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California is Using Lawsuits to Impose its Blue State Values on the Rest of the Country (Washington Examiner) August 7, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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It’s not fake news that California is joining 19 other states to sue the Trump administration over auto emission standards. But it’s not surprising news either, since this is now the 39th lawsuit California has brought against the federal government during Donald Trump’s 1.5-year presidency. Viewed through that larger lens, this is less about federalism, states’ rights, or even auto emissions, and more about California’s ongoing effort to impose its blue-state ideals on the rest of the country.

The Clean Air Act of 1967 was a federal initiative to take over environmental policy, reinforced by big-government Republican Richard Nixon’s establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Thereafter, the federal government, not the states, would be in charge of auto emission standards, though the federal government could still grant waivers to states under particular circumstances. California has had such a waiver for 48 years, though the EPA now wishes to remove that waiver and enforce the lower federal standards across the board. California argues it has special needs for higher standards and, as a matter of states’ rights, it should be able to enforce those.

The truth of the matter is that California only believes in state auto emissions if they are stricter than those of the federal government. If Texas, for example, wished to have lower standards than the feds, California would not be joining that lawsuit. No, for California, states’ rights only travel in one direction— toward more regulation, not less. Since California is such a large market for everything, including automobiles, its standards have nationwide impact. In fact, 20 states now follow California’s auto emission standards. If you make cars, you either follow California or federal standards, no one else’s. So this is not a case of states’ rights, broadly speaking. This is California vs. Washington, Gov. Jerry Brown vs. Trump, blue state vs. red state, pure and simple.

We saw California’s bully federalism earlier when it imposed a ban on the use of state money for travel to eight other states that, in California’s wisdom, do not provide sufficient legal protection for gay and transgender rights. Student athletes in California’s universities and colleges, for example, may not have the educational experience of seeing how things are done elsewhere, because California believes things are not done correctly there. As the sixth largest economy in the world, with the largest state budget, California has economic power to throw around and it seeks to leverage other states into seeing things its way.

Federalism has traditionally been a shield, protecting states from an overreaching federal government. But California’s blue-state bully federalism is more like a sword, trying to prod others into following its world view. States are required to give “full faith and credit” to the public acts, records, and court declarations of other states, according to Article IV of the Constitution. If not violating the letter of that law, California certainly disrespects and dishonors its spirit.

People will argue the auto emissions controversy both ways, but the larger story deserves attention as well. When a state sues the federal government 39 times in 19 months, something bigger is going on. In this case, California is trying to impose its own blue-state policies on immigration, civil rights, environmental standards, healthcare and more on the rest of the country wherever it can. That effort should be seen for what it is— a blue-state political power play, not a high-minded defense of federalism and states’ rights.

 

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/california-is-using-lawsuits-to-impose-blue-state-values-on-the-rest-of-the-country

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Millennials Say ‘Democratic Socialism’ But What They Want Is Free Stuff (Washington Examiner) July 11, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Surprise primary victories by “democratic socialists” in New York and Pennsylvania have created a buzz about millennials and socialism. Bernie Sanders was the prophet of this movement, attracting strong support among young people for his ideas about democratic socialism in the 2016 presidential campaign. Still, people were surprised when a YouGov poll showed that young people (under 30) preferred socialism to capitalism 43 to 32 percent. With these recent political wins, some wonder whether the Democratic Party will undergo a socialist realignment, just as Donald Trump led a populist reinvention of the Republican Party.

To all of this I say: Not so fast. First, there is a widespread misunderstanding of what democratic socialism means and what millennials really want. Socialism is an economic system that involves collective (especially governmental) ownership of the means of production and distribution. It stands in contrast to a capitalist, market-regulated ownership of business. When you add the word “democratic” to it — which is presumably done to soften the impact of an historically unpopular term in the U.S. — you are essentially saying the system is chosen democratically, not imposed by some kind of totalitarian regime as in Russia or Venezuela.

In the 2016 presidential campaign, tiny Denmark found itself front and center as Bernie Sanders pointed to it as a model for his democratic socialist ideals, and Hillary Clinton felt compelled to admire it in one of the debates. But something was wrong, if not rotten, about that characterization of the state of Denmark. Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen clarified that his country was not socialist, but rather “a market economy” with “an expanded welfare state.” High taxes and lots of government benefits, yes, but not a government-controlled economy. Ah, there’s the very important difference.

