Saturday, August 25, 2018

Does Maryland Really Need Revolutionary Health Care Change?

A lot of folks are talking about the need for a Medicare-for-All style health care reform in Maryland. I've said in the past that I support a Federal single-payer health care system. But I do not support such reform at the state level.
Trying to create a single-payer system at the state level is made problematic owing to the federal programs that exist. Those 65 and over, qualified disabled people under 65 years of age, and people with end-Stage Renal Disease are covered by Medicare and cannot opt out - so they would not be part of a state-based single-payer plan - that's 16% of the state. Then you have those in Medicaid or SCHIP (MCHP in Maryland) which is a Federal and State partnership with each covering part of the cost. The Federal government covers about half of the cost for those 900,000 folks, or about 15.5% of the population.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services would need to approve any program that would opt Maryland out of the Medicaid program and the Federal government may decide to stop providing half the cost of coverage (billions of dollars) if Maryland opts out of Medicaid/SCHIP. About 6% of Maryland is covered by the ACA and receive subsidies from the Federal government. There's no way to know if the Federal government would pay subsidies once those folks moved to a state single-payer plan. The answer is likely "no" as there would suddenly be "affordable" insurance available to them.
So that's over 1/3 of the state covered by some form of public insurance that would require Federal permission to alter and that could result in billions of lost Federal money to Maryland. If, however, all of those folks remain outside the single-payer state program... well you don't actually have single-payer. Rather the single-player plan would focus on the remaining 2/3 of Marylanders.
Of those who remain, most (60% of state residents) get their insurance through their employers. So that network would be disrupted and there's no way to be certain that folks could keep their current doctors or provider network. But with that 60%, plus the 1/3 on Federal programs, we are now at about 92% of the state with health insurance coverage. Add military coverage and we're at 94% of Marylanders with insurance. Of the 6% who lack coverage, roughly 2/3 are eligible under the ACA but have not enrolled.
So 98% of Marylanders are either covered or are eligible for coverage. That leaves 2% who need to be reached. It seems a bit of stretch to suggest that Maryland should completely upend the insurance market, disrupt the coverage of millions, and risk losing billions in federal dollars all to reach that remaining 2%. And keep in mind that unlike the Federal government, a state cannot run a deficit. So if the single-payer program runs out of funding before the fiscal year ends... there's no money to pay for services. Which is why a single-payer system should be run at the Federal level and not the state level. In recent years, California and Vermont considered and ultimately abandoned plans to pursue state based universal coverage. The TennCare program in Tennessee offers a significant cautionary tale.
Maryland doesn't need revolutionary policy change. It doesn't need an overhaul of the state's entire health care system. It needs a pragmatic and reasonable approach to reach the 2% with no options while protecting and stabilizing markets for those with coverage. It needs the type of policy and bipartisan approach that recently secured a waiver to protect the state's individual market under the ACA. Maryland needs its famous middle temperament. Calling for revolutionary change may be a great way to rally voters, but it's not necessarily the most responsible way to govern a state or make policy.

**For what it's worth. Before joining the faculty at St. Mary's College of Maryland I spent a decade in the world of health policy - specifically in the world of Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP policy. I was an analyst for the Hilltop Institute at UMBC and the main author of the annual HealthChoice Evaluation conducted for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. I evaluated public health care programs for Maryland and other states and consulted with states such as Georgia and New Mexico. My doctoral dissertation examined whether Maryland's Medicaid program reduced racial and ethnic disparities in the receipt of health care services. It won the 2006 Annual Dissertation Award from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. I spent two years developing fiscal notes for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. All of which is to say, I don't take discussion of health policy lightly.

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Free Society Dies without a Free Press

I talk a lot with the great folks who cover Maryland politics. I’ve often said to a reporter “I won’t talk about that", "I’d rather not discuss that person", or, "this is not for attribution". Simply because I wanted to avoid controversy or because I didn't want to piss off a legislator with a fragile ego and put the college's funding at risk. Reporters don’t have the luxury of silence or the protection of anonymity.
The Capital Gazette wrote a story about a court case involving a man, Jarrod Ramos, who had cyber stalked and harassed a former classmate.He was convicted. The paper conveyed the facts and quoted the judge. Ramos blamed the paper for ruining his life and sued. He lost.
He spent years harassing the paper and issuing threats that went up to the line, but did not cross. On Wednesday, he made good on his threats. 5 people died. 5 people who had nothing to do with the original story. 5 people who worked everyday, directly or indirectly, dedicated to informing their community. 5 people who deserved our respect.
Reporters are routinely berated and belittled for reporting the news. They're made scapegoats. They're an easy target because they can't fight back. And they are known. They are public figures who must be out and among the public to do their jobs. They stand next to people who are protected by armed guards, totally exposed. They make mistakes. They get things wrong. We all do. But a free society dies without them.
Yesterday was a stark reminder of what they do & risk - daily.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Further Unraveling of Obama's "Legacy"

President Donald Trump pulled another thread on the tapestry of President Obama's rapidly unwinding legacy today by announcing an end to the Iran Nuclear Deal. Whether we're talking the Paris Accords or the Iran Deal, President Obama took the easy and politically expedient route of bypassing the Senate and negotiating an Executive Agreement - a legally meaningless agreement if not backed up in some way by law. When you do such things, YOU put the credibility of the US at risk.Even when what you did is undone by a petty vulgarian - because you made it possible for the petty vulgarian to undo you.
"...non-treaties lack the imprimatur and broad-based acceptance that treaties, by design, tend to enjoy. If the president wanted his arrangement to be more permanent, he should have gone to the Senate. And if he didn’t go precisely because he knew the Senate would say no, then he knew all along he was building on sand. Whose fault is that, pray? His successor’s?"
And before you start hand-wringing and protesting that the mean old Senate just wouldn't work with Obama... let me stop you with a "too damn bad" response owing to our Constitutional order. After losing the House in 2011 Obama set about doing whatever he could via executive orders, memos, and agreements. In so doing, he set the stage for the chaos of the undoing of his legacy. In short, Obama gifted his successor with an easy path of reversal - even if that successor was an incompetent dolt. Whether or not Obama's policies were "good ideas" is really pointless sentiment. Process matters. And in a system governed by rules and not by men the only measure of a "good policy" is whether or not the proper process was followed. Obama sowed the seeds of his own legacy's undoing. He made it easy for Trump.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Polarization in America Is Not Ideological

