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Expectations for the 2016 GOP Convention

What to expect for the 2016 RNC.

Following on the heels of Donald Trump announcing Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate, the GOP will be in Cleveland, Ohio, next week to formally nominate Trump. Donald Trump, of course, has run a few pageants in his day, so one expects that the result will be well-polished and featuring corresponding displays of the candidate’s ability in areas from evening wear to Q&A…

The convention will feature a series of speakers from the worlds of sports, politics, and religion, including the Vice President of the Evangelical Football League… All the vice presidential hopefuls that didn’t make the cut will also be speaking, as will the Trump family (family singalong to be confirmed).

The main thing to watch, as conventions are typically boring and pointless affairs, is whether there is any real traction to block Trump’s nomination. Although efforts with the rules committee have been a bust so far, any remaining effort should become apparent as the first votes begin to take place. If all the delegates are seated, and the rules are adopted, it will be less likely to see a challenge to Trump. But the actual nomination will take place on Tuesday, with the roll call. At that point (if all goes well), Trump will be legally wed to the Republican party, and then they go off together on a honeymoon.

As a casual observer of politics, I would expect at least some at-convention effort to challenge Trump’s nomination. There is enough risk in the candidate that to lack at least a showing of dissent among the delegates would be to embrace Trump, and if he burns out in November, the party would take a bigger hit for it. If some of them can at least point back and say, “see, toldyaso,” it gives those party members a leg up in the future. On the other hand, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nightmare comes true and Trump wins the election, those who opposed him will be harmed by their dissent, at least a bit.

Their possibility of success in blocking the nomination is low. The will of the people being a sacred phrase in America, they have to convince the delegations as a whole both that nominating Trump is going to be very bad and that there is someone else they can convincingly run. They’re also fighting a battle against both Trump’s delegates and the RNC, who has allied with Trump due to optics. Worse, if they blocked the nomination and run someone who gets beaten as badly as Trump might, they probably still take the hit for it. So, the expectation is that they will merely have a swing-and-a-miss attempt.

Other than that, the usual expectations of Trump remain. He will probably stick to the prompter for his speech, but some of the other speakers may go off the rails from time to time. And we will likely see some extra-conventional loud-mouthery from Trump all the same.

The other thing that comes out of the convention is finality. Although the unexpected could always happen, once Trump is formally nominated, we have to expect things will probably stay the same, ticket-wise. That means we’ll get to see if he can actually get elected or if he is defeated, running as disreputably as he has.

Other things to watch for:

  • A second golden elevator, with a wax dummy of Trump that attendees can ride down with to recreate his ride down to his announcement of running (wealthy donors also get a brief private meeting with said wax dummy)
  • The unveiling of a Pokémon GO-styled Pokey GOP app that lets you hunt down cartoons of witches, atheists, and other reviled figures, and then you can banish them by reciting Bible verses
  • A bizarre one-act play reinterpreting Reagan’s famous “Tear down this wall” speech, in which the President of Mexico tells Trump to tear down the border wall (which is constructed out of air conditioners and Oreos®) and then the Trump character moons him and farts “The Star Spangled Banner”
  • Confetti and balloons

Gross Negligence versus Less-Than Criminal Malfeasance

Some thoughts on Clinton’s email scandal versus the lack of acknowledged scandal surrounding the Congress.

The Clinton email uncovers some widespread ignorance of law, reaching to the highest levels of the Congress. The House GOP, in the wake of the news delivered by FBI Director James Comey, is out for blood in the form of some type of indictment of Hillary Clinton. If the Constitution did not bar ex post facto laws, I’m sure they would be passing them “in a few hours,” to quote Chaffetz. The media has also been seeking the juicy chance to tell the American people that the Democrats would face the unprecedented choice between running a candidate who’s out on bail and ditching her for someone else.

But the wisdom of law is that it doesn’t bend to the political winds, but holds up. It continues to exist right beside whatever politically expedient thing might be in the here and now.

If Clinton were an ordinary employee, or even if she were presently in the employ of the Federal government, she would undoubtedly be sanctioned for mishandling of classified materials (as would her staff). That not being the case, where is our pound of flesh? It’s not like the Congress could pass new laws that would obliterate the chances of similar issues in the future. It’s not like the Congress could look in a mirror and note that they failed to provide adequate oversight at the time Hillary Clinton was serving as Secretary of State.

