The way forward on Trump nominees…pt 2, a modest proposal

So… in the month since my last post, Trump has gone on to announce a whole string of alarming nominees. Trump manages to make even boring roles like OMB cause for panic (see my Nominees page for my reasons for panic).

Based on Marie Claire’s great article on the likely outcomes of the cabinet appointment process,* the best case scenario seems to be Trump’s nominees withdrawing themselves from consideration. Having the nominees withdraw themselves is preferable to dragging out the confirmation process (btw the GOP had no problems doing this to Obama), since Trump has the authority to designate an acting head while waiting for the completion of the confirmation process. Normally, acting heads are non-political career civil servants from within the department, but we know that norms mean nothing to Trump, and his strategists are not above playing dirty. Trump could use a long confirmation process to have a lower-level appointee who does not need Senate confirmation take office. The only thing stopping an acting head from pushing forward Trump and the GOP’s disastrous agenda? Norms. Trump is unlikely to withdraw a nomination, and the Senate votes and history are all on Trump’s side for his nominees to get confirmed. So, in the end, a looong confirmation fight has little chance at stopping Trump while making Democrats look like obstructionist partisans. On the other hand, if nominees withdraw themselves, it could help damage Trump’s self-professed reputation for being able to hire “the best people.

I’m not advocating Dems just take a knee during the confirmation hearings- hopefully they can make the hearings Must-See-TV so that the American public can be made properly alarmed of the potential for, among other things, kleptocracy and the repeal of popular protections and policies. Maybe some amusing floor charts could help? By all means, call your senators to let them know what questions you want them to be asking during the hearings.

My modest proposal is to make not worth it to be nominee. It’s been well-reported that his nominees are really, really rich. These people are presumably living great lives, like Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin and his hot wife. We have to make it so that they can’t just add having the incredible power of the federal government at their finger tips to their already wonderful lives. There has to be a price. A portion of that price should come in the form of sacrificing wealth. Cabinet members are subject to conflict-of-interest laws, so we should force them to sacrifice wealth (as Obama did by keeping his wealth in relatively low yield investments that allowed transparency, meaning that he didn’t need to have a blind trust).  The other portion of that price should be a loss of privacy. Taking a position in a democratic government means that you are now accountable to the citizens of that government. Nominees need to be made aware that they will be subject to Freedom of Information Laws. We will be requesting their correspondence and their daily schedules.

Besides their official business, we also should be interested in their personal lives. We should be creating a market for paparazzi to shift their focus from starlets to current and potential members of the Trump administration- and not just when they’re entering Trump Tower. I want paparazzi camped outside the restaurants they eat at when they’re not with Trump to see if they’re meeting with individuals with sketchy Russian ties. I want to know if they’re partying with an actual child trafficker or someone who helped Goldman Sachs profit from an international money laundering scheme.  I want to know how they talk about minorities off the record. If we can look at pictures of Mandy Moore at Whole Foods and shots of Chelsea Handler on the beach in Mexico and if John Podesta’s CVS runs qualify as newsworthy, then I want to know where Trump’s nominees vacation, who they spend their time with, how they live. The thing is, we can do this- tabloids follow eyeballs. If posts on Trump nominees get hits, tabloids will devote more resources to following them. Hollywood Life and TMZ have made a decent start, but more on the nominees please! Come on, these nominees are rich- even if there’s no juicy dirt (Wolf of Wall-esque debauchery or Eyes Wide Shut style orgies), there’s sure to be plenty of enjoyable voyeurism along the lines of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous/Rich Kids of Instagram.

A March 2012 Bloomberg profile of Steve Mnuchin (Trump’s nominee for Treasury Secretary) illustrates the power of literally hitting people where they live:

..one night last October, he found himself trying to explain to his three children why approximately 100 protestors waving “Make Banks Pay” signs had set up camp outside the family’s 21,000-square-foot, $26 million Bel Air mansion. The demonstration was led by a foreclosed homeowner, Rose Gudiel, whose mortgage was serviced by OneWest, the bank Mnuchin and a group of fellow investors built from the ruins of IndyMac. A police helicopter arrived on the scene and cops pushed the protestors to the curb. No arrests were made. Yet five months later the episode rankles. Sitting for a February interview in his corner office in OneWest Bank’s Pasadena headquarters, amid signed photos of Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher and a six-volume bound set of Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. regulations, Mnuchin stresses one unusual request: that we not publish his home address.

Edit: Just wanted to add that there are groups that you can give money to that are actively working on opposition research about Trump nominees- this Buzzfeed article mentions American Bridge and the Center for American Progress Action Fund.


*I just want to say how much I love that women’s publications are really taking a lead when it comes to reporting on Trump- it completely makes sense, though.  A Trump administration could cause women to lose many rights and protections (like access to reproductive health, protections from discriminatory health insurance pricing, enforcement of protections from wage discrimination, etc.) and wind back many of the gains we have made against the structural and cultural forces that make sexual assault against women endemic. (See the House Freedom Caucus’ First 100 Days proposal which, in reference to Title IX guidance documentation on sexual assault and campus rapes, includes pointed references to date rape, “the incidence of which may be overestimated,” and the “often-innocent accused.”)

