Archive

November 30th, 2016

Wisconsin gerrymander take politics too far

    In a case that could eventually affect the balance of legislatures across the country, a federal court in Wisconsin has for the first time struck down a partisan gerrymander. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously declined to regulate such party-based districting, but this time may well be different. The lower court gave a simple, clear rule for determining whether districting is designed to disadvantage one party systematically. And the growing disparity between Republican and Democratic-controlled state legislatures gives the justices -- especially Anthony Kennedy -- very good reason to intervene.

    The facts of the case are being repeated all over the country. The Wisconsin state legislature, which sets state and federal electoral districts, is Republican controlled. After the 2010 census, it introduced a new districting plan that was designed by experts with computer programs so sophisticated that they make the task simple. The plan was to increase the number of Republicans elected using techniques called "cracking" and "packing."

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Why did Obama win more white evangelical votes than Clinton? He asked for them.

    The white evangelical vote has been a focus of post-election coverage, and for good reason. If you had told the average person that white evangelicals would account for more than a fourth of the entire electorate, they may not have believed you: After all, evangelicals are often imagined as a fringe population. But they represented more than a quarter of the electorate in 2012 and 2008, and again this year.

    In the 2016 presidential election, 81 percent of these voters -- voters that Democrats remember exist only every four years -- voted for Donald Trump, and only 16 percent supported Clinton, well below the level of support of white evangelicals for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, when he won 26 and 21 percent of white evangelical votes respectively.

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What TV journalists did wrong - and the New York Times did right - in meeting with Trump

    On Monday, some of the biggest names in TV news trooped into Trump Tower for an off-the-record meeting with the president-elect.

    It was an all-star cast. Not just on-air stars like Lester Holt, Wolf Blitzer and George Stephanopoulos but also their bosses were summoned before the Potentate of Fifth Avenue.

    The meeting was a huge success - for Donald Trump.

    Soon after it broke up, a leak to the New York Post brought on a story about how thoroughly the president-elect had taken the attendees to task.

    With attribution to anonymous tipsters, the Post wrote: "The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down. ... Trump kept saying, 'We're in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.'"

    Call it Woodshed Theater, with all the applause lines for the president-elect.

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What if Trump wanted more illegal immigration?

    Imagine that a new U.S. president, different from the one we just elected, set out to maximize the number of illegal Mexican immigrants. Maybe he or she saw electoral advantage in this, or maybe just thought it was the right thing to do. But how to achieve that end? Imagine also that I was called into the Oval Office to give advice.

    I would start by recommending an enormous new program of fiscal stimulus and construction. Let's rebuild our roads, bridges and power grids, and put up some new infrastructure as well, including perhaps an unfinished border wall. That will require a lot of labor, and Mexican labor, including that of the illegal variety, is common in the construction business. The financial crisis, and the resulting freeze-up in the housing market, was a major reason why Mexican migration to the United States went into reverse, so a new building program might counteract that trend.

    But wait, that's not enough. When state and local governments hire people to perform labor, they insist on some pretty serious documentation of legal employment status. The federal government does the same. So the stimulus plan will have to be designed to evade such enforcement possibilities.

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We must curb the abomination of fake news

    Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. The emergence of "social media" as compared to "news media" has morphed into "fake news" as opposed to reliable journalism.

    The legitimate citizen chatter on the Internet offering alternative views on the events of the day to the work of trained newsgatherers for print and electronic journalistic enterprises has broadened and often enriched the public dialogue.

    But the hatching and proliferation of fake news, generated for fun or profit, has willfully and even contemptuously corrupted the imperative communications exchange between public and press in our free society.

    If readers and viewers can't rely on the flow of news as the basis for sound public policy and assessment, the core justification for American journalism will have been shattered.

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TV networks learned nothing from covering Donald Trump

    Monday night's edition of "NBC Nightly News" featured a report on President-elect Donald Trump's transition. "President-elect Donald Trump met today with more prospective members of his administration as his team released a video of Trump talking about his legislative priorities. At the same time, questions remained about how Trump will separate the work of his businesses from his work on the nation's business." Hallie Jackson followed up with a detailed account of Trump's overseas holdings and their implications for a Trump presidency.

    All well and good. But: What anchor Lester Holt didn't detail was a meeting that he himself had attended at Trump Tower earlier in the day. He wasn't alone, as a number of other network dignitaries from five outlets -- CNN, ABC News, NBC News, Fox News and CBS News -- huddled with the president-elect. Attendees included Chuck Todd (NBC News), Phil Griffin (MSNBC), Norah O'Donnell (CBS News), Gayle King (CBS News), Charlie Rose (CBS News) and Jeff Zucker (CNN).

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Trump’s Demand for Love

    I had just shaken the president-elect’s normal-size hand and he was moving on to the next person when he wheeled around, took a half step back, touched my arm and looked me in the eye anew.

    “I’m going to get you to write some good stuff about me,” Donald Trump said.

    It’s entirely possible. I keep an open mind. But I’m decided on this much: Winning the most powerful office in the world did nothing to diminish his epic ache for adoration or outsize need to tell everyone how much he deserves it.

    He sat down for more than an hour with about two dozen of us at The Times on Tuesday afternoon, and what subject do you suppose he spent his first eight minutes on? When the floor was his, to use as he pleased?

    The incredibleness of his win two weeks ago.

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Trump Reassures the Media (For Now)

    “I think you’ll be happy, I think you’ll be happy.”

    That was President-elect Donald Trump, talking to a group of New York Times journalists today about his views on the First Amendment.

    The real issue, of course, is not whether journalists are happy. (We’re not exactly a popular bunch with most Americans.) The issue is whether the next president and his administration plan to remain faithful to the Constitution.

    And there are reasons to worry. During the campaign, Trump referred to the reporters covering him as “scum” and said that he wanted to “open up” libel laws to make it easier to sue media companies for unfavorable coverage.

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Trump may have just flatly and openly admitted to a conflict of interest

    Donald Trump just wrapped up a meeting with editors and reporters of the New York Times. Reporter Maggie Haberman relays that this happened:

    "I might have brought it up," Trump says of Farage meeting and wind farms.

    In saying this, Trump may have flatly and openly admitted to a conflict of interest, according to Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

    Trump's admission that he "might have brought up" wind farms in his meeting with Nigel Farage is a reference to today's New York Times story reporting this:

    ---

    When President-elect Donald Trump met with the British politician Nigel Farage in recent days, he encouraged Mr. Farage and his entourage to oppose the kind of offshore wind farms that Mr. Trump believes will mar the pristine view from one of his two Scottish golf courses, according to one person present.

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Trump can't (entirely) shut down federal agencies

    Many Republicans hope, and many Democrats fear, that Donald Trump's administration will close or shrink a variety of federal agencies and offices. Both the hope and the fear are justified -- even without a supermajority in the Senate, there's a lot Republicans can do to restrict the actions of the executive branch.

    Let's start with what Trump can't do: Acting on his own, could he disband an agency or department -- say, the Department of Energy? Absolutely not. He would need Congress for that, and almost certainly 60 votes (and it's not going to get close to that). But his administration could work to cut staff, if only by refusing to fill vacancies, and it could certainly work with Congress to reduce appropriations.

    Far more important, Trump could do a lot to reduce agency activity.

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