Trump Bombed on the Border, Bigley

Last month I wrote a post on Trump’s Mid-Term Report Card, and on the subject of political negotiations, I gave him an F, particularly in the case of the wall and immigration issues, the Wall Street Journal gave a pretty close account of how Trump’s inattention and Congressional leadership’s opposition, allowed the issue to languish until the Democrats won the House.  At that point, it became an impossible dream. Still he persisted…

But to no avail. After initiating the longest shut down in history, the end result of that was Trump signing a bill today that was far worse than if he had never shut down the government at all. Conservative Review had a breakdown of the 5 worst parts of the bill, but in an 1,169 page bill, we will still be discovering Easter eggs even though the bill is already signed.

  1. Less wall than the Democrats had previously agreed to.
  2. Local officials can veto wall portions in their area.
  3. Amnesty (!) for child traffickers and smugglers.
  4. Resettling illegals throughout the country.
  5. Increases low skilled Visa categories.

In other words, this bill sucks.  I would have been angry if Obama or Hillary had signed this sort of garbage, but when the most immigration restrictionist President since Eisenhower signs it, where do you go?

Trump should not have signed this.  Never mind whatever “Emergency Declaration” he thinks may get him more money for the wall sometime in a year or two (assuming it survives all the court challenges).  In the meantime he’s made US immigration law much worse.

He’s looking at another F.

Trump’s Mid-Term Report Card

 

Two years ago, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, against incredible odds.  It was the culmination of one of the most remarkable Presidential campaigns in my life time, and arguably, all of American history.  So it’s fair to look back and see how he’s done so far.  Not of course by the standards of the media or the swampy establishment, but from the people who voted him in.  Trump supporters such as myself.

Specifically me.

Let’s break this down into some important categories and see how he fared.

Campaign Promises

There are a lot of ways to cut campaign promises and they are not all judged equally.  Do we give the same value to a promise made at every campaign stop versus one made once or twice?  Clearly it seems to be that we should concentrate on the handful of major ones, although the Trump unfriendly site Politifact seems to track them in a more scattershot fashion, particularly with their “Trump-O-Meter.” So some of these may be a bit subjective, but if I were to make my own list, based on the ones he seemed to repeat the most often, it would be something like this:

  1. Repeal and Replace Obamacare
  2. Build the Wall
  3. Cut taxes
  4. Get NATO to pay their fair share
  5. Infrastructure Bill
  6. Renegotiate Trade deals
  7. Appoint Supreme Court Justices from his pre-screened list
  8. Get out of Iran deal and Paris Accords
  9. Immigration Reform
  10. Defeat ISIS

In general, he’s done a pretty good job for just two years, but the ones he’s not yet accomplished yet or already failed at, are big ones.  Obamacare was an early flop, as is the wall, but the most surprising was his inability to get an infrastructure bill through Congress.  That should have been an easy bipartisan success.  The wall of course is an ongoing failure, one that should have been started in his first two years, not waited until it became politically impossible.

Grade: C

Foreign/Military Policy

Trump shocked everyone by keeping his foreign policy promises.  He moved our embassy in Israel to the capital, Jerusalem; a perennial bipartisan campaign promise that is forgotten by inauguration. But not this time; Trump actually did it.  He engaged with NATO to increase their agreed on contributions, began orienting our trade policy to put pressure on trade partners who had unfair policies, leading to a replacement of NAFTA with the USMCA (United States Mexico Canada Agreement), and has been the only US President to engage with China seriously over their unfair trade practices.

North Korea is an ongoing mess, but then it always has been.  Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton all negotiated with North Korea, all declared some variation of ‘peace in our time,’ and declared victory, only to have their efforts wind up in failure.  That may be the fate of Trump’s attempt, but he’s trying something new (Art of the Deal-type deal making) and may have better results from that, but we may not know for sure for years.

In the Middle East, Trump has turned the orientation away from Iran and back to the Sunni Arab states, mainly Saudi Arabia, at a time when Saudi Arabia’s oil power has been in relative decline. By defeating the IS Caliphate, and beginning the process of pulling US troops from Syria, he’s fulfilling yet another campaign promise and keeping the lid on mission creep that the national security establishment is trying to suck the country into.  Assad?  Putin?  Kurds?  That’s not why we put troops in Syria; it was to get rid of the Caliphate, and now they control zero territory.  Mission Accomplished.

