Saturday, April 18, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: An Old Order Dissolves

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 dynamic
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. Clearly, the population
giants of China and India are now 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 radical environmentalism; and international regions
such as South and Central America, and the trans-Pacific area,
attempting to take a significant part in the creation of a new
planetary order.

International organizations such as the United Nations, the World
Court, regional military alliances increasingly appear unable to
bring any true cooperation for an emerging new world order
(whatever it is to be). The most dynamic factor of the
modernization of the world, democratic capitalism, seems
momentarily paralyzed in the face of aggressive new forces.

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 Ortega y Gasset described it in 1928,
does continue to rise because of technology and invention (human
beings live longer; more persons are fed; daily life is more varied),
but the 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 reassurances.

Daily events all over the globe, and even at home, however, signal
another kind of process is at work. It is time for some new thinking.

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

Saturday, April 11, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Monroe Doctrine R.I.P.?

President James Monroe articulated  an enduring U.S. foreign
policy in 1823 when he declared that the United States would
not tolerate European intrusion in the Western Hemisphere.
By 1850, his declaration was popularly described as the
“Monroe Doctrine,” and it has been implemented in various forms
by many U.S. presidents of both parties ever since, especially by
Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and
Ronald Reagan.

In December, 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared
at a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) that
“the Monroe Doctrine is over.” He received tepid applause for
this statement from the representatives of other Western
Hemisphere nations primarily because he was only
formally stating the obvious. The Monroe Doctrine had already
been receding from the international vocabulary under previous
administrations, both Democratic and Republican, and was being
replaced with a policy of hemispheric cooperation under Bill
Clinton and George W. Bush.

A few days ago, in Panama, President Barack Obama reiterated
this reality, describing past policy in terms that ignored the
evolution of U.S. policy with its neighbors in the hemisphere.
These terms could have been written by any leftist professor or
leftist activist in the 1980’s. Apparently, that is when Mr. Obama
formed his views about the Monroe Doctrine. His language no
doubt pleased the likes of intellectual anarchist Noam Chomsky
and his ilk, and it raised a few red flags among observers on the
right, but the fact remains that the Monroe Policy, in its original
form, no longer exists.

The callowness of Mr. Obama’s language will no doubt inspire
dreams of new influence in South America by extremist
movements in other parts of the world, but the next U.S.
president of the U.S. can easily reject that language, and
continue the long political evolution of US. foreign policy in
the hemisphere. In fact, this subject should be a substantial
one for questions directed to the presidential contenders in
both parties in the campaign ahead.

A political reality, however, is that most voters find foreign
policy obscure, and when they do take an interest in our
neighbors, it is mostly about the issue of immigration from
the rest of the hemisphere to the U.S.

Another reality is that the U.S. revolution in the late 18th
century worked, and freed from British colonialism, the U.S.
become the dominant world power by the end of the 20th
century. The 19th century revolutions in South and Central
America, however, failed to produce very stable democratic
states. Simon Bolivar’s vision did not hold in most of the
former Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Governments came
and went, caudillos came and went, oligarchies endured.

U.S. hemispheric policies in the 19th and early 20th centuries
frankly were exploitive more often than not, and a brief
period of U.S. colonial adventurism in the region was
thankfully brief. After the end of the Viet Nam War, U.S.
policy more rapidly evolved into regional cooperation wherever
possible. (In 2010, the Obama administration attempted to
intervene in Honduras in a manner opposite to previous
interventions when it initially attempted to repress a
popular uprising against a leftist takeover in that nation.
That intervention failed, although Mr. Obama’s recent words
go a long way to explaining why his administration took that

Even the largest South American nations today find
themselves in constant crisis. Venezuela is on the verge of
economic collapse under a repressive regime, Argentina
goes from economic crisis to crisis, and Brazil (having
seemingly matured as the continent’s largest and most
prosperous nation) has returned to incessant political
crises. Only Colombia seems to be coming out of a
century-long political fog.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry are half-right. Their declarations
of U.S. intentions to replace domination and imposition with
cooperation are just what U.S. hemispheric policy should be.
Their implications of U.S. hemispheric indifference, particularly
to any malign intrusions from the rest of the world, however, 
are an over-reaction to past U.S. mistakes.

The new role of the United States is to protect its neighbors and
its allies in the world. That protection most often takes the form
of disaster relief, economic assistance, and educational and
commercial exchange. But when totalitarian regimes and forces
become clear threats to smaller democratic nations and peoples
who cannot defend themselves, indifference is not an option.

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

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Radical New Foreign Policy

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been quoted as saying
that President Obama’s foreign policy today seems designed
“to take America down.” As the previous vice president for eight
years under President George W. Bush, Mr. Cheney might be
expected to oppose the successor regime, and to criticize it, but
the language of his criticism, as well as the language of former
New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in opposing the Obama
administration’s foreign policy, as well as the criticism of several
conservative radio talk show hosts and many others, is sharper and
more extreme than anything in recent memory.

Liberal readers of this column will dismiss Mr. Cheney, and almost
anything he says. He was, during his years in power at the White
House (and continuing to this day), the liberal’s “villain” in the
Bush administration. To liberals, Mr. Cheney represents the most
hawkish view of U.S. foreign policy, a view that directed U.S.
engagement in the Middle East following the attack on the nation
during September 11, 2001. (It might be added, however, that even
his critics did admire his exemplary conduct on that tragic day,
including his coolness and maturity in keeping the nation’s capital
and government together during the many hours when President
Bush was away.)

Conservative readers will likely agree with Mr. Cheney’s outspoken
assessment, if not entirely with his language. The foreign policy of
the United States, especially under President Obama’s second term,
has taken directions which most conservatives and independents
strongly oppose.

What are we to make of this?

I think it is fair to say now that the foreign policy of President Obama
is taking an abrupt course in the context of U.S. foreign policy since
World War II (under all presidents, Democratic and Republican).
Of course, his opponents are casting this radical change in the worst
possible light, and his defenders are casting it in the best light.

Leaving ideological motivations aside for the moment, this policy
on its face is an attempt to resign from America’s historical role
in the world as  it was first manifest in World War I, and as it then
evolved through World War II, the Cold War, Korea, Viet Nam,
the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. President Obama has
apparently determined that the American people (as well as himself)
no longer should be the self-determined protector of world order.
To be fair to Mr. Obama, the assumption that Americans have “war
fatigue” is not an unreasonable one.

No sooner has conflict in one part of the world seemingly ended, a
new conflict in another or same part of the world has arisen
continually for more than a century. Many American soldiers have
been casualties on foreign soil. Until September 11, 2001, none of
those casualties had been on continental American soil. It is not
unreasonable for any American to ask “When will this all end?”

Mr. Obama’s radical new foreign policy answers that question with
the answer that the U.S. will withdraw from its leading role in the
world, and allow the various regions, nations and forces outside
our boundaries to settle their own affairs. To accomplish this, Mr.
Obama has gradually turned away from our nation’s historical
allies. It is not only Israel which is the target of this new policy; it
is a policy directed to our even longer alliances in Europe, South
America and Asia (and even our alliances in the Arab world).

Conservatives hold strongly to the idea of “American exceptionalism,”
a notion that presumes the U.S. has an obligation to play a leading
role in the world, and the protector of democracies against
totalitarian threats. They argue that to deny this is to invite violent
and murderous threats across the world. Until 2009, this was also
the policy of most liberals. Liberals were among the strongest
leaders of the U.S. in the Cold War against Soviet communism, and
even earlier, they were leaders against the fascist totalitarianism
which was threatened by Nazism in Europe and Asia. This agreement
by liberals and conservative created an American bipartisan foreign

Today, President Obama has decided that the U.S. will gradually
withdraw from its historic role of the past century. The Constitution
gives him the authority to direct and lead foreign policy, but it also
gives the Congress, especially the U.S. senate, the authority and
obligation to give advice and consent to the President on these matters.
The founders of our republic clearly intended to create a system of
government that would prevent dictatorship or any rule that did not
have “the consent of the governed.”

Mr. Obama has not only the right but the authority to lead our
foreign policy. Each president has the legitimate potential to introduce
new ideas and directions, not only to foreign policy but to domestic
policy as well. In the late 1930’s, Democratic President Franklin
Roosevelt understood the growing threat of German and Japanese
fascism not just to the U.S. but to the world itself.  American public
opinion, however, was isolationist and mostly unaware of the threat.
However one might criticize his “New Deal” and domestic policies
or even his policies at the end of World War II, FDR's thoughtful
and patient leadership from 1937-41 was vital to the survival of U.S.
democracy and to the defeat of murderous totalitarianism in the
world. He accomplished this, not by unilateral “executive actions,”
but by the patient building of change in public opinion, including
the gradual change of attitudes in the Congress (a Congress his party
controlled). It was his liberal Democratic successor, President Harry
Truman, who led the nation to oppose a new threat of Soviet
totalitarianism after World War II.

Mr. Obama no longer controls the Congress. He has less than two
years left in office, and evidently feels a pressing need to make changes
in U.S. foreign policy. He evidently believes that an assumed “war
weariness” felt by Americans gives him the right to take an abrupt
and radical new direction in the nation’s foreign policies. But the
Constitution does not support, nor does it permit, his impatience.
When he crosses historical and constitutional lines, he provokes
powerful reactions, including the reactions we are now witnessing.

A very liberal Democratic U.S. senator and the likely new minority
leader in that body (and long-time ally of Mr. Obama), Charles
Schumer of New York, has just declared that the president must have
the consent of the U.S. senate for any agreement that is reached with
Iran. There are many Democratic lawmakers and voters who do not
agree with the apparent current terms of this provisional agreement
(to be finalized on June 30).

There are reasons why provocative language and criticism of
President Obama’s foreign policy have arisen. It would seem that
his choice of a unilateral path just now would be very, very unwise.

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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: New Food And Dining Trends

There are many new restaurants in the Twin Cities this year,
and most of them are centered around the now-expanding
chef culture and an entrepreneurial  restaurant “conglomerate”
owner class. There is also a lot of menu imitation, trendy
cooking styles, and dining room design copycatting. Menu
prices are once again on the rise, with the prices of soups,
appetizers, side salads, a la carte side dishes and desserts
making an evening, or even a lunch, of dining out more and
more costly and no longer tied much to value.

Truly inimitable restaurants are rare, and one by one, the
older originals are closing their doors.

There is much positive news, too, including the embrace in
virtually all serious new restaurant kitchens of higher quality
and fresher meats, poultry, produce and cooking ingredients.
Although there are a few high-end seafood restaurants, the
location of Minnesota, for example, makes the serving of truly
fresh fish and seafood  (including sushi and other uncooked fish
dishes) problematic, and the choices smaller than a diner might
find on or near either coast. Many menus are disappointingly
unoriginal, but the quality of cooking and preparation has
noticeably risen in recent years as a larger and larger number
of well-trained cooking personnel have made urban areas their

The restaurant business is a very tough business. Food and labor
costs are rising. Wine and beer no longer are sufficient in many
cases to help pay the bills, and a new wave of cocktailing (at very
high prices) has swept many larger new and old restaurants. (It
seems expensive cocktails are “in,” and beer and cheaper wines are
“out” for the moment.)

The best news is that the overall dining public has become much
more knowledgeable about food, and more demanding. The same
public, when I first landed in Minnesota many decades ago for
example, had little knowledge of various major and ethnic cuisines.
The menus of area dining rooms reflected this. Organic and truly
fresh produce was largely unknown in most kitchens, and culinary
creativity limited to a few well-known local restaurants.

In the late 1970s, throughout the 80s and 90s, the food culture in
Minnesota, and the rest of the nation, changed dramatically. Great
food was (prior to that) usually only available in the very largest
cities, and those cities with a long culinary tradition, i.e., New York
City, Chicago. Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and South
Florida, but it now made its  way into virtually all the cities of
America. Top chefs were paid more and more. Newspapers and
magazines devoted more and more space to food and restaurant
criticism and promotion. Fine food and cooking were the subject of
national TV and radio shows; chefs with stand-out personalities
became stars and celebrities.

