Monday, June 25, 2018

Your Rights, If You Can Keep Them--On 3Quarks

Let’s talk about bullets and ballots.  
First, a thought experiment. Your son is about to become a father for the first time, and you want to get him something special. You have great memories of taking him hunting when he was a boy. So you go to a local gun show, and, at a booth manned by an old friend, you see a real beauty. He’s about to ring you up when something flashes on his screen.

“I can’t sell this to you…it looks like you haven’t bought a gun in at least six years.” He calls over someone official-looking; a long discussion ensues, including a certain amount of hand-waving, but the result is the same. No sale. Several years ago, your State Legislature, concerned about people getting their permits in-state and then moving elsewhere, had sent out postcards to those permit-holders who hadn’t bought a gun in the previous two years to make sure they still resided in the state. You could have responded to the instructions on the postcard, or simply bought a new gun from a licensed dealer in the four years that followed. But you didn’t—in fact, you don’t even remember getting the postcard, much less hearing that not returning it could be a problem.

Tough luck, especially when Democrats took back both the State House and control of the State Legislature. The dealer explained to you that you hadn’t lost your Second Amendment rights—no one was going to touch the guns you already owned or stop you from carrying or hunting—but until you updated your paperwork, the State assumed you had moved and the dealer was prohibited from selling something new to you. He was incredibly apologetic; your boys had played Little League baseball together; he’d even worked for your Dad when he was in high school; so there was absolutely no doubt in his mind that you were who you said you were, and lived where you said you lived, but the law was the law.  On this one day, not forever, but this day, you couldn’t purchase that particular gun. He’d put it aside for you, and, as soon as you got off the “No Buy” list, you could have it.

Outraged, you went home and tried to figure out a way to expedite things. Turns out that the Governor had sharply reduced the number of places you could file your documentation (he called it “reforming government”), and you lived over 50 miles away from the nearest one.  Also, they cut back the hours at those offices and made them weekdays only, which meant taking a day off from work. And the proof they required was a bear. Birth certificates and Social Security cards might not be enough. Even voting in the same polling place, which you had faithfully done for 30 years, didn’t work. Taking heed of Republican complaints of widespread voter fraud, the policy was to exclude voting records as evidence of residence.

By now, you are fuming.  You call your local state legislator, and a sympathetic aide tells you that, unfortunately, those are the new rules.  And likely those rules aren’t going to be changing soon, because, while the State was Purple-ish, after the Democrats rammed through a redistricting, the GOP would be lucky if they could hold on to even 40% of the seats. The Assemblyman wouldn’t be running for re-election, since he had been gerrymandered into a new district.  

Sounds absurd?  It is absurd–no chance they would treat the Second Amendment that way.  But when you substitute voting for gun-buying, suddenly every single one of those fictional hurdles I made you go over has been used, successfully, to restrict the exercise of the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-Third, Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Sixth Amendments.  

How can something that seems so basic to our Republic, a citizen’s right to choose his representatives, be so fragile?  We can start with the most significant Supreme Court decision affecting voting rights in decades, 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder—the Times-Square-sized neon sign blinking “Cheat Here” of modern voter suppression.

To make more sense of why Shelby has such a significant impact, we need a closer look.  Shelby was a challenge by Shelby County, Alabama, to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The VRA was adopted as a response to unrelenting and pervasive attempts to limit minority participation at the polls. Through the interplay of three key portions of the Act, it banned discrimination on the basis of race (Section 2), set up “coverage formulas” that looked at raw vote totals and the relative success of minority candidates, identified areas as particularly prone to suppression (Section 4B), and then required those areas to get “pre-clearance” from the Justice Department to make changes to their voting procedures (Section 5).  Among those identified: eight Southern States (including Alabama), plus Alaska, assorted jurisdictions in California, Michigan and North Dakota, and five sites in New York City. Shelby County wanted out, and it had sued to get out. 

Conservatives have hated the VRA from its inception. I know, to an observer of contemporary American politics, this seems almost self-evident, but that’s unfair. There is a solid intellectual argument to be made that the law (not necessarily conduct, but the law) should always be racially neutral. In practice, this can seem to be contradictory—to claim you are against discrimination, but then disavow the means to combat it when it actually occurs. That being said, you can respect the consistent application of a principle (opposing all preferences regardless of whom they benefit) when it is consistently applied. There are plenty of principled conservatives out there.

