Race and Gender in the Trump Cabinet

Many of us are paying a lot of attention to important things about the Trump nominees:  Do they believe in Climate Change?  Support torture?  Want to cozy up to Putin?  Create a Muslim Registry?  Know anything about the job they to which they are being appointed?  Important things.  That is why this analysis is so interesting.  It was the headline that caught my eye “Trump’s Cabinet So Far Is More White and Male Than Any First Cabinet Since Reagan.”  Written by Jasmine C. Lee the New York Times story is full of charts and pictures.

If Mr. Trump’s nominees are confirmed, women and nonwhites will hold five of 21 cabinet or cabinet-level positions. He has not yet named nominees for two additional positions.

Those five members will also be in some of the lowest-ranking positions. None of them are in the so-called inner cabinet, the four positions in place since George Washington’s presidency: the attorney general and the secretaries of state, Treasury and defense (formerly called the secretary of war).

Barack Obama had 14. Bill Clinton 12, and George W. Bush 9.  Trump is doing a little better than Reagan who only had two:  Jeanne Kirkpatrick at the United Nations and Samuel Pierce at HUD.

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The cabinet of President Ronald Reagan in February 1981.

The first cabinets of George W. Bush and Mr. Obama were both noted for their diversity. In Mr. Bush’s initial administration, 45 percent of the cabinet and cabinet-level officials were women or nonwhite men. In Mr. Obama’s first cabinet, that figure was 64 percent.

What does it mean that the clock is being turned back on diversity?  I think that diversity and inclusion are bad words to the President-elect.  They certainly are to his supporters.  But I think a great deal is lost when there aren’t persons from different backgrounds, genders, and races at the table.  If everyone is a super-rich white man, who represents the rest of us?  And who represents the Trump voter?

Official White House photo of Obama Cabinet

The cabinet of President Obama in September 2009.

Photograph of Reagan Cabinet from the Reagan Library

Photograph of the Obama Cabinet from the White House

Senate in a hurry

The Senate, that body that couldn’t seem to muster enough energy to do very much since 2010 except hold endless hearings about Hillary Clinton, has suddenly gotten busy.  Last night – or rather early this morning – they took the first steps toward repealing the Affordable Care Act.  The New York Times reporters wrote

The approval of the budget blueprint, coming even before President-elect Donald J. Trump is inaugurated, shows the speed with which Republican leaders are moving to fulfill their promise to repeal President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement — a goal they believe can now be accomplished after Mr. Trump’s election.

The action by the Senate is essentially procedural, setting the stage for a special kind of legislation called a reconciliation bill. Such a bill can be used to repeal significant parts of the health law and, critically, is immune from being filibustered. Congress appears to be at least weeks away from voting on legislation repealing the law.

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Senate Minority Leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is leading the charge to make Hill Republicans own the Obamacare repeal process.

The Democrats staged a protest on the floor, taking turns speaking even while being ruled out of order.  The vote was 51 to 48.  So, what can someone who is opposed to repeal do at this point?  I found a New York Times Op-Ed Seven Questions About Health Reform to be a useful guide to the questions we should be asking any Senator or Congressperson who supports repeal.  The piece by Harold Pollack and Timothy S. Jost should be read in full, but here are what I think are the most important of the seven questions. (The numbering is mine not theirs. And they are not in the order of importance.}

First, “How many millions of Americans will lose coverage?”  Among the issues pointed out is

Proposals by Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s choice to run Health and Human Services, and by the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, would repeal the expansion of Medicaid and replace the A.C.A.’s income-based subsidies with less generous tax credits. Another plan from the House Republican Study Committee would offer deductions. We particularly need to know how this would affect low-income Americans, to whom tax deductions are nearly worthless, and who would generally not be able to afford coverage under these plans.

Second, “Will people over 55 pay higher health premiums for the same coverage?”  If the repeal is paired with cuts to Medicare, all of us over 55 will be in trouble.  And younger folks who may not have saved much for retirement yet will find it impossible to save enough.

Third, “… how much more will those with costly illnesses or injuries have to pay in out-of-pocket costs?”

Critics of the A.C.A. often argue that the law has made health care unaffordable. But many Americans would pay much more without it. The A.C.A. capped out-of-pocket spending at $7,150 for individuals and $14,300 for families for 2017. Republican proposals appear to offer no protection from high deductibles and other cost-sharing.

This could be devastating to millions, including older Americans who often develop chronic illnesses.

Fourth on my list. “Will the new plan let insurers charge women higher premiums than men while offering them less coverage?”

Before the A.C.A. banned gender-based premiums, insurers in many states charged women more than men of the same age — some as much as 50 percent more. The A.C.A. also required all insurers to cover preventive health services without co-payments; for women, this includes birth control, Pap smears, mammograms and a host of other crucial services. Maternity care is fully covered as well. Republican replacement plans offer no such protection. And many Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood, too, which would deprive women not just of coverage but also of care.

And, as we have learned, many men, particularly Republican men, have no idea of how a woman’s anatomy works.  For those opposed to choice on abortion, this could have the effect of increasing the number of abortions – legal and illegal.

I think there is time while President Trump argues with Congress and Congress argues with itself about what should be in any new law.  If your Senator and/or Congressperson favors repeal, call or write or visit and ask some of the seven questions.  And express your support for those that oppose wholesale repeal.  Should you agree with what is happening, leave me a message explaining why you think this is OK.

Photograph:  Alex Wong/Getty Images

Repealing the Affordable Care Act

The Republicans have made a mantra out of repealing the ACA aka Obamacare.  I’ve lost track of how many times they have voted to repeal it, but close to 60, I think.  The surprising thing is how unprepared they really are to “repeal and replace”.  They seem to have the repeal part down, but in all the years it has been since the law was enacted, they haven’t come up with a replacement plan.  I think that even supporters of the ACA know that some things need fixing but no Republicans were willing to work with Democrats and President Obama to do so.

They could just repeal it.  This would create chaos in the health care system and upset millions.  I don’t think they want to deal with loss of support right away.  I’m not sure that voters who say they don’t like the ACA understand that things like free vaccinations, physical exams, and mammograms are part of the Act.  On the other hand, Republicans cannot seem to agree on a plan to replace the ACA.  There are a lot of ideas, but no plan and not even a framework for a plan as far as I can tell.

In the January 4 edition of the New York Times, Robert Pear had an interesting and informative article, Republicans’ 4-Step Plan to Repeal the Affordable Care Act.  In it he outlines the things that have to happen before Repeal.

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Vice President-elect Mike Pence, second from right, listened as the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, spoke after a Republican luncheon on Wednesday.

Step One is to pass a budget resolution that is filibuster proof in the Senate.

The Senate intends to pass a budget resolution next week that would shield repeal legislation from a Democratic filibuster. If the Senate completes its action, House Republican leaders hope that they, too, can approve a version of the budget resolution next week. Whether they can meet that goal is unclear.

Step Two would add details.

Republicans say they will delay the effective date of their repeal bill to avoid disrupting coverage and to provide time for them to develop alternatives to Mr. Obama’s law. They disagree over how long the delay should last, with two to four years being mentioned as possibilities.

Step Three adds in ideas from President Trump.

Within days of taking office, President-elect Donald J. Trump plans to announce executive actions on health care. Some may undo Obama administration policies. Others will be meant to stabilize health insurance markets and prevent them from collapsing in a vast sea of uncertainty.

“We are working on a series of executive orders that the president-elect will put into effect to ensure that there is an orderly transition, during the period after we repeal Obamacare, to a market-based health care economy,” Mr. Pence said at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Step Four is replacement.  For which there is no consensus.

Meanwhile Democrats are also taking action.

In the Senate next week, Democrats will demand votes intended to put Republicans on record against proposals that could protect consumers. Defenders of the law also hope to mobilize groups like the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association to speak up for patients.

This process is far from over.  Even Republicans put implementation of a new health care law a minimum of 2 years out – just in time for mid-terms- and more likely, 4 years away – just in time for the next Presidential election.

Photograph:  Doug Mills/The New York Times

Facing a new year and a new era

All of the kerfuffle about the electoral college and recounts is over and we face reality:  Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.  I have a number of resolutions for this new era.

First, bear witness.  For me this means a bit more blogging than in the past couple of years when I have slacked off considerably.  More shorter pieces will be my mantra.

Second, try to maintain a sense of humor.  I have friends to help me including Robert Waldo Brunelle, Jr. who explains things.

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Third, work for good local and statewide candidates.  Remember that in two years there is a midterm election.

Fourth, distract myself from 24 hour politics.  There are the Red Sox and bird watching for example.  There are many, many books to be read.

Keep reminding myself that life does go on.

Reflections Post-Election Day Two

I’ve calmed down a little but the numbness hasn’t gone away yet.  I’m not sure what Trump really believes since he really doesn’t have any policy positions.  Plus, he was a Democrat until pretty recently.  Either he will implement policies that are contrary to almost everything I believe or he will be disappointing his voters.  But that is in the future.  For now, I’d like to analyze my own party.

Bernie Sanders speaks near Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders speaks near Hillary Clinton

Bottom line:  I think they should have nominated Bernie.

This will annoy all my women (and some men) who supported Hillary Clinton from the beginning and who were really invested in seeing a women be elected President.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’d love to live long enough to see a woman elected, but I was never sure Clinton was the right candidate.  OK.  Maybe this is sour grapes, but I’m not the only one who thinks that Bernie could have won.  The best analysis I’ve seen so far is by Fredrik deBoer in the Washington Post.

Donald Trump’s stunning victory is less surprising when we remember a simple fact: Hillary Clinton is a deeply unpopular politician. She won a hotly contested primary victory against a uniquely popular candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders. In her place, could he have beaten Trump?

That Clinton has unusually high unfavorables has been true for decades. Indeed, it has been a steady fact of her political life. She has annually ranked among the least-liked politicians on the national stage since she was the first lady. In recent years, her low favorability rating was matched only by that of her opponent, animated hate Muppet Donald Trump. In contrast, Sanders enjoys very high popularity, ranking as the most popular senator for two years in a row. Nationally, his favorability rating is more than 10 points higher than Clinton’s, and his unfavorability rating is more than 15 points lower. This popularity would have been a real asset on the campaign trail.

deBoer points out that Bernie’s big primary wins were in the Rust Belt, most notably Michigan.

But turnout matters in a close election, and here she suffered significantly compared with President Obama in both 2008 and 2012. In Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties in Michigan, the heart of Detroit’s black voting bloc, Clinton won 55 percent of the vote — compared with 69 percent for Obama in 2012. Meanwhile, it was in Michigan that Sanders won his most shocking primary victory, probably through the same forces that hurt Clinton on Election Day: Her agenda did not seem to offer much hope to those hurt by deindustrialization and outsourcing. We can only guess how much better he might have performed there, or in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (which he also won in a surprising primary upset) had he been the nominee. But there is little doubt now that his success in the Rust Belt was a canary in the coal mine for the Clinton campaign, a now-obvious sign that she was in trouble.

deBoer goes on to analyze image, something I had never thought of doing.  It is true that Bill and Hillary Clinton are very tied to the Eastern elite – or if you are on the West Coast, the Hollywood elite – at least in the minds of many voters.

If Clinton’s campaign seemed bizarrely pitched toward the interests of those who were always going to vote for her anyway, Sanders was uniquely positioned to reach voters with a different sensibility. In contrast to the millionaire polish of the Clinton camp, Sanders has a somewhat shambolic, grandfatherly presence that conveys an unpretentious and approachable character. Clinton struggled to use Trump’s wealth against him, in large measure because she herself is an immensely wealthy woman. (In fact, she frequently suggested that Trump wasn’t really all that richa ludicrous line of attack from a primary in which Sanders’s play for Nordic-style egalitarian policies won him favor in battleground states such as Pennsylvania.) Sanders would have been able to contrast Trump’s ostentatious wealth with his own shabby aesthetic. The message writes itself: Trump talks a good game about economic anxiety, but why would you trust this New York billionaire to put your interests first?

Bernie also had crossover voters which she did not.  Turnout was also an issue.

Indeed, turnout overall was a major problem for the Clinton campaign; though not all votes are yet counted, it’s clear that Clinton received millions fewer votes than Obama in several states, while Trump frequently received more than Mitt Romney did in 2012. Nor did Clinton enjoy the benefits of party crossovers. There was much talk of “Clinton Republicans” who would, in the spirit of the Reagan Democrats, cross party lines to oppose Trump. But according to the exit polling of the New York Times, more Democrats crossed over and voted for Trump than Republicans crossed over and voted for Clinton. Sanders, notably, never had trouble drawing crowds, and in the Democratic primary campaign, turnoutrebounded from 2012 lows. Whether that rebound was a result of voters’ enthusiasm for Sanders or the opposite is hard to say; what’s clear is that Clinton wasn’t able to get out the vote herself and that she lost both Democrats and independents to Trump, while Sanders had notorious luckwith independent voters.

Neither deBoer or I discount the sexist attacks that have dogged her since she was first lady of Arkansas, but if we want to elect a woman, I think we need to find one with less baggage.  None of the many investigations have resulted in any findings or prosecutions, but the sheer number of them led many to think “where there is smoke, there must be fire.”

Of course, we don’t know if Bernie could have actually pulled it off, but given what happened Tuesday and given his primary record, it seems clear he probably would have had a better chance.

