Monthly Archives: November 2016

Trump appointments: not looking good

Trump’s appointments so far, including for positions that don’t have to be confirmed by the Senate, essentially show that he’s surrounding himself with loyal cronies who will reinforce his prejudices.   They include:

Michael Flynn for National Security Adviser (Times story)

Jeff Sessions for Attorney General (Times story)

Mike Pompeo for CIA Director (Times story)

This is bad.

Trump’s appointment announcements

First of all, a quick clarification about the structure of the executive branch of the government.  There is the Executive Office of the President (EOP), and then there’s the cabinet.  The EOP is a network of agencies whose sole function is to advise and assist the president, with a chief of staff sitting at the top.  Generally, anyone in the EOP who wants to talk to the president about anything has to go through the chief of staff, though of course the president is free to choose to talk to anybody at any time.  Most positions within the EOP are directly appointed by the president, including chief of staff and chief strategist.  In contrast, cabinet members are heads of executive departments.  While the president is their boss too, they are more involved in carrying out policy.  They are part of the executive branch, but not exactly part of the presidency.

With that in mind, Trump has just announced that he is making Reince Priebus, up until now the chairman of the Republican National Committee, his chief of staff, and that Steve Bannon, who has worked in his campaign after having been an executive with Brietbart News, will be his chief strategist.  Now, Breitbart is an “alt-right” network, one that has played to extremism, prejudice, and belief in conspiracy theories to oppose Obama and liberalism.  So, what this means is that Priebus represents “regular” Republicans, while Steve Bannon represents the more extreme core of Trump supporters who sport the extreme hypernationalism that a reasonable person could call fascism.  Already, anti-racist groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center are protesting the Bannon appointment.

He has not announced any cabinet nominations yet (those positions do have to be confirmed by the Senate), but it’s well known that he has Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich on his transition team, and that many expect Giuliani to be his attorney general.  He also, of course, has his two sons and a daughter–the same trio who will be running his business enterprises for him–on his transition team.

The one consistent pattern there is that, at the moment, the man who people think will “drain the swamp” is practicing nepotism and cronyism to the hilt.  He is surrounding himself with precisely the people who supported him in the campaign.  Now, to be fair, the ones who opposed him the most fiercely might very well not be willing to accept positions in his administration, but there is still a pretty clear sense, early on, of Trump rewarding friends–in classic Washington tradition, raising questions as to how soon this so-called outsider is going to start draining the swamp.

No matter how caustic I sound on the subject, I’m actually not (for the moment at least) one of the people chanting “Not My President” in the streets.  I’m watching to see what he does.   Certainly, his words since his election have been a lot more well-behaved than before, and he’s pretty much abandoned that silly “build a wall and have Mexico pay for it” promise, a promise I think he made when he had no expectation of winning this election.  But as I watch to see what he does, I can’t help observing that he is surrounding himself with cronies, and that some of whom represent the extremist base he was pandering to from the start.  (What I’m not going to do is make predictions about what to expect from here.  I’ve made a fool of myself too many times before to do any more of that now.)

Politico story, November 14, 2016.


(1) Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon is causing quite an outrage.  Nancy Pelosi is calling him a white nationalist.  Politico story, November 14, 2016.

(2) Trump’s shortlists for cabinet appointments show some serious right-wingers, especially in the lineup for Secretary of Health and Human Services.  He’s also considering Chris Christie for a couple of cabinet posts, and considering Sarah Palin for Secretary of the Interior.  New York Times article, November 13, 2016.

God, this country’s gone crazy!


Allan Lichtman predicted Trump win, has another prediction now

Professor Allan Lichtman, who teaches at American University in Washington, has correctly predicted presidential elections for 30 years, and got this one right as well.  He uses a system that relies, not on polls, but rather on larger patterns and currents in the political order.

Now, he has another prediction:  Trump will be impeached.

Article before the election  (Washington Post, September 23, 2016)

Interview with Lichtman closer to the election (printed the day after)  (Washington Post, November 9, 2016)

His new prediction  (Washington Post, November 11, 2016)


Nate Silver’s Blog on Friday Morning, Nov. 4

This post, on the main site, somewhat continues what I was writing yesterday on the discussion board.  Here’s the update.  Hillary Clinton’s probability rating on Nate Silver’s blog started declining just over a week ago.  It went from the 80s to the 70s to the 60s, and was down to around 65% yesterday morning.  Now, as I look at it, it is at 67.8%.  What’s more, Hillary Clinton is no longer rated below Trump in North Carolina and Florida, and she’s back to being a little ahead of him in Nevada.

