Congressmen Waver While Trump And Pelosi Refuse To Compromise On Shutdown

It’s Day 21 of the government shutdown and there is no end in sight. As of today, the shutdown is tied with the 1995-96 shutdown as the longest in history. The leadership of both parties is resolute. Both President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have dug in and refused to compromise from their respective positions. Not everyone is happy among the party rank and file, however.

In the most recent House votes on compromise bills to reopen the government, 12 Republicans joined with House Democrats in voting to fully fund the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (HR 267). Previously, 10 Republicans had voted to fund parts of the government. In Thursday’s vote, they were joined by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), the most recent chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL). Stivers and Davis did not join the 10 other Republicans in a separate vote to reopen the Department of Agriculture (HR 265).

The number of disaffected Republicans is growing. On Wednesday’s votes, Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) joined with another eight Republicans who had earlier voted to fund the government. The eight who have consistently voted in favor of funding are Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX), Greg Walden (R-OR), Fred Upton (R-MI), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), John Katko (R-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). Greg Walden was the chairman of the RCCC from 2014 through 2016.

Although both bills passed the House, they will die in the Senate where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to take any action on a bill that Trump would not sign. President Trump has refused to waver on his demand for $5 billion for his wall project, about one-fifth of the estimated total that would be required, and Democrats have offered only $1.3 billion for border security funding that excludes the wall. Pelosi joked with reporters that she would only appropriate one dollar for the wall, adding, “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt about that?”

Despite Pelosi’s show of resolve, some Democrats are wavering as well. Politico reported on Wednesday that some freshman House Democrats were “freaking out” about the shutdown and the party’s strategy. A senior Democratic aide blamed some of the anxiety on the fact that some new congressmen didn’t have their offices and emails set up and were not receiving communications from Speaker Pelosi.

Nevertheless, some are feeling the heat from constituents. “If I am getting comments and contact from my constituents expressing concern that the Democrats are not prioritizing security, then I think we can do better,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).

Even if some Democrats have misgivings, so far, they have not had the opportunity to break ranks with their party. The only funding bills active are the partial funding bills passed by the House that reopen individual departments of the federal government. The dynamics of the shutdown are that funding bills originate in the Democrat-controlled House. Since McConnell is quashing votes in the Senate, that means that Republicans have more chances to cross the aisle than Democrats.

If McConnell decides to allow the House funding bills to be considered in the Senate, it is highly likely that they would pass easily. The bigger question is whether the Senate would have enough votes to override a probable veto from the president.

As the shutdown stretches on, the effects are starting to pile up like trash in the unstaffed national parks. Federal workers are missing a payday today. That has rippling effects throughout the country as local federal employees may be unable to pay their bills and about $2.2 billion in consumer spending is withheld from the economy. Even the Coast Guard and air traffic controllers are affected. Some services, such as the ability to obtain passports from the State Department are already closed and, if the shutdown stretches on others, such as tax refunds, may be delayed.

The shutdown will continue until one side blinks. So far, neither President Trump nor Speaker Pelosi has given any indication of budging from their positions. The compromise to end the shutdown will have to come from members of Congress who feel the pressure from their constituents. Pelosi’s San Francisco seat is safe, but many other congressmen and senators represent swing districts and states. They will be ready to make a deal and, because Republicans are more vulnerable after the last midterms, the odds are that it will not include a wall.

At this point, Mitch McConnell is the key. If McConnell stays strong and protects the president then the shutdown could last indefinitely. However, polling already shows that voters blame Trump for the shutdown and oppose both the shutdown tactic and the wall. If and when McConnell determines that Trump’s shutdown is endangering the Republican majority in the Senate, he could easily allow a vote and put Trump in the position of having to veto funding without a wall or backing down.

