Friday, January 27, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Shadows of 2024

 

Although this early in the 2024 presidential race

incumbent President Joe Biden and former President

Donald Trump are the favorites for their respective

party nominations, nothing is settled.


Mr. Trump has already announced his candidacy,

and Mr. Biden appears intending to do so soon.

There is one additional announced GOP candidate,

former national security advisor John Bolton who is

considered unlikely to receive much support. No

notable Democrat has yet announced they will run.


Although he leads so far in many national polls. the

former president faces likely serious challenges in

the party primaries. Most notably, Governor Ron

DeSantis of Florida, who has not yet announced he

will run, already leads Trump in some state polls.

DeSantis, perhaps the biggest GOP winner in 2022,

appears to be the leading challenger in 2024. Former

South Carolina governor and later cabinet member,

Nikki Haley, shows some support in the early polls,

and is considering making the race. The conservative

party also has an impressive “bench” of potential

other candidates, including Governor Kristi Noem of

South Dakota, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas,

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, Senator Marco

Rubio of Florida, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina,

Mike Pompeo, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.


Democrats do not seem to have as impressive a

“bench,” but they do have a number of rising stars

who could run for president in 2024. Two names

frequently cited are Secretary of Transportation

Pete Buttigieg and California Governor Gavin

Newsom. Buttigieg, not yet a candidate, in fact led

Biden in a recent New Hampshire poll. Less

nationally well-known are Secretary and Commerce

and former Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo;

new Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro; and new

Maryland Governor Wes Moore.. Raimondo was

a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University with a law

degree from Yale and a successful businesswoman

before entering politics. Shapiro previously was state

attorney general, senior congressional staffer and

state legislator — and, like Raimondo, has a reputation

for moderate progressive politics. Moore, the first black

Maryland governor, was also a Rhodes scholar. An

army veteran and former investment banker, he was 

also a TV producer.


Some Democrats who ran in 2020 (and lost to Biden) 

could also run, but for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth

Warren age would be an issue in 2024.


For now, however, major Democrats are holding back

in deference to their sitting president. It is no secret

that many Democrats hope he retires, and the brief

surge he enjoyed in the polls after the 2022 midterms

has already dissipated following the revelation of 

classified documents he took home when he was vice 

president. His age and physical condition are likely to

become an issue if he runs for a second term.


For now, the 2024 presidential race, less than two 

years away, remains a match in the shadows. If

there is no incumbent running, there will likely be

many more candidates in both parties than named

above — just as there was in recent cycles,


Beginning with President Biden’s decision of whether

or not to run, the current tentative candidacy shadows 

will disappear, and be replaced with the names and 

faces in what promises to be an epic political contest.


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Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.




Monday, January 9, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A New House Speaker

 

The protracted balloting to choose a new speaker

of the House of Representatives, anticipated by

The Prairie Editor on this website in late December, 

has now been resolved after more than three days, 

and considerable debate with the election of  Rep. 

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to the key post.


Mr. McCarthy had been selected as the new

Republican majority’s choice in a caucus vote by

a wide margin in December, but because the GOP 

has only a narrow 222 to 212 lead in the full body, 

it was possible for a small group within the majority

caucus to prevent Mr. McCarthy from receiving

the 218 votes necessary to be elected.


Before the January 3 vote, a group of five GOP 

members expressed their unhappiness with the 

rules that had governed the House under 

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and contended 

that Mr. McCarthy as speaker was likely to

perpetuate them. They said they would not vote

for him. Another two dozen GOP members indicated 

they might also vote for someone else.


In spite of some concessions by Mr. McCarthy to 

this unhappy bloc, he received only 202 votes on

the first ballot, 16 votes short of the necessary

majority. Democrat Hakeem Jeffries, Nancy Pelosi’s

successor, received the vote of every member of

his caucus, 212, and he continued to receive that

number of votes in all the remaining 14 ballots.


Then began a series of negotiations which eventually

brought 14 of the dissidents to vote for McCarthy, 

while the five hardliners agreed to vote “present,”

thus enabling Kevin McCarthy to be elected speaker.


Reactions to the three-day spectacle and its

conclusion have been predictably partisan. The

Democrats, now in the minority, boasted of their

unity in the voting — despite having their own

factions, including the five members of the leftist 

group known as “The Squad.” Democratic leaders

during the balloting understandably used the occasion

to repeat the liberal mantras of their policy issues.


Some Republicans, after the balloting, reflected some

uncertainty, having put Mr. McCarthy in the

speakership, how the GOP agenda would be able to

proceed, especially with the return to the old rule

of one member being able to challenge the 

speaker’s tenure.


