Scotty, I Hardly Knew Ye

Scott WalkerAccording to The New York Times, “Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has concluded he no longer has a path to the Republican presidential nomination and plans to drop out of the 2016 campaign.” By the time you read this, he will have held his press conference and explained to the world that sadly, it is true: the Republican presidential contest will have to live without the bright light of his charisma. Oh, what will it do!

But who are we kidding here? This is a clear sign of the Republican Party establishment trying to take control of the presidential nominating contest. There are currently four candidates who are diluting the already anemic “establishment” vote. So I’m sure that the power brokers in the party went to him and said, “Kid, this ain’t your night — I mean, year.” And I suspect that the party promised him something like a top spot on the VP list. So if Rubio or Bush get the nod, don’t be surprised if Walker gets the backup spot.

It’s funny that the 2016 nominating contest is turning out to be a far bigger problem than the 2012 contest. Remember all the wringing of hands about how the “moderate” Romney was “forced” to take extreme positions — and how that ruined him for the general election? And then there was The Republican Autopsy Report, which said that the party kinda maybe shoulda not work so hard at alienating everyone outside its old bigoted white man base. But this year was going to be different with the “deep bench.” But it has turned out that the three top contenders for the nomination — the people who the base most like — are the people with literally no actual experience in politics.

So I suspect that the Republican power brokers really are freaking out. First it was thought that Trump would collapse after the first debate. He didn’t; he really took off after it. Then Bush was really going to destroy Trump in the second debate — or at least hold his own. Instead, he looked weaker than he ever has before. The big winner of the debate was Carly Fiorina — a candidate who is probably even worse for the party than Trump. The only glimmer of hope was that Marco Rubio did well as the Eagle Scout who will get tough with Russia, Iran, and most of all, Cuba.

I wonder if there isn’t pressure on Jeb Bush to exit the race. After all, that $100+ million that he raised is almost all in a super pac. If Bush left the race, it could be used to finance Rubio’s campaign.

I’m sure there is some pressure on John Kasich to get out of the race. I think that would be very shortsighted. In the end, he may be the only reasonable choice. But if the Republican establishment thought long-term about things, it wouldn’t be in the mess it now finds itself in. I wonder if there isn’t pressure on Jeb Bush to exit the race. After all, that $100+ million that he raised is almost all in a super pac. If Bush left the race, it could be used to finance Rubio’s campaign. Again: I think Rubio is a mistake, because I think that he ultimately comes off as very un-serious — like one of those Republican kids (eg, Jonathan Krohn) who is really good at repeating talking points, but who really doesn’t understand them.

But I suppose that I should come clean: I really thought that Walker would get the Republican nomination. That was based upon the fact that he was everything that the power elite wants. Even though I knew him to be a very boring fellow — like the Republican kids, but without any of the charm — I figured that he could finesse his way into the nomination. But I was so wrong! First, he apparently can’t finesse anything at all. Second, he was even more boring than I had thought before. He is not a man who wears well.

Overall, this is good news. It means I will likely never again have to hear about how he stood up to angry workers from inside his limo. But ultimately, I must admit: Scotty, I Hardly Knew Ye. Because there wasn’t much to know.

See also: Scott Walker Is a Follower and the Base Knows It.

Update (21 September 2015 3:41 pm)

According to USA Today, it’s even more explicit than I thought:

The one-time Iowa front-runner said he wants to help clear the field so that a “positive” conservative message can rise to the top.

“With this in mind I will suspend my campaign immediately,” he said at a press conference in Madison, Wisconsin

Walker also encouraged others in the 15-candidate field to do the same, in an apparent attempt to rally Republicans around an alternative to current front-runner Donald Trump.

The Voter Fraud Myth

InjusticesThough allegations of voter fraud at the polls are common, they almost always deflate upon further investigation. In 1995, for example, Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey claimed that her opponent, Democrat Parris Glendening, defeated her through a sophisticated voter-fraud campaign. As evidence of a conspiracy, her supporters cited eighty-nine votes that were supposedly cast by dead voters. Yet, an FBI investigation found no evidence whatsoever of votes being cast in the names of dead Marylanders. The closest they came was “one person who had voted then died a week after the election.”

