Friday, August 5, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Intraparty Factions Rising


The two major parties, each always containing rival

factions, are currently more significantly divided than

usual, and potentially losing individual elections at all 

levels because of these hyper-intraparty ideological

and personal conflicts.


It is no secret that the distance between the two parties

themselves seems magnified on issues, rhetoric and

personalities — and this has confounded those who

observe and analyze U.S. politics and elections as the

nation heads into the 2022 mid-term voting cycle that

will conclude in November.


Political polling has established a certain conventional

wisdom that a Republican (red) wave is likely in the 

mid-term voting. There is no doubt about President

Joe Biden’s unfavorabllity, and the dissatisfaction

with the direction the nation is taking, especially in its

economy, but the intraparty factions in states and

regions are making some gubernatorial, and U.S.

house and senate races too opaque and unsettled 

for conventional analysis.


A case in point is the U.S. senate race in Missouri.

Donald Trump carried this state by double digits in

both 2016 and 2020. It has become heavily GOP

in statewide elections.  But controversy befell a

recent Republican governor who in 2018 had to

resign. This year, in an attempt for a comeback, that

politician ran for an open U.S. senate seat resulting

from Republican Senator Roy Blunt’s decision to

retire. At least two other well-known GOP figures 

also ran in the party’s primary just concluded, and

one of them, state Attorney General Eric Schmidt,

won the primary, and will be on the November 

ballot against self-funder Democrat Trudy Busch 

Valentine who won her primary. Republicans who 

thought the controversial former governor being 

on the ballot might give Democrats a pick-up 

senate seat breathed an initial sigh of relief. 

However, former Missouri GOP Senator John

Danforth belongs to the moderate anti-Trump wing

of his party in the state, and reportedly is funding 

with millions of dollars from his personal wealth

the independent candidacy of John Wood, once

Liz Cheney’s lawyer on the January 6th hearings,

who says, if elected, he will caucus with the

Republicans in the U.S. senate. He probably can’t

win, but he could well draw enough voters from the

GOP nominee to give the election to the Democrat.

Danforth and Wood say they are in the race to win,

but that seems disingenuous considering Missouri

voting patterns. Knowing Wood would caucus with

the Republicans precludes any meaningful votes

from Missouri Democrats. Safe Republican could 

become a toss-up in Missouri.


Other cases in point are more self-inflicted. In the

key state of Pennsylvania, which Biden carried

narrowly in 2020, the state had been going red

following Biden’s anti-coal, anti-fracking and 

anti-pipeline energy policies which impacted so

negatively on so many state workers and families.

But state Republicans lacked a strong gubernatorial

candidate, and a celebrity out-of-state physician,

Mehmet Oz, narrowly defeated a potentially stronger 

candidate in the open U.S. senate race, created 

when GOP incumbent Senator Pat Toomey retired. 

The Republican nominee for governor is associated

with politics further right than many Pennsylvania

voters, but he received, as did Dr. Oz, Donald

Trump’s endorsement. Post-primary polling now has

both GOP nominees trailing their Democratic 

opponents by about 10 points. Earlier in this cycle,

Pennsylvania had been rated Lean Republican.


Democrats, divided into liberal and more radical

factions, have seen several long-time U.S. house

members challenged from the party’s left, and in 

some cases actually ousting their own incumbents

with more radical figures who could lose otherwise

safe Democratic seats in November. A case in point

is Oregon Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader

who was defeated in a recent primary by progressive

Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and the race in November 

could now be a toss-up. Other incumbent Democrats

from super-safe districts, especially in New York, are

being challenged from their left, and might lose their

primaries, but the seats will remain Democratic no

matter who wins. What does matter in such cases if

the radical challenger succeeds is the further drift to

the ideological left of the liberal party, giving GOP

candidates in other districts a useful target. A case

of this is far left Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of

Minnesota’s 5th district (Minneapolis) who wins in

her urban area, but whom GOP congressional

candidates in other districts of the state cite as an

extremist figure emblematic of her party. This cycle,

as in 2020, she has a serious and well-funded

moderate liberal opponent, Don Samuels, in her

DFL primary, but he has an uphill challenge.


Redistricting following the 2020 census has also

put incumbent members of Congress from the same

party running against each other in  newly-drawn

districts. Several incumbents of both parties have 

been involuntarily retired in primary losses so far this

year, and the races usually have been decided on the 

basis of which wing of their party they espouse. 


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A New Elizabethan Age?



If the front-running finalist to be the next British prime

minister wins the mail-in election now underway, both

the head of state and head of government in the United

Kingdom will be named Elizabeth.


