I will not drink to this

The MacIver Institute reports:

A high-profile meeting last Thursday attended by many – but not all – of the stakeholders affected by proposed changes to the system regulating Wisconsin’s alcoholic beverage industry ended with very different accounts of what transpired and more questions than answers, multiple sources tell MacIver News Service.
Attendees agreed to return to the table as soon as next week for further discussions.
There is a push by the state’s alcohol distributors and the Wisconsin Tavern League to tweak the current three-tier regulatory system of the production, distribution and sale of alcohol by creating an Office of Alcohol Beverages Enforcement, appoint a new ‘alcohol czar’ and hire an additional six enforcement officers with more authority to crack down on violations.
State Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) said he organized the meeting “to address the misinformation in the media,” about the draft proposal.
“It was a working document,” Swearingen said, adding that one of the top priorities for the meeting was to explain the proposal’s implications to the various stakeholders.
Swearingen owns a restaurant and is a member and former president of the Tavern League.
According to Swearingen, the list of attendees included representatives from the newly formed Wisconsin Craft Beverage Coalition: the Wisconsin Brewers Guild, the Wisconsin Distillers Guild, and wineries; lobbyists Eric J. Peterson and Scott Stenger; and Reps. Rob Brooks (R-Saukville), Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls), Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) Swearingen, Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.
“Once people from the wine and beer wholesalers explained the proposal, the group almost came together for the most part,” Swearingen said.
Others who attended had a different assessment of the meeting.
Brian Samons, president of the Wisconsin Distillers Guild, said the proposed changes to an incredibly complicated body of laws and codes are moving too fast. And too many stakeholders are being left out of the discussion, he said.
“There’s no need to rush, if we’re talking about making good policy, and I hope we are,” Samons said. “We’re not against enforcement of the rules and rules that make sense, good public policy. The problem is when it’s neither clear or good policy.”
The big concern is that the crafters of the “drafting instructions” will try to sneak the changes into the budget through a “999 motion,” or concluding wrap-up motion that dodges public scrutiny.
William Glass, president of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild, said he was disturbed by the number of lawmakers in the room who seemed satisfied with tacking the measure onto the end of the budget process.
“The problem is there are still people not in this room debating this bill,” he added. “The special interests are trying to force an issue without having the proper avenue to vet it.”
But Swearingen said the Legislature is not prepared to act unless all the stakeholders can reach a consensus about what steps the state should take.
If that happens, it could either be part of the budget or separate legislation.
Swearingen led the discussions, but sources said Vos was very involved in the meeting, which some attendees described as “uncomfortable,” and “heated” at times.
Kooyenga said the meeting was a “huge step forward.”
“For many years there has not been a representative from the wineries, the distillers, or the small brewers in the room,” he said.
Vos’ office did not return an email request for comment Thursday or Friday. Kit Beyer, Vos’ spokeswoman, told MacIver News in a story Wednesday that the speaker was “asked to join the group.”
“Rep. Swearingen, as chair of the Assembly State Affairs Committee, is holding the meeting to see if there are things that all sides can agree on,” she said.
Beyer made clear that Vos “does not support the three-tier proposal.”
Sources said Vos urged the participants at Thursday’s meeting to voice their support of the long-standing three-tier regulatory system, however.
Glass said the proposal seems to run afoul of free-market principles. He said he was heartened when one lawmaker raised the same point.
“John Nygren did make a comment in the meeting about how this does not politically align with conservative values,” Glass said. “He said, ‘We’re not for growing government or restricting entrepreneurs but that’s what we’re talking about here.”
The Prohibition-era system in general aims to keep alcoholic beverage makers, wholesalers and retailers, including restaurants, bars, and liquor stores, out of each others’ businesses. The law has long aimed to stop monopolies and protect smaller operators, but it has locked entrepreneurs out and carved out protections for established players.
“Breweries, wineries, and other alcohol-beverage producers can distribute their products only to independent, licensed wholesalers (also called distributors). These wholesalers then distribute the products only to independent, licensed retailers. Only licensed retailers can sell the products to the public. Thus, under a strict three-tier system, alcohol beverages must pass through both a licensed wholesaler and a licensed retailer before reaching the consumer,” a State Bar of Wisconsin piece summed up.
There are many exceptions to the rules, and apparently that’s what the “drafting instructions” look to clarify.
Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin and other critics are warning that the plan is to beef up the onerous “three-tier restricting” law.

Beer and cookies

There is good news and bad news on the food freedom front.

First, the good news, from Matt Kittle:

The latest version of Wisconsin’s “Cookie Bill,” legalizing the sale of home-baked goods, passed – again – in the Senate this week.

But thanks to a southwest Wisconsin judge, a free-market law firm and some very persistent “cookie ladies,” small bakers of brownies, muffins and cookies no longer have to fear going to jail or paying big fines for selling their goods.

On Friday, Lafayette County Judge Duane Jorgenson signed an order finalizing his decision last month that declared unconstitutional the state’s ban on the sale of homemade baked items.

The judge did so after the state Department of Agriculture Trade & Consumer Protection told a home baker she would not be protected under the court ruling, according to Erica Smith, attorney for the Institute for Justice, which represented three Wisconsin women in the case against the state.

Smith said the department told the woman that the ruling only applied to the three plaintiffs.

“We did a brief with the court, and the court just today signed an order putting an end to it,” the attorney said.

“Wisconsin is a lot freer today than it was last month,” she added.

Jorgenson ruled that anyone in the state can bake and sell without an artificial cap on sales, as long as the goods are not considered potentially hazardous. Cookies, cakes, breads, muffins fit the nonhazardous column.

Wisconsin residents Lisa Kivirist told the Washington Times in 2016 that she and her family serve muffins and other baked goods to the guests of their Inn Serendipity Farm and Bed and Breakfast near Monroe, but they face fines and jail time if they sell them, under the state ban.

“It’s not clear to me why I can serve you this muffin legally, but I cannot sell you this muffin legally,” she told the publication.

Kivirist, Kriss Marion, and Dela Ends sued the state. It was their last resort.

For years, the Wisconsin women have begged legislators to change the law. They had success on two separate occasions in the Senate, but reform bills died in the Assembly. Speaker Robin Vos, owner of a popcorn business, opted not to bring the bills to the Assembly floor.

The Rochester Republican has said the legislation would have created an unequal playing field, with homemakers getting a break on the costs of regulations licensed businesses are required to pay.

Smith and other free-market advocates say the state’s restrictions on cottage baked goods is driven by special interests that want to lock competitors out.

Jorgenson agreed, ruling that there is no connection to the commercial baking complaint that lifting the ban would present public health concerns.

“I think if we (the Institute for Justice) hadn’t been suing the government for 25 years and seeing how outrageous government can be, we would have been shocked that there is such a thing as a law against selling home-baked goods,” Smith said. “This was another instance of special interests shutting out competition and that’s not what America is all about.”

Just days after the court ruling, Vos began circulating the Bakery Freedom Act in the pursuit of sponsors. The proposal does away with licensure requirements for commercial bakeries, and eliminates health safety inspections. The bill, Vos said, would “level the playing field” in the wake of Jorgensen’s decision.

The Senate bill, its third try at reforming a law now deemed unconstitutional, allows entrepreneurs to sell up to $25,000 in homemade goods per year before being subject to licensing and the accompanying requirements.

“There is good news for home bakers in Wisconsin! The cookie bill passed the state senate,” Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) declared in a press release.

“I know there are many home-based bakers who are ready to share their talents and delicious products with consumers and I am proud to have supported this bill,” the senator said.

Kit Beyer, Vos’ spokeswoman, said the speaker does not support the Senate bill. She said the Bakery Freedom Act, introduced by Vos and state Rep. Michael Schraa “levels the playing field, allowing every baker to sell their product under the same standards.”

The Institute for Justice’s Smith said passage of a “Cookie Bill” is unnecessary now that the court has decided the ban on the sale of homemade goods is unconstitutional.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, however, is considering appealing the ruling.

I am unclear why Vos and his sycophants are not on the side of free enterprise. You know what they say about power corrupting.

