Sunday, January 26, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Senators In Their Seats

The U.S. senate is in extraordinary session, an impeachment
quasi-trial of President Trump, following the actions of the U.S.
house indicting the president on two counts.

There is much speculation about this highly-politicized event
which can be described as a media melodrama, particularly
about which, if any, senators might fail to vote on strict party
lines. The ultimate outcome is not now in much doubt, especially
considering that Republicans control he U.S. senate. 53-47,
and 67 votes are required to remove the president from office.

The Democrats control the U.S. house, and chose to shut out the
president’s party members from nearly all of the impeachment
proceedings. Speaker Pelosi seemed in a hurry at first, but then
delayed transmitting the two counts to the senate until public
pressure forced her to do so. Her reasons for the delay are not
clear, although many have speculated her purpose was to help
one of the Democratic presidential candidates.  Whether or not
that is true, two of the frontunners she is known to oppose are
temporarily sidelined from campaigning just before the initial
voting in Iowa and New Hampshire by the mandatory
requirement that they sit in their senate seats throughout the
senate impeachment proceedings.

Having shut the Republicans out of the house impeachment, the
Democrats are now complaining that they can’t control the rules
in the senate trial where the Republicans have the majority,
particularly in bringing in new witnesses the Democrats did not
call to testify when they were in control. Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell says this is blatant hypocrisy, and will have none of it.
The Democratic prosecution have now presented their case, and
the president’s defenders are now presenting theirs. If no new
witnesses are called, the trial could soon be over and a vote taken.
If new witnesses are called, the trial could go on for many more
weeks --- sidelining four  senators who are presidential candidates
from Super Tuesday and other key primaries as well as distracting
the Democratic presidential campaign altogether.

Barring the ubforeseen, those wishing  to remove the president are
far short of the 67 votes they need. They might well not even have
a majority for either count.

For the actual voting, speculation centers around about a dozen
senators. On the Republican side, media pundits have suggested
that Utah Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, retiring
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, Alaska Senator Lisa
Murkowski, Arizona Senator Martha McSally, Maine Senator
Susan Collins, and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner might vote
to convict.  That speculation, however, ignores the fact that any
GOP senator who would vote against the president would almost
certainly lose his or her re-election by massive desertion of angry
GOP voters. Only Senator Alexander is not in that position. Most,
if not all, Republican senators are expected to support the
president --- even those who are not very fond of him.

On the Democratic side, it could be speculated that West Virginia
Senator Joe Manchin, Alabama Senator Doug Jones, Michigan
Senator Gary Peters. Maine (Independent) Senator Angus King,
New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Minnesota Senator Tina
Smith, and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema might vote against
conviction. Manchin and Jones are the most likely to break with
their party. Peters is facing a tough re-election in a state where
impeachment is reportedly not popular.  King can be very
independent The others are more likely to vote with their party
on this issue.              

The purpose of the Democrats’ impeachment was to severely
diminish Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election --- or to undo his 2016
election.  It’s too late to do the latter, but the jury has not yet
returned  its verdict for November, 2020.

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

Saturday, January 18, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2020 Democratic Race Takes Shape

With only days to go before the first actual vote counting (in the
Iowa caucuses), the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination
contest is taking some shape, albeit one made of mostly political
shadows.

It is now likely (but not certain) that the eventual nominee will have
the surname of Biden,  Sanders, Warren or Buttigieg.  These four
candidates have survived the early phases of the campaign, and
consistently hold a clear lead in most poling so far. Two liberal
billionaires, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, entered the race
late, but have already spent enormous sums to gain recognition.
Of the other six candidates, only AndrewYang appears to have
created a notable (but small) grassroots base. the remaining five
have low single-digit polling support in most states.

One major caveat to the above is the growing possibility of a
so-called brokered convention. If that happens, current bets
would likely be off the table. Strange things can occur at such  an
event. (A case in point is he 1924 Democratic convention when,
after 103 [!!!] ballots, a very dark horse candidate, John W. Davis,
was nominated, defeating the two frontrunners and the rest of
the field. He then went on to a big defeat by the Republican
incumbent President Calvin Coolidge.)

Deals and delegate trading are routine at brokered conventions,
and while today’s delegates are much more independent than in
the past, almost anything could result, given the wide current
divide in the Democratic Party.

On the other hand, the primaries and caucuses could determine a
nominee before the convention. A reasonable case could now be
made for the four leading figures previously cited.

Two figures from previous and unsuccessful runs , Joe Biden and
Bernie Sanders are considered the frontrunners  Biden, the more
moderate liberal, and Sanders, the self-proclaimed socialist
progressive, each have a loyal base who don’t seem to care about
their candidate’s foibles. Each of them will likely accumulate
serious numbers of delegates in the primary/caucus season 
between February and June. So should Elizabeth Warren, a
first-time candidate, but also someone with a loyal national
following.

Depending on how newcomer Pete Buttigieg, the surprise so far
of the campaign, does --- and mega-spending Michael Bloomberg
and Tom Steyer do --- in winning delegates, the contest could go
into the July convention in Milwaukee undecided. Other
candidates such as Yang could win numbers of delegates.
Democrats have a  history of convention surprises, including
William Jennings Bryan, and Davis.