Why America’s Baby Bust Threatens Our Position As World Leader

For years the birth rate has been declining across much of the industrialized world. In many Western European countries, Russia, and Japan birth rates have already fallen below replacement levels. The United States was an exception to the rule, but now birth rates here have fallen precipitously as well. Just how much depends on what part of the country that you look at, however.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the number of US births in 2017 was the lowest since 1987 at 3.85 million. The birth rate was 1,765 births per 1,000 women (1.765), which is well below the 2,100 births, an average of 2.1 children per woman, that represent a replacement level, the number of births needed to maintain the current population. In short, the native-born population of the US is declining.

Interestingly, the decline in birth rates was not consistent across the entire US. The Southeast and the Midwest had higher birthrates than the Northeast and West Coast, but only two states, South Dakota and Utah, had birth rates greater than the replacement level. The area with the lowest birth rate, the District of Columbia (1,421 births), had a rate that was 64 percent that of South Dakota, the state with the highest birth rate at 2,227 births.

Demographics also make a difference when it comes to fertility. Hispanic women had the highest fertility rate of any ethnicity in the study. In 29 states, Hispanic women surpassed the replacement rate. Black women reached the replacement rate in 19 states, but white women fell below replacement level in every state.

Women in rural areas had higher birth rates than urban women while women with higher educations often delayed having children or did not have children at all. The researchers also said that cultural, religious and economic differences affected birth rates for different regions of the country. They speculated that South Dakota’s high birth rate could be due to the economic boom there created by the oil industry.

While declining birth rates may excite people who believe that humans are destroying the planet and worry about overpopulation, the prospect of fewer Americans poses serious problems. One of the most obvious aspects is the effect that fewer workers will have on entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. These programs are funded by payroll taxes, but the big three entitlements are getting more and more expensive due to large numbers of retiring Baby Boomers. The shrinking workforce means fewer paychecks to withhold from and complicates the problem of funding the entitlement programs. A smaller workforce will contribute to a growing deficit unless the programs are reformed.

A smaller workforce also hurts in other ways. Fewer workers means that the national economy will likely produce less. This is especially true in industries where automation is not efficient or possible. Fewer people also means fewer entrepreneurs to start new businesses. Taking the law of supply and demand into consideration, if fewer workers are available then wages will probably increase, making goods more expensive.

One way to solve the labor shortage problem is to allow more workers to immigrate. This is the strategy that Western Europe has used. That has led to new problems since Europe’s closest sources of unskilled migrants are North Africa and the Middle East. These predominantly Muslim immigrants are not as easily assimilated as Latinos are in the US. Still, increased immigration to the US would further stoke tensions among the many Americans who are concerned about immigration and its effect on American culture.

But, like or not, American culture is changing either way. Much like the climate, our culture has been constantly changing throughout our history. We started as English colonies but our culture has been altered radically by large waves of immigration from Ireland, Eastern Europe, slaves from Africa, and now Central America. There were also smaller waves from Asia and the Middle East. Even though the United States started with Englishmen, the largest ethnic group today is Americans of German descent. Each immigrant went into the melting pot and changed American culture subtly but permanently.

Even without increases to immigration to fill the shortages in the workforce, American culture will change. The birth rate data shows that white women are having fewer babies than minority women. There is also a sharp increase in the share of multiracial and multiethnic babies born in the United States. Any way you slice it, America is becoming less white and that will change the national culture.

A final possible effect of the declining birth rate is that America may ultimately lose its position as the world’s superpower. The ability to direct world events depends both on the manpower to commit troops in far-flung parts of the world as well as the financial wherewithal to support them. A declining birth rate affects both. Along with a smaller workforce, a smaller population means a smaller pool of potential military recruits. A shrinking economy would mean that the military would probably shrink as well, otherwise it would become increasingly burdensome on America’s shrinking tax base.

If there is any consolation in America’s birth rate problem, it’s that we aren’t alone. Our competitors on the world stage are having the same problem and face the same difficulties. Russia’s birth rate hit a 10-year low at 1.75 and the country’s population shrank last year even after accounting for immigration. In China, the birth rate is even worse at 1.62. Both countries are frantically trying to encourage their citizens to have more babies and China has even reversed its infamous one-child policy. The United States may need to find ways to change our culture to encourage more children as well.