Now, the bad news, from Chris Rochester:

Americans for Prosperity is warning lawmakers about a possible plot by anonymous special interests to push small breweries, wineries and artisan distilleries out of business.

AFP has a draft proposal they say came from lobbyists who want to prevent microbreweries, wineries, and distilleries from operating taverns and selling their products to wholesalers, which is currently common practice.

This would mean beefing up an onerous “three-tier restricting” law where producers, wholesalers, and retailers are all separate entities. AFP says this would involve creating a new bureaucracy, an Office of Alcohol Beverages Enforcement in the Department of Revenue to enforce the new law.

Mark Garthwaite, executive director of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild, says the three-tier system is archaic and overreaching.

“I see no need for erecting these barriers,” Garthwaite told the MacIver News Service, adding that other states use less burdensome regulatory systems that serve the public just fine. Craft brewers support reasonable regulations that protect the public, but not protectionist ones meant to benefit particular special interests, he said.

Eric Bott, AFP-Wisconsin State Director, sent a letter on Thursday to Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren, co-chairs of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, detailing what he’s learned about the effort. AFP got its information from small businesses that would be affected and from sources in the Capitol.

Larger, well-established alcohol producers would have a much easier time complying with the strict three-tier system than smaller producers like microbreweries, small wineries, and boutique distilleries that have become increasingly popular. That increasing popularity also poses a competitive threat to larger alcohol producers.

According to Garthwaite, Wisconsin has 131 active craft brewers that produced 500,000 barrels of beer in Wisconsin in 2016, 10 percent of the overall beer market. In 2011, Wisconsin had 73 craft breweries, according to the Brewers Association.

Garthwaite also said craft breweries have a significant economic impact, both statewide and locally. “Customers like to go to the places where their beer is made.” The proposed regulations “fail the consumer” in favor of entrenched interests, he said.

The economic impact of craft breweries in Wisconsin exceeded $1.7 billion in 2014, according to the Brewers Association.

The regulations would certainly have a negative impact on the craft brewing industry, and would essentially halt the formation of new microbreweries or brewpubs – an increasingly popular phenomenon – by forbidding businesses that produce alcoholic beverages from also operating bars and restaurants. “It would kill off a lot of startups,” Garthwaite said.

AFP believes the draft proposal could be slipped into the budget’s “999” motion. That’s historically the final action JFC takes on the budget, and it’s where many policy items can be attached to the budget anonymously and at the last minute, often before even lawmakers have time to review them.

“When government takes the next step of attacking individual small business owners in secret to help the politically connected it rises to a new level of repugnancy. It’s no wonder the proponents of this motion conduct their work in the shadows,” Bott wrote to Darling and Nygren in the letter.

The Capital Times reported the proposal was supported by the Tavern League of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association and the Wisconsin Wine and Spirits Institute. All three support the anti-competition status quo. None of the three deserve your business if this bill becomes law.

 

D is for (re)defeated

If you think the Republican Party has problems, Thomas B. Edsall shows how they’re not nearly as bad as the Democrats’ problems:

Sifting through the wreckage of the 2016 election, Democratic pollsters, strategists and sympathetic academics have reached some unnerving conclusions.
What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide.

Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and race are in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets.

Some of these post-mortem conclusions are based on polling and focus groups conducted by the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA; others are drawn from a collection of 13 essays published by The American Prospect.

A consistent theme is that the focus on white defections from the Democratic Party masks an even more threatening trend: declining turnout among key elements of the so-called Rising American Electorate — minority, young and single voters. Turnout among African-Americans, for example, fell by 7 points, from 66.6 percent in 2012 to 59.6 percent in 2016.

Priorities USA, in surveys and focus groups, studied “drop off voters,” those who lean Democratic but failed to vote in either 2014 or 2016. By and large, these voters were members of the coalition that elected and re-elected Barack Obama:

people of color (41% African-American, Hispanic, or Asian), young (22% under the age of 29), female (60%), and unmarried (46% single, separated, widowed, or divorced).

Priorities found that drop off voters were distinctly lukewarm toward Hillary Clinton:

Just 30% describe themselves as very favorable to Clinton, far lower than the 72% who describe themselves as very favorable to Barack Obama.

Priorities also studied Obama-to-Trump voters. Estimates of the number of such voters range from 6.7 to 9.2 million, far more than enough to provide Trump his Electoral College victory. The counties that switched from Obama to Trump were heavily concentrated in the Midwest and other Rust Belt states.

To say that this constituency does not look favorably on the Democratic Party fails to capture the scope of their disenchantment.

… A solid majority, 77 percent, of Obama-to-Trump voters think Trump’s economic policies will either favor “all groups equally” (44) or the middle class (33). 21 percent said Trump would favor the wealthy.

In contrast, a plurality of these voters, 42 percent, said that Congressional Democrats would favor the wealthy, slightly ahead of Congressional Republicans at 40 percent. …

Geoff Garin is a partner in the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group which, together with the Global Strategy Group, conducted the surveys and focus groups for Priorities USA. Garin wrote in an email:

The biggest common denominator among Obama-Trump voters is a view that the political system is corrupt and doesn’t work for people like them.

Garin added that

Obama-Trump voters were more likely to think more Democrats look out for the wealthy than look out for poor people.

“After economics,” Garin wrote,

the other main drivers for Trump were very specifically about immigration and race, and feelings about both things were powerful and raw.

Garin described Trump’s use of the race issue as “both masterful and dastardly” in exploiting “the polarization on race around Black Lives Matter and the shootings by and of police.” In doing so,

Trump accentuated people’s feelings that battle lines were being drawn in the country and that the forgotten American (a.k.a. working class whites) had to take sides.

I asked Nick Gourevitch, a partner in Global Strategies, to rank the importance of economics, race, immigration and cultural alienation in driving support for Trump. He emailed:

My take is that economics and culture/race are quite intertwined. The Obama-Trump shift happened in places that are no doubt economically distressed and when you do focus groups with Obama-Trump voters, the conversation always starts about the economy, jobs leaving, towns and places that are no longer as vibrant as they used to be.

As focus group discussions continued, Gourevitch noted, cultural and racial issues began to emerge in force:

So it may be that within economically distressed communities, the individuals who found Trump appealing (or who left Obama for Trump) were the ones where the cultural and racial piece was a strong part of the reason why they went in that direction. So I guess my take is that it’s probably not economics alone that did it. Nor is it racism/cultural alienation alone that did it. It’s probably that mixture.

If the Priorities analysis is bleak, the 13 American Prospect essays are even more so.

Stan Greenberg, the Democratic pollster, writes in his Prospect essay:

The Democrats don’t have a “white working-class problem.” They have a “working-class problem,” which progressives have been reluctant to address honestly or boldly. The fact is that Democrats have lost support with all working-class voters across the electorate, including the Rising American Electorate of minorities, unmarried women, and millennials. This decline contributed mightily to the Democrats’ losses in the states and Congress and to the election of Donald Trump.

Greenberg voiced an exceptionally sharp critique of his own party and its candidates. First, he takes on Barack Obama:

Working-class Americans pulled back from Democrats in this last period of Democratic governance because of President Obama’s insistence on heralding economic progress and the bailout of the irresponsible elites, while ordinary people’s incomes crashed and they continued to struggle financially.

Hillary Clinton does not escape Greenberg’s wrath:

In what may border on campaign malpractice, the Clinton campaign chose in the closing battle to ignore the economic stress not just of the working-class women who were still in play, but also of those within the Democrats’ own base, particularly among the minorities, millennials, and unmarried women.

Greenberg does not stop there, shifting his focus from individual Democratic politicians to the Democratic Party itself:

Past supporters

pulled back because of the Democrats’ seeming embrace of multinational trade agreements that have cost American jobs. The Democrats have moved from seeking to manage and champion the nation’s growing immigrant diversity to seeming to champion immigrant rights over American citizens’. Instinctively and not surprisingly, the Democrats embraced the liberal values of America’s dynamic and best-educated metropolitan areas, seeming not to respect the values or economic stress of older voters in small-town and rural America. Finally, the Democrats also missed the economic stress and social problems in the cities themselves and in working-class suburbs.