Be aware of a key point:  The figures that are up there now do not reflect the new surge of effort that Clinton and Obama have made over the last few days in Florida and North Carolina.  With any luck (for those of us who do not want Donald Trump for a president), those efforts will bring her even higher.  She looked to be decisively ahead of Trump in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago; she let her guard down back then, and she paid a price for it, but her campaign clearly knows what it needs to do this week.

Now, when you read this note, some time will probably have gone by since I wrote it, and the figures will have changed again.  Keep in mind that the only thing we can gauge today is what has happened to the probabilities before the new surge of effort by the Clinton campaign this week, in response to the decline and the Comey letter.  With all that in mind, please click this link and look at the polls-only figures.  Here’s what you should see.

  1. If Hillary Clinton’s probability rating at the top of the page is anywhere between 66% and 68.5%, then in my opinion, that means that the leveling-off is real, and it may get better in the coming days.  You may say it’s already getting better, but I’d rather be cautious.  I definitely don’t see a lot of difference when just one percentage point is involved, and I am guarded even when talking about 2.
  2. If Hillary Clinton’s probability rating at the top of the page is better than 68.5%, then I will be ready to say it’s getting better.  For the same reason, if it is any lower than 66%, I will be worried, and if it is lower than 65%, I will say “God help us, we’re screwed.”
  3. Look at the map.  Put your cursor over the state of Nevada.  If HRC’s percentage is still better than 52%, that’s encouraging, and if it’s rising higher, that’s really good news. I regard anything between 49 and 51 as a tie.  Put your cursor over North Carolina and Florida.  Right now, I consider them tied, but not getting worse.  If either of those states is over 52% for HRC, and if today is no later than Saturday, maybe even Sunday, you should take it as good news.  If you’re looking at it on Monday, it should be closer to 60% for us to celebrate anything.  Final exercise:  Put your cursor over New Hampshire, with its four little electoral votes which may make a big difference this time around.  Right now, HRC is at 65%, which is NOT an improvement over yesterday.  That figure may look good, but if it’s any lower when you look at it, that means she’s declining.

In other words, what I’m saying is that you should be paying the greatest amount of attention to what direction things are moving in.  I’m also saying that we should only be encouraged if the direction things are moving in shows Trump losing with a margin to spare, rather than being just one state off from becoming our president.

Update: As of 2:30 p.m.:  We gained some ground today, then lost it again.  So HRC’s prospect has not gotten better yet.  However, the results of the efforts this week in North Carolina and Florida are not yet in.  Meanwhile, New Hampshire may be slipping away.


Ways This Race Could Get Uglier

It’s hard to dispute:  A lot of Trump supporters would rather not see too many black voters have unhindered access to the polls.  Now, at the moment, reports are showing that black voter turnout is dropping off anyway, something our current president is making some effort to change, but there are also white nationalist groups that will be on the prowl Election Day to give black voters a hard time, as well as poll watchers who will be using what legal means they have to challenge some voters’ registration credentials in states like Pennsylvania.

Politico story on white nationalist groups (November 2, 2016)

Politico story on poll-watcher issues  (November 1, 2016)

New York Times story on black voter dropoff  (November 2, 2016)


The Media and the 2016 Election: One Expert’s View

Professor Thomas E. Patterson, who teaches at Harvard and is the author of a more expensive textbook than the one we use, has kindly put his expert analysis up on his website for free.  As he says in the email that he sent around introducing it to instructors, “The studies reveal, for instance, the media’s fascination with Donald Trump’s candidacy (the early Trump coverage was generally positive before shifting strongly to the negative), the media’s persistently negative portrayal of Hillary Clinton (largely around her emails), and the media’s limited coverage of Bernie Sander’s candidacy (the tendency was more pronounced in the early phase of the campaign but continued through to the end of the primaries).”

His website.


Transgender Bathroom Use Comes to the Supreme Court

Last summer, it should be remembered, the Obama administration issued a set of guidelines for public facilities around the country, interpreting Title 9 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, as requiring that transgender persons be able to use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity and orientation, rather than the gender on their birth certificate.  This brings the federal government (specifically its executive branch) into conflict with the states of North Carolina and Virginia.  A lower federal court ruled in favor of the administration’s guidelines, but now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Virginia case.  Like many other issues, it’s as much a question of who should make the rules as what the rules should be.

Story on NPR (November 2, 2016)

Politico (October 28, 2016)