Dems Drive US to the Brink

At the New Criterion James Piereson explains in his article Breaking the wrong ground. Using impeachment as an election strategy is only the latest breaking of political norms that kept the US functional in the past

With the impeachment charade in mind, it is useful to review the various political and constitutional “norms” that have been blasted away in recent decades, mostly due to hyper-partisan conduct by Democrats, with encouragement and cover from the mainstream media.

First: It now appears that a president will never again be able to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court or judges to lower level federal courts, unless he or she has a partisan majority in the Senate.

That is a new development, brought into being by no-holds-barred campaigns against Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and many nominees for judgeships on lower federal courts. Democrats routinely vote in unison against Republican nominees; that is not reciprocally true, or at least has not been true until recently. For example, Justice Scalia (appointed by President Reagan) was confirmed by a vote of 98 to 0 in 1986, while Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, nominated by President Clinton in 1993 and 1994, were confirmed by votes of 97 to 3 and 87 to 9 (respectively). Those kinds of consensual votes for justices and judges are unlikely to happen again anytime soon—and are in fact beyond the realm of possibility in the current environment. Democrats signaled last year prior to the 2018 elections that they would block all judicial confirmations if they won a majority of seats in the Senate. Republicans, as it happened, maintained the majority, and have proceeded to confirm justices and judges, with little or no support from Democratic members. We are bound to reach a point when the number of justices on the Supreme Court actually shrinks, because agreement cannot be reached to appoint new justices when incumbents retire or die.

Second, it further appears that a president cannot even confirm a cabinet unless he or she has a partisan majority in the Senate.

Democrats established this precedent by voting in unison against President Trump’s cabinet nominees, with the exception of Secretary of Defense Mattis, who won a near-unanimous vote. Democrats in the Senate voted almost unanimously against Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), Mike Pompeo (Director of Central Intelligence), Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State), Betsy DeVos (Education), Steven Mnuchin (Treasury), Mike Mulvaney (Office of Management and Budget), and Scott Pruitt (Environmental Protection Agency). William Barr was subsequently confirmed as Attorney General in 2019 by a vote of 54 to 45, with but four Democrats voting in his favor. If Republicans did not have a majority, they would not have been able to confirm any of President Trump’s nominations (with the exception of Gen. Mattis).

What do Democrats think is going to happen when they elect a president, but fail to carry a majority in the Senate? Republicans will undoubtedly behave in that situation just as Democrats have acted in relation to President Trump: they will veto his cabinet nominations, or delay them indefinitely to keep the incumbent president from forming a working government. That, after all, is what Democrats hoped to do to President Trump—and they are still doing it. Turnabout is fair play, and in politics is often necessary to deter adversaries from “upping the ante” by adopting more extreme tactics of attack. Looking ahead, there is little chance, for example, that Republicans will vote in the future to confirm a Democratic nominee for Attorney General, just as Democrats tried to block Sessions and Barr (and John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales before them). By contrast, Eric Holder, President Obama’s nominee for Attorney General, and a highly partisan figure, was confirmed by a comfortable bi-partisan vote.

It is unlikely that Republicans will be quite so generous in regard to future nominations for Attorney General, in view of the manner in which Democrats treated Sessions and Barr. That will be the case also in regard to other sensitive policymaking positions—such as the head of the epa or director of the cia.

In this way the United States is moving toward a bastardized form of parliamentary government, in that the President must have a majority in the Senate to conduct the business of government and the other party is no longer the opposition party (putting forth alternative policies) but is rather the “obstructionist” party.

Third, it also appears that there is no longer any realistic way to curb government spending without risking a government shutdown.

Neither party wishes to face this, especially Republicans, who have been routinely blamed for shutdowns by Democrats and the mainstream media. It may be possible to constrain federal spending with a unified government, but that would require sixty votes in the Senate, which neither party is likely to win anytime soon. Thus, as a consequence of party warfare, the spending will continue, the debt and deficits will accumulate, until there is a crisis of some kind involving inflation, interest rates, the depreciation of the dollar, or some such event that will require decisive action in response, albeit in an environment of distrust and dissensus that will make any such response difficult to carry out. In this way hyper-partisan government equals irresponsible government.

Fourth, in international affairs, it is going to be difficult in the future for the United States to mount the kinds of costly interventions carried out in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A fair amount of bi-partisan consensus is required to launch such operations, much less to continue them under difficult circumstances. The United States once built a rough bi-partisan consensus on its international role in the early years of the Cold War. It is probably fortunate that the Soviet Union collapsed when it did, because political agreement in the United States over the Cold War was bound to collapse sooner or later. Today, however, any intervention launched by one party will be immediately opposed by the other; and when things become difficult in a theater of conflict, the opposition party will exploit it for electoral gain. Any future president, aware of such political risks, will understand that it would be foolhardy to embark on any such international venture. Through this process the United States will gradually withdraw from the prominent international role it played during the Cold War and subsequent decades. The wider world will come to understand this—they will understand that President Trump is not an aberration but a harbinger of things to come—and will begin to make independent arrangements to protect their security. That might be a good thing; on the other hand, it will probably make for a more unstable world.

Fifth, and finally, Democrats have now turned impeachment into a partisan electoral strategy which, if successful, will establish a precedent for future investigations to come.

This is the kind of stratagem that is bound to come back to haunt Democrats whenever they elect a president and do not have a majority in the House of Representatives. What is to stop Republicans from impeaching an incumbent Democrat on a partisan vote in the hope that it will strengthen the hand of the Republican candidate in a forthcoming election? This is, in effect, what Democrats are proposing to do today. Democrats assume Republicans would never do such a thing. They are wrong. Impeachment, far from being rare, is about to become a commonplace event as an instrument of campaign strategy and partisan warfare. Every president going forward, when facing a hostile Congress, will face the threat of impeachment, since Democrats are proving today that it is not difficult to concoct a case if there is a determination to find one. In that situation, Americans might as well forget about Washington as a place where important problems are addressed on behalf of the public.

There are, of course, other “norms” Democrats wish to cast aside.

Some have said, for example, that they want to pack the Supreme Court or impeach Justice Kavanaugh or get rid of the Electoral College along with the equal representation of states in the U.S. Senate (guaranteed by the Constitution, a minor impediment in their view). There are others who say we should trim back the First Amendment to provide protection only for Democrats and progressives—all other speech being defined out of order as “hate” speech. Presidential candidates have said they want to abolish the country’s southern border while eliminating agencies charged with enforcing immigrations laws. They have said that unauthorized immigrants should receive free health care courtesy of the American taxpayer.

