Tuesday, October 20, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Less Than Two Weeks

Only a dramatic and clearly understandable surprise event
or revelation could now change even a few minds about the
imminent presidential election. What could make a difference
would be something that could affect turnout. In other words,
the souffle is baked, but it is still in the oven. A shock can cause
a souffle to collapse when it is still hot.

Democrats, the establishment media, and assorted “never
Trumpers” have piled on so much invective on the president
that any new accusation about the president is likely to fall
flat. Republicans who hope that the improper business
allegations about Joe Biden and his family will have impact
are likely to be disappointed because the matter so far is too
complicated for widespread public understanding --- and the
establishment media is largely ignoring the issue.

Time has simply run out.

Donald Trump is back on the campaign rally mode, trying to
motivate his supporters to vote. Joe Biden is back in his
Delaware basement --- sitting on his presumed lead. Both
strategies are revivals of most of their respective approaches  
to this presidential campaign.

The question remains about which of these strategies is the
right one for 2020.

The answer is contained controversially in the public polls.
These polls have shown Mr. Trump trailing Mr. Biden all
summer and autumn --- some of them by double digits.
Recent polls have narrowed the difference, a few of them
have the Biden lead small enough to suggest Mr.Trump has
a chance to win the election  in the electoral college.

It is a relatively safe assumption that the Democratic
nominee will win the popular vote in 2020. But to win the
election, Joe Biden must win some of the large southern
and midwestern states Donald Trump won in 2016,
including Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Michigan and Wisconsin. The president, on the other hand,
seeks to win a few states won by the Democrats in 2016,
including Minnesota, Nevada and Virginia. A few other
states might be in play, but the two campaigns are
concentrating on the ones named.

The accuracy of the polls, of course, won’t be known until
after the votes are counted. Those who doubt them contend
primarily that they are significantly undermeasuring the
Trump voters by failing to get them to respond, and/or
wrongly “weighting” the raw data they do get. Citing as
evidence, these poll critics point to “on the ground”
circumstances, e.g., rally attendance, lawn signs, boat
parades, etc. --- circumstances which in many cases also
appeared in 2016, but were ignored by most pundits.

On the other hand, the polls could be correct. Misleading
as they were in state voting in 2016, most of them got the
non-binding national popular vote more or less right.
If they are right, it would likely be a very good night
for the Democrats.

Although spokespersons and partisans for each side are
predicting victory, conventional thinking now is that Joe
Biden is going to win. That same kind of thinking had
John Kerry winning in 2004, Mitt Romney winning in 2012,
and Hillary Clinton winning in 2016. But in 2008, the
conventional expectation was that Barack Obama would
win, and he did.

It has been an idiosyncratic year, with an idiosyncratic
campaign, and, needless to say, an idiosyncratic
incumbent.

Anything can still happen.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Court-Packing?

As a response to President Trump nominating  Judge Amy
Barrett to a vacancy on the U.S. supreme court and the
Republican-controlled U.S. senate determined to quickly
confirm her --- all so close to the presidential election ---
some Democratic activists and candidates are advocating
adding more members to the nation’s highest court to
overcome what would be a clear conservative  majority on
the 9-member court.

But first, Democrats must win s majority in the U.S. senate
in November. As of now, they only have 47 seats out of 100.
The would also have to win the presidential election and
keep control of the U.S. house. Many current polls suggest
this is possible --- but I suggest that promising to “pack”
the supreme court gives the Democrats’ Republican
opponents a new and helpful issue at the end of the
election campaign.

The size of the supreme court, in principle, is not a
partisan issue. It  is not specified in the U.S. Constitution,
but with a few small variations in the 19th century, it has
remained at 9 members. Notoriously, at the height of his
power, when his party had large majorities in both houses
in Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt failed to pack
the court with additional liberal justices to counter the
conservative court majority he inherited.  The fact is that
most Americans, Democrats and Republicans, oppose
“packing” the court.

It could be done, but it could just as easily be undone by  a
future president and Congress. Such volatility would clearly
undermine and destabilize the court into politicized chaos.
No wonder most Americans are against it.

Joe Biden refuses to say if he supports packing the court or
not if he were elected president, complaining it is a
“media-created” issue. (Republicans might point out the
irony of his complaint, arguing that “media-created” issues
in 2020 have inevitably helped Democrats!) In political reality,
however, it is  a real issue.

Republican candidates for the U.S. senate, incumbents and
challengers, will ask their opponents whether they would
support packing the supreme court or not. The Democrats’
answers could make a difference in some key elections.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Senate Races Near The Finish Line

Several competitive U.S. senate contests will be decided  in
less than a month, and control of this key national
legislative body hangs in the balance.

