Virginia Republican Alliance (VRA)

Republican Senate Prospects in 2018

Republicans will gain seats in the 2018 midterm election.  The eight Republican seats up for grabs are easily defended, while Democrats will have five senators running for reelection in very red states: West Virginia, Indiana, North Dakota, Montana, and Missouri.  A pickup of five Senate seats is easy to see, and a gain of two or three is almost certain.

But Republicans could do much better than that if Trump is popular two years from now and if the Republican Party is united.  Eight other Democrat Senate seats are in states where Republicans have proven surprisingly strong in recent elections:  Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Minnesota, and New Mexico.

Florida is a Republican state.  It has a Republican governor and Republican legislature and just re-elected a Republican senator.  The House delegation is overwhelmingly Republican, and all the statewide elected officials are Republicans.

Ohio has almost exactly the same sort of structural advantages for Republicans in 2018.  The governor, legislature, House delegation, and statewide elected officials are Republican, and Trump carried the state easily.  Senator Portman won re-election by a landslide in 2016, and if John Kasich wanted to be in the Senate and re-enter national politics, he would be the favorite against Sherrod Brown, who barely won in 2012 when Obama was on the ballot.

Pennsylvania surprised the pundits by going for Trump, but anyone who looked at the composition of the Pennsylvania Legislature or the secondary statewide elective officers or the House delegation could see that Pennsylvania is more a Republican state than a Democrat state.  Senator Pat Toomey won in 2016 even with a Libertarian candidate winning over 3% of the vote.  This is a state, like other Rust Belt states, where if Trump brings good jobs back, Republicans ought to get help in 2018.   

Michigan has the same sort of configuration as Pennsylvania and Ohio – Republican legislature, Republican House delegation, Republican preponderance in secondary statewide offices, and Trump carried the state in 2016.  The state is changing.  This onetime union stronghold is now a right to work state.  If Trump can bring jobs to the Rust Belt, a good Republican can win the Senate race in Michigan.

Wisconsin has Republican control of nearly everything in state government.  Trump carried the state, and Senator Ron Johnson not only won a re-election he was thought likely to lose, but won easily.   The chief of staff for President Trump and the speaker of the House are from Wisconsin.  Tammy Baldwin, in an Obama election year, won only 51% of the vote.   She is a first-term senator from the minority party.  Scott Walker, with some powerful allies, could easily beat her.

Virginia is another state Republicans could win.  It is a state that is not strongly Democrat or Republican nationally – Democrat presidential candidates have carried Virginia only three times since 1972.  The Virginia Legislature is Republican, and if Republicans can capture the governorship in November 2017, then they may well be able to defeat Tim Kaine, a first-term minority senator like Baldwin. 

Minnesota might seem an odd place for Republicans to defeat an incumbent Democrat, but like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin, Minnesota is becoming much more Republican.  Donald Trump came very close to carrying Minnesota, and Republicans captured the Minnesota Senate (giving them control of both houses of the legislature) and gained seats in the Minnesota House as well.  Two-term governor Tim Pawlenty would be a strong Senate candidate.

New Mexico was lost by Trump, but Hillary got less than half the vote.  Republican Governor Susana Martinez won her election in 2010 comfortably and won re-election in 2014.  She is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in 2018.  She could easily win the Senate race as a Hispanic woman in a state that is not strongly Democrat.

Republicans are unlikely to actually win 13 seats, but they could easily – in a good year – win 8 or 9, giving them a filibuster-proof majority and control, probably, for the whole of Trump's two terms, should he win re-election.  That means, as a practical matter, that President Trump and the Republican Party will have the chance to remake America for the better, if they have the guts.

The GOP’s Down Ballot Sweep

The party adds to its historic dominance at the state level.

How a President Donald Trump will change the Republican party isn’t obvious, amid countless media predictions of doom. But one under-reported story of Tuesday’s election is that reform-minded Republicans continued their march in the states, and the party controls a record 69 of 99 legislative majorities across the country.

Republicans flipped three state legislative chambers, including the Iowa senate and Kentucky house, which turned for the GOP for the first time in almost 100 years. Bluegrass State Republicans defeated the house speaker, who was first elected in 1980, and the GOP controls both legislative houses and the governorship. Watch for right-to-work legislation, pension reform and school choice.

Republicans defended majorities in states such as West Virginia, Michigan and Maine, where Democrats dropped $2 million on some senate seats. The GOP held on to supermajorities in the North Carolina house and senate, and it added to majorities in the Wisconsin assembly and senate. The Ohio house supermajority reached a new high. These gains will allow for more innovative ideas from state laboratories.

The GOP also cleaned up in a few Democratic strongholds: Republicans gained four seats in the Illinois house, ending a Democratic supermajority. Great news for Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, who has been held hostage on public pensions, education and even passing a budget. The party of Lincoln took the Minnesota senate, and the Connecticut senate is now an 18-18 tie, a result that may save the state from more progressive taxation and spending.

Republicans lost the house and senate in Nevada, a defeat driven by Sen. Harry Reid’s turnout machine and a poor Trump performance in the state. The latter also hurt Republican candidates for the New Mexico house, which Democrats took. Republicans now hold the governorship and both chambers in some 25 states. The number for Democrats? Four.