They would ban fossil fuels, mandate electric cars, and reorganize the U.S. economy on a “cave man” theory—to wit, the idea that a complex economy, in which every member carries in his or her pocket a sophisticated electrical appliance and communicates and receives information via other such appliances, can run on the basis of wind and solar power.

They have said, via their conduct, that it is no longer necessary for Americans to accept the results of elections, and that they can be contested long after they are over and an official verdict certified. They accuse President Trump of breaking norms, but this truly is norm-breaking on a breathtaking scale.

The U.S. political system is heading at breakneck speed toward some kind of crisis in which partisan warfare overwhelms the capacity of the president and congress to address national problems, as they once used to do in an era of greater national consensus. Judicial and cabinet appointments, the budget, international interests, and now impeachment have been turned into occasions for party warfare. It appears that today the two parties represent different countries, rather than different coalitions of Americans, and thus must negotiate with one another as heads of state negotiate with adversary nations. The constitutional system, with its separation of powers and layers of government, requires a fair amount of consensus to operate, because minorities are given levers by which they can block policies from being enacted or implemented. With that consensus now gone, that order is step by step coming undone. It is anyone’s guess where and how it will end.

High Stakes Impeachment Poker

Charles Lipson is a respected U. of Chicago political scientist who writes disapassionately and insightfully about the zero sum impeachment game under way in Washingston DC. He provides multiple perspectives in his article published at Real Clear Politics: The Democrats’ High-Risk Gamble on Impeachment. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images.

Democrats and Deep State Are All In

The Democrats’ activist base considers Donald Trump fundamentally unfit to hold office. Their impeachment drive is really about this damning judgment, not about any specific act such as withholding Ukrainian aid or wanting to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. They say Trump is erratic, narcissistic, self-serving, and unforgivably gauche. He cozies up to dictators and would like to become one himself. Every day, he tramples the presidency’s historic norms. Surely the voters who put him there made a catastrophic error, or, rather, the antiquated Electoral College did. In short, Trump is not just a bad president — the worst in modern history — he is an illegitimate and dangerous one, at home and abroad.

Their harsh view is no masquerade. It is sincere, deeply held, and shared by most elected Democrats. Many, perhaps most, career civil servants agree and consider the president only nominally their boss. That’s why they consider it their constitutional duty to hold him in check. That’s why former heads of the CIA openly praised the “Deep State,” why former FBI Director James Comey wanted his agents to monitor the president in the White House itself. If that means targeting Trump and his key aides for disguised FBI interviews or leaking classified phone calls, so be it. The fight over the Deep State is partly about this profound distrust of Trump (and his distrust of them) and partly about the president’s rising opposition to a century of progressive legislation, executive orders, and court decisions, which grant extensive power to government bureaucrats.

This revulsion is the backdrop to the Democrats’ impeachment effort and the earlier appointment of a special counsel. The crucial point is this: Democrats see the actions they have investigated for three years less as specific crimes and more as steadily accumulating evidence of Trump’s unfitness for office and his repeated violation of his oath, as they understand it. “Democrats of all stripes look at Donald Trump’s business and personal history and see a man who serially does not follow laws and therefore should not be president,” said one well-informed Democrat. For his party, “Ukraine is a big deal because it confirms this view.”

Pelosi Is Playing Several Angles

Although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shares those sentiments, she is too shrewd, too experienced to be carried away by her party’s most rabid voices. She is also too vulnerable to ignore them. The loudest voices come from deep-blue districts, but she needs to win purple ones, too, to keep her majority. That’s why impeachment has twin goals: to appease the party’s activist base (in Congress and the primaries) and to win the general election by damaging Trump and his Republican allies.

There are other possible goals. One is to sink moderate Senate Republicans in close 2020 races, which could flip control if Democrats win in Maine, Colorado, Arizona, and North Carolina and hold onto other seats. Another is keeping Joe Biden’s rivals, particularly Sen. Elizabeth Warren, frozen in Washington for a Senate trial during the early primaries. National Democrats, led by Pelosi, are deeply worried that Warren, if she is the nominee, will not only lose the presidency but cost them heavily down the ballot. A third is to distract from Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s upcoming report on possible surveillance abuse by senior Obama appointees.

Still, Pelosi’s highest priorities are retaining her position as speaker and, if possible, retaking the White House. Only then would winning the Senate give the Democrats true governing power.

Enormous Downside Risk

The downside of this impeachment gamble is painfully obvious. Without substantially more evidence against Trump, Democrats cannot win overwhelming public support and, without that, they won’t come close to the two-thirds vote in the Senate needed to remove the president. If the upper chamber doesn’t convict, voters are bound to ask why Democrats have spent the past four years on this fruitless quest and neglected their other duties. What legislative accomplishments can they highlight for voters next November? Hardly any. Only a big sign saying “The Resistance.”

How well is this gamble going? Still too early to tell. Recent polls show about half the country now favors impeachment and removal, but, significantly, the president’s numbers are about 10 percentage points better in vital swing states. Rank-and-file Republicans and their officeholders are still solidly behind the president. The big unknown is what effect public hearings and a Senate trial will have.

To remove a president, the Democrats need strong bipartisan support, both among voters and in Congress. They don’t have it. One big problem is that so many Democrats and their media allies have cried “wolf” before. Indeed, they have cried it continually since Trump was elected. The second problem is House Democrats have conducted the inquiry behind closed doors and withheld the transcripts for weeks (only now, under pressure, are they beginning to release them). They’ve made up the rules as they go, refusing to let Republicans call witnesses, refusing to let the president’s lawyers ask questions or even observe the process. Why? No good answers have been provided, nor for why the investigation is being held in a secure room by the Intelligence Committee. Hiding it in the basement is a sad metaphor for what should be a public process. After all, the materials are not classified, and the Judiciary Committee has handled every previous impeachment. The more partisan the process, the less bipartisan and legitimate the outcome.

Republicans See A Rigged Witch Hunt in Process

To Republicans, the impeachment drive looks less like a somber, quasi-judicial proceeding and more like something concocted by Dean Wormer to expel John Belushi’s “Bluto” Blutarsky and Delta House from Faber College. The House rules are ad hoc inventions. The secret hearings, scheduled by Chairman Adam Schiff, can continue as long as he wants, calling only his witnesses. He will then write a report, saying the evidence was appalling and unrefuted, and hand everything over to the Judiciary Committee to conduct public hearings. If Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s previous hearings are any guide, they will quickly descend into an ugly street brawl.

