Wednesday, July 30, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR - A Move To Impeach Obama --- By The Democrats!

It is curious to observe the frantic efforts to instigate the
impeachment of President Obama coming from members
of the president’s own party, the Democrats.

Of course, these Democrats would not vote for impeachment
in the U.S. house, nor would they vote to convict the president
in the U.S. senate. What these Democrats are doing is trying
to goad Republicans to begin impeachment proceedings.

Their motive is simple:  they can raise large amounts of
campaign funds from Democratic supporters by telling them
that impeachment is imminent and serious. They also know
that if they are successful in provoking GOP house members
to vote for impeachment, they will reap an enormous wave
of public reaction against the Republicans (as happened in
1998 when the GOP-controlled U.S. house voted for a bill of
impeachment against President Bill Clinton.

The problem is that, aside from perennial publicity-seeking
Sarah Palin and a few careless radicals on the right, no
serious conservative politician is considering impeachment
of President Obama now or in any foreseeable future.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner has dismissed such
a move out of hand.

The truth of the matter is that President Obama has already
become a lame duck, and he is getting lamer by the month.
The Democratic “brand” is also fading fast as the 2014
national mid-term elections approach less than four months
away. As matters stand now (they could change), the GOP will
likely pick up a few seats in the U.S. house (where they already
have a solid majority) and seem to be heading to take back
control of the U.S. senate (where they need to pick-up six seats
now held by Democrats).

So the efforts by Democratic fundraisers, consultants and
strategists is simply a cynical  and desperate move to exploit
their own voters’ fears and emotions. (To be fair, Republican
operatives in the past have done the same.)

President Obama, some have observed, is even seemingly
daring the Republicans to impeach him, hoping presumably that
if they do, his chronically low poll numbers (now around 40%,
and falling) will be improved as independent voters sympathize
with him. He has often claimed executive privileges which are
almost certainly unconstitutional (the U.S. supreme court just
ruled 9-0 against one of them), and now hints he will will
declare amnesty for millions of “illegal” immigrants, a move
he knows will infuriate many on the right.

The fact is, however, that many in the Republican leadership
have been working toward a conservative reform of our
immigration laws, and that  a majority of Americans of all
parties would oppose any drastic federal actions such as mass
deportation. Should the president act unilaterally, the bottom
line would be that he would only make himself more
controversial and increase his negatives with more and more
voters --- that is, unless the Republicans act to impeach him.

It is perhaps a statement of how desperate some Democrats
have become in 2014 that they are trying so hard to have their
own president impeached. Perhaps Mr. Obama’s truest
political “crime and misdemeanor” is that he has so politicized,
along with his senate majority leader, Harry Reid, the
immigration reform issue, that it has become impossible for
the necessary discussion and compromise that would have
produced legislation he could sign.

President Obama himself has killed immigration reform in
the Congress, but his punishment will not come from some
useless impeachment action. Instead, it will, as matters
are moving now, from the nation’s most effective court ---
the voters in November.

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Hurdles Behind, Hurdles Ahead

The 2016 presidential election is potentially so pivotal and so
critical to the nation that it is no longer premature, even
though the 2014 national mid-term elections have not yet
taken place, to begin to discuss it seriously.

Yes, the general election is more than two years away, and
all the political cliches that go with such a long duration might
apply, but no matter which party wins in 2016, we are going to
have a new president. (If the polls are right, this will be a relief
to a growing majority of voters, including some Democrats.)

In 2008, as in 1992, 1976 and 1960, the candidates who won the
presidency, all Democrats, were newcomers to the national
scene. In 1952, 1972, 1988 and 2004 the newcomers were also
Democrats, and they lost. In 2000, the newcomer who became
president was a Republican. In 1964, the GOP nominee, a
national newcomer, lost badly.

The Democratic contest for the nomination to succeed Barack
Obama seemed only recently a foregone conclusion. Hillary
Clinton’s inevitabilty is now not quite so inevitable , with 

Elizabeth Warren on the radical left and Brian Schweitzer on
the populist left beginning to emerge, along with more
traditional liberals Andrew Cuomo and Joe Biden whose poll
numbers are beginning to rise.