A similar investigation in Georgia began with the accusation that over five thousand votes were cast in the name of dead voters over a twenty-year period. Yet the investigation only substantiated one instance of voter fraud, and this single case was later deemed to be an error as well. As it turns out, a man named “Alan J Mandel” got confused with a man named “Alan J Mandell.” In Michigan, an investigation into 132 votes that were supposedly cast in the names of dead voters revealed that most of those votes were never actually cast in the first place, and most of the remainder involved lawful ballots cast shortly before the voter passwed away. And in New York, journalists dug into allegations of widespread voter fraud in 2002 and 2004, but were unable to uncover anything other than clerical errors and mistakes.

A study of Wisconsin ballots cast in the 2004 election revealed only “7 substantiated cases of individuals knowingly casting invalid votes,” or 0.0002 percent of the ballots cast in that election. Moreover, all seven of those votes were cast by people with felony convictions who were ineligible to vote — not by someone impersonating another voter at the polls. Accordingly, a voter ID law would have done absolutely nothing to prevent these few, rare cases of illegal voting.

Similarly, a two-year voter fraud investigation led by Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz uncovered exactly zero cases in which a voter showed up at the polls and pretended to be another person. Thus, Schultz was unable to find a single instance of voter fraud that would have been prevented by a voter ID law.

—Ian Millhiser

Republicans’ Ridiculous Economic Argument Against Combating Global Warming

Republican DebateWhen the subject of global warming came up at last week’s Republican presidential debate, the responses were slightly different than I had expected. Apparently, no Republican wants to be seen as a global warming denier. They are more than willing to admit that something is happening. They didn’t get into it (because the CNN moderators sucked), but they would probably even agree that humans are having some effect. But now it is just a matter that doing anything would destroy our economy. We also heard that we can’t do anything on our own, even though we emit a fifth of the carbon pollution, and other countries are doing things their their own. What ever happened to American leadership?

Of course, this is nonsense anyway. Do you know when would have been a great time to tackle the problem of climate change? Ever since the bursting of the housing bubble and the crashing of the economy. Ever since then, there has been an enormous amount of slack in the economy and the government has been able to borrow for basically nothing. We could have done massive infrastructure projects that would have made our country more green. We could have invested even more in green technologies. We could have trained all those coal miners to do something less damaging (and dangerous).

But we couldn’t do that because, as they always do when a Democrat is in the White House, the Republicans discovered “fiscal responsibility.” So we couldn’t spend any money on anything. Meanwhile, even apart from global warming, our infrastructure is crumbling and lives are wasted due to unnecessary unemployment. And it is all so that they can make a point: they ought to be in power and they are going to do everything they can to destroy the economy until they are.

But on Friday, Mark Thoma wrote a very interesting article at CBS Money Water about another side of this issue, Candidates Shouldn’t Wait to Address Climate Change. The Republicans were specifically asked if it mightn’t be a good idea to hedge our bets — to do something about global warming just in case. But they really didn’t engage with the question. Instead, their answers all implied that if there was some cost to it, it would be minor. There was no reason to do anything that might hurt our economy in any way at all right now.

Thomas quoted the Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change (pdf). I wasn’t aware of it, but it was a study commissioned by the UK government to determine the economic effect of climate change. And it concluded “if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever.” Thoma sums up the state of knowledge this way, “My reading of the evidence — and the totality of the work on this question comprises far more than just this report — is that the consequences will be large, and the longer we wait to begin serious abatement, the larger the impacts will be.”

He contrasts this with the most optimistic analysis by Richard Tol, who still thinks the costs will be large, but will fall mostly on developing countries. Thoma noted that we in the developed world would still have to help them out. But I think it is far worse than a moral obligation. If the effects are dire on developed regions, there is going to be a great increase in war. And I think it is outrageous to think that we are not going to be touched by that in a big way.

Regardless, the Republicans have shown themselves to be the polar opposite of what is traditionally considered “conservative.” They behave like teenagers who don’t have a care in the world. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” That’s no way to run a family, much less a country, much less a global empire. But of course I would think that way. As I’ve noted many times, I am a deeply conservative person when it comes to personal conduct. That’s one of the reasons I vote for the Democrats.

What Risk Is Bernie Sanders Worth?

