Wednesday, October 18, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Key 2017 Race

Virginia has been a political disappointment for Republicans
in recent years. The governor is a Democrat, and so are both
U.S. senators. The GOP leads in members of Congress 7-4,
and does control both houses of the legislature. Nevertheless,
Virginia’s modern reputation as a conservative bastion has
faded, primarily as liberal federal government workers and
their families have moved into the northern Virginia suburbs
of Washington, DC.

Although Donald Trump did win several key hitherto
Democratic southern and midwestern states in his upset
victory in 2016, he did not carry Virginia.

Virginia holds its statewide elections in the off-year. So its
race for governor, attorney general, secretary of state and
legislative races will be held on November 6, 2017.

Its race for governor will likely be the bellwether race of the
off-year cycle. It pits the current Lt. Governor Ralph Northam,
a Democrat, against Ed Gillespie, a Republican. The current
governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, is term-limited and must
retire.

Mr. Gillespie was a well-known behind-the-scenes GOP
operative for many years, and then a lobbyist in Washington.
When he decided to run for U.S. senate in 2014 against popular
Democratic incumbent Mark Warner, virtually no one gave
him a chance, and he trailed badly in the polls right up to
election day. But when the votes were counted, he only lost by
a shockingly very tiny margin.

This year, he is running against a much less popular figure who
is not an incumbent. Mr. Gillespie has trailed Mr. Northam by
5-10 points in all polls until now. The most recent polls, however,
has the Republican leading the Democrat by 1 point (but another
has him trailing by 14). This possible turn of events goes against
the conventional political wisdom that Republicans are unpopular,
especially in northern Virginia where so many liberal government
workers live.

Mr. Gillespie has not been a supporter of the new president, but
Mr. Trump has endorsed him.

A victory for Ed Gillespie in 2017 would be a notable shock not
only to his opposition in Virginia, but to Democrats nationally.
It would rebuke not only the current liberal anti-Trump strategy,
but would be a blow to the fashionable Democratic Party
anti-conservative narrative.

On paper, Ed Gillespie is a weak candidate because of his highly
partisan behind-the-scenes campaign history and his recent role
as a corporate lobbyist in the nation’s capital. In reality, however,
Mr. Gillespie’s campaign savvy and experience is a major asset,
especially in a contest against a bland opponent such as Mr.
Northam. As he showed in his close race with Senator Warner in
2014, Mr. Gillespie is also a tireless campaigner. Although he lost
that year, his political reputation soared.

As happened in 2016, and in elections before that, most voter
opinion polls are underestimating the turnout of Republican and
conservative voters. The 2017 polls in the Virginia gubernatorial
race seemed to be doing this again as evidenced by Mr. Gillespie’s
late poll surge this year.

Democrats will not be indifferent to this possible upset. Already,
former President Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and
other top Democratic national figures are showing up in Virginia
to campaign for Mr. Northam. The Democrat should now see a
massive infusion into his campaign funds as the liberal
establishment attempts to salvage this key governorship. The
Northrup campaign is making its strongest push among the
many black voters in the state. Abortion and gang violence are
also important issues in this state. Gun control is an issue in
Virginia where many of its voters are hunters, but many of its
suburban DC voters are anti-gun. What to do about memorial
statues and names has become a hot issue in this former capital
state stronghold of the Civil War Confederacy.

With less than three weeks until election day, this race is too
close to call. Lt. Governor Northam remains the favorite, and
might well win in the end, but Ed Gillespie is a man of surprises,
and anything can happen in Virginia this year.

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Copyright (c) 20017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 16, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Attention! The Young Are Taking Over

The American contemporary preoccupation with older
political figures at the national level in both parties, belies
a global transfer of political power to the young.

The election of a 31 year-old political prodigy, already his
nation’s foreign minister, to be chancellor of Austria is only
the latest and most dramatic evidence of this phenomenon.
Chancellor-designate Sebastian Kurz is not only young, he is
a conservative. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,, of Canada is
a liberal. President Emmanuel Macron,, of France is a
reformist centrist. There is no discernible ideological trend
so far to this new generation of leaders --- in point of fact,
the stereotypical left-right-center modality of democratic
politics seems also in transition.