Across two books and multiple blog posts I have argued that Americans ARE NOT ideologically polarized nor are they more partisan. Rather we're less attached to party and most Americans lack a cohesive ideology. Ideological polarization and entrenched partisanship are instead reserved for political elites.
A new study by Eric Groenendyke makes the case far more eloquently: In short, he finds no evidence to support claims of mass polarization along ideological lines. In fact, their is widespread policy agreement among Americans on all be a few issues. Additionally, there is no evidence of Americans becoming more attached to their parties. Instead, he finds few people love, or even like, their own party or think it represents their interests well. Nevertheless, voters increasingly hate the other party, and this is enough to keep them in their respective parties. The more frustrated folks become with their own party, the more they denounce and demonize the other party. Demonizing the other party makes voters feel better about sticking with a party that doesn't do a good job representing them. And the more a party acts out of fear and loathing toward the other party there is less cooperation and compromise and more reasons for voters to dislike their party and more reasons for the other party to demonize their party.
Think of it this way, many folks who voted for Trump didn't care what policies he proposed or his character flaws. They cared that he wasn't a Democrat. Much as many voted against him not because of who he was or love of Clinton but because he was a Republican. That means as well that should he run for re-election, many voters will be motivated to vote AGAINST the Democrat with little care for what Trump has done or not done.
This type of polarization and partisanship is especially unhealthy. Because folks are voting against the other party instead of for their own party the winning party receives no mandate to govern. Rather once the "other" party loses voters tend to focus on the reasons why they dislike their own party. If Groenendyke is correct then the more dissatisfied voters become with their own party the more they will look to demonize the other party.
This suggests that Trump's frequent tirades against Republicans and well as Democrats may be a very effective way to keep his base.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Courage of Meagan Simonaire

I'll just link to the story, but what an incredibly powerful and courageous speech by Delegate Meagan Simonaire as she prepares to vote for a ban on so-called conversion therapy in MD. You cannot fix what is not broken.

Behind the Scenes in the White House...

Trump: I just told the American people that I'm sending the military to defend the border.
Adviser: Mr. President, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prevents using the military to enforce domestic policy, so you can't use them on US soil.
Trump: No problem, I'll put them on the Mexico side. And Mexico will pay.
Adviser: Technically that would be an invasion and an act of war.
Trump: Just figure out a way to make what I said actually happen. Again.
Adviser: We could send the National Guard?
Trump: You just said no military because of the Possibly Communist Act of 1978
Adviser: The National Guard is a reserve unit that can act in states, with the state's permission.
Trump: Great, send the Washington Nationals to the border to detain and arrest illegal crossers.
Adviser: The National Guard cannot detain or arrest people unless they are deployed by the Governor and not the President.
Trump: Look, I just need you do something so that the voters don't think that I'm clueless. Again
Adviser: Don't worry, they already know that you're clueless. Luckily your supporters just don't care. They just need us to do something vaguely related to what you promised so that they can pretend that the lamestream media is promoting fake news when it points out that what you said wasn't possible and wasn't what ultimately happened.
Trump: It'll be huuge.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Revised Version of Maryland, My Maryland that Actually Reflects the State's History

As the General Assembly debates a watered down bill to reconsider Maryland's pro-secessionist state song I wonder how many folks know that the Union wrote an alternate version - one that better reflects Maryland's actual history? Maybe we should consider interspersing the lyrics to create a song that reflects the actual divisions in Maryland at the time?

For those not in the know, Maryland, My Maryland was a poem written by Marylander living in Louisiana during the Civil War and it is (was) is a battle cry for Maryland to join the South. It was adopted in 1939, the centennial of the author's birth and during a vibrant period of civil rights activities in Baltimore City.

Maryland, My Maryland - A merged version featuring the Union's Lyrics featuring the original lyrics by James Ryder Randall and the Union response by William Horner

The despot's heel is on thy shore,
His torch is at thy temple door,
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

The traitors feet are on the shore
Of Maryland, my Maryland;
They walk the streets of Baltimore,
Maryland, my  Maryland.
They rose en masse not long ago,
The Union for to overthrow -
But this they found they could not do
In Maryland, my Maryland.

Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
My mother State! to thee I kneel,
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird thy beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!

April the 19th, '61,
In  Maryland, my Maryland,
Those traitorous acts were first begun
In Maryland, my Maryland;
But lo! behold, it was not long,
The Union men said this is wrong ,
We'll give a new key to the song
Of Maryland, my Maryland.

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

The Union flag, twas torn down,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
By traitors' hands all over town,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
And Geo. P. Kane to Johnson said,
Come on, my boys, and give us aid,
For this old State it must secede ,
Maryland, my Maryland

Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Come with thy panoplied array,
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!

The Legislature then did meet,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
Soon as the members took their seat,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
An order came from Washington,
To Frederick boys and arrest each one
And send them all to Fort Warren,
From Maryland, my Maryland.

Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Come to thine own anointed throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Jeff tried to break the loyal chain,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
But found his labor all in vain,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
The Potomac and Chesapeake
He cannot cross, he's tried for weeks
Virginia holds him and his cliques
From Maryland, my Maryland.

Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Virginia should not call in vain,
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back again,
Arise in majesty again,
Maryland! My Maryland!

