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Herbert Hoover: Resourceful on Policy, Removed on Politics (Book Review, Law & Liberty) March 27, 2017

Posted by daviddavenport in Book Review, Politics.
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Imagine a highly successful businessman choosing the presidency of the United States for his first political race. Running as an outsider, he campaigned like no other, defeated the politicians,  and won the office. As President-elect, he held court in a suite of rooms at a fancy hotel, vetting prospective cabinet members. He had his own policy ideas, such as sharply curtailing immigration as a threat to American jobs.

Donald Trump? No, Herbert Hoover, as described by Charles Rappleye in his new book, Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency.

History has been simplistic and unkind toward President Hoover. Seemingly all we need to know is that he presided unsuccessfully over the Great Depression. Hoover himself has said he was “the only person of distinction who has ever had a depression named for him.” Rappleye, a Los Angeles journalist who has written histories of several figures from the American Revolutionary period, has done Hoover and us a favor by delving deeper into the complexities of the Hoover presidency. Our 31st President did far more than we knew, though it still wasn’t enough. Franklin Roosevelt, after thwarting Hoover’s reelection in 1932, also did a lot about the Great Depression, making sure we knew all about his efforts, and still didn’t beat it back. Escape from the Depression and unemployment occurred only during the industrialized efforts of World War II.

In a nutshell that is Rappleye’s take on Herbert Hoover: a capable and resourceful leader who undertook reasonable policy approaches to an economic crisis, but a political novice whose personality was unsuited to democratic politics and the modern presidency. He worked too modestly and in secret. His disposition was dour and his speeches failed to connect. Unlike the politically gifted FDR, who comforted millions with his fireside radio chats, or Bill Clinton who could “feel your pain,” Hoover’s speeches were technical lectures about economics, delivered with his chin on his chest, deep into his notes. According to Rappleye, Hoover’s failures emanated from his lack of political and communication skills more than his policies.

In this respect, Rappleye seems to be caught up in a bit of presentism, that is, applying modern standards to figures of history. Compared to his predecessor, “Silent Cal” Coolidge, Hoover was a ball of fire. Radio was only a newly emerging medium in Hoover’s day and Roosevelt began to use it as a tool of the presidency as the country entered “the golden age of radio” in the 1930s and 40s. In a sense, Roosevelt was the first truly modern President, growing the office, issuing executive orders, undertaking personal leadership. Hoover’s was a transitional administration, from the premodern presidency of Coolidge to the thoroughly modern Roosevelt. Rappleye’s conclusion, like other accounts of Hoover,  seems simplistic in its own way, suggesting that a different personality might have led to greater success in the face of something as powerful as the Great Depression.

Most valuable in this book is its nuanced understanding of Hoover’s approach to the crisis. He has been painted by history’s broad brush as an uncaring, free-market, laissez faire businessman who did nothing while the country suffered. Instead Rappleye’s more detailed strokes reveal Hoover’s evolving approach, which had distinct phases. He saw the market collapse and banking crisis initially as a psychological problem of public confidence, so his early efforts were to reassure the nation. He also followed his approach of “cooperative” government, calling business leaders to the White House to enjoin them to keep wages up.

– Read the rest of the review at:


Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address: Can You Hear Me Now? (Forbes.com) January 20, 2017

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Did anyone seriously expect to hear a different Donald Trump as president than they experienced as a candidate?  If so, they were disappointed by Trump’s inaugural address.  It was direct, it repeated his campaign promises, and then, in about 16 minutes, it was finished.   Referring to politicians who are “constantly complaining and never doing anything about it,” he said “the time for talking is over, now is the time for action.”

The big question going into the speech was whether Trump would follow the path of most inaugural addresses and seek to heal the nation from the divisions of the political campaign.  Although he spoke words of unity, his basic approach to this question was to double down on his populist campaign.  His idea of healing America is to put people back to work and to carry out policies that are aimed at putting America first.  If you have different ideas, he didn’t really seek to embrace you or bring you into the fold.

