Donald Trump

My Fellow Democrats, We’re Becoming the Party of Freer Markets (Try Not to Faint)

by D.J. McGuire

When I chose to become a Democrat (a few hours after Trump was declared the victor of the presidential election), I expected a difficult period of adjustment. I’d left the GOP six months earlier, but leaving one major party and switching to the other one are two very different things.

Of course, Trump had ensured the two parties had flipped their supposed positions on national security. Those who have listened to the More Perfect Union Podcast since November 2016 are well aware that my opposition to Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime was what led me to vote for Hillary Clinton in the first place. Trump’s behavior towards Vladimir Putin in particular has made it far easier to be a conservative Democrat than I thought possible – not that it makes up for the damage to the free world. What I assumed would cause the largest headache was watching my old party on economic policies (where at least in theory they preferred freer markets) while my new one clung to its instincts for greater government intervention.

Nearly two years later, much to my surprise, that isn’t what I’m seeing. Sure, the Democrats are clearly moving leftward on health insurance, but they’ve moved in the opposite direction on freer trade (the voters far more dramatically than the elected officials).

Meanwhile, the Republicans…oh, dear. The party has largely swallowed whole Trump’s rampant protectionism, either lapping up tariffs as the great panacea or naively telling themselves it’s all about getting “better deals” – never mind that the only two agreements Trump has reached are either worse than the status quo (Mexico) or no longer operative according to Trump (the EU handshake).

Meanwhile, Trump has also spent time whacking the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates, even complaining to Bloomberg about how he couldn’t depreciate the dollar for his trade wars because the Fed wouldn’t play ball.

Then came the social media wars. At first, I figured Laura Ingraham insisting on turning Facebook and Twitter into public utilities was just an extreme one-off. I was wrong (CNBC).

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will meet with state attorneys general later this month to discuss concerns that tech companies “may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms,” the Department of Justice said in a statement Wednesday.

The proposed meeting between the country’s top prosecutor and state officials is the first major signal of potential antitrust action against Silicon Valley and follows recent claims by President Donald Trump of political bias and censorship by major social media firms.

Here’s what Sessions’ Justice Department had to say:

“We listened to today’s Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Foreign Influence Operations’ Use of Social Media Platforms closely. The Attorney General has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.”

Keep in mind, the hearing was supposed to be about how foreign intelligence uses social media to influence the American people. Instead, the DOJ is all about government mandates (or worse) about “political bias”.

If the Republican Party continues on this course (and given that Trump is pushing the matter, this is very likely), then it will become the party of nationalizing Silicon Valley, the party of putting America’s most dynamic and fastest growing sector under government control.

Michael Lind once pondered, in Politico, that “The Democrats of 2030 may be more pro-market than the Republicans.” At the rate the GOP is going, despite the desire of many Democrats for government-monopoly health insurance, the switch will come much sooner than 2030. Indeed, one could argue it’s happening right now.

So be prepared, my fellow Democrats, and try not to faint.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

To My Fellow Conservatives: The Judiciary is NOT Worth It

by D.J. McGuire

The behavior and policies of the president continue to shock and to dismay – especially for conservatives such as myself (yes, I still use the noun). Freer trade is tossed aside for crippling tariffs amid complaints over “bad deals.” The dynamic information technology sector has become a target for nationalization among screaming heads such as Laura Ingraham. Allies are smeared where hostile tyrants are feted. Yet through it all, a large chunk of right-wing and center-right voters are, for now, staying with the withering husk that is the Republican Party for one reason and one reason alone – “the courts.” This post is my attempt to persuade them why this argument is a profound error.

Today’s Issues v. Tomorrow’s Issues

The first problem with the assertion that control of the judiciary branch is worth the exponentially increasing damage of the Trump presidency is that such control is specious at best. The issues that divide “liberal” (or if you prefer, “progressive”) and “conservative” in 2018 are not likely to be the issues that divide them in 2030, or in 2040, or in 2050. Unlike financial investment, past performance is an excellent indicator here.

Dwight Eisenhower selected as Chief Justice one of the most conservative office holders in the Republican Party – California Governor Earl Warren. Known at the time as a strike-breaker and a firm supporter of limited government, Warren’s libertarian outlook was given an entirely different label as social issues and law enforcement matters crashed into the public realm in the 1960s. Ike’s own Vice President became one of Warren’s top political critics. Nixon replaced Earl Warren with Warren Burger, who became one of the five Republican appointees to the Court to side with the majority in Roe in 1973The author of the dissent in that case was Byron White – the lone appointee of John F. Kennedy. Thirteen years later, Berger would change his own mind on the subject (yet another sign that ideological consistency on the Court doesn’t survive the passage of time).