At the same time, worldwide food distribution made fresh fruit and
vegetables available year-round in places which had cold winters
and limited growing seasons. Transportation innovations enabled
relatively fresh fish to be available far from sea and ocean coasts,
and fish farming made popular fish more available. Exotic fruits,
vegetables, meats and condiments not only appeared on restaurant
menus, but were available in local specialty grocery stores for

The problem now might be that our food culture has become
overbuilt and overhyped. There are several outstanding, original,
creative, and exciting new restaurants, but prices are often now so
high, and menus so esoteric that going out to eat has become not
only an economic class question, but a feature of a food culture
class that is often preoccupied with cult fashion, hype and elitism.

Good food, fine cooking and adventurous dining is, of course, much
older than just the recent explosion of the new restaurant culture.
With care of our natural resources and better understanding of the
realities of food production, the interest in what we eat should
continue to grow. The best news is that more and more persons are
becoming aware of their culinary choices, and accompanying this, is
an apparent increased awareness of the key link between what we eat
and good health. Men and women who are not professional chefs,
but who take the time to learn cooking skills, can also provide
themselves, their families and friends with outstanding meals at a
fraction of the cost of dining out.

The Prairie Editor will soon be sending out  
directly to subscribers only his latest list
of recommended new restaurants in the Twin Cities, 
Chicago, Washington, DC and other locations.]

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Overcrowded And Underprepared?

The potential serious field of Republican candidates for
president is very, very large. I’m not even including in that
assessment an inevitable number of so-called minor
candidates, most of whom hold no political office, who
will seek, however briefly, the nation’s highest office.

There was a relatively large number of GOP candidates
in the 2012 election cycle, and it proved to be unwieldy,
especially because there were many candidates who took
leads in the polls or won primaries and caucuses. The large
number of debates with many debaters further confused
the Republican presentation to the voters prior to its
national convention and the final campaign that followed
to November.

Party leaders subsequently promised to avoid the problems
of 2012 as they planned for the 2016 cycle. So far, they have
indeed created an orderly, if unprecedented, tentative
primary and caucus calendar, and they have reduced the
number of sanctioned debates by half to twelve. Further,
the Republican National Committee has assigned only one
debate each to the mainstream television networks, all of
which proved biased and hostile in the last cycle. The Fox
network, in contrast,  has been assigned three debates.

Individual states can, of course, vary the dates past the
initial (and traditional) four of Iowa, New Hampshire,
South Carolina and Nevada. On March 1, 2016, there could
(as of now) be 27 primaries and caucuses on the same day,
including most of those states with the largest number of
delegates. This latter program is presumably designed to
settle the contest then and there, allowing the eventual
nominee to raise funds and set his or her agenda and
public image before the unusually early convention in June.

These new rules are an obvious rational response to the
chaos which occurred in 2012, but they are no guarantees,
especially with the large number of “major” candidates,
that new problems won’t occur. Most states are likely to
observe the new calendar rules because the penalties for
not doing so are so severe (loss of a significant portion of
their delegates being seated at the convention). The reduced
number of debates is intended to make the GOP message
clearer and less unencumbered in November.

It has not been much discussed in the media, however, how
much the new rules and calendar will alter the strategies
of the various candidates.

So far, three GOP hopefuls have emerged as leading
candidates, including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush,
current Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and
current Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Marco Rubio,
are expected to run; and Senator Ted Cruz has already

Potential candidates include former Arkansas Governor
Mike Huckabee, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and
former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

Other well-known figures expected to run include Carly
Fiorina, Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Showing interest in the race is Ohio Governor John Kasich,
a potentially major candidate. Others might soon appear.

It is unimaginable that the first debate on August 20, 2015
would include all or most of these persons, although each
of them is prominent enough to have some claim to be on
the stage. The most likely requirements to be in the debate
will be polls numbers and campaign funds raised, with the
former being most likely standard.

Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina,
Donald Trump and John Kasich have not yet, and might not
by the deadline, have sufficient polls numbers to be in the
debates. Since being absent from the debates virtually
eliminates a candidate from serious contention in the race,
what can their campaigns do to overcome this huge obstacle?
What happens if one of the “major” candidates does not
make the poll number cut in July or August when debate
participants are chosen?