It would appear that today’s millennials are most interested in free college education, retirement of student debt, and help getting into the difficult housing market, but less interested in government controlling the means of production and distribution. In fact, a 2014 Reason-Rupe survey of young people (ages 18-24) confirmed their admiration for socialism at 58 percent. But when pollsters then asked whether they wanted governments or businesses leading the economy, they preferred markets by a two-to-one margin.

The real problem is that millennials do not seem to have a good understanding of what socialism is. In a 2010 NYT/CBS poll, only 16 percent of young people could accurately define socialism. (Not to be too hard on millennials, older folks only responded appropriately to that question at a 30 percent clip).

I am not suggesting that there are no hard-core socialists in the mix. The Democratic Socialists of America has grown dramatically since the Bernie Sanders campaign, from 7,000 members to 37,000. They could fill a small island, if not an actual city or state. But they are true believers, calling for “popular control of resources and production, economic planning and equitable distribution” in their Constitution. And they have endorsed their fellow democratic socialists in New York and Pennsylvania.

But the real question is about the millions of millennials, and I think this generation, which has been coddled by helicopter parents and seeks “safe spaces” when they go off to college, basically wants more free stuff from the government. Their concern is not who controls the means of production and distribution — in fact, they do not even understand that is what socialism is. Besides, with the voter turnout among millennials so poor — only half of those eligible voted in 2016, compared with two-thirds of older cohorts — it will be awhile before their vote will show up and make a difference. By then, the old saw says they will have paid enough taxes and experienced enough government regulation that they are likely to view things differently.

Mark me down as skeptical that a huge socialist millennial wave is about to hit our shores.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To view the column at the WashingtoExaminer: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/millennials-say-democratic-socialism-but-what-they-want-is-free-stuff

 

Making Congress Great Again and the 2018 Elections (with Gordon Lloyd), Townhall.com June 27, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Politics.
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The labels used to describe it sadly diminish the 2018 election: “Mid-term” or “off-year” or “non-presidential.” Even though nothing less than the membership and direction of the United States Congress is at stake, such elections receive limited respect and even lower voter turnout (around 40% compared with approximately 60% when there is a presidential race). What’s more, even though the president is not on the ballot, these elections are nevertheless very much a referendum on the president’s performance and popularity.

By all accounts, Congress is in a deep and steady decline and could use the voters’ attention. Its approval ratings range between 10-12%, well below President Trump’s low polling numbers of 35-42%. Overall, 41% of those polled by YouGov say Congress has accomplished even less than usual lately. Many members of Congress have been voting with their feet, choosing in near-record numbers to leave Washington rather than run for reelection. Polarization is up and deliberation is down in Congress.

Can Voters Help Congress Become Great Again?

There are a few problems with Congress that voters could help solve. One major issue is that party partisanship has overtaken institutional systems and loyalty. Formerly committee chairs in Congress wielded considerable power, overseeing hearings, entertaining amendments, fostering debate and compromise. In addition, there were more moderate and liberal Republicans, plus more moderate and conservative Democrats than today, so forging bipartisan majorities on issues was a way of doing business. Now party leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wield all the power, holding draft bills in secret, springing them on the Senate when there are enough votes to pass them, and enacting legislation on pure party-line votes, not even involving members of the other party.

Party unity voting, which was around 60% in the early 1970s is closer to 90% today in both the House and the Senate. The most important legislation of the Obama administration, The Affordable Care Act, was passed on a party-line vote of Democrats and tax reform, the signature legislative accomplishment of the Trump administration so far, was passed on a party-line vote of Republicans.

Voters need to identify more mavericks such as John McCain, who declined to join his party in repealing Obamacare because of the lack of deliberation. Leaders who will not stubbornly toe the party line but who will cross party lines if necessary to find the best policy solutions are sorely needed. In the days when the Senate was more productive, it benefited from members who held as much or more loyalty for the institution of the Senate than for their political party. Voters need to seek out more citizen legislators and fewer professional politicians beholden primarily to their party.

Can Congress Make Itself Great Again?