The intervening decades have seen similar acts of temporal confusion. Donald Trump spent his campaign praising the late Antonin Scalia – the justice who cast the fifth vote the declared burning the American flag as constitutionally protected speech. While Bush v. Gore has become a bete-noir for much of the left in America, it’s not remembered that half of the Democratic appointees to the Court agreed to invalidate the Florida recount on which Gore’s last gasp depended (although none agreed with the smaller majority that insisted there wasn’t enough time to conduct a more proper recount there). Five years later, conservatives were thrilled when President Bush appointed John Roberts as Chief Justice. He was considered a sure-fire conservative…who cast the fifth vote to declare that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional – over the objection of “moderate” Anthony Kennedy.

What issues will drive conservatives in the 2020s and beyond? We really don’t know. As noted above, the right seems much more willing to regulate cyberspace today than even five (or two) years ago. Any attempt to nationalize Google will likely run into trouble from the very conservative court appointments that the right champions today. If the president attempts to exit trade deals without Congressional agreement (and largely in violation of the law), conservatives eager to rebuild Fortress America will find Bush and even Trump appointees in their way.

In other words, past and present “betrayals” of conservatives came not merely from judges and justices changing their minds (although that does happen), but also from electorate redefining what “conservative” means. Thus we find Reagan appointees invalidating laws against marriage equality in California and allowing charges against Paul Manafort to go forward (to conviction) in Virginia, among other things. I am all but certain Trump appointees will disappoint future conservatives, in part because they will take position that would make present conservatives (myself included) blanche.

The one exception to this may be the abortion issue. Indeed, nearly every conservative who still calls themselves a Republican cites it as the one reason they stay in the GOP. There is a problem with that, however.

Reversing Roe/Casey is a defeat disguised as a victory

As I was a politically precocious teenager, I’m in an increasingly unique position among any American under 50 – I remember what it was like when the judicially-imposed right to an abortion appeared to be coming to an end. It was after the Webster decision of 1989 weakend Roe, but before Casey v. Planned Parenthood reaffirmed it. Keep in mind, this was less than two decades after Roe, when the status quo ante was a real memory for most Americans.

For pro-lifers, it was a disaster. Pro-life Republicans were vanquished in 1989 elections, and pro-lifers in both parties were banged up in 1990 (as an example: a pro-life Democratic Governor in Minnesota was defeated by a pro-choice Republican challenger who had only been on the ballot nine days). Conservatives ran to the safety of economic issues in 1991 (and recovered nicely in the 1989 states’ legislative elections). George Bush the Elder went from 53% of the vote in 1988 to 38% in 1992 (and his two opponents – Ross Perot and Bill Clinton – were not pro-life by any stretch).

A quarter-century later, there are far fewer voters who remember the pre-Roe era, let alone look forward to it. Even if the Supremes reverse Casey, far fewer states will attempt to ban abortion than people realize. If anything, pro-choicers vocalizing their worst fears (albeit understandably so) are providing pro-lifers with their most perverse hopes. Odds are, both are wrong. For too long, abortion opponents have focused on changing a Supreme Court decision instead of saving children. The rest of the country has noticed, and is not happy.

The Benefits of “winning the courts” are ephemeral, but the cost is sure to be permanent.

Is this truly worth the damage Trump has wrought, my fellow conservatives? Is the chance to be disappointed by judges who change their minds (or by those who don’t when you do) truly worth the rupturing of our alliances? Is the erection of damaging barriers to trade really an acceptable price for the opportunity to be caught completely flat-footed due to forty years of political atrophy and neglect on the one issue that you claim is so important?

Before you answer, consider one more piece of historical evidence. The most politically charged Court decision of the 19th century was Dred Scott v. Sanford.

How well did that turn out for the victors?

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

The “US-Mexico Trade Agreement” is a step backwards for trade and for America

by D.J. McGuire

Donald Trump did not advance the cause of freer trade with his partial agreement with Mexico. If anything, the “deal” raises barriers to trade rather than lowers them, while moving the North American Free Trade Area closer to the backward and sclerotic model of a customs union – and that assumes he doesn’t exclude Canada. If Canada ends up on the outside looking it, things will be even worse.

