Democrats and the belief in things unseen

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On the roster: Democrats and the belief in things unseen Treasury pick Mnuchin sketches tax plan - Trump’s new job puts lease on D.C. hotel at risk - Audible: Whodathunkit? - So jelly

Are Democrats like Noah, building for a future they believe in, but no one else can see?

Or are they like investors in the new nation of Poyais?

Poyais was the creation of Gregor MacGregor, a Scottish soldier and adventurer who returned from the New World with tales of riches and glory from his time as a general in the new Venezuelan army.

In the early 1820s, ambitious Britons sank what would be billions of dollars today into Poyais, a colony he said was on the Gulf of Honduras and of which he had been named “cazique.”

Can you guess how it ended? There was no colony and he was no cazique. The bondholders got stiffed and half of the colonists died.

The once and future House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, has convinced the members of her party that she is like Noah, building an arc that will lift up their party in a coming demographic flood.

As we have discussed before, Democrats have been banking since their 2004 defeat on “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” a book that explains how Republicans are doomed by their status as the party of white America.

This idea is particularly attractive to Democratic politicians because it is inevitable and always just over the horizon.

Decency would have demanded that Pelosi step down not after losing the House Majority in 2010, but in failing to recapture it two years later. Instead, today Pelosi muscled her way into her 7th term as the Democratic leader in the House.

This being Washington, though, let’s leave decency aside.

Practically speaking, Pelosi remains perfectly situated as the top Democrat in Congress since her party rests atop the spindly spires of densely populated, very liberal, coastal districts like hers. Her rival for the leadership gig, Rep. Tim Ryan of Youngstown, Ohio, on the other hand, looks almost nothing like his party today. He is Midwestern, and makes an intense focus on appealing to middle class, blue-collar voters.

It’s a wonder he even got 32 percent of the vote among his House colleagues.

Ryan, like others in his party, does not see the coming demographic flood for which Pelosi & Co. have been preparing. Ryan instead sees how counties like his own saw a 15-point swing against Democrats since 2012.

To Midwestern Democrats, Pelosi is just building a big boat in the desert.

The truth, as it usually is, rests somewhere between these points of view. Republicans have serious demographic problems in the coming generation as the electorate in key states becomes younger and less white. But the demographic changes on which Democrats are banking are not reaching the Upper Midwest anytime soon.

Ask to explain his party’s failures of the past eight years, President Obama told Rolling Stone that part of the problem is voters in these states watching too much of the Fox News Channel. What he did not mention was the way in which demographic determinism has warped his party’s views and policies.

Democrats under the leadership of Pelosi have embraced liberalism that doesn’t just make blue-collar voters uncomfortable, but instead looks like a direct attack.

History remembers that Democrats lost the House in 2010 because of ObamaCare. One could argue that more damaging to the party’s chances was Pelosi’s push for costly global warming regulations targeted directly at the coal-fired Midwest. On gun control, Pelosi has pushed for ever more intense restrictions, and on social issues Democrats have become increasingly intolerant of traditionalist views.

After a decade of rejection, why should traditional Democratic voters in places like Ohio stick with the party? They may have voted for Obama, but they’re not going to stick around for another beating at the hands of his party.

Pelosi and the rest of her party feel excused from catering to these Midwestern voters because they are anachronisms in waiting. The problem is that by narrowing the party’s base so precipitously, Democrats have left themselves with no ideological turning radius. They are beholden to the demands of their base and unable to reach out.

MacGregor’s Poyais is rightly remembered as one of the world’s greatest swindles, but what history sometimes forgets is that he really believed in what he was selling.

Yes, he certainly knew he was exaggerating, but MacGregor himself was certain that with enough capital and enough enthusiastic settlers, Poyais could become a paradise. And he may have been right if things had broken just a little differently.

It just didn’t work out that way.