Along parallel lines, three analysts at the pro-Democratic Center for American Progress, Robert Griffin, John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira, argue that:

Rather than debating whether Democrats should appeal to white working-class voters or voters of color — both necessary components of a successful electoral coalition, particularly at the state and local level — a more important question emerges: Why are Democrats losing support and seeing declining turnout from working-class voters of all races in many places?

Griffin, Halpin and Teixeira argue that

Democrats allowed themselves to become the party of the status quo — a status quo perceived to be elitist, exclusionary, and disconnected from the entire range of working-class concerns, but particularly from those voters in white working-class areas.

In the 2016 campaign, they continue,

rightly or wrongly, Hillary Clinton’s campaign exemplified a professional-class status quo that failed to rally enough working-class voters of color and failed to blunt the drift of white working-class voters to Republicans.

For Democrats who argue that the adoption of economic populism is the best way to counter Trump, Guy Molyneux, a partner in Garin’s polling firm, warns in his American Prospect essay, “A Tale of Two Populisms,” that voters drawn to Trump are anti-government, deeply wary of a pro-government Democratic Party.

“Many analysts and leading Democrats,” Molyneux writes “have attributed Donald Trump’s impressive 2016 vote margin among white working-class voters to his embrace of economic populism.” He quotes Bernie Sanders’ postelection comments:

Millions of Americans registered a protest vote on Tuesday, expressing their fierce opposition to an economic and political system that puts wealthy and corporate interests over their own…. Donald J. Trump won the White House because his campaign rhetoric successfully tapped into a very real and justified anger, an anger that many traditional Democrats feel.

While “Democrats can take obvious comfort in a story about Trump winning in large measure because he stole our ideas,” Molyneux writes, “this assessment misses the mark in important ways.”

Why? Because

Trump’s brand of populism — and more importantly, that of working-class whites — differs in important ways from the populism of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

While the populism espoused by Sanders and Warren is economic, challenging C.E.O.s, major corporations and “the billionaire class,” Trump is the messenger of what Molyneux calls “political populism,” which “is, fundamentally, a story about the failure of government.”

Molyneux writes:

White working-class voters’ negative view of government spending undermines their potential support for many progressive economic policies. While they want something done about jobs, wages, education, and health care, they are also fiscally conservative and deeply skeptical of government’s ability to make positive change. So political populism not only differs from economic populism, but also serves as a powerful barrier to it.

Or, as I have writtenelsewhere, Democrats cannot simply argue in favor of redistributive government on economic matters because defecting whites are deeply hostile to a government they see as coercive on matters of race.

For decades, the perception that an intrusive federal government promotes policies favoring African-Americans and other minorities at the expense of whites has driven anti-government animosity.

In May, the Public Religion Research Institute released a report, “Beyond Economics: Fears of Cultural Displacement Pushed the White Working Class to Trump.” It found that

more than half (52%) of white working-class Americans believe discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities

and that “four in ten white working-class Americans agree” with the statement that “efforts to increase diversity almost always come at the expense of whites.”

In a separate argument, Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu, professors of political science at Duke and Vanderbilt, challenge a basic premise on the left — that the populism of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could have stemmed the loss of non-college whites to Trump.

Carnes and Lupu contend instead that the oft-cited theory that Trump won because of support from the low-income white working class is itself wrong.

The two scholars provide data showing that

among white people without college degrees who voted for Trump, nearly 60 percent were in the top half of the income distribution

and that

white non-Hispanic voters without college degrees making below the median household income made up only 25 percent of Trump voters.

Democratic pessimism today stands in contrast to the optimism that followed the elections of 2006, 2008 and 2012.

At that time, the consensus was that Democrats had found the key to sustained victory. The party saw its future in ascendant constituencies: empowered minorities, singles, social liberals and the well-educated.

Democratic activists saw the Republican Party as doomed to defeat without a radical change of course because it was tied to overlapping constituencies that they viewed as of waning significance — for example, older, non-college, evangelical white Christians.

Today, in a world of angry, fearful voters, it is liberal optimism that is at a low ebb — buffeted by a drumroll of terrorist incidents, rising levels of hostility toward immigrants and a broad animus toward difference, the unknown and the other.

John Tamny demonstrates that Democrats don’t know what to do about this:

In a column from December of 2015, the Wall Street Journal’s Mary O’Grady unveiled a rather inconvenient fact that poverty warriors on the American left and right would perhaps prefer remain hidden: from 1980 to 2000, when the U.S. economy boomed, the number of Mexican arrivals into the U.S. grew from 2.2 million in 1980 to 9.4 million in 2000. The previous number is a clear market signal that the U.S. is where poverty has always been cured, as opposed to a condition that requires specific U.S. policy fixes.

O’Grady’s statistics came to mind while reading a recent New York Times column by Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He writes that a “highly progressive agenda [from Democratic scholars and politicians] has been coming together in recent months, one with the potential to unite both the Hillary and Bernie wings of the party, to go beyond both Clintonomics and Obamanomics.” The problem is that the agenda that’s got Bernstein so giddy has nothing to do with the very economic growth that is always the source of rising economic opportunity for the poor, middle and rich.

Up front, Bernstein expresses excitement about a $190 billion (annually) program that he describes as a “universal child allowance.” The allowance would amount to annual federal checks sent to low-income families of $3,000/child. It all sounds so compassionate on its face to those who think it kind for Congress to spend the money of others, but given a second look even the progressive and hysterical might understand that economic opportunity never springs from a forcible shift of money from one pocket to another. If it were, theft would be both legal and encouraged.

The very economic growth in the U.S. that has long proven a magnet for the world’s poorest springs not from wealth redistribution, but instead from precious capital being matched with entrepreneurs eager to transform ideas into reality. Just as the U.S. economy wouldn’t advance if Americans with odd-numbered addresses stealthily ‘lifted’ $3,000 each from those with even-numbered addresses, neither will it grow if the federal government is the one taking from some, only to give to others. Economic progress always and everywhere springs from investment, yet Bernstein is arguing with a straight face that the U.S.’s poorest will be better off if the feds extract $190 billion of precious capital from the investment pool. As readers can probably imagine, he doesn’t stop there.

Interesting is that Bernstein’s next naïve suggestion involves “direct job creation policies, meaning either jobs created by the government or publicly subsidized private employment.” Ok, but all jobs are a function of private wealth creation as Bernstein unwittingly acknowledges given his call for resource extraction from the private sector in order to create them. This begs the obvious question why economic opportunity would be enhanced if the entrepreneurial and business sectors had less in the way of funds to innovate with. But that’s exactly what Bernstein is seeking through his $190 billion “universal child allowance,” not to mention his call for more “jobs created by the government.” Stating what’s obvious even to Bernstein, government can’t create any work absent private sector wealth, so why not leave precious resources in the hands of the true wealth creators? Precisely because they’re wealth focused, funds kept in their control will be invested in ways that foster much greater opportunity than can politicians consuming wealth created by others.

Still, Bernstein plainly can’t see just how contradictory his proposals are; proposals that explicitly acknowledge where all opportunity emerges from. Instead, he calls for more government programs. Specifically, he’s proposing a $1 trillion expansion of the “earned-income tax credit” meant to pay Americans to go to work. As he suggests, the $1 trillion of funds extracted from the productive parts of the economy would lead to family of four tax credits of $6,000 in place of the “current benefit of about $2,000.” Ok, but what goes unexplained here is why we need to pay those residing in the U.S. to work in the first place.

What gives life to the above question is the previously mentioned influx of Mexican strivers into the U.S. during the U.S. boom of the 80s and 90s. What the latter indicated rather clearly is that economic growth itself is the greatest enemy poverty has ever known. It also indicated that work is available to those who seek it, and even better, the work available is quite a bit more remunerative than one could find anywhere else in the world. Rest assured that the U.S. hasn’t historically experienced beautiful floods of immigration because opportunity stateside was limited. People come here because the U.S. is once again the country in which the impoverished can gradually erase their poverty thanks to abundant work opportunities. If Mexicans who frequently don’t speak English can improve their economic situations in the U.S., why on earth would the political class pay natives who do speak the language to pursue the very work that is the envy of much of the rest of the world? Put rather simply, those who require payment above and beyond their wage to get up and go in the morning have problems that have nothing to do with a lack of work, and everything to do with a lack of initiative. Importantly, handouts from Washington logically won’t fix what is a problem of limp ambition. At best, they’ll exacerbate what Bernstein claims to want to fix.

