Wednesday, May 4, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Trump Change

The nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential
nominee in Cleveland in July, and his possible election in
November, will change American politics indelibly.

First of all, it will change the demographics of the Republican
Party, lately a party divided between a mainstream
conservative establishment and a growing populist conservative
grass roots base.

The beginning of this divide took place in 1964 when an
“outsider” (Senator Barry Goldwater) won the GOP nomination
asserting values and beliefs that were not only jarring to
Democrats, but to establishment moderate Republicans who
would have preferred New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to
be their standard bearer. Mr. Goldwater then lost badly in
November, but his flag was picked up after a politically
unfortunate interregnum with Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew
(both of whom finally resigned in disgrace) by Ronald Reagan, a
fading movie star who had been elected governor of California.

In 1980, much to the surprise of most observers, Mr. Reagan
won the presidency from a hapless one-term incumbent (Jimmy
Carter) with the key help of some blue collar Democrats, and he
followed that victory with a huge landslide in 1984 against Mr.
Carter’s vice president, Walter Mondale. He accomplished this
with even more blue collar and middle class voters who had
previously been electing Democrats.

Much as the Democrats and their media allies like to portray
Republicans as plutocrats, exploiters of the poor, and religious
fanatics, that image is now more than a half century or more out
of date. (In fact, most of the new super-rich are liberal voters
and donors, and many liberals are for anti-free speech political
correctness, and are feverishly anti-religious). Corporate
America has been tilting to the Democrats for years, and the
party that championed the founding of the state of Israel has
now become predominately (and shamefully) anti-Israel.

Most Republicans today are struggling entrepreneurs, blue
collar and lower-income white collar workers who often hold
traditional social values and religious beliefs. The old
upper-income, Ivy League-educated GOP establishment has
dwindled, although it has maintained a hold on conservative
institutions. There are divisions within these ranks. Social
conservatives often resist social changes in American society,
while “libertarian” conservatives embrace them. Some
conservatives are pro-free trade internationalists; others
have U.S. self-interests as a priority. There are differences
about the use of the military. The conservative grass roots
are not a monolith.

One casualty of this evolution of the Republican Party has been
the turning away from a former center right base that included
pro-choice and “moderate” Republicans. Sometimes call “Rinos”
(“Republicans in name only”), this cleavage paralleled an
equivalent cleavage on the Democratic side in which “pro-life”
and traditionally-religious centrist liberals were systematically
drummed out of the party.

Donald Trump’s emergence turns this upside down. A former
liberal Democrat (as was Ronald Reagan), super-rich, educated at
a top Ivy League university, Trump nonetheless speaks the
language of the new class of Republican conservative grass roots
voters. He annoys, with that same language, the old establishment
political class of the GOP who have for years now enjoyed the
votes of the new class, but ignored their concerns, anxieties and
aspirations.

Although I did not at all see the Trump phenomenon coming, and
he was not my preferred candidate for president in 2016, I now
see what I have described in recent months as a “mutiny” of
voters to be exactly that. The working crews of the Republican
and Democratic parties have risen up against the captains and
officers of the two major parties. In the case of the Democrats,
the mutiny has apparently been partly put down for the time
being, but in the case of the Republicans, the mutiny is apparently
succeeding with a “stowaway” named Donald Trump as the new
captain.

It is a self-delusion for the old GOP mainstream to believe that
Mr. Trump is destined to lose the 2016 election, and that all will
revert back to normal in the Republican Party after that election.
The columnist George Will personifies this kind of thinking. He
calls any conservative who supports Mr. Trump a “quisling” --- a
term derived from the name of a Norwegian fascist politician who
became the puppet leader of that nation under Hitlerian control
during World War II. Mr. Will, who for years has picked losers to
be nominees of the Republican Party, typifies the snobbery which
has alienated so many grass roots conservatives. Mr. Will is a
bright, articulate and often thoughtful essayist on public policy
issues, and I often agree with his views, but not his elitist disdain
for anyone who disagrees with him.

There has been a mean side to Donald Trump’s discourse in the
2016 campaign, including three among many instances, his
put-down of Marco Rubio as “little Marco,” his denigration of
John McCain’s distinguished war service, and his completely
wrong and mean-spirited description of Tom Ridge as a “failed
Pennsylvania governor.” (Mr. Ridge was probably the most
accomplished chief executive of the Keystone State in the
post-war period.) Some of Trump’s language about women was
not merely politically-incorrect, it was just plain crude and sexist.
Most observers, myself included, put a focus on this, and not on
the larger strategy Donald Trump was pursuing this campaign
year, and we missed the connection the New York businessman
was making with the Republican grass roots on other issues.