The primary and caucus calendar changes present major
challenges of their own. The early “four” have been
decreasing their influence in recent cycles, especially the
caucus states of Iowa and Nevada. New Hampshire and
South Carolina, however, could have notable impact on the
March 1 “Mega-Primary” Day when, as matters now stand,
so many delegates will be selected on the same day.

Mega-Primary Day presumes that the strongest candidates
will have raised the most money since political advertising
might  be the only way to reach so many states effectively at
the same time. Most retail campaigning will be limited to the
early “four” --- although the immediacy of Mega-Primary
Day might easily inhibit the usual one-on-one traditions of
Iowa and New Hampshire.

Presidential campaigns and strategies are now grappling, or
will soon have to grapple, with the consequences of the new
GOP campaign rules and calendar. I suggest that this might
produce a different scenario, and perhaps even different
result, than ones now being projected in the media.

Since most states will hold both their Democratic and
Republican primaries or caucuses on the same day, the
new calendar will also have consequences for the Democratic
presidential field and contest, particularly if that contest
becomes unexpectedly competitive (which is not the case now).

The ideological rhetoric and the ideological divisions within
each party, now front and not-so-center in the early coverage,
could give way to much more pragmatic considerations as
the 2016 campaign approaches its next stage over the summer
and autumn of 2015. That could be the biggest surprise of 2016.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Is John Boehner Outfoxing His Opponents?

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has been under much
fire not only from his Democratic opponents, but from
some conservatives in his own party. The criticisms are
different, of course, and that which comes from the
liberal party is to be expected and is part of the political
“game.” Those members of his own caucus, some radio
show hosts, and a number of conservative activists,
however, are also attacking Boehner for being too passive,
too cooperative, and too agreeable to “liberal” policies.

Individual U.S. house members chronically threaten a
caucus revolt against Mr. Boehner that would replace him.

Particularly provocative to the insurgents on his right are
his immigration policies and his willingness to fashion a
budget deal with the help of some Democrats, including
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In the past, Mr. Boehner
has opposed a government shutdown. (One did happen
over his objections, and it was a public relations disaster
for the GOP. More recently, he avoided one at the time of
the 2014 mid-term elections, with positive results, and is
attempting to do the same again this year.)

What is John Boehner up to?

I don’t know; I have not talked to him about it --- I’m just
guessing --- but I think, as the titular head of his national
party in Congress, he has been trying to avoid harming the
image of the conservative party with voters. When the
GOP shut down the government a few years ago, as I
previously mentioned, Republicans took a beating in
polling, especially among independent voters. When they
avoided another shutdown, voters gave the GOP landslide
victories in 2014, including recovering control of the U.S.

2016 is a presidential election year, and despite current polls,
I believe the Republican nominee for president will have a
a huge advantage at election time. The Democrats are on the
verge of nominating a figure for president who is not truly
popular. Moreover, the liberal grass roots have little passion
for her candidacy.

Let’s go back to 1948 for a moment. Thomas Dewey, the
Republican nominee, was the overwhelming favorite to win
the presidency that year. He led in all the polls right up to
election day. His opponent was President Harry Truman,
who was elevated to that office by the death of President
Roosevelt. His Democratic Party was seemingly hopelessly
split, and in fact, a far left Democrat, Henry Wallace (who had
been vice president) was also on the November ballot, as was
a conservative Democrat, Strom Thurmond (who ended up
winning a notable number of electoral votes in southern
states.) Mr. Truman, by 1948, wasn’t even that popular among
rank and file Democrats. Republicans controlled both the U.S.
house and senate. On paper, Mr. Dewey could not lose.

Mr. Truman then boarded a special train that crisscrossed the
nation, and he attacked a “do-nothing” Congress. In two months,
he energized his liberal base, and gained the admiration of
independents, for his pluck and for his painting the conservative
Congress as obstructionists.

I suggest that the only way a Democratic presidential nominee,
whomever it is, can win in 2016 is by persuading the nation’s
voters, especially independents and ethnic voters, that the GOP
is blocking the public interest.

In 1948, Republicans in Congress blocked new liberal legislation,
but had few post-World War II ideas of their own. Mr. Dewey,
taking his election for granted, offered no new ideas of his own
during the campaign.

