I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

A sad reflection for the end of the 114th Congress...

Unsure if anyone is still looking at the blog, but find below a reflection on leaving Congress by Steve Israel:

"But I think the way Congress treats its departing members is a refreshing exercise in humility, and a surprising example that the institution can move fast — when it must."


Thursday, December 8, 2016

And the Semester Ends

Inherent limitations of Congress:
  • Except in simulation, legislation is usually slow. (And swift action is not necessarily smart action.)
  • In a body resting on geographic representation, parochialism is inevitable. (And it is often legitimate.) See Davidson 456-457.
  • A multi-member, bicameral institution will have a hard time planning. (And planning is overrated.)

  • The pressure to "go along" -- but we "should not be too hasty in condemning all compromise as bad morals."
  • The pressure to seek reelection -- but lawmakers "who go down to defeat in a vain defense of a single principle will not be on hand to fight for that or any other principle in the future."
  • The pressure to serve interest groups -- but "they are the articulate few whose views cannot be ignored and who constitute the greater part of our contacts with the public at large, whose opinions we cannot know..."

The Wealthiest Counties did not vote for Hillary Clinton, but the Poorest Counties did.

Breitbart recently published an article saying that, had it not been for the coastal elite in 52 counties, the election would have been a slam dunk for Donald Trump.

This narrative is false. While Trump tied with Hillary Clinton on voters who earned more than $250K/year or more, the idea that Trump won everything except for the Bougie coastal elites is flat-out wrong. I used the U.S. Census Bureau data from 2010 and county-level election data from November, and examined the fifty counties with the highest Median Household Income. 25 of them voted for Trump, and many of them by sizable margins. Here's a map I made with Microsoft Paint for more perspective:

In fact, only 16 of the named 52 counties made the cut from the original Breitbart article.

50 wealthiest counties:
--25 voted for Donald Trump
----Of these 25, 14 were in Southern or Midwestern states
----Some of these counties, like Sussex County, NJ voted for Donald Trump by more than 30 points
--9 voted for Hillary Clinton
----These were likely not included in the original Breitbart article because they were either close, like Queen Anne's County, MD or not on the coast, like Oakland County, MI
--16 are the "Coastal Elite" counties that Breitbart selects
----Of these 16, 8 are in Northern Virginia, and an additional 3 are in Maryland. The remaining 5 are split between California (3), New York (1), and Massachusetts (1)
------Of the 8 in Northern Virginia, 4 are independent cities with small size

By contrast, of the 50 poorest counties in America, 2/3 (33) voted for Hillary Clinton. This is especially poignant, given that Donald Trump won far more counties than Hillary Clinton. Of these 33 counties that voted for Hillary, 5 are Hispanic majority, 3 are Native American majority, and 25 are African-American majority. 16 of the 17 poorest counties that Donald Trump won are more than 75% white (Luna County, NM is actually Hispanic majority). Here's another map I made with MS Paint to outline where the poorest counties are and how they voted:

Breitbart is not the only publication to accuse HRC for going for the elite coastal vote. It is certainly true that the wealthiest counties are concentrated in super zip-heavy coasts surrounding DC and New York. Nevertheless, the idea that this election was America's poor and working class heartland vs. the coastal elites misunderstands both the distribution of wealth and politics in America.

Democrats? Nearly all-white top staff? Huh?

Senate Democrats' top staff ranks are lily-white:


Chuck Schumer, the Minority Leader-to-be, is considering various proposals for party rules to boost minority hiring. Among them is a mandate to interview diverse candidates for top staff positions, without a mandate to hire them. The Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus is pushing legislation to create a chief diversity officer for the whole Senate.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Simulation Video!

Summing Up I

Beating Cabinet nominees

In response to Ian's post:  Goldwater v. Carter  (Fisher, p. 265).

In response to Bruno's post -- Manu Raju and Ted Barrett report at CNN:
Democrats are worried that if Trump adds two Democrats to his Cabinet -- potentially North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin -- the balance of power in the chamber could tilt further to the GOP. So they are making the case to their colleagues to stay put.
If Manchin and Heitkamp were to leave for the Trump administration, the GOP would have a clear shot to pick up the open seats in 2018. In West Virginia, the Democratic governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, would fill the open seat until the next election in the red state. And in North Dakota, a special election would occur within 95 days of the vacancy, giving the GOP an immediate chance to grow their numbers in the first year under Trump.
In response to Caroline's question:
  • Technical corrections legislation
  • Scott Levy in the Straus reader (p. 36): "How does one discern a well-drafted bill from a poorly drafted one?  How does one distinguish a drafting error from a questionable policy decision?  To be honest, I do not know that we can."
  • Process issues -- Heather Caygle reports at Politico:
    SENATE TAKES A MULLIGAN— Turns out that in the Senate, you can pass a bill – and then take it right back. On Monday afternoon, the Senate easily cleared money-laundering legislation from Sens. Richard Shelby and Sherrod Brown and then almost as quickly, reversed its passage. Sources tell Huddle that the Democratic cloakroom had accidentally OK’d the hotline request that had included the terrorism financing measure and other items, without registering an objection that came from their own side. Hey, mistakes happen.
    So where did that objection come from? West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who along with three other Democrats from coal states has vowed to gum up the works on anything and everything in the Senate until legislation regarding health care and pensions for coal-miners gets addressed in the chamber. Confirming the hold, a Manchin spox emailed us: “We are going to object to everything going forward.”
  • Once in a while, Congress just repeals.  Case study:  Medicare catastrophic health insurance.

The Elusive Question of the Mandate

The Oath of Office:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
On January 12, 1991, House Speaker Tom Foley (D-WA) spoke about the impending Gulf War. This is what grownups look like: