Wednesday, September 8, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Early Critical Mass

The political cliches about commenting on and predicting

future elections which are many months away don’t always

hold up in all circumstances — and this might be the case 

in the current national mid-term cycle. 


The reason for this is the fact that major races for

governor, senator and congressperson now require so

much money that individuals must make their decisions

to run and begin fundraising earlier than in the past. This

is true for incumbents as well as challengers, although

incumbents are perhaps more concerned about likely

defeat if their districts are likely to be unfavorably

redrawn or specific issues  endanger their re-election.


Both parties now face such an unconventional cycle more

than a year before election day. 


For Democrats, foreign and domestic crises have seen a

sudden and precipitous drop in President Joe Biden’s

popularity because of his mishandling the U.S. military

withdrawal from Afghanistan. Even before Afghanistan,

the Mexican border crisis was causing serious problems

for Democratic incumbents in southeastern states (Texas,

Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada) with some

already announcing their retirements. Perhaps most

significantly, potentially strong challengers to vulnerable

Republican incumbents are feeling the current negative

environment — and with the resulting uncertainty about

next year, possibly deciding not to run. The retirement of

a 13-term Democratic congressman in Wisconsin indicates

the negatives are occurring nationally, especially in

suburban districts and battleground northern states

where progressive policies of defunding the police,

politicizing the schools, packing the U.S. supreme court,

etc., are very unpopular outside inner cities.


The political environment might improve for the

Democrats next year, but candidates must, in most

cases. make up their minds now when their prospects

appear low.


For different reasons, Republican incumbents and

challengers might face negative circumstances, and

might decide not to run in 2022. In fact, four sitting

U.S. GOP senators have already  announced their

retirement. The dilemma for Republicans next year is

the activity of former President Donald Trump in

some gubernatorial, senate and house races —  some

involving GOP incumbents — where his preferred

and endorsed candidate might not be the strongest

candidate for the office. This might be the case in

Arizona, for example. In a competitive 2022 race,

a Republican nominee without Mr. Trumps’s

support  would be at a distinct disadvantage. All

polls show that Trump supporters still dominate 

the GOP voter base.


The two leaders of their parties are thus key to the

eventual outcome of the 2022 elections, and as well

are key in many cases to the critical period  now

taking place when candidates are making their

decisions about next year.


One political commonplace is axiomatic, i.e., that

candidates matter. Wave elections and local

circumstances might allow weaker nominees

occasionally to win, but generally only quality

candidates, especially challengers to incumbents,

prevail with voters.


When the strongest candidates decide not to run

because of gloomy prospects well before election

day, opportunities are sometimes lost. A case in

point, was the contest for the 1992 Democratic

presidential nomination. President George H.W.

Bush was so popular following the 1991 Gulf War

victory that many strong Democratic candidates

decided not to run, and allowed an unknown and

controversial Bill Clinton to win the nomination.

By mid-1992, the economy had tanked, Ross

Perot was running as a third party candidate,

and in November, Clinton won.


It is true that a political environment can change

dramatically in a matter of months, but it is also

true that the critical period when candidates

decide whether to run or not has irreversible

consequences long before election day.


We are in such a period now — a year before

voters go to the polls.


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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.





 

  


 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Media Biden Remorse?

Although the U.S. Afghan withdrawal has not yet fully played 

out, the so-called establishment media appears to have 

already abandoned its year-long cheerleading of Joe Biden, 

candidate and now president.


Mr. Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops was not popular

with many in the military, neo-conservatives, and a number

of our allies, not to mention the Afghan government, but a

a majority of Americans does support in principle our leaving.

Former President Trump wanted to withdraw, but apparently

was constrained by a secure way in arranging the departure of

U.S, troops.


The drama now taking place is producing, much to the Biden

administration's discomfort, a series of negative visuals and

issues, including chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport where

U.S. citizens and Afghans who helped the U.S have gathered to

be evacuated. This has been complicated  by terrorist

threats and a tragic suicide bomber attack, killing Americans,

Europeans and Afghans.


That attack put focus on the fact that the Taliban who now

control the country, and negotiated the U.S. withdrawal, do

not seem able to control terrorist groups such as Al  Quaeda

and others who might pose a threat against the West, as

happened on September 11, 2001.


President Biden’s own presentation of his policy and the

evacuation has been inconsistent and muddled, and he has

even avoided taking questions from the usually friendly

media. His early assurances of an orderly and successful

withdrawal/evacuation have been wrong so far. The

premature abandonment of allied air bases and huge

quantities of planes, helicopters and military materiel

seems disastrous.


A few commentators defending the president contend that

all this was unavoidable, and that the bottom line will be 

that we will be out of Afghanistan — which is what the

American public wanted.


But most in the media, including Mr. Biden’s friends on

editorial pages and in the print/broadcast commentariat do

not appear to accept that rosy assessment. Visual memories

of the chaotic evacuation of Saigon in Viet Nam persist

almost 50 years later, and the notion of leaving Americans

and their Afghan friends behind seems unacceptable.


The precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops, accompanied by

pullouts of British, French and other troops, also creates a

very large strategic and political vacuum in the region,

affecting Russia, Iran, Pakistan, India, China and southeast

Asia. It isn’t really clear yet what the consequences will be.


The Taliban themselves seem unlikely to want to precipitate

a U.S. military return, but as already noted, they seem

unable to control jihadist and terrorist groups in their midst

who might provoke with another 9/11.


Afghan women and minority groups are certain now to 

suffer under Taliban rule.


In the past, the media ignored Mr. Biden’s problems. But

this one might be different.


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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Odd Money

As the U.S. moves toward digital money and away from

metal coins and paper currency, an earlier age of odd

coinage is further forgotten except by numismatists who

collect them.


Today, our coinage includes the penny, nickel, dime,

quarter. half dollar and dollar. One hundred fifty years 

ago., there were many more coin varieties in general 

circulation, some of them with odd denominations

that might seem strange in 2021.


In fact, most Americans have not ever seen a half penny,

two cent, three cent, half dime or twenty cent coins.


The earliest U.S. general circulation coins were minted 

in the 1790s. Prior to that colonial coinage circulated,

and after independence, each state state provided its

own coins. After 1789, a national coinage was needed,

and official coins with “United  States of America” on 

them appeared, including the half penny, penny, half

dime, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar.


The copper half penny circulated from 1793 to 1836.

The silver half dime was used from 1794 to 1873. The

modern nickel five cent piece was introduced in 1865.


A copper two cent piece was introduced in 1864, but

was discontinued in 1873. A silver three cent piece

circulated from 1851 to 1873, and a larger nickel three 

cent coin was used from 1865 to 1889.


Form 1875 to 1878, a silver twenty cent piece was in

circulation.


U.S. gold coins were minted from the nation’s 

earliest days in a variety of denominations, 

including a dollar in the precious metal (1849 to 1889),

a half eagle ($5.00), eagle ($10.00) and double eagle

($20.00). Like the lower value coins in copper, nickel

and silver, gold coins also came in odd  

denominations, including $2.50 (1796-1929), $3.00

(1854-89, and briefly ,$4.00 (1879-80). The latter gold

coins, called “Stellas,” were minted in very few

quantities, and are today extremely valuable, often

selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the

rare coin market.


Indeed, silver and gold coins,  especially the latter,

now have a metal value that notably exceeds their

stated value, and command premium prices in the

numismatic market. (Rarity and coin condition

determine the exact price.)


These days, vending machines, parking meters and

laundromats are increasingly using plastic for use,

as are most retail stores and restaurants for payment.

Bills are paid via the internet or check. The pay

telephone is virtually extinct. Some places won’t even

accept cash.


 Is the time coming soon when whole generations of 

Americans will have not ever have seen a coin or a

dollar bill, and will regard them as strange as most

Americans do today about the three cent piece?


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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.












 

Friday, August 6, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Coastal Surprises

Only a few months ago, California and New York, the largest
and 4th largest states, were considered the bluest of the blue
(Democratic) strongholds in the nation with governors who
were popular figures with potential national ambitions.

Today those governors are in very serious political trouble,
and either or both could be soon out of office.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom faces a September 14
statewide recall vote, the first such recall since Governor
Gray Davis, also a Democrat, was ousted in 1983.

The recall ballot is in two parts. First, voters are asked for a
simple yes or no on whether to remove. If the largest number
is ”no,” the recall fails, and Newsom remains in office --- and
the second part of the ballot is moot. If, however, the “yes”
vote wins,  Newsom is immediately out of office, and
replaced by the candidate receiving the largest number of
votes on the second part of the ballot which will list about
one hundred candidates!

In 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger topped that list, and became
governor. In 2021 so far, black conservative radio show host
Larry Elder leads in most polls. Polls of the recall until
recently indicated that Newsom would likely keep his office,
but new polls indicate that the “yes”vote is about even with
the “no” vote and gaining.