X-Governor Hick's, God bless his race,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
And Bradford, too, who took his place
In Maryland, my Maryland;
The Ship of State he'll guide aright,
Her loyal sons are pluck in fight,
They watch the traitors day and night,
In Maryland, myaryland.

I see the blush upon thy cheek,
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Better the fire upon thee roll, Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Secession, O' that cursed thing,
In Maryland, my Maryland,
The first essay was in the spring
In Maryland, my Maryland;
Secession first took place from Heaven,
And traitors from that place were driven,
So will it be when time is given
From Maryland, my Maryland.

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

The Stars and Siripes I hope will wave,
In Maryland, my Maryland,
When every traitor's in his grave,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb,
Therefore she spurns the secesh scum,
And says to Jeff, you cannot come to
Maryland, my Maryland

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Madaleno Scores Key Labor Endorsement

It was announced today that the Baltimore/Washington Laborers District Council of LiUNA was endorsing state Senator Rich Madaleno in Maryland's Gubernatorial primary. The union represents more than 3,000 members in the state. The Baltimore/Washington Laborers District Council of LiUNA endorsed Democratic victor Ralph Northam in the 2017 gubernatorial primary and general election in Virginia. LiUNA contributed approximately $600,000 to the coordinated state Democratic campaign in Virginia in an election that yielded major gains for the party in the state legislature.  Though recent statewide polls show Madaleno trailing Rushern Baker, Ben Jealous, and Kevin Kamenetz, he has won several straw polls taken after candidate forums. In a recent post, I argued that the Democratic race to succeed Larry Hogan was far from settled. The endorsement suggests that LiUNA believes Madaleno to be in a stronger position than statewide polls suggest. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

I'm Back, for Good or for Ill...

I started the FreeStater Blog in 2009 because I believed that there were too few websites/blogs dedicated to the fascinating world of MD politics. In the years that followed, I used the blog to write about Maryland and national politics. About 4 years ago, my blog posts became fewer and fewer and in 2017 I only managed 7 posts - each about national politics. It's not that I lost interest in MD politics, rather my day job just got in the way. I became Chair of the Political Science Department at St. Mary's College and wrote several books on national politics. I'm proud of the fact that I have published 3 books since 2013, but the work on those books really precluded any meaningful focus on Maryland. But now, my term as Chair has ended and the books are done (except for updated editions) and I want to get back to Maryland politics - especially Maryland politics in 2018 when Larry Hogan may become the only Republican in 60 years to win a second term.

If you're interested in what I've been doing:

American Government and Popular Discontent: Stability Without Success

Polarized: The Rise of Ideology in American Politics

The Trump Presidency: Outsider in the Oval Office

Democratic Race to Succeed Hogan is Far from Settled

No fewer than seven candidates are vying for the opportunity to take on Larry Hogan in November. Polling shows that a significant number of Democrats are undecided as to who should be the party's standard bearer in 2018. That being said, three names consistently top the polls - Prince Georges County Exec Rushern Baker, Baltimore County Exec Kevin Kamenetz, and former NAACP leader Ben Jealous. Those his lead varies, Baker tops the other other two in every poll.

Situated well behind the top three, mired in single digits, you'll find State Senator Rich Madaleno, tech entrepreneur Alec Ross, attorney and Democratic party insider Jim Shea, and Krishna Vignarajah a former policy aide to Michelle Obama.

Precious little has changed in each candidate's polling standing since the first surveys were conducted in September of 2017 even though candidate name recognition is steadily improving. The latest Goucher poll found that nearly half of Democrats were undecided while the new Mason Dixon poll placed the share closer to one-third. Either way, such a high share of undecideds in a 7 person race suggests that much remains to be settled in this contest.

There is reason to suspect that Baker, Kamenetz, and Jealous top the polls because they enjoy much greater name recognition than do the remaining candidates. In fact, Kamenetz and Jealous have closed the gap with Baker as their name recognition numbers have risen. Among the grassroots, however, the state of the race looks a bit different.

New Poll Finds Hogan Gaining Strength in Maryland

In September 2017, Mason Dixon released a poll showing Larry Hogan with a 61% approval rating. He led all potential challengers in head to head match ups, but was below the critical 50% threshold for an incumbent. Hogan led Rushern Baker 46% to 39%, Kevin Kamenetz 48% to 35%, and Ben Jealous 49% to 33%. Name recognition certainly played a roll in the results given that only 60% of respondents had heard of Baker as compared to 45% for Kamenetz and 48% for Jealous.

Several months have passed and a new Mason Dixon poll was just released - and Larry Hogan could not have hoped for a better set of findings. Each of the major Democratic candidates experienced a significant boost in name recognition (Baker at 71%, Kamenetz at 59%, and Jealous at 55%) but fared worse against Hogan than they did in September. Hogan (with a 63% approval rating) tops Baker 51% to 36%, Kamaenetz 49% to 34%, and Jealous 50% to 33%. Perhaps of greater significance, Hogan has hit the critical 50% threshold in two out of the three match ups.

To summarize, each of Hogan's potential challengers are more well know than they were in September, but Hogan's lead over each has grown. His lead over his best known challenger, Rushern Baker, has literally doubled.

A lot can happen between now and November, but it's hardly a positive sign for Democrats that their potential successors to Larry Hogan - in a state where Democrats have a 2-to-1 advantage over Republicans - aren't getting any stronger as more voters get to know them.

Related Post:
Democratic Race to Succeed Hogan is Far from Settled

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Quick Thoughts Following the Shooting of Steve Scalise

Perhaps we need to stop accusing our political opponents of being a threat to our democracy? 
Perhaps we need to stop using the language of war when discussing politics? 
Though a thriving democracy demands a loyal opposition to any governing majority it does not need a resistance - losing an election (whether 1992, 2000, 2008, or 2016) is not the same as living in occupied territory. 
There are too many people out there who will take this heated rhetoric as a call to arms - arms that are plentiful and readily available.
This current era of treating the opposition as the enemy really took hold under Clinton, grew under Bush, exploded under Obama, and has now simply become commonplace.