While voters have a role to play in making Congress great again, Congress itself will have to do the heavy lifting. For starters, Congress will need to stop deferring its powers to the president and once again carry out its own Constitutional responsibilities. For example, although Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution grants to Congress the power to “declare war,” Congress has essentially deferred its war powers to the president. The recent military attacks on Syria’s chemical weapons facilities were ordered by the president without the involvement of Congress. When Congress did authorize the war on terror after 9-11, that authorization has been stretched by three presidents to cover all kinds of military actions, including some against groups that did not even exist at the time of the authorization.

Other powers have been shifted away from Congress by the rise of the administrative state and the ever-expanding role of federal agency rulemaking. In their important 2016 book, Constitutional Morality and the Rise of Quasi-Law, Bruce P. Frohnen and George W. Carey document Congress’s inclination to delegate complex and difficult questions to administrative agencies when they legislate. Congress is now content to pass broad legislation on important subjects such as work place safety, protection of the environment and so forth, leaving the details to be worked out by federal agencies. Columnist George Will has rightly described this weakening of checks and balances as Congress “expelling rather than consolidating power,” the opposite problem from what the founders had feared.

Making Congress Deliberative Again

Congress must also do the hard work of making itself once again a deliberative body. The Senate especially, referred to by former President James Buchanan as “the greatest deliberative body in the world,” hardly deliberates any more. Changing an institution such as the U.S. Senate would be difficult under the best of circumstances, requiring a potent booster shot of political will.

For example, House and Senate leaders could shift power back to committees and committee chairs as part of a return to regular order. Certain rules adjustments, especially in the Senate, could help make the legislative process more deliberative. If the Senate wishes to maintain the filibuster, it would make sense that the cloture vote requirement be lowered from three-fifths to a simple majority, or even 55% of senators present and voting, in order to keep one senator or a small minority from clogging up the legislative process entirely. The practice of allowing a single senator to unilaterally place a “hold” on a nomination or other action should be stopped.

Conclusion

Making Congress great again will not be easy, but we need to start somewhere. Internal reform of rules alone will not be enough to restore deliberation, but it could help. Greater statesmanship, bipartisanship and civility will also be required. The goal is to return to the founders’ notion that deliberation by Congress is an important priority and a useful process. With such an important Constitutional role to play, making Congress great again ought to be top of mind when voters go to the polls this fall, and when the new Congress gathers next January.

David Davenport is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.  Gordon Lloyd is Dockson Professor Emeritus of Public Policy at Pepperdine University.  

 To read the essay at Townhall.com:

https://townhall.com/columnists/daviddavenport/2018/06/27/making-congress-great-again-and-the-2018-elections-n2494647

National Lessons from California Election Reform (National Radio Commentary, Salem/Townhall) June 24, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Politics, Radio Commentaries.
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https://omny.fm/shows/townhall-review-conservative-commentary-on-todays/david-davenport-national-lessons-from-california-e/embed?style=artwork

 
This is David Davenport of the Hoover Institution for Townhall.com.

California lives on the edge of change. A few years ago, the Golden State adopted two big changes to its elections:  Open primaries in which voters choose candidates from any party, and a top-two primary where the top two finishers qualify for the general election, regardless of party. The idea was to elect more moderate candidates.

The results are coming in and it isn’t working. The 2018 primaries shows that Republicans still want to vote for Republicans and Democrats for Democrats. People don’t cross party lines looking for an idealized moderate candidate.

Plus: The unintended consequence is often no real choice in a general election. In 2016, two liberal Democrats ran for the Senate and in many state legislative races, there are either two Democrats or two Republicans.

Worse, candidates have gamed the system to face a weaker opponent later.

Beware election reforms from California.

I’m David Davenport.

Election ‘Reforms” Are Usually One Party Trying To Rig The System (Washington Examiner) June 22, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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The election games have begun. Not just the obvious jockeying that takes place in the primaries and the general election. No, look below the radar at the several so-called reforms and improvements in the rules of voting and how elections are carried out. That sort of political gamesmanship, like June, is bustin’ out all over.

One reason we miss important electoral changes is our failure to understand that even what we call national elections are actually 51 separate state (including the District of Columbia) elections under the Constitution. With federalism the order of the day, there can be large variances in election practices from state to state and many important proposals are in play.

In big blue California, for example, progressive reformers led the charge for a top-two, sometimes called a “jungle,” primary in which the two candidates with the most votes in the primary election, regardless of party, advance to the general election. The “reform” argument was that this would force parties to run more moderate candidates and reduce polarization in the legislatures. In fact, there is little evidence that this has happened since Republicans and Democrats still vote for their own party offerings rather than search for some reformers’ ideal of a centrist candidate.