It’s now quite possible that heavily liberal blue California
could wake up on September 15 with a very conservative
governor who would serve until next year’s regular election.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo was charged with
improper behavior, but denied the allegations, and refused
to resign. An impartial investigation initiated by his own
state attorney general was just published, and found him
guilty in several instances. Cuomo still refuses to resign,
but virtually all of his local, state and national support in
his own party has evaporated --- with President Biden,
Speaker Pelosi, and both New York senators all calling for
him to step down.

If and when Cuomo leaves office, New York Lt. Governor
Kathy Hochul would take his place for the rest of his term.
Hochul was a moderate Buffalo Democrat when chosen to
run with Cuomo, but has supported his more progressive
policies. She would likely face the even more progressive
state attorney general and others for the Democratic
nomination next year. Republican hopes to win the
governorship are dim despite the New York Democrats’
problems this year.

The New York general assembly has begun impeachment
proceedings against Cuomo, and the assembly leader has
said Cuomo no longer has the support of most of the
legislators. The governor’s support in the state senate
likewise appears to have faded.

In the face of such mammoth opposition, and various
legal actions, it is difficult to imagine Cuomo remaining
in office much longer.

In the two very large states on the U.S. west and east
coasts, it has been an unexpected political year.

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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Their Other Lives

The commonplace view is that artists, especially famous ones,
don’t have 9 to 5 jobs, but like many popular notions, there are
holes in the assumptions. It might surprise to learn what some
well-known musicians, composers, poets, novelists, painters
and sculptors did or now do during the day.

T.S. Eliot was a full-time banker a Lloyd’s Bank in London
while he was writing some of his most important poems,
including “The Wasteland.”

Prolific British author Anthony Trollope was a full-time
postal inspector while writing 50 popular novels. He also
introduced free-standing mail drop-off boxes into the
English system.

The man who wrote “Dracula” --- Bram Stoker --- was a
full-time theater manager.

Poet Wallace Stevens, who won most major literary prizes,
was the long-time vive president of The Hartford Insurance
Company.

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut once ran a Saab auto dealership.

Major U.S. poet William Carlos Williams was a full-time and
beloved pediatrician.

Composer Charles Ives was an insurance company
executive who invented estate planning while writing some
of the most important American avant garde music.

Van Halen’s David Lee Roth was an emergency medical
technician (EMT) during a 20-year break from the band.

Queen guitarist Brian May has a PhD in astrophysics and
also works as a scientist.

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter of Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers
is also a missile defense expert, and has worked for the
Department of Defense.

Cindy Birdsong of The  Sopranos is a nurse.

TV teen idol Bobby Sherman, who had 7 gold singles and 5
gold albums in his singing career, became an EMT and an
LAPD police officer,

The French 19th century painter Henri Rousseau was a
full-time tax collector.

Impressionist Paul Gaugin was  a stock broker for 11 yearz
before moving to Tahiti after the 1882 Paris stock market
crash.

Jackson Pollack was a full-time baby sitter who took care of,
among others, painter Thomas Hart Benson’s children.

Sculptor Alexander Calder was a mechanical engineer.

Artist Al Weiwei, while in the U.S., was a professional
black jack player in Atlantic City.

During the day, pop art sculptor Jeff Koons worked on
Wall Street as a commodities broker.

Abstract painter Mark Rohko taught elementary school
children.

Pop artist Keith Harig worked for 8 years as a busboy at
at the New York night club Danceteria about the same time
singer Madonna worked there as a coat check girl.

Painter Richard Serra ran a furniture moving business
during the day.

Celebrated modern composer Philip Glass (“Einstein on
the Beach”) was both a plumber and taxi driver in New
York City even as he became well-known. Once he was
called to the apartment of a major music critic who, on
answering the door, exclaimed, “You’re Philip Glass!
What are you doing here?” The composer replied, ‘I’m
here to fix the dishwasher.”

The bottom line of this story is that one’s next repairman,
stock trade, taxi ride, baby sitter, furniture mover, banker,
insurance agent, coat check, etc., just might be a very
famous artist!

Don’t forget to get an autograph.

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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2022 Senate Races Taking Shape

With filing dates still months away, and the 2022 national
mid-term elections more than a year distant, next cycle’s
U.S. senate battleground races are not yet fully formed, but
fundraising and political necessity are bringing many of
them into some shape earlier than usual.

Although 34 senate seats are up in 2022 --- 14 Democrats and
20 Republicans --- only 8-12 seats are now considered likely
battleground or competitive contests..

