Let's Party IV
COALITION GOVERNMENT AMERICAN STYLE
Nothing about the 2016 presidential elections has gone according to Hoyle. The rules of tradition are no more likely to govern the future than
the present. Throughout its 240 year history, the U.S. has been a two party polity; as regards current political parties, the past may no longer be prologue.
The marginality of U.S. third parties has been the consequence of several factors, especially the caliber of candidates and an unwillingness to
consider compromise. In other nations, e.g. Germany and Italy, third parties have moved uptown to partner with principal parties in governing their nations.
Elections in the U.S. are all or nothing contests. There are no consolation prizes for losing in our two party system. Elections in many European countries are proportional contests, allocating shares of governance on the basis of votes won. Proportional representation often leads to coalition governments, as it is not unusual for any one party not to win the needed majority.
The addition of viable third parties to the existing two-party mix could increase inter-party cooperation. Smaller, more homogeneous political groups, could find it easier to arrive at intra-party consensus and discipline-- avoiding the intra-party conflicts that so frustrated Boehner and are currently plaguing Speaker Ryan. Its negotiators might then have the standing needed to negotiate.
As shown by the House Freedom Caucus, groups of only a few dozen members can have an out sized influence over the decision/deal-making process. With fewer than 40 out of 435 representatives, the Caucus is able to influence both the initial drafts of legislation and their path to enactment.
The Caucus influences by threat of opposition not the promise of collaboration Opposition is a bargaining tactic—a threat easily acted upon when power is fairly evenly divided between two major parties. It need not be its defining quality.
It is hard to imagine the system self-adjusting without some substantive change, i.e. the willingness of both parties to compromise or a realignment in the balance of power--giving one or the other control of both the White House and a veto proof Congress. It seems counter-intuitive to think so, but increasing the number of political parties could well lead to less gridlock.
The theory rests on three basic assumptions:
The current extremism is something of an historic anomaly. The rise of the left and right of the middle forces within each party pushes them further to the ends of the political spectrum. Extremes do not play well together.
Congress’ inability to act has led to more aggressive executive action that in turn fuels partisan fires. Obama’s use of presidential orders and authority is a major issue dividing today’s Republican and Democratic candidates. His directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to draft and issue the Clean Power Plan (CPP/Plan), for example, is the source of consternation and divisiveness.
Numerous legal challenges to EPA’s regulatory authority by state attorneys general and the fossil fuel industry are wending their way through the courts. Business groups like the Chamber of Congress and the National Association of Manufacturers are joining with Republican members of Congress to oppose unilateral action by the president and to challenge the constitutional authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Republican presidential candidate has vowed to “un-sign” the Paris climate change agreement. The Democratic and Republican Party platforms are diametrically opposed to each other on the matter of federal environmental regulation and the support of fossil fuels.
Opponents claim the actions taken by the President are rightfully the jurisdiction of Congress. Mr. Obama believes climate change presents a clear and present danger to the health, welfare and security of the nation; he and his party have promised to act. President Obama views his actions as fulfilling his word and responsibilities in light of Congress’ inability or unwillingness to act definitively—one way or the other.
Presidential action by default hardens positions of dissent. No matter which party wins the White House, as long as Congress is in gridlock, the chief executive will continue to act by presidential fiat. There is otherwise no option for getting anything done. Congressional gridlock is the ultimate circle-jerk.
An increase in the number of viable political parties would make it more difficult for any party to win outright the numbers needed to govern. By definition and practice, however, multi-party systems lead coalition governments. The division of both parties to reflect far right and far left factions may have the desired effect of re-establishing middle moderates as the dominant governing force—a force not nearly as opposed as the extremes and more willing to work together.
What we are witnessing in the 2016 presidential elections is frustration turned to anger. The heat of such emotion enflames passion and defeats any desire to collaborate. It creates intra-party divides, leads to the nomination of very flawed candidates and promises the continuation of an uncivil debate ending in more gridlock.
Our binary political system seems to have outlived its ability to govern. Would a multi-party system be better? I don’t actually know. What I do know is that a nation so divided is unwilling to compromise and unable to act in support of the health and welfare of its citizenry. Paraphrasing the words of one of the candidates: after all, what have we got to lose by supporting the growth of viable third parties?
It’s déjà vu all over again — Yogi Berra
Anyone following the Justice Delayed series knows I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop in the continuing saga of challenges to the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Well—it dropped.
On Oct. 13, plaintiffs challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to issue New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) offered oral arguments to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the case of North Dakota, et. al. v USEPA, et. al. Don’t be fooled by the name; the challengers in this instance are basically the same crew of states, industry and organizations challenging the EPA’s authority to regulate CO2 emissions from existing power plants in the Clean Power Plan case West Virginia v EPA.
Technically the latest challenge is not a direct shot at the CPP. Finalized last August by EPA, the new source standards limit carbon emissions from four types of electric generating units (EGUs): new and modified fossil steam EGUs; reconstructed EGUs; and, new combined-cycle combustion turbines.
The two rules, however, are inextricably linked in the Clean Air Act (CAA/Act). According to the Act, EPA can neither require existing generating units under section 111(d) to meet stricter requirements than new units nor can they regulate existing sources before new or modified plants under section 111(b).
Stated simply, EPA is prohibited by the Act from regulating existing plants before new/modified ones. Practically speaking, even if the limits under 111(d) are found constitutional, a successful challenge of the NSPS would prevent EPA from ever enforcing the CPP.
The guts of the petitioners’ argument is that the foundation of EPA’s regulations is unproven carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. The CAA requires EPA to base required limitations on the best system of emission reduction (BSER).
BSER, according to the challengers, reasonably implies commercial viability. The Agency, however, seems to have identified only one instance where CCS technology has been demonstrated as feasible--both technologically and economically.
The system identified by EPA as proof of its viability claim is Canada’s Boundary Dam project. The lead member of the consortium, Saskpower, advertises the Boundary Dam project as: a rebuilt coal-fired generating unit, retrofitted with CCS technology. Started in the fall of 2014, the Estevan, Saskatchewan plant came on line as the World’s First Post-Combustion Coal-Fired CCS Project integrated with a power station.
State petitioners and industry opponents, led by Murray Energy Corporation, claim that the one identified demonstration of capture technology is far from commercial. They characterize the project as: being less than one-quarter the size of a full-scale power plant; suffering from massive cost overruns; and failing to demonstrate sequestration in deep saline formations.
Equally, the plaintiffs pointed to the substantial funding the project receives from the Canadian government. The implication being the project is too speculative for the private sector to fund and is merely a governmental proof of concept.
North Dakota makes the additional claim that the demonstration project is even less applicable to its particular circumstance. Power plants in N.D. burn over 99 percent of lignite coal, which has higher carbon concentrations and requires even more energy intensive control technologies. Therefore, results of the Canadian project would not be applicable.
The matters of cost and proven technology have played important roles in other federal court decisions. Keep these matters in mind, as they will be recurring factors in future legal challenges.
As recently as March 2015, SCOTUS declared implementation cost an essential factor to be considered by EPA when drafting regulations. In that case the Court stated:
Agency action is unlawful if it does not rest “‘on a consideration of the relevant factors…..’” and, EPA strayed well beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation in concluding that cost is not a factor relevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants.
In addition to plaintiffs’ arguments that the Boundary Dam Project does not demonstrate the commercial feasibility of CCS technology, they claim EPA failed to show that carbon emissions from the regulated plants sufficiently endanger public health and welfare so as to require strident regulation.