Republicans also picked up three governorships: Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont. This brings the tally to 33 GOP governors. And that doesn’t include a likely recount in North Carolina, where controversial Pat McCrory, known for inflaming the transgender bathroom wars, is less than a point behind his Democratic challenger. Another surprise is that Republicans retained the Indiana governorship that seemed in jeopardy after Mike Pence joined the Trump ticket.

The GOP also can claim more state attorneys general than ever: 29, including one who will be appointed by New Hampshire’s incoming Republican Governor Chris Sununu. The party defended all of its incumbents, not least West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey, whose Democratic challenger spent $3 million of his own money and lost by 10 points. State AGs have become more prominent amid President Obama’s executive overreaches, and these lawyers may also be important to rein in any excesses of a Trump presidency.

This Republican dominance is remarkable given that Democrats in recent years have aggressively targeted state races. George Soros and Tom Steyer this year tried but failed to flip a narrow GOP majority in the Colorado senate. A big reason for the success is the Republican State Leadership Committee, an outgrowth of the Republican National Committee chaired by former Congressman Bill McCollum that turns out quality candidates.

Here’s another reason the sweeps are significant: Congressional leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell may work with Mr. Trump to pass legislation that devolves school funding to the states or block grants Medicaid. They’ll need allies in the states to carry out the project, and now they have more.

All of this is only part of the GOP’s success, which includes 31 lieutenant governors and 31 secretaries of state, even one in Oregon. Mr. Trump’s victory may have shocked the political system, but Tuesday’s results suggest that the troubles in the Democratic Party run deeper than a loss for Hillary Clinton.

Jihad in Orlando

Islamic State appears to have struck the U.S. homeland again.

A young American Muslim pledging allegiance to Islamic State is now responsible for the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. Can we finally drop the illusion that the jihadist fires that burn in the Middle East don’t pose an urgent and deadly threat to the American homeland?

We hope so after the Sunday morning assault on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that killed at least 51 and wounded 53 as we went to press. The killer was Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, the son of immigrants from Afghanistan who was heard shouting “allahu Akbar” (God is great) as he fired away. Mateen attacked a popular night spot for gays, who are especially loathed in Islamist theology.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, and it rarely does so unless it played some role. CNN and others reported that a U.S. official said Mateen made a 911 call during the attack in which he pledged allegiance to Islamic State and mentioned the 2013 Boston marathon bombing.

We’ll learn more about Mateen’s ISIS ties in the days ahead, but it hardly matters to the victims whether the would-be caliphate planned the attack or merely inspired it. As we learned again after December’s murders in San Bernardino, ISIS propaganda over the internet can all too easily reach Muslims alienated from American society. Young men who are second generation immigrants seem to be especially vulnerable to calls for jihad.

The FBI has been focusing more resources on these homegrown threats, and an FBI special agent acknowledged Sunday that Mateen had come to the agency’s attention as a potential risk in 2013 and again in 2014. He was questioned in one instance for having ties to an American suicide bomber. But Mateen was deemed to pose no serious threat and the investigation was closed.

This is reminiscent of the way the FBI misjudged Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who came to its attention after a trip abroad and later with his brother blew up the Boston marathon. The oversight points to how difficult it is in a free society to pinpoint when someone is becoming radicalized enough to kill.

Second-guessing is easy. But one conclusion we’d draw is that the FBI is right to use “sting” operations against Americans who show jihadist leanings on social media or with friends. One way to stop a Mateen before he strikes is to have an undercover agent invite him to take a step toward violence. If he refuses, then he is probably not a threat. If he accepts, then it’s fair to conclude he might have acted on his own eventually.

The political left has begun to criticize these undercover operations in the same way it has attacked surveillance and interrogations. “They’re manufacturing terrorism cases,” Michael German of the anti-antiterror Brennan Center for Justice recently told the New York Times. “These people are five steps away from being a danger to the United States.” Tell that to the families of those killed in the Pulse nightclub, Mr. German.

President Obama could also help if he weren’t so reluctant to acknowledge the domestic danger from ISIS. Mr. Obama did say in his Sunday remarks that this was “an act of terror,” though he still can’t muster the words Islam or jihad or Islamic State. The truest words he uttered were that Orlando “could have been any one of our communities.”

Perhaps he meant gun violence, but his point applies to Islamist terror too. A federal official disclosed that Mateen bought his weapons legally in recent days, and no doubt Democrats will make much of this politically in the coming days. But if the FBI doesn’t identify someone as a terror threat, then basic rights can’t be denied. Mateen was also a licensed security guard, and a determined jihadist will always be able to find firearms.

The distressing truth is that no amount of domestic vigilance can stop every ISIS-inspired act of terror. That’s why the only real solution is to destroy Islamic State in its havens abroad so young Muslims around the world won’t see it as the vanguard of the future.

Part of President Obama’s legacy will be that Islamic State grew so dangerous on his watch, prospering in the political vacuum that was created when he chose to withdraw from Iraq and then do little in Syria. The job of the next President will be to repair the damage done by those two historic mistakes.

