Darryl Paulson, Author at Florida Politics

Darryl Paulson

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg.

Darryl Paulson: Amnesty Don

Amnesty Don. That’s what Steve Bannon and Breitbart News called President Donald Trump after news came out that the president and the Democratic leadership of Congress brokered a deal concerning the Dreamers.

According to reports, Trump struck a deal with Democratic leader of the Senate Chuck Schumer and Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi. The supposed deal was to grant work visas and a pathway to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. Democrats agreed to bolster the number of immigration agents, but refused to support building a wall on the Mexican border.

After conservative critics ranging from Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Congressman Steven King and others attacked Trump for striking an amnesty deal with Democrats, Trump denied that any deal had been reached.

Immigration policy has always been one of the most divisive issues in America. Much of the early controversy centered around the Irish and German immigrants, both associated with the Catholic Church. The attack on the Irish and German Catholics led to the formation of the “Know-Nothing Party in the 1850s.

The party derived its name when members were asked about their beliefs, they were told to respond, “I know nothing.” Founded after the collapse of the Whig Party, the Know-Nothing Party swept Massachusetts elections in 1854. In the 1856 presidential election, their candidate was former Whig president Millard Fillmore, who won 21.5 percent of the vote. The party collapsed after the 1856 elections.

Many critics of current anti-immigrants attempt to link their views to the Know-Nothing Party. In a 2006 editorial in The Weekly Standard, editor William Kristol attacked populous Republicans for “turning the GOP into an anti-immigrant, Know-Nothing Party.”

In addition to the attacks on the Irish and Germans, later attacks focused on Southern Europeans, Africans and Asians. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1880s, which completely stopped the flow of Chinese immigrants.

The Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986 granted amnesty to illegal workers who resided continuously in the United States since Jan. 1, 1982, and paid a fine and back taxes. It was passed by the Democrat controlled House, the Republican Senate and signed into law by Republican Ronald Reagan.

A flood of illegal immigrants since Simpson-Mazzoli has led to more recent efforts to grant permanent status to the most recent wave of illegals. In 2010, Congress considered the DREAM Act which would have granted work permits to the children of illegal immigrants and create a pathway to citizenship. Although it passed the Democratic controlled House, the Senate was not able to get the 60 votes needed to stop a Republican filibuster.

Because of the failure of Congress to pass the Dream Act, President Obama signed an executive order in 2012 to protect the Dreamers. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was praised by the Democrats, but attacked by Republicans who argued the president lacked the authority to unilaterally change immigration policy.

DACA became a focal point of the 2016 presidential campaign when candidate Donald Trump promised to end DACA on “Day One.” He also promised to build a wall on the Mexican border. Instead of “Day One,” it took Trump eight months to rescind DACA.

There are currently four major legislative proposals before Congress to reform immigration. The Dream Act, sponsored by Democrat Dick Simpson of Illinois and Republican Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, would codify DACA, impose educational, work and military requirements and create a path to citizenship after 13 years.

Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo has introduced the Recognizing America’s Children Act. This bill codifies DACA, imposes work and educational requirements, and creates a path to citizenship after 10 years.

The American Hope Act sponsored by Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, has 112 Democratic co-sponsors. There are no work or military requirements and Dreamers may apply for citizenship after five years.

Finally, Republican House member Mike Coffman of Colorado has introduced the Bar Removal of Individuals [who] Dream and Grow our Economy (Bridge Act). Coffman is seeking to obtain 218 signatures and force DACA to the floor for a vote.

Will President Trump’s negotiations with the Democratic leadership force Republicans to act, or will it alienate them from their president by shutting out Republicans from the negotiations?

Will Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan schedule a floor vote on DACA, especially if most Democrats support the bill and most Republicans oppose the bill?

Will Democrats offer concessions to the president and Republicans in exchange for supporting DACA? Will Democrats agree to build a border wall? Will Democrats support E-Verify to enforce immigration law? Will Democrats agree to hire more immigration agents?

At this point, there are a lot more questions than there are answers.


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Darryl Paulson: Why I left the Republican Party

I have been a Republican all my life. I remember watching the Republican National Convention in 1956, when I was 8 years old, and seeing President Dwight Eisenhower nominated for a second term.

When I turned 21, I registered as a Republican and have voted for all but two of the Republican presidential candidates since 1972.

Growing up in the 1960s, the era of civil rights, the Vietnam War, the emerging environmental movement and the sexual revolution, most of my youthful colleagues were Democrats or something to the left of Democrats.

Why did I become a Republican?

First, the Republican Party was the anti-slavery and pro-union political party. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, remains as the greatest Republican president.

I was attracted to the Republican Party because it supported a strong military, but opposed big government. Big government, like big business, is something to be feared and controlled.

Finally, I became a Republican because my parents were Republicans. Like church affiliation, most individuals adopt the party identification of their parents. Although my parents were Republican, they were never activist nor straight-ticket Republicans.

My father was a policeman for over 30 years, and that influenced my partisan choice. During the 1960s, the police were perceived as the enemy by many political activists. They were the pigs.

In some cases, the police deserved their negative reputation. There is no doubt that many law enforcement officials in the south used violence against peaceful civil rights protestors.

In spite of these shortcomings, the police were often subjected to unfair criticism. They were expected to be lawyers, psychologists and social workers, in addition to enforcing the laws. They were always criticized and seldom supported.

I not only considered myself a Republican, but I was also a conservative. Whittaker Chambers, Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan were my heroes. At this point, most readers are probably saying, “Whittaker who?” Chambers book, “Witness,” remains as the greatest but, most overlooked conservative book ever written.

I opposed the campaign of Donald Trump from the beginning. I believed he was neither a Republican nor a conservative. A look at his voter registration record shows he spent more time as a Democrat than a Republican. He was also registered as an independent and a member of the Reform Party. The last time he left the Republican Party, he called them “crazy right,” and he only rejoined the party about 18 months before seeking the Republican nomination.

His actions as president have reaffirmed my view that he is unfit to be president. As he did during the campaign, Trump frequently changes his positions or simply lies. Here is a short list of the lies and exaggerations of Donald Trump:

— Trump has not been able to pass one piece of significant legislation, but he argues that no president “has accomplished as much as the president in the first six or seven months.

— Trump has cozied up to Vladimir Putin and the Russians, although they remain one of the greatest threats to our nation. Trump continues to deny any Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, although every intelligence agency disputes that notion.

— When asked by Bill O’Reilly how he could defend a “killer” like Putin, Trump responded: “There are a lot of killers … You think our country is so innocent?”

— Another example of Trump’s moral equivalency was when Trump defended the Nazi, KKK and white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville by saying “there is blame on both sides,” and “some very fine people” participated in the rally. I have yet to find a “nice” Nazi, Klansman or white supremacist.

— Instead of attempting to unite the nation in times of crisis, as previous presidents have done, Trump is the Great Divider, pitting one side against another.

— Trump’s ego is so big that it is impossible for him to admit a mistake. It is always the fault of others. Evan though he sold himself as the “great dealmaker,” he was unable to make a deal to repeal and replace Obamacare. Instead, he blames Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Senator John McCain.

— A major campaign promise of Trump was to build a wall on the United States-Mexican border and guaranteed Mexico would pay for the wall. Now Trump is demanding that Congress pay for the wall or else Trump will shut down the government.

— Trump told the American people he selected the best people to advise him as president. A Jan. 28, 2017 photo showed Trump sitting in the Oval Office while talking on the phone to Putin. Trump was surrounded by his handpicked advisers Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn and Steve Brannon. All of Trump’s personally selected advisors have since been fired.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer called Trump’s statement on Charlottesville “a moral disgrace.” The conservative magazine, The Economist, said “Donald Trump is politically inept, morally barren and temperamentally unfit for office.”

Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a strong Trump supporter, now says that Trump “has not been able to demonstrate the stability nor the competence” needed to be president.

The most damning statement about the Trump presidency comes from former Republican Senator John Danforth of Missouri. Danforth, an ordained Presbyterian minister, wrote in The New York Times that Trump “stands in opposition to the founding principles of our party — that of a United country.” The first resolution passed at the first Republican National Convention was that “the union of the states must and shall be preserved.”

The motto of America is “E Pluribus Unum,” meaning “out of many, one.” Under Trump, we have way too much Pluribus, and not enough Unum.

I will not rejoin the Republican Party until Donald Trump is no longer the leader of the party of Lincoln. That does not mean that I have joined the Democrats. They have their own problems which could be the subject of another editorial.

Where are the Republican leaders willing to stand up and denounce Trump for what he is? He is the bully in the room who gets away with his divisive tactics until enough people are willing to take him on and say, “enough is enough.”


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Paulson’s principles: Money, money, money!

It has been said that money is the lifeblood of politics. If so, many members of the Florida congressional delegation are very healthy, while others are on life support.