As will happen again in 2022, approximately, twice as many
Republican incumbent seats are up for election, and the
current 53-47 GOP lead and control is at stake.

The conservative party in doing well  in two contests for seats
now held by liberal party incumbents. In Alabama, GOP
challenger Tommy Tuberville is expected to defeat
Democratic Senator Doug Jones; and in Michigan, the race is
a toss-up. between Republican challenger John James and
Democratic incumbent Gary Peters. In Minnesota, GOP
challenger Jason Lewis is a long shot against Democrat (DFL)
Tina Smith who now holds the seat. Mr. Lewis needs this
battleground state to be won by President Trump in order to
have a realistic chance for an upset win.

Many more GOP incumbents face serious challenges in 2020.

Usually rated the most vulnerable is  Republican Senator
Martha McSally of Arizona. Only a few weeks ago, she seemed
headed to certain defeat by former astronaut Mark Kelly, but
the sudden supreme court vacancy and a business controversy
involving Kelly  has now made this race closer, although Kelly
still leads.

Also considered in trouble, is GOP Senator Cory Gardner of
Colorado. But his challenger, former Governor  John
Hickenlooper, has surprisingly turned out to be a poor
campaigner, and now needs a very big Joe Biden win in the
state to defeat the likeable Gardner.

Also considered very vulnerable this year, GOP Senator
Susan Collins is being challenged by Democrat Sara
Gideon and a great deal deal of out-of-state money. The
most moderate Republican in the senate, she quickly
announced she would not vote to confirm President
Trump’s conservative supreme court nominee.. A popular
political icon in Maine, she will be difficult to beat, but the
race is now a toss-up.

North Carolina GOP Senator Thom Tillis appeared only
weeks ago to be in real trouble for hid re-election, but
revelations of a personal scandal involving his challenger
Cal Cunningham seems to have seriously compromised
his prospects for an upset win against the incumbent.

Although Mr. Trump carried Iowa by 9 points in 2016, many
polls are saying it’s closer to a tie this cycle, and that GOP
incumbent Senator Joni Ernst has a serious contest with
her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.

Democrats had hopes to unseat Republican incumbents in
Kentucky (Mitch McConnell), Alaska (Dan Sullivan), Texas
(John Cornyn), Montana (Stephen Daines), South Carolina
(Lindsay Graham), Georgia (David Perdue) and Kansas
(Roger Marshall), but so far the GOP senators appear to be
leading --- although their leads, in some cases, could fade in
their campaigns’ closing days.

Likewise, Republicans thought they  might pick up seats in
New Hampshire  (Jeanne Shaheen), New Mexico (Carlos
Lujan) and the already mentioned Minnesota (Tina Smith),
but these Democratic incumbents seem to now have clear
leads.

One race that could well end up in a  critical post election
2021 run-off --- and not be decided on election day --- is the
special election for U.S. senate in Georgia, a seat now held
by GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler who was appointed. The
2020 ballot has five candidates of both parties, and if none
of them receives 50% in November, a later run-off between
the top two vote-getters would take place. Conceivably, such
a run-off could decide control of the senate.

Finally, I point out a frequent occurrence in U.S. senate
election cycles, that is, the development of a close race  in
the closing days of a contest thought to be “safe” for a
Democratic or Republican incumbent. In a year of so many
other surprises, it might happen in 2020.

Several weeks ago, polling indicated a general trend to the
Democratic senate candidates. More recently, polling has
generally indicated improving conditions for Republicans.
But with an extraordinarily volatile presidential  race,
and genuinely undecided voters now making their choices,
anything could still happen in the battle for senate control.

[Just before election day, there will be a final survey  of these
races on this website.]


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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


 

Monday, October 5, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Less Than A Month To Go

With less than a month to go, the 2020 national elections remain
wracked by surprising turns of events, contradictory polls,
residues of the pandemic, and an uncertain economy.

A new economic stimulus program is being held up because
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants it to include cities and
states that had chronic deficits prior to the pandemic, and the
Trump administration wants it only to include
pandemic-related economic issues.

A new U.S.supreme court nominee is facing confirmation
following the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the
resulting vacancy only weeks before the election.

President Trump achieved major advances in his efforts in the
Middle East, but volatile issues remain with China, Russia and
North Korea.

The global pandemic continues with second waves in parts of
Europe. The president himself is recovering from an infection
diagnosed only a month before election day.

Confidence in polls seem to be at an all-time low.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has now begun to
campaign more actively in-person.

Numerous competitive U.S. house and senate races are too
close to call.

Anything could yet happen.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: An Old Order Dissolving?

[THIS WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON THIS WEBSITE IN 2015]

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The earlier individual civilizations of this planet constantly went
through cycles of various kinds including a general "order" of the
forces at play in them.

We have for some recent time now had a planet-wide world order
as communications and transportation innovations eliminated
the earlier physical boundaries between hitherto distant and
separated civilizations.

Although one can describe the world in terms of various cycles,
including those of technology, climate, sociological relationships,
health, demography/migration, religious belief and so on, the
nation-states which arose from innumerable nomadic tribes, and
the notions of power and aggression, have, in recent centuries,
created the modern versions of a so-called world order.

There seems to be, in terms of this particular notion of a “grand”
world order, alternating cycles of integration and dissolution
which evolve over several decades each, and which serve as
clarifying markers for their times.

Those who are now fifty years old or older grew up in a period of
post-World War II integration of a new order resulting from the
aftermath of World Wars I and II, just as the previous world order
was a dissolution following the upheaval  of the Napoleonic wars
in Europe and the colonial “possessions” of European states
around the world.

There has been an a mega-political process going on now for
many years --- a dissolving of the attempt to create a lasting order
in Europe, the western hemisphere and Asia. The United States
has played a certain and growing role in the ordering of the world
for the past one hundred and fifty years or so. Now, the population
giants of China and India are asserting their place more
aggressively as this old order dissolves. Other nations, including
Brazil, Japan, Indonesia, and Russia, are asserting themselves
by virtue of their large populations and growing market share
of world trade. But this transformation is no longer limited to
nation states, just as the earliest transformations were not
limited to regional tribes. In the latest dissolution, we observe
transnational economic entities such as the European Union and
OPEC; international ideological entities such as Islamic jihadism
and international regions such as the trans-Pacific area,
attempting to take a more significant part in the creation of a
new planetary order.

International organizations such as the United Nations, the World
Court, and regional military alliances increasingly appear unable
to bring any true cooperation to an emerging new world order
(whatever it is to be).

In the period after 1945, and again in 1990, there was a provisional
belief in the West that first, fascism, and second, communism ---
both cruel and totalitarian phenomena --- had been temporary. and
“overcome.”  It now appears, as their malign offspring reappear
in the world, this was an over-optimistic conclusion.

The “level” of the world, as philosopher Ortega y Gasset once said,
does continue to rise because of technology and invention (human
beings live longer; more persons are fed; daily life is more varied),
but the dynamic state of the world (its “order,” if you will) has
seemed to become more uncertain and perilous.

It has taken some time, especially for the post-war generations
in the West, to understand this fully. For many of these
generations, in fact, they cling to a belief in the old order and its
“comprehensible” optimism, security, rationality and predictable
reassurances.

Daily global events, however, signal it's time for some new thinking.

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Copyright (c) 2015 and 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.



 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Who Is Really Ahead?

As the title of this article implies, the presidential race might
not be what it seems to be.

With six weeks to go, conventional media thinking has Joe
Biden well ahead, and leading already in enough states to
win the all-important electoral college tally. Many well-known
pundits and strategists are even suggesting the election is
virtually (pun intended?) over.

While Joe Biden might indeed win when the votes are counted,
even by a decisive margin, I think the true status of this race
now remains unsettled and unknown.

The primary evidence for conventional thinking has been a
series of establishment media polls which have shown Mr.
Biden ahead of Mr. Trump by high single digit or low double
digit numbers in nationwide polls, and with mid-single digit
leads in many of the battleground states. In recent weeks,
most of these polls have tightened while in a few competitive
states, Mr. Trump has pulled slightly ahead.  In at least two
nationwide polls, the president is actually very slightly ahead 
of his opponent --- but these seem to be, for now, outliers.
(National polls reflect the national popular vote; but the actual
election is done by state-by-state electoral college voting.) As
happened in 2016, Mr. Trump is not expected to win the popular
vote in 2020 --- given the huge majorities Mr. Biden is expected
to win in California, New York and Illinois.

Conventional media thinking assumes the polls are accurate,
but many observers and some poll experts dispute this, arguing
that most establishment polling is undermeasuring Republican
and Trump voters, especially in battleground states.

In 2016, the final national polls were relatively accurate, but the
competitive state polls often were not, something I repeatedly
noted BEFORE election day. National polls are still being
published, but this cycle, the emphasis is on state polls (as it
should be).

So are the state polls accurate?