As Shelby wended its way through the lower courts, many of the VRA’s opponents, knowing that there were probably five votes for repeal, dreamed of a clean kill. But Shelby posed a particular challenge. Congress had reauthorized the VRA five times since its original enactment, the last time in 2006 by votes of 390-33 in the House, and 98-0 in the Senate. The legislative history associated with that reauthorization showed, in explicit detail, continuing and extensive discrimination. In light of that, while gutting Shelby might have been immensely satisfying, conservatives on the Court would have had to engage in an act of extraordinary Judicial Activism.  Justice Scalia essentially acknowledged this during oral argument, when, with some clearly evident picque, he opined that the only reason the VRA received such levels of Congressional support was because it “perpetuated a racial entitlement.” From Scalia’s perspective, those votes in Congress weren’t real—it was just that lawmakers were too intimidated to do what he would have done—vote against it. Think of it as his variation on the Goldwater slogan, “In your heart, you know he’s right.”  

Shelby demonstrates to me why Scalia could never have been Chief, because Scalia, for all his intellectual firepower, was a bomb-thrower. John Roberts, on the other hand, was perfect for the job. He’s every bit as smart as Scalia was, completely dedicated to the law, but also, when he needs to be, a sleek and silent assassin. It was Roberts who identified the key weakness in the government’s argument—the failure, since 1975, to update the coverage formulas.  He then stitched that together with increased levels of minority participation over the decades, and, in a superb piece of advocacy, asked one slightly misleading, but nevertheless crushing question to then-Solicitor General Verrilli, “Is it the government’s submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North?”

Roberts knew Verrilli couldn’t possibly say yes, and, on that key point, the case was basically over. He had the five votes, and assigned himself the Opinion, invalidating the existing coverage designations in Section 4B, and, by extension, Section 5’s “pre-clearance” mechanism. The good Republicans of Shelby County were unleashed to indulge themselves. Roberts was careful enough to point out that discrimination was still prohibited by Section 2, and he even invited Congress to revisit the coverage issue, but he must have known that they were never going to agree on a new definition.  For all intents and purposes, Shelby buried the VRA by making it an empty, toothless vessel, and it was Roberts who did the embalming.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, once Shelby opened the door, more than 20 states with single-party governments rushed in to consolidate their hold on power.  I was at a conference on Latino voting rights in New York a few months ago and had a chance to talk to one of the speakers. What he said was that Shelby had been a complete game-changer on voting rights litigation—even when discriminatory intent was obvious. Without the need for preclearance, new and potentially discriminatory policies could be instituted immediately, and only challenged after the fact. Lost also was a roadmap for what the Justice Department would likely have disapproved.  The balance of power had swung dramatically away from excluded voters. It was anything goes now.

Where does this end? We might as well acknowledge the obvious: to a very large extent, the race of voters is less important than their prior voting patterns, so true discrimination is hard to prove unless it is absolutely overt. That is why the most effective suppression techniques are largely administrative. You don’t need to send the proverbial men with guns to certain polling places. You just reduce the number of those polling places, restrict early voting, shorten poll hours, purge voter rolls, and create new voter ID requirements, all in a manner that “coincidentally” knocks out more of their voters than yours. Ohio Republicans aren’t going to lose a moment’s sleep if they trade one night-nurse in Holmes County (4-1 Trump and one of the least minority places on Earth), for five in Cleveland or Cincinnati, which were both strongly pro-HRC.

And that’s just the kind of pure, partisan politics that John Roberts would prefer not to touch, but knows is inescapable.  Such was Shelby.  Such was the just-decided Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute (Opinion by Justice Alito) which embraced the postcard and two-strikes- you’re-out approach of Ohio’s Secretary of State (and Karl Rove helpmate) Jon Husted.  Such are the two gerrymandering cases, Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone, both challenges to redistricting, which were remanded to lower courts on a standing issue (a very strong hint the conservative majority on the Court might have approved them), as well as a third, Abbott v. Perez, which was undecided as of this writing.  

But Roberts might as well be wishing away the humidity in a Washington summer—it ain’t going to happen, because cheating (and that’s what this is) works. Let me tell you what will happen. Voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering will intensify at all political levels, aided by big data and ever-more sophisticated and granular targeting techniques. Both sides will end up in an arms race—you cheat, you win, you cheat some more, and each win gives you the opportunity to go bigger the next time.  The real risk, though, isn’t that Blue States will get more Blue, or Red more Red. It’s that government will no longer be reflective of the electorate’s desires, or responsive to its wishes, because more and more citizens will be effectively locked out. And they will be angry about it. Both those things, in case you hadn’t noticed, are already occurring.