This is based on second quarter financial reports covering funds raised, funds spent and cash on hand. In contrast to the general assumption, money does not guarantee political success. Just ask Jeb Bush, who quickly raised over $100 million in his quest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The money produced no primary wins and only three delegates.

Candidates who raise large sums of money do so either to scare off political opponents, to prepare for a serious challenger, or to stockpile funds to run for higher office. The biggest war chests among the Florida congressional delegation are held by incumbent Republicans who are considered safe.

Small campaign accounts do not necessarily signal a political problem. In many cases, a small campaign account is a sign that the incumbent faces no serious opposition. Democrat Alcee Hastings, representing District 20 in Miami, only has $92,074 in his campaign account. That signals that Hastings has never faced a serious challenge since winning a congressional seat in 1992.

Those with the largest campaign accounts include Republican Vern Buchanan in District 16 ($1,982,876), Republican Ron DeSantis in District 6 ($1,674,185), Republican Carlos Curbelo in District 26 ($1,078,588) and Democrat Charlie Crist in District 13 ($1,121,494).

Crist, serving his first term in Congress, is perhaps Florida’s best-known member of Congress and a prodigious fundraiser. Curbelo represents one of two Florida congressional districts held by a Republican that has a large Democratic advantage. Curbelo is more threatened than most members of Congress. Both Buchanan and DeSantis represent districts with a marginal Republican electorate. DeSantis’ district has a +4 Republican advantage and Buchanan’s district has a +6 Republican advantage.

Only one challenger taking on an incumbent has raised over $50,000. Louis Sola made a personal loan of $99,000 to his campaign account.

Two former members of the Florida congressional delegation filed campaign reports, signaling their hopes to keep their options open to another congressional run.

Former Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns raised $51,704 and has $1,579,227 in his campaign account, more than all but two of the current members of the delegation.

Democrat Alan Grayson, who represented District 9, filed paperwork in District 11. Grayson raised $68,532 and has $455,584 in the bank.

It is still very early with 19 months to go before the 2018 congressional elections. Some candidates have not announced and still have plenty of time to do so. What we do know, based on past history, is that two-thirds of the delegation face no serious threat. The other third who are in marginal districts or who have angered their constituents are going to raise as much money as they can to retain their seat.

There is one truism in Congress: Every member of Congress thinks they are indispensable.


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Darryl Paulson: Googledygook

We are all familiar with gobbledygook: Words that have no real meaning. We are now seeing Googledygook:  speech which says one thing, but really means something different.

On June 29, 2017, Google employee James Damore posted a ten-page memo on a Google message board which was designed to solicit ideas and encourage debate. Damore’s post, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” argued that neuroscience and psychologists have found numerous differences between men and women in brain structure that affect their behavior and preferences.

For over a month, the memo generated modest internal debate at Google. On Aug. 5, Gizmodo, a left-leaning website, released Damore’s memo with the following title: “Here’s the full 10-page anti-diversity screed circulating at Google.”

By labeling Damore’s memo an “anti-diversity screed,” Gizmodo poisoned the well. Damore went to great lengths to note that “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.” Damore later notes that “I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.” This hardly seems like an “anti-diversity screed” to me.

Damore was doing what Google encouraged employees to do:  share their views and encourage a dialogue. That becomes exceedingly difficult when your views are automatically labeled as an “anti-diversity screed.” In other words, there is no need to read Damore’s memo. Why?  Because Damore is clearly a bigot.

It was not until Gizmodo posted Damore’s memo five weeks after its initial posting on a Google message board that Damore’s views went viral. Damore’s “anti-diversity screed” was immediately attacked by The Washington Post, CNN, Time, ABC News, NBC News, Fox News, the Huffington Post, Slate and numerous other sites. Many of these new attacks simply picked-up on Gizmodo’s attack, rather than actually reading Damore’s post.

Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic commented that “I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observations mischaracterized so many aspects of a text that everyone possessed.” For many, ready Damore’s views was unnecessary. Why read an “anti-diversity screed” from a bigot and misogynist.

Deborah Soh, writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, said the memo “was fair and accurate. Scientific studies have confirmed sex differences in the brain that lead to differences in interests and preferences.”

The left attacked Damore as a bigot whose memo created a hostile work environment. The right viewed Damore as a truth-teller and martyr. National Review compared Damore to Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door.

Damore noted gender differences between women and men, but did not see this as an evil, but a reflection of the different choices and perspectives of the two sexes. Women have long argued that they are different from men, so the lack of equal numbers of men and women in different job categories merely reflects the different preferences between the sexes.

Wendy Williams, Professor of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, notes that woman make up 80 percent of the students in the veterinary program. Is this bias, or merely a reflection of different preferences between men and women.?

In med schools, there is now essentially a 50/50 split in male and female students. Yet, 75 percent of pediatric residents are women; 72 percent of radiology residents are men. Do we want to impose a policy where the ratio of men to women in different residency programs reflects the numbers in society?

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, responded to Damore’s memo over five weeks after its original posting. Pichai wrote that Google workers should be able to “safely express their views in the workplace, especially those with a minority viewpoint.” Then, he fired Damore.

Almost 75 years ago, George Orwell introduce “doublespeak” into our language. As Orwell noted in his book 1984, we support free speech except when we disagree with it. We support tolerance, but tolerance requires suppression.

Google’s doublespeak may introduce a new word in our political lexicon. Googledygook: Saying one thing for public consumption, but meaning something else in reality.


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.


Darryl Paulson: National Public Radio urges revolution

The 2016 presidential election divided America more than ever. Not only was the election relatively close in terms of the popular vote, but the popular vote winner actually ended up losing the electoral college vote and the presidency.

Instead of attempting to unite a badly divided America, as most presidents have attempted to do upon assuming office, Donald Trump continued to denigrate “crooked Hillary” and chastise Democrats for being sore losers. Many Trump critics immediately called for his impeachment on the grounds of Russian interference in the election and their belief that Trump was emotionally and mentally incompetent to be president.

Elections often unsettled the American public, but few have done so like the 2016 election. There was growing concern that the fabric of America was being destroyed and America was literally being pulled apart.

As we approached the 4th of July this year, when we celebrate America’s independence from Great Britain with the approval of the Declaration of Independence, thoughts of rebellion were in the air.

On July 4, National Public Radio (NPR) issued its call for an American revolution. At least, that is what many NPR listeners believed they were doing.

As they had done for many years on July 4, NPR featured the Declaration of Independence. In prior years, the Declaration was read in its entirety. In 2017, for the first time, NPR decided to convey the Declaration through modern social messaging. They posted the entire Declaration in 112 tweets.

The tweets unleashed a storm of protest from disgusted listeners who were shocked to hear taxpayer-funded NPR calling for a revolution. Many listeners thought NPR was trying to mobilize the anti-Trump forces to start a new revolution in order to change the government.

One listener tweeted that it was an “interesting way to condone the violence while trying to sound patriotic.” Another thought that NPR had been hacked and the tweets were part of a leftist assault on the Trump Administration.

Some listeners called for NPR to lose its government funding. One wrote, “this is why you’re going to get defended.” Many called the tweets “trash,” and others attacked the tweets as another example of “fake news.”

Over the next few days, news began to circulate about NPR’s “revolutionary tweets,” and many of those protesting the tweets realized that this was not part of an attempt to overthrow the government.

Just as Orson Welles’ 1938 CBS Radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” stunned and terrified his radio audience, the NPR 112 tweets of the Declaration of Independence stunned, terrified and angered many of NPR’s listeners July 4, 2017.

Three-quarters of a century had passed since “War of the Worlds” and the subject matter was different, but the results from both broadcasts were similar. People were so close-minded in their own views that they reacted to conflicting news emotionally and not rationally.

When one listener suggested that one of the individuals who had been duped by the tweets should take down her criticism of NPR, she refused. “If my stupidity spurs us to READ our Declaration of Independence then I don’t mind the comments. Worth the embarrassment.”

At least one person learned an important lesson.

I wonder how most Americans would respond tomorrow if they read in The New York Times or heard on FOX News that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing,” or “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

Would the Times and FOX News be flooded with hate mail like NPR, or would people simply say Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, was a wise man?


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Darryl Paulson: Please fire Robert Mueller!

For all my friends who think I have finally gone off the deep end, I really do not want Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be fired. I do think the firing of Mueller, if it happens, may be the only way to end the tyranny of President Donald Trump.

Trump has already fired FBI Director James Comey, as well as releasing National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. This does not include a half dozen lesser-known officials who have been shown the door in the first six months of Trump’s presidency. Nor does it include the likely departures of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Special Counsel Mueller.

Trump fired Comey out of fear of where the Russian investigation was headed, although he told the public that Comey had lost the confidence of FBI employees. There was no evidence to support that. Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office that Comey was fired because “he was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken care of.” Or, so he thought!

Terminating Mueller would mean that the two highest-ranking officials investigating the Russian influence in the 2016 election were fired. If Mueller is fired, Republicans will quickly distance themselves from Trump, something they should have done long ago. Democrats will clamor for Trump’s impeachment.