Even if the courts intuitively believed such emissions harmful, EPA needs to monetize the negative consequences. Determination of reasonable cost is a function of the ratio of the costs of compliance to the cost of the harms done. Without putting a dollar amount on the hazard to human health and welfare, the ratio cannot be established.
It is important to understand that the key difference between sections 111(b) and (d) involves readily available compliance options. The emission targets of the CPP are state based and can be met through system wide efficiencies.
Under the NSPS rules, they cannot. The only way to meet the new source limitation levels is through carbon capture and sequestration at the facility level.
There is a certain dark irony running through the current case. No new coal-fired power plants are currently being built—not because of environmental regulation but the low price of natural gas.
Although EPA will undoubtedly raise this defense in their oral arguments before the three judge panel on Dec. 14, I am skeptical the claim will be accepted by the court. NSPS regulations impact modified or reconstructed fossil/coal steam EGUs; it cannot be stated with certainty that coal-fired power plants will be non-competitive in the future—either because of technological breakthroughs or rising natural gas prices.
Experience limits my willingness to predict the outcome of legal cases as complicated as the West Virginia CPP case and the North Dakota CAA proceeding. I will say that of the two, the 111 (b) case should prove the more problematic for the courts.
Justice Will Continue To Be Delayed
There is little reason to believe this case won’t also find its way to SCOTUS. Once again an evenly divided eight justice panel will come into play. It is possible that a President Clinton would be successful in having a new nominee approved by the time the case makes it all the way to SCOTUS. It is even possible that Judge Garland’s nomination will be approved by the Senate before President Obama leaves office; the theory being that Clinton would appoint a more rabid liberal than Judge Garland.
Given that Senator McCain has announced that Republican senators will oppose all of President Clinton’s appointments, the country will continue to be hobbled by Congressional gridlock. The only way any Clinton nominee to SCOTUS is going to have a relatively clear path to approval is if the 60 Democratic senators needed to force cloture of a filibuster are elected in November.
Legal challenges by the states and fossil fuel industries will continue. No matter the final outcome of the law suits, implementation of environmental regulations will be slowed. Is justice delayed, justice denied? You be the judge.
LET'S PARTY IV
DIVORCE IS INEVITABLE: MULTIPLICATION BY DIVISION
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go…?
---- The Clash (1982)
DIVORCE REPUBLICAN STYLE: THE NEW REPUBLICAN PARTY
It is looking increasingly likely that Trump will lose the election. Whether he will retire from politics after the lights of the 2016 election are dimmed remains a question. One many Republicans are hoping will be answered in the affirmative.
This is not a man who takes defeat gracefully. More troubling is the fact that he surrounds himself with practicing sycophants. Beware of toadies, however, they are not always what they seem. Ailes and Bannon are not your usual panders and ass-kissers. No Katrina Pierson, Corey Lewandowski or Jeff Lord are they.
They are consummate Machiavellians. Others might refer to Donald as a billionaire businessman or an astute politician. Those who oppose him could describe him as a bigot and misogynist. For Ailes, Bannon and others like Alex Jones, Trump is a willing ventriloquist’s dummy. They will not lose him lightly.
Trump, at their bidding and with their complicity, has provided their particular brand of hate and demagoguery a retail outlet. From the shadows, extreme right groups from Klu Klux Klan to the Neo-Nazi Party have been brought into alignment with the Tea Party and the disaffected who blame a conspiracy of others for their condition.
They have in Trump a means to assume the mantle of an organized and respected political party. The Party of Lincoln is close to becoming the Party of Bannon/Ailes and the Alt-right. Although in recent days Ailes’ continuing role has come into question.
Recent reports are that he and Trump have parted ways. Depending on who you ask, Ailes was given his walking papers because he proved unhelpful in preparing the candidate for the debates with Clinton; or, Ailes had better things to do than deal with Donald’s short attention span and inability to take advice.
With or without his bestie, Trump will be relegated to the role of figurehead—a public personae—post an election loss. Why—with legitimacy before them—would Bannon and friends allow Donald to slip from public view? Ventriloquists need their dummy.
They already have him convinced that he—and the middle class—are victims of a rigged system. Trump has clearly lost any sense of perspective he might once have had. A leading Alt-Right leader has said it best:
It's not so much about policy – it's more about the emotions
that he evokes…. more important than facts. Trump sincerely
and genuinely cares about Americans, and white Americans
Trump sees himself as a modern day Joshua before the gates of Jericho. Whether out of delusion or duty, he will remain committed to his supporters.
Starting November 9th mainline conservative and moderate Republicans will likely attempt to take back their Party. Given enough time they may succeed. Victory will be neither easy nor quick. In the meantime, politics and the clock will move on. Can they afford to wait? Can they take the chance?
Rick Tyler, communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) presidential campaign acknowledged:
There is a civil war in the party…going on right now. The question is whether,
after the election, the party will be able to repair itself; or cease to exist; or
continue to exist in some diminished way.
John "Mac" Stepanovich agrees and thinks the Party is about:
…to enter a wilderness here in which we will wander for a decade
or more, and hopefully emerge. But if that’s the case, then we
need to wander. I personally don’t want to be in a party that is characterized
Many establishment Republicans think as Tyler does:
Why should I have a new party? I want to make the Republican
Party the conservative, free market, freedom party. That's
Tyler is right--it is the Party’s history. But can it ever again be its future—at what cost?
Tyler’s casting of the Republican brand is not shared by some prominent Trump supporters. Richard Spenser, president of the National Policy Institute and a leader of the Alt-Right holds the opinion:
…the Republican Party has won elections on the basis of implicit
nationalism and not on the basis of the Constitution, free-market
economics, vague Christian values and so on…The GOP is a white
person's populist party…[Unlike Trump, though, the party is]
embarrassed of itself.
In years past, it may have been appropriate to dismiss Spenser. In a year when party ranks are being filled by Trump supporters, such sentiments must be considered as part of the current Republican brand. Is this something establishment politicians and classic conservatives like Representatives Ryan (R-WI) and Kinzinger (R-IL), Senators McCain (R-AZ), Kirk (R-IL) and Alexander (R-TN) donors like the Koch Brothers, Whitman and Oberndorf and party elders like the Bush(es) and Romney really want to have to explain or defend?
Are far-right principles even something with which they want to be associated? The growing presence of populist reactionaries in the Republican Party is already causing problems for candidates and supporters not ready to disassociate themselves from Trump’s candidacy.
Classic conservatives like Ryan and McCain attempting to straddle the line have only succeeded in making themselves disrespected by both regular and far-right Republicans. They are now labelled as “expedients” by both sides. Over time they could be branded as “untouchables.”
The choice boils down to the classic question: fight or flight? Ask any general, two front wars are expensive and difficult to conduct. To fight a long-running internal battle, while simultaneously trying to get candidates for local, state and federal offices elected every two years and a president every four, would either have disastrous results or so sap monetary and emotional resources there would be very little left with which to govern.
Trump and his puppeteers are not hurting for cash. Neither are they at a loss for committed and enthusiastic foot soldiers. Trump’s 35-40 percent of support are with him for the duration. A recent Bloomberg poll found that 51 percent of likely voters who are or lean Republican picked Trump over Ryan as most representative of the Republican brand. Although only 38 percent indicated they would stick with him should he lose the election, it is clear that he has a strong foundation upon which to continue in Party politics.