In particular, he did not offer any love to the politicians with whom he must now work.  Clearly, in his mind, they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.  He said that “Washington has flourished” and “the establishment has protected itself” while “the people have borne the cost.”  The peaceful transfer of power was, Trump said, not just from one president to another, but from Washington, D.C. to the people.  The outsider president seems content for now to remain outside.

The 2016 election has been called the “can you hear me now?” election.   To this end, Trump continued the theme from his first tweet as president-elect about the forgotten men and women who will never be forgotten again.  In his inaugural address he said “the forgotten men and women of the country will be forgotten no more, everyone is listening to you now.”  Trump’s forgotten men and women are different, however, from President Franklin Roosevelt’s “forgotten man” for whom he built his New Deal policies.  Trump’s forgotten men and women are not, by and large, on welfare, but they are hard-working Americans who feel the government has let them down.  They are closer to President Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” than Roosevelt’s “forgotten man.”  But clearly this is Trump’s constituency, one he says he will not forget.

He doubled down on his campaign themes about the problems of trade, immigration, and putting people back to work.  He said “we will follow two rules:  buy American and hire American.”  A “new vision will govern our land,” he added, saying from this day forward it will be “America first, America first.”  He repeated his promise to build highways and airports, putting Americans to work rebuilding our infrastructure.  One wonders how conservatives will handle so much federal spending.

On foreign policy he promised to eradicate radical Islam, but otherwise sounded more of an isolationist tone: “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone.”  Still, for those concerned about NATO, he said we would strengthen existing alliances and build new ones.  But clearly economic concerns at home are likely to build tensions abroad, since Trump’s concern is that the people’s “wealth has been ripped from their homes and redistributed around the world.”

There was no memorable rhetoric, no “ask not what your country can do for you,” or “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  On the other hand, with rain starting to fall as Trump began his speech, he didn’t fall into the abyss of Benjamin Harrison’s inaugural address which went on so long he caught a cold and died of pneumonia the following month.  No, this was a workmanlike address, doubling down on his campaign promises and rhetoric, from a president who himself is ready to make the transition from mere talk to action.

To read the column at Forbes.com:



Battle Lines are Redrawn as Democrats Rediscover the 10th Amendment and State Power (Forbes.com) January 13, 2017

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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A funny thing happened on the way to the new Donald Trump administration:  Democrats have rediscovered states’ rights and local government powers under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.  Why?  With Republicans now in control of the White House, the Senate and the House in Washington, D.C., Democrats want to shift to a ground game in state and local government where they have a better chance to win.  But it won’t be easy, since Republicans have a head start there, at least in most of the states, if not the major cities.

In case you’ve forgotten the 10th Amendment, it provides that powers not delegated to the federal government “are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Along with checks and balances and balances of power, the 10th Amendment is part of the constitutional foundation for federalism, which requires that government ask which branch (executive, legislative or judicial) and which level (federal, state or local) should act on a particular matter.  Among other benefits, it allows states to act, as Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis said in a 1932 case, “as a laboratory” trying “social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

As a matter of principle, Republicans have been more interested in state and local power and the Democrats more focused on federalizing things in Washington.  But, in reality, federalism has become the tool of whatever party is not in power in Washington.  The Republicans favored it in the Obama years and now it’s the Democrats’ turn.  It would be nice if state and local power were more a matter of principle than politics, but I guess the 10thAmendment will take whatever support it can get.

As usual, California is leading the way, setting up elaborate defenses of favorite Democrat party policies at both the state and local level.  Governor Jerry Brown has his own foreign policy on climate change, for example, saying California would move ahead aggressively even if Trump withdraws from the Paris climate accords.  Now the state has its own anti-Trump lawyer, too, hiring former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to represent the state against federal intrusion on California’s policy preferences.  The mayors of both Los Angeles and San Francisco have made it clear that their cities will still be “sanctuary cities,” resisting federal immigration policy.  There has even been talk of a “Calexit” vote to leave the union, though few think that is a serious threat.  I suppose we could call this defensive federalism, seeking to protect a true-blue state from federal intrusion by Trump.