As usual, Trump himself gave no details during his Oval Office press conference with his Mexican counterpart – Enrique Pena Nieto – on speaker phone. About the only specifics we got were that Trump wants to “terminate” the North American Free Trade Agreement and replace it with this new agreement, if Canada signs on. If Canada refuses, Trump will slap a 25% auto tariff on them and call it a day.

Oh, and Canada apparently has until Friday to make up its mind (Daniel Dale, Toronto Star).

Even if Canada chooses to shoe-horn itself into this deal, the specifics we now have (CATO, AEI, and Dale) are still a net negative from the status quo. The “North American standard” for cars will be raised to 75% from 62.5% (i.e., unless the car is 75% made in North America, it won’t qualify for being tariff-free). There is a sunset clause (albeit stretched from 5 years, as Trump originally wanted, to 16) with a mandated review every six years. Investment protections were “gutted.” There may even be a new tariff power for the US against any new Mexican cars.

Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) is already worried (via Megan Cassella, Politico):

…there is reason to worry that this might be a step backward from NAFTA for American families – especially on fundamental issues of presumed presumed expiration of the deal, and empowering government bureaucrats rather than markets to determine the components of cars and other goods.

Indeed it is a step backward, as well as a step toward a serious sovereignty issue – a customs union. Unlike free trade areas, where nations can set whatever trade policies they like with countries not in the FTA, customs unions have uniform trade barriers that all nations must accept. The car percentage requirement is such a barrier; raising it as this agreement does makes it worse.

Again, this is even if Canada ends up in the deal. If not, further disruptions in trade due to Trump’s tariffs are likely. Moreover, whether Canada agrees or not, Trump clearly would like to replace NAFTA with this deal. That requires Congressional approval – trade deals are not treaties, but executive agreements, which means Congress has the power to enact laws that match the agreements, or invalidate agreements by refusing to enact said laws. Will the GOP-controlled Congress finally draw the line and refuse Trump’s demand.

Don’t hold your breath.

This is not an agreement that lowers barriers, but raises them. It does not advance freer trade, but attacks it. It will be more likely to add uncertainty than to alleviate it. It’s a bad deal for Mexico, for the United States, and for the rest of the world.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

John McCain is no longer with us. We are different country today.

by D.J. McGuire

Yesterday afternoon, Senator John McCain passed away. Personal tributes are pouring in, as one would expect from his record of service and sacrifice for his country. Many Americans admired him. For some of us, however, it was much more than that. I am among those who voted for John McCain; in fact, I voted for him three times (2000 Republican primaries, 2008 Republican primaries, 2008 general election). I am convinced that it would have been a better nation had he won in 2000 or in 2008. As such, I am more focused on the exit of John McCain, the political force.

Many of McCain’s admirers disagreed with him, strongly, on foreign policy. I was not among them. With McCain’s passing, the number of us who believe liberating Iraq was the right thing to do has likely fallen from six to five (I still think we few are right). McCain was always more willing to see America – and the American military – as a potential force for good in the world. For those of us who recognized “neoconservative” as an actual set of beliefs rather than a convenient anti-Semitic dog whistle, John McCain may have been the last, and was certainly one of the most vocal.

As such, his passing will have political consequences. Contrary to what the president and his sycophants would have us believes, there are still millions of Republicans for whom John McCain is far more the model than Donald Trump. I left the Republican Party earlier than most of them – and I think I joined the Democratic Party sooner than any others – but with McCain’s passing, I won’t be the last. The next time Trump undermines NATO, or attacks our allies, or cozies up to dictators, John McCain will no longer be there to remind those voters what their Republican Party was – but is no more.

So, we can expect the Republican Party to get smaller and more devoted to Trump, but the Democrats may experience some growing pains, as their coalition expands to include – well, to include more voters like me.

John McCain never assumed America was perfect. He was an active and avid reformer at home, but he knew that even as America strove to make itself better it could also make the world better. For those of us who agree with him, he will not only be mourned, but deeply missed.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

Is the Past Prologue for Democratic Presidential Candidates?

by D.J. McGuire

The events of the last 24 hours (for which we did a special episode – you can listen here) have led many to wax nostalgic over Watergate (euphemism, people, euphemism). It’s also led me to ponder the era between then and now, and I’ve found something that could be ominous for nearly all of the potential 2020 Democratic candidates (including my preferred choice, Congressman John Delaney).

The early 1970s gets harder to remember with every year (the past is like that), but we should not forget that the American people’s revulsion with Washington corruption neither began nor ended with Richard Nixon. This was the era of the Church Committee hearings with subsequent intelligence reforms, campaign finance law reform, and a serious rethink of the structure of economic regulation. Right and left had their own answers to the conundrum of corruption – smaller government for the former, cleaner government for the latter.