The Republican presidential field seems unusually ambiguous
now, and the most potentially serious candidates remain
visibly undecided about their 2016 plans. The seemingly
most electable, i.e. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Mitt
Romney are avoiding discussing their 2016 plans while each
of them gradually increases their public visibility. GOP cult
candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Sarah Palin continue
to appeal to their ultraconservative or libertarian bases, but
seem to be failing to draw support so far from the Republican
center or mainstream.

A 2014 political commonplace discussion is about how an
unknown Barack Obama took away a virtually certain Hillary
Clinton nomination in 2008, and to speculate about who might
be the next “Obama” who could steal the political show in 2016.
Warren and Schweitzer could fit that characterization, but so
far neither of them shows any appeal outside his existing base.

Perhaps the most interesting recent 2016 development is the
political and public relations partial recovery of New Jersey
Governor Christie, initially the early GOP frontrunner before a
“scandal” over a bridge closing in New Jersey upset his public
image. Christie promptly and adroitly countered the allegations
against him, and barring some new information, seems to have
put the incident behind him. Democrats had been predicting
they would “take him out” early by portraying him as a “bully,”
but Christie has used his role as chair of the Republican
Governors Association to demonstrate he is still a charismatic
political star. (He has also lost a dramatic amount of weight
which has contributed to a less extreme previous public image
as the most prominent overweight elected official in the nation.)

Cliches about Jeb Bush’s family name, and its potential
hindrance to a 2016 presidential run, are fading as the popular
reputations of his father and brother are noticeably recovering,
and the reputation of the Obama presidency is declining.

A national poll has for the first time revealed that U.S. voters
would now prefer Mitt Romney over President Obama, and
regret their 2008 decision. Romney himself denies any interest
in 2016, although he ha been increasingly visible in recent
months.

In addition to Cruz, Rand Paul and Palin, Wisconsin
Congressman Paul Ryan and Ohio Governor Kasich have
ardent devotees who would prefer them to be the GOP
nominee in 2016, and former Arkansas Governor Mike
Huckabee, now a national TV personality, appears strong
in recent polls.

A Romney candidacy in two years is unlikely if either or both
Chris Christie and Jeb Bush declare themselves in the race in
2015.

As matters stand now, the Republican field will be large
and noisy. Should Mrs. Clinton decide not to run, the
Democratic field would also likely be very numerous with
outspoken candidates from the far left as well as the liberal
center.

The notable 2016 news as the nation heads into the
all-important national mid-term election this November is
the current revival of Chris Christie and new doubts about
a Hillary Clinton candidacy two years from now as the left
wing leaders of the party begins to express themselves more
openly.

But there will be many new developments and poll trends
ahead, even as the “fatigue” with the current occupant in
the White House grows.  The race for president is not a
100-yard dash, as it was in the 19th century, nor a mile-run,
as it became after World War II. In 2016, the presidential
contest will be a long race with many hurdles on the track.

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






Wednesday, July 23, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Caveat Suffragator!

The Republican primary in Georgia just concluded
demonstrates one more time how increasingly unreliable
political polling has become, especially in primary
contests.

A just-before-the-primary poll in that race had Jack
Kingston five points ahead of his opponent David
Perdue, In the actual voting, Perdue won by almost two
points.

As one of the nation’s savviest academic political pundits,
Steven Schier of Carleton College, has observed, “Primary
polls are among the most unreliable because it is very
difficult to identify those who will actually vote.”

One should always read the fine print on polls. Two of the
most important factors are the size of the poll, and whether
those polled are “registered voters” or “likely voters.”
A third factor is the so-called “margin of error.” Polls under
1000 participants obviously have the highest margins of
error, but even “margins of error,” as usually reported, are
subjective or distorted, except by the most objective and
careful polling firms. “Registered voters” as a category today
is almost meaningless in any race that is competitive. “Likely
voters” is by definition a subjective category.