Most comical is Bernstein’s assertion that the tax credits will allegedly mitigate “the damage done to low- and moderate-wage earners by the forces of inequality that have steered growth away from them” in modern times. What could he possibly mean? The U.S. has long been very unequal economically, yet the world’s poorest have consistently risked their lives to get here precisely because wealth gaps most correlate with opportunity. Translated, investment abundantly flows to societies where individuals are free to pursue what most elevates their talents (yes, pursuit of what makes them unequal), and with investment comes work options for a growing number. Doubters need only travel to Seattle and Silicon Valley, where the world’s five most valuable companies are headquartered, to see up close why the latter is true.

Similarly glossed over by this rather confused economist is that rising inequality is the surest sign of a shrinking lifestyle inequality between the rich and poor. We work in order to get, and thanks to rich entrepreneurs more and more Americans have instant access at incessantly falling prices to the computers, mobile phones, televisions, clothing and food that were once solely the preserve of the rich. Just once it would be nice if Bernstein and the other class warriors he runs with would explain how individual achievement that leads to wealth harms those who aren’t rich. What he would find were he to replace emotion with rationality is that in capitalist societies, people generally get rich by virtue of producing abundance for everyone. In short, we need more inequality, not less, if the goal is to improve the living standards of those who presently earn less.

Remarkably, Bernstein describes the ideas presented as “bold” and “progressive,” but in truth, they’re the same lame-brained policies of redistribution that the left have been promoting for decades. And as they’re anti-capital formation by Bernstein’s very own admission, they’re also inimical to the very prosperity that has long made the U.S. the country where poverty is cured. To be clear, if this is the best the Democrats have, they’ll long remain in the minority.

This is not just a national Democratic problem. The current flavor of the day for the next electoral victim of Gov. Scott Walker is Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, the very embodiment of what we non-Madisonians hate about Madison. Read Katherine Cramer’s The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, and then ask yourself what kind of moron would think someone who has been mayor of the People’s Republic of Madison for, on and off, 45 years would be a good choice to run for governor.

 

Gov. Soglin (now stop laughing)

The Wisconsin State Journal’s Chris Rickert takes the possible gubernatorial run of People’s Republic of Madison premier Paul Soglin seriously:

The last person the state Democratic Party sacrificed to one of Gov. Scott Walker’s finely tuned, soulless campaigns was a fresh face with a solid business background, deep pockets and good ideas who nevertheless couldn’t inspire passion among voters who needed to feel passionate for her to win.

Say what you want about Madison “mayor for life” and potential Walker challenger Paul Soglin — he ain’t Mary Burke.

Soglin’s thinking on why he might have a shot next year is understandable in an age when a pleasant fly-over state like ours gives a major-party primary win to an irascible 74-year-old Democratic Socialist from Vermont, and its 10 electoral votes to a darling of the alt-right who brags on tape about sexually assaulting women.

If Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders mean anything, it’s that conventional is out. The louder, less scripted and more fringe, the better.

Soglin in this calculus is obviously Sanders. Both are in their 70s and unapologetically leftist. Like Soglin, Sanders was once the mayor of a liberal city in a rural state.

The usual knock against Democrats from Madison is that they can’t win statewide election. The rest of the state, say the experts, is apparently not as enamored of Madison as Madisonians are.

But Sanders’ Wisconsin success could mean Soglin’s connection to Madison isn’t as much of a knock as it was — or maybe it’s not as big a knock as the experts think.

As UW-Milwaukee professor and former Democratic lawmaker Mordecai Lee pointed out, former governors Gaylord Nelson and Jim Doyle were from Madison, and so is U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

“So it’s not insurmountable,” he said.

Soglin is also not as easily stereotyped as the typical touchy-feely, identity-politics-obsessed Madison elitist. He’s recently been something of a city budget hawk — at least by Madison standards — and he’s been less interested in coddling trouble-making homeless people, excusing crime or dismissing personal responsibility in crafting social policy.

Plus, “he’s a strong guy” and “can take on Walker and not be the least bit intimidated,” said former Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen, who considered a run against Walker himself but said it’s too early to start handicapping challengers.

Like Sanders, Soglin is kind of a grump — a “get off my lawn liberal” in a state that just voted for a “get out of my country” president.

He also elicits strong emotions. Just ask any number of City Council members who can’t stand him. This is an era when people relish emotion in their politics. Just listen to cable news, read Twitter or watch a City Council meeting.

“There’s an enthusiasm that’s absent” among Democrats, said Madison lobbyist Brandon Scholz, although he doesn’t think Soglin brings a Sanders-like enthusiasm to the governor’s race.

Cullen’s right that it’s early, but it’s not too early to predict that if the Democratic establishment opts for a candidate who merely checks off a lot of boxes on a list of what voters are supposed to want, the candidate will lose — and bigly.

If they go with someone who can throw a little spit and vinegar at Walker’s well-oiled machine, they have a chance.

Well, anyone who runs for office theoretically has a chance. This analysis misses on several points.

Rickert’s analysis is written from the perspective of Madison, which has endured Soglin as its mayor for 20 years, due largely to knee-jerk robotic thinking and voting. How do you suppose Soglin’s act will go over up North, where they like their Second Amendment rights, or the Fox River Valley, where people work for a living without government as their employer? (Consider how many members of the Madison Common Council cannot stand Soglin, despite the fact they all vote the same in November elections.)

I have taken on Soglin not for office (who would vote for me in Madison?), but in TV debate on the late Wisconsin Public Television “WeekEnd” show. The second time before my comment was finished I heard him yelling in my ear (from Green Bay) “That’s not true! That’s just not true!” The third time, when we were in the same WHA-TV studio together, after my statement (that the way to clean up campaigns was to reduce the stakes in elections by reducing the size and scope of government), he literally sputtered a non-rejoinder that closed the show. I take this as my effort of revenge on behalf of my parents for the thousands of dollars they paid in property taxes to Soglin for my hometown’s downward-spiralling quality of life.

The comparisons of Trump to the GOP and Sanders to the Democratic Party make sense, but neither Sanders nor Trump won in Wisconsin because they were such great candidates. Sanders won the Democratic nomination, and Trump the state’s electoral votes, because Hillary Clinton was such a godawful candidate so arrogant as to think she didn’t need to visit a bunch of swing states, most of which went for Trump. Walker has taken on everything Democrats could throw at him in three statewide elections and won each.

Soglin is 0-for-1 in running for office beyond Madison, having lost to U.S. Rep. Scott Klug (R–Madison) in 1996, while Bill Clinton was being reelected president. And as much as Rickert thinks Soglin might be able to “throw a little spit and vinegar” at Walker, Walker (and his well financed supporters) can fire much more back at Soglin. I can see TV ads with …

… people a lot of Wisconsinites don’t care for, along with reports about Madison’s high taxes and increasing crime and violent crime rate. Someone also might report how Soglin got elected mayor, then made money as an attorney representing business clients in the morass that is City of Madison government that Soglin helped create. Walker has already correctly pointed out that all of Madison‘s economic growth under Soglin is completely attributable to being the state capital and hosting a world class university (run by the state, not the city) and nothing to do with anything Comrade Soglin has done.

Lee’s statement about Madison Democrats sometimes winning statewide races encompasses, in order, (1) someone who last won an election in 1974, (2) someone who ran against an acting governor and weak candidate (as the candidate, Scott McCallum, himself admitted on election night), and (3) someone who won a statewide race the same night Barack Obama was reelected against a weak candidate following a divided GOP primary. To think that people who voted for Trump last year will vote for Soglin next year is a triumph of liberal hope over experience.