Wall Street Journal
Review and Outlook

Despite losing the Oregon primary while barely eking out a win in Kentucky, Hillary Clinton emerged with 51 of Tuesday’s delegates to Bernie Sanders’s 55. To reach the 2,383 needed for the nomination, Mrs. Clinton now needs only 92 of either the 890 still-to-be-elected delegates or the 148 still-unpledged superdelegates. This is because she is already supported by 524 superdelegates—the Democratic Party’s unelected overclass—to Mr. Sanders’s 40.

Still, she must be concerned about losing the FBI primary. If the bureau recommends that the Justice Department indict Mrs. Clinton or close aides like Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin or Jake Sullivan for acting with gross negligence—disregard of known or easily anticipated risks—in sending classified information over a private email server, the campaign could be completely scrambled.

The FBI may not recommend indictments, or the Justice Department could refuse to issue them. The latter could result in high-profile resignations like those in 1973 with the Watergate “Saturday Night Massacre,” when several top Nixon officials were fired or resigned. Only this time, the turmoil would be covered on cable TV and in high-def.

If there are indictments, Team Clinton will dismiss them as an overreaction to unintentional, minor mistakes and try pushing on through. But that may be unacceptable to the party’s hierarchy, especially if indictments occur before the Democratic convention in Philadelphia opens July 25.

The party establishment might balk at having the ticket led by someone mired in a national-security scandal or by Mr. Sanders, a socialist and independent who has never before sought election as a Democrat or attended a state or national convention.

Instead, the party establishment might move to replace Mrs. Clinton with Vice President Joe Biden, a sentimental favorite, or Secretary of State John Kerry, whom many in the party’s leadership think more substantive, less prone to gaffes and, because of his 2004 loss against President George W. Bush, more deserving.

The legally unbound superdelegates hold the balance of power. Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Sanders can get the nomination without their votes. And the rest of the Democratic delegates, unlike their Republican counterparts, aren’t bound by state laws or party rules to vote for the candidate they were pledged to in their state’s primary for a certain number of ballots.

The Democratic National Committee’s Rule 12.J. simply says: “Delegates elected to the national convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.” So superdelegates could deadlock the convention until enough Clinton and Sanders supporters are willing to discard their original choices and swing the convention to a substitute.

What happens, however, if Mrs. Clinton or someone in her inner circle is indicted after the convention? The Democratic leadership could move to replace her on the ticket. Presumably this would require her to agree to resign as the nominee and be replaced either by a snap convention or by the Democratic National Committee acting on the party’s behalf. Mrs. Clinton wouldn’t give up easily—she and her husband have brazenly pressed through previous scandals.

Even if she agreed to step down, Democrats would have only a narrow window to act. While many states allow election officials to place major-party nominees on the ballot at their discretion, at least 25 states set deadlines for parties to formally certify nominees.

According to a summary by the National Association of Secretaries of State, Texas and Michigan have the earliest deadlines—the first business day after the Democratic convention’s adjournment. That would be July 29 or Aug. 1, depending on the hour of adjournment. Ten other states have certification deadlines sprinkled across the month of August, from Delaware on Aug. 2 to Utah on Aug. 31. These dozen states have a total of 150 Electoral College votes.

What if Democrats act after certifying Hillary Clinton on the ballot in early-deadline states, and then make Mr. Biden or Mr. Kerry the nominee everywhere else? It could then be virtually impossible for them to win the presidency outright, especially since six early-deadline states (Alabama, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Utah and Virginia) have “faithless elector laws” that compel electors to support the popular-vote winner. The best possible outcome for Democrats then might be to kick the election to the House of Representatives by denying Donald Trump an electoral-college majority.

An indictment of any higher-up in Clinton World would produce a royal mess for Democrats. You can bet there are wise strategists in a backroom somewhere gaming this out, just in case.

Why Free Speech Matters on Campus

By William Bloomberg and Charles Koch

‘Safe spaces’ will create graduates unwilling to tolerate differing opinions—a crisis for a free society.

During college commencement season, it is traditional for speakers to offer words of advice to the graduating class. But this year the two of us—who don’t see eye to eye on every issue—believe that the most urgent advice we can offer is actually to college presidents, boards, administrators and faculty.

Our advice is this: Stop stifling free speech and coddling intolerance for controversial ideas, which are crucial to a college education—as well as to human happiness and progress.

Across America, college campuses are increasingly sanctioning so-called “safe spaces,” “speech codes,” “trigger warnings,” “microaggressions” and the withdrawal of invitations to controversial speakers. By doing so, colleges are creating a climate of intellectual conformity that discourages open inquiry, debate and true learning. Students and professors who dare challenge this climate, or who accidentally run afoul of it, can face derision, contempt, ostracism—and sometimes even official sanctions.

The examples are legion. The University of California considers statements such as “America is the land of opportunity” and “everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough” to be microaggressions that faculty should avoid. The roll of disinvited campus speakers in recent years continues to grow, with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education identifying 18 attempts to intimidate speakers so far this year, 11 of which have been successful. The list includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is scheduled to give the commencement address at Scripps College this weekend. Student protests have vilified her as a “genocide enabler” and 28 professors have signed a letter stating they will refuse to attend.

