It’s Your Fault Donald Trump Got Elected

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you are a well-educated, moderate to liberal U.S. citizen. You are shocked and horrified that Donald Trump has beaten Hillary Clinton in the general election. Perhaps you’re angry that the country has more bigots and racists than you thought. Perhaps you are upset at Bernie supporters who didn’t come out for Hillary.

At the end of the day it comes down to you. It was YOUR fault that Trump got elected.

Here’s why:

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3 Things I Learned From Losing an Election

In light of the Super Tuesday results this morning, I wanted to write about my personal experiences running for office. I’ve always loved politics although not the same way most do. I’ve always been less interested in the issues, and more interested in the art of politics (e.g. campaigning, maneuvering, etc.). Although I’ve never run for any elected political position, I’ve worked for and observed lots of local campaigns.

This picture is on Senator Cory Booker’s wikipedia page. (Click the image if you don’t believe me.) This photo was taken in 2009 when Booker was just a mayor of Newark, NJ. Here, he’s endorsing a lawyer named Cyrus Vance. Today, Vance is the Manhattan District Attorney. I hope this photo is still on Cory Booker’s wiki when he runs for president.

I’ve also run in many, many student elections. I’ve won more races than I’ve lost, but the losses are far more significant to me personally. I’ve written about the first race I lost when I was 16 years old and remember never wanting to go through that experience again. It’s really true what they say: you don’t learn much from winning an election but you learn a TON when you lose. If you’re able to overcome your feelings of failure and run again, those lessons make you a far stronger candidate.

Originally I wanted to write about my personal views on how the various Presidential campaigns are being run. But after glancing at some news articles I realized that I was out of my depth–there is just too much information to process and most of it focuses on stuff I’m not interested in. So instead I decided to write about the lessons I learned in one of my most painful electoral losses and leave you to draw your own conclusions on how they’re related (or not) to the on-going Presidential campaigns.

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Respecting Your Ideological Enemies


During the summer after I graduated law school, I spent some of my free time following the confirmation hearings of Elena Kagan, Obama’s second nominee. During one question and answer session, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked her what she thought of Miguel Estrada, a failed conservative judicial nominee from 2003. Specifically, Graham asked her about Estrada:

“Do you think he’s qualified to sit on the appellate court?”

Kagan, an appointee by a Democratic president, did not hesitate to respond.

“He is qualified to sit as an appellate judge. In fact, he’s qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.”

Truthful answer? Or telling the Senator what he wants to hear?

It always surprises me when lawyers and judges who come from divergent political backgrounds come together to support one another. I was reminded of this tendency again, about a month ago, when I read this New York Magazine profile of the highly respected appellate lawyer Paul Clement. (He was the one who destroyed Solicitor General Don Verelli at oral argument regarding the Affordable Care Act.) I was particularly struck by this particular quote:

“He refuses to reveal his personal views about gay marriage, or about any of his other politically charged cases, and insists that he is motivated solely by a lawyer’s duty.”

That, I think explains why liberal lawyers and conservative lawyers often respect one another. This is rather unlike lay people who often can’t stand those who have differing political beliefs.

Institutions all have certain beliefs and assumptions shared by all members. For lawyers, there is this idea that it’s that the reasoning, not the conclusion, that matters. That is, even if your adversary comes to a very different conclusion than you do (say, about the constitutionality of Obamacare) you can still respect her if she makes the right arguments.

My theory is that that’s why so many of the best lawyers end up respecting one another, while in the political arena, rivals are often at each other’s throats. In politics, it’s all pragmatism. Who are you for? Who are you against? Is your position going to help me or hurt me? But in law, your conclusion is less important than how you got there.

At first, I thought Elena Kagan was just telling Senator Graham what he wanted to hear, so that she’d be confirmed. But I think I was wrong. Lawyers who are ideological enemies can be friends. I now think that she was being completely genuine. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to have found this line in the article:

Not long before Elena Kagan was appointed to the bench, she went with Clement to a Green Day concert.


Myanmar Moves Towards Democracy

Myanmar took one step closer to democracy on Sunday as Aung San Suu Kyi won a seat in parliament. I always follow socio-political developments in Myanmar because I have a connection to the country; it’s where my parents grew up. The idealist in me wants to say that this is just the latest development in a growing world-wide trend of people having a greater voice in how they are governed. (See also, the Arab Spring.)

The cynical side in me sees the liberalization of the Burmese ruling junta as serving two different pragmatic purposes. First, the junta has taken to heart the potential downside of ruling with an iron fist; Thein Sein does not want to be the next Qaddafi. By giving the people some voice (however ineffective) the junta may successfully vent some the commoners’ frustrations about how terrible the Burmese government is.
Second, this may be Thein Sein’s way of playing geopolitics. China has exerted significant influence on Myanmar and the Burmese junta may be trying to find a counter-balancing force for negotiation leverage. Enter the United States: by taking steps towards democracy, Myanmar gains tremendous goodwill with China’s rival. 

Assemblywoman Grace Meng’s Path to Victory

Assemblywoman Grace Meng was endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party for the Sixth Congressional District earlier this week. An endorsement by the party, however, does not guarantee victory. Meng has drawn two opponents in the Democratic primary, which will be held on June 26. Her competitors are Assemblyman Rory Lancman and City Councilwoman Liz Crowley.

At first glance, it appears that Meng has an easy path to victory. Last week, the federal courts re-drew New York’s Congressional Districts and drew the Sixth to include approximately 40% APAs. The district was drawn ostensibly encourage an APA American candidate to run or, at the very least, force any potential candidate to address issues facing the APA American community. Since there are so many APAs in the district, it appears that Meng is a lock for the primary.

But upon closer inspection, that may not be the case. Although APAs make up 40% of the district, they make up only 32% of the voting-age population. It’s also likely that a larger proportion (when compared to Caucasian voters in the district) of this 32% include either non-citizens or those who are not registered to vote. Even worse, according to the New York Observer, “likely” APA voters in a Congressional primary make up just 27% of all likely primary voters.

In fact, a sizeable proportion of likely voters in the Democratic primary are Jewish. Not only is Meng’s opponent Assemblymember Lancman a staunch proponent of Israel, he is himself Jewish. The Jewish American voting bloc in New York has, in the past, proved itself to be tremendously influential at the voting booth. They will undoubtedly be out in full force on the June 26th primary.

Meng does have unique strengths, though. Her historic candidacy will undoubtedly galvanize the New York APA community and will allow her to raise extraordinarily large amounts of money in a short amount of time. Congressional races are notoriously expensive, so Meng’s fundraising prowess will be a huge advantage over (at the very least) Councilwoman Liz Crowley, who is not a known fundraising powerhouse. Lancman is a more formidable fundraising opponent though, because over the last few months he’s already raised $120,000 in anticipation for a potential run for Congress.

Victory in the primary depends on who will be best able to bring their supporters to the polls. To that end, Meng should concentrate her efforts on driving out the APA vote—by registering new Democratic voters and by using her campaign to physically bring voters to the polls (GOTV) on primary day. Meng should also tap into the wide network of APA political donors not only in the New York City area but countrywide.

But she should take care to avoid staking her campaign on ethnic appeal; that is, she should avoid the message of “vote for me because I’m a historic APA candidate.” That approach runs the risk of alienating potential primary voters who don’t care about electing APA candidates.

With regard to political positions, Meng would be well served by taking up pro-Israel positions in order to blunt the advantage Lancman has in the Jewish American community. If she comes across as anything less, she runs the risk of following the example of David Weprin, who despite being Jewish, lost the Jewish American vote in a special Congressional election last year. Meng should also be vocal about immigration reform (such as supporting the Dream Act) because 18% of the district is Hispanic.

Meng has a clear path to victory and may in fact become the first APA American member of Congress from New York. The path is nowhere near guaranteed, however, and Meng should take care to avoid any missteps along the way. New York’s APA community is rooting for her.