Fanatics fighting a holy war: do not go gentle into that good night. They rage…against the dying of the light.
Face it, the Republican brand is tarnished; and, it could take decades to burnish it back to historic brightness. In an age of social media, re-branding mainstream moderate and conservative members as the New Republican Party is more than just possible.
The new party will have most of the resources of the old: recognized politicians; experience at the federal, state and local levels; financial backing; and, an expansive media reach through commentators like Kristol, Will, Brooks and any Fox News personalities not jumping over to the rumored new Trump network. Other cable and communications networks will certainly continue coverage.
The new message is the old message: we are the conservative, free market, freedom party. The name is changing—not our purpose or principles; we remain the Party of Lincoln and Reagan.
New party organizers must not appear petulant or vindictive. Whether this means that the #NeverTrump(ers) like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney will be required to stay in the background will have to be determined. There is a deep pool of respected and talented leaders to draw from, including retired patriarchs of the Grand Old Party like Senators Warner (R-VA) and Lugar (R-IN) and could join with sitting senators like Rubio and Flake (R-AZ) and governors Kasich (R-OH) and Haley (R-SC).
Whether Trump wins or loses will of course make a difference. So too will the vote spread and any collateral Congressional damage that might occur, i.e. loss of majority standing in either the House or Senate.
A Trump victory will change the dynamic not obviate the need. Candidate Donald has already carried out Bannon’s directive to oppose Ryan and establishment Republicans both in the 2016 campaign and in the 115th Congress. A President Donald will simply have an easier go of it.
Effective governance requires some compromise. For the Trump/Bannon/Ailes forces there is a point to prove—and, prove it they will. In their world governance takes a back seat to philosophical purity.
Should Trump fail his new line of party hats will sport the phrases: THE SYSTEM IS RIGGED-- WE WERE RIGHT--CHAOS OVER COMPRIMISE!
WE CAN STILL BE FRIENDS: THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY
The Democrat’s divorce will be much less acrimonious. Democrats are historically more accepting of philosophical and issue diversity. The liberal label is fairly what it suggests—liberal. There are, however, limits to that liberality—not the least of which is established by the expectation of loyalty.
The 2016 presidential campaign illustrates the capacity of the Democratic Party to allow and even embrace diversity within the party structure. Sanders, for example, was never excoriated for his persistence in the primaries.
This is not to say that party leaders were thrilled with his presence—particularly after Clinton seemed to secure the requisite number
of delegates for nomination. Neither is it to say that party leaders like Debbie Wasserman Schultz were indifferent to Sanders’ candidacy.
Recognizing the value of the Sanders forces to the party in the 2016 elections, the Democrats were wisely solicitous of the candidate and recognized the need of his supporters to feel they were not only heard but successful. Incorporation of a number of the progressive policy positions, e.g. free tuition to public colleges and universities, the $15 minimum hourly wage and commitment to a 50% renewable energy economy within the next decade, testifies to both the power of the progressive message and the practicality of the Democratic establishment.
Given the willingness of party regulars to accommodate portions of the progressive agenda, why wouldn’t Sanders and his supporters simply continue their efforts to move the Party to the left?
Somewhat ironically, the willingness of establishment Democrats to accommodate the progressive agenda may be less after a Clinton victory. Not only will the immediate need for Sanders supporters be less acute, but as the party of the President, there will undoubtedly be a desire to maintain alignment with a more moderate agenda in an effort to work with Republicans in Congress.
Divisions within their party could compromise the standing of a sitting president. Party discipline is essential to a successful negotiation. Whether Speaker of the House or leader of the free world, a negotiator without the internal standing to make good on a commitment, is just making idle conversation.
Position conflicts between Clinton and Sanders democrats are inevitable. The recent Wikileaks of emails provides an illustration
of a difference in perspective. Clinton was quoted as saying in a speech to the North America's Building Trades Unions:
…my view is I want to defend natural gas. I want to defend repairing and
building the pipelines we need to fuel our economy. I want to defend fracking
under the right circumstances.
Clinton also disparaged environmental advocates before the same audience when saying:
They come to my rallies and they yell at me and, you know, all the
rest of it," Clinton said. "They say, 'Will you promise never to take
any fossil fuels out of the earth ever again? No. I won't promise that.
Get a life, you know.
Although the Democratic platform was closer to the anti-fracking forces, Clinton’s predisposition is what she told the Building Trades Unions. Equally, it is the position of the audience she was speaking to—which are on the record against the AFL-CIO’s collaboration with Tom Steyer over this very issue. President Clinton will have reason and position to walk back the more strident fracking/pipeline position.
WikiLeaks is proving fodder for progressive concerns—as more emails are released. Disparaging remarks about Sanders’ indicating the Paris agreement did not go far enough have done nothing to unruffle feathers.
Articles are also beginning to appear suggesting progressive critics are getting ready to pressure Clinton more now that Trump’s campaign appears to be collapsing in on itself.
Climate change would serve as the new party’s foundational issue—for good reason. What is more inflammatory to the right, more galvanizing on the left and more serious than the sustainability of life on Earth than climate change? It is the issue where the clearest distinction between Sanders’ supporters and the established party can be made and a proven preference of donors, e.g. Steyer.
Climate sustainability would not, however, be the new party’s only policy priority. Environmentalists are legitimate and recognized advocates for social justice. As such, an environmental agenda speaks to the issues of health care, education, fairness, diminished control by established and often wealthy politicians. Yes, Steyer and his allies are rich and powerful. However, as Trump has shown, even the wealthy can be leaders of the anti-establishment.
The continued engagement of Sanders supporters, particularly millennials, is essential to the future of the progressive agenda. Formation of a Social or Green Democratic Party would provide these activists a “home of their own.”
Unlike its conservative counterpart, a new progressive party is most less likely not to run a presidential candidate in 2020—focusing instead on down-ballot contests for Congress and state and local offices. Sanders has already voiced his preference for targeting Congressional, state and local elections.
Following Tip O'Neill's maxim that all politics are local, starting at the grassroots level plays to the progressives’ strengths and allows for a situational social agenda. Such a strategy also conforms and builds upon what Our Revolution, the Sanders Institute and donor groups/political action committees like Steyer’s NextGen.
Success in getting down-ballot candidates elected allows the party to grow naturally and comes with clear benefits, including:
The one element that remains is a leadership/candidate pool of recognized, respected and politically practical individuals. The failure of past third party attempts have failed for the absence of electable candidates. Parties and candidates residing at the margins simply do not bear serious consideration—much less a majority of votes.
The most obvious exception was Teddy Roosevelt. Ross Perot, in his first run for the presidency, was nearly an exception; his business acumen and success seemed a surrogate for experience as a public servant. History may someday paint a caricature of Trump and the GOP as the party that Got Out of Politics because it was taken over by the Alt-Right.
It will be interesting to see how the 100 or so candidates for office currently on the Our Revolution website fare in November. A topic for future investigation.
This is the second of the last three installments of the Let's Party series. The third installment will be posted on 10/25.
Photo from Huffington Post
LET’S PARTY IV:
MULTIPLICATION BY DIVISION
It’s 24 days before the national election—do you know where your party is? No? Well, you’re not alone. By any measure, the
2016 presidential campaign is of historic proportion. It may yet prove of historic consequence.
Certain to be characterized by words like acrimony and incivility, the 2016 presidential race will take its place in history as the first
time a woman carried the banner of a major political party into the battle for the White House.