If Donald Trump, the GOP nominee, is merely a duplicate of
Donald Trump, the nomination aspirant, he will likely fail in
November. Knowing his experience and his ego, I think that is
unlikely, but should he fail to be elected president, the republic
will survive.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, will not be the same
whether Mr. Trump wins or loses. A new generation and a new
class of conservatives have taken over the ship (as has also
happened in the Democratic Party), and from now on (as far as
we can see on the political horizon), it will not ever again be
politics-as-has-been-usual in the U.S.A.






--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 2, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Reinventing The Political Wheel

Say what you will, Donald Trump has done what few persons
in U.S. history have done --- he has upended a long-standing,
but slowly evolving, political process, and created, at least for
the time being, a new presidential nominating campaign
standard.

It appears he was done it more or less improvisationally,
combined with years of experience in show business, public
relations and self-promotion, and has done it primarily by
himself with only limited counsel from others.

This, in itself, is no small achievement, and if, as now looms
as fairly certain, Mr. Trump is nominated for president by the
Republican Party at its national convention in Cleveland in
July, he will have made major if improbable history as few
others have ever done.

In 2007-08, we witnessed an inexperienced, amateur politician
with almost no public record wrest the Democratic Party
nomination from one of the savviest political couples of all
time by persistence and innovative calculation, so perhaps we
were preconsciously prepared for a second non-professional
political figure to overcome so many odds and so many
expectations --- and succeed him. 

“Image” has long been considered a vital factor in creating
political success. Donald Trump has added “language” to the
formula, albeit not the elegant and eloquent kind of language
that Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy
employed, but a blunt, earthy, colloquial and often rude public
language that set him apart quickly from 16 rivals.

His visual image alone, in fact, was almost a cartoon ---
primarily an outrageous hair styling --- that seemed to many
observers alone to be disqualifying. An otherwise tall and
impressive stature seemed undercut by idiosyncratic and
odd hand motions. His language itself was immediately
jarring -- to the ears of the mainstream media and the old
political class.

None of the above, however, seemed inappropriate to so many
grass roots voters on the conservative side. Bullied for years
by “politically-correct” liberal tactics, as well as ridiculed by left
and right activists and their media allies, a significant portion of
grass roots working and middle class voters found a champion
in the fearless tycoon who dared to say what they were thinking,
and refused to back down when challenged by almost the entire
strata of political establishments in both parties.

In spite of his “rich kid” upbringing, private school and Ivy
League education, immense wealth and his presumptive
manner, an ignored and vilified class of voters had found
someone who could deliver “pay-back” for the political slights
suffered for years, as well as articulate their anxious concerns.

Employing the eternal “squeaky wheel” technique in the
televised debates and public appearances, Donald Trump
gained perhaps a billion dollars (or more) of media coverage
and publicity without spend very many of his own cash
(and while his opponents spent hundreds of millions to fail
to obtain what he received mostly for free.)

Expected to be one of the first to fall out of the race, he will
probably be the last person standing. You couldn’t make this
story up --- and no one did in advance.

If the rise and success of Donald Trump to this point was
predicted by no one, and with the incongruous success
(short of the nomination) of Democrat (and socialist) Bernie
Sanders equally unanticipated, what makes anyone think
they can foresee what will happen next, and in November?

In show business,  most novels and soap operas, spectacles
such as this one lead either to a happy or unhappy ending.
This event, however, leads to something else. One of the
nominees is going to be hired in November, and the other is
going to be fired (remind you of something?), and then the
real show will begin with no ending in sight.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend Update 16

SO GOES INDIANA.....
The next critical Republican primary contest is in the
midwestern state of Indiana. Most polls show the race to be
close between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, with John
Kasich trailing. One recent poll, perhaps an “outlier,” has
Cruz up by double digits. Indiana Governor endorsed Mr.
Cruz while at the same time strongly praising Mr. Trump.
With more than 50 delegates at stake, and with Mr. Trump
on a track to clinch the GOP nomination with more than 1237
committed delegates before the party’s national convention in
Cleveland in July, this primary could either make Mr. Trump’s
quest almost inevitable if he wins it, or slow his momentum
going into several far west primaries, including California, if
he loses it.