Although California has a two-thirds Democrat majority in the legislature and all Democrats in statewide offices, it could be tougher sledding elsewhere.  Republicans control 32 state legislatures and 33 governors’ offices.  Democrats hold the majority in only about half as many state legislatures as they did seven years ago, and Democrat governors have been reduced from 29 when President Obama took office to 16 today.  But it is precisely this imbalance that Obama seems ready to tackle in his post-presidency.  He recently said that “over the long haul” we need to “rebuild the Democratic Party at the ground level.”  His long-time adviser David Axelrod added that with Congress gridlocked, perhaps too much emphasis was placed on the presidency, “when maybe we have to be more innovative.”

Democrats are stronger in the big cities than they are in the states so look for their new progressivism to face challenges.  We are already seeing Republicans at the state level telling cities that their progressive policies on the minimum wage, or fracking, or bans on plastic bags are “preempted” by state laws to the contrary.  Ohio, for example, has preempted local efforts to raise the minimum wage, saying it is a state matter.  And legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin have both passed laws saying local governments are preempted from banning plastic bags.  Other states have preempted cities from banning fracking.

So it’s a new day, not just in Washington, D.C. but across the country as Democrats seek to promote a new “progressive federalism” and Republican-controlled states exercise their powers of preemption.  Politics is bringing the often-neglected 10th Amendment back into play in unexpected ways.

To view the column at Forbes.com:


California Seceding From President Trump’s U.S. (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) December 10, 2016

Posted by daviddavenport in Politics, Radio Commentaries.
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To the list of 23 celebrities who have said they are leaving the country if Donald Trump became President, we can now add one of the 50 states.  An effort is under way for California to secede from Donald Trump’s United States. “Calexit” seeks a ballot initiative or a constitutional amendment for California to leave the Union.

Perhaps they should study their American history because the last time this was tried, by the Confederate States in the 1860s, it ended rather badly.  There is simply no constitutional basis for nullification or exit from the Union.

Meanwhile, San Francisco’s Mayor said they are doubling down on being a sanctuary city, openly welcoming and harboring people who violate the federal immigration laws.  San Franciscans are incensed that Trump might pull their federal money for this.

Californians live in a bit of a dream world, voting radically differently than most any place else in the U.S.  But even California must learn that elections have consequences.


To listen to the podcast:  www.townhallreview.com

One Thing To Expect from President Trump: More Debt and Deficits (Forbes.com) November 30, 2016

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Living in the academic world, I have taken up peer therapy with anguished colleagues over the election of Donald Trump.  My standard refrain is to wait and see what he actually does because his words have run in too many different directions.  Build a wall?  We’re not really sure.   Kill Obamacare dead in its tracks?  Maybe, maybe not.  We just have to see.

But one thing seems fairly certain:  a Donald Trump presidency is likely to have little regard for decreasing the national debt (the cumulative amount owed by the federal government) or the annual budget deficit.  Some of us are shocked that the national debt has nearly doubled (from roughly $10 trillion to nearly $20 trillion) on President Obama’s watch, but that number will likely grow under President Trump, perhaps even on a similar scale.

Why do I say this?  First, consider what Trump himself had to say on the subject during the campaign:  “I’m the king of debt; I understand debt probably better than anybody.  I know how to deal with debt very well.  I love debt.”  I guess that’s one approach to a growing federal debt:  hire the self-proclaimed “king of debt” to oversee it.  His other campaign comment was that if we started to get into real trouble because of our debt, he would go to other countries and renegotiate our debt, persuading them to take less than we owe.  Good luck with that.

Beyond Trump’s rhetoric, two of his key economic programs are also likely to grow the budget deficit, not shrink it.  He seems bound and determined to cut taxes, and the Republicans in Congress largely agree with him.  And everyone—Republicans and Democrats alike—are ready to jump on the infrastructure bandwagon, spending upwards of $1 trillion in the coming decade to, as he said in his victory speech, “fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals” so that our infrastructure “will become second to none.”  Reduce revenue by cutting taxes and increase spending on infrastructure—even I can do the math on that.