“When men, engaged in unjustifiable pursuits, are aware that obstructions may come from a quarter which they cannot control, they will often be restrained by the bare apprehension of opposition, from doing what they would with eagerness rush into, if no such external impediments were to be feared.”– Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 73

National Constitution Center: “On the 142nd anniversary of his birth, Constitution Daily looks back at what the British leader and author Sir Winston Churchill had to say about the American Constitution, which was quite a lot…in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Churchill wrote at length about American constitutional values. ‘At first sight this authoritative document presents a sharp contrast with the store of traditions and precedents that make up the unwritten Constitution of Britain. Yet behind it lay no revolutionary theory. It was based not upon the challenging writings of the French philosophers who were soon to set Europe ablaze, but an Old English doctrine, freshly formulated to meet an urgent American need. The Constitution was a reaffirmation of faith in the principles painfully evolved over the centuries by the English-speaking peoples,’ he wrote.”

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WaPo: “President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Treasury Department on Wednesday called reforming the nation’s tax code his top priority, promising significant tax breaks for the middle class but no overall tax cut for high-income households… Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Hollywood financier…emphasized that a reduced tax rate for the highest earners would be offset by the elimination or curtailing of many deductions that favor the wealthy. He suggested that the cap on the popular deduction for mortgage interest could be lowered but did not provide details. The current cap is $1 million on first and second mortgages.”

[Mnuchin and Trump’s pick for commerce secretary, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross,  joined Maria Bartiromo this morning on “Mornings with Maria” to discuss their plans for the Treasury and Commerce departments. Watch here.]

Meet Mnuchin - WSJ: “Steven Mnuchin built his career sniffing out undervalued assets and converting them into massive profits. But perhaps his greatest trade just came in the political arena. Mr. Mnuchin, a 53-year-old former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker turned Hollywood financier, parlayed a six-month stint as Donald Trump’s campaign-finance chairman into the president-elect’s pick to be Treasury secretary. Mr. Mnuchin’s Wall Street pedigree presents a stark contrast with the populist themes Mr. Trump struck in his campaign, railing against big banks and vowing to close tax loopholes that benefit hedge funds.”

[Ed. note: It’s pronounced MA-noo-chin.]

Who gets the rose? Four finalists for secretary of state - WSJ: “President-elect Donald Trump has narrowed his search for a Secretary of State nominee down to ‘four finalists,’ transition spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Wednesday morning. Mr. Spicer said there is ‘no timetable’ for when a final decision could be made, and he said a decision isn’t expected by the end of this week. Mr. Trump had dinner on Tuesday evening with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is considered to be one of the finalists. The Trump transition team has also looked at whether to nominate former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, (Ret.) Gen. David Petraeus and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) for the post.”

The president-elect announced on Twitter that he would hold a press conference on Dec. 15, which would be his first in almost five months. Trump declared the topic would be his plan to take himself “completely out of business operations.” Trump was quick to point out his claim that he was not legally required to do so, but was instead acting to focus his activities on his presidency – “a far more important task!”

Trump’s new job puts lease on D.C. hotel at risk - Government Executive: “The Post Office Lease differs from many of Mr. Trump’s other business arrangements. That’s because, in writing the contract, the federal and D.C. governments determined, in advance, that elected officials could play no role in this lease arrangement. The contract language is clear: ‘No ... elected official of the Government of the United States ... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom...’ The language could not be any more specific or clear. Donald Trump will breach the contract on Jan. 20, when, while continuing to benefit from the lease, he will become an ‘elected official of the Government of the United States.’”

Trump has another day of meetings ahead of him at Trump Tower. The following people are expected to join the president-elect in New York today:

--Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, former commander of the U.S. Southern Command, and was also the senior military assistant to former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Kelly is rumored to be a contender for Homeland Security or State Departments.

--Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., who is retiring from the Senate when his term finishes this January, is close with fellow Indiana native vice president-elect Mike Pence, but hasn’t been rumored for a cabinet spot…yet.

--Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who is reportedly on Trump’s shortlist for secretary of agriculture.

--Linda McMahon, high-profile Republican donor, former World Wrestling Entertainment executive and two-time Senate candidate from Connecticut.

--Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Transition honcho Vice President-elect Mike Pence is on Capitol Hill today for meetings, including a huddle with House Speaker Paul Ryan. On Pence’s schedule are also meetings with:

--Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

--Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa

“I think that we should go to a popular vote.” – Al Gore, the losing litigant in the 2001 case of Bush v. Gore, speaking at a forum in Washington this week.

Obama massively expanded the presidential prerogative on the use of force for his successor - The Guardian

Trump, Carrier reach deal to keep more than 1,000 jobs in Indiana - Indy Star

Walter Russell Mead on what could make Trump a great president: Jobs, jobs, jobs - The American Interest

Is Trump the new Andrew Jackson? Hold your Old Hickory says Steve Inskeep -
 The Atlantic

David Drucker reports on Trump’s inaugural perks for donors - WashEx

What covering former Toronto Mayor Tom Ford could teach journalists about covering the Trump presidency - Columbia Journalism Review

Red-state Dems face tough votes on Trump cabinet picks - The Hill

“I chuckled at first hearing The Donald’s promise to ‘Drain the Swamp.’ Yeah, right, I mused. But let’s be clear... the swamp extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It’s simply too big to drain! But you’re right, he’s moving to the tune of his VP, who will shoulder a lot of the weight.” – Jim Herzog, Spartanburg, S.C.

[Ed. note: One of the most damaging misconceptions about American history is that there was once a halcyon era in which our government was dominated by ordinary citizens without experience in public life. Our Founders were mostly experienced politicians with records of public service. So were all of our greatest presidents. George Washington’s seven years in the Virginia House of Burgesses made him a better president, not a worse one. The perversion of the system has come not from those who bring experience to the heights of government, but those who never leave once they obtain it. The permanent class of politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists is so large, especially in the era of the administrative state, as to defy even the most basic efforts for clarity, efficacy and accountability. The problem isn’t our leaders’ pasts. It’s their futures.]

“It seems to me that if you are going to ‘drain the swamp’ and cause upheaval it is best to do it with experienced people who know the system and processes. In my mind it would lower the opportunity for unintended consequences, of which Government produces way too many.” – Greg Morneau, Minneapolis

[Ed. note: The challenge for those who aim to reform government is how to find people who know how to work within the system but who aren’t captive to it. One of the reasons President Obama couldn’t deliver on lavish promises to reform and elucidate government was that he and his team lacked the institutional knowledge and relationships needed to tame unwieldy organizations. Trump seems determined to avoid that problem, but faces the other hazard: an administration too deeply invested in maintaining elements of the status quo to be willing to risk addressing systemic issues. As Sean Connery’s character Jimmy Malone explains in 1987’s “The Untouchables,” everybody knows where the problems are, but few people are willing to pay the price for confronting them. Standing in an office building lobby in broad daylight, Malone points to where everyone knows the bootlegging is taking place. He intones to his pupil, Eliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner: “Once you enter this door, there’s no going back.” And he was right.]

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BBC: “A jellyfish was handed to police in Australia under the mistaken belief it was a breast implant and possible evidence of a crime. A concerned man submitted the ‘bagged and tagged circular object’ to officers in Maroochydore, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast late last week. He feared it might have indicated a drowning or possibly a murder. The police station said in a statement that they had soon confirmed the find was not sinister. Colin Sparkes, from Surf Life Saving Queensland, said the discovery was most likely a blubber jellyfish. He said the species was commonly found in Queensland waters and its sting was irritating, but not dangerous.”

“[Trump’s cabinet picks tell] me that Trump wants to get stuff done. He doesn’t care if he creates an argument for Democrats to say ‘you’re hypocritical about Wall Street.’ He cares about results.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up