Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the February 23, 2017 edition:
Congress at Home
Congressional leaders are home this week for Presidents’ Day (Presidents’ Week?) and some Republicans are facing rowdy crowds of leftists who have organized to oppose everything from a rollback of Obamacare to Donald Trump to the color of the Congressman’s tie (okay that last one was made up, probably). This has been equated to the Tea Party resistance to tax increases and the Obamacare mandate during legislative recesses in 2009 and 2010 (that led to a major sweep for Republicans in the 2020 midterm elections—therein, obviously, lies the reason why media outlets and Democrats want to draw the comparison, of course).
The President has criticized some of the protests for being manufactured by leftist organizations that bus-in protesters. There are manuals circulating online of how to best disrupt a Republican town hall event. There looks to be a few parts liberal anger and a few parts Democrat organizing to all of this. The goal really isn’t to change any particular member of Congress’ mind but rather to influence the national dialogue and attempt to change the momentum in the country away from the utter rout Democrats suffered at the polls in November.
The test of this movement will be to what extent average Americans decide they agree with what the protestors are saying. Sure, it may be partly manufactured outrage, but outrage that gets covered by a complicit media has the ring of reality to it. The bigger question, of course, regardless of the protests, is to what extent Republican lawmakers have the intestinal fortitude to actually follow through on the promises that they made to voters to get the country back on track. If Congress is unwilling or unable to replace Obamacare and reduce taxes, there is a large chunk of their base that will either be disgusted or turned-off. This lack of determination, rather than acquiescence to protests, is the real pitfall for Republicans. The organizers of the protests know this. If they can start to make Congressional Republicans got spineless, they are much less-likely to accomplish needed reforms, and, thereby, not get the support they need in the midterm elections next year.
Conservative provocateur (probably the best description I’ve seen) James O’Keefe is set to release footage or tapes from inside the newsroom at CNN. The cable news giant has been an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration and has gone so far as to run with provably-fake news stories in attempts to discredit the White House. The editorial slant has drawn criticism from wide swaths of the Right, including the President.
Of course, there’s a reason why CNN would make the decision to be an antagonist for the new Administration: it’s just business. Being anti-Trump and salacious gets clicks which translates into revenue. O’Keefe, who has run afoul of wiretapping rules and generally skirts the line between investigative journalism and manufactured outrage, is set to expose either incidents related to bias or the editorial decisions of CNN.
It’s interesting to watch CNN preemptively attacking the O’Keefe story (O’Keefe is billing it as a new Wikileaks—a drip-drip-drip type of release mechanism) and attacking O’Keefe himself. Of course, CNN won’t cover the issue fairly (it’s understandable, if not journalistically sound), but the interesting editorial decision will have to be made at other major news outlets as to whether to cover the story (if there’s even a story) or to let it pass.
The Administration, in coordination with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice have issued guidance to rollback an Obama-era policy that mandated local school districts to allow children who identified as transgender to use the bathrooms they felt more comfortable using. Leaving aside the transgender issues, the mandate was seen as an overreach of executive authority. It effectively tied funding to implementation of the new rule. Regardless of the merits of the underlying change, there were certainly some concerns that the Obama Administration did not have the power to coerce schools into adopting new social policies.
There is currently a matter that is pending before the Supreme Court related to the rights of transgender individuals to use the bathroom that they choose. Given the immanency of the case, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer advised the media that the White House would be forced to issue this new guidance on transgender individuals early in the Administration. As a candidate for President, Mr. Trump was largely ambivalent about the issue of transgendered individuals. Spicer was quick to point out that the issue of transgendered individuals was not a high priority for the White House and the only reason this guidance was coming this early in the new Administration was because they needed to update the briefs before the Supreme Court going forward.
The President has been fairly consistent in his mantra that transgender issues are best decided by the States and that there really isn’t a federal question involved in how local schools deal with the issue. Critics claim that there are both civil rights and Title IX issues at play in the fight. This is one of those issues where social conservatives depart from other conservatives (a tactic the Left wants and is the reason they’re forcing this issue—this was never an issue until the Left knew fundamentalists couldn’t resist a good sexual ethics fight).
DNC Looks for a Leader
There are eight candidates to become the next Chair of the DNC. There might be six people in the whole country who could name them all, and, outside of CNN, no one is really focused on this Party election. The reason why we’re talking about it is the interesting jostling between the two top candidates: Representative Keith Ellison from Minnesota and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
Remember, these folks are trying to fill the tiny shoes of Debbie Wasserman-Shultz who led her Party to ignominy and disgrace last year (and was forced out by DNC leadership). Ellison is a vehement opponent of Israel and one of the farthest Left in an already leftist Democrat caucus (it gets more distilled every time the moderates get voted out and replaced by reasonable Republicans) and Tom Perez was in the Obama Administration.
It’s being billed as a battle for the soul of the Party: the upstart radicals versus the establishment (where have we heard this one before?). It’s obvious, of course, that the Party has learned no lessons from their beating in 2016 (and over-1,000 defeats nationally since Obama took office in 2008). The ideas of identity politics have so overgrown the Democrats that there really is very little change on the horizon. Bolstered by the nonsensical notion of “intersectionality (basically, identity politics on steroids—everyone reduced to their characteristics rather than their merit), the Democrats’ incessant navel-gazing has reduced their Party to looking at candidates who are hyper-focused on interest groups rather than Party growth.
Sure, we’re ragging on the Democrats here because they got trounced, but the reality is that both parties have suffered from a distillation, or a “Flandersization” (the idea that a character becomes more and more reduced to representing only a few qualities in hyperbole), of their respective messages. It’s interesting that Donald Trump, who did not run a terribly conservative platform—and has yet to show an interest in governing as a hardcore social conservative—broke out of that spiral for Republicans. Sure, the criticism is that he’s a populist and hurting the brand of the Republican Party, but the counterpoint is that his lack of set, concrete ideological principles actually give more leeway for people to come into the Party. As we can see with the discussions in the Republican Party (while some might see this as a bad thing), there are really no ideas that an individual “must” believe in order to be a Republican. The Democrats, at least today, appear to be the complete opposite: unless you march in ideological lockstep, there is no place for you in the Party. At least for now, this is not a winning message for a national Party. It still remains unclear if a new DNC Chair can reverse this change—or if he will accelerate it.
Of course, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.