But under Trump the supply-siders are coming back, arguing that all this will grow our way out of economic difficulty.  But let’s be realistic:  if we’re at 1-2% growth today, even doubling the rate of economic growth only takes us to 3% or maybe at the outside 4%.  The numbers don’t add up.  Moody’s Analytics estimates his infrastructure plan would add just 0.4% in growth.  The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimated that his tax cuts will raise the federal debt by $7.2 trillion over the next decade and the Congressional Budget Office sees the annual tab for interest on the debt doubling between now and 2020.

 In some ways, this is scarier than the Reagan supply-side years.  President Reagan achieved a meaningful reduction in taxes, but the Democrats who controlled the House of Representatives prevented a comparable reduction in federal spending.  This time, however, the Republicans control all the branches of government and seem ready to cut taxes and increase spending, especially on infrastructure.

One underlying question is whether Americans really care about government debt anymore.  In several polls leading up to the election, concern about the federal debt ran well behind jobs, health care, education and terrorism (all expensive propositions by the way).  Seemingly gone is the day when we worry, as President Calvin Coolidge did following World War I, about “carelessness” in the “expenditure of public money” as a “condition characteristic of undeveloped people, or of a decadent generation.”  We no longer vote as if we are concerned about transferring the costs of our generation to a future one.  We no longer view debt as a moral concern; rather it is just one more tool of economic policy to deploy when we want more growth.

I know this sounds positively premodern, but I still share the concern of President Herbert Hoover when he said:  “Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt.”  And I would submit that the one thing President Trump and the Congress could do to begin to rebalance the scale would be to address the runaway deficit in our entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare and the like).  Progress there could compensate for some of their other grandiose spending plans.


To view the column Forbes.com:


Voter Message: Jobs and the American Dream Trump the Welfare State (Forbes.com) November 15, 2016

Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Op/Eds, Politics.
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Experts are still dissecting the vote to better understand why Donald Trump was elected. But one message seems relatively clear: Trump voters wanted jobs not welfare. Their concern was protecting the upside promise of the American dream for their children, not expanding the downside safety net with Obamacare. In that sense, it was a reminder that Americans still have some rugged individualism in their blood and are not yet content to see their government grow an extended welfare state or become a democratic socialist country like Bernie Sanders’ (and even Hillary Clinton’s) highly-praised Denmark.

The big story of the 2016 vote was that Donald Trump cracked the Democrats’ solid blue wall of industrial and rust-belt states in the upper Midwest and East (winning in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and the more volatile but crucial state of Ohio). But Trump did just that by winning blue-collar working class white voters by a 40% margin over Clinton, by 49% among white blue collar men. Drilling down a little deeper, analysis shows that Trump did especially well in counties with weaker job growth since 2012 and with lower average earnings among full-time workers.

But the narrative behind the statistics is more compelling—it was about jobs and the future. In Minnesota, for example, Trump won Itasca County, which has not voted Republican for president since 1928. As a former Democratic Farm Labor lobbyist, Gary Cerkvenik said, “You have this cascading economic impact for people who work with their hands” in the mines and in the woods. Mike Lindell, an entrepreneur with a successful small business in Minnesota said, “The American dream is possible. Donald Trump understands how to get the jobs back.” American dream. Jobs. Trump. That was a winning formula.

By contrast, the Democrats were still caught up in building the welfare state and extending the safety net. Obamacare, which was President Obama’s signature accomplishment and the most important addition to the welfare state since Franklin Roosevelt’s social security and Lyndon Johnson’s Medicare, continued to be unpopular among voters. Its negative polling remains about 10% higher than those who favor it. Nearly half the voters in exit polls said they thought Obamacare “went too far,” with Trump beating Clinton 83%-13% among that group. Obamacare. Welfare state. Clinton. That was a losing formula.

Further, Hillary Clinton was perceived as a candidate whose concern about environmentalism and other priorities transcended her commitment to creating jobs. It didn’t help her win votes among this group of blue collar workers when she said things like, “We’re going to put a lot of coal mines and coal miners out of business.”