But this is about Hillary Clinton, not Congress. Misdeeds lead to punishment. That’s how we’ve always done it. Never mind that we have no idea (and won’t until some future day when the emails in question are declassified) how severe the errors were. We still must find some manner of settling this score, a score we never would have known about if the conservatives hadn’t been so scornful of Clinton in the first place that they filed FOIA requests for documents relating to the handling of the attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Again, where was the oversight?

Wait, wait. Focus. Clinton. Did she lie to Congress? Did she lie to the public? She said she needed only one device, and possibly someone hacked the server. And sent classified information via email. Unarchived email. Would a new law really help? I mean, it’s not like there are other problems we’ve had in the same area. This was just one person (oh, and her staff) that screwed up. And it’s not like we could just have a law that would require normal government business to be conducted through normal government channels. It’s not like our founding document recognized the need for such a normal channel and empowered the government to create a service for the carriage of correspondence.

So, get mad as you like at Clinton. Elect Donald Trump instead. Hit the earth with a meteor, why don’tcha? It doesn’t really matter, because at the end of the day she’s still just one person, and punishment doesn’t solve problems. If it did, all the people suffering due to lack of immigration reform; lack of action on police, incarceration, and guns; lack of price controls on health care; lack of infrastructure maintenance; lack of climate action; lack of educational reform; lack of poverty reform; . . .; all of those people would have solved all of our problems years ago. They are being punished not because Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information.

They are being punished because Congress is nothing but a shitshow. So, go ahead, punish Clinton. How could one more person suffering really matter when that unholy body of the US Congress can’t do its job? Since they write the laws, rest assured their dereliction remains less-than-criminal malfeasance.

Speaker Paul Ryan’s GOP Policy Proposals

The “A Better Way” policy collector’s set is being unveiled. Some thoughts on what’s there so far.

At US House Speaker Paul Ryan has begun pushing policy for the future of the GOP. First was a report on poverty, then one on national security, and more to come. Here are some thoughts on what’s there so far.

First, the rhetoric is the same. You get throwaway lines like, “American foreign policy is failing at nearly every turn.”

On Poverty

“No amount of government intervention can replace the great drivers of American life: our families, friends, neighbors, churches, and charities.” The latter line falls after a paragraph that points out, “In [the sense of their rate of escaping poverty], Americans are no better off today than they were before the War on Poverty began in 1964.”

In other words, the great drivers and the government have both failed to move the needle. Guess that means less government intervention is the solution. Must be the onerous regulation of everything that has thwarted the vast, private anti-poverty efforts. Huh?

The document seems to mostly focus on the same-old of workfare, but there are some potentially-useful bits. Social Impact Financing is a start-up model of privatizing social services, whereby providers (and their investors) are paid with public funds if they achieve something. One can imagine such a program having positive impacts, though it’s unclear whether they can do so in a way that avoids inviting regulation (i.e., if they take advantage of the poor to maximize public payments).

More importantly, however, is that the report fails to get away from the sort of separate-but-equal that is all too common in policy. The VA, for example, has many problems that would vanish if the bulk of care were provided in the same system everybody else uses. If the average American was in-queue next to a veteran and saw them shafted, the law would change much more quickly. More importantly, the social-mixing and ready-for-tomorrow benefit of, e.g., welfare recipients working through an embedded institution rather than a separate system.

In plain language, a welfare recipient should not see a difference in their financial rituals during versus after welfare unless that ritualistic change itself has some positive end in mind. They should receive welfare through normal banking channels, for example. The whole purpose of welfare should be to normalize the right behaviors as a person escapes poverty. It should be gamified, made to feel like a logical process (in both the common sense and in the sense of a deductive process reaching a conclusion).

National Security

If the poverty document was mostly about workfare, this one is warfare. The document looks at terrorism, border/immigration, and cyber defense. It’s a much weaker document in terms of program recommendations.

“Decisively tackling emerging threats before they metastasize.” Why didn’t Obama think of that?! Might as well just say, ‘Keep Americans safe.’ The document is much more antagonistic toward the Obama administration, while offering no real criticisms (again, the same thing the GOP has done for eight years).

If I were Ryan, I’d go to the folks that wrote the poverty paper and have them make a new national security paper. The poverty piece wasn’t great, but at least it was more than banal polemic.

The parts where this document make sense still read as too obvious and generally agreed to by both parties. “Our ultimate goal must be to transform developing countries from aid recipients into trading partners.” Yes. Agree. Do you have some new ways to invigorate those efforts?

With four more releases planned for the “A Better Way” policy campaign (on the economy, the Constitution, health care, and tax reform), so far it looks like a middle-Republican effort and about what one would expect. We’ll see if there are any real departures from the status quo.