They might be, but the non-polling evidence-on-the-ground
seems to dispute this in many of the competitive states in
the midwest and south. The pandemic, violent urban
unrest, the economy, and now, a U.S. supreme court vacancy,
each appear to complicate any election predictions.

The only surprise left, it seems, would be if there were no
more surprises.

The biggest known possible vote-changing events ahead are
the presidential debates, especially the first one. These
debates could provide Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden with some
critical closing momentum.

On the other hand, one or more political surprises could 
also happen, and change the outcome.

Stranger than fiction or fantasy, you could not have made
2020 up before it happened.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: An Entertainer Like No Other

My good friend of more than half a century, Dudley Riggs,
has passed away at 88 in Minneapolis. He was an entertainer,
and later impresario, like no other --- and whose life story is
a true wonder to read about.

In fact, you can read about some of it in his autobiographical
Flying Funny: My Life Without A Net, a 2017 book that tells
a good part of his fascinating story, especially of his earliest
yeas as a member of a four-generation traveling circus family.

After countless conversations  at lunches, dinners and other
occasions with Dudley, I can say that his whole story is even
more extraordinary.

I actually “met” Dudley years before we became friends when
as a little boy, my older brother took me to the circus in my
hometown of Erie, PA. One of the trapeze aerialists was young
Dudley Riggs. Years later, in one of our earliest conversations,
Dudley mentioned that he was in that circus that year.  When I
looked at the circus program I had saved  there was a photo of
Dudley on a trapeze.

Dudley’s experiences in the circus and vaudeville before he was
21 were enough for a lifetime, but for him it was only Act 1.
After a teen-age trapeze accident, and a hospital stay, Dudley
returned to the circus, including a 1952 appearance as a clown
with the first touring U.S. circus performing in occupied Japan.
Before an audience in Tokyo that included Crown Prince (later
Emperor) Akihito, Dudley was chosen for public relations
photos to meet the crown prince. Innocently, when introduced,
Dudley shook Akihito’s hand, breaking a thousand-year taboo
of not touching the emperor or his heir, and it caused a
national scandal until the emperor published a letter saying
the old tradition was abolished. (Reportedly, the last time
someone touched the emperor, he was beheaded on the spot!)

Act 2 for Dudley was coming to Minneapolis for his college
education, majoring in psychology (a scholarly interest he kept
the rest of his life). He soon opened the first coffeehouse in
Minnesota serving espresso. His grandmother had introduced
him to espresso years before, and later in a stint as a waiter in
the famed old Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City he got the idea
of serving fine foods in a place of his own. But always the
entertainer, Dudley began presenting comedy improvisations
with the pastries and cappuccinos. This became known as
Instant Theater --- which along with a simultaneous effort at
Second City in Chicago was the genesis of improvisational
comedy in the U.S.

Among Dudley’s talents acquired in his youth was juggling, and
with a small troupe, he began performing nightly, with what
became his trademark provocative satire, and then he moved
his enterprise, now called The Brave New Workshop, to a new
location where hundreds of shows followed, and where he
trained and presented several generations of young performers,
many of whom went on to be stars in New York and Hollywood.
Saturday Night Live, Daily Show, Cagney & Lacey, Reba and
numerous other TV shows, Broadway plays and hit movies
featured Workshop alumni Dudley had trained and encouraged.

Dudley Riggs became a household word in the Twin Cities.
He opened a second theater with a new Cafe Espresso. Along
the way, he co-introduced pizza to the state, and was an
acrobatic consultant to many local theaters and dance
companies. This was Dudley’s Act 3.

Although he retired, his theater continues in a new downtown
Minneapolis location where he had emeritus status. His first
wife had died very young, but after some years, he remarried,
and with his new wife Pauline Boss, an internationally-known
psychotherapist/educator, enjoyed many happy years writing
and traveling in an active Epilogue, albeit with increasing
physical difficulty --- likely the toll of decades of so much
athletic activity as a performer.

We had many adventures together, including the year he ran
(satirically) for president when we went to a national
convention in Chicago where I was credentialed press
covering the “serious” politicians while Dudley poked fun at
them.

For five decades I spoke frequently with Dudley, and I heard
about something new he had done or seen on almost every
occasion. In spite of being in charge of many employees in
his restaurants and theaters, and being so well-known, he was
unpretentious, accessible, caring, encouraging and always funny.

There are all kinds of lives led in our world, and everyone  has
a uniqueness, but Dudley Riggs had an incomparable life that
journeyed through what for  most everyone else would have
been several lifetimes --- and from the beginning he kept himself
and the rest of us entertained and laughing all the way.

Thank you, Dudley.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.