Thursday, December 5, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Coming Political Traffic Jam?

No one I know enjoys being caught in a traffic jam, especially the
kind that happens in so many urban rush hours these days, so
Democrats might need to prepare themselves for a period of
such frustration ahead --- perhaps one which will last until their
national convention in Milwaukee in late July next year.

The traffic jam, ironically, is of their own contrivance --- political
road repair (impeachment) too close to the rush hour (their own
nomination contest) which has too many cars (candidates) on the
2020 campaign highway.

It is becoming clear that U.S. house Democrats are going through
with an actual impeachment vote. They must be convinced they
have sufficient votes to pass it --- and to send it to the U.S. senate
for trial where 67 votes will be required to convict and remove the
president from office. (At least 20 or more Republican
senators would have to vote to convict --- which would amount,
in most cases, to mass political suicide.)

Democrats have a majority in the U.S. house now, but their
majority margin in made up of first-term Democrats who won
their seats in 2018 in congressional districts carried by Donald
Trump in 2016. Those Democrats, about 30 of them, will have to
face voters again next year --- and indications currently are that
Trump voters in many of those districts are angry about the
impeachment process.

Democrats control the U.S.house, and they have imposed entire
control  of the impeachment proceedings. On the other hand,
Republicans, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, control the U.S.
senate --- and thus control the timing of a  senate impeachment
trial.

We are now near the end of the first week of December. If they
choose, Democrats could impeach the president just before
Christmas. If that happens, Senator McConnell is likely to
begin the senate trial in at the end of January, or even later.
A five-to-seven week trial, the likely duration, would then occur
at the same time as the usually heaviest campaigning for the
Iowa caucus, New Hampshire primary and the delegate-rich
Super Tuesday primaries. Most of the leading Democratic
presidential candidates are sitting U.S. senators (Elizabeth
Warren, Bernie Sanders, Corey Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and
Michael Bennet) and they can be required by senate rules to sit
in their senate seats during the entire trial. They would not be
able to do much, if any, campaigning during the most critical
period. Only Joe Biden among the frontrunnners could
campaign, as could Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg,
Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, and Tulsi Gabbard --- each of
whom could then win delegates who otherwise would go to
one of the candidates who is a U.S. senator, but is locked into
the senate trial.

Even if the final rules don’t compel senators to attend, any
Democratic senator running for president who skipped the
trial to campaign would be widely criticized for neglecting their
constitutional duty, especially since all or most of them would
be expected to vote to convict.

This likely would have two extremely negative consequences for
the Democrats. First, media preoccupation and voter attention
would almost certainly be drawn to the trial, overshadowing
even those Democratic candidates able to campaign in Iowa,
New Hampshire, and the many Super Tuesday states. Second,
this could also likely enable many of the non-frontrunners to
win enough delegates to take the nomination to the late July
Democratic convention in Milwaukee without a winner.

If that happens, a bitter convention battle is assured. The
Democrats could wake up then at the beginning of August
with a nominee --- but far less campaign funds than they
would need for the general election only three months away,
and a likely bitterly divided party.

Meanwhile, President Trump will have survived the senate
trial, spent very little of the huge campaign war chest he is
already accumulating, and will have most of his party’s
voters energized to vote for him in November. Furthermore,
the trial itself, as perhaps the impeachment inquiry is doing,
could produce a backlash among key independent and
undecided voters on election day.

Thus, a political traffic jam like no other in U.S. political
history could occur. Like weather forecasting, it’s always
speculative to make political predictions. We also haven’t
seen an open national political convention for a long time.

But we do know that when you block a busy roadway, or
narrow it to fewer lanes, during rush hour, there will be a
very big jam.

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

Monday, December 2, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Minnewisowa 2020

Since I invented the term “Minnewisowa” in 2004 in
my then weekly Washington Times column, its
political pertinence in national elections has grown
with each presidential cycle.

It was a classic portmanteau invention as I combined
iconic syllables of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa to
create a virtual megastate that follows very similar
voting patterns based on contiguous location, so many
shared media markets. similar rural-urban
demographics, comparable ethnic origins and almost
identical occupational histories.

