Kevin Drum

"One Person, One Vote" Wins Surprising Supreme Court Victory

| Mon Apr. 4, 2016 11:02 AM EDT

The most recent attempt to increase the voting weight of Republicans was very creative. A couple of Texas residents claimed that instead of counting the entire population when states perform redistricting, they should count only the voting-age population. Or maybe only registered voters. Or maybe some other method that grossly favors Republicans.

This case got decided today, and since the court now has only eight members, it ended up in a 4-4 tie, which is a relief for…

No, wait. The Texans lost unanimously, 8-0. That's unexpected. And to add to the bizarreness, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the court's opinion, which was largely based on an originalist view of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment:

What constitutional history and our prior decisions strongly suggest, settled practice confirms. Adopting voter-eligible apportionment as constitutional command would upset a well-functioning approach to districting that all 50 States and countless local local jurisdictions have followed for decades, even centuries.

I guess miracles can happen after all. I don't know what the next clever assault on the voting rights of Democrats will be, but this case suggests that maybe the Supreme Court has been pushed as far as it's willing to go down this road. New strategy, please.

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Single-Issue Immigration Voters Should Support Anyone Except Donald Trump

| Mon Apr. 4, 2016 1:00 AM EDT

An awful lot of immigration die-hards seem to think that Donald Trump is the one guy they can trust not to go all squishy on them if he wins the election. He's going to build that wall, dammit! But they might want to rethink that faith in Trump after reading Gabe Sherman's piece in New York magazine this week:

His team at the time consisted of three advisers: Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, and Sam Nunberg....Throughout 2014, the three fed Trump strategy memos and political intelligence. “I listened to thousands of hours of talk radio, and he was getting reports from me,” Nunberg recalled. What those reports said was that the GOP base was frothing over a handful of issues including immigration, Obamacare, and Common Core.

....Which is how Trump’s scorched-earth strategy coalesced. To break out of the pack, he made what appears to be a deliberate decision to be provocative, even outrageous.

Six months later, Lewandowski and Hicks worked into the early hours of the morning prepping for Trump’s campaign announcement in the lobby of Trump Tower....“Nobody said anything,” Trump said about the fact that he had accused Mexico of sending “rapists” over the border into the U.S....He hadn’t tested the line, but Nunberg’s deep dive into talk radio had shown him that this was the sort of thing that would resonate with a certain segment of the Republican base.

Sure, Trump doesn't employ any pollsters or focus testers. But this sure makes it sound like his thunderous anti-immigrant position is a wee bit less than heartfelt. Maybe even cynically contrived.

It's a funny thing. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the politics of immigration, but if you asked me for a quick read I'd say that any president who tried to push a comprehensive reform plan would meet with the same fate as George Bush in 2007 and Barack Obama in 2013: even if their plan got anywhere in the first place, the Republican base would rebel and kill it. So if you're a single-issue immigration voter, you can back pretty much anyone. None of them could succeed at passing a plan, and most (all?) of them wouldn't even bother trying.

Except for one person: Donald Trump. Because the only way that any kind of comprehensive reform could pass is if it's backed by someone with such a strong, almost cultish following that he can convince the GOP base he's cut a uniquely good deal. Ted Cruz can't do it. John Kasich can't do it. Marco Rubio—who had loads of tea party cred at the time—tried to sway the faithful in 2013, but he couldn't do it either.

Only Trump could do it. And since he's badly deluded about his personal negotiating skills, he probably would do it—and he'd be convinced that he really had cut the toughest deal ever on illegal immigration. All the while, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan would be snickering behind his back.

Now, it might not happen anyway. Maybe Jeff Sessions would manage to kill it. Or keep Trump from doing the deal in the first place. But that's a risk you don't have with any other candidate. Far from being the best candidate of the anti-immigrant faction, I'd say Trump is the worst. He's the only one who has any plausible chance at all of getting something passed.

Donald Trump Has No Idea What He Said One Day Ago

| Sat Apr. 2, 2016 11:53 PM EDT

Donald Trump has apparently decided that he's the master of the long-form interview, so he's been giving a bunch of them lately. But they raise a question: does Trump really think he's impressing people in these interviews? Today we got our answer: he does indeed. Here he is in his latest Q&A with Robert Costa and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post:

I do say this: My media coverage is not honest. It really isn’t. And I’m not saying that as a person with some kind of a complex. I’m just saying, I will be saying words that are written totally differently from what I’ve said. And I see it all — in all fairness, the editorial board of The Washington Post. I was killed on that. I left the room, I thought it was fine.