Whether or not Secretary Clinton is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, the glass ceiling hanging over American
politics for 240 years has been shattered. The 2016 election will also go down in history as among the meanest of modern times.
In the minds of many, this will be called the Neverland election. As in:
Only after the dust of the campaigns settles, and a new President is sworn in and the 115th Congress is gaveled to life, will the historic significance of the 2016 elections even begin to be known. The next chapter has yet to be written—the last to be finished.
IN THE BEGINNING
The 2016 election cycle started traditionally enough. Secretary Clinton tossed her fedora into the ring, to the surprise of no one. It had long been the bet of everyone she was next in the Democratic line. An old goat socialist from Vermont challenged the heir apparent but was never thought threatening—until he was.
Bernie Sanders? He’s not even a Democrat. What is a Socialist anyway? Never heard of him. Well, it should at least make the race more interesting, for a while.
Bernie Sanders? He won’t make it past the Super Tuesday primaries—my daffodils will bloom before that guy does. Bernie Sanders? #Neverheardofhim.
The Republican primary saw 17 hats in the squared presidential circle. Candidates representing Party royalty, sitting governors and senators, business executives, even a distinguished surgeon. Sure to keep things interesting—was the entrance of an ego maniacal TV star.
Who do you think the Republicans will put up against her? Hard to tell—there are certainly plenty to choose from. Think Bush will carry on the family name and make it a 3fer? Maybe, although I hear that Senator Rubio from Florida is one of the real up and comers—would be good to have some youth on the ticket.
True enough—an Hispanic Tea Party guy—don’t come across them too often. Better than that Cruz fella’ anyway. He sure has beady eyes. Say, didn’t his father help to kill Kennedy or something—maybe that’s why he’s a Republican— ya think?
I don’t know about Rubio though—he sure pulled a boner at the last convention. How could he have said “we chose more government instead of freedom?” What the hell’s that even mean? C’mon—cut the little guy some slack.
Well, I may not know who the candidate will be —but I know who it won’t be. That guy Trump—he’s sure got a pair of cajones--must be doin’ it to boost the ratings of that show of his—you know the Intern or something?
C’mon man, gimme a break—who’s gonna vote for a fat guy with orange hair and little fingers? Is he even a Republican? Never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. #NeverGonnaHappin’.
POST THE 2016 ELECTION: NOW WHAT?
A wise man once said: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Although speaking of a different American pastime, the phrase certainly describes the game of politics.
This election cycle will be studied by scholars for decades to come. Little of what happened was expected and little of what’s to come can be anticipated with much certainty.
With two candidates as disliked and mistrusted as Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump, it cannot be said of the victor: they won a majority of either the hearts or minds of the electorate. The outcome itself will be the product of opposites: feelings of affection/repulsion towards the candidate; acceptance/rejection of the established order; positive/negative views of the economy; seeing the glass as half empty/full; or, the struggle between progressive/regressive policy solutions.
Candidate personalities and contretemps aside, the one sure takeaway from the 2016 presidential race is the deep-seated antipathy exhibited by voters—on both the right and left—towards the establishment. Years of gridlock and the growing economic divide between the classes have created countervailing tensions now threatening the peace of the polity.
The populist die has been cast. That constituents appear conflicted, by supporting both far-right and further left visions for America, is of secondary importance.
Demand for a functioning government grows louder, even as the function of government is debated. Of the many outcomes post the 2016 election, the least likely is flashback by the Republican and Democratic parties to pre-election equilibriums. To go back is to accept a government in gridlock.
The rise of Sanders and Trump gave witness to the rejection of a do-nearly- nothing Congress. Rather than going back, voters overwhelmingly demonstrated their willingness to take the risk of untested leadership and embraced populist agendas.
The principal question facing the nation remains: how to end the gridlock? To answer the question, it is necessary to understand the problem.
IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES: POLARIZATION IS THE PROBLEM
Congressional gridlock is a function of two principal factors: increasingly divergent theories of governance; and, the decreasing ability of party leaders to negotiate any compromise. Appropriations by Continuing Resolution—rather than the passage of annual legislation—belies conflicts between theories of governance and bespeaks failures in leadership.
According to Jonathan Chait, the system worked (in the past) because the ideology of the two parties overlapped heavily, but polarization has turned the mechanism designed by the Founders into a doomsday machine. Even now, Paul Ryan’s agenda for the nation may be seen to overlap principles and programs that would be supported by a President Hillary Clinton.
Ryan, for example, has proposed expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to childless workers. The EITC is a refundable tax credit available only to low-income wage earners with children. It is a popular and proven way to supplement wages of working people near the poverty line.
Ryan’s version of the extension is quite similar to proposals by President Obama and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla). It has been called a legislative proposal a functioning political system could realistically accomplish through compromise.
Other reforms that could earn bi-partisan support include giving judges greater discretion when sentencing non-violent criminal offenders. Mandatory sentencing has proven poor punishment in many cases.
It is expensive for the state and forgetful of fairness. A proposal allowing judges to consider the totality of circumstances at sentencing would likely be supported by Speaker Ryan, Senators Lee (R-UT) and Durbin (D-IL) and find favor with a President H. Clinton.
A fully functioning political system values collaboration, at least as much as dogmatic doctrine, and recognizes compromise as a core operating principle. Gridlock is the inevitable consequence of unyielding discourse. Effective governance is a team sport no longer played in the halls of Congress or on other political fields.
Jonathan Rauch’s essay in the July/August edition of the Atlantic attempts to identify the source of Congressional gridlock. He suggests the art of the political deal has been lost for the want of dealmakers.
Perhaps a bit extreme in my characterization of his position, Rauch appears to long for the return of the enlightened despotism once practiced by machine politicians. Having grown up during the reign of King Richard J Daley, I can attest to the fact that there is something to be said in support of a political boss who believed: power is dangerous unless you have humility.
It is probably a good thing the era of Boss Tweed and T.J. Pendergast is over. Lord Acton wasn’t far off the mark concluding that power corrupts and absolute power does an even better job of it.
Rauch isn’t so much suggesting we bring back the bosses, as he is pointing out nothing defeats collective bargaining like the lack of party discipline and a negotiator’s inability to speak for the group. I am sure that John Boehner (R-OH), would attest to the importance of party unity to the effectiveness of a Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Irreconcilable intra-party factions doom a deal from the beginning—the proverbial herding of cats. I’ve long held the opinion that Yasser Arafat’s failure as a peacemaker was his inability to commit Islamists and the more extreme factions of the PLO to any agreement he and the Israelis might negotiate.
A negotiator without the internal standing to make good on a commitment, is just making idle conversation. Boehner described the problem as a crisis in followership—not leadership.
Rauch has correctly observed that narrow interest groups and purist factions, led by grandstanding politicians, are becoming ever more dominant on Capitol Hill. Accountable to a very narrow group of interests, they have the power to prevent legislation—not to pass it.
The ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus is the near perfect paradigm of a faction with the power of NO. The Caucus’ avowed goal is to push Republican
House leadership to the right. Its current membership numbers around 36, with the goal of adding 20 to 30 new members at the start of the 115th Congress.
Members of the Freedom Caucus, like Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) are the darlings of the Breitbart constabulary--sharing Steve Bannon’s deep dislike of Speaker Ryan and committed to drastically reduced federal budgets. The Caucus needs only 29 nay votes in the current Congress to defeat most legislation. Already setting their sights on derailing Ryan’s run for Speaker of the new Congress, they look to support nativist immigration laws and the total repeal of Obamacare.