But an unintended (or was it intended?) consequence is that the general election often offers no real choice at all: two Republicans or, more likely in California, two Democrats in the final vote. This fall’s race for the U.S. Senate, for example, features two Democrats, just as it did in 2016. With apologies to Jim Carrey, I call it “left and lefter.” Many races for the state legislature feature two Republicans or two Democrats with few real differences on issues. Louisiana, Nebraska, and Washington also have some version of the jungle primary system, and Maine has adopted a ranked voting system.

Another progressive brainchild under consideration in D.C. is allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. A handful of cities already permit this in municipal or school board elections but, since DC is considered a state for voting purposes, a change there would allow 16-year-olds to vote for president, a significant change indeed. Since young people tend to vote a more liberal ticket than older voters do, Democrats are especially enthusiastic about this election reform. With 11 Democrats and 2 liberal “independents” on the Council, this could well pass and trigger similar efforts elsewhere.

The big progressive election reform is one you’ve never heard of: the National Popular Vote Bill.  Connecticut recently became the 12th state (including the D.C.) to enact the bill. All the states are on the blue side of the political color wheel, having voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. When signed by enough states to total 270 electoral votes, a compact comes into force requiring each member state to cast its electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. This clever end run around the Electoral College established by the Constitution is high on the Democrats’ agenda since they have lost the presidency twice in this century, despite winning the popular vote.

Republicans have their own election games in play. They are accused of trying to limit voter eligibility and turnout, since larger vote totals often favor Democrats. This week a federal judge ruled a Kansas statute requiring proof of U.S. citizenship for voter registration was both unconstitutional and a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. Other states have similar voter ID laws that may now come under closer scrutiny. Recently the U.S. Supreme Court upheld purging voters from the registration rolls if they had not voted in several elections in the important political battleground state of Ohio. “Use it or lose it,” Ohio says, and the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, said we will not interfere.

Beware so-called election reforms — they are more often than not attempts by one party or the other to rig the game in their favor.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway dential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/election-reforms-are-usually-one-party-trying-to-rig-the-system

This University’s Problems are a Microcosm of Washington, DC’s (Washington Examiner) May 31, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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One of the nation’s most successful university presidents, C.L. Max Nikias of the University of Southern California, recently shocked the Trojan community with his abrupt resignation. Although Nikias had been highly successful in raising money and, with it, USC’s profile and reputation, he had also presided over the university’s mishandling of scandals and crises.

USC faculty member William G. Tierney, who is also an expert on higher education, describedthe president’s leadership failure as one of speed and action over deliberation and reason. “Instead of reflection and reasoned debate,” Tierney has written, “the university sprinted toward growth.” There were few “checks and balances” on the president, Tierney said, as he raced headlong toward financial and reputational goals.

Nikias’ leadership style and problems are, unfortunately, a microcosm of our political leadership in Washington, D.C. Rather than engaging the Congress in meaningful deliberation, presidents increasingly seek what President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered the nation during the crisis of the Great Depression: “action and action now.”

Everything has become a crisis or emergency in Washington, mandating action over reasoned reflection. President Lyndon B. Johnson launched a “War on Poverty,” soon followed by later presidents with a “War on Crime,” a “War on Drugs,” and a never-ending “War on Terror.” All of these domestic wars result in heightened presidential power and a diminished oversight role by the Congress. At the same time, we live under 28 official “national emergencies” declared by presidents, some as old as Jimmy Carter’s presidency in the 1970s.

If the president cannot get Congress to support his agenda, he goes it alone by means of executive orders and agency actions. President Barack Obama was sufficiently frustrated by Congress that he famously said he had a “pen and a phone” and he would start taking unilateral action rather than deliberate with Congress. He undertook unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act, while also initiating new gun control and immigration policies, stretching the application of executive orders.

Congress has also moved to action over deliberation. Instead of putting major legislation through committee hearings, with their debates and amendments, legislative leaders now hold a bill in secret until they have the necessary votes and then spring them on the Senate for a quick, usually party-line vote. The most important legislation of the Obama era, healthcare reform, was passed on a straight party-line vote of Democrats. Tax reform, the biggest legislative accomplishment of the Trump era, similarly passed on a party-line vote of Republicans.