It’s not hard for Republicans to attack this whole process as fundamentally unfair. They say, rightly, that it violates the most basic tenets of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence:

    • Accusations must be specific and backed by clear evidence;
    • All evidence and accusations must be presented in open court;
    • Rules of procedure must be fixed and unbiased, not arbitrary and ad hoc;
    • The accused is presumed innocent and must be given full rights to see all the evidence, confront the accusers, and rebut all charges, including cross-examining witnesses, challenging documents, and presenting exculpatory evidence.

None of these rules has applied to this impeachment inquiry, at least not yet.

Although impeachment is a political act, it is still governed by the constitutional requirement limiting it to “high crimes and misdemeanors,” such as treason and bribery. The Framers specifically rejected a proposal to include “malfeasance in office,” fearing it would open the process to vague charges and transform our system of divided powers into a unified parliamentary system, controlled by Congress.

White House Has to Play Both Short and Long Game

The White House cannot expect to win this battle solely by condemning it as unfair. It must ultimately frame a persuasive, substantive rebuttal to the charges leaking out of Schiff’s committee. That means convincing the public the president is innocent or, as Bill Clinton did, convincing them the charges are not serious enough to overturn an election. Trump can also say the election is so near that we should let voters decide for themselves.

For the moment, however, the White House is wise to concentrate on the unfair process. The public can assess whether those leading the inquiry are even-handed or hell-bent to remove the president. Are they giving him and his supporters a fair chance to present their side? Americans understand these basic rules. We treasure them as bulwarks of our democratic freedom. The House majority breaks them at its peril.

See also post Conrad Black: Trump is Holding the Cards

Conrad Black: Trump is Holding the Cards

Conrad Black has always brought a sense of the sweep of history into his political commentary.  His recent article is on the current US political situation, and he concisely summarizes how we got here and what to expect.  At American Greatness he writes Impeachment Will Fail  Excerpts in ialics with my bolds.

Rank-and-File Republicans Have Trump’s Back

Donald Trump was a total outsider politically. He pioneered a new technique of parlaying celebrity and a system of intensive branding of his name and exposure as an impresario and reality television star, into an outsider candidacy, representing the anti-elites and all who felt short-changed by the yuppie-champion Clintons and Obamas and the indistinct Bushes. Like a big cat stalking a wildebeest, Trump changed parties seven times in 13 years, polling constantly, until he saw his target clearly and within range and he charged and seized it.

As Trump was running against all factions of both parties, the adaptation of the congressional Republicans in Washington to the Trump era was sluggish and is still not complete. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have left and John McCain died, having killed health care reform and ordained that he have an anti-Trump funeral. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a sly old Kentuckian, has made the cut, as he assimilates to all changes in Washington.

But whatever the Republican congressional delegations think of Trump—and Flake may be right that privately many Republican senators would like to see the back of him—he has the rank-and-file Republican public behind him as only a few Republican presidents have: Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Nixon at his strongest, and Reagan. Apart from a few ostentatiously pseudo-conscientious senators such as Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the Republican senators can’t desert him in the absence of serious evidence of his wrongdoing, and there is none.

The principal lesson of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation in 2018 was that there are enough sane and honest people in the Senate who will notice the absence of any believable incriminating evidence to produce a just decision. No serious person could make a crime out of the Ukraine “facts”; only rabid, witless, blood and publicity hounds (of whom the Democrats have no shortage), can claim that. But that is no longer the point. There was no believable evidence against Kavanaugh either, but only a balance of probabilities was required, at a time when any female denunciation from the past against a prominent man was accorded great credence. Yet even the most Trump-skeptical Republicans in the Senate stayed with Kavanaugh (apart from Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who paired with pro-Kavanaugh Senator Steve Daines of Montana, who had to attend his daughter’s wedding).

Desperate Hours, Self-Destructive Tendencies

The Democrats and their Republican kindred spirits in the Washington establishment, having completely failed to see Trump coming, and after complacently assuming they could jettison him on the Russian scam, relying on the slavish allies in the national political media, now realize their backs are to the wall and this is their last play.

It won’t work, and while they are trying to execute it, prominent figures of the previous administration will be arraigned for cooking up the Russian collusion fiction and inflicting it on the country by corrupting the FBI and intelligence services. This will not be an optimal ambiance for trying to remove a president whose conduct is sometimes outrageous but who hasn’t broken any laws.

No one should imagine that there will be much sobriety or solemnity in any of this. Being decorous is not the president’s strong suit at the best of times and his enemies are desperate. This isn’t the Nixon-Watergate crisis replayed; there have been no illegalities, and Trump has not squandered his political capital. Where there is still no conclusive evidence that Nixon was complicit in crimes, there were crimes by members of his entourage and he badly mismanaged the crisis; after the media had done their work, his party was running away from him.

Today Trump, not his party, enthuses the Republicans. His threat to the status quo, even more than his garish and sometimes oafish foibles, drives his enemies to such irrational extremes, and make Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Al Green and similar disreputables, almost indistinguishable from the party leaders.

The second notable development in the last week that has altered the political landscape is the outrageous, defamatory, and possibly insane charge by Hillary Clinton that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and the 2016 Green candidate for president Jill Stein, are “Russian assets” being “groomed” by the Russians for third party candidacies. This is the former first lady, U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state. This is the same mentality that in its deranged perversity commissioned the fraudulent Steele Dossier, and gave us the Trump-Russia “treason” myth, on which she blamed her loss of the election. It didn’t work in 2016. The fervent efforts of the Mueller special counsel staff to produce something remotely indictable against Trump failed, and this final effort to remove the president will be a disaster.

But Clinton has given us a hint of what the world was spared when she was defeated. The Democrats are being led by a coalition of constitutional renegades, spavined political tricksters, and would-be socialist tyrants. They are speeding over a political cliff. The force of gravity will assert itself.

 

Update: EU Deep State Vs. Brexit

Christopher Caldwell writes at Claremont Review of Books insightfully about the Brexit struggle Why Hasn’t Brexit Happened?  Excerpts in italics with my bolds

Caldwell tells the story of how Britain and the EU got to this point, and makes two important points.  Almost inadvertently, the EU pact removed British sovereignty and the British constitution.  He explains:

In Britain as elsewhere in the world, the struggle has been unleashed by innovations in administration that have arisen since the Cold War. These shift power from electorates and parliaments to managers of information, inside government and out. From thousand-year-old constitutional ideas to five-year-old ones. From habeas corpus to gender identity. Because it was Britain that did the most to construct the ideal of liberty which is now being challenged, Brexit clarifies the constitutional stakes for the world as nothing else.

