The filibuster is suddenly the Democratic Party's new best friend. But it can't be used on everything:

The Congressional Review Act....allows Congress to repeal any regulations — that were issued within the final 60 legislative days of the previous session — by a simple majority vote....Next year, Republicans will have 45 legislative days to repeal the 180 regulations that took effect between May 17 and last week. The party is highly unlikely to tackle all of those. But Republican lawmakers do have their sights set on an EPA rule that limits greenhouse-gas emissions from commercial trucks and buses, and on a Labor Department rule that gave millions of new workers eligibility for overtime pay, according to USA Today.

It's worth noting that there are lots of ways to slow things down in the Senate that don't depend on the filibuster. Mitch McConnell was pretty good at using them, and I imagine Chuck Schumer is too. This is why Republicans have to pick and choose their battles. Every bill, every confirmation, every motion takes up floor time. The more Schumer slows things down, the fewer things the Senate can do. There are lots of people who are under the impression that President Trump can demolish American society in his first hundred days, and they're going to be disappointed to find out that's not true. They're going to have to prioritize.

Via Nancy LeTourneau, I came across a Bloomberg article reporting that wage growth is on fire: "The median U.S. worker saw pay rise by 3.9 percent year-over-year in October, the fastest rate of growth since November 2008." This was based on the Atlanta Fed's Wage Growth Tracker, which was new to me. It's an interesting measure because it compares actual individuals 12 months apart to see how fast their wages are growing. The chart on the right shows the cheery news.

That got me curious about how this compares to other, more conventional measures. My favorite is hourly wages of production and nonsupervisory employees, which gives a good sense of how working-class and middle class folks are doing. I was also curious about what these numbers would look like after adjusting for inflation, since raw wage growth figures don't really tell you anything. Here's the answer:

Real wages did rise at a pretty good clip during 2014 and early 2015, but the growth rate tapered off after that. There hasn't been the nonstop upward growth that the raw Bloomberg chart shows. What's more, in 2014 the two series began to diverge. Overall wages have risen at a rate of 2-3 percent over the past year, but blue-collar wages have grown at only 1-2 percent. That's not too bad, but it still means that working-class folks aren't seeing as much improvement as everyone else. That might be pertinent to our recent election results.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law of of President-elect Donald Trump, walks from Trump Tower on November 14, 2016, in New York. As Trump and President Barack Obama met privately at the White House, Kushner strolled the mansion's South Lawn, deep in conversation with Obama's chief of staff.

Chris Christie was fired as the head of Donald Trump's transition team last week. This week, two members of Trump's transition team for national security have also been fired. What's going on? The Washington Post says this:

A former U.S. official with ties to the Trump team described the ousters of Rogers and others as a "bloodletting of anybody that associated in any way on the transition with Christie," and said that the departures were engineered by two Trump loyalists who have taken control of who will get national security posts in the administration: retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Rogers had no prior significant ties to Christie but had been recruited to join the Trump team as an adviser by the former New Jersey governor. At least three other Christie associates were also pushed aside, former officials said, apparently in retaliation for Christie’s role as a U.S. prosecutor in sending Kushner’s father to prison.

Smoldering vengeance is about what we'd expect from Trump and his extended family, so I'm provisionally ready to believe this is what's going on. Remember this?

Aboard his gold-plated jumbo jet, the Republican nominee does not like to rest or be alone with his thoughts, insisting that aides stay up and keep talking to him. He prefers the soothing, whispery voice of his son-in-law.

Kushner is Trump's very own Grima Wormtongue! And he really, really, doesn't like Christie. This is from July:

Sources close to Jared Kushner, who is Ivanka Trump’s husband, say that Kushner has been telling them that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be Vice-President over his dead body. Kushner, who is playing an increasingly active role in the campaign, has a bitter history with Christie. Christie, when he was the US attorney of New Jersey, prosecuted his father, Charles Kushner, in a case that grabbed national headlines. The elder Kushner, pled guilty to 18 counts of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering in 2005. He received a 2 year prison sentence.

Wait. Kushner's father engaged in witness tampering? Oh yes:

The federal witnesses he had attempted to retaliate against were his sister and brother-in-law, who were cooperating with that same investigation. Kushner paid a prostitute $10,000 to lure his brother-in-law to a motel room at the Red Bull Inn in Bridgewater to have sex with him. A hidden camera recorded the activity, and Kushner sent the lurid tape to his sister, making sure the tape arrived on the day of a family party.

Maybe we should be less worried about Steve Bannon and more worried about Jared Kushner. No, scratch that. We should be worried about both. But Bannon is already getting plenty of attention. I have a feeling maybe Kushner should too.

So how's the economy doing? Getting better, getting worse, or what? Gallup asked people this question twice in November and it turns out that Republicans have had a huge change of heart over the past week. The number who think the economy is on the mend has skyrocketed from 16 percent to 49 percent.

The point of this is not to make fun of Republicans.1 Democrats responded the same way, though not by nearly as much. The point is that we shouldn't pay too much attention to poll questions like this. I'd put the beloved "right-track-wrong-track" question in this category too. Very often, people view these things as proxies for "what do you think of the current president?" They don't really have any idea whether the economy is getting better or worse, but they don't like that Obama guy, so they give a negative answer.

This tendency appears to be more pronounced among conservatives than liberals, but both sides do it. As an objective measure of what people really think about the economy, poll questions like this don't tell us much.

1OK, maybe a little bit.

In the past week, I've seen hundreds of pieces about why Donald Trump won and why Hillary Clinton lost. In the next few months, I'll see thousands more. So do we have an answer yet?

Ha ha. Of course not. For the most part, people are just blaming all the stuff they already believed in. I recommend skipping those pieces entirely. I haven't entirely made up my mind yet, but for the record, here's how I'm currently feeling about all the usual suspects:

James Comey. Yeah, I think he made a big difference. Pretty much everyone on both sides agrees that support for Clinton shifted in response to Comey's first letter and then again in response to his second letter. My guess is that his last minute intervention swayed the vote by about 2 percent. That's not a lot, but in this election it was the difference between winning and losing.

Whitelash. In general, I'm unconvinced. White voters made up 72 percent of the electorate in 2012 and 70 percent in 2016. This doesn't suggest that Trump motivated white voters to turn out in unprecedented numbers. Nor did white voters support Trump at a higher rate than they supported Romney. However, there's more to this....

The white working class. Maybe. They did vote for Trump in greater numbers than they voted for Romney, but that merely extended a trend that's decades old. The white working class has been getting steadily more Republican since Nixon, so it's not clear if Trump accelerated this trend or merely benefited from it. It's also possible that rural blue-collar whites had a substantial effect in a few key swing states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin) even if they didn't have a big effect nationally. We need more data here.

Racism. This one is tricky. Obviously Trump appealed to white racism, but it's not as if racism suddenly spiked in 2016. It's about the same as it's always been, and it's hard to see in the data that it made a big difference compared to previous years. However, we did learn something new and disheartening: it didn't make a difference. In 2012, 93 percent of Republicans voted for Romney. This year, 90 percent voted for Trump. It turns out that Republicans just don't care about explicit appeals to racism and misogyny. You can be as openly bigoted as you want, and you'll only lose 3 percent of the Republican vote.

Third parties. This doesn't explain anything. Third-party candidates did double their vote share compared to 2012, but so what? Gary Johnson and Jill Stein were candidates in 2012 too. If they got more votes this year, it's because the two major party candidates were less appealing than Obama and Romney—which is what we're trying to explain in the first place.

The fundamentals. This probably had a bigger effect than it's getting credit for. There are lots of models out there, but generally speaking they mostly suggested that 2016 was a very winnable year for Republicans. The economy was OK but not great; Democrats had been in office for eight years; and Obama's approval rating was mediocre. Clinton was fighting a modestly uphill battle the whole way.