The American public will be asking why Trump fired both Comey and Mueller. What did he have to fear?  What was hiding in his financial records that might demonstrate Trump’s ties to Russian government and business?

If Trump has nothing to hide, as he has maintained from the beginning, then why stop the investigations?  What could be better for Trump than to be given a clean bill of health by one of the most respected individuals in government?  If that were to happen, I could envision Trump’s early morning tweet: “I told you so. What a waste of taxpayer’s time and money. I have been completely exonerated.”

A clean bill from Mueller would do more to help Trump than anything imaginable. Mueller is a decorated Vietnam veteran, a respected attorney, and appointed by Republican president George W. Bush as Director of the FBI in 2001. Mueller served the full ten-year term and stayed on for two additional years at the request of President Obama.

Not only is Mueller universally admired by both Republicans and Democrats, but he is more trusted by the American public than is the president. 64 percent of Americans said, “Donald Trump is more concerned about protecting his administration from being investigated,” than “protecting the United States from Russian interference.” When asked if President Trump should stop the investigation by the Special Counsel, 81 percent said no.

The attacks on Mueller are two-pronged. First, Trump has attacked the scope of the investigation. Trump told The New York Times that if Mueller looks at anything involving his business dealings, “that’s a violation.”

Trump Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the media that “the investigation should stay within the confines of Russian meddling in the election. Nothing beyond that.”

Both Trump and Sanders fail to recognize that Mueller’s mandate was given to him by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who appointed Mueller to his position. Rosenstein stated that Mueller had the authority to look into “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign.”

The second attack on Mueller relates to potential “conflicts of interest.” Trump argues that the day before Mueller was appointed Special Counsel he was being interviewed to head the FBI. “He wanted the job,” said Trump. Even if he did, I am not sure how this constitutes a conflict of interest.

The Justice Department regulations do allow the Special Counsel to be fired for “conflict of interest,” as well as “misconduct, dereliction of duty and incapacity.” Rosenstein has stated he sees no grounds for removing Mueller.

During the debate at the Constitutional Convention on impeachment, George Mason of Virginia asked whether “any man be above the law.” Future president James Madison included some of the grounds for impeachment, including that the president “might betray his trust to a foreign power.” (Now known as the Trump Provision.)

If Trump is wise, he will let the Mueller investigation run its course. Wisdom has not been one of Trump’s strengths during his first six months in office.

Trump could fire Mueller, and that would lead to a constitutional crisis. Perhaps nothing could be done to unify the nation or the political parties more than Trump acting like Caesar.

Trump and his advisors are looking at whether he can pardon himself and family members. Although there is no precedent for this, Trump is not likely to find this a successful path.

If, as Trump has repeatedly stated, there is no substance to the allegation of collusion with the Russians, then let Mueller complete his investigation and issue his findings.

If there is something that would indicate collusion between Trump and the Russians, then Trump would be best advised to step aside and let Vice President Mike Pence assume office.

To a great extent, Trump may have one last chance to “make America great again.”


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg specializing in Florida Politics and Elections.


Darryl Paulson: Midterm elections boost Democratic chances

Democrats are looking forward to the 2018 midterm election with great hopes of regaining political control of the House and Senate. Democrats would need to pick up 24 House seats and three Senate seats to capture the majority.

Democrats hope to pick up anywhere between one and four seats in Florida with the seat of retiring Republic Ileana Ros-Lehtinen their top priority. Other Republican targets include Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Brian Mast. A three-seat switch would give Democrats majority control of the Florida delegation.

A big plus for Democrats is that the party controlling the White House has lost an average of 30 House seats and four Senate seats in the past 21 midterm elections. If the Democrats can achieve the average midterm gains, they will take control of both houses.

President Barack Obama and the Democrats lost 63 House seats in 2010, with most of the losses attributed to the passage of Obamacare. Obama and the Dems lost 13 more seats in the 2014 midterm. The loss of 76 seats in the two Obama midterms gave Republicans their current 241 to 194 advantage.

President George W. Bush gained 8 seats in the 2002 midterm, becoming only the second president in the past 21 midterms to gain seats. The gain was attributed to public support for the president in the aftermath of 911. In the 2006 midterm, Bush and the Republicans lost 30 seats.

President Bill Clinton lost 54 seats in 1994 due to a reaction to his failed attempt to pass health care. Four years later, Clinton became the only other president in the past 21 midterms to gain seats. Democrats picked up five seats in 1998, a reaction to the Republican overreach in their attempt to impeach the president.

