Monthly Archives: September 2017

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democrats house 2018

Can the Democrats Win the House in 2018?

Donald Trump’s potential impeach hinges on whether the Democrats win the House of Representatives in 2018.  Earning a majority would enable the Democrats to seize the committee chairmanships that could then schedule impeachment hearings and, with a majority on the judiciary committee, recommend to the House as a whole that it consider articles of impeachment.

Even considering impeachment would be disastrous for Donald Trump.  Such happenings would dominate news coverage for months on end and the hearings would likely dredge up improprieties Trump and his crew would rather keep hidden.  If the House passes articles of impeachment – again, a rather likely occurrence should the Democrats win it – then Trump would face removal from office, a prospect which, unlikely because of the large majority needed to convict in the Senate, would lead to more disastrous news coverage and a likely hemorrhage of support from moderates that could cripple his reelection prospects.

But can the Democrats actually win the House in 2018?

They currently have a large lead in the generic Congress poll, a leading indicator of how a party will perform in the next midterm election.  But even a large lead there might not be enough for Democrats to win the House and that’s because of two unfortunate phenomenon, one inadvertent and the other malicious: Natural geographic sorting and gerrymandering.

Geographic sorting simply means that Democrats have an inefficient electoral coalition.  Liberals tend to crowd together in large cities, whose politics they dominate.  However, since they tend to live altogether, there aren’t enough of them spread out through the rest of the state (eg, downstate Illinois) to make those congressional districts competitive.  As such, Democrats win urban districts by large majorities, but can’t compete in other districts.  This means Democrats may win the House popular vote while still falling well short of the House majority.

Gerrymandering, of course, also hurts Democrats.  The Republican wave year in 2010 allowed them to control redistricting across numerous states, gerrymandering districts to cluster Democrats, minorities, and favor Republicans.  Congressional districts in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin showcase clear efforts to benefit Republicans.  While gerrymandering hasn’t had too much of an effect in the past because Democrats do it too, many analysts expect it to play an important role in 2018.

Between geographic sorting and gerrymandering, Democrats likely need to win the House popular vote by between 5.5 and 8.5 points.  In 2016, the median House district – that is, the 218th, the one needed for a majority – tilted Republican by 5.5 points.  Other political scientists tend to think that Democrats will need to win the House popular vote by 8.5 points for a chance to win the majority.

Can they do this?

Maybe.  According to generic House vote forecasts, Democrats are up by around 10 points, which would be enough give them the House.  Of course, with 14 months to go until election day, that could change, in either direction.  An economic slowdown would hurt the Republicans; continued economic growth and a more temperate president could help Republicans.

But as it stands now, a leading 2018 House forecast sees the Democrats as the favorites to win the chamber.  Let’s hope that happens so we can finally impeach Trump.

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trump and domestic emoluments

Donald Trump and the Domestic Emoluments Clause

Foreign and Domestic Emoluments

A lot has been written about the Foreign Emoluments Clause and Donald Trump’s likely violations thereof, and rightfully so.  While the clause prevents conflicts of interest that could potentially the president’s financial interests against those of the country he represents, Trump maintains a financial stake in his sprawling businesses that attract thousands of dollars from foreign government (see, eg, his Manhattan tower that houses a Chinese state corporation).  But there’s another emoluments clause Trump’s clearly violating: The Domestic Emoluments Clause  (Article 2, Section 2, Clause 7).

The clause states that the “President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased [sic] nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”  That means the president’s compensation for his duties will not exceed that already in place ($400,000 a year).

Presidents cannot receive any other emoluments from the US government, thus preventing government officials at the federal and state level from using local treasuries to gain the president’s favor, potentially leading the president to favor various locales or states over others.  Yet Trump’s DC hotel, from which he still profits, houses members of his administration.  Government officials with salaries paid to them by the government — ie, taxpayers — end up in Trump’s pockets; this is an emolument from the United States and a clear violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.

How Donald Trump Violates the Domestic Emoluments Clause

Steven Mnuchin (the Secretary of the Treasury), Linda McMahon (of the Small Business Administration), and Gary Cohn (Trump’s economic adviser and one-time favorite to replace Janet Yellen at the Federal Reserve) all live in the Trump DC Hotel during the week.  Obviously, all three earn money from the government; naturally, they pay to live in Trump’s hotel; Trump profits from hotel revenue.  It follows that Trump’s DC hotel, and so Trump, receives money from the US Treasury.

Paying “fair market rates,” as the administration members claim they do, does not alleviate constitutional concerns.  Emoluments, as understood at the time of the Constitution’s writing, exist regardless of a transaction fair market value.  An emolument covers every single financial transaction between two or more parties.

Basic logic makes clear this constitutional violation from a borderline kleptocratic administration from which Donald Trump seeks to profit, enormously.  By failing to divest from his business interests, a truly unprecedented step, Trump will profit — has profited — from his presidency.  Pocketing money from foreign governments and those staying in his property to support him or say they support generates innumerable conflicts of interest.

That Donald Trump ignores the Domestic Emoluments Clause, another effort to disgrace the letter and spirit of the Constitution, is yet another reason to urge impeachment.

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Which Democrats Will Run in 2020?

There’s a power vacuum in the Democratic Party.  Whereas the primaries in both 2008 and 2016 had clear frontrunners — though the 2008 frontrunner (Hillary Clinton) didn’t win the nomination — 2020 approaches without one.

Bernie Sanders has gained a large following within the party and clearly pushed it to the left, but his age and lasting animosity among the primary electorate may well stop him from winning the nomination should he run.

One politician, John DeLaney, a congressman from Maryland, has already declared his candidacy, making him the earliest declaree in history.  His campaign is, of course, a long-shot which he hoped to propel by declaring first and earning media coverage (that hasn’t really worked).

Which other Democrats will run in 2020 in hopes of seizing a more or less wide open nomination?


  1. Jerry Brown
  2. Terry McAuliffe
  3. Andrew Cuomo
  4. John Hickenlooper
  5. Jay Inslee
  6. John Bel Edwards
  7. Tom Wolf
  8. Steve Bullock
  9. Dan Malloy
  10. Mark Dayton
  11. Jack Markell


  1. Elizabeth Warren
  2. Bernie Sanders
  3. Cory Booker
  4. Kirsten Gillibrand
  5. Tim Kaine
  6. Sherrod Brown
  7. Kamala Harris
  8. Mark Warner
  9. Michael Bennet
  10. Amy Klobuchar
  11. Chris Murphy
  12. Al Franken
  13. Brian Schatz
  14. Chris van Hollen


  1. Seth Moulton (MA)
  2. Keith Ellison (MN)
  3. Joaquin Castro (TX)
  4. Tim Ryan (OH)
  5. Tulsi Gabbard (HI)

Party Leaders and Mayors

  1. Joe Biden
  2. Jason Kander
  3. Gavin Newsom
  4. Martin O’Malley
  5. Xavier Becerra
  6. Deval Patrick
  7. Thomas Perez
  8. Antonio Villaraigosa
  9. Julian Castro
  10. Eric Garvetti
  11. Mitch Landrieu
  12. Jay Nixon
  13. Alan Grayson


  1. Mark Cuban
  2. Oprah Winfrey
  3. Tom Steyer
  4. Mark Zuckerberg
  5. Howard Schultz
  6. Sheryl Sandberg
  7. George Clooney
  8. Carolina Kennedy
  9. Jamie Dimon

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