Faction affliction is not limited to the Republican Party. Although appearing less acute at the moment, tensions within the Democratic Party continue to run high. Under the titular lead of Senator Sanders, progressives are placing the Party of FDR and JFK on a parallel path to the Party of Lincoln Trump. Internal conflicts will eventually threaten party cohesion.
Ms. Clinton remains unpopular with Sanders’ progressives. Their support of her candidacy is more practical than philosophical. The temporary peace will surely be tested in the event of her victory.
Clinton is by nature a practical politician and willing to compromise to achieve acceptable outcomes. Although I find this a desirable trait in a President, compromise surely requires a softening of stridency. When purity of policies is the point, collaboration is often the enemy.
The first time a President Clinton even considers approving a new pipeline in return for Republican support of easing siting restrictions for solar installations on federal lands, progressives will see this as a betrayal of trust. The tensions between the populists of the Party and its establishment politicians have been put aside out of convenience not conviction.
Intra-party conflicts between more narrowly focused purist factions and establishment forces will not go away once the 2016 election is over. Philosophical differences are the hardest of all political conflicts to mediate.
When philosophies conflict, the goal changes from compromise to conversion. It is no longer enough for “you to accede to my point; you must also accept my values.” Rarely can there be resolution of such conflicts.
A party at war with itself lacks the cohesion required to collaborate. The failure to collaborate leads to gridlock. In the shade of such irreconcilable differences, divorce is not only inevitable, it is to be preferred.
This is the first of the last two installments of the Let's Party Series. Look for the second part to be posted on tomorrow- Oct. 25.
Flyting is a ritual, poetic exchange of insults [practised] mainly between the 5th and 16th
centuries. (…from Old Norse word flyta meaning provocation)
The battle between the biomass energy and power industry and members of the environmental community continues to rage in Washington. The catalyst of the conflagration is on-going consideration of the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016 (S. 2012).
I use the word “debate” advisedly. Rather than a respectful and honest presentation of opposing points of view, what is occurring on the Internet, in the media and on Capitol Hill is more akin to a series of “yo’ momma” riffs—or the 2016 presidential debates—than to rational discourse.
The immediate battle began when S. 2012 was amended to include language directing the U.S. EPA and the Departments of Agriculture and Energy to come up with a coordinated policy that would, in essence, declare woody biomass a carbon neutral source of energy. Lead sponsors of the proposal were Senators Collins (R-Maine), King (I-Maine) and Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
The amendment was unanimously adopted by the Senate and is now part of the negotiations of the House/Senate conference committee charged with reconciling the bills for final Congressional action and forwarding to the president for signature. Enactment of an energy bill is as low percentage proposition this year as it has been for almost a decade.
The debate about the carbon neutrality of forest bioenergy, however, will not end with close of the 114th Congress. The biomass industry will continue its plea for a legislated declaration of neutrality and many environmental groups, e.g., National Resources Defense Council and the Dogwood Alliance, will continue their opposition.
Would the argument be about someone’s make-believe mamma, it might be entertaining. As it is about a valuable natural resource that must be preserved but could profitably be enlisted in the fight against global warming, I am not laughing. Nor should you.
I can appreciate what motivates each of the sides. Industry feels that both their livelihoods and their integrity are being attacked. The environmentalists are attempting to protect a natural resource otherwise incapable of defending itself and which has already suffered at the hands of those who would exploit it.
Does that mean the right and wrong of this argument is clear? Far from it. There are credible studies on both sides that speak to the potential of forests to suck up CO2, serve as a source of heat and power and to do so in a sustainable manner. There are equally credible concerns and studies that say this cannot—or perhaps more rightly—is not being done in the real world.
I have written before about what I believe is an unwise approach to the problem by industry. Even should federal agencies be legislatively directed to declare woody biomass carbon neutral, the reality is that it will do nothing to convince energy policy makers—particularly at the state level—to accept the conclusion as part of the clean energy gospel.
The biomass industry has a right to feel itself slighted by federal and many state decision makers. Of the potential sustainable energy options supported by federal tax laws and environmental regulation, biomass appears an afterthought.
Yes, the Clean Power Plan includes biomass in the technologies state planners may wish to employ. No, it is not something that is particularly encouraged and—quite frankly—most state energy and environmental officials are nervous about its employment in the shade of pretty virulent opposition by some in the environmental community.
The fact is that neither policy makers nor politicians are much willing to embrace conflict. This is particularly the case when perfectly good alternatives, e.g., solar, wind and efficiency, can be brought to bear on the problem.
Biomass’ place in energy and environmental policy is important and unfortunately the barb-tossing manner in which it is debated is enervating rather than enlightening. When we speak of biomass’ potential role in fighting climate change we’re not simply speaking of either the forests or the trees.
As the Nature Conservancy’s Justin Adams points out:
How we manage our biological systems either releases or stores it. In fact, poor land use is responsible
for at least 23 percent of global carbon emissions. But nature is already counter-balancing,
absorbing 26 percent of emissions in our lands, predominantly in forests.
The operative word here is MANAGE. Biomass is a ubiquitous resource that, when well-managed, holds the possibility of bestowing upon society and the planet a host of economic and environmental benefits. Yes, there is the potential to manage it badly. More importantly, however, we are amassing the information needed to manage it wisely.
Research by Bronson Griscom and others support industry’s claim that judicious management and “selective logging can retain 85–100 percent of a forest’s biodiversity and at least 75 percent of its carbon.” Experiences in developing countries like Brazil and Indonesia have shown that it is possible to protect forests while allowing lumber and agricultural enterprises to operate.
I understand and respect efforts to prevent the pillage of precious resources. Inciting by invective rather than gaining insights through science, however, is not a productive path to follow. If a company is either burning or cutting whole living trees to produce power or to manufacture pellets for export, then let’s do something about that—not simply allow forests to lie fallow and take care of themselves.
We know that climate change is negatively impacting the world’s forests. Drought, heat, disease and swarms of insects are turning our forests into tinderboxes. Leaving forests to fend for themselves simply doesn’t work.
I no more agree with industry efforts to simply find by fiat that woody biomass is a carbon neutral source of clean sustainable energy than I agree with the blanket effort to declare forests off limits to economic activity.
I call upon both Congressional supporters of biomass like Senators Collins, King, Klobuchar, as well as its detractors, to put aside their mandates—pro or con—and facilitate a balanced national biomass utilization plan. One that values our forests and fields as a resource to be cared for, protected and employed in pursuit of a sustainable environment.
As a wise person once said: “why legislate it, when you can prove it?” It’s a question worth answering—rationally.
Disclosure: I am a former Executive Director of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council.
GOD GIVE SAVE US FROM OUR CANDIDATES
(And if it’s not asking too much—from the likes of Shawn Hannity and Wolf Blitzer)
When did politics go from being all local to all personal? The 2016 presidential election will surely rank as among the meanest of the modern era. I use the word “meanest” not simply in the sense of being “nasty,” but to describe the pettiness, low class and personally pejorative nature of the campaigns.
As long as I’m thinking in terms of well-worn phrases let me suggest expanding the old bromide about the 2 things you should never see being made—laws and sausage—to now include the 45th President of these here United States. I can’t imagine a more feckless lesson in democracy.
Yes, this is a free country. In the shade of this electoral embarrassment, however, we should consider passing a constitutional amendment making it illegal to engage in such clap trap as the American public has been subjected to by this year’s candidates and their surrogates.