I have written about this before, but polling accuracy conditions
continue to become less and less reliable.

Polls can still be useful in measuring are short-term and
intermediate changing trends in voter attitudes, but even then
the standards in the polling process should be high.

I am repeating all of this because we are about to hold an
important national mid-term election. This will be followed
almost immediately by the race for the presidential nomination
of each national party, and that will be followed by the 2016
presidential election and congressional elections. Much of the
reporting on these contests will be based on polls.

The rise of partisan polling for public consumption (in contrast
to private traditional and legitimate partisan polling for
candidates and parties for campaign use) has been significant
in recent years, and the opportunities for these polls to mislead
voters has also risen alarmingly. Private polling remains a
valuable and necessary tool for political campaigns, and as I
have previously pointed out, are among the most accurate and
realistic polls (out of necessity).

Even news organizations which publish amalgamated polls
(a combination of all or most polls) in a particular political race
face increasing distortion as the number of partisan and
less-than-professional polls are included in them.

Pollsters make their living by their polling, and are not likely
to be self-critical of their profession. Journalists obviously find
that polls make their jobs easier, and are prone to accept poll
numbers uncritically. Politician, political parties and political
consultants use favorable polls to obvious public relations
advantage.

But in the barrage of all those poll numbers to come, who is
looking at them critically on behalf of the most important
consumers, i.e., readers and voters?

Caveat suffragator! Let the voter be wary!

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "Minnewisowa" More Than Ever?

The political mega-state of “Minnewisowa” (Minnesota,
Wisconsin and Iowa) is once again, mid-way into the 2014
national mid-term elections, flashlighting its bellwether
status in American politics.

These three contiguous north midwestern states, as I have
pointed out during the past decade, have so much in
common demographically, they vote in much the same
way, but being “swing” states, how they will vote varies from
cycle to cycle.

This might have been considered an unexpected historical
circumstance, especially since both Minnesota and
Wisconsin were considered very “progressive,” even
radical, states about century ago.

But while many other U.S. states, originally agricultural,
became very industrialized and urban, these three states
maintain substantial rural and exurban populations, even
if farming is no longer their sole occupation. Minnesota
has a large urban center, the “twin cities” of Minneapolis
and St. Paul, and these are overwhelmingly liberal, and
increasingly so as minority populations have settled in them.
In Wisconsin, Milwaukee and the capital Madison are very
liberal, as is Des Moines and the college town Iowa City in
Iowa. But a balance has been created in all three of these
states, and you can see it plainly once you leave the city
borders and head into their outstate areas.

Veteran Republican governors lead Iowa and Wisconsin, and
are expected to win re-election again in 2014. The Democratic
governor of Minnesota seems secure in his re-election so far
this year. There is one Democratic U.S. senator in Iowa and one
Republican, but the former is retiring, and a Republican has
good chance to win the seat. In Wisconsin, similarly, each party
has a U.S. senate seat, neither of which is up this year. Minnesota
has two Democrats (called Democrat-Farmer-Laborites or
DFLers) in the U.S. senate, but the one up for re-election this
year might be vulnerable. All three states have split delegations in
the U.S. Congress. A GOP pick-up is very possible in Minnesota
this cycle.

In 2012, Republicans had high hopes to make gains in
Minnewisowa, but the Obama Democratic tide swamped these
ambitions In 2010, a national mid-term year, they had done well,
winning governorships in Iowa and Wisconsin (and, but for a slip
of the tongue, would have won another in Minnesota), and picked
up a senate seat in Wisconsin, and congressional seats in Wisconsin
and Minnesota.

The point is. of course, that each major party can do well in
Minnewisowa. What makes it a bellwether is that it often signals
which way the political wind is blowing in a particular cycle.

In 2014, the races to watch in Minnewsowa include the U.S.
senate seat in Iowa (between Democrat Bill Braley and 

Republican Joni Ernst), the senate seat in Minnesota (between
incumbent Democrat Al Franken and Republican Mike McFadden),
the governor’s races in Wisconsin (between incumbent Republican
Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke) and in Minnesota
(between incumbent DFLer Mark Dayton and a Republican yet
to be chosen in the state’s August 12 primary) and several close
congressional races in all three states, most notably perhaps the
race in Minnesota’s 8th district between incumbent DFLer Rick
Nolan and his GOP challenger Stewart Mills.