His genuflecting to Putin is irritating however.  After watching how he dealt with Kim Jong-un, it’s clear that is a typical Trump negotiation strategy: alternate threats with flattery and nice words.  However whatever attempts at negotiations with Russia Trump may have planned has been spoilt by the absurd anti-Russian hysteria in the United States.  Trump should stop pretending there is a chance to have any meaningful relationship with the Russians.

Grade:  A-

 

Economic Policy

Trump’s economic policy can be broken down into 3 large planks:

  1. Tax Cuts
  2. Pealing back regulations
  3. Trade

Tax cuts are already accomplished and the President is doing an unprecedented job of taking advantage of his position in the Executive Branch by reducing regulations. On that point, he’s been successful in a way that no modern Republican President has been, including Reagan. Trade is an ongoing foreign policy negotiation with an uncertain future, but the goal is definitely positive and Trump is the first President in decades who has connected trade and protecting American workers.  Even if the progress is incremental, it’s going in the right direction.

Grade: A-

Immigration

If there is probably one issue that lead to Trump’s breakout success in both the GOP nomination fight and the battle for the Presidency, it was on the issue of immigration. Trump’s promises on immigration are a major reason he’s President. In office though, it’s been a mixed bag.  In terms of the powers he holds in the executive branch, he deserves an A.  He’s used the powers of the Justice Department and Homeland Security to enact policy changes in alignment with his immigration goals.  However when it comes to legislation, Trump has accomplished almost nothing…wait, I guess it’s actually nothing.  On that he would get an F.  But I can average the two to give him…

Grade:  C-

 

Political Negotiations

One of the skills that candidate Trump touted from his resume was his ability to negotiate; “The Art of The Deal” style. Whatever skills he exhibited in the business world are totally absent in dealing with Congress. Consider, Trump’s campaign promise failures are almost all ones that required Congressional legislation to accomplish, and on that score, he didn’t accomplish much. And this was with a GOP Congress.  That probably has a lot to do with why we no longer have a GOP Congress.

Trump has done great things on the executive branch side; the things he can directly control, but we’ve just had two years of GOP controlling the Presidency and Congress and nothing of importance was accomplished. It’s a wasted opportunity that the GOP may never have again in our lifetimes.

As I mentioned last month, I put the blame primarily on the GOP Congressional leadership, specifically Paul Ryan. Trump was suckered on Obamacare, with Ryan cranking out versions that couldn’t possibly pass because he didn’t WANT them to pass; he hated Trump and wanted to oppose him more than he wanted any sort of legislation. And of course McConnell and Ryan kept lying to him on the wall. That was something that the House and Senate could have easily provided early on, but didn’t because they hate Trump. Once Ryan got his tax bill through, he had no incentive to do anything but interview for post House jobs with donors. That was the only leverage Trump had and he gave it away. Trump, for his part, either didn’t recognize that the GOP Congress was opposing him, or did recognize it, but took no action to fight them. The past two years, they were the real enemy and Trump’s vaunted negotiation ability?  It was nowhere to be seen.

He’s done little better against his actual political opponents, the Democrats. He’s scored plenty of zingers, many of them hilarious and far more ballsy than any other Republican President would have attempted, and he decisively won last year’s shutdown fiasco.  But he’s had less luck this year.  In fact, based on Trump’s offer yesterday it sounds like his negotiating position is collapsing, with Trump, after careful negotiations with himself, offered the Democrats DACA, TPS, and the Dreamers; all for a measly Five billion.  Of course, it’s possible that Trump is using one of his standard tactics: making huge concessions when he knows his opponents won’t go for it, as he demonstrated during last year’s shutdown and several other previous, well publicized negotiations.  However at this point it looks like Jeb Bush doing the negotiating. I was going to give Trump a D- for his political negotiation acumen, but after yesterday’s debacle of an offer, I’ve lowered it.

Grade:  F

That’s why I have to give the Trump administration a midterm grade of C at the half way point. He’s had some spectacular successes and some spectacular failures (as this current shutdown strategy is revealing itself to be).  And it only gets tougher from here.  With the Democrats in charge of the House, it’s going to be full on war against Trump in impeachment and investigations, with no Trump friendly legislation getting through.  At least under Ryan the House was merely passive aggressive in opposing him, with a few actual Trump allies sprinkled here and there in charge of powerful committees.  Not so now.  Still, considering the opposition he’s faced, the perseverance he’s shown is simply astounding.  The guy is tough and with the odds stacked against him even more than he’s faced in his first two years, it will be interesting to see how he handles it.