Soglin may well rev up Wisconsin Democrats, who have had little to get excited about this decade. Nothing says fresh new face quite like a 72-year-old ex-hippie first elected to office 50 years ago as of next year. Of course, the Democrats may get revved up because they still haven’t gotten past losing three elections, including Recallarama, to Walker. Every time some Democrat shoots his or her mouth off about Walker, Walker’s voters take that as a direct personal insult. And three consecutive Walker wins proves that’s not working as a campaign strategy.

The likelihood of Soglin getting non-Democrat votes is about as likely as the Brewers winning the World Series this year.

 

More advice Democrats aren’t taking

William McGurn:

Nine years after Barack Obama accused small-towners of clinging to guns or religion, nearly three years after Jonathan Gruber was shown to have attributed ObamaCare’s passage to the stupidity of the American voter, and eight months after Hillary Clinton pronounced half of Donald Trump’s voters “irredeemable,” Democrats are now getting some sophisticated advice: You don’t win votes by showing contempt for voters.

In the last week or so a flurry of articles have appeared arguing for toning down the looking-down. In the New Republic Michael Tomasky writes under the heading “Elitism Is Liberalism’s Biggest Problem.” Over at the New York Times, Joan C. Williams weighs in with “The Dumb Politics of Elite Condescension.” Slate goes with a Q&A on “advice on how to talk to the white working class without insulting them.” Stanley Greenberg at the American Prospect writeson “The Democrats’ ‘Working-Class Problem,’ ” and Kevin Drum at Mother Jones asks for “Less Liberal Contempt, Please.”

None of these pieces are directed at Trump Nation. To the contrary, they are pitched to progressives still having a hard time coming to grips with The Donald’s victory last November. Much of what these authors write is sensible. But it can also be hilarious, particularly when the effort to explain ordinary Americans to progressive elites reads like a Margaret Mead entry on the exotic habits of the Samoans.

Mr. Tomasky, for example, informs progressives that middle Americans—wait for it—“go to church.” They have friends (“and sometimes even spouses”) “who are Republicans.” “They don’t feel self-conscious saluting the flag.” Who knew?

Most of these writers allow that there is at least some fraction of Trump voters who are not deplorable. What they do not appreciate is how condescending they can be while advising their fellow Democrats to be less condescending. Exhibit A: Mr. Drum’s recommendation that Democrats can “broaden [their] appeal” because these are “persuadable, low information folks.”

Still, Mr. Drum comes across as Gandhi when set against the writer at Slate who interviews Ms. Williams. The following question conveys the tone: “What attitude should we be taking toward people who voted for a racist buffoon who is scamming them?”

Ms. Williams, a University of California law professor who has written a new book on the white working class, generously avoids telling her interviewer he is a perfect instance of the problem. But the larger progressive dilemma here is that contempt is baked into the identity politics that defines today’s Democratic Party.

When Mrs. Clinton labeled Trump voters deplorable (“racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it”) she was simply following identity politics to its logical conclusion. Because identity politics transforms those on the other side of the argument—i.e., Americans who are pro-life, who respect the military, who may work in the coal industry—from political opponents into oppressors.

Which is precisely how they are treated: as bigots whose retrograde views mean they have no rights. So when the Supreme Court unilaterally imposes gay marriage on the entire nation, a baker who doesn’t want to cater a gay reception must be financially ruined. Ditto for two Portland women who ran a burrito stand that they shut down after accusations of cultural appropriation regarding their recipes.

No small part of the attraction of identity politics is its usefulness in silencing those who do not hew to progressive orthodoxy. This dynamic is most visible on campuses, where identity politics is also most virulent. It’s no accident, in other words, that the mob at Middlebury resorted to violence to try to keep Charles Murray ; after all, he’s been called a “white nationalist.” In much the same way identity politics has led Democrats to regard themselves as the “resistance” rather than the loyal opposition.

The great irony here is that this has left Democrats increasingly choosing undemocratic means to get what they want. From President Obama’s boast that he would use his pen and phone to bypass Congress to the progressive use of the Supreme Court as its preferred legislature to the Iran and climate deals that made end runs around the Constitution, it all underscores one thing: The modern American progressive has no faith in the democratic process because he has no trust in the American people.

Here it helps to remember the tail end of Mr. Obama’s snipe about guns and religion: it was a crack about voters clinging to “antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.” Sounds like a pretty accurate indictment of contemporary American liberalism, judging by all these articles begging progressives to be a little more broad-minded.

So good luck with the idea that the Democratic Party can restore its relationship with Middle America without addressing the identity politics that fuels it. Especially when it starts from the premise that the Americans they are condescending to will remain too stupid to figure it out.

Exhibit A would be the Wisconsin Democratic Party, whose seething contemptuous hatred of Gov. Scott Walker has been so successful that their party has been losing elections left and left since Recallarama, which culminated in …

 

How to lose the next election by a bigger margin

Before this weekend’s Democratic Party convention in the suburbs of the People’s Republic of, the Associated Press reported:

Wisconsin Democrats say they are increasingly optimistic about their chances of knocking off Republican Gov. Scott Walker next year, even though a top-tier candidate has yet to emerge and they’re still recovering from a devastating 2016 election.

Democrats gathering this weekend for their state convention say liberals are energized in opposition both to President Donald Trump and to Republicans like Walker closely tied to him. Walker’s approval rating has been below 50 percent since early 2014.

“I think there’s a ton of opportunity for Democrats,” said Democratic state Rep. Chris Taylor. “What we need to do is have a bold, inspiring agenda.”

Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin since 1984, with a narrow 23,000-vote victory that was the third-closest of any state he won. In that same election, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson outperformed Trump on his way to a surprising re-election win against former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

While Democrats are looking for a candidate to take on Walker in 2018, they also have to defend the Senate seat held by Tammy Baldwin. And they must rebuild a weakened infrastructure that has suffered repeated losses against Walker. His campaign operation was molded in part by Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, when he was state party chairman before leading the Republican National Committee.

Walker, who remains popular with his Republican base, has all but announced his re-election bid, saying he’s “ready” for another four years and questioning why he wouldn’t run again — given a bevy of positive economic data, including a 17-year low state unemployment rate.

His state budget proposal also is designed to give him something else positive to run on, with proposed funding boosts for K-12 schools and higher education after years of cuts.

Walker’s list of accomplishments as governor is long. He’s known best nationally for a measure ending collecting bargaining for Wisconsin’s public workers, spurring an unsuccessful attempt to recall him in 2012.

He also has worked with the Republican-controlled Legislature over the past seven years to enact a host of other conservative priorities. Those include requiring photo identification to vote; making the state right-to-work; legalizing the carrying of concealed weapons; making abortions more difficult to obtain; expanding school choice programs; freezing University of Wisconsin tuition; and cutting taxes by nearly $5 billion.

Walker’s critics say his agenda has devastated public education, severely harmed worker rights and wages, removed protections for the most vulnerable and weakened the state’s economy. While unemployment is low, Wisconsin lags its Midwest neighbors in private sector job creation, and Walker has yet to hit the promise he made in 2010 to add 250,000 private-sector jobs.

But it’s vital that Democrats have their own message rather than just running as counter to the Trump-Walker Republicans, said Joe Zepecki, a strategist who worked for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke in 2014.

“All of the makings are there for a really good year for Democrats if we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Zepecki said.

Republicans cast the Democratic Party as in a state of disarray, frequently citing decisions by several potential candidates not to take on Walker, including Rep. Ron Kind, venture capitalist Mark Bakken and Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling.

“Wisconsin is a top 10 state for business and education with an unemployment rate at its lowest point since 2000, so it’s no surprise that serious Democrats are refusing to run against Wisconsin’s comeback,” said Walker’s campaign manager Joe Fadness

Milwaukee businessman and political newcomer Andy Gronik and state Rep. Dana Wachs, of Eau Claire, are two of the most frequently discussed possible candidates. At least a half-dozen more are possible.

Democrats quite obviously still can’t get past their seething hatred for Walker. And the list of Democrats who have declined to run dwarfs the list of those who might.

And the latter list may include, the Wisconsin State Journal reports:

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said Saturday that he’s considering seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, the winner of which likely will challenge Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

It marked a reversal for Soglin, who said in December he had “no interest” in challenging Walker, who is very likely to seek a third term as governor.

