Monthly Archives: April 2019

Two Democratic Dilemmas

The Democratic Party at the moment is divided over two different questions:

(1) Should the party’s presidential candidate in 2020 be one who self-identifies as a democratic socialist, and/or pursues policy preferences that tend toward a more socialistic economic system?  Or, should the nominee be more moderate, just wanting to preserve a social safety net without drastically expanding the social service functions of the federal government?


(2) Should Trump be impeached?

The custom, when things are normal, has been for both the Democratic and Republican nominees in a general election to paint themselves as moderate and to try to cast each other as extremists.  Usually, Democratic candidates get called “socialist” by their adversaries; they don’t usually call themselves that.  And when Republicans call Democrats socialists, they often lump them together with the more notorious varieties of socialism, including Soviet-style dictatorial communism and Hitler’s National Socialist, or Nazi Party.  Moreover, for a while it looked as if the Democratic Party had shifted rightward: note Clinton’s signing of the Republican Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which made it tougher to get state welfare, and the infamous Defense of Marriage Act!  But now, the party is getting pulled leftward, as so many of the candidates are calling for expansions of social welfare, including “Medicare for all.”  Is such a candidate likely to win in the general election?  That’s one question.

Now, about impeachment.  The math is simple: with a Democratic majority in the House, the Democrats can easily impeach Trump, bearing in mind that “impeach” merely means “accuse,” that is, decide that there will be a trial.  The Republicans have a majority in the Senate, so the chances are nil that Trump would get convicted and removed there.  So, is an impeachment trial worth it?  Would the evidence against Trump, with the Mueller report as the Democrats’ roadmap, be damning enough to make Trump look bad in the election?  Or, would it backfire on the Democrats, looking like a failed attempt that resulted in Trump’s exoneration?

NPR story on ideology in the Democratic primaries, April 22, 2019

NPR story on the impeachment question, April 23, 2019

Politico story on the impeachment question, featuring Kellyanne Conway’s anti-Trump husband George, April 23, 2019

Final note:  In the House, keep watching for the names of Reps. Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, and Elijah Cummings, chairmen of the Intelligence, Judiciary, and Oversight committees, respectively, all of whom will be keeping Trump in their sights with further investigative hearings in the coming season, whether such hearings lead to articles of impeachment or not. article about a battle over a subpoena with Rep. Cummings, April 23, 2019  (This involves the allegations that the Trump administration has made arbitrary exceptions on security clearances.)

Mueller Report, Anybody?

Here’s the full text of the redacted Mueller report, and here’s an annotated digest pf it from Politico.  While the report seems to clear Trump of collusion with the Russians in their meddling in the 2016 election, it also shows that Trump was afraid of being investigated, so much so that he tried to get members of his cabinet and advisory team to protect him from Mueller’s team, and it quotes Sarah Huckabee Sanders as admitting that she lied to the press about Trump’s reasons for firing FBI director James Comey.  The Mueller team also found evidence that Trump tried to pressure former attorney general Jeff Sessions to re-open the investigation of Hillary Clinton and her emails.  Even Steve Bannon expressed concern that Trump might be abusing his power and trying to personally control the Justice Department for his own benefit.

It’s going to be interesting to watch how the Mueller report is received.  It’s a given that Democrats regard Trump as a nefarious crook, and it’s also a given that he has a loyal base who think he’s being persecuted because he loves his country.  But what remains to be seen is how the swing voters–the ones who voted for Trump after having voted for Obama, and the ones who voted for Trump in November after having voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries–will respond.

I definitely expect to see committees in the House, with their Democratic majority and thus Democratic leadership, take the ball and run with it on the obstruction question.

Transgender Persons in the Military: Where Things Stand Now

The whole thing started with a tweet from Trump on July 26, 2017, announcing that transgender persons would no longer be allowed to serve in the military.  That led to court challenges, and for a while the policy was stopped.  This past January, 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that while appeals of the lower court decisions were pending, the transgender ban could go forward.  Some further legal complications remained, but Trump essentially had a free hand, for the time being.

In March 2019, the Defense Department announced a modified version of the ban.  Persons already in transition and persons who have completed their transition can say in the military, but from this point on, transgender persons can only serve in the military if they stick with their birth gender and use the bathrooms, uniforms, etc. assigned to their birth gender.  In other words, it would seem, they can call themselves anything they want to outside the military, but have to conform to their birth gender in all things military.  They can’t go into transition beyond this point, and persons diagnosed with gender dysphoria can’t be admitted to the military beyond this point.  Despite court challenges, it just went into effect yesterday (Friday, April 12, 2019).  And further court challenges can definitely be expected, even as at least one of the original cases is still pending before an appeals court.

New York Times article announcing the modified policy, March 12, 2019

Interview on NPR with Army reservist in transition, March 13, 2019

Never a dull moment in Washington

Tuesday, April 9, 2019:

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on white nationalism and hate crimes.  They heard from people whose lives have been affected by these, and it also had moments of becoming a partisan free-for-all. Article in   Full video on C-Span.

There was some wrangling over the budget in the House.  It’s essentially moot, a matter of symbolic posturing, because nothing that the Democratic majority in the House passes is going to get through the Senate without some serious alterations, but the unsuccessful attempt to bring a House budget up for a vote shows a basic point about life in the House:  it’s not just that the Democrats and the Republicans can’t agree on anything; the Democrats and the Democrats can’t agree on anything.  It’s the progressives against the centrists, or blue-dogs–and this is just the Democrats.  Article in

When it comes to border policy, for Trump and his loyal base, it’s all about the difference between being tough and being soft, and his acceptance of Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation (a euphemism for firing her) is all about his frustration that Homeland Security actions haven’t been tough enough.  His ultra-right-wing adviser Stephen Miller is trying to make the policies even tougher than Trump plans to now.   But some more battles with the federal courts are expected.  Article in Politico.   NPR report.

With Democrats in the majority in the House, the number of House committees investigating Trump is proliferating.  One of them is the Ways and Means Committee, which handles taxes.  They want to see his.  Article in Politico.