What can we do? 
We can start by calling out our friends, family members, and elected officials when they choose to go down this path.
We think before we speak or type.
We can realize that those things that unite us as Americans are far stronger than those that divide us.
We can refuse to give in when others seek to divide us for political gain.

We can agree that this must to stop. We are not at war.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Left's Anti-Intellectualism Problem

Much is made of the anti-intellectualism on the Right. But I think there's a deeper story there and the recent campus "incidents" brings that deeper story to light. Conservatives aren't anti-intellectualism, they're anti-intellectual. And who can blame them? Those who proudly wear the banner of intellectual are often the same self-righteous and self-appointed guardians of of what can and cannot be said and who cheer when anyone who challenges liberal orthodoxy is chased off of a college campus. The real problem I see is that the Left, for all it's "I believe in Science" bumper sticker chanting, is pro-intellectual but anti-intellectualism. Intellectualism means that one is dedicated to study, reflection, and speculation - reflection and speculation.

But when it's decided that Charles Murray's words must not be heard or that a progressive professor cannot question the appropriateness of asking an entire class of people to leave a campus or that anyone less than a progressive must not be permitted to speak at a commencement there is no reflection going on. Speculation and reflection encourages free thinking and can result in people questioning established dogma. Too often now this is not tolerated. One must toe the line or be ostracized and declared an enemy.

It's like watching the Mountain Jacobins battle the Girondins - talk of moderation or inclusion are met with the guillotine of exclusion and condemnation. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of ridiculous stuff going on with the Right. Their complete willingness to become cheerleaders and apologists for a man who has absolutely no commitment to conservative principles is but the tip of the iceberg. But watching the Left react to being powerless (they control no aspect of the federal government and very few state governments) has been illuminating. Those with the loudest voices are using those voices to reinforce the anger of like-minded souls. Efforts to empathize or to reach out and build the coalition are met with angry dismissals - "why should we talk to those people? why should we care what they think?" So instead, the energy is dedicated to actions that only reinforce the worst aspects of what "those people" think about the Left.

If their goal is to attract new adherents and win back power then the tactics are all wrong. If their goal is to commiserate with an insular group of dedicated followers... then job well done.

I encourage all of the true believers to read this excellent essay by Freddie DeBoer.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Don Rickles' Final Message to Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell

On a related note, here's a quick test to determine whether or not you are a part of the problem.

Read the following statements:

The filibuster was justified, but the nuclear option was unacceptable!

The nuclear option was justified, but the filibuster was unacceptable!

If you agreed with either one of those statements, then yes, you are a part of the problem - and you need to go away.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trump's Unnecessary Travel Ban Simply Repeats Our Past Mistakes

I've noticed a lot of folks on social media have taken to posting images and memes of 9/11 as "justification" for Trump's travel ban. So I think it's important to point out that the countries that the 9/11 hijackers came from are not included in the ban and no one from the country's covered by the ban have ever attacked anyone in the United States.
I am reminded of a quote offered by General John L. DeWitt, head of the U.S. Army’s Western Defense Command during WWII, in which he defended the forced internment of Japanese Americans. It was a policy driven by racial prejudice and ignorance masquerading as national security. It is also considered to be among the greatest injustices ever perpetrated by the U.S. government.
DeWitt said, "The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on American soil, possessed of American citizenship, have be come ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted.
…It, therefore, follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today.
The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken."
Pay especially close attention to that last sentence - the lack of any hostile actions was portrayed as "proof" that such hostile acts will happen. Today, we're banning refugees from Syria and travelers from several majority Muslim countries and the justifications is very much that the lack of any hostile acts committed by folks from those countries is simply proof that such hostile acts will happen.
We can choose to learn from our past mistakes or we can ignore those lessons and repeat our past mistakes. Trump appears to be committed to repeating past mistakes. History will likely be very unforgiving in its assessment of the choice he made.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Democrats Cannot Win By Employing Republican Tactics

I understand the urge among Senate Democrats to oppose all things Trump and make most of his nominees party line votes. They are replicating the GOP strategy under Obama. But Democrats need to be cautious when using Republican tactics. Republicans made major legislation under Obama appear to be very partisan by turning most votes into strict party line votes. Republicans filibustered Obama's lower court nominees to the point that Democrats decided to eliminate the filibuster.
But Republicans had a clear strategy - undermine confidence in government. Make people question the legitimacy of Obama policies. As the party of small government, the anti-statists, Republicans improve their electoral chances when confidence in government is low. Voters doubt government so they look to candidates that share their doubts and advocate limited government.
But Democrats are the pro-statist party. They believe in the positive power of government. As such, they suffer when confidence in government is low. Democrats need for people to have confidence in government. It was an upsurge in confidence following the 2008 financial collapse that delivered unified control of Congress and the presidency in 2008. Republican obstruction of the stimulus bill, the Affordable Care Act, and Cap and Trade very effectively undermined confidence in government - leading to their victories in 2010 and again in 2014 and 2016.
So when Democrats employ Republican tactics they actually imperil the electoral strength. People will not vote for a pro-statist if intense partisanship, party line votes, and attacks on the legitimacy of Trump actions convince voters that government is still ineffective and broken. As contradictory as it may sound, Democrats would actually improve their electoral chances by finding areas of common ground where they can vote to support some policies and nominees. Unfortunately, that's not what the party's activist base wants them to do.So in the Senate, Chuck Schumer is in a real bind - does he look to bolster Democratic prospects in 2018 or does he give in to the demands of "the resistance?"

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Will the Women's March Become a Sustained Movement?

