Friday, November 10, 2017

Unfit to Hold Office: Sexual Harassment and the Minnesota Legislature

Are Minnesota legislators who sexual harass colleagues or members of the public unfit to hold office? The answer should be yes, and both the Minnesota House and Senate should be prepared to reach this conclusion if Representative Cornish and  Senator  Schoen do not resign  and the two legislative bodies are required to judge the fitness of these two members to remain in office.
There appears to be a sea change afoot in politics when it comes to gender discrimination.  Inspired by the accounts of the like of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore (Senate candidate in Alabama), and Donald Trump, it is possible that there is a new political standard emerging in politics that make the creation of a sexually hostile environment by elected officials wrong.  If that  is the case, then the standard of conduct expected of public officials is only 30 years behind the times.
In 1986 in Meritor Savings Bank  v. Vinson,  477 US 57 (1986) the US Supreme Court ruled that sexual harassment in the workplace was actionable as sexual discrimination  under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Prior to that decision, short of actual unwanted  physical conduct, women (who are mostly the victims) had little recourse against their bosses or co-workers when they made unwanted sexual advances or engaged in unwanted sexual language.  Meritor Savings changed that.  It, along with rulings by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said that there were two forms of sexual harassment or discrimination.
The first is quid pro quo–conditioning employment upon the exchange of sexual favors (“Sleep with me if you want to keep your job”).  The second is hostile environment–creating a workplace where  unwelcome conduct based on sex or gender that is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.  Such conduct need not br specifically directed at a particular person, but it can include offensive jokes, remarks, pictures, and general discussion by employers, managers, or coworkers.
Across the public, private, and non-profit sectors, most people get it, sexual harassment is wrong, and grounds for discipline and dismissal.   But some still do not, and among those who don’t, it appears some are elected officials.  It should not only be wrong to harass your staff, but also your legislative colleagues and even lobbyists and members of the public.  While the public may not always view legislators and lobbyists  favorably, they should not be sexually harassed.  For legislators, unwanted sexual advances are part of the good old boys club that pervaded for so long, and which appears to persist.  It sends a signal that women are second rate, and that they, their work, and the legislation they advance is  judged not on it merits but how they look in a dress.
Lobbyists advocate for their members and they should not be hit on when doing they job.  While not employees of the legislature, they nonetheless are in a power differential position when it comes to legislators, potentially feeling that  they must  acquiesce to sexual overtures as a condition of doing their job.   Such behavior  sends signals also to constituents and the general public that if they too are female they may to exercise their First Amendment rights in a sexually hostile environment..  The point here is that sexual harassment by legislators  undermines democracy by chilling half the population out of exercising their rights to free speech.
So what should be done?  Ultimately the conclusion should be that all forms of sexual harassment by Minnesota State Legislators is wrong and grounds for removal from office by the House and the Senate.  The Minnesota Constitution, Article IV, Section 6 declares that: “ Each  house shall be the judge of the election returns and eligibility of its own members.”  This clause gives each house the power to set and judge the ethical standards of its members, setting their own standards on evidence needed to prove violations.  It need not be a standard of beyond a reasonable doubt found in criminal law, but something less than that in the judgment of the House and Senate.  The level of proof demanded in many ways sets the standard of ethical conduct for its members.
Senate Rule 56 declares that it may discipline members who display behavior that “violates accepted norms of Senate behavior, that betrays the public trust, or that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor or disrepute.”  House Rule 6.1 says the same thing.  One would hope that the two chambers would conclude that sexual harassment of not just staff but other legislators, lobbyists, and the general public, would be something that violates these standards, rendering members who do this unfit to serve.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Advice to Mayors-elect Carter and Frey: Ten Lessons about Successful Governance

Dear Mayors-elect Carter and Frey:

Congratulations on your elections as mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis, respectively!  Your elections mark many important transitions for the two cities, not the least being the beginning of the shift of political power from the Baby Boomers and GenXers to the Millennials.  This generational shift brings with it new ideas, politics, perspectives on the world, and an ideology about governance.

 In many ways your election reminds me of when I worked on a mayoral campaign back in New York where I grew up, helping to elect a then 37 year-old woman who became the city’s first female and Baby Boomer elected as mayor.  I served on her transition team, and then in her administration as the city director of planning, zoning, and code enforcement.  What I learned then and over my years as a professor and as someone who continues to work with local governments is that there are some basic rules or values of good governance that never die, even if politics or values change.  As the two of you prepare to take office, I hope these ideas are useful.

First, remember a city is all its people.  Not some of the people in part of the city but all of the people across all of the neighborhoods of Minneapolis and St Paul.  For too long mayors of both cities have failed to commit development and resources across the entire city, leading to uneven development.  As a result, parts of the city are developing and others stagnant.

In many ways, Minneapolis and St Paul are two cities.  No, not two separate cities, but two cities each within  themselves. Both are shining cities on the hill for those who are white, affluent, and live in the right neighborhood.  They are cities of concentrated poverty, racial disparities, and lack of opportunity for  people of color, the poor, and those who live in the wrong neighborhoods.  The defining issue for the 2017 Minneapolis and St Paul mayoral elections ought to have been in part about rectifying the difference between the two cities–providing justice to all to prevent the conditions that led to the deaths of   Jamar Clark and Philando Castile, and all the anonymous individuals who are victims of race and poverty.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are great cities with a wonderful quality of life, for some.  But both are  hugely segregated by race and income.  It was that way nearly 20 years ago when I worked for the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Race and Poverty and we documented that segregation.  Over a generation little progress has been made. They remain cities with  neighborhoods torn by concentrated poverty, race, crime, and disparate educational outcomes.  They are cities where wealth is concentrated in the urban core and in a few neighborhoods, leaving many others behind.  Mayor Hodges, and before her R.T. Rybek and before him Sharon Sayles Belton, all promised to put money into the neighborhoods, to delivery economic development for the least advantaged, and either failed or were ensnared in the demands of downtown urban development.  The same is true for Chris Coleman and before him Randy Kelly and Norm Coleman.

The issue for Minneapolis and St Paul is social and economic equity. Fundamentally, the defining issue for the two cities is creating economic opportunity for all.  It is making it possible for individuals, regardless of race or neighborhood, to have a decent job, a choice of where to live, a voice in where to send their children to school.  The role of the mayor is steering investment, encouraging economic development, making it possible for people to create their own businesses.  Expand the economic base for all, especially those who are left out already, and that is they way to generate the resources both to finance the city and help those who have been left behind.

Such a vision for the two cities requires several things.  Neighborhoods need to be diversified.  Concentrated poverty neighborhoods are no good for anyone.  There needs to be a mix of people, incomes, and structures in every neighborhood.  Rethinking the two cities’ comprehensive plans is one step.  Allowing in some places for more intensified or mixed development, to allow some people to  invest in their own neighborhoods will help.  Yet private investors and banks will not act on their own to finance this.  Both cities need to think of their own investments in terms of streets, sidewalks, and  other services such as code enforcement.  The cities can help foster the conditions for economic development in their various neighborhoods, but they can also do things such as provide micro-financing to help some communities and guarantee loans in some situations.  Make neighborhoods attractive for all to live and invest it.  Deconcentrating poverty is one step in making neighborhoods more opportunity-based.  Thus, both place-based and mobility strategies are needed.

But that is not enough.  Businesses or people invest where there are skilled workers.  Strategies to attract and remain college graduates and provide real training for those lacking skills too are important.  Better partnerships among the local colleges, employers, and workers to train and connect businesses to people should be on any mayoral candidate’s agenda.    Quality services, the amenities of parks, libraries, and the arts are too what candidates should be discussing.  So too should they be talking about schools.  No, mayors cannot improve schools themselves, that is not their job.  But they can provide the conditions that make it possible for children safely to go to schools, or to live in neighborhoods that support learning though the maintenance of libraries and communities centers, for example.

Second, stick to the basics.   Cities are about the delivery of basic services.  It is about housing, streets, sewers, water, parks, putting out fires, and arresting the bad guys.  It is not about world peace and global issues.  Recent mayors have forgotten that.  Mayors can do little directly to help schools or improve education but they can stabilize neighborhoods and develop social service and community programs to support schools.

Third, Minneapolis and St Paul have finite resources.  In the two cities  property taxes are going up rapidly, and the traditional middle class feel squeezed such that they cannot afford to stay in their homes anymore, or that they cannot buy or rent a place in the city.  Raising taxes is not always  the solution.  If one wants to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, then one also needs to think about creating the businesses and jobs that will provide these types of wages.

Fourth, remember the demographics.  Minneapolis and St Paul are demographically and generationally changing.  Build your political base and plans for a future–do not seek to look backward and simply aim for holding together a coalition from the past but look to what you can do to work with our new residents and future leaders to develop the next generation of leaders to follow after you.

Fifth, it is about balancing economic development with housing, downtown with neighborhoods.  There are connections between the economic strength of Minneapolis and St Paul and how well their  housing does.

Sixth, be realistic.  Develop Minneapolis and St Paul as the cities they  could be, not the one a fantasy pines for.  Make decisions based on real data, realistic projections, and not on political rhetoric and hope.

Seventh, have a plan.    Have a real plan for your cities. By that, talk to residents and business people.  Construct a serious Comprehensive Plan with realistic zoning specifications.  Let your planning staff do its job and project what makes the most sense and what is the best use of property, land, and space.  Do not let the market alone dictate what happens–using planning to guide markets.

Eighth, think regionally.  Minneapolis and St. Paul are the largest cities in the state if not in the upper Midwest region.  They are the drivers of the metropolitan economy and what happens in these two cities has a far wider impact than simply what happens within the borders of Minneapolis and St.  Paul.  Think about building regional alliances and strategies not just with one another but also with your suburbs.

Ninth, not only is a city its people, but the public is your customer, your citizens or residents, and your partners. Successful mayors understand that the people they serve occupy all three roles and realize that they cannot succeed unless all work together.

Finally, govern to lead and not simply to get reelected.  Ambition is good but first of all, you are trustees for the public good, with your first mandate being to serve the communities and people you represent.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Understanding the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Elections: First Draft

What did we learn from the Minneapolis and St. Paul elections, specifically with Jacob Frey and Melvin Carter, respectively, elected as the new mayors of the two cities?  The simple answer is that what happened in these two cities has significance well beyond their borders.
Turn first to Minneapolis.  It is less clear that this is an election endorsing Frey or voting for him than it was one rejecting the incumbent Betsy Hodges.  After the first round of voting Hodges received 18.1% of the first-choice votes, meaning more than 80% voted against her.  The voters clearly did not like her style, handling of issues such as police use of force or crime or her oversight of the construction on Nicollet Mall.  But that did not mean that any one candidate emerged as the alternative to her.  Council member Jacob Frey did not even receive 25% of the vote.  In fact, the top five candidates split up 96% of the vote, with each receive more than 15% of the vote.  
What emerged was a city polarized and divided.  It is not clear that Frey enjoys widespread support of most of the constituencies in the city, and he clear has a long way to go in terms of his ability to reach out to the business community.  In addition, given his lack of administrative experience and really, his general lack of experience in government (only his tenure as a city council member), and the fact that the mayor’s position in Minneapolis is relatively weak, it will be a challenge for him to govern.  This is especially the case when it looks also as if the city council will have several new comers and it too is divided.  Frey won less because of his positions (in many ways his positions were not so different from Hodges) and campaign and more because Hodges was unpopular, the opposition was divided, and he was the strongest of those who were not the mayor.
But perhaps one of the less appreciated or overlooked events that took place in the Minneapolis elections was that City Council President Barb Johnson lost.  This is an enormous blow and loss of institutional knowledge and skill in Minneapolis.  She held together a factional city council since 2006, and her loss means both a new mayor and council president taking over at the same time.  The challenge will be to figure out how to govern in Minneapolis.
St. Paul’s election was a surprise in the sense that almost everyone thought it would be a close election between Melvin Carter and Pat Harris. In the end Carter won for several reasons.  He had a better campaign, name recognition, and more DFL endorsements that were meaningful.  But also, Pat Harris’s campaign was not as good as many assumed.  But the real game-changer was an ad by the Police union (Building a Better St. Paul) that accused Melvin Carter’s stolen guns as being involved in crimes.  This was perceived as a Donald Trumpish type of race-baiting that backfired.  It energized many to vote and probably also turned away some from Pat Harris who was stuck.  If he fully disavowed the group and ad then he repudiated his base, if he did not act aggressively enough he would be seen as endorsing this attack.  In the end, he waffled, and it hurt him.
Electing Frey and Carter as mayors of the two largest cities in the state is significant for several reasons. First, they are young, and it signals a passing of the DFL leadership mantle to a new generation.  This started already in Minneapolis four years ago.  In St. Paul, with Carter elected and Coleman out, the latter may well be the last White Irish Catholic mayor in the city, recognizing the changing politics and demographics in that city.  Second, both are liberal.  There liberalism will push the two cities further to the left on a range of issues.  This will have an impact not just in the two cities, but both regionally and state-wide.  Regionally, if both cities move to establish living wages for employment in their towns it could have an impact in terms of how other cities in the region have to respond.  Additionally, if the two cities move further to the left, it potentially causes a political schism between the DFL there and across the rest of the state.  It also sets in motion a potential stronger urban-rural or DFL-Republican conflict in the state.

A Note on my Predictions
            So how well did I predict the mayoral elections in the two cities?  In the end I got some things right and some wrong.  There were no surveys or polls to use to help make election predictions, so I was shooting in the dark, so to speak.  In a September 21, 2017 blog I made the following predictions:

Frey 26%
Hodges 24%
Dehn 20%
Hoch 15%

Final first-choice votes
Frey 24.97%
Hoch 19.27%
Hodges 18.08%
Dehn 17.34%
Levy-Pounds 15.06%

The final order of votes after RCV was applied, had Frey winning, followed by Dehn, Hoch, Hodges, and then Levy-Pounds. I clearly overestimated support for Hodges and underestimated that for Hoch and Levy-Pounds.  I let you decide how good my predictions were.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

And the Winners of the Minneapolis and St. Paul Mayoral Elections Are...

I don’t know.  But I think it is still Betsy Hodges and Pat Harris, but it is still too close to call.
For two major elections in Minnesota it is odd that there is very little data upon which to make decisions.  Perhaps that is good–not letting pollsters drive an election.  But for those of us wishing to make sense out of elections, the absence of any polling or survey data on Minneapolis and St. Paul makes predictions and analysis difficult. Not only do we not have polling data on who is likely to vote, which candidates are the first choice of voters, and which candidates are the second and subsequent choices of voters, but will also do not have some other basic data about the electorate. 
By that, even though both cities are overwhelming Democratic, we do not know what the real percentages of the electorate are in terms of Republican, Democrat, and Independent.  Even among Democrats, how they break down into how liberal, or whether they are pro-business, environment, or civil rights orientated, or how race factors into voting preference, we do not know.  Largely, unless the campaigns have data they are not sharing, there is little in terms of good research available to make meaningful predictions.  Even more–as someone who worked on or managed more than 50 campaigns in the past–having good data is critical to strategy and get-out-the-vote plans.  Without such data campaigns are simply guessing to what will happen or what to do.  In an era of big data and political micro targeting, on the surface it looks as if the mayoral campaigns in the two cities are largely operating in the dark.
In St. Paul it is a two-person race between Harris and Carter.  For weeks I thought there would be no first round winner and that RCV would be decisive.  At one point I thought Carter wins the first round but Harris takes it subsequently.  The Building Better St. Paul attack on Carter explicitly injected race into the campaign and it perhaps looked to be game changer to give the election to Carter.  That may still happen, but more than a political week of eternity has passed and I am not sure that the racial attack will be as big a game changer as thought.   Race will still be a factor in the election, but in different ways.  Will Dai Thao’s voters come out and only cast a first choice for him?  Will the old White Irish Catholic vote come out strong for the safe white guy Harris?  How motivated is the party base to make Carter their version of Obama?  With a possible 20-25% turnout, the logic of small numbers kicks in and slight shifts in turnout will decide the outcome.
In Minneapolis Hodges is unpopular and has run an inept campaign but she probably remains the favorite to win.  She does so because the DFL machine, if there is one still, favors her, and because still no candidate has emerged as the clear anti-Hodges alternative.  As I said several weeks  ago, Hodges can poll in the low to mid 20 percent in the first round of voting and still win if she is the preferred second choice of most voters. That assumes that among other voters they do not know the other candidates will and prefer Hodges as the devil  they know as opposed to the devil they do not know.  But there is also a chance that Hodges is so disliked that “anyone but her” is the option of most voters, again in an electorate that may be in the 30% range.
We also do not know what the voter ID bell curve looks like in Minneapolis.  Among those who will vote, how liberal and what type of liberals will they be?  For those who are not DFL, pro-business,  or more centrist, if they turn out to vote, Tom Hoch is the likely choice.  If the voters are  looking for the Hodges alternative with name recognition, then Frey is the likely choice and winner.  Minneapolis’s liberalism and voting patterns are much more difficult to predict than St. Paul this election, in part because there are three to maybe four candidates that have a real chance of winning,  and with a total of five who could possibly top 10% in the first round voting.  Perhaps for the first time since RCV was adopted in Minneapolis, it may actually make a real difference in who becomes mayor.
Given the above factors and the lack of real data, predicting who will win on Tuesday is complicated.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What is Orthodox Republicanism?

What does Republicanism mean?  This is the burning question for the Republican Party today with
Steve Bannon declaring war on his party enemies and the likes of Senators Flake and Corker opting to resign because they are outcasts likely unable to win their nominations in the party that Donald Trump remade.  And the answer will have fateful consequences not only for the GOP but the health of the American Democracy.  Contrary to the hopes of Democrats, there needs to be a responsible Republican Party that has a soul.
The Republican Party today is not the party of Lincoln and civil rights.  It is not the environmental party of Teddy Roosevelt, and it is not the party of Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits from New York where I grew up.  Back then it would not have been farfetched to argue of the two New York senators–Republican Javits and Democrat Bobby Kennedy–the former was more liberal.  Nor is this the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan that worked across the aisle with Tip O’Neill, or the Party of George H.W. Bush who signed the American with Disabilities Act,  supported tax increases because it was in interest of the nation, and forged international alliances to  liberate Kuwait.  And it is not the Party of George W. Bush who supported immigration reform.
The Republican Party today is an ugly, selfish, and mean party.  It is a Party premised on the  anger, resentment, intolerance, and nastiness.  It is a party that does not want government to work, one that tolerates a president referring to women as pussy, immigrants as rapists, Muslims as terrorists.  It is a party that looks at someone like Jeff Flake–a pro free trade, internationalist who believes in a strong US international presence while also endorsing tax cuts and small government –as a RINO (Republican in Name Only). 
The same is true of Bob Corker, Susan Collins, and John McCain.  All traditional Republicans, but none of them find a place in the Party of Bannon and Trump.  It is not enough to support some principles of Republicanism, it is an ideological purity test demanding 100% loyalty. Bannon and Trump have become the Grand Inquisitor and Joe McCarthy of the Republican Party, and when Flake or Corker step into the role of Joseph Welch, asking of them “Have You No Sense of Decency,?" few within the Republican Party are willing to support them.  The new orthodoxy overrides principle, integrity, and what is right for the party and the county.
George Washington warned in his farewell address of the dangers of parties, seeing in them how they encouraged “the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, [and] kindles the animosity of one part against another.  He thought we would be better as a nation without them.  Perhaps, but they day is long since past.  Parties are a reality and the task as political scientists such as E.E. Schattschneider said, is to make them responsible.  Parties make governance possible, they make American democracy possible by mobilizing voters, checking the opposition, and articulating a vision for the public good.
The Republican Party of Bannon and Trump does not do that.  It is a party of nihilism, consuming itself and American democracy with it.  There is a need for a Republican Party to speak for the Constitution, Bill of Rights, free speech, and freedom of religion.  It is a party that needs to respect the right of people to kneel at football games, to acknowledge that scientific facts and that alternative facts are not facts but lies.  It needs to say that conspiring with a foreign government to  influence an election is treason, that conflating personal wealth and self-interest with the public good is wrong, and that remaining silent in the hope that it will advance a party agenda is wrong. 
There was time in my lifetime during Watergate when the likes of Howard Baker, William Ruckelhaus, and Elliot Richardson put the good of the nation ahead of party and did the right thing in opposing  Richard Nixon.  They were heroes, and Republicans, and no one tried to oust or outcast them.  The Republican Party needs people like this, as does the country, and we need a Republican Party and an American public that will support people like this.  This is what orthodox Republicanism once was, and it needs to be that again.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Trump Three Ring Circus

