Wednesday, November 19, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Deluded Democrats Denying Defeat

It is obvious now that President Obama is attempting to
pretend that the voters did not reject him and his policies on
November 4. Is it self-deception or just another conscious
effort to try to make his words push past political reality?
It doesn’t matter. The defeat was not small by any
standard. It was not a small “wave.” Mr. Obama’s string
has run out.

The Old Media which promoted him, ignored his gaffes,
denied his failures, rationalized his constant amateurism,
and always praised him excessively, has begun to move on.
Even most of them find his denial too much to take.

But what about the rest of the Democratic Party? The
Democrats in the U.S. house of representatives have returned
Nancy Pelosi, herself a specialist in obvious political denial,
to her leadership position one more time. The Democrats in
the U.S. senate have voted to keep Harry Reid, the poster boy
villain in the voters’ eyes in 2014, to his leadership position.
So much for the message that voters clearly sent to
Washington, DC just a few days ago.

It was an awkward and transparent ploy for Senator Mary
Landrieu of Louisiana to co-sponsor a bill in the senate to pass
the Keystone Pipeline (she’s facing a run-off election on
December 5, and needed to show she had some influence in
her job), but even that fell short, although she had  every
GOP senator’s vote. The Pipeline is overwhelmingly supported
by most Americans, but most of her Democratic colleagues
failed to help her out.

Attention now naturally shifts to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run
for president in 2016. As the presumptive Democratic nominee,
it might be expected she would show some acknowledgment,
in some form or another, of the 2014 electoral results. So far
nothing, but she might yet do so. Meanwhile, pundits are
floating alternatives to her candidacy as a way to pass the time.
Some have suggested it could be Governor Jerry Brown, the
aging but persistent wannabe from California who will be 78
years old in 2016. Others have suggested Elizabeth Warren, a far
left figure who makes George McGovern seem like a right winger.
I myself have suggested Andrew Cuomo, a hothead who at least
has both experience and personality. But it’s probably going to
be Mrs. Clinton.

The Republicans have yet to play their cards. Many conservatives,
beaten down by the past six years, remain stubbornly skeptical
that their party can win back the White House, although many of
the liberal voting myths were shattered in 2014, and the GOP
leadership in Congress showed considerable skill and discipline
in the past year.

At the grass roots level, however, many thoughtful Democrats
were sobered by the 2014 election results. Contrary to the palaver
of their party leaders, they saw that many voters, especially the
vitally important independent voters, had enough of the
leftward shift of the Obama years, of the lack of transparency
in the U.S. senate and administration policy, and of the nasty
snobbery of liberal figures such as Jonathan Gruber. For these
grass roots Democrats, they see no truly serious alternative to
Mrs. Clinton (so they will vote for her), and they fear the next
election might be a final rejection of the aspirations and beliefs
they continue to have.

2014 was a wave election, but so was 2010. In 2012, however, the
Democrats recovered. The man who brought them back turned
out to be just another pied piper. With Mrs. Clinton’s party
ascendancy seemingly assured, media attention will now shift
significantly to the Republican  contest. It will be, as it was in
2011-12, a very large field of candidates, most of whom represent
factions of the party and cannot be elected. There are at least
three or four possible GOP figures, some of whom may not run,
who have the stature and the breadth to become president in 2016.
Their drama, and the melodrama of their supporting cast, will
now be played out in full sight and spectacle. At least one of
them presumably has no delusions about what happened in 2014.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.



Monday, November 17, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Serious Liberal Alternative To Hillary Clinton?

When the subject of the “inevitability” of the Democratic
nomination for president going to Hillary Clinton in 2016,
those who dare to be negative to this proposition are always
and properly asked to name an alternative.

So far, the names put forward have little traction with
significant numbers of liberals and Democrats who make up
the majority of the party’s national base.

These names include Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
who is much too far to the left, former Maryland Governor
Martin O’Malley who doesn’t seem to stand for anything but
himself, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer who is
too much of a Western populist, Virginia Senator Mark
Warner who barely survived  what was supposed to be an
easy re-election, and of course, Vice President Joe Biden who
is perhaps too old and too often a joke to seriously compete
with the former first lady, senator and secretary of state in the
Obama administration.

So who else is there?

There is just re-elected New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo is controversial and combative, as is Republican
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but especially if the GOP
nominee is Christie, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Cuomo is former secretary of the Department of Housing and
Urban Development under President Bill Clinton, and by most
objective accounts, served well. He is also a former attorney
general of New York. He is somewhat of a fiscal moderate,
having introduced several prudent measures in state
government in Albany, including cutting state spending without
raising taxes.  He is, as might be expected from an east coast
Democratic politician, a social liberal. (In fact, his public
views in favor of abortion are on the radical side.)

Andrew Cuomo is an experienced government executive. Like
his father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, he is
an outspoken and effective communicator. On occasion, his
bluntness has got him into political hot water.

He cannot, under the U.S. constitution, run for vice president
in 2016 if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee since she
is officially a resident of New York. (Only one resident of a state
can be on a national ticket.)

Many observers agree that if his father, then also the governor of
New York, had decided to run for president in 1992, Bill Clinton
might not have won the nomination. Mario Cuomo, however,
had no real drive for national office, either for the presidency or
for a seat on the U.S. supreme court (which was offered to him by
President Clinton). Andrew Cuomo does not seem to have any
such inhibitions.

He could not understandably allow his name to be considered
for the 2016 Democratic nomination while he was running for
re-election as governor of New York in 2014. Having won this
race decisively, he no longer is prevented from having his name
considered. It might be that he has no interest in the 2016 race,
realizing that any Democratic nominee will likely have an
uphill battle in the general election following the unpopular
Obama administration. He is relatively young at 56, and quite
able to wait until 2020 or 2024. He is divorced, has not remarried,
and has a reputation, as does Governor Christie, for playing
political hardball.

Recently, he and Governor Christie teamed up to declare that
travelers from Ebola-infected areas flying into New York or
New jersey could be quarantined for up to 21 days.

Mrs. Clinton’s “inevitable” campaign for president, however, is
not going well, nor has she held up well recently, traveling around
the country. She campaigned for twelve Democratic U.S. senate
candidates in 2014, and only one of them won. She is almost
100% nationally known, and she leads in most polls, but her
numbers were declining even before the midterm elections. The
Democratic Party brand has now been seriously diminished, and
the party, some might argue, needs a fresh face and voice if it
wants to have a chance to win in 2016.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 14, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What A Difference An Election Can Make

A sense of feckless national drift, many Americans felt,
seemed to be overtaking the U.S. prior to November 4,
littering the political countryside with the detritis of failing
programs, unsupportable policies, manipulated economic
statistics, unfulfillable expectations, and just plain wrong
directions.

On election day, a wave of rejection of these circumstances
came from the voters of America, and the nation began the
long process of clean up and redirection.

It would not be true to say that all of the debris of the past
several years, much of it from Mr. Obama, but some of it
from his predecessors of both parties, is gone. If the truth
be said aloud, many of the presumptions of both major
political parties have been shown not to be working well at
home and abroad alike.

That is why the most dynamic locations for policy innovation
and change today are not located in Washington, DC, but in
various states and state governments. In addition to the
rejection of the federal drift leftward the voters unmistakably
confirmed the efforts of conservative governors and legislatures
in Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, South Carolina,
Georgia, New Mexico , Kansas, Nebraska, and Nevada; and
brought in conservative leaders in Arkansas, Massachusetts,
Illinois, Texas and Maryland. They also seem quite satisfied
with innovative conservative governors not up for election this
year in Indiana, Louisiana and North Dakota. Interestingly, the
only major GOP governor to lose re-election was Governor
Corbett of Pennsylvania who, unlike his many conservative
colleagues, failed to make innovations despite having a
legislature controlled by his party.

Conservatives are not the only elected officials being
challenged in the next two years. Liberal and moderate
Democrats who do not share the more radical views and
policies of President Obama,  and Democratic leaders
Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, have the opportunity to
bring their party back to the political center where it can
once again compete for a majority of voters.