I'm seeing a lot of folks asking "will the Women's March" be more like the Tea Party and have a sustained impact or be like Occupy Wall Street and quickly fade. There is of course no way to tell. Certainly Trump will exist as a catalyst for a sustained movement, but Trump being Trump wasn't enough to keep the Obama coalition together for Clinton. The numbers yesterday, in DC and in other cities around the world, were incredibly impressive. Amazing. To dispute that would be folly. But one of my first thoughts was not of Tea Party v Occupy Wall Street. It was of the February 2003 anti-war protests that took place in over 600 cities and involved roughly 30 million participants. The invasion of Iraq came 5 weeks later and President Bush was re-elected in 2004 and Tony Blair in 2005. The protest never became an influential political movement. When I looked at the posters at the protest I certainly saw indications of the challenges it may well face when trying to influence politics. Much like the Democratic party, the protest was clearly an alliance of different groups with different agendas - unified by opposition to Trump. Yes there were folks there for equal pay and for reproductive rights. But there were also folks there for Black Lives Matter, immigration reform, refugee relief, and in support of Muslims. Can such a coalition remain unified? Trump won because many of the white working class voters who had been part of the Democratic coalition decided that they no longer fit in. The challenge for Democrats has always been the agenda diversity of their coalition. It's true that opposition to Obama helped to unify factions within the GOP, but the GOP has a much less diverse coalition. And the political geography of 2018 suggests that even a sustained movement may not be enough to change the balance of power. So would the movement survive an electoral defeat? So much remains to be seen.

As Women March on Washington, It's Also a Great Time for them to Run for Office

Of the many explanations offered to explain Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump, few are as ubiquitous as the belief that she lost due to the electorate's unwillingness to elect women. Yesterday, millions of people participated in the Women's March so I think today is good day to explore the question of gender's impact on electoral success in American Politics. The answer to the question is likely to surprise a lot of people, but it should inspire them as well.  A landmark study by the National Women's Political Caucus issued in 1994 determined, based decades of evidence from state assembly races and a decade of Congressional races, that gender had no impact on electoral success in US elections.

In state Assembly races, incumbent women won 95% of the time, while incumbent men won 94% of the races. Women challengers won 10% of the time and men challengers won 9% of the time. Women and men running for open seats each won little more than half the time.

In state Senate races, incumbent women won 91% and incumbent men 92% of the time. Women running for open seats won 58% of the races; men won 55%. Female challengers won 16% of the time; men 11%.

The findings were essentially the same for U.S. House races as well as U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races. A 2003 study by Fox and Oxley, published in the prestigious Journal of Politics, confirmed that women likelihood of victory does not vary based on the office sought.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Trump and Clinton Risk a Crisis of Legitimacy

There is great cause for concern regarding electoral legitimacy in the US moving forward - and once again Clinton and Trump are revealing themselves to be the awful candidates that they truly were. The Clinton camp has signed onto the ridiculous recount efforts in WI, MI and PA. By doing so, Clinton has set a precedent for any losing candidate to challenge results that are overwhelming - and yes a 10,000 vote margin is overwhelming. And because this recount effort was inspired by a shoddy analysis done by a computer security expert with no political science or elections training, the recount efforts has established that recounts can be demanded based on the most ridiculous evidence.
Then, Trump decides to claim that he actually won the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally - but since he called the recounts a scam I guess none of those illegal votes were cast in WI, MI, or PA. Just as there is no evidence of fraud or hacking in PA, MI, or WI there is no evidence of millions of illegal votes. Trump has once again misquoted a PEW study and a debunked story on illegal voters. But when the winner of an election decides to declare that the vote was illegitimate then the message for future losers is clear - there is no need to ever accept the outcome as legitimate.
From this point forward, whether by Clinton's embrace of bogus recounts or Trump's ludicrous claims of fraud the precedent has been set for future election results to be simply dismissed. If you thought it was bad when folks dismissed Obama or Bush as "not my president" then just consider a future where the losing side simply refuses to accept the legitimacy of the winner. There is a very thin line between that and the arrival of non stop protest and politically motivated violence after an election.
American is not an authoritarian state. Our system of government is not propped up and maintained by the threat of force from the government. America exists solely based on the combined faith of the people in a simple piece of parchment. If that faith is lost there is little holding us together. I am truly worried about that faith and whether it will survive Trump and Clinton and 2016.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trump Won, but Nothing Re-aligned

Donald Trump shocked the political world by winning the 2016 presidential election. There has been much talk of his victories in several Blue states as well as his improved margins among white working class voters. But did Trump really "change the map?" Has he found a new coalition? There is a straightforward way to test this.

Gerald Pomper (1967) first examined continuity and change in presidential elections via linear correlation of state-by-state election results in paired presidential elections.  Pomper was interested in identifying realignments. According to Pomper, realignment would be evident via a “change in the parties’ bases of support… the geographic distribution of each party’s vote would be different from the past: traditional strongholds would fall, while new areas of strength would become evident” (1967, p. 539). Such changes or shifts in support would be evident in statistical analyses of the correlation between sequential elections. In short, a break in continuity, as demonstrated by a low level of correlation with preceding elections, suggests realignment.  Pomper (1967, p. 540) compared the Democratic party’s share of the total vote by state from 1824 to 1964  and identified five “electoral cleavages” in American history, cleavages that correspond to prevailing scholarship on American party systems.  

Like Pomper, I paired successive elections by comparing the Democratic share of the total vote by state to generate correlation coefficients. The state-by-state comparison generates a Pearson correlation coefficient with a low or negative value indicating a disruption or cleavage point and a higher positive value indicating continuity or electoral stability.  Figure 1 presents the results. The changes taking place in the parties' coalitions in the late 1970s and early 1980s are evident as is the rather stable electoral period that emerged in 1996 - a period marked more narrow election victories and the emergence of the familiar Red and Blue states.