Family Arrests At Border Hit Record High For Fourth Straight Month

Arrests of families of illegal immigrants at the Mexican border in December reached a record high for the fourth month in a row. Per data from Customs and Border Protection, arrests of families along the southern border have set new records for the past four consecutive months.

CNN reports that the CBP arrested 27,518 family members in December 2018. This represents an increase of nearly 240% from December 2017, which had 8,120 arrests. CBP statistics show an increase in family arrests on the border since August 2018. Arrest statistics are considered to be a measure of illegal border crossings under the assumption that more arrests will be made if more crossings are attempted.

The CBP website contains a prominent notice saying, “ Due to the lapse in federal funding, this website will not be actively managed,” and “This website was last updated on December 21, 2018, and will not be updated until after funding is enacted.” The statistics presented by CNN apparently reflect numbers that are not yet available on the CBP website due to the government shutdown.

While arrests of Family Unit Aliens (FMUA) have increased in recent months, total arrests have decreased slightly. Total arrests on the southwest border were 50,753 in December, slightly fewer than the 51,856 in November. Border traffic often decreases in December due to holidays and colder weather.

The shift seems to represent a changing pattern of illegal immigration across the Mexican border. Illegal border crossings reached a 46-year low in 2017 and have not increased appreciably since. While the total number of illegal border crossings is low by historical standards, families are making up a larger share of those who do cross the border.

The larger number of families and children at the border is overwhelming the ability of CBP to house and care for them. Yet out of the thousands of arrests at the southern border, only six were suspected terrorists compared with 41 at the Canadian border. The crisis at the border is a humanitarian crisis rather than a national security crisis.

CBP Commissioner Kevin McAlleenan agrees that the big problem at the border is dealing with the volume of families and minors. McAlleenan told ABC News in December 2018, “The — the humanitarian crisis we’re facing — that means there are 60,000 people crossing the border each month — each of the last three months. That’s 30,000 families, 5,000 kids per month. That means we’re going to have 22,000 children come through our system, a system built for adults who are violators of the law. Now they’re coming in to border patrol stations as young children. So that — that’s a huge crisis.”

“The breaking point at the border is because of the volume,” McAlleenan added, noting that a 2015 case upheld by the 9th Circuit in 2016 led to the current problem of being unable to complete immigration proceedings for immigrants that arrived with children. The decision created an incentive for illegal immigrants to bring their children across the border.

“So basically, that sent a signal, if you arrive with a child, you’ll be able to stay in the United States,” McAlleenan said. “And that’s why we’ve seen continued growth month after month of people coming with children.”

One of the big questions of the hour is whether the humanitarian crisis provides sufficient grounds for President Trump to use his executive authority to declare a national emergency and bypass Congress to fund construction for the wall. The answer is almost certainly no.

Illegal immigration across the southwest border is currently very low by historical standards. The CBP website, which may have incomplete data, puts total arrests along the Mexican border at 396,579 for 2018. That’s more than the 2017 total of 310,531 but far less than the 1.6 million arrests from 2000 or the 723,825 who were arrested 10 years ago in 2008 (CBP data going back to 2000 can be viewed here).

The illegal immigration problem that we face today is very different from the one that we faced 20 years ago. In 2015, Pew Research reported that the Mexican immigration wave was ending as more Mexicans left the US than entered. Today, the CBP statistics note that arrests of Mexican families along the border are far fewer than those from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. This reduction in immigration from Mexico is partly due to the creation of more economic opportunity in Mexico by NAFTA as well as the deterioration of conditions in Central America.

Although he acknowledges that more capacity to house detainees is needed, CBP’s McAlleenan has an idea on how to solve the problem. Actually, he has several of them.

“So, I think this is a multifaceted problem that requires a multifaceted solution,” he said. “You mentioned the legal framework, based on that Flores settlement and the court decision families are going to be released. So that’s inviting families into this dangerous journey. We need a sober-minded, nonpartisan look at our immigration laws to really confront and grapple with the fact that children and families are coming into this cycle, that’s first and foremost.”