Just as a reminder, this is the interview where his comment on racial disparities in law enforcement was "I've read where there are and I've read where there aren't." On Iran: "We should have gone in and said, 'release our prisoners,' they would have said 'no,' and we would have said, 'double up the sanctions.'" On his beef with the Ricketts family: "I'll start doing ads about their baseball team." On using nukes against ISIS: "I'll tell you one thing, this is a very good-looking group of people here." On his hands: "My hands are fine. You know, my hands are normal. Slightly large, actually. In fact, I buy a slightly smaller than large glove, okay?" On how he'd address racial problems: "I actually think I'd be a great cheerleader for the country." On taking Iraq's oil: "For that, I would circle it....I would defend the areas with the oil"—apparently not realizing that the oil is spread throughout nearly the entire country.

That interview was a train wreck. Trump's ignorance and incoherence was on a Charlie Sheen-esque level—except that Trump didn't have any pharmaceutical help. But he thought everything went fine. Apparently he can't read a room quite as well as he thinks.

And he'd better be prepared to get treated badly again. Here he is on the national debt:

DT: We’ve got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt.

BW: How long would that take?

DT: I think I could do it fairly quickly, because of the fact the numbers....

BW: What’s fairly quickly?

DT: Well, I would say over a period of eight years. And I’ll tell you why.

BW: Would you ever be open to tax increases as part of that, to solve the problem?

DT: I don’t think I’ll need to. The power is trade. Our deals are so bad.

So...Trump is somehow going to start running a budget surplus of $2 trillion per year without raising taxes. How? Something to do with trade.

Is this even fact checkable? Or is it, in Wolfgang Pauli's famous words, so nonsensical that it's "not even wrong"? In any case, I promise Trump that every quote in this post is a direct quotation. Nobody is making him say words that are totally different from what he's said. Honestly, there's no need.

However, the fact that he thinks he's being constantly misquoted really does make you wonder if he's all there. He seems awfully sincere about this. He really and truly talks in such a stream of consciousness that he doesn't even realize what he's said half the time.

It Sure Sounds Like Donald Trump Has Paid for an Abortion or Two in His Life

| Sat Apr. 2, 2016 3:13 PM EDT

I don't usually have much use for Maureen Dowd, but credit where it's due. Today she asked Donald Trump the question all of us have been dying to ask him:

In an MSNBC interview with Chris Matthews, the formerly pro-choice Trump somehow managed to end up to the right of the National Right to Life Committee when he said that for women, but not men, “there has to be some form of punishment” if a President Trump makes abortion illegal.

....Given his draconian comment, sending women back to back alleys, I had to ask: When he was a swinging bachelor in Manhattan, was he ever involved with anyone who had an abortion?

“Such an interesting question,” he said. “So what’s your next question?”

I think we can take that as a yes. I wonder what his evangelical fans will think of this?

Helping the Poor Is the Right Thing to Do, But Maybe Not Much of a Political Winner

| Sat Apr. 2, 2016 11:30 AM EDT

I don't want to make too big a deal out of one comment from one guy, but here's the response of a minimum-wage worker who got a big increase when Emeryville raised its minimum wage to $14 per hour:

Security guard Kenneth Lofton was among the workers who benefited last year when this East Bay city hiked its hourly minimum wage to nearly $15 for employees at large companies. The jump was almost 70% more than what he used to make in nearby Oakland when he was paid $10 an hour.

...."It's somewhat better, but not much," Lofton said Tuesday morning while eating breakfast and manning the security gate at an Emeryville parking lot. "The high cost of living here takes a big bite out of whatever monetary increase you get, so it's like not getting an increase at all."

But, he said, "at least they're trying."

This is crazy. If Lofton works full time, he's seeing an increase of $160 per week. Call it $130 or so after taxes. That's real money. But "it's like not getting an increase at all."

Raising the minimum wage—whether to $12, $14, or $15—is the right thing to do. But as a purely political matter, comments like Lofton's make you wonder if this kind of thing provides any benefits for Democrats. It earns them plenty of annoyance from employers, along with at least some annoyance from consumers who have to pay higher prices, but it's not clear if this is offset much by increased loyalty from the folks who are helped. Is Lofton more likely to show up at the polls in November because he got a raise? Hard to say.

Donald Trump's Position on Abortion Changes Yet Again

| Fri Apr. 1, 2016 9:59 PM EDT

So what is Donald Trump's position on abortion? Let us count the ways:

Wednesday:

MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no as a principle?

TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman?

TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.

A few hours later:

Campaign statement: This issue is unclear and should be put back into the states for determination.

A few hours after that:

Campaign statement: The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman....My position has not changed.

Thursday:

"It could be that I misspoke but this was a long, convoluted subject....This was a long discussion...which frankly they don’t run on television because it’s too long."

(Ed note: This is a lie. Trump's answer was televised in its entirety.)

Friday morning:

"A question was asked to me. And it was asked in a very hypothetical. And it was said, 'Illegal, illegal'....But I was asked as a hypothetical, hypothetically. The laws are set now on abortion and that's the way they're going to remain until they're changed....I think it would've been better if it were up to the states. But right now, the laws are set....And I think we have to leave it that way."