Many statesmen warned from the outset that British ideas of liberty would not survive a merger with the E.U. The most eloquent early diagnoses came from the Labour Party, not the Tories. That is because the fundamental disposition of the E.U. is to favor technocratic expertise over representative government, and the Tories have not generally been the British party that placed the highest priority on the passions of the masses. In 1962, as Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was eying EEC membership, Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell warned, “[I]t does mean the end of Britain as an independent nation state.… It means the end of a thousand years of history. You may say ‘Let it end’ but, my goodness, it is a decision that needs a little care and thought.”

What Britain Lost in Joining the EU

Gaitskell was right, but it is only in recent years that people have begun to see exactly why he was right. It was always understood that joining the EEC in 1973 compromised Britain’s national sovereignty. All countries that joined had to acknowledge the supremacy of E.U. law over their own. This was a deadly serious thing if you reasoned the consequences to the end. For one thing, it deprived Britain’s monarchy of its (already somewhat vestigial) logic. Monarchs are not underlings: in joining the EEC, Britain could be said to have deposed its queen. Pro-E.U. politicians assured their voters that it wasn’t as serious as that. Britain, they said, had to give a little bit of its sovereignty up in order to receive the benefits of cooperation, the way it did in, say, NATO. Other European countries had done so without wrecking their systems.

But this was a false analogy, as the political scientist Vernon Bogdanor explains persuasively in his recent book, Beyond Brexit. NATO was a treaty. The EEC was a merger. What is more, the EEC that Britain joined had been designed by the major countries of continental Europe in line with their own traditions and interests. It was not in line with Britain’s. Britain had no institutions like the European Commission, an unelected body that could (and still does) initiate legislation. Britain’s politicians didn’t understand the rules intuitively and were less able to work the system. British political institutions were unsuitable as a “farm system” for training E.U. politicians.

And there was an even larger problem than the loss of national sovereignty, Bogdanor shows. The E.U. destroyed the system of parliamentary sovereignty at the heart of Britain’s constitution. For all its royalist trappings, Britain has traditionally been a much purer representative democracy than the United States, because it excludes courts from reviewing legislation on any grounds. British politicians tried to calm the public with assurances that, where British law and E.U. law clashed, British law would prevail. But the acknowledgement of E.U. legal supremacy in the treaties meant that E.U. law was British law.

In the 1980s, British judges began finding that parliamentary laws had been invalidated by later British laws—a normal and time-honored process, except that these new “British” laws had been imported into British statute books not by legislation but by Britain’s commitment to accept laws made on the continent. Bogdanor, who is a Remainer and a defender of human rights, does not necessarily condemn this development. But it meant that, through the back door, judicial review was being introduced into a constitutional culture that had never had it.

Quangos and foundations began designing cases—concerning migrants’ rights, gay rights, search-and-seizure—that unraveled the centuries-old fabric woven from the rights and duties of British citizenship. A new fabric began to be woven, based (as are all such systems in Europe) on post-Civil Rights Act American law and on the litigative ethos of the American bar.

In 1998, Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair passed the Human Rights Act, which swept into British law the European Convention on Human Rights (a pre-E.U. document dating from 1953). It also bound Britain to abide by decisions reached by the European Court of Human Rights, which sits in the French city of Strasbourg. Article 8.1 of the Convention (“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”) was supposed to protect people from the prying eyes of the state, as our Fourth Amendment does. But as the judge and scholar Jonathan (Lord) Sumption noted in a series of lectures this summer, it quickly became the “functional equivalent” of the due process clause of the American 14th Amendment—grounds for all kinds of judicial adventurism. 

The EU Empowers the Rich with Deep State Power

The transfer of competences from legislatures to courts is a superb thing for the rich, because of the way the constitution interacts with occupational sociology. Where the judiciary is drawn from the legal profession, and where the legal profession is credentialed by expensive and elite professional schools, judicialization always means a transfer of power from the country at large to the richest sliver of it. This is true no matter what glorious-sounding pretext is found to justify the shift—racial harmony, European peace, a fair shake for women. In a global age, judicial review is a tool that powerful people expect to find in a constitution, in the same way one might expect to find a hair dryer in a hotel room.

Most commentary on Brexit dismisses those who sought it as fantasists and the Parliament that debated it as a madhouse. “Bungle” is the favored verb in most articles on the subject, which generally explain that Britain’s difficult winter and spring illustrate what a misbegotten idea Brexit was in the first place. The Dutch diplomat Frans Timmermans, a veteran E.U. commissioner involved in negotiations, told the BBC that his British counterparts had been “running around like idiots.” European Council president Donald Tusk said, “I’ve been wondering what the special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it safely.” Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria said in March, “Britain, famous for its prudence, propriety, and punctuality, is suddenly looking like a banana republic as it makes reckless decisions, misrepresents reality and now wants to change its own self-imposed deadline.”

But the reasons for the chaos of the past winter—and for the fact that Brexit has still not happened—lie elsewhere. Brexit is an epochal struggle for power, and an exemplary one. It pits a savvy elite against a feckless majority. There have been scares before for those who run the institutions of global “governance”—the rise of Syriza in Greece, with its attack on the common European currency, the election of Donald Trump, the nation-based immigration restrictions put forward by Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarian president Viktor Orbán. But it is Brexit that has hit bedrock. If Brexit happens, our future will look one way. If not, it will look another. Those people who warn, as Zakaria does, that voting for Brexit has decreased Britain’s importance in the world—are they joking?

Only when the Leave side won the referendum did it become clear that the vote had been about not just a policy preference but also an identity. It raised the question for each voter of whether he considered himself an Englishman or a European, and of whether it was legitimate to be ruled by one power or the other. As such it made certain things explicit.

The main legacy of the European Union in the past three decades has been the suppression of democracy and sovereignty in the countries that belong to it. We can argue about whether this is the main purpose of the federation, but suppression of self-rule certainly counts as one of its purposes. Extinguishing national sovereignty was E.U. technocrats’ way of assuring that what Germany, Italy, and Spain set in motion in the 20th century would not repeat itself in the 21st. The architects of the Brussels order proclaimed this intention loudly until they discovered it cost them elections and support. The E.U.’s suspicion of nationalism is understandable. But its hostility to democracy is real.

The self-image of today’s E.U. elites is still that of protecting Europe from its historic dark side. They are confident history will regard them as the fathers of a Common European Home. In the imaginary biography he carries around inside his own head, a British builder of the European Union, whether a human rights lawyer or a hectoring journalist, will cast himself as one of the righteous heroes of his time, one of the enlightened. He is a man who “stood alone” to “fight for his principles” and so on. Maybe posterity will even see him as a European James Madison.

