Rep. Kristi Noem today met with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss the upcoming congressional agenda, including Obamacare’s repeal and replacement as well as tax reform.
“There’s no shortage of work to do when it comes to getting our country back on track, so it was good to talk more about how we can continue to collaborate and move this country forward,” said Noem. “Whether it’s repealing Obamacare or tackling tax reform for the first time in three decades, it was made clear that both the Vice President and I are committed to getting things done” [Rep. Kristi Noem, press release, 2017.06.13].
That’s the whole press release. No specifics about agriculture or other issues of keen interest to South Dakota, no explanation of why Pence’s boss has changed his mind about Noem’s vote to repeal Obamacare and now says the plan she voted for is “mean”, just vague hand-waving about moving forward, which this Congress hasn’t done yet.
Trump is a Trojan horse for a cabal of vicious zealots who have long craved an extremist Christian theocracy, and Pence is one of its most prized warriors. With Republican control of the House and Senate and the prospect of dramatically and decisively tilting the balance of the Supreme Court to the far right, the incoming administration will have a real shot at bringing the fire and brimstone of the second coming to Washington.
Members of the Electoral College are feeling besieged by partisans lobbying them to vote for one candidate or another on December 19. A dramatic surge of electors, largely consisting of mainstream party loyalists, deviating from the recommendation of their states’ voters in large enough numbers to change the expected outcome of the election seems unlikely… but then so did a Donald Trump Presidency, until November 8 at 8 p.m.
In that spirit of unlikelihood, I thus offer South Dakota’s electors—Governor Dennis Daugaard, Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels, and Attorney General Marty Jackley (who said in October they’d Electorialize for Trump, and who now aren’t feeling besieged by calls and form letters, because even though the Electoral College is supposed to make small states more important, folks nationwide still don’t give a rip which way South Dakota votes)—the top ten reasons they should lead an Electoral College revolt and vote for someone other than Trump:
3. Trump’s refusal to step away from his businesses show he’s unwilling to be a full-time President. He even wants us to fly him home to Trump Tower every weekend to get away from the job. Leading the free world is not a part-time job. Hillary Clinton has spent almost all of her career as a public servant; she’s ready to continue working full-time for America. Get back to basics and vote someone who is willing to do the job.
4. Governor Daugaard specifically: you still want Medicaid expansion, right? After slashing the budget to remedy Mike Rounds’s deficit in 2011, reforming the criminal justice system in 2013, fixing the roads in 2015, and raising teacher pay in 2016, you don’t want to spend the last two years letting the unchecked GOP culture warriors in the Legislature drive the agenda. You want one more policy crown jewel. Medicaid expansion is it. Vote for Hillary Clinton. The Republican Congress won’t let her wreak any new havoc, but the gridlock will keep the ACA and Medicaid expansion on the books. Our revenues are lagging; we need the federal stimulus… and 50,000 working but poor South Dakotans need affordable health coverage.
Bonus: Matt, Marty, jump in! Lt. Gov. Michels, your pals at Avera want it. A.G. Jackley, you’re running for Governor in 2018: your donors in the health care industry would love to back you over repeat-ACA-repeal voter Rep. Kristi Noem.
6. If Clinton is a bridge too far, pick Mike Pence. He won’t lie to you. he won’t bobble the culture war you want. He won’t meddle in other nations’ ambassadorial picks or start a war over some foreign newspaper showing his chins. He won’t embarrass your party and imperil your nation.
7. Besides, if you don’t stop Trump now, you’ll have to impeach him later when he starts sending aircraft carriers to provide pleasure cruises for his business partners in Argentina, India, and the Philippines. Why wait? Why let Trump do any damage? Avoid the messiness of an impeachment and make Pence President now.
9. The Electoral College is a remnant of the Founding Fathers’ compromise to keep slave states from bolting. And even after that crazy compromise they still bolted, and we had to fight a four-year war to bring them back. Ingrates! Electors, reject your own slavery-based supremacy and default to the will of the popular vote.
But if you don’t want to reject the Electoral College, then embrace it…
Consider what Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper Number 68. The Electors were supposed to stop a candidate with “Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” from becoming President. The Electors were supposed to be “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.”
They were to “possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations” as the selection of the President, and they were supposed to “afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder.” They were even supposed to prevent “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”
Hamilton was talking about demagogues. The word “demagogue” appears in both the first and last Federalist Papers; in Federalist Paper Number 1, for instance, Hamilton worried about the “military despotism of a victorious demagogue” [Michael Singer, “The Electoral College Was Created to Stop Demagogues Like Trump,” Time, 2016.11.17].
Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do…. We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Thank you [Brandon Dixon, statement from the stage, quoted in Sophie Tatum and Karl de Vries, “‘Hamilton’ Cast Urges Pence to ‘Uphold Our American Values’,” CNN.com, 2016.11.19].
I love theater. I recognize theater’s important role, like all literature, in provoking us to think about and live up to our ideals. Pence’s boss does not:
On Saturday, President-elect Donald Trump accused theatre-goers of having “harassed” Pence, writing on Twitter: “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”
Citizens publicly criticizing their elected leaders, urging them to govern for all Americans, and documenting the event—yes, Donald, how rude. How harassing. How unsafe. Curse that First Amendment and the Founding Fathers who gave it to us to give you heartburn.
On Monday, I met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and discussed the Trump Administration’s plans for repealing or reforming the Affordable Care Act. Based on that discussion, I will not recommend that South Dakota pursue Medicaid expansion in 2017.
Over the past two years, we have been working with the federal government to reduce federal cost-shifting to the state for Native American healthcare, and those discussions led the federal government to change its policy relating to Medicaid reimbursements for Indian Health Service enrollees.
With the national election results, the prospect of reforming Medicaid in our country is real, and I intend to work with the Trump Administration and with our congressional delegation to find a way to leverage the IHS policy change to improve access to health care through Medicaid reform. If successful, these efforts could save our state tens of millions of dollars a year [Gov. Dennis Daugaard, press release, 2016.11.15].
I wondered for a moment if Hillary Clinton had made an error in stagecraft in declining to approach Donald Trump and shake his hand at the beginning of last night’s Presidential debate. After all, as a friend noted to me, as President, her job will include having to shake hands with much worse foreign leaders to grease diplomacy.
But I’ll back Clinton’s willingness to reject Trump’s hand just as I will back Dennis Daugaard’s willingness to reject Trump’s nomination. I’m only surprised that she allowed Trump to shake her hand (and grab her elbow—one more male-domination move) after the new disqualifying remarks Trump made in stubborn defiance of Clinton’s straightforward, fact-based, Presidential performance.
Trump said to Clinton that, if elected, he will order his Attorney General “to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.” In a later interruption, he told her that if he were in charge, “you’d be in jail.” Former Attorney General Eric Holder likened that dangerous promise to Richard Nixon’s post-Watergate actions and said, “In the USA we do not threaten to jail political opponents.”
Asked by a Muslim woman to address what he will do to help American Muslims “deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country,” Trump talked past her to the camera (as he did on all audience questions) and blamed Muslims for not reporting suspicious activity to help fight “radical Islamic terrorism.” Trump said many people (and the implication was, many Muslims) “saw the bombs all over the apartment” of the San Bernadino shooters, a claim for which there is no evidence. Trump this responded to a question about Islamophobia by stoking Islamophobia with another false accusation.
Asked about intervening in Syria and Aleppo, Trump rambled incoherently toward what sounded like a refusal to intervene militarily (despite his complaint that the U.S. has “weak foreign policy”) and to let Assad, Russia, and Iran have a free hand in Syria because they are “killing ISIS” (which is false). Moderator Martha Raddatz reminded Trump that Mike Pence, in the Vice-Presidential debate five days earlier, said the U.S. should “immediately establish safe zones,” meet “the provocations by Russia… with American strength,” and “use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime” to relieve the besieged city of Aleppo. Of his running mate’s Syria statement, Trump said, “He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree.” Wait: five days go by, and Trump walks into his next Presidential debate without having discussed with Pence what the press immediately recognized as a major policy disagreement? Instead, Trump goes on live national TV and cuts the legs out from under his running mate? Never mind getting Trump to withdraw; Mike Pence shouldn’t have to stick around for that kind of abuse.
Trump asked in his Syria ramble, “How stupid is our country?” Not stupid enough, we can hope, to elect a tinpot dictator who threatens to jail his opponent, blames Muslims for the stereotypes he perpetuates, and ignores his running mate’s advice in favor his love for fellow tyrants. We don’t shake the hand of a beast who says such stupid things. We definitely don’t let that hand lie on the Chief Justice’s Bible on January 20, or on the nuclear codes moments afterward.