A few hours later:

Campaign statement: Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now—until he is President. Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn. There is nothing new or different here.

The best part of all this is that when the Trump campaign issues a statement cleaning up after their boss, they always insist that nothing has changed.

No, wait: the best part is when John Dickerson asked Trump if he thought abortion was murder and Trump refused to answer. "I do have my opinions on it. I just don't think it's an appropriate forum." Really? Face the Nation is not an appropriate forum for discussing one of the key political issues of our time? What is?

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Friday Cat Blogging - 1 April 2016

| Fri Apr. 1, 2016 3:02 PM EDT

For the last few weeks I've been on a mission to upgrade my working environment—the very hub of my blogging empire. As these things so often do, it all started with something trivial: a new lamp. Then I got a new monitor, a new monitor stand, a new keyboard, and new cable management to clean everything up. It's all lovely.

Naturally, I had to upgrade the cats' snoozing environment too, so I bought a new cat bed to replace the old red blanket. It's a hit with both critters, but especially Hilbert. And the nice thing about it is that it has side pillows, which keeps Hilbert within the boundaries of the bed when he rolls and stretches. I have created a bounded Hilbert space, which turns out to be excellent for human blog productivity.

And with that, I've finally gotten my Hilbert space joke off my chest. It's been a long time coming.

Millennials Still Feeling Pretty Apathetic About the Election

| Fri Apr. 1, 2016 2:46 PM EDT

Democracy Corps has an interesting new survey out. Basically, it shows that women hate Donald Trump; unmarried women really hate Donald Trump; and the white working class doesn't actually seem to like him any better than they liked Romney.

But here's the bit that interested me:

What this shows is that, generally speaking, traditional Democratic constituencies have been more fired up by this year's election theatrics than traditional Republican groups. That's bad news for Trump.

But there's one exception: millennials. They're the least engaged of all groups, and the election hasn't done much to change that. Their enthusiasm is up a few points from December, but that's all. Millennials in college are a lot more engaged—the women, anyway—but millennials in general aren't showing much more enthusiasm than usual even though they're starting from a low base.

This gets to one of my pet gripes: the conflation of millennials with college students. Whenever you hear about the millennial vote, it's almost always illustrated by either college students or college grads. That's fine, as long as it's noted. But usually it's not. And college grads are not representative of all millennials. In fact, as this chart shows, quite the contrary.

Yet Again, There Will Be No Dodgers on TV in Los Angeles This Year

| Fri Apr. 1, 2016 2:08 PM EDT

Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles owns the rights to the Dodgers, but no other cable operator has been willing to pay the high asking price to carry TWC's Dodgers channel. As a result, the Dodgers have been blacked out on most TVs in Southern California for the past two years. This year, Time Warner tried once again to cut a deal, and everyone turned them down yet again:

The company proposed cutting the carriage fee for the channel, entering into binding arbitration or signing a six-year deal — but struck out. "They’ve rejected every offer we’ve made," Time Warner Cable spokesman Andrew Fegyveresi said Thursday.

"We’ve offered short-term deals and long-term deals, we’ve lowered the price by 30%, we’ve asked for arbitration, we’ve offered ... the same thing they charge for their regional sports networks, we’ve told them we’d meet them any time, anywhere to negotiate and nothing has worked," Fegyveresi said.

Boo hoo. They tried everything—everything, I tell you. Except, of course, for the one thing that would have worked: the right to make the Dodgers an extra-cost option, not part of basic cable. Most cable operators see no reason that every television viewer in the LA basin should have to pay 60 bucks a year more in cable fees regardless of whether or not they care about baseball.

And that's the one thing TWC won't do. Why? Because then it will become crystal clear just how few households actually care enough about the Dodgers to pay for them. And that would truly be a disaster beyond reckoning. There's a limit to the amount of sports programming that people are willing to have crammed down their throats!

So what's going to happen? Time Warner paid $8 billion for a 25-year deal to broadcast the Dodgers, and they're taking a bath. As things stand, they could keep taking a bath for 23 more years. At some point, surely they have to cave?

Did the Internet Kill April Fool's Day?

| Fri Apr. 1, 2016 1:50 PM EDT

Here is today's question to ponder: Did the internet kill April Fool's Day?

Sure, April Fool's has always been kind of annoying. But back in the dark ages, the effort involved in creating pranks, along with the inherent size limits of meatspace circles of friends, kept it from getting too far out of control. Then along came the internet, and suddenly April Fool's jokes were easy and unavoidable. There were times when it seemed like every page you visited had some dumb April Fool's joke embedded somewhere.

But now there's a backlash. Everyone's weary of the whole thing. And the number of April Fool's pranks seems to have gone way down.

So is that that? Are we getting back to a time when only a plucky few pull off April Fool's pranks, and they know they have to make them good enough to be worthwhile? Or are we just taking a breather this year?