Many people in all member states have sought to puncture this kind of “Eurocrat” self-regard, but Britain’s anti-E.U. intellectuals have been particularly direct and pitiless. In mid-July, Robin Harris, a longtime adviser to Cold War Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, wrote an article in the Telegraph urging Boris Johnson to carry out “a peaceful but revolutionary seizure of power by the British people from a supranational authority and a home-grown but deracinated, collaborationist elite.”

Imagine how it strikes a man who has spent decades working for the E.U. dream—Tony Blair or Donald Tusk, for instance—to see his work likened to “collaboration.” Special place in hell, indeed! Those who sought the Brexit referendum placed a proposition before the British electorate that these self-styled architects of “Europe,” these idealists, had been, all along, not Europe’s Madisons but its Quislings. Worse, when that proposition was placed before the British people, they assented to it.

The British Fight for Liberty

Brexit was not an “outburst” or a cry of despair or a message to the European Commission. It was an eviction notice. It was an explicit withdrawal of the legal sanction under which Brussels had governed Europe’s most important country. If it is really Britain’s wish to see its old constitutional arrangements restored, then this notice is open to emendation and reconsideration. But as things stand now, the Leave vote made E.U. rule over the U.K. illegitimate. Not illegitimate only when Brussels has been given one last chance to talk Britain out of it, but illegitimate now. What Britons voted for in 2016 was to leave the European Union—not to ask permission to leave the European Union. It is hard to see how Britain’s remaining in the E.U. would benefit either side.

And yet, given that Britain is the first country to issue such an ultimatum, given that pro-E.U. elites in other European countries have reason to fear its replication, given the moral ambitions of the E.U. project, given that the British who support Remain have transferred their sentiments and their allegiances across the channel, given the social disparity between those who rule the E.U. and most of those who want to leave it, how could the reaction of Britain’s establishment be anything but all-out administrative, judicial, economic, media, political, and parliamentary war? The battle against Brexit is being fought, Europe-wide, with all the weaponry a cornered elite has at its disposal.

It has proved sufficient so far.

 

Closing the Endangered Species Piggy Bank

By Ronald W. Opsahl writes August 26, 2019, at Real Clear Policy Trump’s Environmental Reforms: Good for the Environment, Bad for Lawyers.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Between 2016 and 2018, environmental groups filed over 170 lawsuits alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act, making the ESA one of the most abused environmental laws in the United States. On Monday, the Trump Administration announced much needed revisions to regulations of the ESA.

The response of leading environmentalist groups was entirely predictable. They immediately threatened lawsuits. Indeed, lawsuits make up the core business plan of many purported wildlife conservation groups. They sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for alleged violations of the ESA, and often force agency decisions that do not actually benefit any species.

These groups then seek, and frequently succeed, to recover their attorneys’ fees from the federal government, drawing limited funding away from actual species conservation and into their war chests to fund additional ESA litigation. And the cycle goes on and on.

Major environmentalist groups not only earn money directly from litigation, but they also use lawsuits as a fundraising tool, rallying their donors by claiming to “fight” for endangered and threatened species in the courts, even when those lawsuits do little to promote actual conservation.

Big Environmentalism is doing brisk business these days. Since these groups essentially earn a living by abusing the ESA, they have a lot invested in the status quo. ESA reform is a genuine threat to their business model. They characterized Trump’s proposed reforms as a rollback of protections for species at risk of extinction, but it is actually a rollback of their lucrative legal work that terrifies them.

The Trump Administration is proposing three main changes. The change attracting the greatest criticism involves presenting the public with the economic impacts of listing decisions. It is true that listing decisions under the ESA are supposed to be based upon scientific evidence, without regard to economic impact. However, there is no prohibition on preparing and disclosing the potential economic impacts that would result from listing a species. In fact, officials are required by law to consider economic impacts whenever they designate a critical habitat for a species.

Environmentalists may want to keep the public blind to economic impacts, but that could hardly be said to be in the public’s interest. Too often, environmentalists seek critical habitat designations under the pretense of conserving species, but in fact their true intent is to prevent any resource development.

A second revision raising environmentalist ire is the elimination of its so-called “blanket rule,” which automatically affords threatened species the same protections granted to endangered species. Instead, going forward, FWS will evaluate the threats to newly listed threatened species, and tailor the conservation measures to each species’ needs.

Tailored conservation is smarter conservation. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency responsible for protecting marine species under the ESA, has never employed the “blanket rule” and has always tailored protections to species’ needs. Furthermore, the “blanket rule” is not provided for by the text of the ESA. Thus, the proposed changes would bring the government’s application of the ESA back into alignment with the Congress’ actual intent.

A third proposed revision to the regulations would clear up some disputed language in the law. Under the ESA, a species may be listed as threatened if it is at risk of becoming endangered in the “foreseeable future.” Previously, the term was undefined, leading to numerous lawsuits intended to force the agency to list species as threatened based upon little more than speculation.

Unfortunately, the weaponization of the ESA will continue until the law is fundamentally changed to eliminate the big dollar incentives that lead to endless litigation in the name of “species conservation.” More reform is needed to curb the rampant abuses of the law by environmental groups. Until then, the “sue and settle” approach will continue clogging up the courts, consuming vast federal resources in endless lawsuits, and taking those resources away from the real work of conservation.

Nevertheless, the proposed reforms are a step in the right direction. The Trump Administration’s ESA rule revision takes power out of the hands of lawyers and puts it back in the hands of scientists and trained wildlife management officials—where it belongs.

Ronald W. Opsahl is an attorney with Mountain States Legal Foundation, specializing in natural resources law, and is a trained wildlife biologist.

Global Virtue Replaces Local Accountability

Victor Davis Hanson writes at American Greatness Cosmic Injustice. The article comprises an extensive list of political escape artists, who raise abstract global concerns to distract from their incompetence facing real local problems and suffering. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Politicians ignore felonies in their midst, preferring to hector the misdemeanors of the universe

One of the weirdest characteristics of our global politicians and moral censors is their preference to voice cosmic justice rather than to address less abstract sin within their own purview or authority. These progressive virtue mongers see themselves as citizens of the world rather than of the United States and thus can impotently theorize about problems elsewhere when they cannot solve those in their own midst.