I call now as witnesses two experts who understand well what the voters are saying. First, from the Left, Willie Brown, former Mayor of San Francisco and, before that, the powerful Speaker of the California Assembly. In his Sunday column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Brown tried to explain the surprising Trump win and concluded: “Trump voters were not looking to keep funds coming into their social programs—they just wanted to be self-sustaining again.” Then from the Right, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, an economist at the Manhattan Institute, points out: “No one wants to be dependent. No one wants to grow up and live off food stamps. Even those who are no longer upwardly mobile…want their children and grandchildren to have opportunities.”

People want to hear their leaders talk about hopes and dreams, not needs and safety nets. This was where Obama outdid Clinton as a candidate, talking about his agenda as “hope and change.” In this election, Trump became the hope for blue collar white workers and, of the two candidates, he clearly was the change agent, the outsider. With 61% of Americans saying the country is on the wrong track, compared with 31% on the right track, it should not be such a shock that the candidate offering hope and change once again won. Now whether Trump can deliver jobs and a shot at the American dream is, as they say, a whole ‘nother question.

To view the column at Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2016/11/15/voter-message-jobs-and-the-american-dream-trump-the-welfare-state/#a57ae1b37c3d

The Forgotten Man Rises Again–But Which One? (Forbes.com) November 9, 2016

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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In his first tweet as president-elect, Donald Trump promised that “the forgotten man and woman will never be forgotten again.” Indeed, the forgotten man and woman were recurring characters in Trump’s flurry of campaign rally speeches on Monday, the day before the election. In Sarasota, Florida for example, he said, “We are going to massively cut taxes for the middle class…who I call the forgotten people.” These “forgotten men and women” are the ones who “built our country.” He made similar references to this key constituency at pre-election rallies in Raleigh, N.C. and Grand Rapids, MI.

But this begs an interesting question: Who are Trump’s “forgotten man and woman?” Are they related to Franklin Roosevelt’s famous “forgotten man” around whom he built his New Deal in the 1930s? And, going even further back in history in order to come back to a deeper understanding today, what was the origin of the term? What we find is a flexible expression that has varied widely in its meaning, a character that Donald Trump resurrected and reinvented to fuel his political victory.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s “forgotten man” became the centerpiece of his New Deal policies and political constituency. Blaming Herbert Hoover’s “rugged individualism” policies for the Great Depression, Roosevelt said that he would focus government’s efforts instead on “the forgotten man.” When Roosevelt incorporated the term in his fireside radio chat—the 20th century Twitter—on April 7, 1932, the new president said: “These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power for plans…that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”

Roosevelt’s forgotten man would become the object of government policy not only during the New Deal, but arguably for the next 84 years and still counting. The welfare state that Roosevelt began to construct with social security, and which President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society expanded with Medicaid and Medicare, and to which President Barack Obama added “Obamacare” has all been carried out in the name of the forgotten man. And Roosevelt’s implementation tool was bigger government, especially the executive branch of the federal government, and more central planning and control. It was, in today’s parlance, the elites holding the reins of power in the name of helping the forgotten man.

But the origin of the forgotten man held a different meaning still. A Yale professor, William Graham Sumner, coined the term to describe the man who pays for someone else’s reforms that, in turn, benefit yet another person. In some ways he sounds more like Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” than Roosevelt’s forgotten man. Sumner said, “The forgotten man…works, votes, generally he prays—but he always pays.” Indeed, Trump did appeal to a silent majority, even a politically disengaged population, who are frustrated that they always pay for more and more government, but feel like they gain nothing from it.

Perhaps Trump brings together both the original Sumner and the revised Roosevelt understandings of the forgotten man. By winning the largest share of white working class men than any presidential candidate since World War II, and also winning white working class women at high levels, Trump has reached down to the lower rungs of the economic pyramid, as Roosevelt put it. Like many victims of the Great Depression of the 1930s, many of these are unemployed or underemployed. But they are not impressed by what big government has done for them. They seem to want more of the American dream rather than more government welfare.

The important question now is: What can Trump, what will Trump do for the forgotten men and women? He says he will cut their taxes. Of course he alone cannot accomplish that, but with a Republican congress, perhaps tax reform is possible. It seems that the rest of his solutions are more like Hoover than Roosevelt, more about building walls and rebuilding the economy, allowing them to create more jobs, rather than providing more government welfare or control.