So let me see if I have this straight. Senator John Thune, Governor Dennis Daugaard, and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels have all called for the man they nominated for President, Donald Trump, to drop out of the Presidential race. Set aside cynicism (Thune, Daugaard, and Michels wouldn’t say these things merely in response to Trump’s imminent defeat—heavens, no!), assume our leaders are speaking from conscience, and we may generously assume that asking a Presidential nominee to step down means believing that nominee is unfit to be President.
Yet Thune, Daugaard, and other Republicans apparently think Trump is fit to pick their replacement nominee.
At this point, Mike Pence has no legitimate, democratic claim to the nomination or the Presidency. Pence did not run for President. He did not take up the gauntlet and run the gantlet of the primary campaign. He did not earn a single vote in the formal Republican Presidential nomination process. Mike Pence is where he is because Donald Trump said so, and the Republican National Convention acquiesced to their chosen Führer.
If Republicans want a break from their untenable ticket, should they not want a complete break? If we’re getting rid of Hitler, do we really want to leave Karl Dönitz in charge?
Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio have legitimate claims to the nomination. They won votes and delegates. Their supporters have a right to demand unification around one of those actual candidates, just as Bernie Sanders supporters could call for the Vermont socialist’s ascent to the top of the Democratic ticket instead of Tim Kaine if Hillary Clinton called it quits right now.
But even those more legitimate primary candidates have no claim to the nomination now that voting has started. Thousands of South Dakotans and probably hundreds of thousands of Americans, maybe millions, have already cast votes for Donald Trump. The deadlines for changing ballots and offering voters a different choice are past. Republicans are stuck with asking citizens to vote for Donald Trump as surely as they are stuck with a dead nominee on their State House ballot. And unlike the case in District 34, where there is a clear statutory process authorizing the Governor to fill that vacancy after the election if voters choose the ineligible candidate (although I’m open to the argument that votes for an ineligible candidate should be thrown out and the other vote-getters on the ballot automatically elected), there is no Constitutional provision, law, or party rule mapping the path from buyer’s remorse in October to President Pence on January 20.
The Republicans could appeal to the Electoral College, but given the mish-mash of faithless-elector laws, it seems unlikely they could secure enough electoral college votes in states allowing faithless electors to secure a Pence Presidency.
The Republicans could hope for Electoral College deadlock and the chance to elect Pence in the House of Representatives, but since the House votes by state, not by member, on an Electoral College failure, if the GOP starts tacking toward that end-game, Hillary Clinton sends Paula Hawks $10 million and works here way up the list of small states to ensure she flips enough House seats to ensure Democrats can hold 26 states.
The only routes left to get from where we are now to President Pence by Constitutional rules appear to be outlandish schemes that threaten Constitutional crises:
By the way, Republicans could hope for some lawsuit to get them their way… but since John Thune and Mike Rounds have refused to do their job and confirm a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court remains sub-rostered at eight and could deadlock 4–4, leaving Republicans (and a surely litigious Trump) without a Bush v. Gore judicial remedy.
All of these games open the door to an ugly Constitutional crisis… and all of these games depend on an increasing unlikelihood: that Hillary Clinton won’t win 270 Electoral votes on November 8. Thune, Daugaard, and the Republican Party appear to have only two Constitutionally safe and simple options. They can coalesce around a legally chosen Presidential candidate who is on the ballot in all 50 states: Libertarian Gary Johnson. Or they can admit they screwed up in nominating Donald Trump, apologize to the nation for nominating a fascist pig, and accept defeat with grace, and surrender to the ascent of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Presidency of the United States.
…all persons seeking to enter the United States as refugees are required to undergo multiple layers of screening by the federal government, following screening by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, before they can be admitted to the United States. The process can take up to two years [Judge Richard Posner, ruling, Exodus v. Pence No. 1:15-cv-01858, U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, 2016.10.03, p. 2].
The court dismisses Governor Pence’s claimed fears of Syrian terrorist infiltrators as baseless:
The governor of Indiana believes, though without evidence, that some of these persons were sent to Syria by ISIS to engage in terrorism and now wish to infiltrate the United States in order to commit terrorist acts here. No evidence of this belief has been presented, however; it is nightmare speculation.