GINGRICH PRAISES TRUMP
FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH

Although the liberal media, his opponents, and some Repubican
establishment figures, have criticized Donald Trump’s recent
foreign policy speech, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, one of the
most knowledgeable conservative figures in international affairs,
national security and the military, has warmly praised it. Many
of the Trump critics have cited the phrase “America first” in the
speech as call for isolationism (recalling Charles Lindbergh’s
use of the phrase in the 1930’s), but historian Gingrich pointed out
that the phrase was originated by Woodrow Wilson (hardly an
isolationist) in the 1920’s. Citing his own call for reform of the
state department in 2003 and during his own race for president
in 2012, Mr. Gingrich endorsed Mr. Trump’s for a change in U.S.
foreign policy direction, especially giving renewed priority to
American vital security and economic interests, but he has so far
not endorsed any candidate for president.

CLINTON CLOSE TO THE NOMINATION
Hillary Clinton is now very close to securing the Democratic
nomination for president. Although he has made an unexpected
and strong race, Bernie Sanders appears to be falling
mathematically short of being able to overtake Mrs. Clinton’s
lead in the contest, especially with her advantage of having the
support of so many of the unelected “super-delegates” to the
party's convention in Philadelphia in July. Her advantage with
black, southern and Hispanic voters has overshadowed Mr.
Sander’s strong support among young, populist, and rural voters.
Because the Vermont senator has received so many millions of
votes so far, however, he remains a powerful force in the party.
If and how he supports Mrs. Clinton in Philadelphia (and
afterwards) could be decisive in how well she does against her
Republican opponent in November.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Are There More Surprises Coming?

The latest primary results have confirmed the momentum
of the frontrunning presidential candidates in both parties.
Hillary Clinton is the “presumptive” Democratic nominee.
Donald Trump is almost his party’s “presumptive” nominee,
but voters in Indiana and in the far west still have a voice in
this contest.

Ted Cruz has selected Carly Fiorina as his running mate in a
last-ditch effort to block a first ballot victory for Mr. Trump.
This is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s vice presidential
choice of Richard Schweicker in 1976, although that failed to
stop Gerald Ford’s nomination at the Republican convention
that year.

John Kasich now seems to be in second place in recent voter
choice, but he lags far behind in committed delegates. He
continues to depend on a stalemated first ballot at the GOP
convention in Cleveland, and on his remaining the only GOP
candidate defeating Hillary Clinton in national polling.

There are many calls now for Democrats to rally behind Mrs.
Clinton, and Republicans to rally behind Mr. Trump. Both of
these “presumptive” or “near-presumptive” candidates,
however, have unprecedented “negatives’ in polls of general
public opinion. The burden of persuasion, therefore, rests on
each of them to unify their parties and bring the supporters of
their opponents to their side for the November election.
This is especially true of Mr, Trump, who has no previous
government record and experience.

This election cycle has been the most unpredictable in memory.
Virtually all “conventional wisdom” has been wrong. There are
almost three months until the two national conventions.
When a theme of a campaign year is the unexpected, and there
is so much at stake, surprises can happen at any time.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Monday, April 25, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Parties Are NOT In The Constitution

It might comes as a surprise to many Americans to learn
that there is not one word about political parties in the
U.S. Constitution. Not one word.

In fact, there were no real parties in the nation until the days
of President Andrew Jackson. Before that, and after George
Washington left office, there were political factions and groups,
but there were no true parties.

It was only in 1856 when the U.S. presidential election first
pitted today's major parties against each other, although in 1860
there were three major parties (the Democratic Party of that era
had split in two over slavery). In 1912, former President 
Theodore Roosevelt ran for president as the nominee of the
Bull Moose Party, and came in second ahead of Republican
incumbent William Howard Taft.

What is in the Constitution is a specific process for qualifying
and electing a president (and vice president) after the voting has
taken place in each state in November. The Constitution does
specify that the election process is the right and responsibility
of the individual states, each of which is to determine their own
rules and process of selecting electors. Those electors (one for
each member of that state’s delegation to the U.S. house of
representatives plus two electors from each state matching the
number of U.S. senators in its delegation.

Technically speaking, there is no "popular vote" for president
and vice president of the United States. Less than 500 electors
actually choose them.

The Constitution also specifies the specific qualifications for a
president and vice president, and for the procedures to replace
them should a vacancy in those offices occur.

The process of selecting nominees for president has nothing to
do with the Constitution, and the U.S. supreme court has no
jurisdiction in this process. The high court does, however, have
jurisdiction over the actual election of the president by the
electoral college, as became very clear when the supreme court
made the final decision in the controversial 2000 presidential
election.

