Thursday, February 4, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Did Bernie Sanders Win The Iowa Caucus?

It could well be that Bernie Sanders won the Iowa Caucus
popular vote, and not Hillary Clinton, as originally reported.
The difficulty in determining this is the result of the Iowa
Democratic Party refusal so far to disclose the popular
Democratic vote at the February 1 caucus. Instead, the party
reported the totals of who won the individual precincts across
the state. (The Republican Party reports the popular vote in
their caucus.) This produces a situation similar to the
electoral college in the November elections. The person who
is elected president then, according to the U.S. constitution,
must win a majority of electoral votes cast by the states in
December. Several times, most recently in 2000, the person
receiving the most votes did not win the election (cf. Bush vs.
Gore).

In effect, the individual Democratic precincts in Iowa act as
electors. But the precincts do vary considerably in size. Thus,
a small rural precinct with 20 voters count as one vote as does
an urban precincts which had a turnout of 500 voters. In fact,
Bernie Sanders carried young Iowa voters by a large margin
over Hillary Clinton, and turnout was reported as very heavy
in Ames (Iowa State University) and Iowa City (University of
Iowa), not to mention the many other college and university
campuses throughout the state.

The only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the
Democratic Party’s refusal to disclose the popular vote, in
light of the very close vote (a virtual tie) counting only precincts,
is that Mr. Sanders did indeed carry Iowa on February 1.

The state’s largest and most important daily newspaper, the
Des Moines Register, has now called on the Democratic Party to
conduct a recount. (There were also 6 precincts that were
reportedly tied.)

In 2012, in the Republican Iowa caucus, it was initially reported
that Mitt Romney won the election, but a recount revealed that
Rick Santorum had actually won it. This recount was finished
too late to help Mr. Santorum’s campaign.

The Democratic Party and its voters were understandably
upset in 2000 when their presidential candidate received more
than half a million votes more than the Republican nominee,
and lost the election. In light of Mr. Sanders request for
disclosure of the popular vote, and the Register’s call for a
recount, the integrity of the Democratic Iowa caucus is at stake.
A recount and disclosure of the popular vote is the only way now
to resolve the doubt.

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



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Showhorse, And Not A Workhorse?

Iowa’s first-in-the-nation votes in the presidential
nomination contests are now in.

The biggest stories of the night were about those those
candidates who failed to meet expectations, Hillary Clinton
(who seems to have barely won over Bernie Sanders by the
narrowest of margins) and Donald Trump (who came in
second to Ted Cruz, but only slightly ahead of a surging
Marco Rubio). The winners, as sometimes happens, were
those who did not have the most votes, but exceeded
expectations. In this case, it was Bernie Sanders who
actually turned out young voters, and Marco Rubio whose
surge was perhaps the first step in rallying mainstream
Republican voters to his side.

Nonetheless, both Mr. Sanders and Mr. Rubio face serious
challenges ahead. Vermont Senator Sanders will now
probably win New Hampshire easily, but faces tough odds
in states beyond that. Florida Senator Rubio faces an
immediate test in New Hampshire where rivals Chris
Christie, John Kasich and Jeb Bush will compete with him
for the mainstream mantle.

The biggest story of the pre-primary/caucus stage of the
2016 cycle was the headline domination of businessman
Donald Trump, and of his subsequent huge lead in most
national polls. Mr. Trump’s political inexperience, however,
led him to compete in Iowa without a real political
organization. Iowa voters live in a farm state, and when it
came to actual voters, they seem to have preferred the
workhorses over the showhorse. If there was a fear in the
Republican mainstream of Mr. Trump’s inevitability prior
to Iowa, that has been significantly dampened. Should
Donald Trump now fail to win New Hampshire, his
campaign could be in trouble.

Candidates Christie, Kasich, Bush, Fiorina, Carson and
Paul will now presumably go on to New Hampshire, but each
of them will need to do better than expected there, or in the
states immediately following, to remain viable. Already, Mike
Huckabee has withdrawn; Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gilmore
are likely to follow soon after.

With the first votes now in, much of the ballyhoo of Stage 1
evaporates, including the foam that came from less-than-
instructive national polling. Campaigns will need funds and
organizations in place if they are survive the grueling process
which will now take place.

The advantage of winning all or some of the first four
primary and caucus states is almost purely psychological.
None of these contests are winner-take-all, nor do any of
them have a large number of total delegates to the national
convention where the presidential nomination is formally
decided.

In fact, it will not be until the March 1 Super Tuesday when
13 states, most of them in the South, choose a substantial
number of delegates, again proportional to the vote. Then,
on successive weeks, one by one, the rest of the states,
including big ones such as New York, Florida,  Pennsylvania,
New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois and  California will hold their
elections. Many of these will be winner-take-all, others will
be proportional, and others such as Pennsylvania will be by
congressional district.

