Wednesday, July 19, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Could Happen To The GOP Senate Majority?

Now that the Republican majority in the U.S. senate has failed
to pass Obamacare repeal and replacement, the future of
their majority in 2018, unlikely as it seemed only a few days
ago, is now in doubt.

Here is what can happen in the coming months:

Those GOP senators who are vulnerable in 2018, and balked
at supporting the repeal and replacement, did so in many
cases because of their fear of voter reaction in their home
states. That fear flies in the face of political facts on the
ground, established in 2016, when some GOP senate
candidates failed to support Donald Trump. In most, but
not all cases, conservative voters showed less enthusiasm
for these Republicans, and in two examples (one in Mr.
Heller’s own Nevada) they lost races they might have won.
Many conservatives who support Obamacare repeal could
stay home next year.

But the bad news for GOP senate hopes in 2018 does not
stop there. Major conservative donors might well hold back
much-needed funds for senate campaigns. Potential
volunteers might not show up. And most ominously,
conservative candidates might run as independents. This
would doom not only vulnerable senators, but some of those
now considered to have safe seats. There are now at least
ten Democratic senate seats considered vulnerable  in 2018.
The Democrats could retain all or most of them.

This is a worst-case scenario, but mid-term elections often
go that way. They went that way against the Democrat in
2010 and 2014. The went that way against the GOP in
2006.

The Democrats paid dearly for taking their own voters for
granted in 2016., and obsessing on the corrosive Beltway
mentality. The same might likely also happen to Republicans
in 2018.

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 17, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Parallel Universes?

When I was younger, I read a lot of science fiction and went to
science fiction movies; I watched “Star Trek’ on TV, and
absorbed the futuristic notions and lingo of this popular genre.
I’m old enough now to be amazed by how much the best science
fiction has predicted the real world we now live in.

I didn’t buy two concepts, however. One was time travel,
especially travel back in time (theoretically, if a person
traveled in a space craft fast enough, they could go forward in
time). The other was parallel universes or different realities,
side by side, in space and time.

I’m ready to throw in the towel on my credulity on the latter.
I think I have discovered it right here where I live in the
summer of 2017.

In fact, the United States of America, once considered
“indivisible” (and it fought a brutal Civil War to keep it that
way) is now a living, walking and shouting nation of parallel
universes.

Can political science devolve into science fiction? Apparently,
for millions of Americans it can, and has done so. The election
of Donald Trump in November, 2016 sent a shock wave through
the American political psyche. Profound political trauma has
happened before --- in 1860 when Abe Lincoln was elected, and
in 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was inaugurated.
It also occurred, to a degree, when John Kennedy was 
assassinated in 1963, and when Ronald Reagan revived the
conservative movement in the 1980s.     

Living side by side in the cities, small towns, suburbs and 
farms of America, the adult population is living in two very
distinct worlds. Years from now, Americans might have
difficulty imagining this. Not only are U.S. folks living side
by side, even in one family in some instances, they appear to 
interact in conversation and commerce.

But don’t be fooled. They live in very different universes.
Those who voted for, still like and approve of President Trump
have a different consciousness of space and time than those
who didn’t vote for him, don’t like him and strongly disapprove
of the profound changes his administration is making.

There are also two parallel sets of media. The establishment
media, concentrated in three TV networks, some aging big
city newspapers, many national magazines, and a few cable
networks have devolved into virtually being totally anti-Trump.
One major TV network, The Wall Street Journal and some
smaller newspapers and national magazines, other cable
networks, op ed columnists and conservative radio talk show
hosts with huge audiences continue to explain, defend and
cheer on the president. In the past, many Americans read and
tuned into both media universes. That has virtually
disappeared today.

What is to be done? I have not the slightest idea. Captain Kirk is
a Canadian, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard is an Englishman, so
they can be of no help. Spock would be completely at a loss
since he has no human emotions. Worf is a Klingon --- need any
more be said? Modern medicine, on the other hand, is enabling
us to live longer, and the stock market is prospering.

Getting the two parallel universes together will be quite a trek.
When and how (and if) they meet again lies ahead. Meanwhile,
Americans are living in the summer of parallel universes.

We will meet again, but who knows when?

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved

                                                                                                

Friday, July 14, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Senator Kid Rock?

The latest celebrity who has indicated a serious interest in
a political run in  2018 is rap star Kid Rock (real name: Robert
Ritchie) who is from Michigan and could be the Republican
challenger to incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.
Until now, Mrs. Stabenow was considered to have a safe seat.

Sports and show business celebrities have run for major
political offices in recent years, and many have won. Most
notable, perhaps, were the elections of pro basketball star Bill
Bradley, U.S. senate; actor Fred Thompson, U.S. senate;
baseball star Jim Bunning, U.S. senate; pro wrestler Jess
Ventura, governor; actor Arnold Schwarznegger, governor;
football star Jack Kemp, congressman; singer Sonny Bono
congressman; football star Steve Largent, congressman; actor
George Murphy R-U.S. senate; and TV series actor Fred Grandy,
congressman.

The two most famous, of course, have been film actor Ronald
Reagan who was elected governor of California, and then
president of the United States; and Donald Trump, TV show
host and celebrity businessman, who is the current resident
in the White House.

Not all of them were distinguished, but some of them, including
especially Reagan, Kemp and Bradley, made their mark in their
adopted profession. The total list of sports and show business
personalities elected to office is much longer, and the incidence
of new candidacies is becoming more frequent.

Comedians and Olympic hockey players have run and won, so
why not rapper Kid Rock?

Although a sports or show business background is not usually
considered an ideal training ground for elective office, perhaps
the public relations and communications skills athletes and
entertainers often have made it inevitable that more and more
celebrities are throwing themselves (no one, except for Kid
Rock, wears hats any more) into the political arena.

In spite of the overwhelming bias of Hollywood and show
business personalities to the Democratic Party (in 2016, many
were for Bernie Sanders and some for Hillary Clinton, but very
few for Donald Trump), most of those celebrities elected to
public office have been conservatives. Kid Rock was an early
and prominent supporter of Mr. Trump, and might draw a
strong youth (and middle-aged blue collar) vote. (That was
primarily how Jesse Ventura, a political centrist in a then-liberal
state, won.)

Who knows, the Congressional Record might be on the verge of
becoming funky and hip.

And rhymed?

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Senate Recess Postponed, Now What?

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has postponed the
traditional senate summer recess for two weeks.
Presumably, his intention is forge a consensus among
GOP senators to pass some major legislation.

Breaking the deadlock over Obamacare replacement is
an obvious goal. It will take all of Mr. McConnell’s skill
(and more) to achieve this, but anything is possible,
including repeal of the ailing Obamacare program, and
dealing with the replacement in the autumn (preserving
current coverage until the replacement is passed).

There is also the time-sensitive issue of tax reform and
tax cuts. As former Speaker Newt Gingrich has pointed
out, it takes many months for the impact of tax cuts to
be felt. Delay on this issue, he has correctly asserted,
would be self-defeating.

There has been a lot of grandstanding by individual
senators over needed and promised legislation. Some are
also understandably concerned about support in their
home states, especially if they are up in 2018 for
re-election. But promises were made in 2016, asking the
nation to give the Republican Party control of the
Congress and the White House to make specific changes
and reforms.

With Democrats and the establishment media obsessing
on chimeras of personal scandal, the GOP majority still
has time and opportunity to fashion major legislation to
put conservative policies back into government. Reform
of Veterans Administration policy (passed with bipartisan
support) has taken place, and shows that important issues
can be resolved. Concern for veterans, however, is not as
controversial as healthcare insurance and tax cuts. It
takes more boldness to resolve the latter issues.

It’s no time for grandstanding.

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Congress Should Not Be Allowed To Recess Until It Passes Major Legislation

This will be one of my shortest op eds ever on this website.

Congress is now back in session. It has passed a number of
minor bills. The senate has confirmed Neal Gorsuch to the
U.S. supreme court.

Most of the responsibility for confirmations to sub-cabinet
positions and lower federal court nominations is due to the
slower-than-usual selections for these posts by the Trump
administration.

Major legislation on Obamacare repeal and new health
insurance reform, tax reform, tax cuts, spending reform and
other important issues has not taken place. The Republicans
control both houses of Congress and the executive branch.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell should not permit the usual summer recess
this year until at least some of these major legislative issues
are resolved and sent to President Trump for his signature.

No more delays and excuses.

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UPDATE (July 11, 2017)
The U.S. senate has postponed its summer recess.

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Supreme Court Retirement Strategy?

Although he did not announce his retirement from the U.S.
supreme court at the recent end of the current term,
Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy continues to let it be
known privately, according to numerous reports by those
close to him, that he could retire any time between now
and next year.

Appointed originally to the court by President Ronald
Reagan in 1988, Mr. Kennedy usually sides with the
conservative bloc on the court, but in recent years has
been the critical swing vote in close decisions which are
5-4.

President Donald Trump’s first appointee. Associate Justice
Neal Gorsuch, has already indicated he will be part of a
conservative majority, as was his predecessor Antonin Scalia.
Mr. Kennedy’s replacement, should he or she be named in the
next year or so, will also likely be a solid conservative choice.

A second sitting associate justice, 84 year-old and ailing Ruth
Ginsburg, might want to retire, but the veteran liberal justice
has made it clear she does not want to give still another
choice to the Republican president who she clearly dislikes
and disagrees with.

But if and when Justice Kennedy retires, it might be a best-case
strategy from Justice Ginsburg’s point of view if she retired at
the same time.

Let me explain. In the confirmation process which accepted
Justice Gorsuch, the senate rules were changed so that a
simple majority could confirm a nominee. Assuming that
President Trump would select a highly qualified conservative
to replace Justice Kennedy, there is little or no realistic hope
that the Democrats could block the choice (although they will
surely try to do so). But if there were two vacancies at the same
time, and one of them were for the Ginsburg seat, the Democrats
would be in a much stronger tactical position to insist that the
second vacancy be filled with a more moderate figure (albeit a
moderate conservative). That “deal” would be that both
nominations would be allowed to sail through the confirmation
process.

