Mike interviews political scientist Brendan Nyhan, a professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. His research on political misperceptions has been published in many of the top journals in the field. He’s also a contributor to ‘The Upshot‘ at the New York Times – one of Mike’s ‘must read’ sites.
This week, the Guys start out by talking about ongoing controversies surrounding the 2016 presidential election. Now that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s recount effort has mostly fizzled out, attention has focused on the Russians, who the CIA has concluded attempted to influence the election in favor of Donald Trump. Both Jay and Mike are concerned, but Mike feels that Jay is downplaying the importance of this. Next, they look at – believe it or not -major legislation passed by Congress, in one case, passed with huge bipartisan majorities. After that, it’s a discussion of Donald Trump’s latest cabinet picks, and how the media should cover Trump’s tweets.
This week’s Ask The Politics Guys looks at two election-related questions. The first question – submitted by Alex, from Sandy, UT – is whether ranked-choice voting (sometimes called ‘instant runoff voting)) is a good idea.
The second question is whether the Electoral College – which will have made the popular vote loser the president in two of the last five elections – should be done away with.
This week, Mike and Jay start with a look at the three-state recount effort launched by Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein. The Clinton campaign has reluctantly become involved – reluctantly because they know that there’s essentially no way the recounts will change the result of the election. After that, they talk about Donald Trump’s deal to keep over 1,100 jobs at a Carrier plant in Indiana, look at how the Trump administration is filling out and what it might mean for policy, and talk about the latest incident of Islamic terrorism in the United States – a car & knife attack on the campus of Ohio State University.
Mike talks to one of his favorite economists: Bryan Caplan, a Professor of Economics at George Mason University. Professor Caplan is the author of multiple books, including The Myth of the Rational Voter, named “the best political book of the year” by the New York Times, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, and The Case Against Education, forthcoming in 2017 from Princeton University Press. He’s also a blogger at Econlog.
The Problem of Political Authority – Michael Huemer
Both Mike and Jay thought the 2016 presidential election was over, but that’s not so, at least according to Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, who has raised over $5 million dollars for recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – three states that put Donald Trump over the top in the Electoral College, and states that he only won by a combined total of around 100,000 votes. The Guys see this as more or less a Green Party publicity stunt, and don’t expect the recounts to change the results, which is in line what election experts expect.
Of greater concern is the now well-documented Russian efforts to influence the presidential election – not through hacking voting systems (which would be incredibly difficult) but through creating and distributing a massive amount of ‘fake news’ through social media. This ‘news’ was almost all anti-Clinton, and while there’s no good way to measure the impact it had on the election, it certainly didn’t help her campaign.
Next, Mike and Jay talk about the Trump transition, focusing on his use of YouTube, in what Jay sees as an almost FDR-esque manner. Mike points out that Trump also seems to be putting together his cabinet in what one could call a Lincoln-esque, ‘Team of Rivals’ fashion. They also consider the possibilities for conflicts of interest and out and out corruption in a Trump administration.
Finally, they talk about the record number of sentences President Obama has commuted – almost all for non-violent drug crimes involving mandatory minimum sentences. Mike and Jay agree that the Obama administration has been largely moving in the right direction on this. Jay is somewhat optimistic that this will continue in a Jeff Sessions led Justice Department, while Mike has serious doubts about that.
Last Sunday’s show was jam-packed, and there were plenty of things Mike and Jay wanted to talk about that they couldn’t get to (at least, not without making the show way too long). In this show, they focus on some of those things: What Donald Trump has to prove and how it might affect his presidency, the possibility that we’re wrong about Donald Trump, the under-appreciated value of humility in a leader, how Mike is trying to expand his media bubble, and their thoughts on the cast of ‘Hamilton’ giving VP-Elect Mike Pence a message at the end of a performance.
This week, the Guys start off by talking about how the incoming Trump administration is coming along. While things looked a little rocky at first, once Mike Pence took over from ousted transition chair Chris Christie things began to go more smoothly. As expected, liberals are not at all happy with Trump’s initial choices for his administration, with the selection of Steve Bannon as chief political strategist being the pick that has people most up in arms. Mike and Jay review all the picks and talk about the speculation surrounding some of the next big administration nominations. They also discuss possibilities for financial conflicts of interest and nepotism in a Trump administration.
After that, it’s a look at how the Democrats are coping with their loss, and where they go from here. They focus on the upcoming selections for Democratic National Committee chair, which pits Howard Dean against newcomer Keith Ellison, and the House Minority Leader position, where longtime leader Nancy Pelosi is facing a challenge from Rust Belt Democrat Tim Ryan.
Mike and Jay take a look at what we might expect from a Trump presidency in a number of areas, including health care, immigration, economic regulation & tax policy, the Supreme Court, climate change, international relations, and infrastructure. They also discuss the survival of the Senate filibuster, corruption and transparency in a Trump administration, the danger of Trump surrounding himself with loyalists, and their hope that Trump will govern as a pragmatist deal-maker, as opposed to the inflammatory demagogue he so often was during the campaign.
Essentially all of the pre-election polls were wrong, and the Politics Guys start out by explaining why that was. Mike points out that the only people who got it close to right were political scientists, using election predictions based on fundamental conditions. (Mike also offers his apologies for ignoring his profession’s own models and getting sucked into the media / pollster frenzy.)
Next, Mike and Jay look at how Donald Trump managed to shock the world, and how Hillary Clinton ended up losing an election that almost everyone assumed was in the bag.
After that, it’s a look at down-ballot elections. The Democrats gained some ground in Congress, but they’ll still be in the minority. Things look particularly grim at the state level, where Republicans increased their already dominant position in governorships and state legislative control.
Finally, the Guys talk about the future of their respective parties. Mike thinks that the biggest danger for the Democrats is overreacting, and that planned efforts to bolster the party at the state level should be helpful. Jay believes that it will be a very interesting time for the ‘Never Trump’ establishment conservatives, though he points out that President-Elect Trump seems to be making some choices that suggest he may develop a decent working relationship with the party establishment, at least on some issues.