“We also need to invest in Central America,” he added. He advocates working with Central American nations and Mexico to help fix the problems, such as violence, food shortages, and malnutrition, that make people want to leave those countries to come to the US.

He also favors physical barriers for certain parts of the border, particularly those that “have a dense metropolitan area on both sides of the border, where people can disappear quickly into a neighborhood in the U.S. side if we can’t slow them down.”

McAlleenan’s idea of a barrier includes much more than just a wall. “And what we’re talking about is not just a dumb barrier,” he says, “We’re talking about sensors, cameras, lighting, access roads for our agents, a system that helps us secure that area of the border.”

The $5 billion that President Trump has requested would pay for about 215 miles of McAlleenan’s requested improvements to the border. The entire border is almost 2,000 miles long.

Did Trump’s Speech Make A Strong Case For The Border Wall?

 

President Trump took the airwaves to make the case for his border wall in a speech from the Oval Office last night. In the speech, which lasted nine minutes and was followed by a rebuttal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump framed the problem at the border as a “humanitarian crisis” and called it “immoral” to take no action.

Trump’s sympathetic words last night for illegal immigrants stand in stark contrast to his claims during the campaign that Mexico was “not sending their best” and that illegal immigrants were “people that have lots of problems,” bringing crime and drugs to the US, as well as his administration’s zero tolerance policy for illegal border crossers that resulted in breaking up illegal alien families. In contrast, last night Trump said that illegal immigrant children were “human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs” and cited a statistic that “one in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.”

Saying that our immigration system was “broken,” Trump called on Congress to fix the problem. While both parties and most Americans agree that the immigration system needs an overhaul and that border security is important, the question is how to fix it.

Trump began by detailing a number of non-wall proposals that include many things that Democrats seem to agree with. These include “cutting-edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons, illegal contraband and many other things,” more Border Patrol agents, more bed space for detained illegals, and “humanitarian assistance and medical support.” The president also asked Congress to “close border security loopholes so that illegal immigrant children can be safely and humanely returned back home.”

What the president did not do was make a strong case that the wall was necessary for border security. The president’s question of why “wealthy politicians build walls, fences and gates around their homes” was more suitable to a meme than a policy speech. Trump claimed that Border Patrol agents said they needed a wall, but an internal study by US Customs and Border Protection found that agents gave priority to requests for more and better technology, training, and personnel.

A number of critics of the wall, including myself, have not called it immoral, but rather have said that it would be expensive and ineffective. The president pointedly ignored the factual problems with the wall plan that have been cited by such organizations as the Cato Institute and the Rand Corporation.

Instead of refuting these legitimate concerns and criticisms, the president used a straw man argument to attack anyone who doesn’t support the wall by framing the debate as a “choice between right and wrong, justice and injustice.” The president’s strong, emotional appeal will play well with the base, but it is unlikely to win over people who oppose the wall. Instead, it will harden the divisions and make a wall even more unlikely.

Rather than focusing on the wall that would physically divide the US and Mexico and that metaphorically divides US public opinion, a better strategy would be to get as much money for border security as possible and reopen the government. Put the money toward things that both sides want such as more agents, newer technology to assist them, and upgrades to the existing 600 miles of border fencing.

The fact is that many things that both parties want are in the compromise bills that are being proposed in the House. It is the insistence on $5 billion for the wall, a figure that would not come close to completing the project, that is keeping the government shut down and preventing a bipartisan compromise that would fund popular border security projects. President Trump should accept that a wall isn’t going to happen and get what border security money that he can. If he can upgrade and repair existing physical barriers on the border, he can even claim a victory in building the wall.