It was a particularly useful analytic tool in 2016 when
the voters of all three states, expected to choose
Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, provided their
electoral votes to Mr. Trump in Wisconsin and Iowa ---
while Mrs. Clinton barely won Minnesota by a very
surprising small margin. In both 2008 and 2012, Barack
Obama carried all three states.

The outcome in 2020, of course, is unknown, but at the
beginning of 2019, based largely on the results of the
2018 mid-term elections, it appeared that Minnewisowa
was going to reverse course in 2020 by giving all of its
electoral votes to the Democratic nominee --- whomever
it would be. Opinion polls continued to support this
contention until recently. Mostly in response to the
Democrats’ highly politicized impeachment inquiry,
and an unprecedented Trump campaign effort in
Minnesota, that seems to be changing.

With 27 electoral votes, Minnewisowa is a presidential
battleground powerhouse --- as it was in 2016 when the
Midwestern states, especially Michigan, Wisconsin and
Iowa, provided Donald Trump his victory margin.

The significant rural and small town areas of each
Minnewisowa state component, in addition to being
turned off by the impeachment inquiry, also do not
seem excited by the leftward direction that some of the
major Democratic candidates have taken. These ideas
are popular in the three major Minnewisowa urban
centers (Minneapolis-St.Paul, Milwaukee and Des
Moines), but that might not be enough to offset the
more conservative voting outstate.

In fact, Minnewisowa might be a microcosm of all the
competitive states in 2020, including those in the
Middle Atlantic (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio),
South (North Carolina, Georgia and Florida) and West
(Arizona, Nevada and Colorado) despite its obvious
differences with those other regions.

It needs to  be remembered that Donald Trump did not
win Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania by
big margins in 2016. With so much undecided, including
the Democratic nomination contest, the state of the
economy next year, the outcome of current foreign
trade negotiations, and who will win key battleground
states, the election is up for grabs.

What is likely, however, is that whatever electoral
direction Minnewisowa takes, it will act in some
unison --- as it has so often in the past.

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

Thursday, November 28, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The "Benches" For 2024?

No one, understandably, is talking about 2024 these days --- after
all, we are still eleven months away from a very undetermined
outcome in 2020!

Nevertheless, the Republican Party will have a new leader in 2024
no matter what the result next year.

Donald Trump will be a hard act to follow, especially if he wins
re-election in 2020. There is no one in the GOP even remotely
like him in his public personality and style, but that does not
mean his party lacks an impressive "bench" to succeed him either
in a post-Trump era --- or to challenge the Democratic incumbent
should he or she win next year.

The list is impressive indeed. It includes former Governor and
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton of
Arkansas, U.S Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, U.S Senator
John Thune of South Dakota, and --- if he wins the Michigan
U.S. senate seat in Michigan in 2020, John James.

Of course many other well-known Republicans will probably
think about running, including 2016 candidate, Florida U.S.
Senator Marco Rubio, and current Vice President Mike Pence.
Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa and Senator Tim Scott of South
Carolina might have appeal, as  could U.S. Senator Cory Gardner
of Colorado --- if he wins a tough re-election battle next year.

What makes this group impressive is that they are young, have
already had distinctive records, each has some measure of
personal charisma, and (except for Rubio) are fresh faces on the
presidential campaign stage. Each of them (including now,
Rubio) could have the support of an outgoing President Trump
in 2024. And probably to their advantage, each of them has a
less disruptive style than the 2016 upset winner who continues
to provoke so much disdain and, for others, admiration for his
Twitterisms and outspoken mannerisms.

Other figures, perhaps a sitting Republican governor or member
of Congress, could emerge in the long interval before 2024.

Unlike the Democrats in 2016, who had no standout bench to
succeed Barack Obama --- and might not have a great bench in
2020 --- the conservative party has a bench to look forward to in
That does not mean hey will win in that cycle. The electorate
might have Trump-fatigue by then, but the Grand Old Party at
least has plenty of dynamic young new faces to put forward.

