Monthly Archives: July 2017

Trump Has a New Chief of Staff

Until last week, the White House chief of staff was Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Before we get to the new chief of staff, let’s quickly review a few things about Priebus.  As RNC chair, back when Trump won the Ohio primary over Ted Cruz and John Kasich, right after Cruz pulled out, it was Priebus who publicly expressed the view that Kasich should also withdraw and accept Trump as the presumptive nominee.  Back then, my feeling was that Priebus, the epitome of a “regular” Republican, could not possibly think Trump would make a desirable president.  Then, during the general election campaign, it was Priebus who stormed into Trump’s campaign office and yelled at the team that they were effing this campaign up.  (Trump had to be prodded into concentrating on battleground states; winning the election really didn’t seem like his top priority.)  Then, after Trump took office, he made Priebus his chief of staff.  I wondered what Priebus was really up to at the time, and it would not at all surprise me if Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, turned out to be right about Priebus being one of the leakers.  I was thinking that too, from early on.

But now, back to the new chief of staff, General John Kelly.  He has a tough job ahead of him, for a very basic reason.  There is a huge White House bureaucracy called the Executive Office of the President (EOP), whose job it is to advise and assist the president, and the chief of staff is the gatekeeper between members of the various EOP offices and the president.  Obviously, that means that the personnel of those offices must honor the protocol and not try to bypass the chief of staff to talk to the president, but it also means that the president is expected to honor the protocol too.  And when there’s talk of Donald Trump honoring a protocol, isn’t that a little like asking the cat to make friends with the mouse, and gently lick the mouse’s fur and share the food dish with it?

Speaking of Scaramucci, I’m not going to post a link to the New Yorker interview he did last week, where he uttered some incredible profanities, but I’ll say this:  if I were the White House chief of staff, I would not want there to be people in such positions who had no better self-restraint than that.  Then again, if I were the White House chief of staff, I’d want my top boss to have better self-restraint than Kelly’s boss has, so I doubt the White House is going to be any less chaotic now.

Yahoo News article, July 31, 2017

NPR interview with a former presidential assistant from the Bush years, July 31, 2017  (valuable for insights on what a chief of staff does when things are normal)

Politico article on Priebus’s rise and fall, July 28, 2017

UPDATE:  Bye bye Scaramucci.  Politico article, July 31, 2017  To me, what’s noteworthy is that Trump needed to be told by his new chief of staff that Scaramucci had to go; the fact that he had used the vulgar language that he did in that New Yorker interview last week wasn’t reason enough for our president.  Then again, Trump is on record as saying that he has no problem with “locker room talk.”


Federalism and Voting

There are several basic principles that need to be understood about the relationship between the national government and the state governments when it comes to voting procedures and voting rights:

  1. It’s the states, not the national government, that run the elections, and different states have different rules.  Just to name one example, some states allow persons who are on probation after serving sentences for felonies to vote, while others don’t, and there’s no interference from Washington with this kind of variation.
  2. In spite of this, the national government, mainly through amendments to the Constitution, does impose some rules on states with regard to voting.  The 15th Amendment prohibits racial discrimination for voting rights, the 19th Amendment guarantees women the right to vote, and the 26th Amendment make 18 years old the minimum voting age (it had been 21 before).  Also, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 makes it easier for the national government to intervene when racial discrimination is perceived at the state level.
  3. Now comes the kicker.  If your biggest concern is that eligible voters will be blocked from voting by harsh state rules, like voter ID laws, then you will undoubtedly want the federal courts to intervene and strike down state voting rules that get in the way of voting, especially when such laws are racially discriminatory in their  effects.  HOWEVER, depending on the issue and, at least some of the time, on the party in power, the states won’t always seem like the bad guys and the national government won’t always seem heroic.

Now comes the case in point for that third principle.  We all know that Trump won the electoral vote but not the popular vote.  But from the get-go, Trump has been insisting that he did win the legitimate  popular vote, and that the only reason it seems otherwise is that millions of people voted illegally.  There’s no evidence of this–studies have shown that voter fraud is not large-scale enough to affect outcomes of elections–but Trump is demanding that states turn over voting data for a federal investigation.  And here, we have a vintage clash of federalism, a clash between national powers (as represented in this instance by the demands of the president) and the prerogatives of the states.  And states will guard their prerogatives with or without partisan agendas behind them.  Thus, a number of states are refusing to give Trump what he’s asking for.  And if you’re on the side that says that voter fraud isn’t the big problem and that stricter rules aren’t the answer, then you’re on the opposite side from Trump, and will be happy that most of the states that he’s asking for voter data are telling him to go take a hike.

And in any case, this is an episode of federalism: the power relationship between national and state governments.

Story in, June 30, 2017

A New Study of Who Voted for Trump

Political scientists and historians will be working for decades to come on the question of why Donald Trump won this past election.  Here’s one study that divides Trump voters into five categories.

The study itself: By Emily Ekins, for the Voter Study Group

NPR interview with Emily Ekins, July 2, 2017

Of these five categories, those in the first–“American Preservationists”–are the ones who most strongly wanted Trump for a president and who made up his early support base in the primaries when there was still a large pool of other viable choices.  Note that this is the category where author Emily Ekins identifies the strongest element of racial thinking.

The categories and their approximate percentages of those who voted for Trump in the November general election are:

American Preservationists: 20%

Anti-Elites:  19%

Staunch Conservatives:  31%  (These are people who might well have preferred a more genuine conservative than Trump, but would absolutely not support Hillary Clinton over him.  Conservatism for this bunch is as much social/cultural as it is economic.)

Free-Marketeers:  25%  (This is a matter of economic theory: laissez-faire capitalism, the opposite of what Bernie Sanders calls for as a “democratic socialist.”)

The Disengaged:  5%  (Here, Emily Ekins puts as much emphasis on their lack of knowledge of how things work as on their sense of alienation.)

The article itself shows a lot, not only about Trump voters, but about how political scientists measure and interpret public opinion.

Question to think about:  Which of these groups might be most promising for the Democrats to campaign to in future elections?