The largest midterm loss in the past 21 midterms occurred in the 1922 midterm of President Warren Harding. The Republicans lost 77 seats.

Midterms clearly are bad news for the party controlling the White House, which means Republicans will confront a major obstacle in 2018. In addition, Trump’s low approval rate, 34 percent, is historically low for an incoming president.

Not only is President Donald Trump unpopular, but so is his major legislative priority, the American Health Care Act. The public has strongly opposed the Republican plan with 55 percent strongly opposing the plan in a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

It is worth remembering that two of the largest midterm losses were related to health care. Clinton and the Democrats lost 54 seats when his health care plan failed, and Obama and the Democrats lost 63 seats when health care was approved. Will a similar fate confront Trump and the Republicans in 2018?

Republicans point to the fact that they are five-for-five in winning special congressional elections since Trump became president. But, special elections have been poor indicators of electoral success in midterm elections.

Democrats should not be over-optimistic even though almost all political factors favor them. Likewise, Republicans should not be optimistic because of their success in special elections.

If Democrats fail to win political control in the 2018 midterm elections, look for Democrats to thoroughly out their leaders, especially in the House, and replace them with younger, more articulate leaders for the party. The current House leaders have an average age in the mid-70’s.

It is past time for new faces and new leadership.


Darryl Paulson is Professor Emeritus of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

Breaking down the results of the Georgia special election

The last month has been filled with media coverage of yesterday’s special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. One would think this was the most significant race in the history of Congress. Why has this race dominated the media, while another special election in neighboring South Carolina has received almost no attention?

Both the Georgia and South Carolina districts feature resignations by Republicans Congressmen who took positions in the Donald Trump administration. In Georgia, Tom Price resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services, while in South Carolina, Mick Mulvaney gave up his seat to become Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

One reason for the attention on the Georgia race may be that the seat was previously held by Newt Gingrich before Price took over, and it has been a Republican district since 1979. That hardly explains the attention on the Georgia district and the neglect of the South Carolina district.

Many viewed the election as a referendum on the Trump administration. Mitt Romney won the district by 23 percent in 2012; Trump won by only 1.5 percent in 2016. Many saw this as an opportunity for Democrats and a sign of Republican dissatisfaction with Trump as party leader.

The Democratic candidate in District 6 was Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old political activist who did not even live in the district. Although the Constitution does not require House candidates to live in the district where they run, not doing so is usually a fatal blow. Handel constantly reminded voters that Ossoff could not vote in the election because he did not reside there.

Ossoff raised over $25 million for his campaign, and his Republican opponent, Karen Handel, raised a similar amount making this the most expensive House race in congressional history. Conspicuously lacking was any discussion, especially by Democrats, of the corrupting influence of money in congressional campaigns.

The media focused great attention on Ossoff, but comparatively little focus on his Republican opponent Handel. We knew that Ossoff worked for a number of Democratic causes and candidates, and considered himself to be a progressive. Ossoff had the backing of the progressive establishment, including John Lewis, an icon in both congressional and civil rights history.

The lack of focus on Handel may be due to the fact Ossoff received 48 percent of the vote in the blanket primary, compared to only 20 percent for Handel. It should be remembered that Republican candidates collectively received 51 percent of the primary vote.

We also know that the Ossoff campaign had 12,000 volunteers, a number seldom reached by statewide candidates. He was clearly a political juggernaut, as his $25 million dollars in campaign funds demonstrated.

During the campaign, one of the candidates posted on their website that the country needs to “cut the wasteful spending. Reduce the deficit so the economy can keep growing.” The site also suggested that the minimum wage be adjusted “at a pace that allows employers to adapt their business plans.”

The above policy pronouncements sound like something from Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan or Handel. They were actually from Ossoff. Hardly progressive sentiments. Did Ossoff’s attempt to moderate his progressive views actually “turn off”  progressive voters?

Republican strategy was to tie Ossoff to Nancy Pelosi, a common strategy, but one that many felt was no longer effective.  One ad asked voters to “Say ‘No’ to Pelosi’s ‘Yes Man.’” Another ad called Ossoff a “rubber stamp for Pelosi’s failed agenda.”

Ossoff lead by as much as 7 points only a month ago and never trailed Handel until the day before the election when she led by a single point.  The polls indicated that Ossoff’s support came from voters from 18 to 64, where he lead by 8 to 15 points; Handel led among voters over 65 by a margin of 62 to 36.