It is even possible that the party’s nominee could be someone
not even a candidate before the convention  (as Bryan was in
1896).

Twenty-six men and women have sought the Democratic 2020
nomination.Now there are only twelve left. The impeachment
melodrama remains to be concluded. The Democratic Party
voters, and not just ambiguous media polls, remain to be tallied,
and the secret code of this critical election cycle remains to be
deciphered.

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

Saturday, January 11, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Update On 2020 House And Senate Elections

The impeachment carnival and Democratic presidential nomination
contest have seemed to crowd out news of the critical election cycle
this year for control of the U.S. house and senate.

As the immediate past sessions of these two legislative bodies have
so dramatically demonstrated, with each party controlling one of
them, significant actions other than legislation, can and do take place.

In he Democratic-controlled U.S. house, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after
first hesitating to do so, has led a partisan effort to pass two articles
of impeachment of Republican President Donald Trump.

In the Republican-controlled U.S. senate. Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell has led a partisan effort to confirm a record number of
conservative federal judges, most of whom with lifetime
appointments.

With the two major parties so politically divided at this time, very
little bipartisan compromise and legislation is taking place, but the
politicalization of the impeachment process and the stacking of
the courts have important political consequences,

No matter who is elected president, the two bodies of the Congress
can continue their  extra-legislative functions, especially if control
remains in the same  hands. Although impeachment will almost
certainly fail in a U.S. senate trial this year, theoretically a new
Democratic-controlled U.S. house could impeach the president
again next year following his re-election, If he loses, however, and
Republicans win the house, they might decide to impeach the new
Democratic president.

Likewise, if he GOP wins senate control again, and Mr.. Trump is
re-elected, conservatives would likely fill more than half the federal
judiciary for decades. Even if a Democrat is elected president,  a
GOP senate could block many of his judicial nominees, particularly
to the U.S. supreme court.

There are other permutations of these scenarios, including a
Democratic takeover of the senate, but the vital point is that the
outcome of these elections is VERY important.

So what are their prospects with under ten months until election
day?

In the U.S. house, the Democrats were heavily favored to keep
control even if President Trump were re-elected, but the
impeachment activity seems to be changing that. Although the
media is making the large number of GOP incumbents retiring a
big story, most of those are in safe Republican districts,  Perhaps
the bigger story is the one being told by former Speaker Newt
Gingrich who, in a recent column, cited the record number of
GOP congressional candidates, including women and minorities,
already running in 2020. With more than 30 seats won in 2018 by
Democrats in districts carried by Mr. Trump in 2016, the current
backlash to the impeachment, and the strong recruitment of
GOP challengers, the early odds favoring the Democrats, Mr.
Gingrich contends, are diminishing.,

In the U.S. senate, Democratic hopes were buoyed by the fact that
twice as many GOP incumbent seats than Democratic seats were
up for re-election this cycle. But this was illusory since so many
Republican seats were in conservative states. Nevertheless, a
number of GOP senators are potentially vulnerable, particularly
in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina, and a path to
Democratic senate control exists. On the other hand, the
Democratic incumbent in Alabama is very vulnerable, as are, to
a lesser degree, Democratic incumbents in Michigan, New
Hampshire and Minnesota.

The presidential election seems more likely to affect the   
congressional elections outcomes than usual in 2020. Both party
bases seem to be aroused this cycle, but Democratic turnout
could critically depend on their nominee ---and when that
nominee is chosen. Donald Trump remains so far the  central
figure of 2020, both positively and negatively. And, as always.
election-year economics and international events will be key
factors.

Most party nominees in competitive races are now known,
although a few key races, including the Kansas and Alabama
senate races, and two Minnesota potential GOP U.S. house
pick-ups in Minnesota, have yet to be determined.

These and other close races, plus the uncertainty of the
Democratic presidential nomination, will require resolution
before any credible assessment of the 2020 national elections
can take place.

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

Saturday, January 4, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Tedious Strategy

The perceived program of the Democratic Party today can be
reduced to two words: DUMP TRUMP! (The exclamation point
is a necessary part of this breathless political rhymed-program.)

It has also been a singular strategy of many Democrats, some
establishment Republicans and most of the traditional media
since their traumatic hours late on election night, 2016 when
they first realized Donald Trump had actually won the
presidential election.

However,  a myriad of attempts to prevent, and later “dump,”
Mr. Trump from office have all failed, as would the latest and
most formal, impeachment.

The nature of most of his opponents’ desire to remove the
president from his office is primarily visceral. It is not only his
verbal style, his tweets, his body language and hand gestures,
it is almost everything about him --- his hairdo, his financial
resources, his earlier professions --- or as might be informally
said: his whole package.

This significant assemblage of passionate opponents is matched
by a political base of those who love or admire the very “package”
of attributes which his antagonists despise.