Some commentators have called for an end to national
midterm elections. The vote just held demonstrates just
what a terrible idea that is. The way the American
representative democracy works, regular and periodic
evaluations of the performance of its representatives
must happen. In the pure democracy of ancient Athens,
the voice of the people was immediate and direct, but that
was the infancy of modern civilization with vastly smaller
numbers of citizens and lacking the subsequent two millenia
of the range, complexity and technology of the human species
now covering most of the planet.

The much repeated commonplace expressed in the days since
November 4 is that the Republicans, now in control of both
houses of Congress, must put forward proposals and
policies of their own to replace the rejected policies of the
current Democratic administration. But that is only half the
story of the conservative challenge. The other half is the ability
of GOP leaders and activists to rethink how to translate
their principles into new and specific forms of governing.
When Newt Gingrich and his colleagues set out their “Contract
With America” in 1994, they not only won a wave election,
they also reshaped national governing politics, even without
a president from their own party, for a generation.

Of course there will initially be an internal debate within the
Republican Party. There are some differing views about
priorities, methods, forms and rhetoric of the policies which
are needed to replace and reform the policies just rejected by
the voters. Let that debate take place, but it should be followed
by a clear, understandable and practical consensus of policies
if the conservative party wants to transform the voter rejection
of 2014 into voter affirmation for a Republican presidential
candidate and his or her congressional colleagues in 2016 and
beyond.

Otherwise, the political roller coaster will continue to take the
nation back and forth, up and down, accumulating even more
political flotsam while the rest of the world, led by China, Japan,
Brazil and other nations, leaves the U.S. behind in its wake.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

SPECIAL NOTICE TO FIRST-TIME READERS

[IF YOU ENJOY WHAT YOU READ
ON THIS PRAIRIE EDITOR WEBSITE,
AND YOU ARE NOT YET A SUBSCRIBER,
PLEASE CONSIDER A SUBSCRIPTION.
CLICK ON THE "SUBSCRIBE" BUTTON
ON THE RIGHT. YOU CAN USE YOUR
CREDIT CARD ON PAYPAL.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2014 And Its Consequences

The 2014 national midterm elections are concluded, and only
a few house races remain in doubt. The senate election in
Alaska has now been called for the Republican challenger
Dan Sullivan, and the run-off of the senate race in Louisiana
appears to be only a pro-forma one, with GOP challenger
Bill Cassidy almost certain to defeat incumbent Democrat
Mary Landrieu. That will make it a net gain of nine for the
conservative party, with comfortable margin of control for
the next two years.

The GOP also picked up a surprising number of U.S. house
seats to be added to their already existing majority. Their
net gains will be about 13-15. The larger majority could give
Speaker John Boehner some room to maneuver in the next term
as he and putative Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
try to position the Republican Party for the 2016 presidential
election.

The 2014 elections did complete the realignment of U.S. state
politics to the conservative party. Not only did the GOP
successfully defend all of its innovative governors, they
surprisingly made a net gain in governors despite expectations
they would lose ground. Equally important, Republicans
increased their control of state legislatures. Gains were made
at the state level even in hyper-blue New York, Illinois,
Massachusetts, Maryland and Minnesota.

The question is: What impact will this wave election have on
the 2016 presidential election? The victory of a Republican
presidential candidate in 2016 would almost certainly result
in continued control of the Congress and the inevitability of
a conservative agenda for the nation for several years.

The wave election of 2010, won by the GOP, did not result in
the election of their presidential candidate in 2012, so it is
not automatic that 2014 will lead to victory for GOP in 2016.
But the circumstances of 2014-2016 are quite different from
2012-2014. Although the voter unpopularity of Obamacare
fueled the 2010 wave, the full impact of the leftward direction
of Democratic public policy was not evident until President
Obama’s second term.

The challenge for the Democrats, presumably under the
banner of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, is to
convince voters that the failures of the Obama years will not
be repeated. As John McCain discovered in 2008, however,
it is difficult to separate credibly from an unpopular
president and administration. As Mr. Obama's secretary of
state for four years, Mrs. Clinton will have a difficult task
to do this.