Nate Silver: Clinton Campaign Strategists Were ‘Huge Dumbasses’

There are many myths about the 2016 election. On the left it is an article of faith that Donald Trump could not have won without illicit coordination with the Russians. On the right, there is the pervasive notion that because Trump beat the odds to win the presidency, all polling is wrong and should be disregarded. Yesterday Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight managed to blow up both of these theories in a single tweet.

The exchange began with a tweet from Ben Collins of NBC News that asked, “What did the Kremlin’s cutouts know about targeting MI and WI? How did they know it? And is there data to show they took action on it?”

https://twitter.com/oneunderscore__/status/1082750493842173953

Silver, the head of the FiveThirtyEight polling analysis site, responded quickly with a tweet that slammed the door on that particular aspect of Russian collusion. “The 538 model, which was based on publicly-available polling data, said the campaigns should target WI and MI,” Silver wrote. “You didn’t have to have any proprietary info to know they were important states. You just had to look at the data and not be huge dumbasses like the HRC campaign was.”

https://twitter.com/NateSilver538/status/1082777389460004864

Silver followed up with a link to a FiveThirtyEight article from February 2017, “Donald Trump Had A Superior Electoral College Strategy.” The thrust of the article, subtitled “How Hillary Clinton and the media missed the boat,” was that Hillary made two key errors in the campaign. First, she focused on states where the race was close rather than states that had the potential to tip the race. In particular, the article points out that Clinton did not set foot in Wisconsin after the Democratic primary. Second, she was overconfident and limited her focus to a narrow range of states. Hillary’s main focus was on Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Silver didn’t explicitly address the idea that because the forecasts were wrong in 2016 that all polling is wrong, but it is implicit in his statement that the Clinton campaign was made of “huge dumbasses” who ignored polling data that showed that Hillary was in trouble. Many Republicans claim that the media gave Hillary a 99 percent chance of becoming president on election night, but FiveThirtyEight’s forecast, which is still posted, gave Donald Trump a 29 percent chance of winning. Under those circumstances, Trump was an underdog, but not prohibitively.

With respect to the two states in question, FiveThirtyEight gave Trump a 21 percent chance in Michigan and a 17 percent chance in Wisconsin. Many polls were within the margin of error in Michigan, but Wisconsin polling was further off, showing a consistent albeit single-digit lead for Hillary.

As I pointed out a few months ago, polls are snapshots rather than predictive. One good technique for examining polls is to look for trends in the big picture. The big picture of the polling average from 2016 is still available on Real Clear Politics in convenient graph form. If we look at the trend, we can see Trump plunging in the polls about Oct. 10 then starting a slow rise on Oct. 20. There is a sharp increase between Oct. 28 and Nov. 2 that brought Trump to within two points of Hillary, well within the margin of error of most polls. Going into Election Day, the national polling average had the two candidates about three points apart, a close race by any standard.

If we look at key events that occurred in the campaign, we can see exactly what caused these movements in the polling. Keeping in mind that polls are lagging indicators, we see that Trump’s decline in early October followed the release of the Access Hollywood tape on Oct. 7. The final presidential debate was on Oct. 19 and Trump’s performance seems to have helped him in the polls, but not enough to close the deal. The event that sealed the race in Trump’s favor occurred on Oct. 28, the release of FBI Director James Comey’s memo to Congress that detailed the discovery of thousands of emails that related to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server. In a May 2017 article, Silver also made the case that Comey’s memo cost Hillary the election.

There are lessons for both parties in Silver’s tweets and articles. For the Democrats, candidates should not take the Rust Belt states for granted. Traditional party loyalties may not be enough to carry a state, especially in an election where everything seems to be going wrong for your candidate. There is no substitute for getting into the field and making appearances. Charisma, broad appeal outside the party, and the stamina to campaign should be factors in nominating a candidate.

For Republicans, the lesson is also that the Rust Belt states should not be taken for granted. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were all decided by about one percent of the vote after being all but ignored by the Democrat candidate. Just because they voted for Donald Trump once does not mean that they will do so again. The Clinton campaign made mistakes that will probably not be repeated by the next Democratic candidate. Even with these mistakes, however, Trump still lost the popular vote and would most likely have lost the electoral vote had it not been for James Comey. Donald Trump has the stamina to campaign, but he lacks charisma and popularity outside the GOP.