On the Democratic Party side, the most charismatic young
figure so far has been South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg who is
suddenly doing well in he 2020 race. The promise of Beto
O’Rourke, heralded after 2018, has fizzled --- signaling that being
young and charismatic isn’t enough in presidential politics.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, New Mexico Governor
Marjorie Lujan Grisham and Montana Governor Steve Bullock
(he’s running in 2020) could be significant young Democratic
figures, as might two other current candidates, Hawaii
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and businessman Andrew Yang.

California Senator Kamala Harris and New Jersey Senator
Cory Booker are still in the 2020 race, but so far have not
connected with their party's voters. Perhaps they might have
more success five years from now.

What makes the GOP bench so interesting is that most of its
candidates --- particularly Nikki Haley, Tom Cotton and Josh
Haley so far --- are not just attractive political faces, but have
some new ideas and policies they are already putting forward.

If the Democrats don’t win in 2020, they will need to create a
promising bench of their own for 2024. And, I might add, with
a bench younger in ideas and age than their frontrunners so far
in this cycle.

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

Sunday, November 24, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Business Cards!

There is perhaps nothing so seemingly inconsequential in our
daily social and commercial activity than the giving and/or
receiving of business cards.

But I have come to regard them in a way that goes beyond their
immediate and designed utility.

First, a little history.

Business cards first appeared as elite social cards in 17th century
Europe. They were often elaborately printed or engraved  on fine
paper stock. Through the mid-19th century they were exchanged
by aristocrats and upper middle class persons during social visits,
primarily to announce one’s arrival.  In the 19th century, these
cards became increasingly used for trade purposes --- and by many
more persons --- especially after the 1840s when lithography was
invented and was used to make them. By the 20th century they had
become ubiquitous in social and commercial use, and today, almost
every adult has a personal or business card of their own (some very
creative) --- and receives many over the course of a work week.

As the internet and social media have transformed our daily
communications rituals and practices, the business card on paper
(or metal or plastic, recent innovations) might be considered an
endangered economic or social “species” in the 21st century, and
especially among the young.

I hope this isn’t so, and I’ll explain why.

In my work, I meet a lot of persons. From the beginning, I accepted
business cards, and made several of my own to give to others.
Unlike most persons, however, I did not throw them away. Business
cards are small, and don’t take up much space, so it did not take
much effort or inconvenience to save them and store them. A certain
number, of course, are always current, and I keep them close at
hand for quick use in simple card holders that are easily available
in stores.

As I have become older, and have no other simple tool of
recalling persons I met years ago, I turned to my boxes of stored
old business cards --- and much to my delight, rediscovered 
many names and places from my past now mostly forgotten.

I realize that this might be particularly useful for a writer, but I
suspect, a similar delight in reawakened memory could be
experienced by anyone. So I write this mainly for my younger
readers, those who might especially be inclined to eschew the
use of a small printed business card.  I wonder aloud if the
internet, computers and social media will be able to provide the
stimulation of memory of names and places after years of so
much electronic data --- as do these little pieces of paper.

Like me, many friends and acquaintances have done a variety of
work in one or more industries. As I review and organize the
literally thousands of cards I have, I am also now returning cards
to those who gave them to me --- as souvenirs, especially if they
did not think to save them.

My readers know I usually write about much bigger subjects,
including the politics, economics and technologies of our time.
But a life is not only filled with big events  --- it also includes the
total experience of what we do each day --- meet all kinds of
persons, buy groceries and eat in restaurants, do errands,
shop in stores,, use transport, attend sports and entertainments
--- and so many other interactive events of various kinds.

I think it’s worth mentioning that a small piece of paper can
connect us to much of it --- not only in the present, but also to
savor what memory can bring back to us.


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

Monday, November 18, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Synchronous News And Other Perils

Friends and others I speak with regularly (who are also smarter
and wiser than I am) tell me that the recent emergence of
synchronous communications is a growing peril in our society
today.

“Synchronous” is a fancy adjective (derived from two Greek
words meaning “together” and “time”) for which we might
substitute the simpler word “instant.”

This advanced velocity of communications appears in many
aspects of contemporary life including science and technology.
economics and commerce, psychology and medicine, and
politics and public relations

I only feel competent to speak about the latter, alhough I note the
recent claim for a breakthrough in quantum computing in which
data speed is taken to levels beyond what our mere minds can
fully understand.