This uncertainty was expressed by some in the GOP

establishment, many of whom felt the public display

of discord within their caucus weakened their voter

support. This view was also echoed by the Democrats

and the establishment media which routinely has

supported President Biden and his very liberal

agenda.


Another view, however, suggests that the Republican

House majority, albeit small, will now be able to be 

more effective as a check on the Biden administration, 

the Democrat Senate majority, and their efforts to 

promote and enact legislation and policies which 

conservatives oppose.


The reality is that, regardless of any personal motives,

the GOP dissidents have brought back a much more

transparent House of Representatives. In enforcing

Democratic “unity,” former Speaker Pelosi had

concentrated power in her office and her leadership

coterie. Debate on the floor and the ability to offer

amendments to legislation was prohibited. The right

to hold the speaker accountable was effectively

eliminated; the ability of the opposition to participate

in House business was curtailed. Further, Speaker

Pelosi had effectively sealed off the House from

public access under the rubric of security concerns.


Speaker McCarthy will inevitably face disagreements

within his caucus, but he has already given several

of those who are members of the more conservative

Freedom Caucus and others who initially voted against 

him more prominent  committee roles, thus significantly 

reducing incentives for caucus conflict in pursuing their

conservative agenda.


The bottom line appears to be that the Republican

House will more likely be able to be a consistently

conservative opposition as the new political cycle 

leading to the presidential election in 2024 now begins 

in earnest.


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Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.



Sunday, December 25, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Full House Or Empty House?

The threat to oppose Republican Congressman Kevin

McCarthy’s bid to become the new speaker of the U.S.

House on January 3, 2023 has created the unusual

possibility that the new members of the 118th Congress

will not be sworn in just after noon on that date — and

therefore no U.S. House of Representatives  will exist 

until that election is resolved.


The U.S. constitution states that the terms of the 

members of the previous Congress automatically end

at noon on January 3. The clerk of the House at that

time convenes the new session, a prayer is said,

followed by the pledge of allegiance. The clerk then

conducts the election of the new speaker. When that

speaker is elected, he or she then swears in all the

members.


Since 1924, the election of the new speaker has taken

only one ballot, and the technical circumstance of "no

existing" House of Representatives has only lasted a

few minutes.


In order to be elected speaker, a member must receive

a majority of those present. The U.S. House currently

has 435 members, so a majority is 218. One newly

elected Democratic member has passed away, but the

majority is still 218.


At least five Republicans have indicated they will not

honor the previously taken vote which selected Kevin

McCarthy as speaker-designate by a vote of 188 to 31.

The man who lost that vote, Andy Biggs, has decided to

run against McCarthy on January 3, and if the five (or

more) fellow Republicans vote for Biggs, McCarthy will

be one vote (or more) short of the required 218. (There

are 222 Republicans elected to the new House.)


The Democrats will nominate Hakeem Jeffers for

speaker, but he would only have 212 if his entire

caucus votes for him. The election will then go to a

second ballot, and if McCarthy fails to receive 218

votes on that ballot, there will be a third ballot, and

so on until someone (technically not necessarily

an elected member) does obtain a majority.


Only once in the past 150 years has there been more

than one ballot for speaker. In 1923, it took nine ballots

for Republican Frederick Gillett to win. But in 1855, it

took 133 ballots and two months to elect Nathaniel

Banks as speaker.


In addition to opposition to McCarthy based on his

record as minority leader, his opponents have called

for a change of House rules which McCarthy has so

far refuse to say he would do. McCarthy has received

praise for his recruitment of Republican members in

2022, and for the success of his campaign fundraising.


He has been endorsed by virtually all Republican

leaders.


At this writing, neither side has budged. An agreement

could made before January 3, but unless that happens,

there will be a lot of suspense in the House chamber

on that date at the noon hour.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


 

Friday, December 9, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Switch In Time?

The surprise announcement by Arizona Senator Kyrsten

Sinema that she has left the Democratic Party, and is

now formally an independent was particularly curious

because of its timing just after the national mid-term

elections in which the Democrats regained by one seat

control the U.S. senate.


Her explanation that she will not now caucus with the

Republicans, and will continue to vote as she has in

the past, makes her action all the more ambiguous.

There are two other “independents” currently in the

U.S. senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus 

King of Maine, but they are rightly described as 

“independents-in-name-only” since they support the

Democratic leadership and almost always vote with

the Democrats.


Senator Sinema has proven to be an always shrewd

political figure, so what are the real reasons for making

the announcement at this time?