Although the intensity of anti-Trump feeling seems to be
especially strong, student of U.S. history will see equivalences
in public emotions toward earlier presidents, particularly Andrew
Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon
and Ronald Reagan --- but it is noteworthy that each of them were
re-elected (Roosevelt to four terms). Much of this was attributable
to the loyalty of their party’s voters. (Mr. Nixon resigned after his
landslide re-election only when his base abandoned him.)

We have a two-party electoral system and a presidential election
every four years.

Having failed to “dump” Mr. Trump by so many other means,
and with a new presidential election less than a year away, a more
successful program ahead against the incumbent might just be
Defeat Trump” (with or without exclamation point).

I believe most of the Democratic presidential candidates, facing
the potentially toxic distraction of the impeachment stand-off,
and a good many other Democrats, certainly no fans of Mr.Trump,
would prefer to get back to the electoral process in which they
might succeed in putting someone else in the White House next
January 20th.

With even Speaker Nancy Pelosi swept up, willingly or not, in the
flood of the “dump” program, and her party heading to a bitter
brokered convention, it would appear, however, that a possibly
successful “defeat” program is now beginning to fade inexorably
from sight.

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

Thursday, December 26, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Mystery Of The Year Ahead

A new year is always is an unknown interval of time in our lives,
but the one we will call 2020 has an unusual number of public
mysteries in its calendar --- and unknown outcomes at home and
abroad.

The most obvious for Americans is the national election in
November, but before that here will be primaries and caucuses
in the contest for he Democratic presidential nomination that
quite possibly might not end until the party’s national
convention in July. Control of the new U.S. house and U.S senate
is very much in doubt. The resolution of the impeachment
articles passed in the U.S. house, but not yet transmitted to the
U.S senate, is less a question than is how the voters will react to
its partisan process, and what effect it will have on the election.

Beyond the quadrennial political cycle, there is an indeterminate
economic cycle which can have so much impact on elections. Will
the stock market, so emotional in the short term, but often a good
predictor of the intermediate (6 to 9 months) term, go up or down?
Will employment continue at recent record levels? Will inflation
remain low?

How will the European Union fare after Brexit? Having won in a
landslide, can British Prime Minister Boris Johnson solve his
nation’s problems? What is the political future of Germany now
that Angela Merkel in retiring? Can French President Macron
resolve the current paralyzing national transportation strikes?

Will current instability throughout South and Central America
get worse? Can the Israelis resolve their political stalemate?
Will unrest bring down the regime in Iran?

President Putin?,North Korea? China? Libya? Turkey?
Afghanistan? India? South Africa? All of these and many more
nations and regions are in turmoil at the same time.

My point is that, while international volatility is a constant, it
would appear much more widespread than is usual --- and that
while domestic U.S. elections are always important, much more
about the national future seems at stake this cycle, especially
after so much recent disruption and ideological polarization,

Not all of the above will be resolved in 2020. A U.S. presidential
election will take place, yes, but other current uncertainties
might go on for some time.

There are numerous signals, hints and omens --- as there always
are --- of what might be ahead. I think the size of the margin
and the tone of the voter mood in the recent UK election is one
of those signals for those of us on this side of the Atlantic.

Nevertheless, political and economic forces appear to be
converging to provoke a mysterious and uncertain calendar year
whose numbers (20/20) otherwise denotes visual clarity.

We will see soon enough how this puzzling new year will turn out.

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Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Special Greetings!

TO ALL MY  SUBSCRIBERS:

WARMEST GREETINGS
FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

Your appreciative Prairie Editor

Friday, December 20, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Malpractice?

Once upon a time, political life was regarded as public service
and a noble activity. In recent times, that sentiment reached a
rhetorical summit with the 1961 inaugural address of President
John Kennedy when he summoned the post-war generation of
Americans to think about what they might do for their country.
Of course, real public service cannot be reduced just to
sentiments or other high-flown language. Real public service is
made of good practices which benefits public needs.

We are currently living through an age of contempt for the
political life, the life of good public service. In the abstract, this
quality of public service is often portrayed as “self-less,” but
true selflessness is rarely found in the real world. A better
adjective might be “enlightened”--- in the sense of serving
real-life principles, often sacrificing something while also
receiving something in return. That is why compromise is so
often part of good public service, and why civility is so often
called for. Civility, of course, can be empty rhetoric, but in the
service of the public good it is much like the necessity of
lubrication in a car  --- moveable parts face natural friction.

Today, we have no small amount of moveable political parts at
work, but very little lubricating maintenance. The inevitable
result is machine breakdown or political stalemate.

Fortunately, there is available a regimen of healthy political
operation, but it is made of complicated components, including
the U.S. constitution, the rules of law and public order, national
instincts for decency and compassion. Employing these
successfully is no easy task. Contempt. confrontation and
discord are usually easier and more satisfying in the moment ---
and more attention-getting, especially in a cyber-intoxicated
political environment. They can lead to political malpractice.

There is also one true remedy for circumstances such as we
now face. It is is called voting. One citizen. One vote. Every other
remedy, in a time like this, is contrived, artificial and unable to
bring resolution.

The British have just demonstrated how voters can sort matters
out.

The political farce we are now observing will not bring any
serious resolution.

Ten months from now, those citizens who vote will do so.


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Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.