Mayors Preach Empathy While NYC Deteriorates

Big-city mayors are especially culpable when it comes to ignoring felonies in their midst, preferring to hector the misdemeanors of the universe. Notice how New York Mayor Bill De Blasio lords over the insidious deterioration of his city while he lectures on cosmic white supremacy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg used to sermonize to the nation about gun-control, global warming, the perils of super-sized soft drinks, smoking, and fatty-foods in his efforts to virtue signal his moral fides—even as his New York was nearly paralyzed by the 2010 blizzard that trapped millions of his city’s residents in their homes due to inept and incompetent city efforts to remove snow. Or is the “Bloomberg syndrome” worse than that—in the sense that sounding saintly in theory psychologically compensates for being powerless in fact? Or is it a fashion tic of the privileged to show abstract empathy?

Governor Schwarzenegger Goes Green While California Goes Down

In the last years of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governorship, Arnold more or less gave up on the existential crises of illegal immigration, sanctuary cities, soaring taxes, water shortages, decrepit roads and bridges, homelessness, plummeting public school performance, and a huge exodus out of state of middle-class Californians.

Instead he began to lecture the state, the nation, and indeed the world on the need for massive wind and solar projects and assorted green fantasies. His old enemies, jubilant that they had aborted his early conservative reform agenda, began to praise him both for his green irrelevancies and for his neutered conservatism—to the delight of the outgoing Arnold who was recalibrating his return to celebrity Hollywood.

Where Were the Sheriffs When Shooters Came

More recently, we often see how local sheriffs become media-created philosophers eager to blame supposed national bogeymen for mass shootings in their jurisdictions— killings that sometimes are at least exacerbated by the utter incompetence of local law enforcement chiefs.

Do we remember the horrific 2011 Tucson shooter, the mass-murdering ghoul who mowed down 19 people, killing six and severely wounding Representative Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.)? Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, without any evidence, immediately claimed that conservative anti-government hate speech had set off the unhinged shooter.

One might have thought from Dupnik’s loud blame-game commentary that supposed outgunned deputies on duty had shot it out with the killer in a running gun battle, and that he was furious that talk radio or right-wingers had somehow impeded him from getting enough bullets or guns to his men to protect the victims from such a right-wing ideologue.

Hardly. This shooter had devoured both the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. He was mentally unstable, drug addled, and without coherent views on contemporary issues, and thus no foot soldier in some vast right-wing conspiracy or any other conspiracy. He was certainly less connected to the Right than the Washington, D.C. shooter who tried to take out much of the Republican House leadership in 2017 was connected to the Left.

Again, no matter. The ubiquitous Dupnik in his efforts to translate his own incompetence and failure to secure the area where Giffords was to speak into media-driven celebrity, in cheap fashion blasted the Tea Party, critics of President Obama, and, of course, Rush Limbaugh as the culprits.

In truth, security in the supermarket parking lot where Giffords and others were shot was nearly nonexistent, a fact Dupnik never really addressed. He seemed unworried that he had not sent out deputies to ensure a U.S. congresswoman’s safety while conducting an open-air meeting with her constituents.

Florida Sheriff Scott Israel sought national media attention for trying to connect the horrific Parkland Florida mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (17 dead), which took place in his jurisdiction, to the National Rifle Association and Republican politicians in general. But it was Israel’s own Broward County Sheriff’s Office that responded slowly to the killings. In some cases, Israel’s officers exhibited timidity and refused to enter the building to confront the deranged mass shooter.

Before Israel lectured an international television audience on the evils of lax gun laws he might have at least ensured that his own sheriffs were willing to risk their lives to protect the endangered innocent.

Dot-Com Wealthy Live High Above the Disasters on Their Doorsteps

If we sometimes wonder why for years saintly Apple, Facebook, and Google have thrived in a sea of homelessness, amid pot-holed streets lined with strapped employees living in their cars, a good indication might be that the cosmic social justice so often voiced as penance by their woke multibillionaire bosses exempts them from worrying about the disasters in their midst.

Pope Francis Calls for Open Borders from Behind Vatican Walls

Pope Francis recently lambasted a number of European countries and leaders for their apparent efforts to secure their national borders against massive illegal immigration from North Africa and the Middle East. Francis plugged European ecumenicalism and seemed to dismiss the populist and nationalist pushback of millions of Europeans, who see the EU as both anti-democratic and a peril to their own traditions and freedoms as citizens.

However, before Francis chastised the continent for its moral failings, he might have explained to Italians or Greeks worried over their open borders why the Vatican enjoys massive walls to keep the uninvited out and yet why other European countries should not emulate the nation-state Vatican’s successful preemptive fortifications.

Better yet, the pope might have taken a more forceful stance against the decades-long and ongoing legal dilemmas of hundreds of global Catholic Clergy, who have proven to be pedophiles and yet were not turned over to law enforcement. The cosmic idea of a United Europe is easy to preach about, but reining in what is likely an epidemic of child-molesting clergy is messy. Francis’s frequent abstract moralizing is quite at odds with either his inability or unwillingness to reform pathways to the priesthood, some of whose members have ruined thousands of lives.

Politicians Unwilling to Address Concrete Crises

What was lacking in the recent Democratic debates were concrete answers to real problems—as opposed to candidates’ nonstop cosmic virtue signaling. It is easy to blast “white supremacy” and “the gun culture” from a rostrum. But no one on stage seemed to care about the great challenge of our age, the inner-city carnage that takes thousands of young African-American lives each year. The inner-city murdering is tragically almost exclusively a black-on-black phenomenon (even rare interracial homicides are disproportionally committed by African-Americans) that occurs in progressive-run cities with strict gun control laws.

When leaders virtue signal about global or cosmic sin, it is often proof they have no willingness or power to address any concrete crisis. The public tires of such empty platitudes because they also see the culpable trying to divert attention from their own earthly failure by loudly appealing to a higher moral universe.

More mundanely, there is the role of hypocrisy: elites themselves never suffer the consequences of their own ethical inaction while the public never sees any benefit from their moral rhetoric. Illegal immigration is not a personal issue for Pope Francis, and most Europeans have more concrete things to worry about than lectures on populism and nationalism.

Disconnected from Real World Dangers

In the same fashion, New Yorkers in 2011 were worried more about the piles of snow on the sidewalks than they felt threatened by 32-ounce Cokes—while realizing that no snow blocked either the Bloomberg official or private residence.

Note a recent inexplicable Zogby poll that indicated 51 percent of blacks and Hispanics might support Donald Trump. How would such a supposedly counterintuitive result even be possible?

I have a suggestion: minority communities live first-hand with the violence and dangers of the gang gun culture. More policing and incarceration of guilty felons improve their lives. Secure borders mean fewer drug dealers and cartel smugglers in local communities, fewer schools swamped with non-English speakers, and social services not overwhelmed with impoverished non-Americans.