Other elected heads of state under the age of 40 include the
leaders of Ireland, Estonia, Ukraine and Yemen.

On the other hand, the president of the United States is 70,
his opponent in the last election was almost 70, and the
prominent leaders of both political parties, excepting
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (47)) are each near or
above 70 years of age. The U.S. senate is an “old” boys and
girls club (most of the women senators are seniors) --- with
several members in their 70s and 80s (as is true in the U.S.
house).

As an undeniable “old guy,”I might surprise my readers
with the admission that I gladly welcome this historically
inevitable transfer of generational power in the world, and
am eager for a very promising generation of young men and
women of both parties to take charge in my own country.

Chronological age and attitude, of course, are not always the
same. There are notable exceptions and examples of some
older political leaders who adapt to the times and do not
insist on outmoded policies and ideas. At the state level in the
U.S., for example, there are numerous very young and very
talented young men and women already serving as governors,
attorneys general, secretaries of state, and legislators.

It’s only a matter of time before they take higher positions.

Even in a federal administration led by a senior citizen, some
rather young figures, men and women, are playing a prominent
part, including Stephen Miller, 31, the president’s speechwriter,
and his very able young staff; United Nations ambassador
Nikki Haley, 45; counselor Ivanka Trump, 35; and senior advisor
Jared Kushner, 36. A White House staff, of course, is almost
always made up of young persons (who have the time for the
long hours of work required), but President Trump seems to
take serious counsel from younger figures around him --- as
well as the many senior military figures he has appointed.

Perhaps a problem for the U.S. opposition party, the Democrats,
is their almost exclusive leadership of men and women who
are in their 60s and 70s. The early 2020 liberal presidential
field is dominated by Bernie Sanders (76) , Elizabeth Warren (68),
Hillary Clinton (70), and Joe Biden (75). The voices of their party
are still House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (77), and Senate
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (66).

As I have already said, youth is no guarantee of effective
leadership, nor is the experience of older age not without
important advantages. Newt Gingrich, 74, is perhaps still the
most forward-thinking. U.S. elder statesman, Henry Kissinger,
94, still has enormous “big picture” foreign policy wisdom.
Former Senator and Ambassador Rudy Boschwitz, 86, is still a
notable open-minded and principled political  figure. Bill Clinton,
71, was until recently mired in new controversies, the savviest
political figure in his party --- well past his leaving the presidency.

Nonetheless, the younger generations all over the globe are
almost invisibly assuming their rightful roles in public life.
The earliest signs of this in any democratic state come from
the younger consumers and voters. Soon after that, younger
leaders emerge. It might not be obvious yet, but this is what
is happening now. It’s truly breaking news.

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 13, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2017 Weekend News Update 8

2018 U.S. SENATE RACES NEWS
As 2017 comes to an end, incumbent U.S. senators are
announcing their 2018 election plans. In recent days,
California Democrat Diane Feinstein and Maine
Republican Susan Collins, both possible retirees,
announced they were running again. Both are expected
to win, although Mrs. Feinstein could have a primary
challenger from her left. In Tennessee, GOP Senator Bob
Corker surprised many in saying he would retire. His seat,
however, is currently rated likely to remain Republican.
In Missouri, GOP state Attorney General Josh Hawley
declared his challenge to incumbent Democrat Claire
McCaskill; and in Pennsylvania, GOP Congressman Lou
Barletta said he would challenge incumbent Democrat
Bob Casey, Jr. That’s bad news for vulnerable McCaskill,
but good news for Casey who might have had a more
serious challenge from Erie GOP Congressman Mike Kelly.
In Michigan, the much-hyped potential candidacy of “Kid
Rock,” a Republican, against incumbent Democrat Debbie
Stabenow is becoming more and more unlikely, although
conservatives have another candidate in the wings. In
Ohio, GOP State Treasurer Josh Mandel looks formidable
in a rematch against incumbent Democrat Senator Sherrod
Brown, as does Florida GOP Governor Rick Scott against
Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson. In New Jersey, Robert
Menendez, the incumbent Democrat, is on criminal trial
--- if convicted, he would have to resign. Races in Montana,
Wisconsin, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Indiana ---
each with Democratic incumbents --- are too close to call.
In Nevada and Arizona, incumbent Republicans are in
serious trouble, and might be defeated in their own
primaries. Conservative populist challengers could also
present a challenge for some otherwise safe GOP
incumbents next year, as the Republican Party, as does the
Democratic Party, faces a grass roots realignment. This
latter phenomenon is causing considerable recalculation
of possible outcomes in next year’s national mid-term
elections. A test for this is happening in Alabama where a
conservative populist defeated a GOP incumbent in a
run-off, and now will run in a special December election.