 

How the GOP Congress Killed it’s Majority

I admit I’m not much of an affecianto of Breitbart; however they had a story that caught my eye this week

“The House GOP leadership is responsible for blocking a pro-American immigration reform package which was backed by President Donald Trump, a top House chairman said Tuesday.

The GOP leadership let the House immigration reform die in June by allowing a critical bloc of GOP legislators to split their votes between two rival reform bills, said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the retiring chairman of the House committee on the judiciary.”

This more or less confirms what I’ve suspected the past two years: that the GOP House leadership was every bit in opposition to the Trump Presidency as any roundtable on MSNBC, and has been in opposition to him and his issues, even if it cost the Republicans the House majority.

The Paul Ryan strategy was summarized at the time fairly well here:

Well, it worked.  Ryan, as Speaker of the House, spent two years sabotaging not only any Trump friendly bills, such as the Goodlatte bill, but, with the exception of the tax cuts, all other GOP priorities.  Ryan’s legacy amounts to a bunch of massive spending bills and a tax bill that won’t survive a Democrat majority in the House and Senate.  But at least his donors will be happy.

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed Ryan’s perfidy. The multiple versions of the House “repeal and replace” health care plans seemed like they were designed to fail, and they certainly did, giving Trump the first of many failures in dealing with Congress.

With control of all three branches of government, the GOP accomplished virtually nothing and gave not a single reason to motivate GOP voters.  If the Democrats had not gone Kavanaugh crazy, I wonder what the damage to the GOP House would have been.  Of course, Goodlatte could have said something about this a lot earlier, instead of waiting until he’s out the door, but that, like any Republican chances for immigration reform, is water under the bridge.

So two years wasted and no chance in Trump’s first term to accomplish anything on immigration or again, anything else now.  If any party deserved to lose, it’s the House Republicans.

Trump’s Immigration Proposal: 4D Chess or Tossing Crap on the Wall?

Just a few days after I wrote a post detailing how it appears Trump is putting on an immigration show as part of his deal making strategy, the White House rolled out a brand new set of immigration positions as a basis to negotiate with “Chuck and Nancy.”  To Trump supporters who’ve been with Trump because of immigration, they stink.

In exchange for 10- to 12-year path to citizenship for both DACA enrollees and other DACA-eligible illegal immigrants, estimated to be 1.8 million people, The White House wants:

25 Billion dollars for a border wall.

Restrict family chain migration to spouses and minor children.

Eliminate the visa lottery program.

To a Trump supporter, this is giving away the farm.  Nobody was even talking about the 1.8 million possible DACA eligible populations before.  Compared to what was being offered before, this is a major give on amnesty.  If I were a Democrat I would have jumped on this deal quick before Stephen Miller could re-strengthen his hypnotic spell on Trump.

But I’m not a Democrat so instead of getting Trump’s John Hancock on the deal quickly, “Chuck and Nancy” rejected it out of hand, with Schumer stating that it flies in the face of what most Americans believe and Pelosi tweeting that the proposal was part of a “campaign to make America white again.”

What to make of this?

First, the Democrats are crazier than I thought.  They have pushed themselves into such an extreme position on immigration that they can’t accept any deal with Trump, because they now philosophically cannot accept any restriction on immigration at all.

Second, it looks like Trump may have actually pushed them there.  When I first heard of Trump’s immigration proposal, with a gigantic amnesty, I was not worried in the least.  Don’t say that I can’t learn from experience.  We’ve been here many times before and as I suspected, it seems it was just part of a negotiating strategy and wasn’t a real proposal.

Based on my four theories of how Trump negotiates, I find myself seeing elements less of a wrestling work, like the shutdown negotiations, and more a Scott Adams-esque 4D Chess maneuver. The proposal seemed deliberately written to be overly generous to the aspects of the immigration battle that Democrats publicly support (the poor DACA kids!  The only country they’ve ever known!) with just a few touches that are either not well known by the public, or if they are, not well supported, like chain migration and the visa lottery program.  Should be a win/win for the Democrats to accept the deal right?

But the visa lottery is popular with the Congressional Black Congress, although not with Black people in general. And chain migration is part of the long term Democratic plan to fill the country with unskilled, social services dependent foreigners, all running on automatic. Current family migration policies are worth far more towards that goal than 1.8 million amnesties; people who won’t be able to bring in their less skilled and non-English speaking relatives.