These can all be real concerns for beleaguered minorities. Yet they are virtue-signaled away by progressive elites whose own power and money allow them to navigate around the consequences of their own liberal fantasies that fall on distant others.

Add in a booming economy, rising incomes, and low unemployment for minorities, and the world of shrill yelling on the debate stage about “white privilege” seems some sort of an irrelevant fixation of the elite and privileged, akin to showing off a Gucci bag or Porsche Cayenne—but otherwise nothing to do with dangerous streets, wrecked schools, whizzing bullets, and social services that are becoming inoperative.

The next time a legislator, mayor, or governor rails about plastic straws or the Paris Climate Accord, be assured that his state’s roads are clogged, his public schools failing—and he is clueless or indifferent about it.

Economics #1 Law vs. Politics #1 Law

Dan Sanchez writes at Real Clear Markets ‘Free Everything’ and Thomas Sowell’s First Law of Politics. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The other night, a politician criticized Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for offering voters “free everything and impossible promises.” Remarkably, the critique came, not from a Republican fiscal conservative, but from a fellow Democrat during a primary debate. John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, said such policies were based on “fairy-tale economics.”

As economist Thomas Sowell wrote, “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

So it was surprising to see a presidential candidate give a nod to the first lesson of economics and lay off the first lesson of politics for a moment.

The word “free” slips freely from the lips of Sanders and Warren: free health care (“Medicare for All”) and free college are two of their most popular promises. But in a sense, something is only “free” when it is not scarce: when there is so much of it to go around that Group A can use it as much as they want without diminishing Group B’s ability to do the same. Economists call that “superabundance.” In most cases, air is “free.” My intake of oxygen doesn’t meaningfully deprive anyone else of anything.

Health care and education are not “free” in that sense. Pills and pencils, surgeries and lectures, are scarce. The same pill can’t be swallowed by two people. And the material and labor that go into producing those things are also scarce. Resources cannot be endlessly lavished on one area without making other uses of those resources impossible. To think otherwise would indeed be “fairy-tale economics.”

When scarcity is a factor, “how can we afford this?” is a key question, and “we can’t” is a possible answer.

But to a politician like Elizabeth Warren, such an answer is unacceptable, even baffling. When the debate moderator asked Warren to respond to Delaney’s critique, she said (emphasis added):

“I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for. I don’t get it.”

She doesn’t get it because she’s following Sowell’s first law of politics. Disregarding scarcity is simply best practice in her profession. Scarcity may limit what you can deliver on, but it doesn’t limit what you can offer. And voters have a poor track record on holding politicians accountable to their promises. So if you’re running to win, it often pays to out-promise your competitors, even if that means veering into fairy-tale territory. Letting pesky realities like scarcity get in the way of that can be political suicide, as I’m guessing Delaney will find out soon.

To be fair, the same individuals who tend to be gullible as voters are typically savvy as customers. When they are let down by a business, they readily take their money elsewhere. That is how they hold entrepreneurs accountable. That is why entrepreneurs are concerned, not just with promises, but with delivery. And that is why entrepreneurs abide by Sowell’s first law of economics: why they take scarcity seriously.

Because customers hold them accountable, entrepreneurs also do a much better job than politicians at alleviating scarcity through efficient, value-creating production. Entrepreneurial projects do fail, but then they go away when their customers do, clearing the stage for something better.

Since government projects are financed by involuntary “customers” (taxpayers), they are ultimately unaccountable and “free” to fail indefinitely.

That is why entrepreneurs give us goods and services that are amazing and yet widely affordable (even “free” to the user, when ad-supported), while politicians give us programs that are “free” but perpetually struggling and unsatisfactory.

For example, in the realm of education, think about how much learning happens on YouTube and through podcasts these days: and how much those platforms have grown and progressed as educational resources in just a few years. Compare that to the decades of frustrated attempts to reform public schools.

And in health care, contrast the customer service of walk-in health clinics at CVS and Walgreens versus the Veterans Administration.

Keep these track records in mind when politicians promise vast expansions of “free” education and health care. These sectors are indeed crying out for reform. But count on accountable entrepreneurs, not unaccountable politicians, to deliver.

Dan Sanchez is the Director of Content at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and the editor-in-chief of FEE.org. He co-hosts the weekly web show FEEcast, serving as the resident “explainer.”

Dangers of the Echo Chamber

In a modern example of winning, yet being clueless without the slave’s reminder, we have Andrew Klaven writing at the Daily Wire about the downfalls of partisan triumphalism: Clueless Chuck Todd And The Democrats. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

This week, we witnessed a delightfully comic demonstration of why it’s not such a good thing for the Democratic Party to own at least 90 percent of the communication apparatus in America. The mainstream news media is nearly all Democrat. Hollywood blacklists you if you’re not Democrat. The universities, publishing companies and most of the music industry are populated by Democrats. So Democrats, wrapped in a smothering blanket of mirrors, their own ideas reflected back to them endlessly, begin to develop the wholly ridiculous idea that their absurd version of reality is reality in fact.

As a result, when Robert Mueller released a report revealing that Donald Trump had not colluded with the Russians to steal the election, and that, by any normal legal standard, he had to be considered not guilty of attempting to obstruct justice, the Democrats felt justified in thinking the report provided them with grounds for impeachment. After all, the news media agreed. The late-night comics all agreed. The experts wrote op-eds and they agreed. Even search engines and social media highlighted all the agreement.

So why wasn’t the public demanding impeachment too? Weren’t they watching the news? Weren’t they listening to the late-night comedians? Weren’t they reading the articles by professors? How could they be so blind as to think that a report clearing Trump had cleared Trump?

The Democrats’ answer: it must be because reading the report was too hard for ordinary folks. Maybe if Mueller testified to what was in the report, then the public would see what the Democrats saw all around them: in the news, on the comedy shows, in the academic op-eds and online.

So Mueller testified.

“We found insufficient evidence of the president’s culpability,” he said.

“At any time during your investigation was your investigation curtailed or stopped or hindered?” he was asked.

“No,” he said.

In the eloquent phraseology of Donald Trump: “No collusion, no obstruction.”

Only a Democratic Party swathed and smothered in media mirrors could have been shocked to hear Mueller declare that what was in the Mueller report was in the Mueller report.

Which brings me back to Chuck Todd, the pure spirit of Cluelessness in the Clueless Holy of Holies in the land of Clueless. Todd diagnosed the Democrats’ problem thusly: “The fact is we are living in this 21st century new type of asymmetrical media warfare that we’re in. And you have a propaganda machine on the right. And that’s what it is. It’s a full-fledged propaganda machine on the right that the Democrats haven’t figured out how to combat very well yet.”