Mr. Truman’s upset comeback victory was no accident.

2016, it is true, is not 1948, but Republicans could fall into a
similar psychological political trap by giving voters the
impression that they only know how to say “no.” Mr. Boehner
and his colleagues seem to be acknowledging the electoral
danger, especially with “hot button” issues such as
immigration reform and closing down the government.
With Barack Obama in the White House, they do not currently
have enough votes to override his vetoes. Mr. Boehner, it seems
to me, is saying that he will keep the government running until
January, 2017 when he and his party hopes also to occupy the
White House. Unlike Mr. Obama and the previous senate,
controlled by the Democrats under Harry Reid, Mr. Boehner
seems to be saying to the voters that the Republican Party will
be responsible and patient. They seem to be acknowledging,
with the Democratic party’s electoral college advantage, that
“Obama fatigue” might not be enough in 2016.

At the same time, Speaker Boehner was bold and decisive in
inviting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address the
Congress, something which most Americans approved.

Mr. Boehner might not, and probably won’t, satisfy some
conservatives, but his approach might also be the only way to
avoid a surprising upset at the polls. In the end, as I have been
suggesting for more than a year, the Republican Party and
many unhappy independents want to win in 2016. This kind of
grass roots “decision” was clearly visible in 2014.

Now we shall see if it will recur in 2016.

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

Monday, March 23, 2015


I don’t want to disillusion any of my readers, but most of
what they read and hear in politics is deliberate, strategic and
ongoing propaganda. That’s not all bad. This propaganda is,
after all, the language of politics, and the secret is not only
speaking the language, but knowing how to translate it.

We now enter the “announcement” season of the presidential
campaign cycle. The “propagandismo” nature of American
political language is in one of its purest forms in this season.
Debates between candidates, and the conflict between their
differing “propaganda” messages, have not yet taken place
Media and commentary analysis challenging the propaganda
is mostly ahead. Political consultants and other advisers have
carefully crafted, after much discussion and editing, the
persona, biographical “story,” and overall image of their
candidates. The political horses are lining up to get into the
starting gates. By the late autumn and early winter, we’re off
to the big race!

Not so long ago, announcing for president was a more simple
and straightforward event. Radio, TV and the internet, as
they came along,  provide expanded platforms for the formal
declaration of candidacy, but “in the old days” when a
candidate decided to get “in”, he or she simply got “in.”
Today, there are usually a series of orchestrated steps to the
actual announcement. First, there is an often extended
period of”speculation” during which a potential candidate
gives interviews, answers media questions, and makes public
speeches in which an “interest” in running for president is
made of “hints,” “maybes,” and “possibles.” Then there is an
announcement of the formation of an “exploratory committee”
which propels a candidate into fundraising and more specific
testing of the political waters. Finally, there is the formal
announcement itself. Sometimes, a candidate only goes through
step 1, or steps 1 and 2. We are now, in most cases, ready for
those who will take step 3.

For the 2016 cycle, each major political party will have its own
schedule of announcements. Senator Ted Cruz has just become
the first to formally announce on the Republican, He will be
followed soon enough by a number of others, including
predetermined major candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and
Scott Walker. Most of those who will go to step 3 have already
formed exploratory committees. There is likely to be one or
two surprise or late entries (like Texas Governor Rick Perry
was in 2012). On the Democratic side, the party and its
potential candidates are awaiting the formal announcement
of Hillary Clinton, reportedly set for April. Should she decide
not to run, the number of formal candidates would likely
increase dramatically. If she does announce, there will still
be rivals in the race, most notably now former Maryland
Governor Martin O’Malley, and possibly, Massachusetts
Senator Elizabeth Warren. Since a Democratic field without
Clinton would be considered a relatively light one, the chance
for surprise candidacies in that case would be high.

But no matter who, how many, and in which major party, the
basic form of the announcement for president will most
likely take similar forms. As I suggested at the outset, these
announcements will attempt to control the narrative of
the candidacy, and will be laden with propaganda.

The fresher and more original campaign launches,
however, will gain at least some initial advantages. It will
be instructive to observe which campaigns have figured
this out.

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