Monday, October 31, 2016

Director Comey’s Letter: Trump supporters should be very afraid

Director Comey’s Letter:  Trump supporters should be very afraid

The letter from FBI Director Comey to Congress is an inadvertent preview into the modus operandi of a future Trump Administration, and it ought to chill his most ardent supporters.[1]  Obviously Donald Trump is using the letter as political ammunition to cast doubt on Secretary Clinton’s candidacy even though the letter doesn’t contain any evidence about the Secretary’s use of her email or the transmission of classified material.   However, Mr. Trump is doing more than stirring up political trouble.  He is also loudly endorsing the Director’s method of conducting an investigation.  As the Justice Department and many former prosecutors have made clear, Director Comey has violated the basic tenets of due process in making public an investigation at its formative stage.

Large portions of Mr. Trump’s supporters are vocal supporters of individual liberty and the constitution.  They are vehemently opposed to the unfettered exercise of federal government power.  Director Comey’s release of his letter to Congress is exactly the kind of federal action that should terrify his supporters.  Of course, they don’t mind when the Federal government overreaches against Secretary Clinton, immigrants, or minorities.  What they don’t realize is that President Trump would represent a major increase in the arbitrary application of centralized power.  It’s clear from Mr. Trump’s speeches and conduct during the campaign that he will use the FBI, Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service and other agencies without proper respect for due process or privacy.

If Mr. Trump is elected you can expect that Director Comey or his successor will be pressured by the President to routinely release preliminary investigative information.  The Attorney General will be expected to bring indictments against people that Mr. Trump believes are guilty.  And the IRS will regularly audit people who have a low opinion of Mr. Trump.  Since Mr. Trump has no loyalties except to himself, once elected, Mr. Trump will take aim at some of the people who are trying to elect him.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

There can be no mandate in this election

There can be no mandate in this election[1]

Throughout the general election for President I have opposed Donald J. Trump because he’s unfit for the office.  Like many Americans I have some doubts about Secretary Clinton, but for me the choice was easy (I’ve already voted).  When a candidate is unfit, he must be defeated.  Like many Americans I wish Secretary Clinton were less of a professional politician.  Instead of answering tough questions, she uses the classical political tact of pivoting to her talking points.  However, the debates demonstrated a toughness and poise that is going to serve America well if Secretary Clinton is elected.  At the end of the second debate, Donald Trump got it right: Hillary Clinton doesn’t give up and she is a fighter.  We need that kind of toughness in the Presidency over the next four years.

Now that Mr. Trump has stated that he might not accept the election result, I hope the voters will do what Republican leaders haven’t had the courage to do:  repudiate Mr. Trump.  If the margin isn’t compelling we will not be able to move beyond the election;  Donald Trump isn’t going to let us.  Secretary Clinton needs to beat Donald Trump by a wide margin so that the election result is decisive.

A big win for Secretary Clinton carries risks.  Politicians have a tendency to misread the vote.  They are too quick to find a clear mandate in the final tally.  Remember George W. Bush’s comment right after his re-election in 2004?  The former President said, “I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.”  He promptly sent a Social Security privatization plan to Congress, where it died.  President Bush misread the voters. 

If Secretary Clinton defeats Mr. Trump by a decisive margin it will appear that she has a far clearer mandate than the one President Bush misread.  However, she will become the leader of a country that is still deeply and narrowly split on many crucial issues.  As much as progressives will expect her to move forward on a variety of issues, she will not have a mandate to enact their agenda.  Even if the Democrats take control of the Senate and narrow the margin in the House, she will not have the political leverage to enact her policies.  I hope she not succumb to political pressure and misinterpret the election results.   In fact, she’s going to need to spend time addressing many of the issues facing people who are falling out of the middle class and voted for her opponent.

Governing America in 2017 and beyond is going to be a lot harder than winning the Presidency.  If she wins, Secretary Clinton will even have to win over many people who voted for her, never mi nd people who voted for Donald Trump or stayed home.   If she claims a broad mandate, she will probably fail. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Donald Trump is a threat even if he loses

 Note: For those who believe my posts about the election aren't investment-related, I suggest you ponder the investment environment under a Trump Administration.

Donald Trump is a threat even if he loses

As I’ve written before, I strongly believe that Donald J. Trump is unfit to be president and that his election would be threat to our constitutional system of representative democracy.  However, Mr. Trump may be a danger to our democratic system even if he loses the election.  His comments about the electoral process have fanned the doubts among his supporters, and his conduct is threatening to undermine the legitimacy of the next president and our democratic system. 

Sadly this is not Mr. Trump’s first attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the presidency.  For many years, even after there was incontrovertible evidence, Mr. Trump continued to claim that President Obama was constitutionally unqualified for the presidency because he was not a natural-born citizen.  Mr. Trump may be the first candidate in the history of US elections to undermine the result and the constitutional system of transferring executive power.  Even in the closest and toughest of elections, the losing candidates have upheld the process and transition of power.

The elections of 1960 and 2000 were extremely close and controversial, but the losers in those elections – Richard M. Nixon and Albert A. Gore – made clear that they supported the result and the American constitutional system.  Here’s Richard Nixon’s brief concession on November 9, 1960:

As I look at the board here, while there are still some results still to come in, if the present trend continues, Mr. Kennedy, Senator Kennedy, will be the next president of the United States. I want, I want Senator Kennedy to know, and I want all of you to know, that certainly if this trend does continue, and he does become our next president, that he will have my wholehearted support and yours too. (emphasis added)

Within hours of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on December 13, 2000 to halt the recount in Florida, Al Gore said:
Almost a century and a half ago, Senator Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency, "Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I'm with you, Mr. President, and God bless you." Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country. Neither he nor I anticipated this long and difficult road. Certainly neither of us wanted it to happen. Yet it came, and now it has ended, resolved, as it must be resolved, through the honored institutions of our democracy. (emphasis added)

While we do not know the outcome of this year’s election, Donald Trump has continually questioned the electoral process.  After assuring Americans during the first presidential debate that “if she [Hillary Clinton] wins, I will absolutely support her”, Mr. Trump has started questioning the electoral process again. 

This past Friday, Mr. Trump said that voter fraud is “a big, big problem in this country” but “nobody has the guts to talk about it.”  And in the New York Times, Mr. Trump said that he is reconsidering his debate response: “We’re going to have to see. We’re going to have to see what happens. We’re going to have to see.”

According to a recently released Associated Press - NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, half of Trump supporters do not trust the electoral process and think fraud is a pervasive problem.  Mr. Trump is fueling these doubts even though there is no evidence of systemic or pervasive fraud in our electoral system.  Donald Trump is sowing the seeds of doubt that will undermine our democracy even if he loses.