Synchronous communication has been developing for centuries,
beginning perhaps with the invention of the printing press, and
picking up speed with advances of the telegraph, telephone,
film, radio, television --- and now, the internet.

The internet, and its social media derivatives, have now brought
us and our devices (computers, smart phones, etc.) to virtual
and near-universal “instant” communications.

The plus-side to this phenomenon is the potential for better
transparency in our public life, including more honesty and
accountability.  The minus-side appears in the potential for a
critical loss of credibility of communications of all kinds,
particularly those concerning public policy, public interests,
and politics.

It is timely that I raise this discussion now because we have
begun the campaign cycle of the 2020 presidential and other
national-state elections.

The modern pathologically manipulative techniques of news
and public information can be traced to early in the last
century under totalitarian regimes in Germany and Russia.
The word “propaganda” came into usage. Today, we have the
notion of “fake news” (although ironically, some who assert
certain news is fake are not themselves being honest) as a term
covering misleading and plainly wrong information distributed
over various media (and by word-of-mouth).

Without attempting here to specify from the innumerable
examples of ”fake news” now circulating, I caution all readers
--- be they on the left, right or center --- to treat the political
news they receive over the next year with heightened skepticism
and care. Media reporting bias is at (unacceptably) high levels,
and hitherto respected media venues are no longer dependable
in reporting events, quotations, and statistics.

Politicians and political parties, of course, have always
promoted their issues and points of view. In the past, however,
the media and other public referees have acted as a correcting
force to the public discussions. In my view, this is no longer
dependably true.

This places unprecedented responsibility on each of us to use
our critical faculties, common sense and open-mindedness in
the next year --- if we want to get it right and make the best
choices at the ballot box.


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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Does Bloomberg Change The Game?

The possibility now exists that former New York City Mayor
Michael Bloomberg could enter the contest for the Democratic
nomination president soon --- well after those already in the race
(17 of them), and after 9 others who entered and later withdrew.

It was a record-large field to begin with, and three official
nationally-televised debates have already been held. So what has
changed the mind of the pragmatic Bloomberg about running for
president?

He was well-known for his outstanding record as mayor of the
nation’s largest city. Years before that, he was a successful
businessman culminating in his becoming a billionaire.

At the same time, he is not a long-time Democrat, is 77 years
old, and is known as an outspoken moderate in a party that in
recent years has been moving to the left.

It was the latter, in fact, that motivated Mr. Bloomberg earlier
to organize for a 2020 presidential run. But when former Vice
President Joe Biden entered the race, Bloomberg closed down
his campaign. Although Biden and Bloomberg are very  different
political personalities, they appeal to many of the same
Democratic voters.

Now that Biden’s early frontrunner status is being seriously
challenged from the left, and some observers say he is fading,
Bloomberg sees himself as the only political figure that can
prevent he nomination of a redistributiomist leftist such as
Senator Elizabeth Warren or Senator Bernie Sanders, the
currently two leading challengers to Biden.

What makes the Bloomberg candidacy feasible so late in the
game is his virtually unlimited access to campaign money, his
organization previously put in place, and his moderate and
pragmatic problem-solving national reputation.

At the  same time, he faces eertain drawbacks: his age, the
unpopularity of big city mayors outside urban America, his
paternal liberalism (he banned carbonated beverages in New
York City), his wealth, and his bold antipathy to the radical
progressives in his adopted party. 

The Democratic Party, all polls and surveys indicate, currently
is severely divided by gradations center-left to radical left.
Party activists lean to the latter, but all indications, lacking any
actual voting, are that moderate liberals still make up a sizable
percentage of the Democratic electorate.

Michael Bloomberg knows this, and believes that if the
Democrats nominate Elizabeth Warren or another "neo-socialist,"
Donald Trump will be re-elected.,

Persons purportedly speaking for him say. if he runs, he will
skip Iowa and New Hampshire --- and concentrate on Super
Tuesday and subsequent primaries. Because of his huge
financial resources, he can seriously compete in most states
and begin to accumulate delegates --- and thus block Warren or
Sanders from locking up the nomination before the July
convention. In Milwaukee, he therefore could play a decisive
role in the outcome.

