This and other “soundings” on the current political scene.
(*Sounding: noun, the act of measuring the depths or the heights.)
Trump Opponents Say He Has No Mandate
They cite the fact that he received 2.9 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. (All of the excess popular votes by Clinton could be had simply from California: 8.7 million to 4.5 million.) Frankly, after every election at every level, losers or their supporters question whether the winning candidate has a mandate to do things, anything. Moreover, unless the winner was a single-issue candidate, the winner made 5, 10, even 40 promises. Even if the winner won 90 percent of the vote, would the winner have a mandate on each and every promise?
Go a step further. Does a newly elected president obtain a mandate from the people only when both houses of Congress have majorities of the president’s party? Trump has this. The Republicans obtained majorities in the House (241-191) and the Senate (52-48).
When Reagan won 49 states in the Electoral College in 1984 — a seeming mandate — and won the popular vote by 54 million to Mondale’s 38 million — a seeming mandate — did he have a mandate on each of his promises? Trump’s opponents might argue that he did not, if, as was the case, the Democrats won a majority in the House at 269-166.
By the estimation of Trump’s opponents, Trump has no mandate to do anything whatsoever. How would they have him act, then? Like he lost? My retort is that, like any democracy, we have a system. The candidates campaigned according to that system. It is not a system of direct and popular election. It takes a majority of one, either in the Electoral College or, if there were a tie in the Electoral College, in the House (voting by state).
All of our athletic tournaments are the same. A win in a speed race by 0.01 seconds is a gold, and the loser gets silver. A hockey or soccer shoot-out, after a tie in regulation, is won by a single score. A three-point shot, at the buzzer, in basketball in the NCAA tournament that gives the shooter’s team a single point over the opponent is a victory, and the loser goes home. (See my essay on tie-breaking in athletic endeavors.)
And the difference between a candidate obtaining a majority of one, and a loss by one, is the difference between zero and one — all the difference in the world. The win is a mandate. A loss is a zero.
What About Locking Hillary Up?
There was much handwringing over candidate Trump’s threat to prosecute Hillary, to “lock her up.” Some said it made the United States a “banana republic.” But what was the alternative? I suppose Trump could have just remained quiet about his intentions, one way or the other, until he was elected.
Another alternative would be to say that she would not be prosecuted. Bernie Sanders said as much in a public debate in October 2016: “The American people are sick and tired about hearing about your damn emails.” This grants a kind of immunity to anyone running for political office. If Democratic nominee McGovern had known more about Nixon before the November 1972 election (see the reports of Oct. 10, 1972, that the Watergate break-in was the result of political spying and on behalf of Nixon’s re-election committee), would it have been wrong for McGovern to threaten Nixon with prosecution, if McGovern were elected?
Presumably, Hillary will no longer be granted access to secret communications. But her aides and collaborators have full careers ahead of them. Are they going to have access?
Climate Change and the Hurricane That Didn’t Hit
There are those who, every time there is an extreme weather event, try to attribute it to (man-caused) climate change. Thus, in a PBS NewsHour report of August 17, 2016, the interviewer tried, more than once, to get two scientists to do so with respect to Louisiana flooding and the California drought. Both scientists admirably refrained. The same argument was made when four hurricanes hit Florida in the single year of 2004: Charley, Ivan, Frances, and Jeanne. It had never happened before. Indeed, there were only two other years when more than one hurricane hit Florida in the same year: two in 1950 and two in 2005.
When we look at weather, however, we should keep in mind the signal fact in Sherlock Holmes’ Silver Blaze: the dog that didn’t bark. How do we regard years when no hurricane has hit Florida? As of 2015, Florida went a record 11 years without a major hurricane. (Hurricane Matthew hit in October 2016.) That is extreme, is it not, in the sense of what didn’t happen?
Given the number of years in which at least one hurricane has hit Florida, an 11-year stretch without hurricanes might seem extreme. Yet, even long periods without hurricanes is not uncommon. In Florida during the 20th century, there were: 10 years between hurricanes from 1896 to 1906; eight years 1909 to 1917; nine years 1935 to 1944; 10 years 1965 to 1975; 10 years 1975 to 1985; and nine years 1995 to 2004.
Nancy Pelosi Got It Right?
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi actually got a lot of the 2016 election right back in July. She said on PBS NewsHour on July 26, in the middle of the Democratic Conventions:
Pelosi: …what is key for winning the election is to be able to put forth a vision for our future and how this election affects people’s lives.
We’re about rejecting trickle-down economics, instead an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.
Question: Right now, Donald Trump is doing much better than Hillary Clinton among white men, and particularly white men who have not attended college. How does Hillary Clinton counter that?
Pelosi: With an economic agenda to create jobs, good-paying jobs, increasing paychecks.
The economic agenda is what is really — it’s about the economy. You know that statement. It’s not a cliché. It’s a fact. And I think that, so many times, white — non-college-education — educated white males have voted Republican. They voted against their own economic interests because of guns, because of gays, and because of God, the three G’s, “God” being the woman’s right to choose.
So, she agreed this past July with Obama’s statement in his 2008 campaign that people “cling to guns and religion.” In her interview, she said, “With the turnout that we expect to have, we will draw some of them in with our message.” That is, that many of them would return to the Democratic Party.
New York Governor Cuomo Bought Brooklyn Bridge
The front page of the New York Times issue of January 4 reported that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has bought the concept of free college tuition from that hustler Bernie Sanders. Moreover, Cuomo intends to sell this to the New York legislature and New York taxpayers. Should we laugh or cry at such silliness?
- Fails to recognize that nothing is “free”; taxpayers will pay;
- Uses people’s taxes to favors people who attend two- and four-year college over those who join the military, start a job, attend apprenticeship programs, study for fluency in foreign languages, etc.
- Favors government schools over private schools; government already suppresses private schools out by setting in-state tuition lower than private (market) rate;
- Allows state schools to increase tuition with impunity; fails to encourage state colleges to reduce costs;
- Fails to recognize that in-state residents of New York have tuitions of $6,470 for a four-year college (equating to some $26,000 over four years, without regard to other expenses, but also without regard to money paid by the student) or $4,350 for a two-year college.
- Fails to recognize that average debt for a graduate of a state school is about $25,000, a manageable figure, that does not deter a graduate from obtaining jobs that are modest in pay, that does not deter a graduate from marrying or buying a home; this is not the outrageous debts of some that exceed $100,000; and
- The budget for this new entitlement will be unpredictable since it will encourage more people, of every age, citizen, legal and illegal immigrants, to attend college and it will draw residents from outside New York to New York.