One other result that has dramatically impacted the nation has been noticed less: the effect on presidential elections. We’ve had 11 of them since Nixon’s resignation. Here are the highlights:

  • Permanent coalitions are not in vogue: Republicans have won 6 elections; the Democrats, 5. Democrats have won the popular vote 7 times; Republicans, 4. Only once has a party won 3 in a row (GOP: 1980-88). Prior to Watergate, it happened five times.
  • More instability markers: Four times the winner did not win a majority of the popular vote. More to the point, the popular vote winner lost the election twice. That had only happened three times in the previous 184 years.
  • In only six of the the elections did the voters also give the winning party control of the House of Representatives – two of them were in elections where the president elected did not win the popular vote.
  • Yet one consistency came through: the candidate with less experience in Washington was elected nine out of eleven times – including three of the four times an incumbent president was re-elected.

The data point to a clear recommendation for the Democrats in 2020: do not nominate someone with more than four years experience in Washington D.C. Of course, that would rule out nearly every Democrat considering a run: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney, Sherrod Brown, etc. Even Kemala Harris, whose Washington tenure started 17 days before Trump’s, might have pause.

Granted, Trump himself “broke” more than a few rules in 2016, but he didn’t break this one. Moreover, the Trumpenproletariat’s instinct for whataboutism is likely to make voters even less likely to value experience in the nation’s capital. Democrats might want to look to Governors. One of them, Montana’s Steve Bullock, is already considering a run. Moreover, when incumbent presidents have lost in the post-Watergate era (1976, 1980, and 1992), a Governor has defeated them. Every time.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

I’m Fed Up With Trump’s Ramblings on Monetary Policy

by D.J. McGuire

Amidst the whirl and rush of the now painfully normal nonsense spewed by the president, few outside the financial markets noticed his comments on monetary policy during his interview with Reuters. They were important comments nonetheless – and discouraging on all fronts. For someone who defines his worldview on countering inflation, political chicanery on monetary policy, protectionism, and malinvestment (and for a quarter-century, defined himself as a Republican based on those things), I was saddened and angered – but not surprised – by Trump embracing all four (again).

This is Trump taking aim at the Federal Reserve:

“I’m not thrilled with his raising of interest rates, no. I’m not thrilled,” Trump said, referring to Powell. Trump nominated Powell last year to replace former Fed Chair Janet Yellen.

U.S. stock prices dipped after Trump’s comments to Reuters and the U.S. dollar .DXY edged down against a basket of currencies.

Trump, who criticized the Fed when he was a candidate, said other countries benefited from their central banks’ moves during tough trade talks, but the United States was not getting support from the Fed.

“We’re negotiating very powerfully and strongly with other nations. We’re going to win. But during this period of time I should be given some help by the Fed. The other countries are accommodated,” Trump said.

On one level, this is just typical bull-in-the-china-shop-talk from Trump, concerns about which are usually valid (and they are here) but still go ignored by his supporters (as will these). In this case, there’s more to it, which just makes things worse.

For starters, Trump is making clear that the domestic economy is not important in his thinking. I doubt he is even aware that the Fed actually has a legal mandate to ensure price stability. He is fixated on his trade war, period.

This means that inflation – which eats away at investment returns, creates havoc in labor markets, and increases suffering for fixed income recipients – is likely to be even worse than it is now (and at present, it’s bad enough to wipe out any wage gains – See Bloomberg), especially in policy areas where Trump can avoid the Fed. Last year’s tax cut was a prime example of a Keynesian, inflationary stimulus endorsed and signed by the president. I fear it won’t be the last.

Moreover, Trump’s comments are yet another sign that the Republican Party – which in my youth prided itself on sound monetary policy and a strong dollar – no longer has any interest in both. This makes it that much harder for the nation to learn and internalize the lessons of “quantitative easing” – the last decade’s experiment with radically expansionary monetary policy. Contrary to Keynesian orthodoxy, the mass monetization of any debt the Fed could find led not to roaring increases in aggregate demand, but rather a shift in thinking on paper assets. Bonds were treated as stocks (with a focus on price rather than yield) and a new asset bubble (in bonds) took the place of the last one (housing). Thus, not only did investment in the real economy remain slow to recover, but the asset bubble exacerbated wealth inequality, which further increased income inequality.