FRANKEN’S FOLLY?
What reportedly began as a behind-the-scenes effort by
Minnesota’s two Democratic U.S. senators to gain some
leverage in federal judgeship and U.S. attorney
appointments, has turned into a national controversy.
President Trump nominated state supreme court
associate justice David Stras to the regional federal
appeals court. Although a conservative, Justice Stras is
widely respected. Traditionally, the senior senator from
each state has considerable say in such appointments,
except when the sitting president is from a different
party. Since President Trump is a Republican, and both
Minnesota senators are Democrats, that influence shifts
to the senior member of the state congressional
delegation Erik Paulsen (with some input from his
colleague Tom Emmer). An informal senate custom,
however, has in the past permitted one senator from the
nominee’s state to prevent the nomination to be voted on
by the whole senate (by failing to turn in a “blue slip”).
Senior Senator Amy Klobuchar and junior Senator Al
Franken have also made no secret of their anger at
Republicans for blocking a vote on President Obama’s
U.S. supreme court nominee Merrick Garland at the end
the president’s second term. Senator Franken has refused
to turn in his blue slip, and says he opposes the Stras
nomination. Hesitating at first, but seeing the bipartisan
outpouring of support for Justice Stras, Senator Klobuchar
turned in her blue slip. Reportedly, both Klobuchar and
Franken have been unable to make a “deal” to trade their
blue slips for increased influence on other judicial choices.
As a result, Franken has insisted on his blue slip veto be
honored by GOP Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the
senate judiciary committee. Although Grassley and
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are reluctant to
abandon senate customs, Franken’s intransigence threatens
to hold up the conservative judicial agenda, as well as
another senate tradition, i.e.. that new presidents’ judicial
choices are confirmed. Up for re-election next year, Senator
Klobuchar is now out of political harm’s way on the issue,
but Senator Franken, while supported by his liberal base,
risks backfire from blocking a popular judicial nomination.

CATALONIAN BLINK
The Catalonian separatist movement, led by the autonomous
region’s prime minister and his party, held a controversial
plebiscite in which less than half the voters participated.
This election, declared illegal by the Spanish government and
courts, was won by those seeking independence, but there is
considerable evidence that at least half of the Catalan voters
oppose separating completely from Spain. At a meeting of the
Catalan parliament in Barcelona just after the vote, the prime
minister declared independence, but delayed its actual
implementation until after negotiations with the Spanish
central government in Madrid.  Meanwhile, international,
especially European, support for an independent Catalunya
failed to appear. France, Germany and the European Union
declared they would not recognize a breakaway nation, At the
same time major banks and corporations announced they
would move their headquarters from Barcelona. Delay is
now likely fatal to Catalan secession hopes, and a face-saving
agreement between the parties is being sought.

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 9, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Senate Judicial Gamesmanship

[An earlier and shorter version of this article
appeared in the online edition of The Weekly Standard]

A local political squabble in Minnesota over the U.S.
senate confirmation of state supreme court associate
justice David Stras’ appointment to a federal appeals
court by President Donald Trump has drawn unusual
national attention.