Soglin said the surprising appeal of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, particularly in Wisconsin, is part of what changed his mind about a potential run for governor.

As a Madison liberal, Soglin told the Wisconsin State Journal Saturday, he used to believe it would be a struggle to sell himself to voters in a statewide election. But he noted Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist” with a large base of support in Madison, easily won the state’s 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Soglin was a Sanders delegate to last year’s Democratic National Convention.

“His success is one part of it,” Soglin said.

Soglin said he long has been encouraged to run for governor. What changed in recent months, he said, was the amount of encouragement he got from areas outside Dane County.

Soglin said Madison’s economic growth could be a focal point of a run for governor. He said Walker “is running around the state claiming economic victory” while much of the state’s job growth is happening in Dane County — a liberal area with a political philosophy that Soglin said is completely opposite of Walker’s.

“The (low) unemployment rate (Walker) boasts about is driven by what’s going on in the Madison area,” Soglin said. “If it can work here, it raises an interesting question: Can’t it work statewide?”

If there is anything more unpopular in Wisconsin than a Milwaukee mayor (two-time gubernatorial loser Tom Barrett), it would be a Madison mayor. As for Madison’s economic success, if you can’t grow jobs in a state capital and a home of a world-class university, there is no help for you. Soglin has for years deluded himself into believing that he has something to do with the city’s economic success, and of course he won’t take any blame for the city’s rising crime and violent crime rates, including Tuesday’s murder.

Soglin, by the way, is 72, three years younger than Comrade Bernie, who won Wisconsin because of how horrible a presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is three years younger than Soglin.

 

More left than left

Jerry Bader reports on this weekend’s Democratic Party convention in Middleton and another convention:

It is almost poetic that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s convention this weekend falls just two days before the 5th anniversary of the failed recall attempt of Governor Scott Walker. Wisconsin Democrats have been so marginalized since that crushing defeat that infighting among Republicans on transportation generates most of the drama in Madison these days.  Wisconsin has turned deep red since June 5, 2012 and Democrats will be deciding whether to stay the course with Chairperson Martha Laning or pick someone from the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. The outcome of that vote likely will determine the significance of another liberal gathering three weeks later in Steven’s Point. That’s where “Our Wisconsin Revolution (OWR)” will be holding its “Founding Convention.”

OWR is essentially stitched together remnants of  Bernie Sander’s Wisconsin presidential campaign: its interim organizing committee was comprised of former Sanders delegates. An OWR outline platform draft obtained by Media Trackers leaves little doubt that the Founding Convention will be very much informed by Sanders’ socialist platform. The entire platform is standard liberal fare, but several items reveal a far left socialist agenda:

  • Show leadership in combatting (sic) global warming by making Wisconsin energy production fully carbon-free by 2030. This would mean a 100% transition to carbon-free energy production in 13 years.
  • Transition to “free” (publicly funded) tuition for all UW and Technical colleges and universities (Yet, just last week Democrats decried continuing a tuition freeze as harmful to students.)
  • Recognize housing as a human right and adopt and implement a plan to realize that right for all residents (free housing for all to go with free tuition?).
  • … work toward  single-payer public system of health care  in Wisconsin and nationally.
  • explore the feasibility of  a state basic income guarantee; and establish a state-sponsored retirement plan for private workers. This idea isn’t new but is gaining traction in liberal thinking. As explained at “The Economist in 2013, an unconditional or “standard” basic income would replace existing anti-poverty (welfare programs). And it appears it would fulfill some liberal Utopian dreams:

Philippe Van Parijs, a Belgian philosopher, believes a UBI provides “the real freedom to pursue the realization of one’s conception of the good life”, whether that means surfing and living small, or trading stocks and living large. Erik Olin Wright, a Marxist sociologist at the University of Wisconsin, posits that a basic income could even hasten a march toward communism (without the messiness of violent revolution) by raising the bargaining power of the proletariat. If you don’t need your job to survive, Mr Wright reasons, you can command a higher salary and better benefits from your boss. Ms Lowrey points out the opposite is also a possibility: McDonald’s has little pressure to pay you a living wage if the government is sending you supplemental cheques every month.

  • Widen the  sales tax base to include all goods and services outside food, education, and healthcare; make it progressive by raising it steeply on purchases more than twice the median state family income. So, big ticket items would carry a steep sales tax in Wisconsin. It’s hard to imagine auto dealerships on the Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan borders not loving that idea.

Apparently if you’re a Democrat and you have won basically three elections (U.S. Senate in 2012 and secretary of state in 2010 and 2014) vs. all your losses since Scott Walker became governor, the key to overcoming failure is to do what doesn’t work harder.

The alternative, apparently, is to stand for nothing, as Victor Davis Hanson reports:

Is there a Democratic-party alternative to President Trump’s tax plan?

Is there a Democratic congressional proposal to stop the hemorrhaging and impending implosion of Obamacare?

Do Democrats have some sort of comprehensive package to help the economy grow or to deal with the recent doubling of the national debt?

What is the Democratic alternative to Trump’s apparent foreign policy of pragmatic realism or his neglect of entitlement reform?

The answers are all no, because for all practical purposes there is no Democratic party as we have traditionally known it.

It is no longer a liberal (a word now replaced by progressive) political alternative to conservatism as much as a cultural movement fueled by coastal elites, academics, celebrities — and the media. Its interests are not so much political as cultural. True to its new media identity, the Democratic party is against anything Trump rather than being for something. It seeks to shock and entertain in the fashion of a red-carpet celebrity or MSNBC talking head rather than to legislate or formulate policy as a political party.

The result is that in traditional governing terms, the Democratic party has recalibrated itself into near political impotency. Barack Obama ended the centrism of Bill Clinton and with it the prior Democratic comeback (thanks to the third-party candidacies of Ross Perot) from the disastrous McGovern, Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis years.

Indeed, Obama’s celebrity-media/identity-politics/community-organizing model brought him more new voters than the old voters he lost — but so far, his new political paradigm has not proven transferable to any other national candidates. No wonder that over the eight years of the Obama administration, Democrats lost the majority of the state legislatures, the governorships, local offices, the Senate, the House, the presidency, and, probably, the Supreme Court.

Most Democratic leaders are dynastic and geriatric: Bernie Sanders (75), Hillary Clinton (69), Elizabeth Warren (67), Diane Feinstein (83), Nancy Pelosi (77), Steny Hoyer (77), or Jerry Brown (79). They are hardly spry enough to dance to the party’s new “Pajama Boy” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” music.

Yet those not past their mid-sixties appear unstable, such as the potty-mouth DNC head Tom Perez and his assistant, the volatile congressman Keith Ellison. Or they still believe it is 2008 and they can rally yet again around “hope and change” and Vero possumus. That politicos are talking about an amateurish Chelsea Clinton as a serious future candidate reflects the impoverishment of Democratic political talent.

In such a void, a traditionally progressive media, including the entertainment industry, stepped in and fused with what is left of the Democratic party to form the new opposition to the Republican party and in particular to Donald Trump. The aim now is to alter culture through the courts and pressure groups rather than to make laws.

A disinterested observer would have seen that the Democratic antidote to Trumpism was a return to Bill Clinton’s focus on working-class, pocketbook issues — the issues that might win back swing voters in the proverbially blue-wall states. But that won’t happen. The Democratic party is now in the hands of Obama progressives, who in turn follow the lead of the hip, cool, and outraged media that have no responsibility other than to appear hip and cool and outraged. Trump apparently understands that and so focuses most of his invective not against a tired Nancy Pelosi or the shrill Chuck Schumer but at the major networks, mainstream newspapers, and Hollywood celebrities — the heart now of the progressive fusion party.

Think the Republicans are messed up because of their pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions? Think the state GOP has a problem because Gov. Scott Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos don’t see eye to eye on things? The GOP, both national and state, is far, far better off than their Democratic opposition.

The election that refuses to die

While normal people have moved on from the 2016 presidential election to real life, those in politics and the media have not.