…The governor’s brief asserts “the State’s compelling interest in protecting its residents from the well‐documented threat of terrorists posing as refugees to gain entry into Western countries.” But the brief provides no evidence that Syrian terrorists are posing as refugees or that Syrian refugees have ever committed acts of terrorism in the United States. Indeed, as far as can be determined from public sources, no Syrian refugees have been arrested or prosecuted for terrorist acts or attempts in the United States. And if Syrian refugees do pose a terrorist threat, implementation of the governor’s policy would simply increase the risk of terrorism in whatever states Syrian refugees were shunted to. Federal law does not allow a governor to deport to other states immigrants he deems dangerous; rather he should communicate his fears to the Office of Refugee Resettlement [Posner, 2016.10.03, pp. 3, 5].
The court says Governor Pence accepted federal money meant to help refugees “without regard to race, religion, nationality, sex, or political opinion” (that’s federal law), then attempted to refuse aid based on nationality:
He argues that his policy of excluding Syrian refugees is based not on nationality and thus is not discriminatory, but is based solely on the threat he thinks they pose to the safety of residents of Indiana. But that’s the equivalent of his saying (not that he does say) that he wants to forbid black people to settle in Indiana not because they’re black but because he’s afraid of them, and since race is therefore not his motive he isn’t discriminating. But that of course would be racial discrimination, just as his targeting Syrian refugees is discrimination on the basis of nationality [Posner, 2016.10.03, p. 5].
Finally, as if anticipating that Governor Pence might respond to this court loss by taking Texas’s route and withdrawing from the federal refugee resettlement program completely, he still can’t achieve his ratty policy goal of keeping Syrians out of Indiana:
A final oddity about the governor’s position is how isolated it is. There are after all fifty states, and nothing to suggest that Indiana is a magnet for Syrians. Although in the fall of 2015 a number of state governors issued statements opposing the resettlement of Syrian in their domains, their opposition petered out. Since then Syrian refugees have been resettled in 40 states (Indiana of course is one of them), and there is no indication that their absence from the other 10 is attributable to actions by state governments. Indiana is free to withdraw from the refugee assistance program, as other states have done; yet withdrawal might not interrupt the flow of Syrian refugees to the state because in states that choose not to participate in the refugee assistance program the federal government has been authorized to establish an alternative program, called Wilson/Fish, that distributes federal aid to refugees in a state without the involvement of the state government [Posner, 2016.10.03, pp. 5–6].
So, Branstnerian fearmongers, let’s review:
The United States has a thorough two-year refugee vetting process.
No evidence supports claims that Syrian refugees pose a terrorist threat to us.
Denying federal funds to Syrian refugees admitted to the country is illegal.
Individual states cannot block admitted refugees of any nationality, religion, etc. from traveling and settling where they wish in the United States.
We don’t need to engage any further with our local Branstner Klansters. We just need to send them copies of Posner’s ruling, an authoritative rebuke to anti-refugee fearmongering and the bogus attempt to reframe local elections in terms of national alt-right jabber.
Related: Last Thursday, the Sioux Falls Police Department arrested Sioux Falls Regional Airport security screener Connor Park, age 22, for making terroristic threats last week. Hard to tell what country he’s from, but surely Mike Pence and Ron Branstner will want to keep America safe from Park’s fellow countrymen.
When neighborhoods were becoming increasingly segregated in the Twin Cities, says [U of M law professor Myron] Orfield, so were schools, and reformists in the Twin Cities hoped to solve the problem by adopting an open enrollment system and embracing charter schools. Those reformists argued that the ability to choose would open up schools to students from all backgrounds, regardless of where they lived. But it had the opposite effect, said Orfield. White students began using the program to move from racially integrated schools to schools without racial diversity. Many charter schools in the Twin Cities began to openly describe themselves as “culturally focused”, catering its operations to one race or another. “They never found an integrated model for charter schools,” Orfield said. Today, among charter school students in the Twin Cities, about 90 percent of black students, 80 percent of Hispanic and Asian-American students, and 70 percent of white students attend virtually segregated schools. Orfield called it a modern version of the “separate but equal” idea, one that systemically sustains inequity as well as the kind of discrimination that killed Philando Castile [Taylor Gee, “Something Is Rotten in the State of Minnesota,” Politico, 2016.07.16].
South Dakota’s Republicans passed their own stealth voucher program earlier this year, diverting public funds to private insurance companies who will give scholarships to church schools (all private schools in South Dakota are church schools). That choice is only practical in our largest communities, where we have the greatest racial diversity. The same white flight from darker neighbors that Orfield sees in the Twin Cities thus got a little easier in South Dakota’s bigger towns, thanks to our Trumpist-Republican Legislature.
Beat up on public schools and facilitate racial segregation—that’s Trumpist education policy.