Most vulnerable are four Democratic incumbent seats
(Nevada, Georgia, New Hampshire and Arizona) and four
Republican incumbent seats (Wisconsin, Florida, North
Carolina and Pennsylvania). Colorado, Vermont, Missouri,
Ohio and Alaska additionally could become close contests,
depending on future decisions by incumbents and
potential challengers.

Unexpected vacancies, local and national issues, and a blue
or red election “wave” could also change currently-rated
“safe” races into battlegrounds.

Two of the four most vulnerable GOP seats are the result of
already announced retirements --- North Carolina Senator
Richard Burr and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.

Three major GOP candidates, including former Governor
Pat McCrory, and four major Democratic candidates,
including former state supreme court  chief justice Cheri
Beasley, are in the race so far in North Carolina. Slight
lean Republican.

In Pennsylvania, the Democratic early field has five major
candidates, including Lt. Governor Fetterman, the early GOP
field has two major candidates announced, businessman
Jeff Bartos and military veteran Sean Parnell, but more are
expected. Toss-up.

If Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson decides to run again, he
will be he slight favorite, but it would likely be close.  If he
does not run, the Democrat would be favored in this “purple”
state.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio faces a formidable
challenge from Democratic Rep, Val Demings, but the state
narrowly leans Republican.

Nevada Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto won in
2016 with 47% of the vote, and if Adam Laxalt, son of a former
New Mexico senator and grandson of a popular former
Nevada senator runs, she might not be the favorite in the race.

New Hampshire Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan also
faces a possible challenge from a Republican with a legendary
political family name --- in this case, popular GOP Governor
Chris Sununu., son of a former senator. If Sununu gets in
the race, he would be the favorite to win.

Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock narrowly
won a post-election run-off victory over a GOP incumbent.
Many blame then-outgoing President Trump for the loss.
Warnock must run again in 2022, and might have to face
Georgia football legend Herschel Walker as his GOP
opponent. Such a race would be a toss-up.

With former President Trump standing in the way of GOP
Governor Patrick Ducey running for the seat now held  by
Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly. the former
astronaut remains the favorite to win re-election in the
purple southwestern state where the GOP is divided.

Races for the GOP senate nomination in Ohio, Missouri,
Colorado and Alaska could also change the battleground
map, as would the retirement of Vermont Senator Leahy.

The U.S. senate is now tied 50-50 --- but Democrats control
because of the vice president’s tie-breaking vote. A net gain
of one seat would return control to the Republicans --- so
there is extra attention this cycle to the relatively few seats
where the outcome is perceived to be in doubt.

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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What If Biden Doesn't Run In 2024?

Most speculation about 2024 so far has been about whether
Donald Trump will run or which Republicans would run if he
doesn’t. Normally, it is a given assumption that a first-term
incumbent, in this case Democrat Joe Biden, would be his
party’s nominee again.

But what if Biden, who would be 82 in 2024, decides not to run?

The answer to that question depends on the political and
economic conditions of late 2023 and early 2024 --- something
we can only guess at now.

If the economy is strong, and Biden is popular, his retirement
would be genuinely voluntary, and assuming Vice President
Kamala Harris is well-regarded, she would be heavily favored
to be the Democratic nominee --- and win the election, She
might be challenged, but especially if she had Biden’s support.
she would be unbeatable. That is the Democrat’s best-case
scenario.

If relations between Biden and Harris are not good, or Harris
fails to shine in her role as  vice president, there would be a
major battle for the nomination reminiscent of 2020 when more
than 20 credible candidates ran in the primaries. Bernie Sanders
and Elizabeth Warren would not run, but their younger lefitist
surrogates would. More moderate figures such as Pete Buttigieg
(now Secretary of Transportation), Senator Amy Klobuchar,
Governor Steve Bullock, and businessman Andrew Yang are
likely to give it another try.

Other possible contestants might be Senators Cory Booker,
Bill Casey or Sherrod Brown. Former First Lady Michelle
Obama might run.

The 2022 national mid-term elections could bring new faces to
the Democratic field of candidates. In any event, the 2022
elections will be a test of voter attitudes about current
Democratic policies and those who voice them.

Should  Biden retire in 2024, and Harris does not immediately
become the party’s consensus nominee, there will almost
certainly be a large number of announced presidential
candidates, including a number of aspirants who have no
chance to win. That is because if one can raise a relatively
minimal amount of money (no problem for most elected
officials or self-funding businesspersons), a presidential
campaign prior to the primaries is a bonanza for publicity,
self-promotion and trial runs.

Since age would be stated as or perceived as the reason for a
2024 Biden retirement, youth and vigor would be advantages
for his successor should he not run.

Not surprisingly, they could also be advantages for
whomever the Republicans nominate.

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