Admittedly, Democrats and liberals would prefer one of their
own to replace Justice Ginsburg, but they don’t have the votes to
require this. If Justice Ginsburg holds on past the confirmation
of a replacement to Justice Kennedy, but is forced to retire later
for health reasons (a reasonable possibility today), there would be
no incentive for senate Republicans to confirm anyone other than
a hardline conservative --- thus giving that side a powerful 6-3
majority for a long and indefinite period.

In the contemporary “them vs. us” political environment in
Washington, DC, there are no ideal outcomes for Democrats
in supreme court vacancies. If there were two simultaneous
vacancies in the next year or so, however, there might be some
genuine incentive for Mr. Trump and the Republicans to accept a
“deal” with the Democrats --- and avoid a bitter and prolonged
battle of confirmations.

Given the current partisan mood, it likely won’t happen that way.
Justice Ginsburg is demonstrating her determination to remain
on the court, and the retirement of Justice Kennedy might not
happen as soon as some might think. But, should it happen, it
might also be the best outcome for Democrats, who in 2018 face
the likely increase of the GOP senate majority in the midterm
elections, to have two vacancies to be filled.

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights rederved.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Longest English Word's New Meaning?

When I was younger (several dictionary editions ago), the
longest English word was antidisestablishmentarianism, a
fact meant for TV quiz shows and spelling bees. Almost no
one knew what it actually meant. It’s meaning, in fact,
belonged to another century when some folks were trying to
abolish the Church of England’s official role in Protestant
Britain. Those who were “anti-” were opposed to this
“disestablishment” movement.

In recent years, this word has lost it title as the longest word in
English to a new medical term for a lung disease caused by
volcanos (obviously this new word is on the tip of everyone’s
tongue), although it still holds the title of longest non-medical
word.

Aside from occasional word games, the word has long reposed
in our language’s attic. Even quiz shows eschewed its
momentary use.

But now, I suggest, in a new and expanded usage (minus the
"anti-"), it’s back.

In the conversations about the recent 2016 elections, I introduced
two terms. One was “mutiny of the masses” and the other was
“media coup d’etat.” The latter was technically not quite
accurate since the object of this word was only then a candidate
and did not yet hold elective office. Today, he does, and the
phenomenon continues today as a quite an accurate term.

It is the former term, “mutiny of the masses,” that is relevant to
the new meaning of “disestablishmentarianism.” In the
presidential election, I was referring to the masses of voters who
were rejecting the elites and establishments of both major
political parties by upsetting all prognostications, and supporting
Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump against
a variety of establishment candidates in both parties.

One of those two candidates actually not only won his party’s
nomination, but also won the presidency.

The “disestablishment” theme of his campaign has now become
the daily theme of his administration (as well as his political
manner).

The awareness of most political and social transformations
usually occurs in stages, and I think this is true of the one that
our nation and society is going through, but appears also to be
happening in various degrees in many Western nations.

Those who are elites in our society, or consider themselves part
of political, cultural, religious or business establishments, are under
daily assault. It is inevitable that there would be a widespread
“antidisestablishment” movement and sentiment. It is also very
understandable that these persons would focus on Donald Trump
as the perpetrator of the disestablishing phenomenon.

To the contrary, however, I think Mr. Trump is only the temporary
agent and face of this movement which I would contend is much
more widespread and profound than his personality or his political
rhetoric.

I think those who wish Mr. Trump would go away probably think
(or hope) that would end the disestablishment phenomenon. I
suggest it is much more powerful than one person, and that we are
in the midst of the periodic replacement of one set of elites and
establishments with another.

I used the term “mutiny” of the masses (instead of the well-known
term “revolt” of the masses originated by the Spanish philosopher
Jose Ortega y Gasset in 1928) because I think what is going on is
not the overthrow of the established order, but instead a change, if
you will, in its officers and boards of directors. Should it happen, of
course, it would be the disestablishment of the old order of things.

The establishment media response, I also think, is a classic case of
the delayed understanding of what’s going on today. They obsess
on his mannerisms and his tweets (which are clearly an assault on
established political conduct), and ignore the substance of the
changes he is putting into effect. They not only enable him, they
also prolong his support among the very voters who chose him in
2016 --- and whom he will need again in 2018 and 2020.

A corollary to this is what would happen if Mr. Trump and his
Republican colleagues fail to keep their political promises.

I contend that U.S. voters only perceive Donald Trump now as
their agent --- not as their savior. Should the new administration,
now controlled by Mr. Trump and his party, fail to lead the nation
past the years of stalemate and inaction, especially in the face of
the ominous challenges and threats we all face today, it should
come as no surprise how fast and clearly the voters will replace
them with others.

Human ambition and aspirations being what they are, there are
always those ready and willing to become the new elites and the
new establishmentarians.

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Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.