So the forgotten man and woman rise again. Each president who embraces them sees them a bit differently, but they have become a convenient political appeal and a way to structure domestic policy.

To view the column at Forbes.com:

Fear and Loathing of the Electoral College (Forbes.com) October 20, 2016

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Consider a couple of seasonal trivia questions: Where in the Constitution is the Electoral College established and where does it meet? The answers are the same: Nowhere. The Constitution speaks of “electors,” but not a college, and the electors meet only in their respective state capitals.

Now a more serious question: Why is there so much fear and loathing of the Electoral College? The origin of the modern backlash against it is pretty clearly the 2000 presidential election when Al Gore defeated George W. Bush by approximately 500,000 popular votes (half a percent difference with over 100 million total votes cast), but lost the electoral vote 271-266 and the election. A huge hue and cry erupted that the election was undemocratic since the people’s choice did not win. It didn’t help matters when another arguably undemocratic institution, the U.S. Supreme Court, weighed in to settle the election outcome.

This result, where the winner of the popular vote lost the presidency in the Electoral College, has occurred two other times, in the elections of 1876 and 1888. In one additional case, John Quincy Adams lost both the popular and electoral votes to Andrew Jackson but, since neither candidate mustered enough electoral votes to win, the election was decided by the House of Representatives in favor of Adams. So this hasn’t happened often but, if people don’t understand or appreciate the purposes of the Electoral College, even once is an undemocratic outrage to them.

Although Trump’s concern about a “rigged election” is apparently not the Electoral College, there is popular sentiment in that direction. Gallup has polled the matter over the decades finding in 1948, for example, that 31% thought it should continue and 56% said it should not. More recently, a 2013 Gallup Poll revealed that 63% of Americans would, if they could, vote for a law to do away with the Electoral College. There have been on the order of 700 amendments proposed over time to reform or do away with it. But since that would require a constitutional amendment, with its high bar of two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the state legislatures in favor, there has been no change.

The most recent effort to do away with the elector system is the clever end-run proposed by the so-called National Popular Vote Bill. When passed in a sufficient number of states to total 270 electoral votes, this bill would require their electors to vote for the winner of the national popular vote, not the winner of their state vote. Besides the unseemly circumvention of the Constitution, it seems undemocratic that a vote for candidate X in California turns out to count for candidate Y instead if Y wins the national popular vote, even though not the California vote. Talk about your vote not counting, a common complaint about the current system.

What all this fear and loathing misses is that there is both a strong historic case and also a modern one for the Electoral College. At the Constitutional Convention, at least four ways to elect the President were on the table: election by Congress, by the state governors, by the state legislatures and a direct vote of the people. The founders chose a hybrid system, giving both the states and the people a role in electing a president and, with their other checks and balances, helping protect the republic. The latter term is important since the founders were clear they were not establishing a democracy, which they considered dangerous. Many Republicans now wish they had a similar hybrid system at their convention, with more super-delegates to block Donald Trump.

Today, without the Electoral College and its state-based voting, we would be looking at national recounts—not just Florida in 2000—with results delayed for weeks, perhaps even beyond Inauguration Day. And instead of flying around the country in the campaign seeking electoral votes in a variety of battleground states, candidates would concentrate their efforts in the big population centers such as New York or Los Angeles. Neither outcome seems preferable to the present system.

If you want electoral reform, a better way to go about it would be for states to decide not to award their electoral votes on a winner-takes-all basis. Two smaller states, Nebraska and Maine, have done this with, so far, little effect, but it could be a better way of allowing people’s votes to count.

Otherwise, don’t close the Electoral College. It was and is a valuable part of the republic.

To read the column at Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2016/10/20/fear-and-loathing-of-the-electoral-college/#443d45a66d54

Conservatives’ Only Hope: If Trump Delegates To Pence (Forbes.com) October 7, 2016

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Perhaps the perfect story to describe the Donald Trump phenomenon and the 2016 campaign is a reported conversation in which Trump’s eldest son spoke with a John Kasich advisor about the vice presidency, proposing that as veep Kasich would be in charge of foreign and domestic policy. Asked what his father would be in charge of, Donald Jr. responded: “Making America great again.” The accuracy of the story is disputed but, even if apocryphal, it points to the reality that the only hope conservatives have in 2016 is that Trump might delegate a lot of policy-making to his vice president, Mike Pence.