According to recent tradition, the senators from the
nominee’s home state might block the appointment by
refusing to turn in a “blue slip” to the chairman of the
senate judiciary committee.

Justice Stras is one of the most respected jurists in the
state, and he has been publicly endorsed by numerous
prominent judges and lawyers of both political parties.
The obstacle to his confirmation is that both U.S. senators
from Minnesota are Democrats (called the Democratic-
Farmer-Labor Party or DFL here), and Justice Stras is a
conservative nominated by the Republican president.

Quite young (43) for a judge of his stature, he was one
of eleven judges listed by candidate Trump as potential
choices for the U.S. supreme court in 2016. A strong
conservative, he has a record for fairness and
open-mindedness.

The junior Minnesota senator, Al Franken, reportedly 
miffed he was not consulted on the nomination by the
Trump administration, has refused to send in his blue
slip, and he has come out against Justice Stras, only
citing the nominee’s conservatism. While this might be
a partisan justification to vote “no” for confirmation, it is
considered a lame excuse to withhold the blue slip, thus
preventing the nomination even to be voted on by the full
senate.

Democrats do cite that Republicans in the senate blocked
the confirmation of liberal federal judicial nominees by
President Obama near and at the end of his second term
(including supreme court nominee Merrill Garland) as
justification for such actions, but the fact is that
President Obama’s nominees through most of his
administration were confirmed. If this were the end of
Mr. Trump’s first or possible second term, Franken’s
argument would be much more credible.

The senior Minnesota senator, Amy Klobuchar, is up for
re-election in 2018. She initially expressed reservations
about the nomination, but after interviewing Stras and
observing the outpouring of bipartisan support for him,
she finally sent in her blue slip. In doing so, however,
she publicly assumed that Senator Franken’s veto
doomed the nomination.

In fact, it likely does not.

That is because  there is , senate sources say, another
(and also rare) senate procedure known informally as
the Biden-Hatch-(Ted) Kennedy (each former judiciary
chairmen) rule which enables the chairman of the senate
judiciary committee --- in this case,  Iowa Republican
Senator Chuck Grassley --- to ignore one of the home
state senator’s actions if the other senator turns in his or
her blue slip. This little-known procedure was created to
resolve situations such as this one, and Senator Franken’s
political pettiness could well cause it now to be invoked.

But even if the procedure mentioned above did not exist,
Chairman Grassley can simply ignore or discontinue the
blue slip tradition, and send the nomination to the full
senate for a vote because the blue slip “veto” is only an
informal practice and not a formal senate rule.

This outcome of this nominaton obviously could also
have consequences for the foreseeable future of the
federal judiciary.

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.

Friday, October 6, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Catalunya: A Personal Note

[This article first appeared in Intellectual Takeout - see 
link to the right]


 For about a year, in the period 1966-67, I lived in Spain while
it was still under the Franco dictatorship. I arrived in August,
1966 and enrolled in the University of Madrid. The falangista
(extreme right wing) government had been in power for 30
years, and were celebrating the anniversary under the slogan
“treinta anos de paz” (thirty years of peace), but those three
decades had come at a great cost following the bitter Spanish
civil war (1936-39). The dictator Francisco Franco, known as
“el caudillo” (the leader) was an admirer and ally of Adolf
Hitler before and during World War II. Although no fighting
took place in Spain during that war, it sent a “Blue brigade”
of Spanish soldiers to fight with the Nazi armies on the
Russian front. After the war, Spain was politically shunned
by its European neighbors and by the United States. Only
Argentina, led by right wing dictator Juan Peron, sent
economic aid during and after the war.