So with the absolutely best deal they would have ever gotten roundly rejected by the Democrats, I think this puts Trump in a much stronger position for negotiations. I’m anxious to see how this plays out.

 

Is Demography Still Destiny?

A friend who is aware of my interest in the link between demographic change and political change slipped me this article, Why Demography Does Not Equal Destiny.  You don’t hear much these days about demographics in politics since last November 9th, other than the talk about that new group that politicos recently discovered; the white working class.  Who are these guys and where did they come from?

So it’s no surprise there is a lot of handwringing among the Demographics=Destiny crowd.  The article summarizes its main points:

  1. Demographic change is not evenly dispersed in states and voting districts throughout the country.
  2. Voting behavior is not static. Voters more readily change which party they support than the demography-is-destiny models anticipated.
  3. Despite the large change in the demographic composition of the electorate, most voters still do not self-identify as liberals. In fact, liberals remain bronze medalists in the ideological breakdown of the electorate—ever since the question was first asked decades ago.

I don’t disagree with the generalities of these points.  In fact I share them to a degree and wrote about the snags and hiccups on the way to permanent Democratic rule over two years ago. Most voters are not liberal, at least they are not self-identified ones, and the purging of the moderate wing that began in 2010 has left the Democratic Party with few moderates for mainstream Americans to identify with.  Political decisions matter too, and President Obama’s decision to go make Obamacare, rather than “comprehensive immigration reform” his first massive push doomed his party to an easy opening for attack.  The Tea Party sprang up to fight Obamacare and the political cost for moderate blue dog Democrats to vote for it was the loss of their seats, leaving a smaller, and more left leaning Democratic Party in its wake.

So for the past few years, the Democratic Party has been hurt more by stupid political decisions than helped by Demographic change.  Nobody told them that they had to make a granny with 30 years of criminal investigations and corruption behind her the party’s nominee.

However…

Even though the Democrats nominated the worst candidate possible she still won the popular vote by 3 million votes.  That really brings truth to the old saying about yellow dog Democrats; they would vote for a dog if it was running on the Democratic ticket. But that goes to Point One; demographic change is not evenly dispersed.  No it isn’t.  Particularly when you consider that the Hillary’s popular vote lead is entirely attributable to California.  Without California, Trump won the popular vote by 1.4 million votes.  That’s the power of demographics.

California is the textbook case, and the canary in the coal mine on unbridled Demographic change. The Center for Immigration Studies did a study comparing California from 1970 to 2008. Just a few observations:

Legal and illegal immigrants went from 9 to 27%.

Went from 7th most educated workforce to 50th (that’s dead last for the California educated!).

Went from 25th in income inequality to 6th.

Conclusion?  If you try to replicate Latin America in California, don’t be surprised if you get something that looks very much like…Latin America; high income inequality, with a very wealthy and educated elite with a large poor and uneducated mass of people, and of course, one party rule. California has successfully duplicated the Mexican model. And California, which has for decades been the early adopter of future American trends, shows us what the entire country will look like in a few decades.

So yes, other things matter too, not just demographics, however as California demonstrates, all things being equal, over time demographic change is probably the largest single determinate.  Demographically speaking, as Ann Coulter pointed out, “If the same country that voted in 1980 had voted in 2012, Romney would have won a bigger landslide than Reagan did.”

In the Trump, Black Swan era, it’s easy to dismiss demographic change as having an effect on our politics, but there it is, chugging along, year after year, turning the United States into California.

 

 

 

This Election’s competing views of Immigration

I noticed on a message board today a liberal was making a loaded comment (is there any other kind?) about this election being about two differing views of immigration.  One view is that this country belongs to the white Christians who founded the country, and the other view that the country’s founding was on Universalist principles open to everyone.  Naturally it was a false choice between racism and open borders, but I took the bait and responded anyway:

I would agree that this election does waiver between two competing views of immigration, although perhaps not exactly in the way you have framed.

1. There are those who believe that there is a particular American culture, with a particular history, and want new immigrants to assimilate into that culture. American history has taught us that doesn’t happen when there is a constant flow of co-ethnics pouring into the country, reinforcing old world manners, culture, and language. Germans ( the original poster used the example of Germans who were thought to unassimilatable  at the nation’s founding), who meet your definition of being white and Christian and were established in the country from before the revolution, didn’t fully assimilate until after World War 1, and that was primarily because of severe anti German feeling at the time. Real assimilation happened after immigration was sharply reduced in the 1920’s and kept that way until the 1960’s.