It’s been a rough several decades for conservatives and the presidency. Mitt Romney, like Trump, more a pragmatic businessman than a philosophical conservative, had trouble selling himself as he described: “severely conservative.” In campaigning for the presidency in 2000 George W. Bush said he would be a “compassionate conservative.” There may have been some compassion, but there wasn’t much classic conservatism in the Bush administration: running up deficits, federalizing K-12 education through No Child Left Behind, expanding the welfare safety net with prescription drugs for seniors, and so on.

In fact, Republicans don’t seem eager to embrace the “conservative” label, at least without a nice adjective to limit or spin it. John McCain was known as a “maverick conservative” and Jeb Bush tried out running as a “reform conservative” in the primaries this year. Isn’t anyone content to be just a conservative anymore? The only real national electoral success conservatives have enjoyed in recent years has been Paul Ryan as the vice presidential candidate in 2012 and now Mike Pence in the same role in 2016.

One challenge is that there are lots of flavors and nuances to conservatism. There are national security conservatives, fiscal conservatives (who are often socially liberal), social conservatives, the religious right, constitutional conservatives, libertarians, and so on. Increasingly Republicans have become big government conservatives, admitting that a smaller federal government isn’t likely so, instead, they seek to turn big government more toward conservative causes. But there are political leaders out there like Mike Pence and Paul Ryan who manage to combine several flavors of conservatism into one brand.

So if traditional conservatives—who haven’t really run a strong candidate for president since Ronald Reagan—have any hope in this election, it would turn on the role Mike Pence might play in a Trump administration. Besides the reported approach the Trump campaign made to John Kasich about the vice presidency, Trump said in his search that he was looking for a Washington insider, someone who understood the federal government and how it operates. And a businessman running a multi-billion-dollar empire must have learned something about delegating to subordinates.

For his part, Pence has demonstrated some ability to work around a few of Trump’s more outrageous positions, exhibiting talent for “managing up” or “managing the boss” as they say in the business world. In the recent vice presidential debate, Pence warned of Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a “small and bullying leader,” in contrast to Trump’s praise of Putin. Pence seemed far more willing than Trump for the U.S. to engage militarily in Syria. Pence has diplomatically kept his free-trade positions quiet, but in direct contrast to Trump’s opposition to the TPP and NAFTA, he has consistently voted for free trade, calling it wise economically and for national security. He has previously expressed discomfort with Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican rhetoric.

Trump is hardly a classic conservative. A national security conservative, perhaps, but his positions on free trade and his lack of understanding for and support of constitutional limited government are deeply concerning for conservatives. The key for conservatives is Mike Pence. He is one of them. But would he have room to maneuver, and even take the lead, in a Trump presidency? Might Trump relish being king and allowing Pence to serve as prime minister? For now, at least, there are some encouraging signs. It’s really all conservatives have.

To view the column at Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2016/10/07/conservatives-only-hope-if-trump-delegates-to-pence/#38c8f88c4424

Trump is from Mars, Clinton is from Venus (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) October 4, 2016

Posted by daviddavenport in Politics, Radio Commentaries.
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This is David Davenport of the Hoover Institution for Townhall.com.

The first presidential debate made one thing clear: the two candidates come from two different planets. Trump is from Mars and Clinton is from Venus.

Hillary Clinton is a classic insider candidate. She’s been first lady, a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. When she debates, she has a plan or a program for everything.

Donald Trump, a businessman with no prior political experience, is a classic outsider. When Clinton says she has more experience, Trump dismisses that as bad experience. When she says she has a plan to defeat ISIS, he says so why haven’t we done that?—and why should we believe it will work?

People who want a traditional candidate for President believe Hillary won the first debate and will win the presidency. But the large number of eligible voters who are frustrated with politics as usual say “not so fast.”

Who do you want? Mars or Venus? That’s your choice.

I’m David Davenport.

To listen to the audio: http://www.townhallreview.com