Beyond 2014, the Minnewisowa political prize is the presidential
election in 2016. In this contest, the Democrats have won all of the
recent cycles, and by a big margin in 2012. A switch in voter
sentiment in 2014 might signal a switch in 2016, but such a
reversal, if it is to occur, is four months away and as yet uncertain.

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

Monday, July 14, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Kurds And Their Ways

Many have noted, in the current centenary observance of
the beginning of World War I, that among the ongoing
direct consequences of that global conflict and its aftermath
was the Middle East map created at the 1919 Versailles
conference. As with many of the contrived boundaries
formulated at Versailles that year to satisfy the victors’
(Great Britain, France, Italy, the United States) revenge
against the vanquished powers (Germany, Austro-Hungary,
Turkey) AND their territorial ambitions, the lines drawn,
and the new nations created, were mostly artificial and
unstable, often ignoring the historic religious and ethnic
groups in disputed areas.

In addition to the punitive terms against Germany, the
most egregious acts of the resulting treaties were in the
Middle East. The British government’s false promises to
both the Jews in Palestine and the Arabs throughout the
region are by now well-known and were chronically
problematic. Concessions to Italy in North Africa backfired
before and during World War II. The aspirations of
religious and ethnic groups were usually ignored. The
dissolution of the vast Turkish empire did lead to a
post-war revolution and the creation of a democratic
secular regime in the now-smaller nation of Turkey, but
even there the seeds of minority ethnic persecution
and unfulfilled national aspirations festered.

Among the smaller but historic and culturally-rich groups
in that region were the Armenians and the Kurds. The
Armenians are Christians; the Kurds are Moslems.
The former suffered genocidal and violent persecutions
between the world wars, their populations were divided
into the regions controlled by hostile larger groups.
Eventually, following the break-up of the Soviet Union in the
early 1990’s, an independent democratic Armenian state was
created, fulfilling the aspirations of the first Armenian
nation that existed 2600 years ago

The Kurds, on the other hand, have not been allowed their
own state, although a revolt in 1922 declared the short-lived
kingdom of Kurdistan that was suppressed in 1924, and its
territory was turned over to the British mandate of Iraq.

When Saddam Hussein was overthrown through U.S.
intervention in 2003, the Kurds of Iraq, living most in the
north of that country, formed a semi-autonomous
province, and although part of Iraq, they have for the most
part controlled their area with their own leaders. As the
U.S. has completely withdrawn from Iraq, and the central
government in Baghdad faces insurrection from a new
terrorist offshoot from Al-Qaeda which now proclaims
itself the new Islamic “caliphate,” the Kurds have seized
on the Iraqi disorder to reclaim and secure nearby areas
and cities which were historically Kurdish lands.

Importantly, Turkey, which has long opposed an independent
Kurdistan on it border, has reversed itself and now accepts
Kurdish national aspirations in Iraq.

It is, as many have now observed, a rare opportunity to at
least in a small way to repair the current Middle East map
by creating an independent Kurdish nation. The Kurds are
Moslems, but they are generally pro-Western and opposed
to Islamic terrorism. If given their own nation, and
supported by the U.S. and Europe, they would likely be
another island of balance to the rabid anti-Americanism in
Iran and Syria. Because the Kurdish territory contains
some of the current Iraqi oil fields, an independent Kurdish
state could be economically self-sufficient. Since the
population would be mostly ethnically and religiously
homogeneous, an independent  Kurdish republic would
likely have few of the tensions so prevalent in the current
“artificial” nations of Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
Longer-term, Kurdish minorities throughout the region
could settle in the new Kurdish state. Located between
Turkey and Iran, it could serve as a buffer between
conflicting Islamic forces in the region. Israel is known
to be ready to welcome an independent Kurdish state,
and would promptly add the new nation as a friendly
trading partner.