2.  There are other people who don’t think there is a distinct American culture or cultural and political history, or if there is, it’s distasteful and should be eliminated. Their definition of American includes the entire world and any culture, no matter how savage or backward. They believe that whatever views occupy the zeitgeist at any particular time are universal values that everyone shares, even if they don’t know it. They don’t believe that different cultures often have ways that may be offensive to other cultures, and if they do, heh, it all comes out in the wash. They believe every community should be overwritten by another community constantly; ideas like home and hearth are offensive.

I think the real difference in this election is between:

1. Those who want immigration to serve the interests of the people of the country.

2. Those who want immigration to serve the interest of non Americans, politicians, and labor intensive corporations.

That’s the real difference, and the election gives a clear choice on that.

Naturally he called me a racist.

 

Liberal Myths: Proposition 187

There are some things that just are not at all true, but are still part of the conventional wisdom, and are repeated with frequency in magazine articles and talking head shows.  Lies often have a useful function and the longevity of the Prop 187 myth is due primarily to just how useful it is, to both sections of the left and right.

And so this story is trotted out once again, in Peter Beinart’s piece in The Atlantic, The Republican Party’s White Strategy.  This time, the purpose is to attempt to discredit Trump’s anti-illegal immigration strategy by arguing that it’s been tried before, to utter failure, and Trump is offering a redo of the same failed strategy that will lead to the same result as it allegedly led to in California, unending Democratic rule as far as the eye can see.

Well there certainly is unending Democratic rule for as far as the eye can see in California.  The gist of Prop 187 myth is as follows:  The 1994 proposition forbade illegal aliens from accessing non emergency medical care, public education, and other California services.  Republican Governor Pete Wilson latched on the proposition to win re-election, but by doing so, he destroyed the Republican Party in California by forever alienating Hispanic voters because of hate, bigotry, or whatever.  Except for celebrity candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republicans have been shut out from power ever since.

That general thesis has been more or less debunked on the right. Anne Coulter broke down the issue here, arguing that supporting Prop 187 won Pete Wilson a 20 point victory in the election. The actual vote totals on the Prop 187 referendum break down this way:

Support for Prop. 187 was strongest among white non Hispanic voters (+28 points), and especially white males (+38 points). Latinos, on the other hand, voted No by a 73% to 27% margin. Blacks and Asians divided about evenly, with 52% voting in favor and 48% opposed.

So in terms of an ethnic breakdown, Prop 187 was popular and won among all ethnic groups except for Hispanics.  Even then, as Coulter points out, Proposition 187 was still more popular among Hispanics than President Bush was in running for re-election just 2 years earlier (14% in California).

So Prop 187 passed and the voters never had contact with it again.  Naturally this proposition went to the courts immediately and was finally struck down in the California courts in 1997.  So how did a wildly popular voter’s referendum that helped a flailing Republican gubernatorial candidate achieve a massive re-electoral victory doom the Republican Party in California?

Beats me.  But that’s the myth.

But the media and conventional wisdom have stuck with that, but actually there is a simpler answer and since it comes from the left in theory it should resonate at least with those more left leaning.  Reliable Lefty writer Kevin Drum of Mother Jones takes another look at the proposition 187 myth and finds it lacking.  Welding the mighty tool of Occam’s razor, a tool that’s useful only as long as you are not trying to confabulate a Rube Goldberg method to get a preferred answer, Drum makes a simple observation:

The greater the share of the non white vote; the greater the share of the Democratic vote.  It’s the demographics…again.  Prop 187 wasn’t even a bump on the road to Republican decline; that marched in lockstep with the share of the nonwhite electorate.  This is now and will be soon replicating itself across the United States.  Of course as I’ve noted, there could be stop sticks along the way, but the general trend, in our tribalistic era, is that the Republican electorate shrinks as the white population shrinks, and it’s shrinking everywhere.

So even though the Prop 187 myth isn’t true doesn’t mean it’s not pointed out real problems.  But the purpose of the myth is to force Republicans into open borders/amnesty types of positions; in other words, to accelerate the shrinking of their own electorate.  It’s clearly obvious why the Democrats would support that, but why do so many Republicans fall for that too?

It’s not called the stupid party for nothing.