There has to be a limit, right? I strongly suspect that, whatever that limit is, it is going to be determined by a deeply reluctant John Roberts. Just as in Shelby, he’s going to be one of the five in the majority, and he’s going to assign the Opinion. At stake, along with fair voting, may also be the very legitimacy of the Court, as he himself defined it. He said, in his confirmation hearing: “Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules.”

I have a lot of respect for the Chief Justice. He is too conservative for my tastes, but I believe he’s a man of integrity. He’s got to realize that now is the time to stop ignoring the tricks of the trade, from sign-stealing to beanballs, to put on his black suit and mask, to get on the field, and to make sure everyone plays by the rules.

Michael Liss, June 25th, 2018

Your Rights, If You Can Keep Them appeared first on June 25th, 2018 in

Editor's Note:  Subsequent to publication, Justice Kennedy announced his retirement.  It's fair to assume the Court will now tilt much further Right, especially on anything related to voting rights, and gerrymandering. 

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Graduate Schools His Father-On

Celebrate with me. 

May is graduation month, and my children are among the graduates.  My son marched two weeks ago for his Masters, and, if you are reading this on Memorial Day, it might be at the very same time I watch my daughter receive her Bachelor of Music. Go get ‘em, kids.  

Perhaps your joy need not be vicarious—you have your own family skittering across the podium. One of the special pleasures of this time of year is that so many of your friends and relations are also submerged in a sea of caps and gowns, blurry pictures, hugs, and the dreaded Elgar Pomp and Circumstance Earworm. They announce themselves with each vibration from your iPhone, a kaleidoscope of happy, and occasionally goofy, images. Can we all stipulate that the whole outfit looks a bit silly?

Graduation also reminds you that time passes (way too fast). Your kids’ time, and your time. You’ve changed, just as has the five-year old who came bouncing out of her room, a huge grin on her face, ready for the first day of Kindergarten. You are a little older (just a little) and a little more “robust,” and your times in the Road Runners races are “moving” in the wrong direction.  

It doesn’t matter.  There are your children, not looking little at all, promising you a peculiar type of immortality. They are going to go do things, great things, going to change the world. They are the discoverers, the communicators, the creators. They will wash away any imperfections you’ve left and build things bigger and better. They really are the future.

You’ve celebrated with me. Now, indulge me.

I’m optimistic about the future, but there’s still the present, and the present is awfully noisy and challenging and pretty darn ugly.  Regardless of what side of the Trump chasm you inhabit, you have to acknowledge that we are sitting on a lava field a lot bigger than Hawaii’s. Blame whom you want, but volcanology should be a required course along with political science. And it’s our kids who have to traverse the heated landscape. Perhaps, before we inevitably become the burden on our children that we insist we never want to be, it’s incumbent on my generation to do something about it.  

Meaning no disrespect to our daughter, who is tied up with last minute packing, discarding, and whatever else college seniors want to do in those last few days (no need to probe), I asked our son what he (and his cohort) wanted from me and mine.  What follows is abbreviated from several hours of discussion.

I was floored by his first response, disarming in its simplicity, and a little damning in its implication. He wanted us to lead. Full stop.  His logic was impeccable. His generation is largely powerless. My generation is in charge. Even if every girl and boy in America could grow up to become President, they still can’t do it before they are 35.  Twenty-somethings can start new technology companies, discover tremendous advances in health and science and math, star in billion-dollar movie franchises, write immortal fiction, beguile us with great music, even literally lay their lives down for us, but, in our system, they can’t lead. Their time will come, but, for now, Baby-Boomers hold the keys to the castle. And we haven’t been using those keys, except maybe to raid the treasury.

At first I didn’t quite get his drift, suggesting that we could make political progress, maybe elect more centrists (as I’m a Democrat, someone like Mark Warner) who could then work across the aisle. If we could change the culture, we could together tackle the big issues. He waved it off. Warner would be fine, but Warner wouldn’t solve the problem. None of the Boomers could. My entire generation had demonstrated, over and over, that we couldn’t be trusted to end the petty bickering because we were the petty bickerers. So, stop pretending to make an effort that is clearly not genuine, forget the moral relativism, and start leading on issues that are really compelling. Leadership is about moving confidently without pandering, about leaving safe spaces to take risks commensurate with the stakes.  

Lead on what, I asked?

Lead on climate change. Conservatives mock the idea of climate change, but my son, who is no economic liberal by any description, takes it seriously, particularly as it relates to the huge social and economic costs of delaying action. There may be nuance between denial and being anti-environment, but that nuance is irrelevant if it results in inaction or willful vandalism. The world we despoil now will be the one he gets to live in later.

Lead on the deficit. It should be obvious to everyone, no matter where you come down on the tax cuts vs. government spending argument, that exploding deficits are being funded by borrowing that will inevitably have to be paid by him and his peers. As will Social Security and Medicare (something he and his cohort hold no hope of receiving themselves). As will the drain of the inevitable commitment of time, energy, and sheer pain of caring for older adults whose life spans may exceed their capacity to live them well. While we still have the energy and ability to choose another path, we Boomers can agree that we shouldn’t be takers—especially from our kids.  

Lead on the economy. Millennials need good jobs, with real prospects, in which they can take pride. Sure, some will fail, and many others will be on a low-salary treadmill, where they will always be dodging the next productivity-designed obsolescence.  But the slacker-kid-in-his-parents’-basement meme is this generation’s Cadillac-driving Welfare Queen—a strawman to raise resentment, so as to obscure not actually doing anything about structural problems. Millennials may not all be economic policy sophisticates, but they can see clearly that what is being done now doesn’t work. I’m going to insert one personal observation here. This is a trap for Democrats: solutions like guaranteed income leave my son and many of his peers wondering where the opportunities for finding and keeping meaningful work will come from. They would rather make it on their own—and, in his words, “the role of government should be less mandate and direct payment, and more convene and incentivize”.

Lead on international relations (which includes trade treaties). Trump may be an exemplar of what American Foreign Policy should not be, but what should it be?  What are our end goals? Do we care enough about democratic and humanitarian values to intercede when they may be threatened? When should we express military power? How much of the common defense should we be providing to our allies?  Is Isolationism wise when the Chinese are willing to engage everywhere, and, being a true dictatorship, can do so decisively and without regard to cost?

All great questions.  This would be about the time when Fred MacMurray would exhale, deliver to one or more of his Three Sons a sober, Dad-like “Well…,” and offer up some profundities. I didn’t—I’m not that smart.

That’s where our conversations ended, and it wasn’t until the following week that I realized I’d had a “curious case of the dog barking in the night” moment. What he hadn’t raised at all was any social issue—things like guns, gays, abortion, the role of religion. I knew he had strong opinions, and yet he didn’t prioritize them.  So, I texted him (how else would one communicate?) and got an intriguing response. Social issues would have to wait for his generation to resolve in a way that met their needs. They would be the ones to debate and resolve the core philosophical question of the scope of government in either supporting, interfering with, or mandating certain types of personal behavior before resolving the specifics. I wondered about the impact of waiting so long, but “the fundamental philosophical debate falls in the bucket, for me, of things I wouldn’t trust Baby-Boomers to do reasonably.” Yet, he’s optimistic.  “I believe our society is strong enough and malleable enough that there will always be a way forward on these issues in the future.”

Interesting to be told, in effect, that my generation lacks the capacity to act rationally when it comes to red-meat issues.  But he has left us with a full plate of other questions, and there are no easy answers to any of them. We are too large, too rich, too powerful, too indebted, too challenged around the world by other countries, too polarized and too swampy to go without some serious upheavals in crafting solutions. Given how inadequate both parties have been in actual governing, I suspect there will be a huge distance to travel, and we quite possibly won’t get far. But my generation ought to start, and Millennials need to keep us honest until they can pick up the mantle. They may not yet be able to lead, but they can vote, and make their needs clear. That’s my son’s challenge to me, and mine to him.

And that brings me back to graduations. I had said at the outset that, if you were reading this on Memorial Day, it might be at the very moment my daughter is getting her diploma. But if you are seeing this first on Tuesday, you will likely find us in the rented minivan, surrounded by crammed boxes and luggage and ripe laundry, somewhere between Ohio and New York.  And at some point, maybe around Snowshoe, Pennsylvania, there might be one or more sleeping graduates in the back seat.  It’s one of the first rules of parenting: You can always count on a moving car.

The Graduate Schools His Father appeared first on

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Is 2020 Rabbit Season? On 3Quarks

by Michael Liss
“You should look into this, perhaps write a little something about it.”
When Ed suggested something to you, it always emerged gently from his mouth as if on a cloud, and somehow morphed into a command by the time it reached your ears. He beckoned, I came, and now we were sitting together in one of his conference rooms, a MacBook and a bottle of unsweetened iced tea between us. My brand, in fact. It was a signal—he was telling me he knew, although we hadn’t talked in some time, that I’d gone cold turkey on Diet Coke. Of course he knew: he always knew, always was so wired in, always five steps ahead on everything. When we first met, roughly fifteen years ago, I had the absurd idea we were equals, but it took all of about a week for me to realize the central fallacy of that conceit. Still, he was remarkably good at recognizing and employing other people’s talents. And so, there would be a call or an email, and I would find myself conscripted to be a foot-soldier in Ed’s Army for some worthy cause.
I opened the iced tea, he clicked on a short YouTube clip, and I got my latest marching orders. Poke around, ask some questions, use that marvelous disguise of harmless late-middle age that allows me to pass unseen among men. Amass information, report back, write and post something. Topic: Bugs Bunny For President.

Of course, it sounds absurd, but, just how absurd is anything in politics these days? And Ed is a serious guy—if he’s lobbing this little gem at me, it means it’s not just him, but others in his happy little group are also considering it. So, on assignment, as it were, I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking, researching, looking at data, and talking to people. What I’ve found was that, the more I learned, the less irrational it seemed to be. Bugs Bunny for President. Doable. And desirable.

Bugs Bunny for President. But, what are the next four words? How do you get there? First, there’s the question of Constitutional qualifications. Article II says “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen Years a resident …” That Bugs was born here, that he’s older than 35 and been a resident for 14 years is probably better documented than any prior Commander in Chief. The problem is that overly picky word, Person. We all know Bugs is quite proud of being a Rabbit. But is he a “Person” as was intended by the Framers? If not, game over.
To this end, I thought I would start with someone most likely to give me a “no,”, a prominent legal scholar who, given that he’s presently short-listed for a Court of Appeals seat, insisted on anonymity before he would even see me. He floored me with his response; Possible. Conservatives might be unwilling to attack Bugs on Person grounds. “Don’t expect them automatically to be out front on this. The Obama thing is over. And you have to see the bigger picture—ever since SCOTUS decided corporations are people too, no one on the Republican side of the aisle wants to start splitting hairs over it.”
Maybe Person would be off the table. But what about the normal scrutiny, fair or unfair, that candidates have to undergo as part of the vetting? How about Bugs’ personal (rabbital?) life? Could there be a “Bunny Eruption?” Rabbits do like multiplying, and, while there’s never been a hint of a scandal of this type during his film career, a step out into the political limelight might carry some risks. Bugs was known to have an eye for the lady lapins, (wooing both flesh and blood bunnies and the occasional robotic one) and it’s not inconceivable that a love-child or two (or 20) might be lurking about. Disqualifying? No one I talked to was willing to hazard a guess as to whether the existence of multiple unacknowledged Bugs progeny would impact a race. “Unchartered waters” is what I heard from several people.
Character issues could be key. We all live lives of imperfection, and opposition research on such a public figure would be comparatively easy. There’s no question Bugs can be a wise-guy who occasionally takes things a little too far. Does that impact his gravitas? I kept thinking about Richard Neustadt’s formulation that Presidential power is a function of the ability to persuade. Persuasion is rooted in personal credibility and the capacity to project authority. The Leopold clip clearly showed he had both, but was that sustainable in the more corporeal world? After all, we are talking about someone who doesn’t even wear clothes all the time–an interesting metaphor for any politician, but still….
Perhaps this particular moment in history, the day-to-day tweet-and-shriek-fest emanating from Washington, creates an opening? A GOP operative gave me an intriguing insight: “Think about it. How do we attack on any of those issues? First, there’s a huge risk of boomeranging, because he’s very widely known and liked. Second, does anyone really understand what the rules are anymore? Are there any rules? Are we really going to talk about pleasantness, moral rectitude or the fact that he’s a media personality who lacks prior government experience? My team already had our generational flip-flop. I just don’t think we can use it. Maybe if he runs in the Democratic primary someone would soften him up for us.”
Democrat or third party, he’s still a rabbit. And while there’s nothing wrong with being a rabbit, if you are running as an outsider, being a billionaire has its advantages also. How does a rabbit gain credibility as Commander in Chief? Would the military be comfortable with Bugs? “More than you would expect” said a retired Defense Department official who had worked in several Administrations. “To a certain extent, you are never going to escape the ingrown preference the brass has for those who have served. But Bugs’ personal heroism gets him a lot of street cred: That footage of him rescuing the Earth from destruction by Marvin Martian is actually based in fact. The entire truth was never disclosed to the public. After the crisis was over, it was decided that the best way to obscure the details was to have it animated. And let’s add something else: Politicians generally don’t understand the Military. They think of it as either an expensive nuisance, or a first-person shooter game that they can play at being real soldiers. Bugs does get it: Listen to his rhetoric, look at what he does, and you can see he gets it. Bugs knows when and where to draw a line in the sand. When he says “of course you know, this means war!” he’s serious. “That gets a lot of respect where I come from.”