By the mid-1960s, however, Spain was moving towards an
economic reawakening. An aging Franco decided to make his
successor the grandson of the last Spanish king, Alfonso XIII.
This young man, Juan Carlos, had been brought from exile
with his father (the presumptive but uncrowned king) in
Portugal to be educated at the University of Madrid where I
was enrolled. On December 14, 1966, at the Spanish parliament
(El Cortes), Franco personally brought his new Organic Law
for rubber-stamp approval. There was much pomp, music
and ceremony. I was there in the front row at the steps of the
Cortes taking photos and absorbing the colorful pageantry.
It was thrilling until the moment when Franco arrived in his
black limousine, and stepped out at the base of the Cortes
steps. As he did, virtually everyone in the crowd of about
30,000 made the Nazi one-arm salute and began singing the
fascist anthem. My mood of excitement instantly was
chilled by this live image of a Nazi rally that had existed for
me only as documentary footage from before when I was
born. It was truly scary.

Madrid in 1966 was very oppressive. The creative arts and
political free speech were cruelly repressed. Unrest at the
University resulted in extend periods of no classes. I then
decided to transfer to the University of Barcelona where I
was told there was a a better environment. In February,
1967, I moved to the Catalan capital. As promised, it was a
very different circumstance. A small region in northeastern
Spain on the Pyrenees French border, Catalunya was almost
a thousand years old as a distinct country, spoke its own
language (as old as Castillian Spanish or French), and had its
own cultural identity. Merged with Spain in the 1500s, it
was the commercial and industrial hub of the Iberian
peninsula (Spain and Portugal). A late holdout of the
brief democratic Spanish republic (1931-39), it fell at the
end of the civil war --- with many of its anti-Franco citizens
fleeing to southern France.

After World War II, the Catalan people felt increasingly
repressed by the Franco government in Madrid. The Catalan
language was publicly prohibited. As in Madrid, the arts,
especially new literature, were heavily censored. Spaniards
across the country who openly criticized the regime were
arrested and tortured. By the time I had arrived in
Barcelona, the city seemed in a state of siege.

But, unlike in Madrid, there was a much greater resistance
to the Franco regime in Barcelona. In private, most Catalans
spoke to each other in their own tongue. An underground
bookstore existed where you could purchase banned books.
I befriended an older muralist, Guillermo Soler, who was
part of a secret group of prominent Catalan painters,
musicians and writers called Estudi that met clandestinely
for discussions and concerts, some of which I attended with
him. He introduced me to Aurora Bertrana, then the gran
dama of Catalan poetry and pioneer feminist, when we met
at Oro de Rhin, a famous coffeehouse and artist hangout on
the Plaza de Catalunya.

Sr. Soler told me of his support for the Republic during the
civil war, and his flight to France after it was over. He then,
he said, returned to Barcelona to rejoin his family and
continue his career as a painter and muralist. I also met, at
the U.S. consulate in the city, a young Catalan woman who,
on learning I was an American poet (I was then on a sabbatical
abroad from my studies at the Writers Workshop at the
University of Iowa), told me she was the proprietor of a
clandestine bookshop in Barcelona where I could buy most
of the banned American and European books. Every night
at the pension where I was living, the Catalan innkeeper
stopped outside my room and said “Bona nit tingui! (“Have
a good night!”).

I felt part of the siege.

That was, of course, then. In 1975, Franco died, and the
young prince became King Juan Carlos. In 1981, the
falangistas staged a desperate, brief and unsuccessful coup.
The king bravely led an effort to put down the insurrection.
The new democratic Spain rose quickly economically, and
became part of the European Union. Regional tensions in
Spain remained, however.

Modern Spain is really made of distinct historic regions.
In addition to Catalunya, the neighboring Basque region
also has its own non-Indo European language and culture.
To the northwest, Galicia has its own history, and had a
language related to Portuguese. The region in the south
around Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada, still has a distinct
Moorish influence from its period when the Arabs from
North Africa ruled it. To the southeast, another distinct
region existed. In the center of the peninsula was Castille
where from Toledo, and later, Madrid, the feudal Spanish
kings conquered and reconquered the country.

In 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella not only sent a Genoan
ship captain, Christopher Columbus, with three ships to
discover a western passage to the Indies (and we all now
know what he did discover), but also inaugurated the
infamous Inquisition that forced conversion, death or
exile of Spain’s large and important Jewish community.