Colleges are increasingly shielding students from any idea that could cause discomfort or offense. Yet without the freedom to offend, freedom of expression, as author Salman Rushdie once observed, “ceases to exist.” And as Frederick Douglass said in 1860: “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

When a professor last year decided to write online about the trend toward intolerance on campuses, he did so under a pseudonym out of fear of a backlash. “The student-teacher dynamic,” he wrote, “has been reenvisioned along a line that’s simultaneously consumerist and hyper-protective, giving each and every student the ability to claim Grievous Harm in nearly any circumstance, after any affront.”

We believe that this new dynamic, which is doing a terrible disservice to students, threatens not only the future of higher education, but also the very fabric of a free and democratic society. The purpose of a college education isn’t to reaffirm students’ beliefs, it is to challenge, expand and refine them—and to send students into the world with minds that are open and questioning, not closed and self-righteous. This helps young people discover their talents and prepare them for citizenship in a diverse, pluralistic democratic society. American society is not always a comfortable place to be; the college campus shouldn’t be, either.

Education is also supposed to give students the tools they need to contribute to human progress. Through open inquiry and a respectful exchange of ideas, students can discover new ways to help others improve their lives.

The importance of such inquiry is obvious in science. Thanks to the freedom to make and test hypotheses, we have discovered that the Earth is round, how gravity works, the theory of relativity, and many other monumental scientific achievements. The ability to challenge the status quo leads to unimaginable innovations, advances in material well-being and deeper understandings of the natural world. But this principle doesn’t just apply to biology, chemistry, physics and other scientific fields.

Whether in economics, morality, politics or any other realm of study, progress has always depended upon human beings having the courage to challenge prevailing traditions and beliefs. Many ideas that the majority of Americans now hold dear—including that all people should have equal rights, women deserve the right to vote, and gays and lesbians should be free to marry whom they choose—were once unpopular minority views that many found offensive. They are now widely accepted because people were free to engage in a robust dialogue with their fellow citizens.

We fear that such dialogue is now disappearing on college campuses. As it fades, it will make material and social progress that much harder to achieve. It will also create graduates who are unwilling to tolerate differing opinions—a crisis for a free society. An unwillingness to listen to those with differing opinions is already a serious problem in America’s civic discourse. Unless colleges reverse course, that problem will worsen in the years ahead, with profoundly negative consequences.

Administrators and faculty must do more to encourage a marketplace of ideas where individuals need not fear reprisal, harassment or intimidation for airing controversial opinions. These members of campus leadership would be wise to look at the University of Chicago’s Statement on Principles of Free Expression, which paraphrases the wise words of the university’s former president, Robert M. Hutchins: “without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a university ceases to be a university.”

The continued march of justice and progress depends on free speech, open minds and rational discourse. Colleges and universities—and those who hold their degrees—have helped lead the way for most of this nation’s history. The well-being of future generations of Americans depends on the preservation of that great legacy.

Mr. Bloomberg, the founder of Bloomberg LP, was mayor of New York City from 2002-13. Mr. Koch is the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries Inc.

Let’s Get This Straight About the Convention

As we’re in a position to know, majority rule always has and always will guide the Republican gathering.

Bill Brock, Bob Dole, Haley Barbour, Jim Nicholson, Clayton Yeutter, Marc Racicot and Mel Martinez—all former national chairmen of the Republican National Committee—write:

The American people will be witnesses to an unusual, though not unprecedented, exercise in democracy this July. The Republican Party is almost certain to hold a contested, open race for its presidential nomination at its National Convention in Cleveland.

In recent years, both parties have had de facto nominees who secured a majority of the delegates well before their conventions convened. The last contested convention in which the outcome was in doubt until the roll call was in 1976, when Gerald Ford narrowly defeated Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination. That was 40 years ago, so many voters and most political reporters have never seen such a contest.

American political parties have chosen their nominees for president through conventions composed of delegates from every state since the advent of parties more than 200 years ago. The genius of the convention system is that it seeks to produce consensus nominees with broad support in their parties. It accomplishes this with the simple proposition of majority rule. If no one obtains a majority of delegates on the first ballot, a second ballot is conducted, then another and another, if necessary to produce a nominee with majority support.

Delegates to the conventions are chosen—by primary voters, caucus attendees, or under local party rules—for their knowledge of the candidates, good judgment about what it takes to win the general election and willingness to rally around the winner. Today some state laws mandate that delegates vote for the winner of the primary in their state for one or more ballots. It is important to stress that an unpledged delegate may vote for anyone he or she chooses at any time.

Those delegates who are pledged or bound to candidates by state law, state party rule or state convention instruction must vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged regardless of whether that candidate is nominated on the convention floor, so long as they are so bound. Once satisfied, these same laws release the delegates to exercise their own independent judgment. Thus, the laws recognize that flexibility is necessary to implement majority rule.

Because many of our fellow citizens have never experienced a “contested” convention, one which went beyond the first ballot, there is some confusion about how this works. Only an absolute majority of the delegates assembled in the convention can select an individual as the party’s candidate for the presidency.

