Monthly Archives: October 2018

The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Midterm Elections

It’s no secret that Democrats are furious about the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh and are planning to express their wrath at the polls.  That means the Democrats have a better than ever chance of taking back Congress this year, right?  GUESS AGAIN!  

There are two key reasons for this.  First, conservatives have gotten every bit as energized as liberals by the whole Kavanaugh experience.  From conservatives’ point of view, the Democrats pulled a witch hunt to keep a conservative from getting on the Supreme Court, and now, more than ever, conservatives, especially evangelical conservatives, think they’re standing at Armageddon battling for the Lord.  So, while liberals are making a point of getting to the polls in this midterm congressional election, so are conservatives–and both sides regard it as a battle for the nation’s moral soul.

Now, turning specifically to the Senate:, here’s the second big factor. The Democrats need to gain seats, and thus they cannot afford to lose any seats.  Well, they’re in very serious danger of losing a seat: the seat of Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, the only Democrat who voted to confirm Kavanaugh.  Manchin undoubtedly wanted to make West Virginia’s Trump voters happy, and he probably thought he could take the vote of Democrats for granted, but he may well have been wrong.  Democrats in West Virginia (as well as Democrats everywhere else) are furious at him for his pro-Kavanaugh vote, and they absolutely cannot be counted on to say “Well, we’re mad at him but we still need the Democrats to take the Senate, so let’s hold our noses and vote for him anyway.”  And of course most of West Virginia’s registered Republicans are going to vote for the Republican in that race anyway.  So he may get punished, even though the Democrats of West Virginia who punish him would be punishing their own party most of all.

Nate Silver’s statistics on the Five Thirty Eight blog site give Democrats a 3 in 4 chance of taking the House and only a 2 in 9 chance of taking the Senate.  This is, of course, the blog that had Hillary Clinton comfortably in the lead right on the eve of the 2016 election.  One the one hand, you can say that this means Nate Silver’s methods are unreliable.  However, since what they showed in 2016 is that they are prone to exaggerate the good fortunes of the Democrats, it does not necessarily follow that it works the other way.

Here’s the site.  There are, of course, lots of relevant news stories in the news feed at the right of this page on the OpenLab site that you should all be looking in on.  And, just a reminder:  No matter how long ago you took my class, if you still have access to the OpenLab site, we’d love to see your thoughts on the Discussion Board.

Net Neutrality and Federalism

Two key topics come into play here:  federalism and regulatory bureaucracy.

The aspect of federalism that’s involved is the landmark Supreme Court cases from the 19th century, mainly Gibbens v. Ogden (1824) and the Wabash Rate Case (1886).  In both instances, the Court ruled that one or more states had encroached on Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce by passing laws of their own.  The Court in the Gibbens case ruled that the power to regulate interstate commerce included the power to leave aspects of that commerce unregulated, and that therefore states must keep their own regulatory hands off interstate commerce.  However, for as open-and-shut as those rulings may have seemed, the lines are anything but clear, because today, regulation is a complex labyrinth, and businesses today are subject to a huge host of regulations that come from both the national and the state governments.  Consider banks, to cite one example.  Banks are clearly engaged in interstate commerce–just consider the fact that it’s possible to live in one state and have an account in another–and yet they are subject to state banking regulations as well as federal laws.

It also needs to be noted, at the federal level, that one of the ways that Congress regulates interstate commerce is by creating independent regulatory agencies.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is a prime example of such.

With all that in mind, net neutrality stands to be considered.  Net neutrality involves internet providers, the services like Verizon, Time Warner, et cetera, that bring the internet to our homes.  During the Obama administration, the FCC issued regulations that it was not all right for those internet providers to control which web services people could easily get in their homes; that it was not all right to give preferential treatment to companies that they themselves were affiliated with or to charge extra money for access to certain websites and online services.  That’s net neutrality.  A year ago, the FCC with different personnel reversed those rules, meaning that internet providers can selectively play with your internet access if they want to.

Some of the states, most recently California, have attempted to fill that void by passing net neutrality laws of their own.  And guess what: the Justice Department, under our friend Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is suing, claiming that the states have encroached upon the federal government’s power to regulate interstate commerce.

Report on NPR, October 1, 2018

Article on Politico, October 1, 2018