From that period until the beginning of the 19th century,
Spain played a major role in Europe and in global
colonization. By the mid-1800s, however, Spain declined
as it lost its North and South American colonies, and
Europe’s empires and monarchies faded into popular
unrest and revolution.

After liberalizing its society until World War I, Spain had
a brief dictatorship until a republic was established in
1931. As fascism and communism arose in Europe in the
1930s, Spain became a rehearsal for World War II, with
the far right brutally excising the far left. Dictator Franco
then ruled for more than three decades.

The new Spanish constitutional monarchy system has
made great strides. Parties of the center right and center
left have governed for its entire history. After centuries
of top-down rule, the nation has enjoys a healthy
representative government. Regional nationalism has
continued, but the central government has granted levels
of autonomy to them, especially to the Basque region
which can levy its own taxes, and to Catalunya which has
its own prime minister, parliament, and local laws.
Catalan is the de facto language of the region. The main
sticking pint is that this prosperous region complains
that it cannot levy its own taxes, and that it contributes
more in taxes to Madrid than it receives in return.

As someone who knows the history of Catalunya, the
sufferings it has endured, the great industrial and
cultural life its people have built and maintained, and the
beauty of its landscape and cities, I have much empathy
for the Catalan sense of identity and pride in its character.
In the not-so-distant past, Catalan independence might
have been a no-brainer. But today Spain is essentially a
nation of cooperating regions with a federal central
government. Should Catalunya become independent,
the Basque region would almost surely follow suit.
Economic chaos might well follow, as the European Union
to which Spain belongs is not likely to support or include
a break-away state --- this nationalistic tension exists
throughout Europe, and if secession took place
everywhere its impulse exists, the EU would almost surely
collapse.

King Felipe VI is now the Spanish head of state, but has no
real power. He spoke to the nation calling for a unified
democratic Spain, and he denounced the separatists. Prime
Minister Rajoy is no Abraham Lincoln, but he faces the
same dilemma confronting the American president in 1860,
an illegal disunion. Several years ago, the artificial nation
of Czechoslovakia split into two sovereign states, the Czech
Republic and Slovakia. The process was voluntary and legal
on all sides. It created economic problems, especially for
Slovakia, but it was done within a democratic and legal
framework.

Sympathy and empathy for my Catalan friends aside,
Barcelona and Madrid need to come up with a far better
solution than the one now facing this historic and important
people.

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Trump Riddle

The new American president, Donald Trump, is the most
visible and discussed person in the world today, and yet his
political conduct remains mostly an elusive riddle for
observers both here and (especially) abroad.

This paradox is magnified by the apparent fact that
President Trump is one of the bluntest and seemingly most
transparent political figures in U.S. history --- a man who in
the hours between night and day “tweets” short emotional
(and politically incorrect) “let it all hang out” messages for
all to read.

These attributes caused virtually every political observer
to dismiss his candidacy at the outset of the presidential
campaign, then to belittle his chances of winning after his
unlikely nomination, and now for his legion of opponents
to be confident that he is unfit for office.

After controversial tweets, initial chaotic White House
office management, abrupt personnel changes, and
unprecedented disruptions in the American  political
environment, however, he is  still here, still the center of
attention, and seemingly getting politically stronger each
passing day.

I think it will take quite a bit of time before most of us can
fathom this man, and why his persona and his manner  
continue to have so much impact on his country and now
on the whole world.

The voters who ardently support him do not await pundit
explanations or analyses for his phenomenon. They simply
like what he says and does. His eccentricities, for them, are
part of his “deal.”

A few of those who came to support him have noted his
historic achievements and his role in contemporary
politics, but even they cannot fully “explain” him.

In recent days, more and more of those who oppose and
dislike him seem to be coming to realize that he is up to
more than they thought he was. They do not “like” him
more, or even agree with him more, but there now seems
a growing appreciation that they have chronically
underestimated him.