Under Janet Yellen, the Fed at least began the process on unwinding this error. Under Jerome Powell, it is now trying to bring interest rates back to at least normal without knocking the economy into recession. This is a tricky task in any time, let alone one where the President of the United States is demanding policies that would make the bubble even bigger (and more likely to pop, badly).

I know that Trump-Nixon parallels are in vogue, but the current president’s complaints remind me of his predecessor’s surrender on economic policy in 1971, when he announced, “We are all Keynesians now.” Trump is – with more verbiage and less intellect – effectively saying the same thing. Whether Democrats will note this and take political advantage by exploiting a new angle to win over never-Trump conservatives remains to be seen.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

The World America Abandons (Before Coming Back to Rescue It)

by D.J. McGuire

For understandable reasons, most Americans assume that Donald Trump is a one-man wrecking crew, determined either to destroy or to reshape the current global order. In reality, however, the international order that has held in place in the Atlantic for over 70 years (and in the rest of the world for roughly 30) has been fraying for some time, and Trump is himself as much a symptom as a cause. The regions of the world are turning away from each other, and American frustration has now led to its acceleration under Trump. The result will be a world of regional powers – until one of them tries to assert global dominance, forcing the United States out of its coming stupor to lead the democratic world once more.

The Fall of the Global Order

The chief goals of the “western world” from 1945 through 1990 (and the entire world since 1990) have been greater political and economic freedom, via democracy and freer trade. Even those who were most threatened by these tenets paid lip service to them for roughly a quarter century.

Events of the last decade have challenged this. The Great Recession revealed the dark side of international economic connections. The rise of a revanchist Russia has greatly damaged the democratic world’s confidence in itself. The behavior of the European Union towards Greece and Italy shattered the notion of the EU as a force for democracy and progress. The “Global War on Terror” revealed the apparent limits of American patience with extended military engagements. Xi Jinping’s increasing grip on the Chinese mainland has combined with economic instability to create a dangerous vacuum in justification for his dictatorship. Finally, the dramatic increase in continental sources of American energy has begun shifting America’s view of its interests abroad (especially in the Middle East).

As a result, “It’s a small world after all” has become more a dark warning than a cheery sentiment – and the peoples of said world are acting accordingly. Had this just been the United States experiencing this, the rest of the world would have simply reoriented the system with a new hegemon, and there are eager candidates for the role. Yet none of them are in a position to stake the claim, and they all have regional matters to address.

The Coming Regional Order

As a result, when the present global order falls – likely on a glide path, but falls nonetheless – it will likely be replaced by an unstable mix of regional powers: China, Russia, the EU, and the less engaged United States. The first two will be looking to expand their power without to contain potential dissent within. The European Union will attempt to turn its continental reach into real power via internal reform and centralization. The US will be trying to find a balance between reducing its obligations to the rest of the world and protecting its interests, which time will show to be far more global than the electorate currently realizes.

In theory, the Chinese Communist Party need not concern itself with electorates. In practice, legitimacy can arguably be more tricky for tyrannies than for democracies – which in part is why tyrannies resort to wars, mass incarcerations, huge development projects, etc. For the CCP, greater power abroad combines with stoking resentment of outsiders at home to give it enough legitimacy to stay in power (for now). So long as the US was blocking its regional objectives, the CCP had become (accidentally and ironically) the most likely power to challenge the US on a global scale. A retreating America will open up regional opportunities for the regime – especially in Southeast Asia and Taiwan (whose gutsy, independent democracy won’t survive the new order). While some of this will bring alarm to other capitals, the CCP can use their North Korean puppet regime as leverage until its usefulness expires – at which point Beijing can simply make the problem go away by annexing it.

The Vladimir Putin regime, by contrast, has a slew of international allies and interests left over from the former Soviet Union, and Putin hasn’t been shy about using them (especially in Syria). However, his fixation has largely been with his “near abroad” (i.e., the former Soviet republics), and an America willing to withdraw from the global stage would give him the free hand there he has craved. Like the CCP, Putin has relied upon anti-foreign resentment and increasing power (and, in his case, actual territory) for his regime’s legitimacy. That will likely continue, to the detriment of Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and the Baltic states.

For the European Union, the problem is legitimacy – or lack thereof. The transition from trading association to intertwined economy was quite a success, the next step (to full-blown nation-state) has not gone nearly as well. The EU’s challenge will be sorting out what it is, and how it governs itself, so it can be strong enough to reject encroachments from outside. It will arguably be the most inward -looking regional power for some time.