What the fuck---do I really want to hear someone enlighten me about what planes in the 1990s had seats in the first class section with movable armrests? No more meaningless, I suppose, than telling me a politician says one thing in public and another in private.
I can’t think of any reason that all of this year’s crop of presidential candidates—I am including Stein and Johnson in this diatribe—shouldn’t be asked to go to their rooms and not come out until they are ready to apologize to the American voter and sign a sworn statement promising not to keep making fools of themselves and the country. Better yet, they should cross their hearts and hope to never run again for any public office above the rank of (feel free to fill in as you see fit……..)
Where have all the adults gone?
Is the system still rigged and the election fraudulent, if Trump wins? Just asking.
Look for the next installment of the Let’s Party series about the rise of Third Parties Post the 2016 Elections. It’ll be up in a day or so.
"RIGHT-MINDED" REPUBLICANS ARE WRONG AGAIN
Let me say right off: I think Donald J. Trump is a complete asshole! I say this not simply because I think it is true or because I own the domain name--www.donaldtrumpisacompleteasshole.com --and wanting to drum up interest before it goes live.
I am saying this to impress upon you how difficult it is for me to write anything supportive of the Donald. Fair is fair, however.
So I’ll just say it: Donald is justified in striking back at those in his party who have given their tacit approval and are now piling on and calling for him to step aside.
The wave of Republican politicians now attempting to un-endorse their party’s candidate for the presidency is too little, too late. A recent count of the bailers puts the number at 33-- including senators, members of Congress and state governors.
Surely these patrician politicians weren’t surprised by what ole Potty-Mouth had to say? It’s not as if they didn’t know he was totally lacking a moral compass. You would have to be living under a rock not to be aware of this misogynistic character.
He’s made a career of being an arrogant, egocentric sack--claiming dominion over all he surveys. Really, is anyone surprised by either his lechery or claim of a license to grope?
It’s too late to reclaim the moral high ground. The damage was done when Trump secured the nomination and these right thinking Republicans first put their righteousness aside.
It is disingenuous to use this most recent example of Donald being Donald to cover their “Trexit.” The truth is they sense blood in the water and are trying to get out before they get bitten in their collective buttocks.
Once again, these patrician politicians are misreading the mood of the rank and file members of their Party and the contempt much of the electorate has for the system. All that will be accomplished, by retracting their support, is ceding control of the Republican Party to hardcore Trump supporters.
Abandonment confirms the candidate’s claim that insiders are hoping to be rid of him and his ilk. A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted immediately after the offending recording went public shows just 12 percent of Republicans polled think Trump should jump. Just 13 percent of female Republicans wanted him replaced on the ticket.
Ralph Reed, a conservative Christian activist and a member of Trump’s advisory board on religion stated:
…people of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defend religious freedom, grow the economy, appoint conservative judges and oppose the Iran nuclear deal
Sacred and secular Republicans continuing to endorse Trump agree. Although an imperfect vehicle deserving of censure, Trump’s hardcore supporters actually see him as the solution—not the problem. To these voters Ms. Clinton is--as Donald calls her—the Devil. She may not ignite much passion in her supporters, but she certainly does in his.
The only Republicans having a defensible right to oppose their party’s nominee for president are those who were guided by their conscience before Friday, October 7, 2016. For the others the un-endorse by date has passed.
I can’t ever imagine voting for someone of Donald’s character and temperament. It is unlikely that I will ever understand why anyone would support him. Yet, I have grudging respect for those who, on a Friday night in October, declared “my candidate—right or wrong.”
When this election is over, Trump supporters may indeed rise with fleas. Unlike others in the Party, however, they will still have their integrity intact.
PHOTO SHOT: Made by Beautifuldebbie
Over the past few days my in-box has been overflowing with hopeful news about theParis climate agreement. Today hope became promise. As of Wednesday evening, 72 nations accounting for 56.8 percent of global emissions, formally filed their ratification papers.
Major polluting polities China, the U.S. and India had ratified the agreement earlier. Recent ratifiers included EU member nations, Bolivia, Canada, Mexico, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates. The Paris Agreement enters into force on November 4th, four days before national elections in the U.S.
Concerns have been growing in recent months over the Donald’s possible occupancy of the Oval Office. Given that Trump has labelled climate change a hoax, perpetrated by Beijing to make U.S. manufacturing more competitive, there is reason to worry. The fact that no one—including the Donald himself—knows how the hell China would use climate change to ruin American manufacturing is of little solace. Trump has vowed to:
Donald’s version of a little R&R should send shivers down the backs of every clean energy and environmental supporter, as well as world leaders. If successful, that means trashing the Clean Power Plan and the Presidential directive upon which it stands.
National representatives meeting in New York during Climate Week were openly leery of a Donald administration. Not simply a matter of U.S. politics, anti-establishment victories in Britain, Germany, Italy and other countries have raised warning flags—possibly portending a reversal in the global march towards sustainability.
A failure to act on the current commitments of the Obama administration could not be contained. Retraction of its pledge to reduce GHG emissions by 26-28 percent could easily prompt other nations to do the same.
Victory by reactionary forces in the U.S. and Europe would virtually guarantee that developing nations would be denied needed assistance. For many nations climate change is already threatening their very existence. Rising sea waters, droughts an increase in the intensity and number of devastating climate occurrences means time is of the essence--both for developing and developed nations.
You’re probably asking about now what the title of this tale is all about? Accompanying the good news about the Paris Agreement entering into force are overly loud sighs of relief that enough countries played and won the game of beat the possibility of a Donald in the White House.
Anyone who has followed my public musings knows I’m not on the short list for the blue bird of happiness trophy. The reality of the situation is that the notion of an enforceable agreement is HORSE SHIT.
President Obama agrees with me. Standing in the Rose Garden with his new BFF Leonardo DiCaprio, Mr. Obama said:
If we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies,
history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.
What? You didn’t see the words “unenforceable” or “horse shit” anywhere? Look again—only this time stop at the word “IF.” I don’t mean to rain on anybody’s parade—I really don’t. I share everyone’s enthusiasm about what just happened; yes--it was a great job—an historic day—whatever.
It just won’t do to believe the agreement can take a Trump bullet and not deflate. I can think of five nearly full proof ways that Donald can walk us back from our pledged nationally determined contributions (NDCs):
Executive orders are not laws, they are the whims of the White House. Just as President Obama has exercised his authority to put us on the right environmental path, a President Donald can take us back to where we started.
A slightly patient President can wait for the available windows of inopportunity to open up. Donald can give notice that the U.S. intends to withdraw from the climate treaty negotiated at the first UN climate conference in Rio. A year after notice is given the withdrawal is complete.
Cancelling the nation’s subscription to the 1992 treaty is really a twofer. According to the terms of the Paris agreement withdrawing from the first is tantamount to leaving the second that enters force on November 4th. The second wouldn’t occur for four years from the date of cancellation.
The power of a president to unilaterally cancel treaty commitments has been tested before. Both presidents Carter and G.W. Bush took the U.S. out of defense related treaties. SCOTUS refused to hear a Congress challenge to Carter’s withdrawal. If not a presumptive precedent,
it is sufficiently arguable to insure a long and drawn out battle.
There has been a lot written about whether the Paris agreement is enforceable as a matter of international law. Two of the most respected contributors to the debate are Dan Bodansky, a law professor at Arizona State and Michael Wara, an environmental law expert at Stanford.