It is not correct that a candidate who enters the convention with a plurality of delegates, although short of a majority, must receive the nomination. Such an interpretation would be a gross violation of the essential purpose of the nominating process.

Our worry today is that too many do not understand the rules. Despite the remarkable efforts of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, many in the national press and many supporters of some of the candidates continue to appear confused. Each of us writing this “open letter” has served as national chairman of the Republican National Committee, and each of us understands that unless much of the current confusion on rules is clarified well before we convene in Cleveland, the result could prove disastrous.

It is absolutely crucial that this entire process be as open and inclusive as possible. It is totally misleading for anyone to suggest that some delegates may attempt to “change the rules” to the detriment of a candidate.

Let us be clear. Each convention sets its own rules. Yes, a Rules Committee of delegates proposes a set of rules, but they must be approved, or amended, by the full convention—a majority of the delegates.

The rule in both parties’ nomination conventions throughout U.S. political history is simple. The delegates make the decisions and the majority rules. The majority, no more, no less. Always.

The Big Dog Gets Fixed

It was a muted Bill Clinton who stumped for his wife in New Hampshire on Monday.

Only a few weeks back, Mr. Clinton was thought to be Hillary Clinton’s “secret weapon.” Well, he has just made his first two appearances of the 2016 campaign—and the Associated Press describes him as “subdued,” while the New York Times says he “seemed to be on a tight leash.”

Not to mention how adrift he looked when a reporter asked him about Donald Trump’s slams about his treatment of women.

It’s not the first time the Big Dog has been fixed. Back during Mrs. Clinton’s first run for the Democratic nomination, her husband was stung by accusations of racism after he seemed to diminish Barack Obama’s landslide victory in the 2008 South Carolina primary by pointing out that Jesse Jackson had won that primary before. Mr. Clinton would later complain the Obama team had “played the race card” on him.

Now it’s Mr. Trump who’s spoiling the primary season. After Mrs. Clinton accused The Donald of sexism, he responded as he always does: He escalated. If Mrs. Clinton was going down that route, he said, he was going to bring up all the female skeletons in her husband’s closet.

Mr. Trump has been at it ever since. “I hope Bill Clinton starts talking about women’s issues so that voters can see what a hypocrite he is and how Hillary abused those women,” he tweeted on Saturday.

Yet even before Mr. Trump picked up on it, the contradictions between Mrs. Clinton’s feminism and her behavior were being challenged. At a New Hampshire campaign stop in early December, a woman asked her, “You recently came out to say that all rape victims should be believed? But would you say that about Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones?” The reference was to three women who have respectively accused Bill Clinton of rape, sexual assault and exposing himself.

Now the Clintons must expect such moments throughout her 2016 campaign. Nor can Mrs. Clinton brush them off as her hubby’s problem, especially given that many of the women who accused Bill of sexual assault also say it was Hillary who orchestrated the smears against them.

We saw the disruption this can cause for Mrs. Clinton on Sunday at another New Hampshire rally, when a local Republican woman tried to bring up the issue. Mrs. Clinton shut her down by calling her “very rude” and saying she would never call on her. Plainly it’s not a persuasive response, and such confrontations will always make news.

Mr. Clinton is now facing the heat himself as he gets into the race. It can’t help that his past misbehavior is resurfacing at the same time Bill Cosby, once a beloved figure himself, has just been charged with sexual assault. The comparisons between the two men are too obvious.

So is the question about the different responses the two men have received. Even before Bill Cosby was charged with a crime, the allegations against him led to his being stripped of honorary degrees, booted off boards and seeing his name replaced on buildings. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, is feted and rakes in the millions.

All this would be academic except for one thing: Mrs. Clinton needs the Obama coalition, especially its young women, to propel her into office. Unfortunately, as a recent New York Times feature about a Democratic mother and her daughter recently reported, “younger women are less impressed” by Mrs. Clinton than are older women.

The Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund calls this an enthusiasm gap. Two weeks ago the group released a poll it says should be a “wake-up call” for progressives. It shows that many of the most-Democratic voters, including unmarried women, are less enthusiastic about voting in the coming election than conservatives. It’s hard to see how Mrs. Clinton will get them excited so long as her own treatment of women is an issue.

Let’s stipulate that Mr. Trump has his own issues here, from his whining about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly after she asked him tough questions in the first GOP candidates debate to his cracks about rival Carly Fiorina’s face. Even so, Mr. Trump is betting that the American people will distinguish between aggressive male boorishness and outright sexual abuse.

Some Democrats are saying Mr. Trump’s strategy will backfire, citing polls from the first Clinton presidency showing the public saw Mrs. Clinton as a spouse wronged by her husband. They are kidding themselves.

For one thing, Americans now know that the Clintons were often lying to us about her husband’s accusers. Exhibit A? When Hillary appeared beside Bill on “60 Minutes” to deny an affair with Gennifer Flowers that her husband would later admit to under oath.

As Christopher Hitchens once put it, Bill Clinton didn’t lie about sex. He lied about women. The Clintons’ problem today is that they are being called on these lies—and neither he nor his wife has a good answer.

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Cheer Up, Obama’s Legacy Can Be Erased

The White House rammed through an agenda that could be quickly undone by a Republican president.