One problem with choosing “action and action now” over deliberation and debate is that those actions lack deep bipartisan support and are easily overturned. President Trump signed several executive orders in his first hundred days that directly overturned executive orders of the Obama era. Congress came very close to repealing Obamacare on a party-line vote, just as it had originally passed with limited party-line support. Rather than deliberating over long-term policy, the sailboat of federal governance tacks first one way and then the opposite direction when new presidents and congresses take office.

Just as checks and balances had been weakened at USC, there are attempts to do so in Washington. The National Popular Vote Bill, for example, seeks to overturn one such check by replacing our current electoral system with a national popular vote, and without going through the constitutional amendment process. Progressives constantly attack various checks and balances and separations of power as attempts to thwart the democratic voice of the people. However, what they really do is allow for, indeed require, careful and reasoned deliberation.

The USC experience should be a cautionary tale for leadership broadly, including our political leaders in Washington. Especially in large public institutions, the goal is not simply to take action, but to engage a broad representation of the community in its processes, to foster a culture of reasoned deliberation. A failure to do so invites the crashing and burning of both the institution and its leaders.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

 

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/university-of-southern-california-problems-microcosm-washington-d-c-s

Connecticut Joins the Quiet Campaign to Undermine Constitutional Presidential Elections (Washington Examiner) May 21, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Both houses of the Connecticut legislature recently passed the National Popular Vote Bill, which now sits on the desk of Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is expected to sign it. With his approval, Connecticut will join a quiet campaign to undo the Electoral College by means of a clever end run rather than a proper constitutional amendment.

Four times in our history (fewer than 10 percent of presidential elections), the winner of the popular vote lost the presidency in the Electoral College. The issue is on many minds these days, since two of the four were in this century: George W. Bush’s win over Al Gore in 2000 and Donald Trump’s election in 2016.

Rather than take the straightforward and transparent approach of changing the electoral process by constitutional amendment, proponents of change want to travel an easier incremental path: asking state legislatures to approve the National Popular Vote Bill. The bill, when adopted by enough states to constitute 270 electoral votes, triggers a requirement that each state signing onto the compact cast its electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. Very clever, indeed.

Connecticut will become the 12th state (including the District of Columbia) to sign on, with a cumulative total of 172 electoral votes, only 98 shy of the goal. Of course, politics are always at play in voting bills, and not coincidentally all of the states approving so far are liberal — for example, all were states carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. The bill has been introduced in 11 other state legislatures, and with the Trump win still stinging Democrats, it may gain further momentum from Connecticut’s recent approval.

There is both an historic case and a current argument for the elector system established in Article II and the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. The Founders sought all manner of checks and balances along with separations of power in what they clearly understood to be a federal republic, not a direct democracy. So there would be two chambers of Congress, one for the people (the House of Representatives) and one for the states (the Senate). Likewise, both the people, through the popular vote, and the states, with the electoral vote, would play a role in choosing a president. Tinkering with federalism in favor of more direct democracy has become trendy, but if you are going to do it, at least be big enough to follow the Constitution’s own process for change and pass an amendment.

But even today, there is a practical role for the elector system.

Have you noticed what the candidates do in the last couple of weeks of a campaign? They crisscross the country, stopping in key battleground states, arguing the issues of special importance there in order to win the requisite electoral votes. And how would they campaign if there were only a national popular vote? They would go to the big cities and states and appear on popular media. It is hard to say that this is a preferable campaign. In addition, votes must be counted at some level and, under the present elector system, if there are recounts, these are only in one or two states. Imagine the specter of a national recount with the popular vote and even the possibility of not being able to seat a president by inauguration day.

If you want to change the electoral system, there would be an easier and more fair way to do it by eliminating winner-take-all electoral rules in the states. These are not constitutionally mandated, and each state controls that decision. In fact, Nebraska and Maine already allocate electoral votes by congressional district, rather than winner-take-all. This would eliminate some of the unfairness the pro-democracy people see while not beginning to undo the constitutional system of the republic.