The media. I think the press played a significant role in Trump's victory, though the evidence is all anecdotal. Two things were in play. First, Trump hacked cable news. He figured out that they're basically in the entertainment business and will provide endless coverage to anyone who drives ratings. The more outrageous he was, the more coverage he got. Second, the media's gullible willingness to cover Clinton's email woes so relentlessly hurt her badly. It's easy to say that Clinton has no one but herself to blame for this, and there's something to that. Still, even long after they should have known better, the press reported every new development in breathless tones and 60-point headlines—even though, time after time, it turned out there was nothing there. They got played—and what's worse, they got played by the same wide-ranging cast of Hillary haters that's played them before.

Sexism. I don't know. It obviously seems likely that it played a role, but I haven't seen any real data to back it up.

Lousy turnout from Democrats. Maybe. It appears that voter turnout in general was down from 2012, but only slightly—and once all the votes are counted it might be dead even. In any case, turnout seems to have affected Democrats and Republicans about equally. We need more data before we can say much about this.

Millennials. This clearly had an effect. Young voters abandoned Clinton in much greater numbers than older voters (about 5 percent vs. 1 percent, by my calculation). Likewise, third parties got about 9 percent of the millennial vote, compared to 3 percent of the older vote. There's not much question that Clinton did poorly among millennials, and this reduced her overall vote total by 1-2 percentage points. The question is why this happened. The options are (a) Clinton was a corrupt, neoliberal sellout that young voters were never likely to warm up to, or (b) Bernie Sanders convinced millions of millennials that Clinton was a corrupt, neoliberal sellout who didn't deserve their vote. Take your pick.

Voter suppression. This had, at most, a small effect. Among the key "firewall" states that Clinton lost, Pennsylvania has no voter ID law; Michigan has a loose ID law that allows you to vote without ID if you sign an affadavit; and Wisconsin has a strict photo ID law. Wisconsin was very close, and voter ID might have made the difference there. But Clinton still would have lost.

The electoral college. Yeah, there was that.

Once again: this is my best take on all of these theories right now. But the actual evidence is still weak. CPS data won't be available for years, and in the meantime we have exit poll data—which is suggestive but not much more—and a lot of people looking at county and precinct level data, trying to tease out who voted for whom. We'll eventually know more, but it will take a while. Until then, it's probably best not to be too sure of whatever your own pet theory is.

Except for James Comey, of course. That guy sucks.

So here's an interesting thing. Let's start off with Newt Gingrich, asked about Steve Bannon's advocacy of the alt-right:

The left is infuriated that anybody would challenge the legitimacy of their moral superiority. And so the left is hysterical...You get this with all the smears of Steve Bannon. I never heard about the alt-right until the nut cakes started writing about it.

Huh. It's just a lefty smear. Let's ask Bannon himself about this. Here is Sarah Posner:

"We're the platform for the alt-right," Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July....During our interview, Bannon took credit for fomenting "this populist nationalist movement" long before Trump came on the scene. He credited Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)—a Trump endorser and confidant who has suggested that civil rights advocacy groups were "un-American" and "Communist-inspired"—with laying the movement's groundwork.

I guess that clears things up. What's interesting here is that a fair number of longtime conservatives were #NeverTrumpers during the presidential campaign, and they got a very up-close-and-personal look at just what the alt-right was like. National Review's David French, for example, started a recent essay like this: "Trump’s alt-right trolls have subjected me and my family to an unending torrent of abuse that I wouldn’t wish on anyone." Click the link if you have a strong stomach. Today, Ian Tuttle joins him:

Under Bannon’s aegis, something ugly has taken hold of the Right.

In March 2012, Bannon — an investment banker-turned-conservative documentarian — became chairman of Breitbart News....Under Bannon’s leadership...the site built up its viewer base by catering to the alt-right, a small but vocal fringe of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and Internet trolls.

....The alt-right is not a “fabrication” of the media....If ethnic and religious minorities are worried, it’s in part because Donald Trump and his intimates have spent the last several months winking at one of the ugliest political movements in America’s recent history.

....Furthermore, as some on the left have been more attuned to than their conservative counterparts, the problem is not whether Bannon himself subscribes to a noxious strain of political nuttery; it’s that his de facto endorsement of it enables it to spread and to claim legitimacy, and that what is now a vicious fringe could, over time, become mainstream....To conservative and liberal alike, that he has the ear of the next president of the United States (a man of no particular convictions, and loyal to no particular principles) should be a source of grave concern.