President Obama seems to aspire to join Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan as one of the three most transformative presidents of the past hundred years, and by all outward signs he has achieved that goal. But while Roosevelt and Reagan sold their programs to the American people and enacted them with bipartisan support, Mr. Obama jammed his partisan agenda down the public’s throat. The Obama legacy is built on executive orders, regulations and agency actions that can be overturned using the same authority Mr. Obama employed to put them in place.

An array of President Obama’s policies—changing immigration law, blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, the Iranian nuclear agreement and the normalization of relations with Cuba, among others—were implemented exclusively through executive action. Because any president is free “to revoke, modify or supersede his own orders or those issued by a predecessor,” as the Congressional Research Service puts it, a Republican president could overturn every Obama executive action the moment after taking the oath of office.

At the beginning of the inaugural address, the new president could sign an executive order rescinding all of Mr. Obama’s executive orders deemed harmful to economic growth or constitutionally suspect. The new president could then establish a blue-ribbon commission to review all other Obama executive orders. Any order not reissued or amended in 60 days could be automatically rescinded.

Then there’s the trove of regulations used largely to push through policies that could have never passed Congress. For example, when President Obama in 2010 couldn’t ram through his climate-change legislation in a Democratic Senate, he used decades-old regulatory authority to inflict the green agenda on power plants and the auto industry.

This is far from the only example: Labor Department rules on fiduciary standards; the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling that franchisees are joint employers; the Environmental Protection Agency’s power grab over water ways; the Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to regulate the Internet as a 1930s telephone monopoly. All are illustrations of how President Obama has used rule-making not to carry out congressional intent but to circumvent it.

If the new president proves as committed to overturning these regulations as Mr. Obama was to implementing them, these rules could be amended or overturned. And because Senate Democrats “nuked” the right of the minority to filibuster administration nominees, the new president’s appointees could not be blocked by Democrats if Republicans retain control of the Senate.

To accelerate this process, the new president should name cabinet and agency appointees before the 115th Congress begins. He could declare an economic emergency and ask the agencies to initiate the rule-making process promptly. On the first day in the Oval Office the president could order federal agencies to halt consideration of all pending regulations—precisely as President Obama did.

Even when the Obama transformation is rooted in law, by demanding legislation that even the most liberal Congress in 75 years could not vote for in detail, he was forced to avoid program details, granting vast power to agencies to determine actual policy during implementation. Dodd-Frank granted extraordinary powers to financial regulators by leaving objectives vaguely defined: What the Volcker rule on bank trading means, what constitutes an acceptable “living will” for a financial institution, how international regulatory decisions work within U.S. law, and much more. If the new president nominated able, committed cabinet and agency leaders, many of Dodd-Frank’s worst provisions could be revised or reversed without legislative action.

As Congress debates repealing Dodd-Frank, the new president’s appointees could ensure that no financial institution is too big to fail, that Federal Reserve bureaucrats are removed from corporate boardrooms and that penalties for misconduct fall on individual offenders, not on innocent pensioners and other stockholders. The new president’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director will have the unilateral power to overturn each and every barrier erected against mortgage, auto and personal lending.

The Affordable Care Act also grants substantial flexibility in its implementation, a feature Mr. Obama has repeatedly exploited. The new president could suspend penalties for individuals and employers, enforce income-verification requirements, ease the premium shock on young enrollees by adjusting the community rating system, allow different pricing structures inside the exchanges and alter provider compensation. These actions could begin dismantling the most pernicious parts of ObamaCare and prevent its roots from deepening as Congress debates its repeal and replacement.

By relentlessly pursuing an agenda that was outside the political mainstream, Mr. Obama became the most polarizing president of the past century. Had he compromised with his own party and a handful of Republicans, much of his vision might have been firmly cemented into law on a bipartisan basis. But by doing it his way, Mr. Obama built an imposing sand castle that is now imperiled by the changing tides of voter sentiment. All the American electorate must do now is choose a president totally committed to overturning the Obama program—and Obama’s sand castle will be washed away.

Mr. Gramm, a former chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Solon was budget adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and is currently a partner of U.S. Policy Metrics.

Liberalism's Imaginary Enemies
by Bret Stephens

Little children have imaginary friends. Modern liberalism has imaginary enemies.

Hunger in America is an imaginary enemy. Liberal advocacy groups routinely claim that one in seven Americans is hungry—in a country where the poorest counties have the highest rates of obesity. The statistic is a preposterous extrapolation from a dubious Agriculture Department measure of “food insecurity.” But the line gives those advocacy groups a reason to exist while feeding the liberal narrative of America as a savage society of haves and have nots.

The campus-rape epidemic—in which one in five female college students is said to be the victim of sexual assault—is an imaginary enemy. Never mind the debunked rape scandals at Duke and the University of Virginia, or the soon-to-be-debunked case at the heart of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about an alleged sexual assault at Harvard Law School. The real question is: If modern campuses were really zones of mass predation—Congo on the quad—why would intelligent young women even think of attending a coeducational school? They do because there is no epidemic. But the campus-rape narrative sustains liberal fictions of a never-ending war on women.