Even those who did not underestimate him, however,
remain at some loss for the person beneath the assertive
tuft of forehead hair, and behind the churning bravado.
The best explainers and the biographers will come later.
Urgent events, new controversies, confrontations and
political dilemmas lie ahead for Donald Trump.  As he
meets them, more of his riddle will likely be revealed.

Until then, this political reality show plays on.

________________________________________________________
Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Friday, September 29, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Changing The Rules

Much has yet to happen before the formats and players of
the 2020 national elections, including its presidential election,
are clearly visible, but already there are some fascinating
signals of gestating possibilities.

It is likely, though not yet certain, that President Donald
Trump will be running for re-election.

What is not clear, however, is what will be the composition
of his party, the Republican Party, three years from now.
Nor do we yet know what will be the composition of the
opposition party, the Democratic Party, at that time.

There are clear signals that both parties are regrouping,
especially in the face of new demands from voters.

A number of contrasting predicted scenarios are now
appearing. One of the most contrarian, and to some the
most shocking, has Mr. Trump running as an independent or
under a new party name. No sitting president has ever done
this, although there were some rare cases of a former
president (Martin Van Buren (1848), Millard Fillmore (1856)
and Theodore Roosevelt (1912)) doing this. None of these
succeeded, although Teddy Roosevelt came in second, and
caused his successor, William Taft, to lose his otherwise
almost certain re-election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

As intriguing as the possibility of President Trump leaving
his party in 2020 is on paper, it is not only unlikely, but
perhaps also unnecessary, for him to jump his party’s ship
to accomplish his goals.

We need more evidence than only the 2016 results, recent
special congressional elections, and the just-voted victory
of Roy Moore in the Alabama GOP run-off of the 2017
special senate election to see more fully what’s going on.

In order to realign the Republican Party in the image of
the Trump voter base, Mr. Moore has to win in December,
and a number of competitive house and senate races in
2018 have to remove or convert several establishment
GOP figures --- and result in populist-nationalist
conservatives in their seats. Senate races in Arizona,
Nevada, Missouri and Montana come immediately to
mind, as do the seats of moderate Democrats in North
Dakota and West Virginia, but as retirements and local
conditions occur, there might even be a number of other
senate seats in this category.

The circumstances in the U.S. house are more local, and
conventional wisdom suggests that the conservative party
might well lose a notable number of seats in 2018, but
that does not preclude a major internal realignment in the
GOP house caucus even if that does happen.

With a few notable exceptions, GOP incumbents and
challengers do not appear likely to do well if they publicly
oppose or criticize the president on major issues.

If it appears that the national populist conservatives are
succeeding in 2018, it might be certain establishment
GOP candidates who bolt and try to form a third party
of their own, including running their own nominee for
president. (With a whole different set of ideologies and
issues, this is what happened in 1860, 1912 and 1948.)

But it is not just the Republicans who face historic
realignment. The 2016 election revealed a fundamental
division in the liberal party --- between radical leftist
Bernie Sanders and liberal Hillary Clinton. That split is
continuing to fester going into 2018 and beyond. The
liberal establishment is clearly on the defensive as the
Sanders/Elizabeth Warren/Maxine Waters wing has some
momentum taking the party to the left. The Hillary-Biden
wing has few young leaders who can make a compelling
case for their views (although the other wing’s leaders
are themselves in their mid-to-late 70s).

Democrats have proven, in the recent past, to be much
more self-disciplined about party loyalty than the
Republicans have, so a sudden party split on the ballot is
not likely, but some interesting ideological fireworks are
almost certain ahead on the liberal party side.

In recent years, political commentators were considered
astute when they confidently pooh-poohed suggestions
of radical or dramatic electoral change. With some
variances, elections followed predictable patterns. After
2016 and Donald Trump, this is no longer a wise or safe
course of political analysis.

The December Alabama special senate election and the
November Virginia governor’s race, both this year, will
give us more clues about how fast the current political
realignments are taking place, as will the identities of
those incumbents in both parties announcing their
retirements before New Year’s Day.

The American political rules are changing right now.
The names will change soon, too.

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.