In addition, each party has created a large number of at-large
(or super-) delegates which are not chosen by the voters, but
by the party organization. These include ex-officio delegates,
many of whom hold federal or state office, and most of
whom are expected to vote with their party establishments.
They act as a partial firewall to protect Hillary Clinton on the
Democratic side, and anyone-but-Trump-or-Cruz on the
Republican side.

Even when all the delegates are known, state rules vary as to
whether they must vote for whomever won that state, and if
they must, for how many ballots they must do so. It’s a very
uneven, often clumsy, usually messy arrangement ---
something which has endured principally because in most
prior cycles, the nominee was determined relatively early in
the primary/caucus process.

Then at the national conventions, the party’s rules will
dominate, possibly further complicating the outcome.

Iowa was always intended only to be a beginning, albeit one
often with interesting surprises. In 2016, that has been the
case once again. But the most intense competition lies ahead.

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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Voters Interrupt This Program.....

We have all been witnessing a serial entertainment known
as Stage 1 of the 2016 presidential election. Making sure we
were not overwhelmed by rhetorical lassitude and the chronic
tedium of observing public personalities who would induce
us to premature somnabulism, we have had the entertainments
of at least one electoral vaudevillian in each party, Donald
Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left.

This program of dismantling assorted shibboleths from the past
has been unnerving to certain political establishments in both
the public policy community and in the media. Whatever their
political destiny, Mr. Trump upended political correctness,
and Mr. Sanders brought a naked socialism where no serious
candidate had ever tread before.

These two gentlemen from New York City, with their such
different backgrounds and ideologies, enabled a suspension
of the old rules and customs of the campaign cycle, and in
confrontations with their less colorful rivals, they in turn
entertained, provoked, outraged, delighted and confused us.

I am not dismissing their efforts. They have each managed to
do more than amuse or infuriate us.  I am also not suggesting
that their performances rise to the level of Shakespearean
comedy. Their outcomes, and the presentations of their
competitors will now be measured by the audience. This
measurement is not quite like the ratings which underpin the
broadcast industry. Instead, this extended theatrical
presentation will be now necessarily interrupted by some
important judgments from audience members through some
programs of their own called primaries and caucuses.

For many of us, it couldn’t come too soon. Unlike a television
program, there was no “off” button for Stage 1.

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

Friday, January 29, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Hard Thinking

It is hard thinking time for Democratic and Republican voters
across America. The ballyhoo of Stage 1 of the presidential
campaign, including the early debates, the media domination
the news, and the getting-to-know-you period of the various
candidates is now concluded. In a matter of hours, voters in
Iowa will attend evening caucuses to register their choices,
and a week later, voters in New Hampshire will go to the polls
over a full day to make their choices.

Do I need to say aloud that much is at stake in this election
for every American?

Do I need to say aloud that the office of president of the
United States is a uniquely important office?

The Super Bowl, World Series, Final Four, all-star games are
sports events most of us follow vicariously. The Academy
Awards are observed as rites for celebrities in the movie
business. Professional athletes and movie-TV actors are paid
enormous sums of money to entertain us. They are followed
in magazines, and on radio and TV. Our relationships with
them are almost entirely vicarious. There is nothing wrong
with this; it is part of the contemporary cultural experience
of most Americans. Other Americans derive vicarious
pleasures from reading books, including mystery novels and
literary works; or from listening to music, popular and
classical, and playing records by favorite artists. Some
Americans watch ballet or opera. There are many pastimes in
21st century culture which are part of our lives. And again. in
many cases, large sums of money are paid to those who
provide them.

The “political” part of our lives, however, are not truly
vicarious.

The United States began as an experiment in self-government
226 years ago under its present constitution. With several
amendments and numerous social adjustments it has survived,
grown and flourished to the present day. It has been tempered by
a profound civil war, two world wars, many regional wars and
a “cold war.” In most wars, the nation was victorious; in some
wars, not victorious. Millions of Americans have worn the
uniform of their country, bravely fought for it, and in some cases,
died for it.

At the outset, only some Americans could vote. Today, all
Americans can vote. But throughout the 226 years, and into any
future that can reasonably be foreseen, the government of the
United States has derived its legitimacy, functioned, and
presumably was directed by “the consent of the governed.”

That consent is always an indirect one. There are national
elections every two years, and presidential elections every four
years. Elected officials can be replaced or returned to office.
The programs of the major political parties can likewise be
affirmed or rejected.

In recent years, the rise of media and other communications
technology has come to dominate or overshadow the preliminary
stages of the election process. This is not entirely a new
phenomenon. Beginning with the 1860 election of Abraham
Lincoln, the latter half of 19th century elections were dominated
the use of the media technologies available in those turbulent
Civil War and post-Civil War times.