Institutionalized racism is an imaginary enemy. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that the same college administrators who have made a religion of diversity are really the second coming of Strom Thurmond. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that twice electing a black president is evidence of our racial incorrigibility. We’re supposed to believe this anyway because the future of liberal racialism—from affirmative action to diversity quotas to slavery reparations—requires periodic sightings of the ghosts of a racist past.

I mention these examples by way of preface to the climate-change summit that began this week in Paris. But first notice a pattern.

Dramatic crises—for which evidence tends to be anecdotal, subjective, invisible, tendentious and sometimes fabricated—are trumpeted on the basis of incompetently designed studies, poorly understood statistics, or semantic legerdemain. Food insecurity is not remotely the same as hunger. An abusive cop does not equal a bigoted police department. An unwanted kiss or touch is not the same as sexual assault, at least if the word assault is to mean anything.

Yet bogus studies and statistics survive because the cottage industries of compassion need them to be believed, and because mindless repetition has a way of making things nearly true, and because dramatic crises require drastic and all-encompassing solutions. Besides, the thinking goes, falsehood and exaggeration can serve a purpose if it induces virtuous behavior. The more afraid we are of the shadow of racism, the more conscious we might become of our own unsuspected biases.

And so to Paris.

I’m not the first to notice the incongruity of this huge gathering of world leaders meeting to combat a notional enemy in the same place where a real enemy just inflicted so much mortal damage.

Then again, it’s also appropriate, since reality-substitution is how modern liberalism conducts political business. What is the central liberal project of the 21st century, if not to persuade people that climate change represents an infinitely greater threat to human civilization than the barbarians—sorry, violent extremists—of Mosul and Molenbeek? Why overreact to a few hundred deaths today when hundreds of thousands will be dead in a century or two if we fail to act now?

Here again the same dishonest pattern is at work. The semantic trick in the phrase “climate change”—allowing every climate anomaly to serve as further proof of the overall theory. The hysteria generated by an imperceptible temperature rise of 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880—as if the trend is bound to continue forever, or is not a product of natural variation, or cannot be mitigated except by drastic policy interventions. The hyping of flimsy studies—melting Himalayan glaciers; vanishing polar ice—to press the political point. The job security and air of self-importance this provides the tens of thousands of people—EPA bureaucrats, wind-turbine manufacturers, litigious climate scientists, NGO gnomes—whose livelihoods depend on a climate crisis. The belief that even if the crisis isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be, it does us all good to be more mindful about the environment.

And, of course, the chance to switch the subject. If your enemy is global jihad, then to defeat it you need military wherewithal, martial talents and political will. If your enemy is the structure of an energy-intensive global economy, then you need a compelling justification to change it. Climate dystopia can work wonders, provided the jihadists don’t interrupt too often.

Here’s a climate prediction for the year 2115: Liberals will still be organizing campaigns against yet another mooted social or environmental crisis. Temperatures will be about the same.




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The Top 10 Liberal Superstitions


A hallmark of progressive politics is the ability to hold fervent beliefs, in defiance of evidence, that explain how the world works—and why liberal solutions must be adopted. Such political superstitions take on a new prominence during campaign seasons as Democratic candidates trot out applause lines to rally their progressive base and as the electorate considers their voting records. Here’s a Top 10 list of liberal superstitions on prominent display during the midterm election campaign:

1. Spending more money improves education. The U.S. spent $12,608 per student in 2010—more than double the figure, in inflation-adjusted dollars, spent in 1970—and spending on public elementary and secondary schools has surpassed $600 billion. How’s that working out? Adjusted state SAT scores have declined on average 3% since the 1970s, as the Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson found in a March report.

No better news in the international rankings: The Program for International Student Assessment reports that in 2012 American 15-year-olds placed in the middle of the pack, alongside peers from Slovakia—which shells out half as much money as the U.S. per student.

Someone might mention this to North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who is knocking State House Speaker Thom Tillis for cutting $500 million from schools. Per-pupil K-12 spending has increased every year since Mr. Tillis became speaker in 2011, and most of what Ms. Hagan is selling as “cuts” came from community colleges and universities, not the local middle school. Mr. Coulson’s Cato study notes that North Carolina has about doubled per-pupil education spending since 1972, which has done precisely nothing for the state’s adjusted SAT scores.

2. Government spending stimulates the economy. Case in point is the $830 billion 2009 stimulus bill, touted by the Obama administration as necessary for keeping unemployment below 8%. Result: four years of average unemployment above 8%. Federal outlays soared in 2009 to $3.5 trillion—a big enough bump to do the Keynesian trick of boosting aggregate demand—but all we got was this lousy 2% growth and a new costume for Army Corps of Engineers mascot Bobber the Water Safety Dog. Every Senate Democrat voted for the blowout, including the 11 now up for re-election who were in Congress when it passed.

3. Republican candidates always have a big spending advantage over Democrats. Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor recently to deride the Koch brothers as “radical billionaires” who are “attempting to buy our democracy.” Yet the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has raked in $127 million this cycle, about $30 million more than the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Democrats have aired more TV ads than Republicans in several battleground states, according to analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. Meanwhile, Mr. Reid’s Senate Majority PAC has raised more than $50 million. As this newspaper has reported, between 2005 and 2011, labor unions—linchpins of the Democratic Party—spent $4.4 billion on politics, far outstripping any conservative rival.