Bernie SandersNot to beat a dead horse or anything, but have you noticed how many people who call themselves social democrats or democratic socialists seem to be terrified at the prospect of Bernie Sanders winning the Democratic presidential nomination? It reminds me of a line from the musical 1776, “Maryland would welcome independence if it were given, but is highly skeptical that it can be taken. Maryland says nay.” It is as if they are only dedicated to this ideal as long as it doesn’t risk anything — as long as it doesn’t require a fight. And I’m afraid that it does require risk and a fight.

I understand the counterargument: if the Republicans get in, it will be a catastrophe. But this is how we find ourselves far, far to the right after 40 years of this kind of thinking. The Democratic Party establishment decided that it lost the 1972 election because George McGovern was too liberal. That’s such a vague claim as to be meaningless. There were a lot of reasons he lost, of course. A big one was that the south turned against the Democratic Party because of the civil rights laws passed under Johnson. Another was that McGovern was painted as weak on crime and “those people.” None of that should have caused the Democratic Party running to go running to the right on economic issues.

Matt BruenigBut in 1976, they ran a very conservative man for his time, Jimmy Carter. He barely won. Then in 1980, he lost by a lot. This was followed by Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis. All of those elections were classic economics-trumps-all elections. They were the Republicans’ elections to lose. Similarly, Bill Clinton didn’t win in 1992 because he was conservative but because the economy had tanked. All these moves to the right, have only pushed the Republicans further to the right. So the whole idea that the Democratic Party must move to the right only means that when Republicans do get into power they are even worse than they were before.

Matt Bruenig asked a really good question recently, What is the Left Supposed to Do Electorally? He considered Jeremy Corbyn in the UK primarily, but also Bernie Sanders. Here, all good Democrats know that Ralph Nader cost the Democrats the election in 2000. (I don’t know; that may be a myth; but it is what all good Democrats know.) So Sanders is not running a third party candidacy, and has been very clear that he will support whichever candidates the Democrats nominate. But running inside the party is apparently only acceptable if the leftist loses, as we are seeing with Corbyn. “Similarly, if Sanders manages to win the Democratic primary in the US, you can be sure the same centrist Democrats screaming at Nader to run in the primary will immediately sour on the idea of left-wing primary challenges.”

I truly do not know where I stand in this election. I support Sanders because he is the closest fit to my major issues, which are economic. But if I think he has little chance of winning the general election, I will not vote for him. I am a pragmatist. But I haven’t seen any information to indicate that this is the case. If I think that Hillary Clinton has a 55% chance of winning the general election and Bernie Sanders has a 45% chance, then there is no question: I’ll go with Bernie. If Bernie has a 10% chance, I’ll go with Hillary. But it is worth some risk to get the extra gain that is Bernie Sanders.

Anniversary Post: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Sandra Day O'ConnorOn this day in 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed as the first female justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. She was approved by the Senate with a vote of 99-0. Could you ever imagine that happening today? To begin with, there is no way a Republican president would ever nominate someone like her. At last week’s debate, Ted Cruz was complaining about ultra-conservative John Roberts being on the Court. According to Cruz, Roberts is some kind of liberal because he hasn’t decided everything exactly the way that Cruz thinks is correct. It’s a good example of what a movement conservative defines as a liberal: “not a movement conservative.” Of course, John Roberts is a movement conservative and has moved the law far to the right on really important issues like voter rights.

Anyway, what I find most interesting about O’Connor is the way she left the Supreme Court. She wanted to leave because her husband was ill. She asked William Rehnquist if he was planning to retire. He said no, so she retired. And then Rehnquist died. So George W Bush got to appoint two justices: one, the aforementioned ultra-conservative John Roberts — the other the reactionary Samuel Alito, who took O’Connor’s spot. I wonder how that sits with her to have been replaced by such an anti-feminist as Alito. O’Connor was conservative in a broad sense, but in the context of today, she has to be seen as a moderate — especially when it comes to women’s rights. Allowing Alito on the Court effectively destroyed all the good she ever did on the Court.

But this day 34 years ago was a special one with great meaning to the nation. We now have three women on the Court. All of them were appointed by Democrats, of course. The only female I can image Republicans nominating in the next 20 years would be someone like Janice Rogers Brown — who wants to take us back to Lochner v New York. I’m sure that if Republicans could find a woman to spout crazy enough things, they’d love to nominate her. But that can be hard. And the crazy ideas come first.

Sandra Day O’Connor would never make the cut.