Connecticut’s vote should be a wake-up call, not a call to a clever end run around the Constitution.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To view the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/connecticut-joins-the-quiet-campaign-to-undermine-constitutional-presidential-elections

I have left Forbes.com for the Washington Examiner: “Don’t Let 16-Year Olds Rock the Vote” (Washington Examiner) May 3, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Since the “March for Our Lives” student demonstrations over gun violence on school campuses, the question of lowering the voting age to 16 has come to the fore. The Washington city council is now considering a proposal to do just that, and similar bills have recently been introduced in Georgia and Minnesota. The city of Tacoma, Md., was the first to allow 16-year old voting in 2013, and since then a few other cities (most notably Berkeley, Calif.) have followed suit.

It is not clear why student willingness to demonstrate now qualifies them for new adult-level responsibilities of citizenship. The last time the voting age was changed, it was lowered from 21 to 18 by the 26th Amendment to the Constitution during the Vietnam War. The argument was that if 18-year-olds could fight and die in a war, they should be able to vote for their national leaders.

But it is difficult to find a comparably compelling reason for further change now. Would we also want 16-year-olds serving on juries or signing up for the military? I think not. And if 16, why not 13, when they enter the teen years and those hormones start up?

The more we learn about the human brain and how it develops, society has increased the age of responsibility in other areas, not lowered it. Researchers generally agree that the brain is still developing until the mid-20s, with moral reasoning and abstract thought coming later than we once thought. So the drinking age has gone up to 21, and the age when kids may drive a car without any conditions has now increased to 17 or 18 under most state laws, not 16.  Simply put, the law has been moving toward greater maturity before responsibility, not less.

Advocates argue that we need greater civic engagement, and younger voting would help. Younger voters, however, have been notoriously weak about showing up at the polls. In the 2016 election, for example, only half of younger voters turned out to vote, compared with two-thirds of older voters. Growing the pool of younger voters hardly seems like a solution to the civic engagement problem. Besides, if you look at students’ civic knowledge, you would hardly deem them highly qualified to start running the republic. In the last round of national civics tests (unfortunately now only administered to eighth graders), a mere 23 percent scored as “proficient” or above. What we should be promoting among the young is better civic education before greater civic engagement.

The question is whether 16-year-old voting is likely to become a new political bandwagon. So far, only cities have moved on this and they can only make decisions about voting in their own municipal elections. States, however, including the District of Columbia, control both state and federal voting, so D.C. could decide to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote for president in the next election and beyond. The likelihood of another constitutional amendment changing the voting age nationally is not high, since it would require a two-thirds vote of both chambers of Congress and three-fourths of state legislatures to approve it. However, the possibility of the District of Columbia, or a liberal state, making the change is much higher.

If 16-year-olds voting is the answer to some problem we have, I guess I do not understand the question.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/dont-let-16-year-olds-rock-the-vote

Democrats Finally Discover Federalism (Washington Examiner) April 19, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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After decades of neglect, a federalism bandwagon is rolling across the country, carrying not only conservatives who have long believed in states’ rights, but also gathering up progressives who are out of power in Washington and have rediscovered the appeal of localism. In fact, many of today’s big political battles are, at their base, a federalism tug of war pitting the federal government against state and local governments.

Take immigration, for example. As the Trump administration has tightened up immigration enforcement at the federal level, a number of states, counties, and cities have decided not to share citizenship information with the feds, with some declaring themselves sanctuary areas for immigrants. President Trump pushed back, signing an executive order pulling most federal grants from states and cities that will not divulge information about citizenship as required by federal law. Last month Attorney General Jeff Sessions turned up the heat by suing deep-blue California over its sanctuary laws. An interesting federalism nuance now sees certain conservative California counties and cities joining the federal suit against the state’s liberal sanctuary laws. A federalism fight is on.

Federalism may have found a truce on another key issue: legalized marijuana. Federal law continues to make the use of marijuana illegal, whereas 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized its use in some way. The Obama-era solution to the conflict was to ease up on federal enforcement in states that legalized marijuana, but Sessions announced early on that the federal government would resume enforcement everywhere. When Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from marijuana-friendly Colorado, began blocking Trump’s judicial nominees, the president called and said the feds would back off enforcement in Colorado if Gardner would approve his nominees. Gardner reported this federalism victory, saying, “President Trump has assured me he would support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ issue once and for all.” For now, a federalism truce is found.