That leaves the United States, which is attempting to become the second global hegemon in history to relinquish the role. The failure of the first (Great Britain in the period between World Wars) had been enough to delay this reckoning through the 1990s and 2000s, but the American people put their foot down in 2016 (whether they were “professionally guided” – to use Sir Arnold’s term – by outside forces will be discussed later). As it will be a Republican Administration beginning the withdrawal, the US is likely to settle in as a regional, hemispheric power. This can be seen from Donald Trump himself, who is loathe to criticize tyrannies in Europe and Asia but eager to criticize them in Latin America. I am also assuming this retreat in part because of the still strong isolationist tendencies within the left wing of the Democratic Party.

Flashpoints

While this regionalist order may seem stable from day-to-day, there will be problems. The Middle East, slowly losing the attention of the rest of the world due to changes in energy markets, will continue to be of interest to the three eastern hemisphere powers (i.e., all but the US), leading to conflict. The same will likely be true of Africa (which already has heavy CCP and EU involvement).

However, the most likely sources of “problems” will be American allies unwilling to accept second-tier status and the end of global democratic aspirations. At present, political power in Great Britain rests with an explosive  coalition of insular and globalist voters united in anti-regionalism. Although it’s likely that the regionalist center will reassert itself, ti’s not guaranteed. Japan has a long history of hostility to China (there is no way that can be written without it being an understatement) and its leaders have used its recent conversion to democracy as a new reason for old geopolitics. Our NATO allies (especially in the Baltics) will be deeply worried about Russia expanding its regional hegemony. Finally, the Republic of India, while friendly with Russia, will hardly be willing to serve as Moscow’s vassal; they also have a long history of problems with the CCP.

Indeed, it will be the concept of self-determination in general that poses the greatest threat to this regionalist semi-dystopia, as nations around the world – many of whom freed themselves from colonialism less than a century ago – will be far less likely to accept what they will see (rightly) as imperialism under new names. So long as America is run by Republicans, the US will likely respond with cold indifference. The Democrats are another matter.

How it will end

At some point, Donald Trump will no longer be president. Indeed, a Democrat is all but certain to enter the White House either on 20 January 2029 or before then (I hope). However, given the aforementioned isolationism in the Democratic left (and the laws of political inertia), it is unlikely that a Democratic president will dramatically take aim at the new order (especially if said Democrat doesn’t get to 1600 PA Ave until 2025 or 2029). Said Democrat will, however, likely attempt to protect an old American ally or an African democracy from imperial encroachment. Moreover, time will show the American people that the stable international order currently under threat was a boon for international trade and American commerce.

That will likely lead to a global confrontation of some kind, forcing America out of its regionalist stupor as it relearns the lessons of the mid-20th century. How many casualties are involved in that confrontation, I cannot say.

How this can be reversed

There is no reason that this future is inevitable. Some might note the mere fact that I’m predicting it would make it less likely. More to the point, it can be avoided if the American people in general (and the Democratic Party in particular) recognize the damage to American interests that come with retreating from the world stage.

Ironically, that could come from the most divisive issue in current American politics: the Mueller investigation. The events that Mueller is probing (the Russian regime’s criminal interventions in America’s last presidential election) will be far more likely in this future as regional powers probe each other for weaknesses. If the Democratic Party is willing and able to make the logical connection between the events of 2016 and the rise of anti-American regional powers (and replace the president with one of their own in 2021), they can halt the erosion of American power before it can become permanent. Alliances and trade relationships could still be rebuilt in time; and Putin could be checked in Europe; and the CCP would realize that the US is not yet ready to give them free reign outside of the area under the regime’s control. Democrats have a further interest in challenging Russian revanchism, given Putin’s inspirational support to white supremacy in America.

However, if the Democrats are unwilling to do that, this future is more likely than any other.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described “progressive conservative” – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

The Trump-EU “Deal”: Far Less Than Meets The Eye

by D.J. McGuire

Defenders of Donald Trump are crowing about his “deal” with the EU to hold off future tariff hikes and discuss reducing trade barriers in certain manufacturing goods. Never have so many offered so much praise for so little.

Scott Lincicome of the CATO Institute examined the joint statement on this Twitter thread. To make a long story short, no actual reductions in tariffs were agreed. Instead, the US and the EU have agreed to start talking about future reductions in tariffs. So none of Trump’s tariffs were reversed; nor were any of the EU’s retaliation tariffs. As Lincicome also notes, even the apparent promise to rule out future tariffs against each other is “vague.”

Still, a future trade liberalization agreement would be helpful, yes?