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The way forward on Trump nominees…

So this Nov 18 article in the Washington Post* [Can Democrats stop Jeff Sessions – or any Trump nominee? It would be almost unprecedented.] might be demoralizing- but it points us toward how to be strategic in our fight. Blocking a Trump nomination would require at least 3 Republican senators to break from their party.  The Washington Post also put together a list of 6 Republican senators who have voiced opposition to Trump in the past who could possibly be part of our crucial 3: 1. Rand Paul (KY), 2. Lindsey Graham (SC), 3. John McCain (AZ), 4. Susan Collins (ME), 5. Ben Sasse (NE), 6. Jeff Flake (AZ). [6 Senate Republicans who could make life very difficult for Donald Trump] The New York Times adds Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Lamar Alexander (TN). [Trump’s Next Battle: Keeping These Republican Senators Happy]

For the most part (Sasse I know the least of, plus he tweeted that paid riots thing), I believe their opposition is principled, not coming from a place of political maneuvering, and find them admirable- McCain, Flake, and Graham in particular are notable for working across the aisle on immigration reform as part of the Gang of Eight. I’m inclined to just let them do their thing… although I will circle back to talking about the senators from AZ… What I’m more interested in knowing is who are the vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection in 2018?

In “Looking Ahead – Preliminary Projections for 2018 Senate Elections” Daily Kos put together an early projection back in February- from their view the only possible vulnerable GOP senators are Jeff Flake (AZ – mentioned above) and Dean Heller (NV). BUT..also up for re-election in 2018 are Orrin Hatch (UT) and Ted Cruz (TX). In Utah, Evan McMullin garnered a good amount of notice in his run for president as an independent and has been tweeting up a storm in opposition to Trump. As for Texas, I keep holding on to the point that comes out around the 25 minute mark in Section 3 of the Reveal radio show on Voting rights – and wrongs that Texas would be Blue by a margin of “somewhere between 81,000-500,000 votes” if there were 100% turnout . Granted, Texas is very likely to be totally unconstrained in their voter suppression under a Trump presidency- but still, this analysis was on the basis of people who have already registered, not just are eligible to vote, plus we don’t need to win Texas by 81,000… and I think we could splinter off some number of GOP votes. (On a related note, Marco Rubio was re-elected to Senate this Nov…. who knows whether he’ll oppose Trump there or toe the party line.)

The thing is I don’t know anything about how politics works. I don’t know what indicators incumbents look at to decide whether they need to be nervous enough about their upcoming election to break from their party. I don’t know even know whether being nervous about re-election could be a factor in deciding to break from your party. Maybe being nervous makes you more dependent on party funds for campaigning? And then, what’s the best way for someone who doesn’t live in any of these states to influence these senators? Would funding an exploratory committee for McMullin for Senate affect Orrin Hatch at all?

But to circle back to the senators from AZ, Hillary Clinton wasn’t delusional for making a campaign stop in Arizona on Nov 2, and I’m pretty sure Jeff Flake knows it. But my real hope and prayer is that John McCain, 80 years old and secure until 2022, has decided to go shackles off and will fight Trump tooth and nail.

Last thought, going back to the Daily Kos article, pressure goes both ways, and we also need to worry about Democratic senators vulnerable in 2018. Most concerning is Joe Manchin of West Virginia who is already on the record saying that he will back Trump nominations. [Joe Manchin says he’ll back Trump picks for administration – Charleston Gazette-Mail] Cross-referencing the Feb 2016 Daily Kos analysis with Politico’s post-election analysis, there are 4 other vulnerable Democratic senators (Jon Tester (MT), Claire McCaskill (MO), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Joe Donnelly (IN), but Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Sherrod Brown (OH) could probably be added to the list). [Reeling Democrats confront brutal 2018 Senate map – Politico] But again, what’s the best way for someone who doesn’t live in any of these states to show support for these senators? 

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*I have a subscription to the Washington Post because I’ve found their Trump coverage pretty satisfying in its depth and breadth, and they don’t seem to be as hamstrung by  hand-wringing over their tone as the New York Times. However, I know not everyone has a subscription and might burn through 10 free articles a month pretty quickly. I sent the following tweet to Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post and founder, chairman, CEO of Amazon.com:

To be clear, the Washington Post is held in a separate holding company, so it is not affiliated with Amazon. But, you can’t deny the two companies are linked through Bezos. It’s worth a shot, no?

Week of Nov 21

Congress is out of session this week for the Thanksgiving holiday. In the meantime, we can continue to apply pressure via social media* on Donald Trump to rescind his announced picks and to set up a true #BlindTrust.

Also, you can still support the ACA on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s phone survey. You may have to call back if you get a message saying the voice mailbox is full.

 

#BlackFriday and #CyberMonday: While you’re out shopping, #GrabYourWallet and boycott business that carry Trump products: click here for a link to an up-to-date listing.

*I’m not sure if he is still able to read tweets directly (We know that he used to since he went and retweeted someone commenting on how Tim Kaine looked like a Batman villan during the VP debate). But I’m sure he is still allowed to watch cable news, which loves reading off tweets and/or talking about “social media outcry.” A Washington Post reporter visibly nosing around on social media was able to get Trump to make good on a $1 million pledge to veterans’ causes. [Four months after fundraiser, Trump says he gave $1 million to veterans group – Washington Post] There have also been pieces written about how Trump likes to “market test” positions, so to speak. This whole public parade of candidates, might come partially from Donald’s love of pageants, is more likely a way to put out trial balloons to gauge reaction to various candidates. (It may also be Trump being cheap- he might be relying upon reporters and opposition groups to do the vetting for him.)