The federalism tug of war has encompassed a number of issues in Trump’s first year. California famously announced its own climate change and environmental policies when Trump pulled out of the Paris accords. State attorneys general challenged Trump’s travel ban. States are now suing over the tax reform limitation on the deductibility of state and local taxes, based on the theory that it violates the equal protection rights of more expensive blue state residents. In fact, by the end of Trump’s first year, Democratic states had brought 35 lawsuits against his administration, compared with 46 lawsuits by Republican states in President Barack Obama’s 8-year term. The federalism tug of war is spreading.

With federalism busting out all over, where might this lead? Republicans have long championed the 10th Amendment (power not delegated to the federal government is reserved to states and individuals) and states’ rights. In the era of gridlocked government and President Trump in Washington, Democrats have discovered “progressive federalism,” especially located in cities, which tend to be governed more by their party than states where Republican governors predominate. Is it possible that federalism might actually unite liberals and conservatives in a drive for greater localism? Perhaps, but it seems even more likely that federalism may simply become the latest tool in the political battle.

Just as President Richard Nixon reportedly said of economic policy, “We’re all Keynesians now,” it seems we are all becoming federalists now. After decades of power moving to Washington, it would be healthy and refreshing to see the pendulum swing back toward state and local governments. But it would be even more promising if federalism became a way of making policy more deliberative and less contentious. It remains to be seen whether this new federalism might accomplish that.

David Davenport is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/democrats-finally-discover-federalism

‘It sucks.’ The Senate, the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, No Longer Deliberates” (Washington Examiner) April 2, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Former President James Buchanan called the Senate “the greatest deliberative body in the world,” a moniker that has stuck for 150 years. But as he left Washington for the Senate’s two-week Easter recess, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., reflecting on his inability to get a vote on even one legislative amendment in his first 15 months on the job, said something quite different: “I think it sucks.”

In that “emperor has no clothes” moment, Kennedy exposed a key reality in Washington: The greatest deliberative body in the world no longer deliberates.

Kennedy’s proposed amendments are not the only ones failing to receive Senate votes these days. The Senate has voted on only six nonbudgetary amendments so far in 2018, an average of two per month. All right, so they have been busy trying to approve spending bills to keep the government open (itself an embarrassing and contentious process) and approving President Trump’s nominees, which has moved at a snail’s pace. However, according to a Politico report, the Senate has only taken 25 roll call votes on binding amendments in this two-year Congress, compared with 154 at this point in the last one.

When he took over as majority leader of the Senate in 2015, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed to do much better. After Republicans won a Senate majority in the elections of November 2014, McConnell promised “a more free-wheeling approach to problem solving” than the prior leader, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., had allowed. McConnell spoke of restoring the Senate’s “traditional role as a place where good ideas are generated, debated, and voted upon.” In particular, McConnell committed to “an open amendment process — ensuring senators on both sides a chance to weigh in on legislation.”

Oops.

Instead, what we have is little debate and even less voting in the Senate. Bills are crafted behind closed doors, held until they have the requisite 51 (or 60) votes, and then rushed to the floor for a quick vote, sometimes with handwritten notes still in the margins. If there is deliberation, it is only by members of the party in power, not in open committee hearings or debates on the Senate floor. Important pieces of legislation, from Obamacare to tax reform, are passed on straight party-line votes, with no support from the other party. Indeed, as one study has shown, party unity voting has grown from around 60 percent in the 1970s to closer to 90 percent today.

Kennedy is not the first to call out the Senate’s lack of bipartisan deliberation. When Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., famously flew back to Washington from his cancer treatments to cast a decisive repeal vote on Obamacare, he disappointed his fellow Republicans by voting “no.” But his comments afterward made an even stronger statement. McCain decried the Senate process of drafting proposed legislation “behind closed doors … then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it’s better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition.” McCain urged the Senate to “return to the correct way of legislating,” sending bills to committee, holding hearings, and ultimately crafting laws that could be passed with bipartisan support.

There is a growing sentiment that the Senate needs to return to “regular order,” to the kind of process McCain described, but it will not be easy. Legislating in Washington has become about winning, not finding the best policy solutions. Votes are taken to best position legislators for re-election, not to enact the best bills. At a time when America has an impulsive president, it seems especially important that the Senate play its full deliberative role.

David Davenport is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the piece at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/it-sucks-the-senate-the-worlds-greatest-deliberative-body-no-longer-deliberates