Donald Trump pieced together an impressive electoral coalition in the 2016 election, a coalition that included traditionally Democratic states like PA, MI, and WI - yet Figure 1 shows the 2016 election demonstrated a high degree of correlation with the election of 2012 – no fundamental changes took place in 2016. Rather Trump was able to achieve narrow victories in otherwise Democratic states. The results suggest that the present path to 270 electoral votes remains both stable and competitive.

Pomper. 1967. Classification of Presidential Elections. The Journal of Politics.

I Was Far too Dismissive of the Those Telling Me Trump Could Win

"Having eaten a batch of crow, sufficiently humbled, and strongly sorry, I will learn valuable lessons from my errors." Matthew Dowd

A lot of folks are eating crow after the election of Donald Trump. Nearly all of the "experts" got the election so wrong.

I'll offer my own mea culpa, I underestimated Trump and I often dismissed those who believed he would win. I was way too certain of my knowledge of American politics. On more than one occasion I prefaced my comments with "I've written two books on American politics, I think I know what's going on." There was a time when I swore I would never use my resume' as a justification for dismissing another's argument. I'm embarrassed to have done so. Perhaps worse, I ignored a central argument in my first book which suggested that a candidate like Trump - an outsider populist - was a perfect fit for a growing number of voters. I was convinced that a candidate like Trump (I never liked him, and still don't) would never be able to outperform Mitt Romney - a candidate that I considered to have been superior in qualifications, temperament, and appeal. So I could never get his Electoral Vote total above 260. Why? Because I couldn't fathom that he'd be able the flip PA, WI, or MI - how could he do what Bush and Romney could not? I believed that Trump had been nominated by folks who hated Hillary Clinton and that his supporters mistakenly assumed that a majority of voters shared their disdain.

I especially owe an apology to my Dad, Larry Eberly . He saw this end coming. He reminded me of my own words from a few years ago - that we need more plumbers, carpenters, and waitresses in government. Trump certainly isn't one of those folks, but as an outsider he connected with them in a way no establishment candidate could. While I couldn't help but focus on the damning things that Trump said, Dad understood that his supporters were looking past that for nothing could be more damning than being part of the establishment. And though I was raised in a working class family I became too comfortable in my secure middle class life and couldn't see the world through the eyes of folks who wondered what kind of future their children or grandchildren would have as they saw factories shut down, jobs leaving, and wages stagnating.

Dad understood that many folks didn't like Trump or Clinton, but that only Trump was speaking to them. As a self employed home builder and a past president of the PA Builders Association Dad knew how truly weak the recovery was. Simply stated, if housing isn't recovering the economy isn't recovering. As a member of the Builders Association he had also worked with the PA legislature and understood the politics of the state - clearly better than I did.

So while I was focused on polls and my dislike of Trump I dismissed a lot of anecdotal evidence that Trump had broader appeal than I realized. And there were larger and more obvious hints. Trump was far ahead in Iowa, but was supposedly far behind in its demographically similar neighbor Wisconsin. He was clearly ahead in Ohio, but supposedly way behind in neighbor PA - even though Ohio and PA are often indistinguishable west of Philadelphia.

So I apologize to my Dad and to others who tried to tell me that I was wrong. None of this changes my opinion of Trump, only Trump and his future words and actions could do that. But I will change my willingness to listen to folks living in the battleground states. I'll be better about checking my own preferences, ego, and biases regarding a candidate. And, I'll remember that there's a reason why I seek and listen to my Dad's advice on so many other things and expand the list to include politics.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

White Working Class Narrative is Wrong

I have been dissecting exit polls all day and can say pretty confidently that the narrative of Trump winning because of white working class voters is simply wrong. Trump really did no better than Mitt Romney among white voters, but Trump did do better among non-white voters and Obama's Coalition simply did not turn out for Clinton. It was the lack of turnout by the Obama coalition that cost Clinton Wisconsin and Michigan.

Democrats have some serious thinking and self studying to do.

If the Electoral College Didn't Exist, the Current Popular Vote Total Likely Would be Different

Anger over Clinton winning the popular vote are misplaced. There is no way to know who would've won the popular vote in the absence of an Electoral College. You cannot assume the popular vote total would be what it is today.
Consider it like this - Right now there is no reason for a Republican presidential candidate to campaign in CA, IL or NY and little reason for a Democrat to campaign in TX or MT or UT. And, there is little reason for a minority party voter to vote in a state that will go to the other party - because the Electoral College is winner take all in most states minority party voters often consider their vote to be wasted. 
In Maryland, the outcome the electoral vote contest would be the same whether every Republican in the state voted or no Republican voted. Democrats outnumber Republicans and will win the state and the state's electoral votes.
Take away the Electoral College and candidates seek votes everywhere - so the campaign and the vote totals would be different. Do you doubt this? Look at turnout in battleground v. non-battleground states. Voter turnout is higher in contested battlegrounds. So without the Electoral College there is a reason to campaign more broadly and for everyone to vote. So Republicans in MD and CA would be more likely to vote. Democrats in TX and MT would be more likely to vote. In the end, the popular vote would likely look very different.
So why have an Electoral College? Simple - America is a nation of people and a nation of semi-sovereign states. Just as the House of Representatives exists to represent the people and the Senate exists to Represent the states the Electoral College was created based on the same representative compromise - the people and the states have a say.
And, with the Electoral College a candidate has to appeal to a broad geographic coalition of states with different policy interests. Which is better for electing someone with a more diverse perspective and coalition - does that always work? No, but nothing is perfect.
Perhaps more importantly that anything else, however,  a split between the popular vote and the electoral vote serves as an important reminder that Presidents are elected to be chief executives and not representatives of the people. Though a president may be Head of State and Head of Government, he/she is not the peoples representative. He's not a representative at all. This is a reminder that we all need from time to time.