Actually, yes it would. That’s not the problem here.

What is the problem was that talks on US-EU trade liberalization had already been well under way during the Obama Administration. It was known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Negotiations hadn’t been completed, of course, and it was controversial, but it was also an established framework to discuss freer trade between America and Europe that was far beyond merely “non-auto industrial goods.”

What happened to the TTIP? Donald Trump happened to the TTIP. He railed against it as a candidate, and his election killed the negotiations.

Over a year and a half later, we’re starting all over again with a much more cramped potential agreement, with Trump’s harmful tariffs still in place.

We also have to consider how Trump will react to the wheezing, dysfunctional nature of negotiating with the EU (although that’s the EU’s fault, not his).

This is hardly worth celebrating. At best, we should be relieved that, for now, US-EU trade relations won’t get worse. However, the damage to our economy from the tariffs is not only done, but is still happening as the tariff hikes themselves didn’t go away.

It’s a typical Trump “deal” – nothing of substance behind a list of platitudes not worth the bandwith on which they’re virtually printed. That Trump and his supporters are touting it so loudly is a sign of their desperation. In reality, nothing has been accomplished here.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described “progressive conservative” – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

Harvard Poll CAPSizes Under Its Own Weights

by D.J. McGuire

Last week, Harvard University proved William F. Buckley right – again – about the superior intellect of the first 200 names in the Boston phone book (that might sound weird, but we still get phone books down here, so I presume they’re still around up there). The Ivy League Institution’s latest embarrassment came from its Center for American Political Studies (CAPS), which released a poll claiming President Trump had an approval rating of 47%. Strangely, the Trumpenproletariat missed its cue for a few days, but they’re all over social media and opinion columns with the numbers now.

Curious as to the reasons behind the supposed surge in Trumpularity, I do what I always do when a poll catches my eye – go for the crosstabs. They can provide interesting little nuggets of info that – well, that can make me look a lot smarter than I really am. More to the point, they also provide the “weights” that a poll used to create a “representative sample” – i.e., if fewer white women with college degrees answered then were supposed to answer the poll, they have added “weight” until they’re a share of the sample that matches with America as a whole.

At least that’s the idea. Sometimes, though, a pollster can sets weights that are thoroughly out of balance. A pollster like, for example, the Harvard CAPS.

The first problem I noticed in the Weighted Sample was the 2016 vote, which had Trump ahead of Clinton by 1%. As Clinton was 2% ahead in the actual popular vote, that was a clear tilt in Trump’s direction. There were other examples. Urban voters were 3 points lower (and rural voters 3 points higher) than the 2016 exit poll. Women were two points lower (and men two points higher). Voters over 65 were a whopping 5 points higher in CAPS than in 2016.

But the real kicker came in the education weight. In 2016, 50% of voters were college graduates or higher. CAPS? Only 35%

Given how college graduates easily preferred Clinton – and, if anything, have shifted even further away from Trump since his election – this weight crushes the poll that spawned it.

Democrats should never be complacent. There will be polls that we don’t like and they won’t be this easy send to the recycle bin. This poll, on the other hand, can be safely ignored.

 

D.J. McGuire – a self-described “progressive conservative” – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015.

“Zero Tolerance” on the Border: Not Just Heartless, but Also Thoughtless

by D.J. McGuire

So much ink has been spilled and bandwith used on the “zero tolerance” policy initiated at the border with Mexico that I wondered if I really could add anything of significance. It turns out I can, for there is so much (understandable) outrage at the utter heartlessness of family separation and industrial-building-size holding pens for children that very little attention has been paid to just how stupid this policy is – and how anything requiring an actual, long-term solution will require America to ditch her present isolationist funk and return to the robust interventions of her past.

First up, though, is the initial stupidity. One can only assume that those still clinging to a defense of “zero tolerance” without resorting to outright racism are concerned about security and crime. I would humbly submit that these issue (rather than racism) are likely the most pertinent and powerful reasons for people to become immigration restrictionists in the first place (after 9/11, these reasons pushed me into restrictionism for roughly a decade). Yet it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes of thought to recognize that (1) asylum seekers and those escaping violence in their homelands are hardly security threats to the nation, and (2) that splitting families apart and keeping children in holding pens is a near-perfect way to encourage anger at America and her laws. If there is a better way to prime young people for MS-13, I honestly can’t come up with one at the moment.