On the other hand, the Republicans, with the momentum of
2014 behind them, must transform voter negative attitudes
to liberal programs to positive attitudes to conservative
programs. This is much more difficult to accomplish than
it seems, but conservatives must remember that 2014 was
not an embrace of the GOP, but instead a rejection of the
Democrats in power.

Both parties have notable divisions, but at election time in
recent years, the Democrats have demonstrated the stronger
inclination to pull together. Tea Party conservatives,
libertarians and the so-called GOP establishment will surely
have a debate over the specifics of public policy in the next
two years, but at the 2016 convention they will need to
integrate their differences behind a strong candidate if they
want to regain the White House.

The good news for the GOP was that this process actually
worked in 2014. In primary after primary, conservative
voters selected their strongest nominee, and in those cases
when the malcontents ran as third party candidates, they
failed to prevent Republican victories. The bad news for the
GOP is that discordant voices will be even louder in 2016
as the party attempts to find a new national leader.

The huge money advantage the Democrats had in 2014 did
not make a critical difference in most final results, nor did
their much vaunted ground game, but that does not mean that
the liberals won’t regroup, revise and renovate their strategy in
2016.

It will take some time for the 2014 results fully to sink in.
Consequences we think we see now might be illusory as 2016
approaches. Personalities will certainly play a much greater
role than they do in a midterm election; after all, a new president
is going to be elected.

This is only the beginning of a long conversation.

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

Friday, November 7, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Christie Is Back!

The 2016 presidential election is now on the minds of
many Americans who pay close attention to politics, and
although there will be no incumbent president running in
2016, the Democratic nomination seems to have been
settled on Hillary Clinton, assuming that she runs.

The Republican nomination, however, seems to be a wide open
question right now, and even lacks a consensus frontrunner.

I  suggest that, once again, the most formidable contender for
the conservative party’s nomination is Governor Chris Christie
of New Jersey.

He had been a early favorite many months ago until a local
New Jersey scandal threatened to demolish any aspirations he
might have for higher office. The “scandal” itself was
“distasteful” and inexcusable, but any direct or even culpable
indirect role of the governor in the event turned out to be
non-existent. That this “scandal” was meant politically to derail
a very promising Republican national figure, however, became
obvious. Governor Christie’s handling of the allegations and
insinuations was something to behold. He, in effect, wrote a
new book in political crisis management.

He is no stranger to controversy. In the final days of the 2012
presidential campaign, after a hurricane devastated parts of
New Jersey, Christie welcomed and “embraced” President Obama
to the state at a time when the election outcome was in doubt.
Governor Christie needed presidential help to meet the serious
problems arising from the natural disaster, but he seemed
oblivious to political appearances. Many Republicans declared
they would subsequently not ever support Christie if he ran for
president. His poll numbers took a dive. “Sage” political
observers, political consultants and pundits alike, wrote and
rewrote his political obituary.

Employing his natural instinct to remain on offense, and his
remarkable speaking skills, Christie immediately faced the
public and the press after the New Jersey “bridge scandal”
with his side of the story. Damage had unquestionably been done,
but in subsequent months, employing his role as chair of the
Republican Governors Association (RGA), he demonstrated his
skills as a spokesman, inspiration and fundraiser for his party.

He had won re-election in New Jersey with 58% of the vote in spite
of the state being a very Democratic or “blue” state. After the
scandal, his poll numbers dropped precipitously. Today, they are
partially recovered, especially among Republicans.

Not only did he raise more money for gubernatorial campaigns in
2014, he raised more money than anyone had before. He campaigned
tirelessly for GOP gubernatorial candidates, both incumbents and
challengers, and everywhere he went he was enthusiastically
welcomed (unlike a certain incumbent president of the Untied
States). So much for his political obituary.