It would seem that her motivation was driven by the

political environment in Arizona where in two years she

is scheduled to run for re-election. 


Arizona has been generally a red state, but Republican

factionalism has led the party to lose several recent

statewide elections, including a Democratic sweep in

2022. Sinema’s independent voting record since

taking office has made political sense for the general

electorate, but has understandably upset some Arizona

Democratic figures, some of whom have said she should

be opposed in the 2024 Democratic primary. At least one

prominent Democratic congressman is likely to do so.


By declaring as an independent, Sinema makes it

virtually impossible for any Democrat to win in a

three-way race. Sistema’s strategy seems to be that

no major liberal figure, especially a sitting member of

Congress (who would have to give up a safe seat to

run), would seek their party nomination in 2024. In

that case, Sinema with her independent voting

record drawing support from many GOP voters,

could win a three-way race with a weak Democratic

nominee and the state GOP still divided as it has been

in the recent past. Moreover, Sinema has the option

of changing her mind and caucusing with the

Republicans, thus heading off a potentially serious 

GOP challenger in 2024.


It is, of course, a risky strategy, but if Sinema has

assessed she would likely lose in a 2024 Democratic

primary, it might well be her best option, especially

if her eventual move to caucus with the GOP would

give them control of the U.S. senate.


The latter possibility is heightened by the prospects

of the other Democratic senate maverick, West

Virginia’s Joe Manchin. Manchin also is up in 2024,

and faces a serious challenge then — after he ended

up supporting the Democratic infrastructure 

legislation (in return for concessions that were

reneged). His popularity in West Virginia has seemed

to nosedive after this happened, and his best hope for

re-election might be to change parties. His doing so,

and coupled with Sistema, would give Republicans

senate control before 2024 when GOP prospects are

good.


All of this is speculative. of course, but it does seem

clear that Senator Sistema is playing some kind of

political chess in Arizona. She has also taken some of

the celebratory edge off the Democrats’ run-off victory 

in Georgia, and made Majority Leader Schumer’s

life more complicated.


Dominoes, anyone?


________________________________________________

Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Second Acts

The recent elections in Brazil and Israel illustrate

the phenomenon of a political comeback in an era

when such career electoral revivals in democratic 

nations are otherwise considered unlikely.


In Brazil, Luiz Inicio da Silva, known as “Lula,” 

was a left populist president from 2003 to 2010,

then defeated for re-election, later indicted for 

corruption, convicted and sent to prison in 2019. 

But in 2021 he was released when the  

Brazilian supreme court nullified his conviction,

enabling him to run for president again in 2022

against the controversial incumbent Jair

Bolisaro (a right populist). In both stages of this

election, polls predicted Lula would win by much

larger margins than he did, but Lula is once

again president of Brazil.


In Israel, long-time prime minister (1996-1999

and 2009-2021) Benjamin Netanyahu, known as

“Bibi,” led his party coalition, thus regaining the

premiership, to a surprise decisive victory when

the coalition formed to defeat him in 2021 

collapsed, and required Israelis to go to the 

polls for the fourth time in five years. Polls just

prior to the election predicted Netanyahu would

likely come up short of the necessary 61 seats in

the Knesset (parliament) to form a government, 

but Bibi’s coalition actually won 64 seats.


In the United Kingdom, former Prime Minister

Boris Johnson (2019-2022), returned to England

from a Caribbean vacation intending to run for

Conservative Party leadership, and therefore 

return as prime minister, when his successor Liz

Truss resigned suddenly after only three months

in office. Finding his former chancellor of the

exchequer Rishi Sunak probably already had 

the votes to win, he chose not to run now, but is 

expected to make a comeback attempt in the 

future.


Although political career revivals are rare in the 

U.S. (only Grover Cleveland in the 19th century

lost his presidential re-election, but came back to

win four years later), they are more common in

the United Kingdom where prime ministers have

routinely lost, but had second non-consecutive

terms in office. Some of them did this multiple 

times, most notably Benjamin Disraeli and 

William Gladstone in the 19th century. After a 

shocking defeat in 1945, Winston Churchill 

returned as prime minister later in the postwar

period.


Former U.S. President Trump, who was defeated

for re-election in 2020, announced, as expected,

his candidacy for 2024 just after the 2022 midterm 

elections. But although he has remained popular 

with a large base of GOP voters, and would be 

formidable for his party’s nomination, his sharply 

unfavorable standing outside his base make it 

problematic for him to successfully emulate 

Grover Cleveland. Mr. Trump will be over 80 

years old in 2024.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.