Under normal circumstances, the entire conservative movement would be in Newt Gingrich's corner: Bannon is no racist and the alt-right is just a figment of the hysterical left. But during the campaign, lots of mainstream conservatives were targets of the alt-right. They saw firsthand just how vicious it is and just how real it is. This time, they can't write it off.

Bannon is an ugly, ugly character. He promoted the alt-right; he loves the right-wing nationalist parties of Europe; and his ex-wife says that he's personally anti-semitic. The movement he nurtured is dedicated to "white rights," loudly and proudly. And that has consequences: the FBI announced today that hate crimes were up 6 percent in 2015, "fueled by attacks on Muslims." Al Franken has this one right:

Federalist Society stalwart Saikrishna Prakash thinks we need to cut Donald Trump some slack:

Unlike his predecessors, Trump faces or is pursuing a slew of civil lawsuits, perhaps as many as 75....The news is awash with reports that Trump’s lawyers have asked for a delay of proceedings until inauguration, saying the president-elect is now too busy to participate. But it is hard to see how Trump would have more time for this suit after he moves into the White House. Being president is not a part-time job.

....The new president appears doomed to be distracted by his private concerns. Fortunately, a solution is within our grasp. Congress can pass a law that would put these kinds of civil actions on hold while President Trump remains in office. The law would have to provide that any lawsuit against a sitting president or president-elect, filed before or after he or she assumed office, would not proceed until the president left office. Such a law wouldn’t protect the president from impeachment or criminal prosecution, but it would ensure that Trump would not be distracted by civil litigation arising out of his personal life or business interests.

Ha ha ha. That's a good one, professor. But, um, no. There's a reason that IOKIYAR—It's OK If You're A Republican—has become such a widely-used acronym. It's because Republicans seem to think that anything goes when a Democrat is in office but Republicans should all be treated with kid gloves. Back in 1996, every Republican in the country thought it was a great idea to allow the Paula Jones lawsuit to go forward because, hey, Bill Clinton was in the White House. If it wrecked his agenda, that was great. If it provided an excuse to impeach him, that was great too. And anyway, spending a few hours in depositions is no big deal.

If that was true then, it's true now. Everyone who voted for Trump knew about Trump's penchant for lawsuits. It was all part of the package. The folks involved deserve their day in court.

For more on this, see Stephanie Mencimer's piece about the Paula Jones case. Someone might want to ask Kellyanne Conway's husband what he thinks of allowing sitting presidents to be sued in civil court.

Eliot Cohen is no Dick Cheney, but he is a longtime neocon who acted as a cheerleader for the Iraq War and just wrote a book subtitled The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force. In other words, not a guy who shies away from a tough-minded foreign policy. And yet, today he said this:

Cohen was a pretty public #NeverTrumper, so maybe this is nothing but personal animosity acting out. That happens all the time in Washington. Still, Trump's staffing decisions so far have all put power solely into the hands of loyalists who worked with him during the campaign, and most of the talk about future picks has been the same. There's not much sense that he's yet willing to branch out and choose experienced people who don't have any particular personal loyalty to him. In addition, the New York Times reports that Mike Pence's transition operation isn't going too well:

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition operation plunged into disarray on Tuesday with the abrupt resignation of Mike Rogers, who had handled national security matters, the second shake-up in a week on a team that has not yet begun to execute the daunting task of taking over the government.

…Mr. Pence took the helm of the effort on Friday after Mr. Trump unceremoniously removed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who had been preparing with Obama administration officials for months to put the complex transition process into motion. Now the effort is frozen, senior White House officials say, because Mr. Pence has yet to sign legally required paperwork to allow his team to begin collaborating with President Obama’s aides on the handover.

Stay tuned.

Noted without comment:

Have there been any new email leaks lately? Or any news at all about Hillary Clinton's private server? I haven't noticed any. That's kind of funny, isn't it?