Legal niceties aside, political maneuvering will work just as well for a Trump administration to make good on pledges made during the election. Donald may be the biggest mouth in deniers’ chorus, but he certainly is not the only one. Congressional pooh-poohers are a sufficient force to keep clean energy and environmental funding down and annual appropriations in limbo.
Unless there were a sufficiently large Democratic majority to meet override requirements, President Trump and allies like Senator Sessions (R-AL) and Representative Upton (R-MI) could keep pro-environmental dogs chasing their collective tails for the next four years.
A Trump victory would make moderate Republicans loathe to challenging the new president. It would equally make the Democrats more determined to oppose Donald and to keep him from making good on any of his pledges that might require Congressional inaction. We know what polarization does to the political system.
Holding hope that the private sector can and will do this on their own is misplaced. Inevitable though its movement towards sustainability may be, it is likely to be insufficient. Combatting climate change must occur on a massive scale; a scale that can only be achieved when the sectors combine forces. The loss or languor of one will be the failure of all.
My final dose of disappointing reality is this. Donald and the gang don’t even have to acquire their targets of less regulation, renegotiation of the Paris Accords or revocation of executive orders to win. Time is of the essence. The promise of Paris can be defeated simply by slowing things down.
The world is behind the curve in keeping temperatures from rising above 2°C, let alone meeting the need to lower the threshold to 1.5°C. We have seen Justice Delayed because of legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan. For it now to be denied, President Trump needs only do what he is good at—declaring bankruptcy and breaking contracts.
So please stop saying there’s light in the tunnel. It’s likely to be a train named Trump.
The Face and Finger of a Trump Supporter
Should Trump Be Judged By The Company He Keeps?
Is it fair to judge people by the company they keep? I think it depends upon the reason for the judgement. Under ordinary circumstances,
I think not. In the case of presidential candidates, I am leaning towards yes.
I recognize that appearances can be—and often are—deceiving. A jump to conclusions can be downright dangerous—especially when
A surrogate for the company one keeps might be the materials they read. Let’s see where that could lead you in making a judgement
As part of my day-to-day activities and definitely as part of my blogging regimen, I wander around the internet. I sometimes wonder--
while wandering-- what conclusions a person would draw looking at my browsing history.
I’ve clicked on some sites that would certainly give pause—at the least good for a head scratch. For example, researching the series
on 3rd parties took me to the likes of The New Black Panther Party, the America’s Party, the U.S. Marijuana Party, the Republican Party,
the Democratic Party, the Libertarian Party, the Green Party and the Prohibitionist Party.
Add to these the web addresses I visited writing a recent installment of my Justice Delayed/CPP series. Those included Koch
connected groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the State Policy Network. Also on my route were mainstream
news sources like Reuters and Bloomberg.
On the basis of my site visits you would certainly consider me conflicted. Beyond that, however, you might conclude I was
a radical, teetotalling stoner, unsure of whether he agreed with the right or the left, who reads news about the middle.
You would be partially right. Confessions of this blogger not forthcoming, my point is that you wouldn’t have a very accurate picture
of who I was or what I might be doing in the future.
Does the same apply to presidential candidates? Ordinarily I would apply the same standard to the candidates as I would to myself
or to you. Running for president is far from an ordinary circumstance. As a voter, I feel it fair to factor the company kept by a
presidential candidate into my decision of who to support come November.
Is it the only way to take a candidate’s measure or to predict what they will do once in office? Although not the only one, it can be
a point of light in an otherwise dark sky. Political candidates—particular this year’s class—are not exactly open and honest about
themselves. Voters can be forgiven, therefore, for seeking anecdotal evidence.
If the company a candidate keeps says something about them, what does Trump’s circle of friends, family and advisors say about him?
What does it say about his presidency and the country’s future? I would guess it says we’re in deep shit.
That’s what I think. What you think is entirely up to you. All I am doing is suggesting some information you might want to consider.
Trump’s troop is reasonably large—too large to cover completely in the space allowed. Because of practical considerations, I am going
to pick and choose who to highlight from among his circle of counselors. Whether I can be forgiven for my choices is up to you.
In the first two parts of this series I will be focusing on Katrina Pierson and Sam Clovis. Pierson is a national spokesperson for the campaign (the mouth); the next installment will highlight one of Donald's policy advisors, Sam Clovis (the mind). I'll be introducing you to other of his
intimates as the series continues.
What I won't be doing is profiling any of Donald’s darlings. Whether you like them or not, they should be recognized as supporting
their father. They are the product and not the cause of him—and not fair game.
I urge you not to be passive in this endeavor. Take some time to investigate Trump’s consigliere—figure for yourselves who they are
and what they stand for.
I promise neither to peek nor to draw any conclusion from the sites you search. If so moved, you should as well check out the company
kept by Secretary Clinton and other of the candidates in the contest. Feel free to pass along your findings and I will be happy to post
them here at Civil Notion.
The Mouth: Kristina Pierson
Kristina Pierson is a national spokesperson for Trump. She overcame a very difficult child and
early adulthood, graduating in 2006from the University of Texas (Dallas) with a BA degree in biology.
After graduation she held a variety of jobs. Pierson worked for InVentiv Health in 2008; the
Baylor Health Care System from July 2009 to August 2011, as a practice administrator; and
ASG Software Solutions as director of corporate affairs, from May 2011 to December 2012.
A Tea Party activist she started a local Tea Party group in Garland, Texas in 2009. Pierson
supported Ted Cruz in his successful 2012 bid for the Senate. She has had her own ambitions
Pierson challenged Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX) in the 2014 primary. Although failing to capture the nomination, she was
endorsed by Sarah Palin and the evangelical minister Rafael Cruz. Senator Cruz has called her an “utterly feisty fighter for freedom.”
She met the Donald in January 2015, while attending a Tea Party meeting with his new BFF Cruz. Pierson became a national spokesperson
for Trump in November 2015. Since then, she has frequently appeared on national TV and other media outlets as a surrogate
for the candidate.
Katrina was not voted Little Miss Popularity while a volunteer on the Cruz campaign team. Basically she was thought of as
an evil kiss-ass. She particularly earned the disfavor of Cruz’s wife—Heidi. It has been suggested that she was the force behind the
dump Pierson campaign.
It would not be unreasonable to think that as a Trump opponent that Cruz did what he could to convince him to offer the spokesperson
spot. Now that he is Donald’s bud he might be feeling a tad guilty—nah—need a conscience for that.
She has a reputation as a quick-lipped, acidic and adamant apologist for the Donald. According to Michael Arceneaux:
Pierson has always had a contentious relationship with the truth, long treat[ed] history like a frenemy and …repeatedly...sounding
as if she’s one side short of a proper fish dinner.
She is known more for some pretty outrageous comments—both as Donald’s mouthpiece and in her earlier political career.
This summer—after the Kahn’s convention speech she went on to CNN and claimed: "It was under Barack Obama and Hillary
Clinton that changed the rules of engagement that probably cost his life." The his here is the Kahn’s son Humayun, who lost
his life in Afghanistan.
For the record, President Obama was a sitting Illinois state senator in 2004. That same year Senator Obama gave the Democratic
convention speech that had everyone speculating he would run for the presidency after Hillary finished her second term.
Pierson tried to walk back her claim of blame when she tweeted the microphone did it. Evidently there is a lot of that going around.