The Obama administration has stubbornly opposed a
new Kurdish nation as a threat to Iraqi “unity,” but any
true unity now seems beyond any possible reality in the
present political situation. The United States should be
advancing Kurdish national aspirations, not blocking
them.

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Mid-Term Update

The 2014 national mid-term elections are now coming to
their full campaign activity. Only a few party nominees
remain to be chosen in the key races for U.S. senate, U.S.
house, governor and control of state legislatures. July
and August will be primarily devoted to fund-raising and
positioning for the post-Labor Day final push to election
day on November 4 (which is now less than four months
away).

It was expected, a year ago, that Republicans might have
some success in 2014, considering the history of mid-term
elections and the advantage of more Democratic senate
incumbents up for re-election. Democrats, however, were
expected to pick up governorships since many more
Republican state executive positions than Democratic ones
were up at the same time.

Initially, this expectation, including a small number of
U.S. house pick-ups by Democrats, and perhaps 3-6 GOP
pick-ups of U.S. senate seats, emerged before the new year,
2014.

Since that time, however, primarily due to the increasing
unpopularity of the Democratic president, and the
problems associated with the Democratic healthcare
reform known as Obamacare, the re-election of several
Democratic incumbents became suddenly in doubt.
The likelihood of Democrats picking up U.S. house seats
has been transformed now to a greater likelihood that the
GOP majority will grow. Democrats still are expected to
make a net gain in governorships, but aside from
Pennsylvania where the incumbent GOP governor trails
badly, and a few others, the gains might be limited. An
assessment of any change in control in state legislatures
is unclear at this time. Loss of control of the U.S. senate is
now considered quite possible by all, and probable by
some. The number of Democratic senate seats now
considered very vulnerable is 7 to 9, with an additional
3-5 considered potentially vulnerable.

The addition of Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia,
New Hampshire and Minnesota to the list of possible
turnovers to the GOP only highlights the political
deterioration of the Democrats (although Democratic
incumbent senators in each of these states still enjoy a
notable lead).

Polling does not seem very clarifying this cycle, as it
similarly was not most of the 2012 cycle. In some polls the
Democratic Party leads the Republican Party when voters
are asked who they favor for election in 2014, something
not supported by many polls for individual races. Partisan
polls abound more than ever, and voters have to be wary
of those polls, and any polls that do not sample "likely
voters," do not have large samples, not to mention how the
questions are asked, and how the "raw" samples are
"adjusted."

Current official figures show unemployment at a five-year
low (although when ALL unemployed adults are counted,
the number remains about 10%). The stock market daily
seems to reach new highs, and the consequent recovery of
national individual net worth, and  the recovery of the
value of most pension funds, would seem to bring positive
news to Democrats, but voters seem nervous and wary.
The abrupt deterioration of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy,
particularly in Central Europe (vis a vis Russia), Asia (vis a
vis China) and the Middle East is not boosting voter
confidence in the president, nor have IRS scandals and
alleged domestic NSA spying on American citizens. Mr.
Obama’s presumption of “administrative law” to
unilaterally accomplish his goals without the approval of
Congress does not seem to have wide support either. The
administration seems now in some disarray, and more and
more 2014 Democratic candidates seem to be putting
distance between themselves and the White House in
Washington.

From those of us who write about politics and campaigns,
there is always the understandable expectation from readers
for predictions. It is no different in 2014 when the major question
seems to be whether or not the Republicans will regain control
of the U.S. senate, thus insuring the end of several left-liberal
initiatives brought on by the Democratic leadership in the
nation’s capital.

Some of the more radical right groups and candidates seem
much less prominent in 2014 than in 2012, as Republican grass
roots voters seem determined to make this a winning cycle for
their party.

The signs therefore continue to point to significant conservative
gains in 2014, and the best thing going for the Republicans
seems to be an unwitting Democratic president.

We all know the cliche about how U.S. politics can change
course in a short time, even in four months, so there is no
valid reason for any Republican overconfidence at this point.
But time IS running out for the national Democrats and many
of their candidates in the 2014 cycle.