All of the above has not seemed very relevant until this year
when the 2016 election cycle has been transformed by
extraordinary controversies in each of the two major political
parties.

The bottom line is this: the political party organizations of
each state have virtually absolute control of their delegations
to the national party conventions, and the national party
organizations have virtually absolute control of their own
conventions, as well as who is nominated.

Before 2016, these seemed to be only technicalities and not
very relevant.     

However, the remarkable “mutiny” of voters this year against
the “establishment” in both the Democratic and Republican
Parties has made the technicalities to be of critical importance.

One more point: the votes of Democrats and Republicans in
state primaries and caucuses are only recommendations to
their state parties. Each state party has the power to determine
who will be the delegates to their national conventions. The
state of Pennsylvania perhaps highlights this fact best. The
“popular vote” in next Tuesday’s state primary will only
determine a small percentage of whom the state’s delegates
will vote for in Cleveland in July. Most of the delegates are
elected separately on the Keystone State’s ballot next Tuesday,
and most of them go to the convention uncommitted. In
Georgia, Donald Trump won all of the state’s delegates in its
February primary, but the actual delegates are selected by the
state party; many of them might actually be for another
candidate.

Thus, delegate counts based on primary and caucus results are
likely to be very misleading.

Furthermore, each party is sending so-called “super-delegates”
to their conventions. They are picked by the states’ party
organizations, and can vote for whomever they wish on any
ballot.

When all is said and claimed, unless the contesting candidates
trailing the frontrunners in each party quit the race, we cannot
know for sure who will be the 2016 nominees until the ballots
at the conventions are over, especially the nominee of the
Republican Party.

That is the bottom line.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Friday, April 22, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend Update 15

OBAMA INTRUDES ON BREXIT VOTE
President Obama, through an editorial in a major British
newspaper, has urged voters in Great Britain to vote to
remain in the European Union (EU) on June 23. He has followed
that with a joint press conference with British Prime
Minister Cameron to reinforce his support for our ally to
keep its ties to the EU. It is not clear if the U.S. president’s
endorsement will help or hurt the pro-EU effort led by Mr.
Cameron. In his editorial, Mr. Obama cited the recent
agreement with Iran (signed by both the U.S. and Great
Britain) and the global warming treaty, also recently supported
by both leaders, as great successes and reasons for a pro-EU
vote. Mayor Boris Johnson, a member of Mr. Cameron’s own
Conservative (Tory) Party and widely believed to be the next
UK leader, is heading up the effort to persuade British voters to
vote to withdraw from the EU. He was critical of Mr. Obama’s
interference in the key national vote. As in the U.S., many
British voters oppose the Iran and global warming treaties,
and many Tory voters dislike Mr. Obama and his on-again-
off-again relationship with long-time ally Great Britain.
The June 23 referendum (popularly known as “Brexit”) is
expected to be very close.

KASICH CAN’T BE STOPPED BY RULE 40B
Although a holdover rule from the 2012 Republican convention
technically prevents Ohio Governor John Kasich from even being
nominated at the GOP July convention in Cleveland, it in no way
prevents Mr. Kasich from receiving the votes on all ballots,
including the approximately 250 committed delegates he will have
likely won prior to the convention. It also does not prevent him from
being nominated in Cleveland. The candidate who receives 1237
votes on any ballot will be the nominee. It is not even clear that the
convention rules committee will keep the rule, which requires a
candidate to have won eight state primaries and caucuses. Both
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz do qualify under that rule, and each
has many more committed delegates than does Mr. Kasich, but a
stalemated convention could turn to the host governor of the
must-win state after the third ballot.

REPUBLICAN RACE NOT AT ALL OVER
Immediately after Donald Trump’s big win in his home state of
New York, the mainstream media once again proclaimed him the
“presumptive” GOP presidential nominee. And once again, after
more careful consideration and a few days, many political
commentators realized the contest between Mr Trump, Ted Cruz
and John Kasich was not at all over.  With key contests in
Pennsylvania, Indiana, Nebraska, Maryland, Connecticut and
California ahead, Mr. Trump has to win more than 60% of those
delegates to secure a first ballot victory. The lion’s share of the
Pennsylvania delegates will go to the convention uncommitted
through the state party’s rules, and the choice of the large number
of delegates from California (to be chosen on the last day for
primaries) is unknown at this time. Should Mr. Trump fail to win a
majority on the first ballot in Cleveland, many of his delegates are
no longer bound to his candidacy, and an unprecedented open
convention would result, perhaps leading to several ballots.

CAN HILLARY MOVE TO THE CENTER?
The mathematics favoring Hillary Clinton’s win as the Democratic
presidential nominee was critically advanced in the New York
primary, and now it is almost certain she will be nominated in
Philadelphia on the first ballot. Once the nominee, however, she
faces a critical choice of moving toward the political center where
the vital votes for winning the November election are located, or
moving even further to the left to keep the millions of Bernie
Sanders voters from staying home or voting for the Green Party
probable candidate Jill Green. Normally, most of the voters of
the losing candidates for the party nomination unify after the
conventions and vote for the nominees. In 2016, however, this might
not be the case in both parties where the differences between the
contestants is unusually great. Mr. Sanders, a self-proclaimed
socialist, received almost as many votes in the primary/caucus
season as had Mrs Clinton, and had successfully pulled her
campaign to the left. Many mainstream liberal Democrats consider
Mr. Sanders’ politics extreme, and with Mrs Clinton’s negatives so
high, might consider staying home if she does not move back to the
political center.

BASEBALL SEASON OPENS
The 2016 baseball season has opened, but it has done so, perhaps,
without some of the enthusiasm it has enjoyed over the past
century as the national pastime. Part of this might be due to the
increasing popularity of other indigenous U.S. sports, including
football and basketball, as well as the dramatic rise of sports
from other parts of the world, including golf, tennis, hockey, soccer
and lacrosse. The increase of women active in many amateur and
professional sports other than baseball might also be a contributing
factor. Recent controversies over drug use, high salaries, strikes,
player misbehavior and high game ticket prices have probably
diminished general interest in the game. Another probable cause
is the retirement and aging of many of baseball’s superstars, and
the noticeable lack of comparable replacements. As a lifelong
avid baseball fan, I report this decline of the sport with acute
melancholy.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Broken!

The system for nominating a president of the United States
by a major political party is broken. Considering the
experience now being endured by both the Democratic and
Republican Parties in the 2016 election cycle, the breakdown
might well be irremediable without drastic changes.

I offer as evidence the fact that four of the five surviving active
candidates have such extraordinary high negative standing with
the general electorate as measured by virtually all public
opinion polls.

The Democratic race, barring some non-electoral intervention
(i.e. legal proceeding), is probably concluded, and the long-time
frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, will likely be officially nominated
at the Democrats’ convention in Philadelphia in July. In addition
to being a weak political campaigner and public speaker, Mrs.
Clinton has accumulated a myriad of controversies over her
private and public conduct over past decades. Her sole remaining
opponent, Bernie Sanders, is an elderly socialist who, despite
years of holding various elective office, has demonstrated little
understanding of the presidency. During the campaign now
concluding, each of them has alienated significant segments of
the Democratic party base.

The Republican race is not yet concluded, although its leading
candidate, Donald Trump, could gain enough committed
delegates to assure nomination before the July convention in
Cleveland. Like Mr. Sanders, Mr. Trump was not even a member
of his party until recently. Large numbers of traditional GOP
voters say they will not vote for him in November. He has two
opponents remaining.

The one who has the most committed delegates, Ted Cruz, has
appealed to only one segment of his party’s base. Like Mr. Trump,
he invokes very high negatives among voters in his own party.
The remaining candidate, John Kasich, does have both an
impressive resume and enjoys so far a positive image among
his party’s voters, but he has  conducted a poorly organized
campaign which has so far failed to inspire Republican voters.
He has so few committed delegates (and won only one primary,
his own state) that his only chance to win is if there is an early
ballot stalemate in Cleveland.

The presidential campaign, and its televised debates and on the
stump, have, in both parties, deteriorated into exchanged insults,
put-downs and innuendo.

While each candidate has their strong supporters, there is very
little evidence that the winners in Cleveland and Philadelphia
will have an easy time to bring their parties’ electorate
together in November, much less appealing to independent
voters.

As I have pointed out numerous times in this space in recent
months, the two major political parties have created their
nomination processes in such a way that healthy and positive
grass roots voter participation is discouraged, blocked and
not transparent. The system also often turns away highly
qualified and immensely talented potential presidential
candidates.

Does anyone seriously suggest that the current remaining
candidates for president in both parties are the best this
nation can consider?

It’s too late to fix any of this in 2016. We will now have to live
with the consequences of a broken system. But it is not too
early for thoughtful liberals, centrists and conservatives to begin
devising a much better system for 2020 and beyond.

If this is not done, it’s going to get worse, not better.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.