The Trump administration is a circus, but the question is whether its antics are an intentional
sideshow or a byproduct of dysfunctionalism?  The answer lies perhaps somewhere in between.  But like any good showman, Trump has learned how to manipulate his audience, and this includes both his supporters and distractors.
There is no question that the Trump administration has had the air or a circus, headed by a ringleader part Elmer Gantry, part P.T. Barnum.  Legislatively the Trump administration’s record of accomplishment is weak by any comparison, forcing it into the use of executive orders nearly double the pace of that of the Obama administration which Trump decried as a failure of leadership and inability to work in a bipartisan fashion.  Trump’s problem too is party politics, except it his own, not the Democrats, yielding intra-party gridlock. Trump has made some headway with executive orders, reversing some of Obama’s.  Yet there is a limit to what he has and can do here, with the easiest pickings (Obama’s Clean Energy executive order) already undone and the others requiring legislation or facing litigation.
The point is that the list of accomplishments by the Trump administration is thin and will continue to dwindle unless there is a major course correction in how it works with Congress.  Some will point to Trump’s blustering on the Mexican Wall (remember that?), the sort of cancelling of  the Iranian nuclear agreement, the Obamacare subsidies for the poor, and North Korea as accomplishments, but those victories are dubious at best.  If success is defined as ticking off the rest of the world, Muslims, women’s reproductive health, and transgender individuals, then it might be a banner day, but few beyond a core group of Trumpistas, few agree.
So the issue then there more than meets the eye?  Do the Trump blusters, his daily tweets, the soap opera treatment of his cabinet members, war heros, members of Congress, and anyone else who crosses him, merely represent a diversion or sideshow from what is really going on?  The answer is yes and no.  Yes it is a diversion in that the media and the public are so obsessed with “Keeping Up with the Trumpdashians” that less focus is placed on the failures of the Trump administration to govern.  Yes there is some intentionality here by Trump but it may be more a product of hiding failures, his ego and desire to maintain media attention, and simply not knowing  what it means to govern than a master plan to engage in disinformation.  Put simply, the Trump administration may be deluded by its own illusions, thinking that what it says or what it displays is reality.
The Trump circus is both a distraction from and a cause of  the administration’s failures.  After nearly ten months the defining characteristic of the Trump administration is its inability to learn from its mistakes, confusing tweets with governing, and  a denial that the Constitution defines how the political process works.  Trump’s presidency is a failure in all but one respect–knowing how to push the buttons of the American public.  He has convinced his supporters he cares about them and that he is doing things, and he has figured out how to get the media and his distractors to react to every single utterance or act of his.  He has train both camps to react, controlling both of them with predictability, just like a ringmaster in a circus.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Governing by Executive Order: As Obama goes, so goes Trump

This was the week of  the Trump executive order presidency.  Frustrated with his own inability to
govern and work with his Republican Congress, Trump used executive orders to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) regarding contraception, minimum coverage for health plans, and subsidies for the poor.  If the Obama presidency is precedent, it is not clear that Trump has the authority to do all this.  Instead, one legacy of Obama may be passing on to Trump a weaker presidency when it comes to the use of executive orders.

As candidate, Donald Trump criticized Barack Obama for governing by executive order, bypassing Congress and instead leading by fiat. Now that Trump is president executive orders look good to him. Democrats lauded Obama’s efforts to do an end run around Congress, which Republicans condemned. Now the reverse is the case.

Consider first who has used more executive orders.  According to CNN, by October 11, into his first year in office, Obama signed 26 executive orders–the fewest of any president going back to Eisenhower.  Trump has already signed 49–the most since Lyndon Johnson and on pace to be more than any president since Franklin Roosevelt.  Trump has become the executive order president.  For his supporters this is no doubt good–it is a sign of taking charge and being a leader.  But the criticisms that applied to Obama apply to Trump–it is side stepping the Constitution or at the least,  it is illegal or demonstrates contempt for the concepts of checks and balances and separation of powers.

At least this is what many Republican attorney generals thought when Obama was president.  Presidents have no inherent powers.  Their authority derives from either Article II or the Constitution or what Congress has delegated to them via the Administrative Procedures Act and other laws.  Executive orders in many cases carry the force of law and once issued, especially if they go through  a rule making process,  cannot easily be repealed without going though a series of procedures.  When Obama issued executive orders regarding immigration and rules for power plants, Republicans successfully challenged them in court with decisions that limited presidents going forward.  Among the principles these lawsuits established  is that presidents may not use executive orders to sidestep laws made by Congress.

This may exactly be what is happening now with Trump. Unable to get Congress to do his bidding when it comes to repealing Obamacare, he is governing by edict.  In some cases the orders seek to alter Obama executive orders, in others they go against congressionally-authorized law.  But in both cases, Trump  needs to do more than issue an order.  No president, including Trump, can say  “Make it so” like captain Picard from Star Trek, and make it happen.  Already Democratic attorney generals are using the same tactics against Trump their Republican counterparts used against Obama.  Time will tell if the legal results will be the same.