Where is Bugs on the ideological spectrum? He clearly doesn’t fit the contemporary model of either Republican or Democratic. He appears to be liberal or libertarian on some social issues, the environment and the arts, but conservative on military and economic ones, particularly on spending and regulation. Yet that economic conservatism doesn’t translate to being a plutocrat—his personal life is notably Spartan, basically a hole in the ground and a healthy supply of carrots. Not only does that set a good example, it could give him real credibility in negotiations with Congress on some sort of shared sacrifice/Grand Bargain.
And, how does that translate to electoral success? What does a winning Bugs coalition look like? The consensus of the people I spoke with is that personal qualities will have a big impact. Bugs is resilient and suave, in a sort of Daniel Craig wink-at-you-way. That’s going to play really well with younger voters and Millennials. He knows how to get things done and doesn’t take himself too seriously–that could impress Gen-Xers and Boomers. He’s going to have some issues with Evangelicals, who would likely be uncomfortable with his irreverence, and 2nd Amendment types (he’s not a huge fan of hunting). Support among Seniors was more iffy, with Bugs getting the “Woodstock and Opera Vote” while losing a lot of folks who, professed open-mindedness aside, are just not ready to vote for a Rabbit.

Digging deeper, a veteran pollster offered the following: “Forget the demographic crosstabs for a minute. The country is torn between order and disruption. Trump and his base want disruption as a means of fostering a Trumpian order. The Warren-Bernie wing of Democrats want resistance that disrupts Trump’s disrupting. But there’s a third group, and it’s really hard to quantify its size, that, in a very strange way, mirrors the dissatisfaction of crossover Trump voters in 2016. They are tired of the status quo—both the old one and new Trumpian one. They don’t want Warren-Bernie, they don’t want Trump, they aren’t looking to go back to the 1950’s. These folks want serious problem-solvers, and if you have followed his career, Bugs does that over and over. And, maybe more importantly, they want a cultural reset—not a purge, but a change in tone that restores some sense of community and national purpose. I know that sounds amorphous, but a Bugs Bunny candidacy could unite them. He could win.”
Bugs could win. So, let’s measure the drapes a little early. It’s January 2021, and he’s being sworn in. What does his Cabinet look like? I asked a New York-based political consultant whose firm works with more centrist members of both parties. He literally drummed the desktop with glee.
“It’s a grand slam! Bugs wins as a unifier, he owes nothing, no baggage, he picks who he wants. You do have to bring in some of the people from the campaign to show Bugs isn’t just being co-opted by the Deep State. I’d skip Daffy. Too much ego, doesn’t work and play well with others. And he’s greedy.We have enough of greedy. Elmer Fudd for Press Secretary is a very good choice. Bugs likes him, and thinks he comes across as genuine. People forget that Elmer was the big star on vaudeville before anyone had heard of Bugs Bunny. Elmer was a real pro about how it all turned out—it’s not easy to play second fiddle, and Bugs appreciates it. There’s trust there.

“Then, you start constructing my Dream Team. Bill Gates and Tim Cook. Michael Bloomberg at Treasury. Meg Whitman and Elon Musk, maybe. Be a little bipartisan. Joe Biden Interior, Kasich for Education. Think really big—bring back both Obama and Bush—State and United Nations—man, you want to Make Diplomacy Great Again, you can’t make a bigger statement to the world. Find a place for Nikki Haley. Richard Haass and Max Boot. Tim Ryan at PwC is a really bright guy. Mary Barra and Ginni Rometty. There’s a lot of talent in this country, you just have to harness it. Bugs Bunny for President. Make it happen.”
Make it happen. Above my pay grade. Last week, I went back to Ed’s conference room, my own unsweetened ice-tea and write-up in hand. “Less is more,” he nodded approvingly. “Now, tell me what you left out. What did you really learn besides that it was possible?”
We talked for a few more minutes about disappointment in government, about false paradigms and fake news, the value of the private sector and the damage you do to capitalism and democracy when you replace informed Burkean responsibility with grifting and ignorance.
He nodded, stood, and our time was over. “This is good. Clean it up, and I’ll look for it on Monday. Have a conclusion?”

I did. Bugs Bunny, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

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