Queen Elizabeth II is already the head of state, and 

Elizabeth “Liz” Truss would become the head of

government.


The postal election by 160,000 qualified Conservative

Party voters is the final phase of the process by which

a successor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who 

recently resigned, will be chosen. A series of votes

among Conservative (Tory) members of Parliament has

now narrowed the original eight candidates to two.

Mail ballots will be tallied by September 5, and the 

winner will become prime minister on September 6.


Truss, the current British foreign minister, is opposed

by Rishi Sunak, the former finance minister. Truss

was generally considered the winner of their televised

debate just held, and leads by a big margin in a poll

just taken.


Truss considers herself to be a conservative in the

tradition of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher,

and advocates lowering taxes. She is also a strong

supporter of Ukraine in its current war with Russia.

A Johnson loyalist, she did not resign as Sunak did,

and her support from other Johnson loyalists, was

key to her becoming a finalist.


Originally an opponent to Brexit, the British withdrawal 

from the European Union in 2020, Truss became a strong

supporter of the controversial action that succeeded

in a national vote. Brexit still has much support among 

Tory members of Parliament.


Should she become prime minister, she would not have

to face the whole British electorate for two years — 

when the five-year term won by Boris Johnson is ended

and a new election will take place. Johnson and the

Tories won a decisive victory over the Labour and

Liberal parties three years ago, but recent polls indicate

that Labour now leads the Conservatives among all

voters.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR : A Minnesota Special Election



The August 9 primary elections in Minnesota will feature 

an unusual double election in the state’s First District 

congressional .contest.


The incumbent, Congressman Jim Hagedorn passed away

in February, triggering by state law a special election the

same day as the normal state primary day, August 9.


On the same day, CD-1 voters will choose party nominees

for the same seat in the regular election on November 8.


To make the voting even more complicated, the recent

redistricting boundaries required every 10 years by the

national census will produce different ballots in some

areas of the old and new district. Those voters living in the

old CD-1, but now in CD-2, will be able to vote in the

special election on August 9, but not  in the CD-1 general

election primary on the same day.


While CD-1 has in recent years sent both Republicans 

and Democrats (in Minnesota called Democratic-Farmer-

Laborites or DFLers) to Congress, the mostly rural area

is generally conservative and is rated as slightly

Republican. The largest city in the district, Rochester, 

however, votes heavily DFL and makes the district

more and more competitive. 


In addition to the two major parties, there are two minor

parties on the CD-1 ballot, the Legal Marijuana Now

Party and the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party.

Although each of their vote totals is usually very small

in November, their number could affect the outcome if

the election is close between the major candidates.

Since the two minor parties’ candidates run on very

liberal issues, they likely diminish the net total vote of

the DFL nominee more.


In the June CD-1 special election primary, FDA

official and former state legislator Brad Finstad

defeated several GOP opponents for his party’s

nomination. Former Hormel Company CEO Jeff

Ettinger defeated several opponents for the DFL

nomination. Political observers generally agree

that each party nominated its most electable

candidate.


A published poll by a DFL pollster has Finstad

leading 48-47 with 5% undecided (4.5% margin of

error), but all national pundits rate the race strong

or likely GOP.


In another cycle, this race might be more competitive,

especially with a quality DFL candidate like Ettinger,

but 2022, the primary voting indicates, shows voter

enthusiasm of Republicans is notably greater —

caused no doubt by President Biden’s declining

popularity in Minnesota and elsewhere. With GOP

voter registration exceeding the Democrats’ number,

and two left-leaning minor party candidates on the

ballot, the Republican is favored in the special

election.


On the other hand, turnout is traditionally low  for

primary days, and the district is divided enough, for

surprise results. But clearly Brad Finstad has the

advantage in the 2022 cycle.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Cssselman. All rights reserved. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The World Turns


The media preoccupation with Ukraine has caused attention

to be diverted from many other international developments,

many of which are significant to U.S. relationships around

the world.


Most recent were parliamentary elections in France in which

newly reelected President Emmanuel Macron lost his

centrist party’s majority as a coalition of parties on the left

made notable gains to be the largest opposition group in

the parliament, and Mme. Marine Le Pen’s party on the

right also made gains to become the next largest party.

In order to pass legislation, M. Macron will probably have

to work with the fourth largest party, a conservative group,

and legislators from smaller parties. President Macron,

after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent retirement,

had become the leading political figure in the continental

European Union (EU), will likely now have to look more to 

his domestic programs, and renewed unrest in France.


Across the Channel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

recently survived a “no confidence” vote in his parliament.