Males supported Handel 52.6 to 45.7 percent while women supported Ossoff by almost exactly the same margin. White voters preferred Handel 55.8 to 43.2 percent while African-Americans favored Ossoff 88.7 to 9.4 percent for Handel.

Why did Handel win and what does it mean? There are several reasons why Handel won and Ossoff lost. Perhaps most damaging was the outsider label, which effectively damaged the Ossoff campaign. Not being able to vote for yourself in such an important campaign put Ossoff in a difficult position. Carpetbaggers in politics have seldom fared well.

Another part of the outsider problem was self-imposed by Ossoff. In an attempt to negate the outsider charge, Ossoff said he lived “a few blocks outside District 6. In fact, it was found that he lived 3.2 miles outside the district.

A final part of the outsider charge related to campaign contributions. Although Ossoff raised over $25 million, most of the contributions came from outside the district. He received fewer than 1,000 donations from District 6 residents, but got over 7,200 contributions from California residents.

It is too early to know for sure, but I am guessing senior voters turned out at very high rates, while younger voters supported Ossoff, but turned out at a far lower rate. We cannot forget that this was a Republican district and the results reflected typical voting patterns.

Democrats are clearly going to be demoralized after expecting to win this seat almost from the beginning. Ossoff did lead almost the entire campaign, but momentum is everything in politics.

A seven-point Ossoff advantage a month out from the election completely vanished by election day.

Neither party should read too much into the election results. A Handel victory is no more an endorsement of Trump than an Ossoff victory would have meant that Trump and the Republicans were doomed.

Darryl Paulson: Will Donald Trump be dumped? Part III — Impeachment

The first article in this series looked at the possibility of removing Donald Trump through the 25th Amendment and it concluded there was virtually no chance of that happening. The next article looked at the Constitutional Convention and the debate over whether or not impeachment should be part of the constitution. It also looked at the process that Congress created, as well as the three attempts to impeach and remove presidents.

This article examines whether or not there is a likelihood that President Trump will be impeached. If so, what would be the grounds for impeachment and what is the likelihood of impeaching and removing the president?

If President Trump is impeached, the most likely grounds for impeachment would be obstruction of justice, which was the primary ground for impeaching President Richard Nixon. The charge was that Nixon “obstructed and impeded the administration of justice.”

Just as Nixon fired Special Watergate Prosecutor Archibald Cox, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey and the FBI were investigating the ties of fired National Security Adviser to the Russians, as well as Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

During private conversations between the president and Comey, Trump asked Comey if he could drop the investigation of Flynn. Is this impeachable? It depends on whether Trump was politely asking Comey to drop the investigation, or was he ordering him to drop the investigation. A polite request is not impeachable; a command may well be impeachable.

A second major allegation against Trump is that he has used his office to financially benefit his businesses. After becoming president, membership fees at the Mar-a-Lago resort were doubled to $200,000. Trump was spent many weekends at the resort. Are the increased fees an attempt to profit from his position as president?

Rates at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, just several blocks from the White House, have increased substantially since Trump won the election. The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution prohibits the president from profiting from his position as president.

A third possible charge might be that Trump did not “faithfully execute” his duties as president. Trump’s giving Russian officials intelligence information in the Oval Office put the lives of intelligence agents in jeopardy according to many defense department and intelligence officials.

Another possible charge is the intimidation of potential witnesses. After asking Director Comey to halt the investigation of Michael Flynn in a private conversation in the Oval Office, Trump then threatened Comey by saying, “He better hope there are no tapes of that meeting.”

Others have raised concerns about Trump’s attacks on the judiciary, violating the establishment of religion clause by his Muslim travel ban, and his attacks on the press for being the “enemy of the people.”

If Trump is impeached, his supporters would contend that it was nothing more than a Democratic Party attempt to subvert the will of the people as expressed in the 2016 election results. The idea of a “constitutional coup” overturning the election results is a powerful argument.

The likelihood of impeachment depends on many factors. The more serious the offense, the more likely the president will be impeached. Anything considered to be a “high crime or misdemeanor” raises the chance for impeachment.

A second factor is the president’s popularity. A popular president is far less likely to be impeached. This is a problem area for Trump. He assumed office with historically low approval ratings and they have continued to plummet. His current approval rate is only 36 percent.

A third factor is the president’s relationship with Congress. Trump has won few Democratic friends, but he has also alienated many Republicans. Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank, contends that only 50 to 100 House Republicans are true Trump supporters. “The balance sees him as somewhere between a deep and dangerous embarrassment and a threat to the Constitution.”

