Category Archives: Science

Mann and Ornstein: How the Republicans Broke Congress

Political scientists Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, the high priests of “centrism” in Washington, D.C., warned back in 2012, Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

This op-ed was a preview of the books that followed, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism” (2012) and updated in 2016, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks Was: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.

Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein are back with a new op-ed at the New York Times, How the Republicans Broke Congress:

In the past three days, Republican leaders in the Senate scrambled to corral votes for a tax bill that the Joint Committee on Taxation said would add $1 trillion to the deficit — without holding any meaningful committee hearings. Worse, Republican leaders have been blunt about their motivation: to deliver on their promises to wealthy donors, and down the road, to use the leverage of huge deficits to cut and privatize Medicare and Social Security.

Congress no longer works the way it’s supposed to. But we’ve said that before.

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This week in the GOP’s war on the civil rights of women and LGBTQ

The House on Tuesday approved a bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, advancing a key GOP priority for the third time in the past four years — this time, with a supportive Republican president in the White House. The purpose of the bill is to create a direct legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, which provides for access to abortion in the first 24 weeks.  With Trump’s backing, House approves ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy:

The bill, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, is not expected to emerge from the Senate, where most Democrats and a handful of moderate Republicans can block its consideration. But antiabortion activists are calling President Trump’s endorsement of the bill a significant advance for their movement.

The White House said in a statement released Monday that the administration “strongly supports” the legislation “and applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections.”

The bill provides for abortions after 20 weeks gestation only when they are necessary to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest. Under the bill, abortions performed during that period could be carried out “only in the manner which, in reasonable medical judgment, provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive” — note, not the life of the mother — and would require a second physician trained in neonatal resuscitation to be present.

How Arizona’s congressional delegation voted:

Stricter Abortion Ban: The House on Oct. 3 voted, 237-189, to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of fertilization on the belief that the fetus can feel pain by then. This repudiates Roe v. Wade’s ruling that abortion is legal up to viability that occurs at about 24 weeks or later. A yes vote was to pass HR 36

Voting yes: Martha McSally, R-2, Paul Gosar, R-4, Andy Biggs, R-5, David Schweikert, R-6, Trent Franks, R-8

Voting no: Tom O’Halleran, D-1, Raul Grijalva, D-3, Ruben Gallego, D-7, Kyrsten Sinema, D-9

Women’s Health Exemption: The House on Oct. 3 defeated, 181-246, a bid by Democrats to add an overall woman’s health exemption to HR 36 to go with exemptions already in the bill in cases of incest or rape or to save the mother’s life. A yes vote was to permit abortions after 20 weeks if necessary to protect the mother’s health.

Voting Yes: O’Halleran, Grijalva, Gallego, Sinema

Voting No: McSally, Gosar, Biggs, Schweikert, Franks

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Amicus briefs filed in partisan gerrymandering case before SCOTUS

The most important Supreme Court case in the new term beginning the first Monday in October is Whitford v. Gill: Partisan gerrymandering case before SCOTUS; SCOTUS to review partisan gerrymandering in Whitford v. Gill (the appeal at SCOTUS is now captioned Gill v. Whitford).

The New York Times Magazine recently published a lengthy investigative report as a preview of the issues in what may become a landmark case, The New Front in the Gerrymandering Wars: Democracy vs. Math (snippet):

Political scientists and mathematicians have been trying ever since to create a standard that will satisfy Justice Kennedy — still the court’s crucial swing vote. They argue that with the help of experts, courts themselves can use the mapmakers’ advanced tools to assess and block gerrymandering.

Last November, relying on the same kind of analyses as the map drafters, the three-­judge panel in the second Wisconsin case struck down the state’s 2011 redistricting law. The Republicans appealed to the Supreme Court, which will hear the case on Oct. 3.

The outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision in Gill v. Whitford is likely to shape American politics for years and perhaps decades to come.

There has been some surprising new developments this week. The New York Times reports, Prominent Republicans Urge Supreme Court to End Gerrymandering:

Breaking ranks with many of their fellow Republicans, a group of prominent politicians filed briefs on Tuesday urging the Supreme Court to rule that extreme political gerrymandering — the drawing of voting districts to give lopsided advantages to the party in power — violates the Constitution.

