guy” these days.

I used to expect Trump to lose in a landslide. I’m less certain of that now. (See these plausible scenarios for a Trump win, and this summary of anti-GOP bias in some prominent polls.) I’ll be keeping an eye on Rasmussen’s poll and the trend at RealClearPolitics.com.

Kasich, the Man in the Middle

Trump’s closing in on the nomination, but Rubio’s out, which is probably better for Cruz than for Trump. (If all of Rubio’s votes had gone to Cruz in today’s primaries, Cruz would have won North Carolina and Missouri, and tied Illinois.)

What happens if Rubio’s departure prevents Trump from amassing a majority of delegates before the GOP convention? A movement toward Kasich as a compromise between Trump and Cruz? I wouldn’t rule it out. In fact, it’s probably what Kasich has been hoping for all along.

For a lot of people, a Kasich-Clinton election would be much more palatable than a Trump-Clinton election. I would even vote for Kasich, RINO that he is on many issues — just to vote against Clinton. But I could never bring myself to vote for Trump if he were running against the Devil.

Food for thought.

P.S. Another scenario that I’ve entertained — and should have mentioned — is that a deadlocked convention turns to Paul Ryan. Much more to my liking.

Politics & Prosperity in Print

I am drawing on my best posts (see “A Summing Up“) to produce a series called Dispatches from the Fifth Circle. The first volume — Leftism, Political Correctness, and Other Lunacies — is available at Amazon.com.

I’m working on the second volume — Impossible Dreams, Utopian Schemes — and hope to publish six more after that one.