Trump's Victory was Decades in the Making and the Signs Were There for Years

A few years ago I published my first book - American Government and Popular Discontent with Steven Schier. In it, we attempted to explain what factors led to a collapse in confidence in government and recurrent populist uprisings in America. Though neither Steve nor I predicted that Donald Trump would win the presidential election neither of us were surprised by his victory or by the populist uprisings that took place in both party primaries. Trump's victory was decades in the making and the sign's of a victory like his were there for years. We write in the book that whenever national difficulties mount, popular anger focuses on professional governing elites. Contrary to accepted opinion with regard to the current era, these populist uprisings are in fact an established aspect of the current American political system. A system not marked by unpredictability, but rather by an era of stability in which the elections of 1974, 1980, 1994, 2006 and 2010 – in which popular discontent led to major electoral shifts -- are recurrent features of a larger electoral pattern. Popular resentments seem to have burgeoned in recent years. After six years of Republican rule in Washington, the voters swept the GOP from congressional control in 2006. The 2008 election produced a change in party control in the White House. The Tea Party movement of 2009, begun in response to the expansive spending and regulatory policies of the Obama administration, brought the GOP back into control of the House of Representatives. The Occupy Wall Street movement emerged in late 2011 and quickly spread to major cities throughout the United States. Declining voter turnout accompanied President Obama’s narrow 2012 election victory. High unemployment and low economic growth contributed to low public esteem of government in recent years. Popular distrust and discontent had risen to new and possibly dangerous highs. The size and scope of what happened yesterday points to a systemic reaction by the electorate. It was the manifestation of years, in fact decades, of rising levels of discontent by a growing number of disaffected voters.

So why did Trump win? Just look to the exit polls. Fully 69% of voters were either dissatisfied with or angry at government - Trump won 58% of them. A plurality, 48%, wanted the next president to be more conservative, Trump won 83% of them. A clear plurality, 39% said the quality that mattered most in a president that he/she can bring change. Trump won 83% of them. And 50% said government already does too much. Trump won 73% of them.

Preferring "conservative" government or believing that "government does too much" are clear signs of a collapse in trust in government.

Clinton essentially ran as the third term of Obama. She was the establishment. She surrounded herself with the establishment - in a year when most voter did not want the establishment.

Right down the line on questions of honesty and likability it is clear that neither candidate was liked and neither and most people were not happy with the choice. And 60% of voters said Trump was not qualified to be president. He still managed to win 20% of those folks. This was an election based on discontent and frustration - little else mattered.
It is our guess that the present system will persist and will have to be the source of solutions for America’s fiscal and economic problems. The solutions will either come from endogenous leadership “from within” or will be imposed by exogenous crises “from without.” Internal leadership occurs only with a new president and a supportive Congress – think Reagan in 1981 or Obama in 2009 – but those circumstances are fleeting. If the crisis comes from without, we can only guess at its timing and scale. Will Americans ever come to trust this thick national political system dominated by professionals? Ultimately, it depends on the system’s results. If the nation’s fiscal and economic problems produce broad rethinking and the use of experimental evidence as the basis for policy, better results are likely to ensue. Better policy results may boost popular trust. And, if trust re-surges, a new American political system will again be born. That's a pretty big "if."

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Myth of the Presidential Mandate

As another Presidential election comes to a close it is worth offering a pre-emptive rebuttal to any attempts to claim that the results convey some type of mandate on the victor. Below, drawn heavily from Prof. Robert Dahl's "Myth of the Presidential Mandate," I'll explain why.

Dahl writes, “As a means of popular control over government, elections are a blunt instrument: powerful but not very articulate. The ballot gives voters the chance to select candidates, but not explain why they made those choices. The weakness of election results is that they are specific on one point only: who won and who lost. On other points, especially why one candidate won and the other lost, the message is vague and open to interpretation.”

Why did Barack Obama beat John McCain or Mitt Romney?
Why did George Bush beat John Kerrey?
Why did Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole?

In 2004 70% indicated that their vote was in support of their candidate, 25% said it was in opposition to the other candidate.

In 2016, roughly half of all voters indicate that they are voting against a candidate.

In 1832, Andrew Jackson killed the national bank of the United States by claiming to be acting on the authority of the American people who elected him. 
"...the president is the direct representative of the American People" he said, having received 55% of the popular vote.

In 1848 James Polk declared that “the people command the President to execute their will – The President represents the whole people of the United States – the president is responsible to the whole nation, members of congress to states and districts." Polk had received 49.6% of the popular vote.

In 1932 FDR declared "the American people have registered a mandate for vigorous action.. the have made me the instrument of their wishes." He won 58% to 40%.

In 1980 VP George Bush declared that the election result represented “a mandate for change, a mandate for opportunity, a mandate for leadership.” Ronald Reagan had won 51% to 42%.

In 2004 Bush declared "I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on." He won by 51% to 48%.

The Framers intended that Congress be the representative of the People. The change over to popular election of Electors in the 19th Century challenged this design. Suddenly a President was the only person elected by the whole of the Nation. Jackson first established the concept of Elections endorsing a President’s policies and Polk firmly established the concept of a mandate and a President as equal to Congress in representativeness.

Woodrow Wilson cemented the modern concept of the mandate – holding that only the president was selected by the nation as a whole and therefore represented the nation as a whole. Wilson argues that no one else represents the nation as a whole and the President in this regard is superior to Congress. As such, a Presidential election represents unified national will. 

But the notion of a Presidential mandate can be found nowhere in the framers' intent and is in fact counter to their design.

But do election results translate into mandates? Are all results a mandate? What constitutes a Mandate?

Is it based on margin of victory? Must a candidate exceed 50% or 55%. What if a candidate wins big, but loses seats in the House and Senate? What if a popular vote victory is narrow, but the Electoral margin is significant?