4. Raising the minimum wage helps the poor. The president wants to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25, with the tagline “Let’s give America a raise.” The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the hike would cost 500,000 jobs, one blow to the low-wage earners it claims to help. Employment aside, only 18% of the earnings benefits of a $10.10 hike would flow to people living below the poverty line, according to analysis from University of California-Irvine economist David Neumark. Nearly 30% of the benefits would go to families three times above the poverty line or higher, in part because half of America’s poor families have no wage earners. Minimum-wage increases help some poor families—at the expense of other poor families.

You won’t hear that from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who in September lived on $79 for a week to show his public-relations solidarity with minimum-wage earners. Keep in mind: Only 4.7% of minimum-wage earners are adults working full-timetrying to support a family, and nearly all would be eligible for the earned-income tax credit and other welfare programs.

5. Global warming is causing increasingly violent weather. Tell that to Floridians, who are enjoying the ninth consecutive season without a hurricane landfall. The Atlantic hurricane season in 2013 was the least active in 30 years. Oh, and global temperatures have not increased for 15 years.

Still, something must be done! On Monday, the Hill reported that an internal memo circulating among five environmental groups detailed plans for spending to support candidates “who want to act” to combat climate change. “We are on track to spend more than $85 million overall including more than $40 million in just six Senate races,” the memo said. The beneficiaries include Sen. Mark Udall (D., Colo.), who got $12.1 million, and Rep. Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) with $7.2 million.

6. Genetically modified food is dangerous. Farmers have been breeding crop seeds for 10,000 years, but the agricultural innovation known as genetic modification makes liberals shudder. Not a single documented illness has resulted from the trillions of meals containing “genetically modified organisms,” or GMOs, that humans have consumed since the mid-1990s. The technology has been declared safe by every regulatory agency from the Food and Drug Administration to the European Commission.

But insisting on labeling food containing GMOs has turned into a liberal cause. The California Democratic Party platform in 2012 added a demand for GMO labeling; more recently the Oregon Democratic Party climbed aboard. In May 2013, self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced a farm-bill amendment that would allow states to require GMO labeling for food; co-sponsors of the amendment, which failed, included Sens. Mark Begich (D., Ala.) and Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.).

7. Voter ID laws suppress minority turnout. More than 30 states have voter-ID laws, which the left decries as an attempt to disenfranchise minorities who don’t have identification and can’t pay for it. Yet of the 17 states with the strictest requirements, 16 offer free IDs. The Government Accountability Office this month released an analysis of 10 voter-ID studies: Five showed the laws had no statistically significant effect on turnout, four suggested a decrease in turnout (generally among all ethnic groups, though percentages varied), and one found an increase in turnout with voter ID laws in place.

The Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, has nonetheless been running radio ads in urban areas claiming that “Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are trying to take away our right to vote,” based on a 2007 voter-ID amendment the minority leader introduced.

8. ObamaCare is gaining popularity. President Obama said in a speech earlier this month that fewer Republicans were running against ObamaCare because “it’s working pretty well in the real world.” Yet the law’s approval rating hovers around 40%, and 27% of people told Gallup this month that the law was hurting them, up from 19% in January, while only 16% reported it was helpful.

Don’t even ask doctors about it: 46% of physicians gave the Affordable Care Act a “D” or “F”, according to a recent survey by the Physicians Foundation, and less than 4% of respondents gave it an “A.” Yet some Democrats are die-hards: 36% of their House candidates have voiced support for ObamaCare on the campaign trail, according to a recent analysis by the Brookings Institution.

9. The Keystone XL pipeline would increase oil spills. Let’s check out what President Obama’s State Department had to say: In 2013 pipelines with a diameter larger than 12 inches spilled 910,000 gallons. Railroad tankers spilled 1.5 million gallons. Yet pipelines carry 25 times the oil that tankers do, as environmental analyst Terry Anderson has noted in these pages. Blocking Keystone and forcing more oil to be shipped by rail guarantees more harm to the environment. But on the campaign trail emotion often overrules the facts, and so we have Rick Weiland, the Democratic Senate candidate in South Dakota, adamantly opposing Keystone (“If I lose because of this issue, so be it,” he told the Nation magazine last week). Colorado Sen. Mark Udall is running for re-election after having voted against Keystone in the energy committee in June.

10. Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. The mother of all liberal superstitions, this figure comes from shoddy math that divides the average earnings of all women working full-time by the average earnings of all full-time men, without considering career field, education or personal choices. When those factors are included, the wage gap disappears. A 2009 report commissioned by the Labor Department that analyzed more than 50 papers on the topic found that the so-called pay gap “may be almost entirely” the result of choices both men and women make.

Yet here’s Colorado’s Sen. Udall: “It is simply unacceptable for businesses to pay women less than men doing the same work,” citing his support for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which might be better titled the Trial Lawyer Paycheck Act. One irony: The Washington Free Beacon did a little number crunching and discovered that women in Sen. Udall’s office earn 86 cents on the dollar compared with men. Whoops.

By Kate Bachelder






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