Despite claims from both sides, the 2020 election is far from a sure thing for either party. The outcome will be determined by which side better learns the lessons of the 2016 election and adapts their strategy to a changing electoral environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Skeptically Look At Polls

It’s election season. The time when a political junkie’s fancy turns to polls, polls, and more polls. With so many polls being released, many of the polls will show results that are contradictory from each other, which one do you believe? Should you believe any of them?

Conservatives have long been leery of polls, but that skepticism reached its height after Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016. Much of this skepticism lies in a misunderstanding of how to look at polls and what they represent. Some of this misunderstanding is fed by media outlets and politicians that misuse polls.

When considering polls, keep a few simple rules of thumb in mind:

Polls are historical, not predictive. They provide a snapshot of public opinion when they were taken. By themselves, they do not forecast the outcome of elections. Polls are lagging indicators that measure public opinion as it was on a given date.

Look at the trend of all the polls. To see which way public opinion is moving, don’t just look at one poll. Look at similar polls taken over a period of time and compare the results. For example, one poll on Donald Trump’s approval rating isn’t very useful, but if you look at the trend of all polls showing the presidential approval rating you can see whether it has improved or declined.

Real Clear Politics is a useful site that acts as a clearinghouse of polls. You can look up individual poll types such as President Trump’s approval, individual races such as Ted Cruz v. Beto O’Rourke, or generic ballots.

RCP shows all the polls of each particular type, which makes it easy to see trends. For instance, the page of Cruz-O’Rourke polls shows 10 polls going back to April. The trend shows a surge by O’Rourke in which Cruz moved from a double-digit lead to a statistical tie.

Discard the outliers. Politicians and the media often trumpet shocking poll results such as the recent Rasmussen poll that showed President Trump’s support among black voters at 36 percent. Polls that differ wildly from other polls are outliers and should be treated with suspicion.

One way of reducing the effect of outliers is to take an average of polls. Both Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight have pages that show the average of polls asking about President Trump’s approval rating that go all the way back to his inauguration. These are useful tools for getting the big picture of the longterm trends in presidential approval.

Look at the nuts and bolts of the poll. Not all polls are created equal. You can get an idea of how reliable a poll is by looking at who it surveyed. The most accurate polls talk to likely voters. Polls of registered voters are less accurate while those that survey adults are the least accurate.

Pollsters also must make assumptions about who will show up to vote. These assumptions are used to weight the data from the poll, but there is no way to test their validity until Election Day when we find out who comes out to vote. Many polls give information about the weighting and the mix of Democrat and Republican respondents if you read the fine print.

Consider the margin of error. No poll is exact because they all represent only a sample of the population. The accuracy of the poll can be calculated and is usually disclosed as the “margin of error.” A large sample size is more accurate and reduces the poll’s margin of error.

The thing to remember is that the closer a poll is, the less it can be used to predict a specific outcome. For example, the most recent Cruz-O’Rourke pollthat showed a one-point race had a 4.4-point margin of error. This is known as a statistical tie. The one-point difference is well within the margin of error so the key takeaway from the poll is that the race is currently too close to call, not that Ted Cruz would win the election by one point.

If a poll shows a large difference discrepancy between two viewpoints, you can be reasonably confident that the general breakdown is correct, even if the specific percentages are not. For example, when 72 percent opposed the Trump Administration policy of separating immigrant children from their parent and only 27 percent were in favor in a June CBS News poll, there was little doubt that Americans strongly opposed the policy.

Consider polling difficulties. The smaller the race, the tougher it is to get good polling. National polls are the most accurate, but state and district polls are more questionable. There might be no public polling at all in some House and Senate races.