Historically, four months is not always “a political lifetime.”
As any incumbent administration always does before an
election, they make every possible effort to boost the economic
environment (and the interpretation of that environment).
Mr. Obama and his Washington, DC colleagues appear to be
making this effort, but curiously so far it does not seem to be
having the desired impact on many voters. This might change,
of course, but we might on the other hand be witnessing an
early case of voter fatigue --- and a desire to put others in
charge.

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

Friday, July 4, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Is "Bipartisan" No Longer A Useful Word?

There are serious national issues which should be
bipartisan, according to conventional political thinking.

The problem today, however, is there does not seem
to be any issue, large or small, which has not become
a partisan battleground.

Here are some issues which will continue to plague
the nation, and almost certainly will become more a
threat to broad national interests as they are allowed
to fester while politicians of both parties make it
impossible to resolve them with non-partisan action:

Public education

Public pensions

Healthcare

Immigration reform

Domestic security

Foreign policy involving national security

Civil rights

Employment of technological innovation


Here, on the other hand,  are some other issues which are
inherently part of the historic partisanship between the
two major political parties:

Government regulation

Environmental priorities

Foreign policy involving domestic economy

Taxes

Roles of the executive, legislative and judicial branches

Relationship between the federal and state governments

Economic rights

Public entitlements


Let me address briefly the latter first. Partisanship is a vital
part of the American representative democracy. Some issues
will always be contended, and properly so, at the local, state
and national political levels. It is completely unrealistic to
seek and expect from elected officials constant “bipartisan”
agreement on these issues; they are part of the fundamental
political “tension” between the evolving “liberal,” “centrist,”
and “conservative” philosophies that most Americans hold.
On occasion, there may be a consensus on a specific one of
these issues, but generally they are resolved through the
election process. Majorities, when they exist, enact laws
concerning these issues.

On the other hand, some of the most pressing and contentious
issues today in the U.S. are only “ideological” because
individual leaders and groups have imposed themselves on
them or have taken them “hostage” to the larger electorate
by employing essentially non-democratic means. As examples
of the latter are the uses of non-representative caucuses,
conventions, regulations imposed without accountability, and
the widespread lack of transparency in government at all levels,
to force conditions and rules not supported by a majority of
voters.

Some political figures are today employing the technique of
“creating” laws, regulations, and conditions knowing full well
they do not have public support, and also believing that once
in place, these laws, regulations and conditions will not be
repealed. This is exactly contrary not only to what the so-called
“founding fathers’ desired, but also contrary to the evolution
of the consensus of the public interest as the Republic has
grown and matured. Like the recent rise of “administrative law,”
this legislative phenomena operates deliberately outside of the
“consent of the governed.”

As our Republic has aged and grown affluent, a certain
extralegal “impatience” has overtaken some on both the left and
the right. Authentic liberalism and authentic conservatism,
as well as authentic centrism cannot survive, much less
flourish, in such a political environment.

The question is whether the present election cycles and the
increasing institutional obscurantism will give the voters timely
and sufficient oversight to governmental activity.

If not, the always recurring potholes in public life will not be
repaired in time or sufficiently. Bipartisanship is often an
abstraction and not always a cure-all to this dilemma. In an
“information age,” solutions lie in the direction of accurate and
fairly presented information, openly discussed and debated, and
available to all citizens.

The United States is inherently a majoritarian nation.  Minority
views, and those who hold them, enjoy freedom and protections of
their rights. One of those rights is the opportunity to persuade those
who hold a majority view to change their minds. But minority
views cannot be imposed. The electorate are the true "market" of
a healthy democracy. Bureaucracies exist to serve, not to give
orders.

When this is fully realized, and voters can undertstand what is at
stake, then decisions and choices must be deliberately made by
their representatives. If those decisions are not made, the
representatives must be replaced in elections, no matter how
long they have previously served.

This is not a prescription for political idealism. It is a prescription
for critical realism, national survival and prosperity.

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