A final factor impacting impeachment is the party control of Congress. Republicans control both the House and Senate. Even if the House votes to impeach, which is not likely at this point, it would still require two-thirds of the Senate to remove Trump. This means that 19 of the 52 Republican senators would have to join all 48 Democrats in order to get the necessary two-thirds vote.

How likely is it that 19 Republicans will vote to remove the president? Based on prior history, the chance is zero. How many senators of the president’s party have voted to remove their president? None!

If Democrats win control of the House in 2018, the odds for impeachment dramatically change. It would then be surprising if Trump is not impeached.

In the end, what is most likely is that Republicans will denounce Trump’s behavior, much like Sen. Joe Lieberman denounced Bill Clinton‘s disgusting conduct in the Monica Lewinsky affair?

While denouncing Trump’s conduct, most Republicans will likely justify his behavior by saying he is a newcomer to politics and is unaware of the rules of the game.

At best, Trump critics can hope that Trump will follow the Nixon option. After constant criticism of his character and behavior, Trump will resign rather than face four years of humiliation and frustration.

Then again, Trump has said he has never prayed for forgiveness of his mistakes, so don’t hold your breath waiting for him to see the light.


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Darryl Paulson: Will Donald Trump be dumped? Part II — The Constitutional debate

In my recent op-ed, I examined the possibility of removing President Donald Trump through the 25th Amendment. That amendment allows for the president to be removed if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet find the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

This option is highly unlikely to succeed.

Impeachment is the more likely problem confronting Trump, although the chances of success are minimal at this time.

Impeachment and the Constitutional Convention.

On July 20, 1787, delegates at the Constitutional Convention raised the issue of impeachment of a sitting president. The debate was heated.

Charles Pinckney of South Carolina moved to strike impeachment from the Constitution. Pinckney contended that elections would hold the president accountable.

George Mason of Virginia asked, “Shall any man be above Justice?” Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania moved that the impeachable offenses be enumerated and defined.

James Madison of Virginia listed possible impeachable offenses. “He might lose his capacity after his appointment. He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers.” Many Trump critics see him guilty of the last charge.

Pinckney and Rufus King of Massachusetts worried that impeachment would jeopardize the independence of the president. Eldridge Gerry of Massachusetts countered that “A good magistrate will not fear them (Congress). A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.”

The delegates at the Constitutional Convention gave the House the authority to bring articles of impeachment by majority vote. Impeachment, in contrast to the public perception, does not mean removal from office. It only means a majority of the House believes there are grounds for the Senate to hold hearings on whether or not to remove the president from office. General offenses included treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Presidential Impeachments.

Andrew Johnson, a Democrat who assumed the presidency after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, was bitterly distrusted by the Radical Republicans who dominated Congress. Johnson, a Tennessean, was viewed as too sympathetic to the South.

Johnson’s problems escalated after Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act in 1867, which required the president to get Senate approval before firing a cabinet officer. Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton without seeking Senate approval.

The House voted to impeach Johnson. After a three-month trial in the Senate, the Senate fell one vote short of the necessary two-thirds needed to remove the president. The vote was 35 to 19 in favor of removing Johnson, and seven Republicans voted to acquit.

Over a century later, President Richard Nixon, who won a landslide victory over Democrat George McGovern in 1972, fell victim to the Watergate scandal. The scandal involved the effort of members of the president’s re-election team to break into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex.

Although Nixon denied any knowledge of the break-in, it later became known that the president had tapes of all the conversations in the Oval Office. The House brought articles of impeachment against the president and the primary charge was obstructing justice.

During hearings by the Senate Watergate Committee, a number of Nixon aides gave damning testimony about the president’s involvement. After nine months, President Nixon became the first president to resign rather than face removal by the Senate. On Aug. 9, 1974, Nixon wrote that “I hereby resign the office of President of the United States.”

During the Bill Clinton administration, an investigation into Arkansas land dealings by the Clintons while he was governor, ultimately led to his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

During the Senate hearings on whether to remove the president, his attorneys argued that Clinton was the victim of a partisan attempt to remove him from office for having consensual sex with Lewinsky. However abhorrent his personal conduct, the issue was not an impeachable offense.

The public agreed and attacked Republicans for wasting time and money on trying to remove the president. Clinton is the only president to face impeachment and see his personal popularity rise. His approval rating climbed to over 70 percent, and the Senate fell far short of the two-thirds vote necessary to remove him from office.

Part III Forthcoming:  Will Trump be Dumped? Impeachment


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg specializing in Florida Politics and elections.

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