The root cause of much of the 2016 polling problem was polling at the state level in a few Rust Belt states. By Election Day, national polls were showing a close race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The RCP average gave Hillary Clinton a 3.1 point edge, within the margin of error of most polls. In the final tally, Clinton won the popular vote by 2.1 points which was very close to what the polls showed.

Of course, the popular vote does not decide presidential elections and the predicted outcome of elections in key states turned the Electoral College results. An after-action report by the American Association for Public Opinion Research noted that “eight states with more than a third of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency had polls showing a lead of three points or less”and that “polls on average indicated that Trump was one state away from winning the election.”

The outcome in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin was the surprise for forecasters that turned the election to Trump, yet the polling in both Michiganand Pennsylvania showed a close race. In both states, the last poll before the election favored Donald Trump. The polls were only substantially off in Wisconsin where the last poll favored Hillary by eight points, but Trump won by less than one point.

In the end, most polls did not capture a late surge by Donald Trump in the wake of FBI Director James Comey’s memo to Congress. The lagging indicators were too far behind to include the rapidly changing landscape but did reflect a very close race in most cases. The AAPOR after-action report also faults an overrepresentation of college graduates in many polls that would have favored Clinton.

Polling is not an exact science. Poll results shouldn’t be considered to be gospel, but neither should they be ignored. By looking beyond the headline, you can determine whether a poll is reliable and how it fits into the big picture of the election.

Originally published on Sept. 3, 2018

Chris Wallace Sets Record Straight On Terrorists Illegally Crossing From Mexico

A major talking point of the Trump Administration has been that the border wall is vital to national security. As part of their argument, President Trump has made the claim that terrorists have been apprehended crossing the southern border with Mexico. This and similar claims became the focal point of a heated discussion between White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Chris Wallace of Fox News yesterday.

On Fox News Sunday, Wallace cited Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s statement that CBP had stopped more than 3,000 special interest aliens at the southern border and explained that “special interest aliens” are “people who come from countries that have ever produced a terrorist.” Wallace added, “They aren’t terrorists themselves” and noted that the State Department said that there was “no credible evidence of any terrorist coming across the border from Mexico.”

Sanders responded, “We know that there are nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists [that] come into our country illegally and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.”

Wallace interrupted, “I know that statistic. I didn’t know if you were going to use it, but I studied up on this. You know where those 4,000 people come from, where they are captured? Airports!”

“Not always,” Sanders retorted.

“The State Department says there hasn’t been any terrorist that they’ve found coming across the southern border,” Wallace fired back.

“It’s by air, it’s by land, it’s by sea, it’s all of the above,” Sanders answered.

“But they’re not coming across the southern border, Sarah,” Wallace said, ‘They’re coming and they’re being stopped at airports.”

I had also heard the Homeland Security statistics and Trump’s claims about terrorists coming from Mexico. They didn’t ring true. Think about how the Trump Administration reacts when an illegal alien commits a violent. Both perpetrator and victim are featured prominently in talking points and the president’s tweets. Over the past few years, we have seen this pattern with Kate Steinle, Mollie Tibbets, and the recent murder of police Corporal Ronil Singh in California.

But when it comes to terrorists crossing the Mexican border, the Trump Administration has been astonishingly silent. If terrorists were being captured as they crossed the border from Mexico, it seems likely that the Trump Administration would be marching them before the media to make the case for the border wall. They haven’t.

Instead, we have a bait-and-switch. Trump surrogates like Sanders make two separate claims and link them together. On one hand, Sanders makes the verifiable claim that “there are nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists [that] come into our country illegally.” On the other, she offers an opinion that “our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.” Sanders dishonestly leads the viewer to make the erroneous connection that the 4,000 terrorists were apprehended at the Mexican border, when, in fact, they were apprehended at airports.

Border security is a legitimate concern, both at the Mexican border and at airports, but the revelation that the Trump Administration has been purposely misleading the country about how terrorists enter the country undercuts the already shaky case for a border wall.

In fact, current security at the Mexican border seems to be working pretty well. The migrant caravan, which was pitched as an “invasion” in October, is still sitting in Tijuana where its members are waiting to legally apply for asylum. Illegal border crossings have already been declining for years, hitting a 46-year low in 2017. For more than a decade now, most illegal aliens have entered the country legally and overstayed visas rather than sneaking across the Mexican border. By 2014, two-thirds of new illegals were visa overstays.

While it certainly isn’t impossible that terrorists could sneak across the Mexican border, possibly through one of the innumerable tunnels that run underneath current physical barriers, there is no evidence that they are doing so. If conservatives want to make dispassionate policy decisions and use taxpayer money to the greatest advantage for the country, facts support the idea that border security money should be focused toward tracking aliens who enter the country legally on visas and then drop out of sight.

The Trump Administration loses more of its credibility, which is already in short supply, when they make false claims such as advancing the idea that terrorists are streaming across the Mexican border. Kudos to Chris Wallace and Fox News for setting the record straight.

 

Why Democrats Won’t Impeach Donald Trump

As the 116th Congress begins, the question on the minds of many political observers is, “Will they or won’t they?” Democrats will control the House of Representatives, the congressional body that is responsible for impeaching elected officials, so will they impeach Donald Trump?

The answer is a definite maybe.

On NBC’s Today Show this morning, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that impeachment would be very “divisive” for the country. She added, “We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason.”

Some Democrats are anxious to begin impeachment proceedings. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) is already planning to introduce articles of impeachment based on the allegation that Trump obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey. Sherman originally introduced the articles in 2017 but they went nowhere in the Republican-controlled House.

But just because the legislation is being introduced does not mean that it has the support of House Democrats or their leadership. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced articles of impeachment against George W. Bush in 2008 but the effort went nowhere. Nancy Pelosi was speaker then as well.

Whatever you might think of Nancy Pelosi, one thing is certain: She is politically shrewd. Pelosi undoubtedly realizes that as long as Senate Republicans remain united, there would be no point in impeaching President Trump.

The House could pass the articles of impeachment but to what end? The second phase of impeachment is a Senate trial to determine whether the president would be removed from office. With Republicans in control of the Senate, it is a certainty that this effort would fail.

Pelosi is more likely to bide her time and wait. If the Mueller investigation uncovers evidence of more wrongdoing by Trump, then it is possible that she will consider pursuing impeachment in the future. This is particularly true if the revelations about Trump’s actions cause a split in the GOP that enables her to pick up enough Republican votes to remove Trump from office.

Looking back to the impeachment of Bill Clinton, this was the error that Republicans made. House Republicans impeached the president but he was acquitted in the Senate even though Republicans held a majority in that body as well. A number of Republican senators voted “not guilty” and Clinton was allowed to remain in office. President Clinton’s popularity reached its highest points during and after his impeachment.

Bill Clinton was in his second term in 1998 and could not run for re-election. If Donald Trump is impeached in 2019, however, the Democrats run the risk that he will become more popular. A failed impeachment might give Trump the edge he needs to win re-election.

Napoleon is said to have advised, “Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.” Speaker Pelosi is likely to take this advice to heart.

While impeaching Trump would be emotionally satisfying for many on the left, Pelosi will play the long game. Her focus will not be on a feel-good impeachment, it will be on winning the Senate and the White House in 2020. This year’s midterm elections showed that the best chance for Democrats in 2020 is to keep Trump in office. His divisive temperament and unpopular policies led Republicans to a suburban rout in 2018 and more of the same is likely in 2020.

On the other hand, a successful impeachment of President Trump would result in Mike Pence becoming president. Pence is a much more experienced and competent politician who would stand a better chance of being re-elected than Donald Trump. Pence would also benefit from a united Republican Party that would rally avenge the ouster of President Trump.

A lot can happen in two years but at this point, it seems that Pelosi’s best strategy would be to keep impeachment on the back burner. If the opportunity to oust Trump presents itself, she will be prepared to jump on it, but her best bet would be to sit back and allow Trump to defeat himself and fracture the GOP in the process.