Pierson has not been particularly kind to Obama. In fairness, she is pretty much an equal opportunity bigot. She and Donald seem
to share the same view on race, immigration and the Twittersphere. According to the Huffington Post:
She has referred to Obama as the “head negro” and criticized him for not
truly being African-American — even though both were born to a white
mother and black father. “Perfect Obama’s dad born in Africa, Mitt Romney’s
dad born in Mexico. Any pure breeds left?”
Miss P has also questioned Senator Rubio’s status as an American. The well lettered Katrina pointed out to one interviewer that Little
Marco might not be eligible to run for the presidency because his parents were not citizens at the time of his birth in America. Evidently
she and Donald shared the same constitutional tutor. Either s/he did not know that anyone born here is a citizen no matter what the
parents may be or the microphone was at it again.
Quite frankly I am not sure why the Donald permits her to speak on his behalf. It can’t be for her fashion sense. Responding to
criticism about appearing on national television wearing a necklace made of bullets, she allowed as how she might wear a fetus next
time to protest abortion. Call me sexist but wouldn’t she be better off wearing a little black dress?
Our Kate seems to have taken a page out of the Trump book of management. After failing in her Congressional campaign she was
the voice of the Tea Party Leadership Fund in Texas. The Fund is a political action committee. It was accused of being a scam
PAC for spending almost 90 percent of its donated revenues to paying expenses and salaries of conservative candidates.
Lest you think I’m being unfair in my characterization of the Mouth of the Trump campaign, you should note that others on the
campaign team have suggested a certain unease with Pierson. One of Trump’s senior advisors spoke openly in an interview about
her wild estimates of the casualties suffered by American forces in Iraq. Clovis, who will be the subject of the next article in this series,
said: When you do go out, you have a responsibility. ... I think it's important to come on (TV) and have accurate information….I think
facts always help you, the truth always helps you and I think that's always where we ought to be.
In the same CNN New Day interview, Clovis told Alyson Camerota "I think we're fixing it, I guarantee you that won't happen again
with her, that's for sure. And it won't likely happen with anybody else."
Katrina Pierson continues to be a spokeswoman for the campaign and one of the most invited surrogates to explain the
Candidate’s positions. I am sure she gooses the ratings of news and commentary programs. I am not sure what she does to the
campaign’s ratings. Should Donald be judged by the company he keeps? You be the judge. Check for the next company profile when
I will introduce you to Sam Clovis.
To further follow the adventures of Miss Kate click on #KatrinaPiersonHistorys.
This installment of the series is about a different kind of justice — the sort that recognizes the disproportionately harmful consequences of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on low-income communities, native nations and people of color compared to the rest of society.
It can be easy to overlook the impact of climate change on low-income families and communities. I say this not in judgement or with malice; it is after all, what it is. That it is, means we need to do something about it.
I count myself among those too glib—too glossing—in describing the consequences of climate change. Having been a legal services attorney and community organizer in Chicago, I should be ever sensitive to and understanding of the fact that low-income populations regularly get the dirty end of the stick.
Yet, as a clean energy and environmental advocate, I speak of the cost of pollution and the benefits of clean energy as if they impact all equally. They don’t.
According to a recent Newsweek article:
…more than 15 percent of Detroit’s adults have asthma, a 29 percent higher rate than the rest of Michigan. Detroiters are hospitalized for their asthma three times more frequently than other Michiganders.
Being black ups the rate significantly: Black Detroiters are hospitalized for asthma at a rate more than 150 percent that of their white neighbors—and Detroit is 83 percent black. Most of the mini-cities ringed around the heavy industry south of Detroit are majority-black too.
Poverty compounds the problem—it’s not easy managing a chronic illness when you’re making $24,000 a year, the average household income for black Detroit households.
The Detroit experience is unfortunately all too common.
Environmental Justice Provisions in Federal Programs and Regulation
Environmental injustice has long been recognized by the federal government. President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898 in 1994. The Order (EO) directs:
… federal agencies to make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high adverse human health or environmental effects of its activities on minority and low-income populations.
The Order remains in force after 22 years. Implementation of its directive can be found in a number of energy and environmental programs and regulations. The recently announced White House Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative is an example of an action that flows from it.
The Initiative is a partnership between the Departments of Energy (DOE), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services (HHS), Veteran’s Affairs (VA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase access to solar energy and promote energy efficiency across the U.S. and, in particular, in low- and moderate-income communities.
The Order similarly serves as the executive authority upon which EPA’s Environmental Justice 2020 strategy is based. According to the Agency the strategy is intended to “make vulnerable, environmentally burdened, and economically disadvantaged communities healthier, cleaner and more sustainable places in which to live, work, play and learn.”
Environmental justice (EJ) is incorporated into the Clean Power Plan (CPP) under the title of The Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP). The CEIP, is a voluntary program, designed to encourage investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency and to help states and tribes meet their CPP targets.
The proffered carrots include granting demand-side efficiency projects and solar, wind and other eligible renewable energy installations extra credits. Participating states/tribes will also be allowed to count projects in targeted low-income/tribal communities in advance of the CPP’s regular performance period.
Implementation of the CEIP, like the CPP, is currently stayed pending a final court decision on the constitutionality of the regulation. EPA, however, is still actively seeking input into the program’s design. Currently, the comment period will remain open until Nov. 1.
There Are Two Overlapping But Distinct Types of Environmental Justice
Procedural justice refers to the fairness of decision making. Procedural justice pertains in this case to the current rounds of comments being solicited by the EPA on the CEIP.
The key question here is whether the commenting process has been: fair; open; transparent; and earnest. Whether or not these activities lead to substantive changes in the program’s design is of secondary importance.
Distributive justice on the other hand refers to the distribution of benefits and burdens that result from policy or regulatory implementation. Here the question is: does the regulation/program improve the health and welfare of low-income and native communities and people of color?
Included in this type of calculation are attendant economic benefits. For example, does the program lower utility costs and/or offer employment and training opportunities? This as compared to an income transfer between government and a utility or retrofit measures installed largely by companies outside of the community.
When Does Energy/Environmental Value Equate to Social Value?
Within the CPP/CEIP framework, efficiency measures and renewable energy installations are valued for their carbon reduction roles regardless of any other social, health, economic or distributive criterion. Carbon reductions achieved through this type of value system are monetized through the carbon trading market.
Under a carbon only regiment no distinction is made between energy used/saved for luxury amenities versus basic living needs. There is effectively no value difference between heating a swimming pool and a community solar project, incorporating a workforce training requirement, or an efficiency retrofit that reduces a resident’s monthly utility bill. Carbon is carbon.
Environmental equity allows for geographical differences and strives to meet other endpoints, e.g., improving the health of low-income residents and offering economic opportunities. Shuttering a coal-fired power plant in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula generally benefits society but does little to remove the proximate harm to the health of a Detroit resident living near a fossil fuel generating station or an open coal ash storage site.
Shuttering one of the 52 toxic facilities in the city of River Rouge—a heavily industrialized area close to Detroit—would both reduce pollution and remove a source of particulates known to cause asthma in Detroit residents. Similarly, the installation of a community solar project in Detroit’s Delray earns Michigan extra CEIP/CPP credits because of zero emissions.
When environmental justice is added to the mix, however, that same solar project would be leveraged to achieve more than avoided carbon. The project would also include a workforce development component, e.g., a training program for laid-off auto workers.
The moral of today’s story is one that I have written about before. Energy and environmental policies are of greatest benefit when formulated at the nexus with other societal concerns.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, Esq., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.