The 2016 presidential election cycle is turning out to be another
transformational moment in this nation’s unique history. The
precedents and “rules” of recent cycles appear to be suspended
or even overtaken by something new. Of course, until actual
votes are counted, we won’t know just how much this is so, or
even if the early indications are true, but I think every American
voter needs to be prepared for something new.

As recent very close elections have powerfully demonstrated,
every single vote does count. And I always point out, even if a
person chooses not to vote, that represents a de facto vote for the
eventual winners. A vote, turning the cynics among us aside,
is the one true power every adult citizen holds in his or her own
hands.

Everyone has their own reasons for the vote they cast, or for
not voting. It is not for any of us to judge those myriad of
motivations. But in each case, especially in a time such as this
one, a vote comes after some hard thinking.

I do not fear being called simple-minded when I say once again
that when most Americans choose a president, they ultimately
choose not only a person they agree with, but someone they feel
they want to see and hear every day for the next four years.

On that proposition rests the world’s oldest and, to date, most
significant republic. Long may it survive and prosper!

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Trump In Or Out? Does It Matter?

Donald Trump has announced he will not participate in Thursday's
Republican presidential debate, scheduled four days before the
Iowa Caucus. The Iowa vote will be the first in the 2016 primary/
caucus calendar.

Given as his reason for skipping the debate, Mr. Trump cited the
presence on the debate media panel of Megyn Kelly whom he clashed
with at the first debate last year. Mr. Trump has since continually
criticized Ms. Kelly as being unfair to him.

Most observers are at a loss for  the strategy of this last-minute
move by the man who leads the GOP field in almost all national polls.

His rivals have been quick to criticize the New York City
businessman. Nonetheless, the story of Trump's withdrawal has
dominated the news in Iowa, overshadowing much of the efforts
of his competitors.

Mr. Trump has bragged that virtually nothing he says or does
will cause him to lose favor with his supporters.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pointed out that when he
was earlier excluded from a main debate, he did not "whine" or
complain, but participated in the undercard debate that evening.
Governor Christie has now returned to the main event in recent
debates as his poll numbers have risen.

Some observers are openly predicting that Mr. Trump will show
up at the Iowa debate on Thursday after all, having once again
stolen the media attention at a key moment.

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

Monday, January 25, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Will First-Time Voters Make The Difference In Iowa And New Hampshire?

In the few days left before the Iowa caucus and the New
Hampshire primary, there is some evidence that the two
candidates doing best in early polls, Bernie Sanders on
the Democratic side, and Donald Trump on the Republican
side, might depend on first-time and perhaps previously
unaffiliated voters in both contests if they are to win.
Various accounts on the ground in both locales, primarily
unmeasured and speculative, signal that traditional party
activists and hitherto likely voters are probably going to
choose from among more traditional candidates. In both
Iowa and New Hampshire, voters from both major parties,
as well as independents, can choose either caucus/primary
to vote in.

Historically, predictions of unusual surges in first-time
voters have often failed to materialize. But there are
exceptions when first-time voters can make a difference in
a major political contest. Perhaps one of the most notable of
these was in the 1998 Minnesota governor’s race when, in
spite of two well-known and credible major party nominees,
independent candidate Jesse Ventura brought out a last-minute
and unprecedented number of younger and older first-time
voters on election day and won a memorable upset Only weeks
before, he had trailed invery distant third place.

Weather might also be a factor. The forecast for Des Moines
on February 1 is currently low 30s, warmer than usual for a
Caucus night.

The early voting for the 2016 presidential race is now
becoming more unpredictable.

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Copyright (C) 2016 by barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Populist Coup D'Etat?

The French phrase coup d’etat is literally translated as a
“blow to the state,” and that’s a good description of what
appears to be going on in both U.S. major party presidential
campaigns. The Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset,
whom I have cited often over the years had a different phrase,
la rebelion de las masas or “the revolt of the masses,” that
also might fit what’s happening. In any event, Donald Trump
and Bernie Sanders are not going away any time soon, and
it’s time for one of the hitherto more conventional candidates
to step up to the plate and drive in some runs before the ninth
inning, or two teams no one ever heard of before this year
will be going to the Presidential World Series in November.

As far as I know, no one saw this coming before it began,
although many of us noted certain glaring discrepancies and
disruptions within each of the major parties. I predicted
stalemate if Barak Obama won re-election in 2012.

Apparently, voters will tolerate only so much inaction,
economic stagnation, homeland insecurity, and deliberate
lack of transparency by politicians and bureaucrats before
taking matters into their own hands.

Lincoln said: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate
to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with 

difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case 
is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”

It’s another occasion requiring us to renew and revise the
American political experiment. Every few generations, and
because of unanticipated circumstances, this is so, and it
is time to realize we are right now going to a new, and as yet,
undisclosed location.

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