The briefs were signed by Republicans including Senator John McCain of Arizona; Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio; Bob Dole, the former Republican Senate leader from Kansas and the party’s 1996 presidential nominee; the former senators John C. Danforth of Missouri, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming; and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former governor of California.

“Partisan gerrymandering has become a tool for powerful interests to distort the democratic process,” reads a brief filed by Mr. McCain and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case, Gill v. Whitford, No. 16-1161, on Oct. 3.

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12 days in September: a potential disaster-in-the-making

Congress has scheduled only 12 working days in September. The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman recently laid out the disaster-in-the-making that the month of September may bring. Republicans are heading for a hellish month. Trump will only make it worse.

Republicans are facing an extraordinary period on Capitol Hill, one which will require work, skill, care and luck to navigate successfully.

Even in the best of circumstances, it would be an incredibly difficult challenge. But it will be made even harder by the fact that the person who should be their greatest asset — the president — is in fact their greatest impediment.

Here’s a quick list of what Republicans are facing over the next six weeks:

  • If Congress doesn’t pass a budget bill by the end of September, the government will shut down.
  • If Congress doesn’t pass an increase in the debt ceiling by the end of September, the United States will default on its debts, potentially triggering a global financial crisis.
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which insures about 9 million children, needs to be reauthorized by the end of September.
  • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) needs to be reauthorized by the end of September.
  • Republicans want to pass sweeping tax reform as soon as possible.
  • The White House still wants to pass an infrastructure bill.
  • Many Republicans in Congress still want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and conservatives in the House are attempting to force a vote on full repeal, reigniting the debate that was so disastrous for them.

How is President Trump confronting this set of challenges?

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Donald Trump’s twice daily ‘propaganda document’

Any number of commentators have described Donald Trump as exhibiting narcissistic personality disorder. Nigel Barber at Psychology Today explained it this way. Does Trump Suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Professional psychiatrists, and psychotherapists, are loath to go on record saying that Trump has a psychiatric disorder on the premise that one cannot do a diagnosis without an office visit and most narcissists are quite unlikely to recognize that they have a problem and to schedule an appointment.

Fortunately, the DSM is written so clearly, and so simply, that the diagnosis is transparent. Here are the symptoms.

According to DSM-5, individuals with NPD have most (at least five) or all of the symptoms listed below (generally without commensurate qualities or accomplishments).

1 Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment by others.

2 Fixated on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.

3 Self-perception of being unique, superior, and associated with high-status people and institutions.

4 Needing constant admiration from others.

5 Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others.

6 Exploitative of others to achieve personal gain.

7 Unwilling to empathize with others’ feelings, wishes, or needs.

8 Intensely jealous of others and the belief that others are equally jealous of them.

9 Pompous and arrogant demeanor.

Wow, nine for nine! “For those that are clearly relevant, he checks out on all symptoms, it seems. According to DSM criteria, Donald Trump suffers from narcissistic personality disorder.”

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The new Whiny Right (Updated)

I posted about this topic last year, The secret to Trump’s success: the GOP is the party of white identity and white grievances.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow now has a must-read column, America’s Whiniest ‘Victim’:

Donald Trump is the reigning king of American victimhood.

He is unceasingly pained, injured, aggrieved.

The primaries were unfair. The debates were unfair. The general election was unfair.

“No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly,” he laments.

People refuse to reach past his flaws — which are legion! — and pat him on the back. People refuse to praise his minimal effort and minimal efficacy. They refuse to ignore that the legend he created about himself is a lie. People’s insistence on truth and honest appraisal is so annoying. It’s all so terribly unfair.

It is in this near perfect state of perpetual aggrievement that Trump gives voice to a faction of America that also feels aggrieved. Trump won because he whines. He whines in a way that makes the weak feel less vulnerable and more vicious. He makes feeling sorry for himself feel like fighting back.

In this way he was a perfect reflection of the new Whiny Right. Trump is its instrument, articulation, embodiment. He’s not so much representative of it but of an idea — the waning power of whiteness, privilege, patriarchy, access, and the cultural and economic surety that accrues to the possessors of such. Trump represents their emerging status of victims-in-their-own-minds.

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