The New York Times’ Nate Cohn writes about pollsters:

Nearly seven months after the presidential election, pollsters are still trying to answer a question that has rattled trust in their profession: Why did pre-election polls show Hillary Clinton leading Donald J. Trump in the battleground states that decided the presidency? Is political polling fundamentally broken? Or were the errors understandable and correctable?

At their annual conference in New Orleans this month, polling experts were inching toward the latter, more optimistic explanation. And there is mounting evidence to support their view.

At least three key types of error have emerged as likely contributors to the pro-Clinton bias in pre-election surveys. Undecided voters broke for Mr. Trump in the final days of the race, or in the voting booth. Turnout among Mr. Trump’s supporters was somewhat higher than expected. And state polls, in particular, understated Mr. Trump’s support in the decisive Rust Belt region, in part because those surveys did not adjust for the educational composition of the electorate — a key to the 2016 race.

Some of these errors will be easier to fix than others. But all of them are good news for pollsters and others who depend on political surveys. …

Errors have happened enough in past elections to know that an upset was well within the realm of possibility in 2016. The Upshot model estimated that a polling misfire was about as likely as a baseball strikeout or a missed midrange field goal in football. It’s not pretty, but it happens and will happen again, and a team wouldn’t release a batter or a kicker because of a strikeout or a missed kick.

Cohn’s summary of post-election polls claims that undecided voters went late to Trump, and Clinton led in polls among likely voters but not among actual voters …

But there are a few loose ends. And those loose ends keep the possibility of a more pessimistic explanation alive.

The loosest end: The state polls weighted by education didn’t fare as well as the national polls. In fact, it’s not clear whether a state poll weighted by education and with the benefit of a perfect likely-voter screen would have shown Mr. Trump ahead in the key states.

CNN/ORC, Quinnipiac and Marquette Law School all conducted live-interview polls weighted by education in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania over the final stretch. Methodologically, they were fairly similar to the best national polls. But Mrs. Clinton still had a considerable lead of four to six percentage points.

The same story seems to hold up among campaign pollsters. The public’s window into private polling isn’t very clear, but presentations by analysts from the Democratic firms Civis Analytics and Global Strategy Group indicated that Mrs. Clinton would have still led in their final surveys in Midwestern states or Pennsylvania, even after weighting by education and correcting the likely electorate.

Perhaps undecided voters could explain the remaining error. After all, these same states had the largest number of voters who switched to Mr. Trump after voting for President Obama; it makes sense that they would have been relatively likely to be undecided.

But there’s a more pessimistic possibility, one that has been mainly promulgated by analysts at the Democratic firm Civis Analytics. Their theory, advanced in postelection interviews and presentations at AAPOR, is that Trump voters weren’t responding to telephone surveys because they had lower levels of civic engagement.

The notion that polls would miss disengaged voters is not new. It’s probably the best-known response bias in polling: Respondents are likelier than people who don’t respond to surveys to be voters, to be trusting of others, and to be volunteers or engaged in their communities. If these voters were also inclined toward Mr. Trump, it would help explain the bias toward Mrs. Clinton in pre-election polls.

This would pose a more serious challenge to survey research. It would suggest that declining response rates have finally taken a toll on the accuracy of political polling, and that would be hard to fix. The 2016 election wouldn’t be like a typical strikeout or a missed field goal — it would be more like an aging player who could no longer muster the leg strength or bat speed he had a decade ago.

Cohn had an analysis that lacked tortured sports analogies last year:

It is entirely possible, as many have argued, that Hillary Clinton would be the president-elect of the United States if the F.B.I. director, James Comey, had not sent a letter to Congress about her emails in the last weeks of the campaign.

But the electoral trends that put Donald J. Trump within striking distance of victory were clear long before Mr. Comey sent his letter. They were clear before WikiLeaks published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. They were even clear back in early July, before Mr. Comey excoriated Mrs. Clinton for using a private email server.

It was clear from the start that Mrs. Clinton was struggling to reassemble the Obama coalition.

At every point of the race, Mr. Trump was doing better among white voters without a college degree than Mitt Romney did in 2012 — by a wide margin. Mrs. Clinton was also not matching Mr. Obama’s support among black voters.

This was the core of the Obama coalition: an alliance between black voters and Northern white voters, from Mr. Obama’s first win in the 2008 Iowa caucuses to his final sprint across the so-called Midwestern Firewall states where he staked his 2012 re-election bid.

In 2016, the Obama coalition crumbled and so did the Midwestern Firewall. …

Campaign lore has it that President Obama won thanks to a young, diverse, well-educated and metropolitan “coalition of the ascendant” — an emerging Democratic majority anchored in the new economy. Hispanic voters, in particular, were credited with Mr. Obama’s victory.

But Mr. Obama would have won re-election even if he hadn’t won the Hispanic vote at all. He would have won even if the electorate had been as old and as white as it had been in 2004.

Largely overlooked, his key support often came in the places where you would least expect it. He did better than John Kerry and Al Gore among white voters across the Northern United States, despite exit poll results to the contrary. Over all, 34 percent of Mr. Obama’s voters were whites without a college degree — larger in number than black voters, Hispanic voters or well-educated whites.

He excelled in a nearly continuous swath from the Pacific Coast of Oregon and Washington to the Red River Valley in Minnesota, along the Great Lakes to the coast of Maine. In these places, Mr. Obama often ran as strong or stronger than any Democrat in history.

In 2016, Mr. Trump made huge gains among white working-class voters. It wasn’t just in the places where Democratic strength had been eroding for a long time, like western Pennsylvania. It was often in the places where Democrats had seemed resilient or even strong, like Scranton, Pa., and eastern Iowa.

It was a decisive break from recent trends. White voters without college degrees, for the first time, deviated from the national trend and swung decidedly toward the Republicans. No bastion of white, working-class Democratic strength was immune to the trend.

For the first time in the history of the two parties, the Republican candidate did better among low-income whites than among affluent whites, according to exit poll data and a compilation of New York Times/CBS News surveys.

And whose fault is this? John Fund reports:

Hillary has clearly bought into a victimization model of her loss. She told New York magazine:

I would have won had I not been subjected to the unprecedented attacks by Comey and the Russians, aided and abetted by the suppression of the vote, particularly in Wisconsin. . . . Whoever comes next, this is not going to end. Republicans learned that if you suppress votes you win.

What Hillary is talking about is a liberal theme spread by The Nation magazine and Priorities USA, a Clinton super PAC, that laws requiring voter ID and “other suppression rules” prevented many people from voting. Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who came within a hair of becoming the new head of the Democratic National Committee, got out in front on the issue shortly after the election. Just this month, he tweeted that “Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 votes in 2016 (Trump Won by 22,748) — via @AriBerman @thenation.”

But honest liberals haven’t let their brethren get away with such reasoning. Slate — in a story headlined “Did a Voter ID Law Really Cost Clinton a Victory in Wisconsin?” — quoted several election experts who poured “a big bucket of cold water” on the idea. The reliably liberal fact-checker Snopes ruled the claim “unproven,” noting that even if some people lacked the ID required to vote and didn’t bother to fill out provisional ballots, it didn’t mean they wanted to vote.

The liberal website Vox went further and pointed out that 1) Clinton lost in key states that didn’t have new voter-ID laws and 2) her margin of defeat was too big to be explained by any suppression. Even the New York Times filed a report from Wisconsin that found that black voters were far less excited about Hillary as a candidate than they had been about Obama.

Hillary’s loss was Hillary’s fault. It was also Hillary’s campaign’s fault, and the candidate is ultimately responsible for the campaign. We’ve known for decades that the Clintons have no shame, but Hillary’s nationwide woe-is-me tour, in addition to her faulty history (your husband got impeached, not Richard Nixon, remember?) is unseemly.

 

Wisconsin’s ‘deep state’

The political education of Americans since the 2016 presidential election now includes the term “deep state,” defined as “a body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy.”

It turns out Gov. Scott Walker thinks Wisconsin has its own “deep state.” Right Wisconsin reports:

It’s a line item on local property tax bills that few Wisconsinites notice. But Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to eliminate the state property tax, or forestry tax, has become a contentious issue within his own Republican Party. As Christian Schneider explained at JSonline.com back in March, the state property tax is a flat tax so revenues rise and fall with property values around the state. Officials then, in essence, find things on which to spend the revenue.