So far, it’s a lot of maybes, but the extraordinary 2020 political
atmosphere and environment suggests that this cycle, as in
the last one, could see some unprecedented unlikelihoods
become political realities.


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

Friday, November 8, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Parties Change Clothes

I have been suggesting for some time now that our two major
political parties are each undergoing a political transformation.

If we employ the traditional imagery of a Republican wearing a
three-piece suit or a designer dress, and a Democrat wearing
blue jeans or an off-the rack skirt, I say the two parties are
changing their political wardrobes. Today’s Republican is more
likely to wear working clothes, and today’s Democrat likely to
dress upscale befitting his or her new upper middle class status.

The fact is that more blue collar, rural and small town voters,
many of whom voted Democratic in the past, are now populist
conservatives responding to the call “to make America great
again.” A the same time, many suburban women, new-rich
urban entrepreneurs, university-educated millennials, and urban
ethnic voters, many of whom might be considered more
conservative in the past, say they are now distributionist
progressive voters responding to the siren of “tax the rich.”

The top political agents for this transformation currently, in
great irony, are a former New York City liberal real estate
developer (and  TV personality), Donald Trump, leading the
populist conservative surge --- and two millionaire politicians,
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, leading the distributionist
progressive surge.

We are witnessing in recent elections,  more union members and
other blue collar voters voting Republican. Simultaneously, more
and more new-rich high tech billionaires and millionaires,
educated urban professional young persons and upscale suburban
females are moving sharply to the left.

Some might be tempted to explain this in terms of differing
responses to Donald Trump. While the highly controversial and
disruptive president does provoke deeply-felt  reactions, the
political transformations began well before he appeared, and
likely will continue after his presidency ends (whenever that
might be).

The always thoughtful Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics has
written a useful piece on his subject at the American Enterprise
Institute (“The (18)70s Show”) in which he illustrates another U.S.
political party transformation that took place 1870 to1900, and
which paralleled our national transition from an agrarian to an
industrial society. In that era, the agrarian Democratic Party
which had been unsympathetic to blacks, city dwellers and women
began its transformation into a party which championed workers
(a transformation, I might add, not fully realized until the New
Deal). At the same time, the abolitionist and pro-women’s suffrage
Republican Party, as the nation retreated from Reconstruction in
the South, increasingly identified with the new industrial
establishment.

The post-Civil War era and extended depression beginning with
the Panic of 1873 are given as catalysts --- although, I note, in 1859,
the pre-presidential (but so often prescient) Abraham Lincoln saw a
political transformation coming when he wrote in a letter citing
the reversal of political principles of the “party of Jefferson” and
the “party of Hamilton.” Trende asserts that the political parties
in the late 19th century, and today, adjusted to the changing tensions
felt by voters.

A more detailed and longer term account of U,S. political party
transformations has just been published by my friend Michael
Barone in his excellent new book How Political Parties Change 
(And How They Don’t). Barone has been for some time an
incomparable political demographic commentator. In his new book,
and in an article in Washington Examiner Magazine (“The perils of
downscale political parties”), he makes a persuasive case not
only for the various transformations, but also of their frequent
resilience:

“.....(Franklin) Roosevelt’s downscale Democrats did win five
straight presidential elections.”


It seems to me that many opponents of Donald Trump think that
if he went away, political parties --- particularly the Republican
Party ---would revert to their old selves. An underlying message
of Barone and Trende (with which I concur) is that the changes
are irreversible --- until the next transformations (which could
take decades). Trump, Sanders and Warren are the faces of their
parties today, but new personalities, I think, will emerge soon
enough to speak to most of the same voters of their respective
parties.

Barone also makes the interesting point of the parallels between
the changes in the two major U.S. parties, and what’s going on just
now in the United Kingdom where Boris Johnson is taking his
Conservative Party to more working class voters, and the Labour
Party leader is taking his party more sharply to the left.

That election is only four weeks away, and thus might be worth
special attention from those of us on this side of the big old Pond.


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