Although the vote was not as close as the hostile British

media said it was, it was serious enough for Mr. Johnson to

need to attempt internal repairs within his party which controls

the parliament if his government is to survive until the next

election. Plagued by controversies, he has been on the

defensive in the House of Commons over various domestic

issues, but has stepped up to be Ukraine’s most consistent

booster in Europe. He is probably much more popular in

Kyiv than London these days.


The European story, of course, is Russian President Vladimir

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, and still ongoing.

The Russian army’s initial efforts failed when Ukraine resisted

the invasion, and gained, under Ukrainian President Vlodomyr

Zelensky’s charismatic leadership, almost universal sympathy

and support in Europe, including Germany which, like so many

of its neighbors, depended on Russian oil and gas. Putin has

now shifted his military operations, and although the outmanned

and outgunned Ukrainian military is holding on, there is

increasing talk of a negotiated settlement. The impact of this

Russian “special operations” has not been limited to Europe, but

has reached China and India, Africa and the U.S. Support for

Ukraine is not global, particularly not among nations which are

customers of Russian resources The consequences of a

long-term Russian military effort in Ukraine is unknown.


In the Philippines, the son of the former dictator Ferdinand

Marcos was recently elected president.  Ferdinand Marcos, Jr..

(known as “Bong Bong”) Marcos brings back a Marcos family 

member to power after more than three decades.


In Australia, conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison lost

his bid for a 4th term to Anthony Albanese of the Labour Party.


In South Korea, People Power Party candidate Youn Sur-Yen

won the closest election in the nation’s history.


BREAKING NEWS: The eight party right-to-left coalition which

has led Israel for a year under Prime Minister Naphtali Bennett

has decided to dissolve the Knesset and call elections (the fifth

time in 3 years). Likely date is late October.  Recent polls

indicate that the current opposition party, Likud (which is led by

former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), leads all other

parties among Israeli voters, but is one vote short of the majority

necessary to form a new government. Foreign Minister Yair

Lapid will now take over as prime minister until the election.

Developing…..

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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Third Parties in 2022


There seems to be, in recent years, an abundance of close

political races at all levels, and an unpleasant delay often

then in knowing who has won.


In the intraparty primary election contests, the cause is

usually a large number of relatively credible candidates

which not only result in close races, but also produce

primary winners with only pluralities — that might turn out

to be a weakness in the ensuing general election, especially 

when challenging an incumbent.


In general elections, the cause often is the presence of 

candidates of one or more minor parties who deflect voters

from either of the two major parties.


Even in presidential elections the phenomenon occurs, as it

probably did in 1968 (George Wallace) and 1992  (Ross 

Perot), and almost certainly in 2000 (Ralph Nader).


In 2020, accumulated new voting rules, including early voting,

expanded absentee voting standards, drop box availability, 

and a highly polarized political environment also produced 

delays in determining election results in some states — and

particularly in the presidential election. This caused partisan

doubt, justified or not, in the outcome not caused by a third

party candidate.


It is not yet clear if third party candidates will be decisive in

many 2022 national midterm elections for major statewide, 

U.S.house and senate races, but the potential is already

visible in some states, including Minnesota where at least

two congressional seats and the governorship appear to be

close races.


In the recent past, five third parties in Minnesota have likely

affected elect outcomes, including the Green Party, Legal

Marijuana Party, and Independence Party on the left and

center-left (presumably diminishing results for Democratic 

(called Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party or DFL in this

state) candidates; and the Libertarian Party and the

Constitution Party on the right (presumably diminishing

results for Republican candidates,


This was true in the Minnesota gubernatorial races in 1998,

2002 and 2006 when Independence Party (IP) candidates

changed the outcome —with IPer Jesse Ventura actually

winning in 1998. In the Minnesota 7th & 8th congressional

districts, third party candidates on both the left and right

seem to have affected outcomes in some recent elections.


(It is important to note that third party voters cannot 

automatically be assumed to be votes lost to a major party.

Some of them would not vote at all if they did not have a

third party choice.)


Particularly in MN-1 and MN-2 congressional districts this

cycle, a Legal Marijuana Party candidate has already filed

ahead of the May 31 deadline, and could boost the 

November prospects for the GOP nominees.The race for

governor, according to the most recent polls is likely to be

close, and could be significantly affected by third party

nominees on either the left, right or center.


If current voter attitudes, as indicated by polls across the

nation, persist until November, the 2022 elections might

be a blowout, and third party candidates might not affect

many outcomes, but the recurrence of very close elections

in recent years, and the increase in third party choices,

should not be underestimated.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.