The biggest media story from the results of the 2014 national
midterm elections was the Republican takeover of the U.S. senate.
Perhaps the bigger political story, however, is the performance
of several GOP governors winning re-election against considerable
odds. There were many more incumbent Republican governorships
at stake in 2014, and virtually all observers predicted  Democratic
net gains even if there were a GOP wave in congressional races.
Governor Christie, as RGA chair, skillfully raised funds for GOP
gubernatorial races (significantly out-raising the Democrats), and
as the biggest Republican “star,” campaigned non-stop for virtually
all of his party’s gubernatorial candidates, many of whom were very
vulnerable in 2014. Most of them nevertheless won. As a result, he
can take some notable credit for the remarkable outcome, I think
it’s fair to say that Governor Christie was the biggest individual
winner of 2014, and he was not even on the ballot.

I am not yet predicting he will be the Republican nominee for
president in 2014, but after reviewing the many other known
hopefuls for that nomination, I feel safe to say that he is among the
two or three frontrunners for it, and perhaps already (again) the
man to beat.

He has obvious political handicaps to overcome before the 2016
GOP national convention. As a conservative governor from a liberal
state, some of his political views do not conform to party orthodoxy.
Some Republicans have not forgotten his “embrace” of Barack
Obama in 2012, and others remain skeptical about his role in the
recent scandal. “Perhaps he could win the general election,” some
go on to say, “but he cannot be nominated.”

The nomination process lies ahead, and how he might win that
prize is the challenge that faces him and his strategists, but I point
to the central strength of his candidacy: He is the only national
Republican figure who understands his party’s need to assume
the offense in national politics, and to take the risk of confronting
the liberal establishment of regulatory advocates, class warriors,
union leaders and other forces of liberal special interests. He is also
by far the national Republican personality with the most charisma.

He does have weaknesses and shortcomings, and these might yet
keep him from the nomination. He will face a large field of fellow
Republicans in the primary/caucus process, and then, even if he
is successful, he will probably have to face Mrs. Clinton. All of this
is yet to come, and will be formidable. More than anything else,
Chris Christie will have to demonstrate to his party, and then to
the nation, that he can learn from his own past, and from the
polarizing travail of the Obama years.

By 2016, not only his party, but the whole nation, will be yearning
for someone to take charge in Washington, DC, someone who can
not only lead well and wisely, but also truly inspire.

______________________________________________

[POSTSCRIPT: Lest some readers think I am being partisan
in the above, I remind them that in 1990-91 I wrote several articles
saying that Governor Bill Clinton was going to be the Democratic
nominee, and then the president. Even when “scandals” seemed
to have doomed his prospects in the winter of 1991-92, I was
outspoken and consistent in predicting his victory. Some political
figures have an invisible tattoo of destiny......]

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: No Time For Gloating

The national Republican Party, and most of its state
organizations, won some spectacular victories on
November 4, but a fair and sober appraisal of those
victories I think puts the cause in major part to voter
antipathy to President Obama and soon-to-be former
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and their policies.

To also be fair, the GOP recruited one of the best
assortment of challengers, most notably in the
competitive senate races, in recent history. The old
truism is undeniable: “Candidates matter.”

Considering the big margin in the new senate, the fact
that the margin in the new house will be historic, and
despite having many more Republican governors than
Democratic incumbents up for re-election and still the
GOP made an amazing net gubernatorial gain, I don’t
think anyone can reasonably deny that there was indeed
a major “wave” on election day. (Although they did not
win, two underdogs, Scott Brown and Ed Gillespie
came very, very close to major upsets.)

The best of the 2010 class of new conservative governors,
including  John Kasich, Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Susana
Martinez, Nikki Haley and Rick Snyder did very well in
turning back liberal challengers in 2014. Along with
outstanding other current GOP governors, including
Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Bobby Jindal, and just-elected
Asa Hutchinson, the conservative party has a very deep
bench of national executive leaders and potential
presidential and vice presidential candidates for 2016 and
beyond.

But the understandable exhilaration of such a major
electoral triumph should not last for more than a few days
at most. Nor should Republicans and conservatives resort
to gloating, They should remember how they felt in 2008
and 2012 when they lost, and not become so self-absorbed
to forget that what the voters give they can also take away
soon enough. There is simply no time for gloating and
bragging. Voters in 2014 clearly said they want new
directions. Those who won in 2014 need to get promptly
to work.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.