Dahl tells us that none of that really maters. For a mandate to exist we must accept the following four interpretations of any election:
    1. The results confer constitutional and legal authority upon the winner
    2. It reveals the first choice for president of a plurality of voters
    3. A clear majority of voters preferred the winner because they preferred  his/her policies and wish that they be pursued
    4. Since the policies reflected the wishes of the majority, his/her policies should prevail in any conflict with congress.
The first two seem clear and non-controversial, the third seems suspect and if false, so is the fourth and the whole concept of a mandate. 

Does an election show that a plurality or majority of voters prefer the policies of the winner?Survey’s consistently show that people vote for candidates even if they cannot detail their proposals. People frequently vote for candidates when they disagree with their proposals.

Elections are blunt and uninformative in many ways - elections tell us who won and who lost, but not why. And if we can't truly answer the "why" then any claim to a mandate is hollow. The pluralistic concept of a diverse populace represented by a body elected from that diversity (Congress) is also supplanted by the notion that a single representative (the President) of a majority or plurality speaks for the interests and beliefs of the populace. 

And by portraying the President as the only true voice and the Congress as the segmented voice of narrow and regional interests the President is elevated to an exalted position not intended by the Constitution and at the expense not only of Congress, but of the judiciary, the states and the people themselves. Claims of a mandate confer advantages on those whose interests are broader or more national than those who interests are more reflected in Congressional or regional majorities - and this is not necessarily in the best interests of a diverse nation. 

So if an election does not confer a Mandate then what does it do? It's simple really, an election victory confers the legitimate authority, right, and opportunity on a President to try and gain adoption of the policies that he/she supports. Just as any member of Congress is conferred with the right and opportunity to try and gain adoption of the policies that he/she supports by nature of his or her victory. Being President doesn't mean getting an extra or primary right to pursue your agenda. You have no more claim to the right to pursue your agenda than does any other elected official. 

Whatever policy or agenda is ultimately adopted may not represent the desires or interest of any majority – but perhaps no elected representative is qualified to say just what the desire of the public truly is.

So we may hear the claim of a "mandate" come Tuesday night. But, whether it's uttered by Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, it will be an empty claim.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Trump Still Facing a Tough Road to 270

So let me revisit how tough the road is for Trump - let's say the Hispanic vote materializes for Clinton and throws NV and FL her way. But a decline in Black turnout coupled with White working class voters deliver MI, PA, OH, NH, and NC to Trump - that only get's him 271 electoral votes. And MI and PA haven't gone Republican in years...

Voters Aren't Changing Their Minds, Only Their Enthusiasm

If you've been curious as to why some polls, like ABC news, have shown significant swings while others, like IBD/TIPP, have been steady it's not because "polls suck" or because of voters changing their minds in the final days. Most of the variation comes down to how pollsters determine the universe of likely voters.
Whereas support for one candidate over the other hasn't been shifting, the intensity of support has been changing. As intensity falls for a candidate some voters fall out of the likely voter model. ABC News has a model that is far more sensitive to those changes than is the IBD (and some other) models. After the FBI news, ABC noted a drop in Clinton enthusiasm and a rise in Trump enthusiasm- so their poll closed. Enthusiasm for Clinton is now recovering, so she has regained the lead. IBD has been less sensitive to changes in likely voters so their poll has shown a more steady race.
Now ABC News has Clinton up 5 and IBD has Trump up 1 point. These polls don't disagree. Because polls are just samples they have error margins - usually in the neighborhood of 3.5-5 points. So +5 and -1 are not incompatible. The closer a poll result is to 50/50 the harder it is to determine who is actually ahead. As you move away from 50/50 the probability that the person on the lead is actually in the lead grows. So in a poll where a candidate is ahead by 3 there is a greater probability that the person is actually ahead than with a poll showing a 1 point lead.
So RealClearPolitics shows Clinton with an average lead of 2 points - but Trump is up in only 1 poll and tied in another. And there are polls with Clinton up 3, 4, or 5 points. This means there is a greater probability that Clinton is ahead.
In the final 3 days of the election I'll be looking for any trend shifts. We should see some new polls today and tomorrow. In 2012 the final few polls showed a clear movement toward Obama and he wound up winning by a margin that doubled his poll average - and it pulled the close states like Florida along with him. If this race stays flat at its current level then Clinton wins with a narrow Electoral College victory. If things shift toward her then she likely claims close states like FL, NC and maybe OH and wins with well over 300 electoral votes. If things *shift* to Trump - then it's anyone's guess.

*with apologies to my Mom for missing the "f" in shift in my initial post... 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Dear St. Mary's Voters: Please Vote "YES" on Code Home Rule ballot question!

To all folks in St. Mary's county - I urge you to please vote YES on the ballot question regarding the adoption of Code Home Rule as the governing structure for the county. In Maryland, there are three options for counties - Commissioner, Charter, or Code Home Rule. We are currently Commissioner style.

Under this approach, Commissioner authority is limited. The General Assembly has full power to legislate for the County. Commissioners may enact ordinances where authorized by Express Powers enabling legislation, or specific public local laws. So instead of having a local government that can respond to voter concerns or the needs of the county we have a style of government in which our Commissioner are treated like children who must go to their parents to get permission. It's an inefficient form of government and it is outdated. St. Mary's population has been growing at a pace that places it among the fastest growing counties in the state - and yet we still have a system of government that was put in place when the county was a small farming rural county.

Under Code Home Rule, Commissioners can enact, amend, or repeal local laws on a wide array of matters. Most powers granted to Charter counties are also granted to Code counties (they have  broad legislative power). The General Assembly may still enact public local laws covering an entire class of Code counties, but not for one single Code county.

St. Mary's is one of only six counties which still have this very limited form of government. Another six counties have adopted Code Home Rule. The remaining 11 counties and Baltimore City have Charter government. So please, help bring St. Mary's into the 21st Century and vote YES on Code Home Rule!