It’s much like the old joke where the potential buyer of a used car asks the seller “how much do you want for the car?” and the seller responds, “how much do you have?” How much is spent is determined largely by how much is generated, not by any justification of the purchases made. This has led to some calling the forestry revenue “a slush fund.”

Under Walker’s plan, the items the money is currently spent on would still be funded. The forestry account would be moved to the general fund, where things like land purchases would have to be justified. Eliminating such a tax would appear to be a Republican slam dunk; property taxes are inherently unpopular and the nature of the forestry tax flies in the face of conservative thinking on taxes. Yet some GOP lawmakers are balking. Walker told Media Trackers there are a couple of reasons for that:

“There are two specific issues: one…there are some, particularly in areas where forestry is an exceptionally big part of the economy, who don’t want it to go away because they think it’s a locked in set amount of money…We’ll continue to support forestry without a separate property tax. So that’s one area of concern and I think we can address that.

The other one, candidly, comes from some of the bureaucrats that serve the state legislature. They’re telling them, if you get rid of this you permanently lose a revenue source and if things turn the way they were seven, eight years ago, the money won’t be there. I fully concede that.  I think as Republicans our mission is to reform government, make it more efficient, more effective, more accountable and in turn lower, not raise the tax burden on the hardworking people of this state. So I do want to eliminate the revenue source.

I do think it is good to provide not just one time, but permanent property tax relief. So I confess that is my motive. I can get why bureaucrats would feel that. They’re just looking out for future budgets. But I think the way we take care of future budget is to do things that continue to grow the economy in the state, put more people to work…and that will bring more revenue into the state budget, not higher amounts of taxation.”

It’s not just bureaucrats who are concerned. Foresters told Wisconsin Public Radio they’re unconvinced their industry will continue to see the money if the account is moved to the general fund, despite Walker’s assurances:

“This would mean that forestry would have to line up with schools and with transportation and with health care and all the other important needs that are funded with general revenue,” said Fred Clark, executive director of the Forest Stewards Guild.

The programs are fully funded in the 2017-19 proposal from the governor, but Clark expressed concern they could be cut in future budgets.

“There’s no guarantee that the level of funding that’s provided today would be sustained,” Clark said

Supporters argue that Clark’s concerns notwithstanding, that’s how all state spending should work: justify the purchase and then get the money. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the forestry tax was about $26 on 2016 property tax bills.

Clark, by the way, is the former state representative who tried and failed to defeat Sen. Luther Olsen (R–Ripon) in Recallarama. Of course an ex-state legislator would oppose having to “line up with schools and with transportation and with health care and all the other important needs that are funded with general revenue,” because the last thing liberals want is to be required to set spending priorities.

I think Walker is correct. The bureaucracy of Wisconsin is far more powerful than in most states. This was where the evil known as administrative law came into being — bureaucrats’ ability to decide what the law is without the Legislature’s specific approval. The opposition to reducing our Tax Hell status comes not just from Democrats, but from those who get government paychecks. It’s too bad Walker doesn’t see the solution to that — eliminate government positions.

 

 

The (dis)United States of (more than one) America

Erick Erickson:

The media has run and retracted a host of stories about Donald Trump and his administration since Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath of office. The MLK bust was gone before it was not. The State Department senior staff all resigned before they didn’t. James Comey asked for more funding for the Russia investigation before he didn’t.

The story about Donald Trump giving away key intelligence details to the Russians has been met with a full throated denial by the White House on key details that are actually not in the Washington Post story. Given the media’s track record of stories about Donald Trump, where they report first and ask questions later, one can be excused for being skeptical of this story.

I would be but for knowing one of the sources, who is a credible, reliable source who supports the President, but is appalled and using the leaks as a way to message back to a President who has otherwise gone tone deaf to criticism of his behavior.

While the media cries wolf, so too does President Trump. He has seemingly never met a truth he has not cheated on. He confuses the ring of truth with a marriage ring.

Of course, he is also the scorpion riding the back of the frog, always wondering why he is on the verge of drowning above a dead frog.

On top of all that, let’s not ignore the politics of convenience here. If Barack Obama had done what Donald Trump did, many of the same people calling for impeachment would be doubling down on defense of Obama. For those who say Barack Obama would never do this, many of us don’t believe you. Doubly so, President Obama is still defending the repeated crossing of his red line in Syria and many of acolytes are as well, despite that action being directly related to emboldening the Syrian regime.

Everything in Washington is now relative and tribal. Each side now competes for elections to impose their own morality and choices on the people as a whole. With the left, they demand unending culture war. We must all accept and pay for abortion and we must all accept and provide goods and services to gay weddings. We cannot decide this by state, as the founders intended.

The left and right both want to use Washington as they see fit with no real restraints on their agendas. The founders intended Washington to be useful for little and the states to be useful for much. Not any more. Both sides have incorporated the Bill of Rights against the states, which the founders expressly did not and which was only done through Supreme Court divination in the twentieth century.

The stakes have grown so high as five black robed masters demand their morality be imposed on 320 million people and the federal government insists a heterogeneous people be homogenized. There is no room on either side for diversity of thought. The tribe, not the nation, is all that matters.

Washington is dysfunctional and our President is a dolt well out of his league. The only honest thing he has said of late is that the job is harder than he expected.

The left will give him no benefit of any doubt and the GOP will excuse his every action. Our nation is broken. It does not work. Neither side has an ounce of grace for the other. Traditional values are now bigotry to the left. College campuses silence dissent in ways that would make Hitler proud. Washington is supposed to do everything. And Washington does nothing well. Outrage is defined by party, not objective truth.

Perhaps it is time we end this experience. Few people really want a country as the founders envisioned and those of us who do are assailed from both sides. The stakes have been escalated beyond any amount of reason and should the Democrats eventually take back the White House, which they will, everything they have attacked Trump for will suddenly be embraced and every Republican who has defended Trump will attack the future Democrat President.

Let’s not pretend otherwise. We have Democrats running Republican congressmen off the road and reporters writing stories justifying it. We have environmental wackos blaming global warming on too many people, but they refuse to go first and kill themselves. We have Republican congressmen targeting businesses whose employees oppose the congressmen. It is only a matter of time before real shots are fired. Democrats are convinced the President is committing treason and Republicans are war criminals. Meanwhile, conservatives are convinced the left has created an existential threat against their cultural existence.

I asked once how many Americans would die because of Barack Obama’s failed policies. The same must now be asked of Donald Trump. And we must all legitimately ask how many Americans will be killed by their fellow American because of once trivial political differences that are now treated as crimes against humanity.

Our national union is fraying at the seams and I think we have reached the point where it is best to go on and tear it into fifty pieces and move on, each state its own.

The only real alternative should be an immediate repeal of the fourteenth and seventeenth amendments so that national elections become more diffuse through state legislative elections and the demands of moral and cultural homogeneity through conjured divinations in equal protection die by the wayside. Force each state, its laws, and its morality to be relevant again. That is the only way to preserve the nation.

It is safe to say that repeal of the 14th Amendment is a nonstarter, immediate or not. The 17th Amendment, which gives voters of states to elect U.S. senators instead of state legislatures, is unlikely to be repealed either. Apparently Erickson believes that the 32 states with Republican-controlled legislatures (25 of which, including Wisconsin, also have Republican governors) would produce a different Senate, though it’s not as if, for instance, a state legislature would be able to expel that state’s Democratic senator, elected two years earlier by a different legislature, from office.

Erickson’s understandable wish to make “national elections more diffuse,” of course, would serve to lock in the order of things, with liberal California and New York and the more-conservative rest of the nation. That last sentence, however, doesn’t quite accurately portray individual states, including Wisconsin, where liberal Milwaukee and Madison opposes the much more conservative rest of the state. (For that matter, liberal Milwaukee is surrounded by conservative suburbs.) Inner California isn’t nearly as liberal as its coast. There is a move to split the state of Washington into two states, the easternmost of which would be called ‘Liberty.” (Maybe Madison can be split off into its own, and call it Communist Scumbags.)