There will be years of recriminations in our future. Many Democrats will, as is their habit, conclude that the fault lies with the left wing of the party — that progressive party activists did not sufficiently support the candidate or that leftward attacks weakened Clinton. But that notion hides a simple fact: In an election of immense importance, Democratic leadership and voters rejected a hugely popular candidate in favor of a deeply unpopular one and are now paying the price. Some of us will be asking why for years to come.

Photograph:  Melina Mara/The Washington Post

So what the hell happened?

Everyone was wrong except Donald Trump.  How could that have happened?  I didn’t blog at all during the campaign season because everyone seemed to be writing what I would write, but this post is meant to be therapeutic.

First, let me make it clear that my heart was with Bernie Sanders.  He is my Senator; I like his politics.  But when I voted yesterday I thought it was a vote for the first woman president, Hillary Clinton and that was exciting, but I did wear my pin that said “My heart’s with Bernie, but I’m voting for Hillary”.  So what happened?

I haven’t read any of the papers or clicked on any email or looked at my Facebook feed this morning so this is all my own take:  The Democrats screwed up.  We all knew the country was divided and the election would hinge on turnout, but the Democratic party, as it turns out, did not have a deep bench.  I believe that in nominating a candidate with a lot of baggage, (most of which was not true, but no one could ever convince people of that) we set ourselves up for what happened.  She just couldn’t excite enough people.  Yes, she had a ground game and, yes, she got people out to vote but she lost too many people who got discouraged by various voter suppression rumors and didn’t vote, decided they didn’t like Trump, but didn’t like her either, as well as a fair chunk of Bernie supporters.

Bernie did his best for her, but it just wasn’t enough.  I await the analysis, but based on what I saw last night around midnight, Johnson and Stein took just enough votes for Trump to win in some close races.

I have many friends who were Trump voters, some reluctantly, and to them I say, “have fun trying to actually govern.”  To those who voted third party:  This is why Bernie told you not to do it.

It should be an interesting next few years and I’m back to blogging.

The Republican Convention 2016

So, we have made it though the Republican Convention.  Donald Trump is the nominee and even though people keep expecting him to “pivot toward the general”, I think he won’t/can’t change.  My politically conservative brother-in-law did make an astute observation the other day.  He basically said that the left feared Trump and the right feared Hillary which makes this the election based on fear.  Here’s hoping that the Democrats give us some positive reasons to vote for them.

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In fact, I found this meme on Facebook posted by a friend of a friend, Louise Aucott.  I gather she is a Bernie supporter.

I really don’t understand the Republican Governors who talked about how well their states were doing, while The Donald was saying that the country had no economy.  Do they want to go back to 2008?  They really need to credit President Obama because their state economies didn’t get better in a vacuum.

Another thing I don’t understand is why all of the Trump/Pence supporters don’t give up Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps (because I’m sure many are getting assistance), disaster aid (which Republican governors are quick to ask for) and give back any raises they might receive as the result of an increase in the minimum wage.  If they hate the government so much, they should forgo the benefits that come from it.

Back to what I started this post to do:  Let’s look at the Republican Convention.  I’ve been to a national convention (1972) and I know just how chaotic they can be when there is dissent among the ranks.  I think we debated everything from the rules to many platform planks and managed to cause George McGovern to give his acceptance speech in the wee hours.  But that was back in the hay day of participatory democracy.  There is no such excuse for the mistakes made by the Trump campaign beginning with poor Melania’s speech which no one vetted.  I can understand why she was so taken with Michelle Obama’s words.  Melania is not a politician and may not have realized that she was quoting the enemy, but someone from the campaign should have known.  And then allowing Senator Ted Cruz to speak just before the Vice-Presidential acceptance speech was another management failure.

The New York Times summed up the convention this way

Mr. Trump and his fellow speakers over four days and nights did not pivot, did not shift, did not seek the notional sweet center of American public life. With few exceptions, the convention was aimed at stirring up true believers and wedding them to his cause. The emotional and cultural core of Mr. Trump’s campaign — reversal of, and even revenge for, perceived slights, disrespect and loss — were undisturbed and at times amplified before a prime-time audience. In Mr. Trump’s telling, the most powerful nation in the history of the world was a victim. And Mr. Trump was its avenger.

Wasserman on Trump
The Republicans give us the message that America isn’t a country any more and only Mr. Trump can wave a magic wand and fix it.  And it is a magic wand because he has offered few specifics.
Those of us who don’t buy into this message shouldn’t be voting out of fear, but to continue the positive progress we have made.  I think my brother-in-law will be proven wrong.
Cartoon by Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe