“For My Friends, Anything. For My Enemies, the Law.”
Donald Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff who was found guilty last month of criminal contempt of court, reminds me of that adage of South American dictators: “For my friends, anything. For my enemies, the law.”
The president can grant clemency to anyone, but Trump’s predecessors used this power carefully.
David Frum writes in The Atlantic that Barack Obama only issued his first round of pardons two years into his presidency. George W. Bush waited until May 2004, six months before his reelection.
Trump, by contrast, appears to have put no formal deliberation into Arpaio’s pardon. He didn’t even wait until the former sheriff could be sentenced! Read more
Two Arguments for a More Proportional Voting System
Democrats could win 54 percent of the votes in next year’s congressional elections and still fall short of a majority.
G. Elliott Morris reports for Decision Desk HQ that because Democrats are clustered in America’s cities and face harsh gerrymanders, they aren’t likely to win a proportionate share of the seats.
We can debate at length whether this is unfair or by design, but that discussion isn’t changing Republican minds.
Advocates of a more proportional system should try two different arguments:
Politics should not be reduced to two options. There is no major party for Americans who are economically as well as socially liberal (“libertarian”). Nor was there, until recently, a party for nativists. Republicans are turning into one, but that will leave conservative internationalists on the outside.
Proportional representation would discourage regional factionalism. Jason Willick argues in The American Interest that if one region of the country drifts too far from another politically, and the minority region is out of power at the federal level, that could set the stage for secession or civil war. At a time when political violence in the United States is rising, it’s not hard to understand the perils of balkanized political coalitions. Read more
Repression Is the Wrong Approach to America’s Opioid Epidemic
One of the few silver linings to last year’s presidential election in the United States was that candidates from both major parties recognized that opioid addiction should be treated as a public-health, rather than a law-enforcement, problem.
Which makes it all the more disheartening that Donald Trump is taking exactly the wrong approach to this crisis.
Politico reports that the new president believes in a “tough law-and-order approach” to arrest the rise in drug overdose deaths.
142 Americans die from opioid abuse every day. That is more than die in car accidents or from guns.
The crisis is concentrated in postindustrial states like Kentucky and West Virginia: the heart of Trumpland. Read more
Republican Attempt to Repeal Obamacare Descends into Farce
Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare have descended into farce.
Politico reports that Senate Republicans don’t even want their latest bill — which would repeal the 2010 health reforms without replacing them — to become law.
“The substance of this is not what’s relevant,” said Bob Corker of Tennessee. “This a pathway to conference. That’s the only purpose in this.”
But there is no guarantee the House of Representatives will agree to a conference, which is not designed to write laws to begin with. It’s a process to iron out differences between similar bills passed by both chambers.
The reason Senate Republicans must resort to this is that they haven’t been able to unify their own behind a health-care bill, let alone attract Democratic support. Read more
The conventional wisdom is that Greek debt relief can’t happen before the German election. Angela Merkel wouldn’t want to risk the ire of her conservative voters.
But things could be more difficult after the election. There is a good chance Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the liberal Free Democrats will win enough seats to form a center-right government. The latter, while smaller, are more adamant in their views on the Greek debt crisis. They would find it hard to justify debt forgiveness to their voters.
That’s not the only reason why the time is right. Donald Trump and the rise of illiberal democracy around the world is another. Europe must circle the wagons to provide a counterweight to this dangerous development. Read more