Ending “zero tolerance” is merely a short-term answer. In the long run, the dissolution of order and peace in Central America needs to be addressed. For too long, Americans have been taught and told, repeatedly, that our historical interventions in region have caused more trouble than they were worth. To be fair, not every action America took was in the best interest of the people there (or even here). However, we are now seeing one our border (and one could argue have been seeing since 2014 at least) the effect of a quarter-century of not playing a role in the region: Guatemala and Honduras in chaos, El Salvador suffering under a left-wing ex-Communist government (where the opposition is a party whose founder is best known as a death-squad leader), and Nicaragua back under Sandinista control – and suffering under violent tyranny once more.

This is a far cry from the situation in the early 1990s, after three Administrations (Carter, Reagan, and Bush the Elder) that understood the importance of building and supporting stable, democratic governments in Central America. They also saw those who did reach our shores (or the Rio Grande) from that region as victims – and potential allies in our efforts to help those left behind.

There is no such fore-sighted vision in the current Administration, but the opposition (yes, fellow Democrats, I’m talking to you) seems to share this myopia. However much Democrats are willing to fight “zero tolerance” (and they deserve credit and support for that), they need to recognize that people don’t just start suffering when they are within reach of an American border official. Central America needs our help, and it needs our help now.

What we are seeing at the border is the wage of isolationism. Our growing refusal to engage with the rest of the world does not allow us to ignore their suffering. It simply comes to our doorstep.

The Trump Administration is doubling down on keeping its head in the sand with “zero tolerance” – and if polling is any indication, most Republicans are following suit. The Democrats need to do more than just try to reverse this policy, they need to attack the isolationism that led to it.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described “progressive conservative” – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015.

Republican Snowflakes (Ep. 151)

This episode of the MPU podcast looks at comedian Michelle Wolf’s turn as the headliner at The White House Correspondence Dinner, dictator Kim Jong-un’s turn as a statesman in South Korea, President Donald Trump’s turn as a guest on Fox and Friends, and Bill Cosby’s turn as a convicted sex offender. Amazingly, the only one who came off well was Kim Jong-un! What does that say about the world we live in?

Don’t forget to check out OPEN FIRE POLITICS on Facebook.

Democrats Need Their Own MAGA

by Kevin Kelton

As we head into the 2018 midterm elections, it’s astounding that the national Democratic Party still has yet to formulated a coherent message to voters. While President Trump and the GOP rally around simple, bumper sticker messages like MAGA, Build The Wall, and Drain The Swamp, the Democratic party cannot form a coherent message that can appeal to both liberal voters on the coasts and midwest working-class voters. This was a critical failing of the 2016 Clinton campaign, and it will be just as damaging to Democrats going forward if the party doesn’t speak to the voters it needs to win.

Here’s a proposal for a simple, clear four plank Democratic platform to retake congress and the White House. I call it The Campaign for American Justice:

1) Healthcare justice — expanded, reasonably priced healthcare using a mixed economy approach with the goal of quality healthcare for all.

2) Economic justice — tax incentives and economic incentives to get private employers to raise wages and decrease the wealth gap; make higher education more accessible and affordable to all.

3) Social justice — working with courts and local authorities to promote racial justice and reduce violence. This includes smart gun laws and better police training to reduce accidental deaths.

4) Political justice — reducing the power of money in politics and increasing voter participation.

The overriding theme of justice was chosen because it appeals to Americans across ideologies and demographics. Instead of promoting specific programs like “medicare for all” or “guaranteed jobs” (both toxic ideas to free market conservatives), the focus should be on the goal of finding a range of bipartisan solutions to promote justice in healthcare, the wealth gap, racial and social issues, and politics.

Rather than insisting on one pre-measured legislative cure like single payer health insurance, Democrats would be better off to identify the problems we face as a nation and offer a variety of proposals to solve them. “Drain the Swamp” isn’t a policy, it’s a goal. So is “Make America Great Again.” Even the seemingly specific “Build a Wall” is a euphemism for the goals of a stronger border, cultural hegemony, and economic security.

People want to vote for ideas that reinforce the good in America. They don’t need a position paper on each issue with cost breakdowns and detailed legislative language. Tell them what you stand for, and give them a reason to stand for it, too.

And without saying it explicitly, a campaign for “American justice” suggests a counter-balance to the corruption and lack of candor that is the hallmark of the Trump White House. A subliminal message that Democrats will stand for a better America, a fairer America, a just America.

Whether it be the Campaign for American Justice or another theme, Democrats need to start branding their party now so voters fed up with Trumpism have something to vote for in November.

 

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of Open Fire Politics on Facebook.