I would feel better about the news media if I thought Todd was just a liar, but, no, I think he is actually clueless. Because as an American journalist he is, just like the Democrats, surrounded by people who reflect and echo his ideas. There’s no one near him to ask: What propaganda machine, Chuck? Aside from one cable station — Fox News — what network, what newspaper, what university, what comedian or movie-maker or search engine or social media does anything but spew left-wing propaganda all day every day? There’s no one to demand he produce his evidence. There’s no one to require him to show his work.

Every once in a while, they ought to visit the rest of us, here in Reality. It might keep them from making such utter fools of themselves.

 

Replacing Soggy Paper Liberal Straws

Reuseable Trump straws in durable plastic never stop keeping you hydrated.  Now available for $15 a pack; proceeds go to a worthy cause: Trump re-election campaign.

“Now you can finally be free from liberal paper straws that fall apart within minutes and ruin your drink,” stated Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale in a fundraising email. “Trump Straws are custom made with the Official Trump Logo, recyclable and reusable, and, as always, 100% MADE IN AMERICA.”

Liking him or not doesn’t matter:  He is the one stopping the climate lunatics from taking over the asylum.

Modern Politics Seen as Classes Power Game

Joel Kotkin makes sense of the confusing US politics around the 2020 presidential campaigning. He writes A class guide to the 2020 presidential election in Orange County Register. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

America’s electorate in 2020 has been dissected by race, region, cultural attitudes and gender. But the most important division may well be, in a nation that has become profoundly unequal, along class lines. All politicians, from Donald Trump to Elizabeth Warren, portray themselves as “fighting for the middle class” and “working families.”

Yet our increasingly neo-feudal America is best broken down into four broad groups — the oligarchs, the clerisy, the yeomanry and the serfs. The oligarchs dominate the economic realm, including control of information media. Below them are sometimes allied members of the clerisy, the well-educated middle class who set the country’s intellectual and cultural context.

Below them are the two most numerous classes — the property-owning yeomanry and, most numerous of all, the expanding new serfdom. Understanding these groups provides a valuable insight into 2020’s realities.

The candidates of the oligarchy

The oligarchs, roughly the top .01 percent, now own the highest share of wealth in almost a century. They can fund nonprofits, media outlets, campaigns and political action committees with almost unlimited largesse. The oligarchy’s wealthiest and most influential members hail from the tech sector, Wall Street and Hollywood. In recent decades they have created a plutocrat-funded Democratic Party backing economically non-threatening but culturally and environmentally liberal figures like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

 

At first Joe Biden seemed to be winning the battle for oligarchal support. But his poor performance has opened the field for Kamala Harris, who enjoys long-standing financial ties, both political and through her husband’s law practice, to big media companies, telecom providers, Hollywood and, most of all, Silicon Valley. Harris offers gentry liberal delight — telegenic, smart, female, non-white but without posing the threat to oligarchal power represented by Elizabeth Warren and, even worse, Bernie Sanders.

Trump, of course, also boasts oligarchal supporters from older sectors of the corporate elite — retail chain owners, builders of single-family homes, manufacturing and energy executives. Given the Democratic embrace of the Green New Deal, massive redistribution of income and reversing corporate tax cuts, a lot of old economy money will flow into Dr. Demento’s coffers this time around.

The clerisy’s favorite

What analyst Michael Lind calls the “overclass” — made up of academics, the media and well-paid professionals — represents some 15 percent of the American workforce. This group has done better than the traditional middle class, let alone the working class, but over the past few decades has lost much ground against the oligarchs, who have reaped the vast majority of the economic gains.

Like the rising professional classes of the gilded age, many in the clerisy are offended by the huge wealth of the oligarchs. Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren reprises the role performed by Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson over a century ago. Her most radical proposals target not the affluent middle class but the super-rich, notably through anti-trust, while her wealth tax impacts only people with over $50 million. Most of her financial support, not surprisingly, comes from women’s groups and academics. Only Pete Buttigieg, with his base of gay support, comes close to competing in the intersectional sweepstakes.

Warren’s insistence on calling herself a “capitalist” separates her from Bernie Sanders’ full-throated socialism, with its odd Soviet nostalgia. It helps her appealing to those who still have something to protect. Sanders also loses by dint of his race and sex; Warren may have to failed to prove her Native American credentials, but her gender remains an asset at a time when being old, white and male is not the preferred brand among progressives.

The Yeomanry: Trump’s to lose

Most of America sees itself as middle class. But there’s a growing gap between the yeomanry — small business and property owners — and the clerisy as well as a vast, expanding class of permanently landless permanent serfs. Most members of the yeomanry work in the private sector; unlike the clerisy, for them government regulation provides not employment, but a burden.

They gained little from the largely asset-based prosperity of the Obama years but have done far better under Trump Many suburban dwellers and property owners may find Trump personally abhorrent (which is easy to do) but are directly threatened by a Democratic Party anxious to force up worker wages, control rents, boost regulations and raise taxes.

Many of these voters also would not like to give up their private health insurance, which Warren, Sanders and, intermittently, Harris have demanded. As the Democrats go further left, this constituency is likely to line up largely with Trump or simply abstain, given the awfulness of the choices.

Serfs and the “blue tidal wave”

The property-less working class does not tend to vote as much as the yeomanry, but their numbers are growing. Some are déclassé millennials unable to launch full careers or afford to buy houses. Unlike previous generations, they also have been reluctant to start businesses.

Many of the new serf class inhabit the precariat, a modern proletariat lacking the protections of steady work and trade unions. Many participate in the gig economy as Uber drivers, trainers, personal assistants and contract technicians. Most depend on their gigs for their livelihood income, and they are often lowly paid; according to one study nearly half of gig workers in California are under the poverty line.

With little stake in the capitalist economy, the youthful members of the precariat have been drawn to the socialist appeals of Sanders and, increasingly, Warren. The leftist American Prospect sees them driving a potential new “blue tidal wave.”

Yet if economics may impel this class toward the Democrats, two factors may work against them, particularly those who did not attend college and are older. First, low-income workers, including minorities, generally have done better under Trump than under Obama, something the president’s handlers will no doubt emphasize.

The other is support for such things as reparations, health care for the undocumented, open borders and virtually unlimited right to abortion. These positions may not play well in blue-collar communities, particularly in the Midwest, Great Plains and the south. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination cannot win based only on support from the clerical and oligarchal elites but also by winning over the serf vote, which they now are in danger of squandering.

Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (www.opportunityurbanism.org).