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2016 was a year of change, and 2017 will be the year much of that change starts to set in. There are no certainties, but we can clearly see the 2017 trends in American politics forming.

Republicans Rule Now

It is a staple of the American system of government that power is fractured between various divisions and levels of government. Unlike parliamentary systems, where the party with the most seats in the legislature gets to form the entire government, the House of Representatives, Senate and Presidency are all formed independently, and power is distributed between the Federal and State governments, which all have their own branches of government.

This distinction is less significant starting in 2017, because the republicans have taken everything.

Presidency

Donald Trump won the Presidency. What would be restraints on his authority are all controlled Republicans and he is riding the wave of continuous executive empowerment. Donald Trump will be the most powerful President in American history, with all the powers of Barrack Obama and none of the restrictions.

Congress

The 115th Congress will take office on January 3, 2017. Republicans will have 241 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives (55.4%) to the Democrats 194 seat (44.6%).

 

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Republicans will also control 52 of the 100 seats in the Senate, to the Democrats 48 seat (2 senators are registered independents who caucus with Democrats).

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This means that republicans control the whole of Congress and can pass any legislation that has republican support. The only obstacle to this is the filibuster in the Senate, which makes it necessary to have 60 senators vote for cloture to end debate and start a vote on a bill or confirmation.

Even that may be a dead opportunity for democrats. When they controlled the Senate before the 2014 elections, the filibuster continually frustrated them, as it was the chief tool of what they called “obstructionism.” It only requires 50 senators to change the rules of the senate, however, so the democrats changed the rules in 2013 to end the filibuster’s application to lower level executive appointments.

This, however, sets a precedent for the republicans to do the same thing, and modify senate rules to stop democratic obstructionism of President Trump. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an interview with CNN “I wish it hadn’t happened [The Change in Senate Rules].” (more…)

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Hate symbol or harmless frog?

Pepe the Frog has been officially designated a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League, to howls of derision by various corners of the online world. The ADL’s justification for viewing Pepe as a hate symbol rests upon the meme’s (fairly recent) association with the Alt-Right.

Although the Alt-Right’s influence on American politics is often vastly overstated, and “normie” Twitter often misidentifies apolitical trolls from the dark recesses of the internet as sincere, committed racists, there’s more to this movement than bored shock-jocks. Using the surreal aesthetic of memes and chan culture, genuine fascists, white nationalists, and adherents to related ideologies are rehabilitating and re-branding ideas that belong in the dustbin of history. (more…)