Thursday, February 28, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Where The Action Will Be In 2014

It might be unpleasant to say it, but in less than a year, the U.S.
will already be deeply involved in another national election.

The occupant in the Oval Office will not be running this time,
and if history is any guide, by late 2014 he will be a “lame duck”
with diminishing influence.

Nor is it likely that control of the U.S. house will be at stake,
considering how current reapportionment protects most
incumbents, including the Democrats in most of the nation’s
cities, and the larger number of Republicans in most of the
exurban and rural areas.

What will be at stake is control of the U.S. senate and a
significant number of governorships across the country.  In
the senate races, many more Democratic incumbents are
running for re-election, and are vulnerable. Republicans need
to win six Democratic seats to gain control, and 10-12 now
seem potentially at play. The advantage in the gubernatorial
races, however, is with the Democrats. Not only are there
many more GOP incumbent races, many more Republican
governors (or their successor candidates if they are
term-limited or retire) potentially have close races next year.

A sub-theme of these elections will also be the 2016
presidential election, like it or not.  The presidential
nominations for both major parties will be open that year,
and likely very competitive. Nominees usually emerge from
the U.S. senate and the nation’s governors, either current or
former. Current  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo,
former New York Senator Hillary Clinton, current Virginia
Senator Mark Warner are among many names already
seriously being circulated and promoted on the Democratic
side; Current Florida Senator Marco Rubio, current New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and current Louisiana
Governor Bobby Jindal are among many names being put
forward for the Republicans.

It is very, very early in the 2016 race, of course, but it is
nevertheless likely that the 2014 elections will set the stage
for the direction the nation will go after two Obama
administration terms (just as the 2006 elections signaled
the outcome in 2008).

The prospect for the duration of 2013 is for political
stalemate on most issues, especially economic ones. There
is a lot of scrambling for political “position” and ‘branding”
going on in the nation’s capital, and an obsessive
preoccupation with public relations aimed at short-term
leverage and advantage, but it is not at all clear whether
Obamanomics and Obamacare will work or not. Much of
the “action” for some time has been in the states as
conservative and liberal governors (and legislatures) have
attempted to innovate and program alternative and
competitive solutions to the problems facing U.S. society
in the prolonged economic downturn.

Democrats are hoping that recent stock market gains
correctly anticipate a rebound of the U.S. economy, and
predict an end to the prolonged unemployment,and that the
strategy of "taxing the rich" and public spending is the
solution to current problems. Republicans continue to point
out that higher taxes and continued federal deficits make the
goal shared by all problematic. The next 9-12 months should
signal which side of this debate is more accurate than the other.

The 2014 national elections will therefore be only an interim
decision, but after six years of heated and protracted debate, an
impatient electorate might signal a longer-term political direction.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 25, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Casselman's Contrapuntal Political Wave Rule

Two of my favorite subjects are music and politics. The two might not seem
to go together in an obvious way, but in my case, I grew up in a household
where music was often played, and politics often discussed. My father was a
beloved family physician and my late brother became an important physicist.
My contributions, compared to theirs, can only viewed as much more modest,
but being an inveterate scrivener (some might argue that a better word is
"scribbler"), and getting on in years, I feel an impulse to make some of the
musical, political and scientific components of my life into something a bit
more orderly and conscious.

In the current political environment, I have decided therefore to codify an
underlying principle to much of my political writing in terms of a rule that
can be applied by any reader to American politics. I make no claim that
this rule is wholly and originally mine, or not previously recorded in other
forms by others, but I offer it as a little tool to my readers, be they of the left,
right or center, who understandably are preoccupied with the present tense
of politics.

I call it Casselman's Contrapuntal Political Wave Rule. Simply put, it states
that whatever the present circumstances that exist in a democratic capitalist
republic (the United States, as a notable example, but not limited to it),
the hands and fortunes of power will be reversed in relatively shorter and
shorter order as the nation and its society grows older.

The key here is the duration of the change (the wave) of power. I use the
musical term "contrapuntal" because, as it is defined, counterpoint is when
two different musical lines move independently of each other, but when
played together, produce a harmony of sound, either tonal or atonal. I use
the scientific term "wave" because through the system of large numbers of
citizens voting in periodic elections, the movement is like a wave (rather than
the abrupt and sudden movements that take place in totalitarian nations  and
societies of the far left and the far right. The experience of the recently
completed 20th century, I might add, demonstrates that the terms"left" and "
right" have become increasingly meaningless.)

Taking the American republic as an example, its indigenous and original
two-party system did produce over time reversals in  political power,
especially after the two parties emerged in the late 1850's. Republicans
dominated most of U.S. national politics from the 1860's through the1920's;
Democrats dominated U.S. politics from the1930's through the 1980's.
Control of the White House and the Congress would occasionally change
for a term or two, but the philosophy of one party actually dominated the
political marketplace.

The election of Ronald Reagan changed the New Deal Democratic Party
dominance in 1980, but the new "conservative" wave was overturned in
2008 by a president who was not only a Democrat and a liberal, but
someone who has wished to change the basic paradigm of U.S. government.

I am guessing at this, but I suspect that the relatively lengthy waves of political
dominance enjoyed by the two major U.S. parties in the past were a function of
the nation's long and continual growth as an economic and military world power.
I suggest that a reversal of this growth, becoming increasingly evident  at the
beginning of the 21st century when the American republic as the world's sole
"superpower" (after the collapse of the Soviet Union) has seemed to wane.
China and India, much more populous, and a new Russia as well as Brazil, have
each abandoned socialist or other non-truly capitalist economies. Each have
considerable natural resources, land and maturing societies. Other nations and
other regions also have increasingly complicates the role of the U.S. in the

I think many conservatives today believe that the Obama era will end in 2017
with the election of a conservative (and Republican) president. After all, they
might argue, the Bill Clinton era was ended after two terms. But that argument
ignores the reality that, in spite of being a  partisan Democrat, President
Clinton operated under the economic principles established by Ronald Reagan.
Many conservatives were surprised by the 2012 election, and now ascribe
the Republican failure to weak candidates and poor technology, but there is
no evidence yet that this explanation is sufficient. The election of Hillary
Clinton in 2016, now clearly indicated by (admittedly early) polls would
indicate that the current wave has not been spent.

Many Democrats, on the other hand, believe they are now riding a new wave
in American politics, a wave in which larger and larger public entitlements,
and more and more redistribution of wealth takes place. Public opinion, as
now measured, tends to support this view (although it is always important to
point out that polling is inherently short-term).

Casselman's Contrapuntal Political Wave Rule tends to favor the conservative's
view as President Obama begins his second term (as it strongly favored the
liberal and Democratic view when President George W. Bush began his second
term in 2005). But it might be unnerving to conservatives to consider that
the Rule does not simply obey economic facts and statistics (the 2012 election
clearly indicated this), but that some deeper and organic impulses determine
voter choice and behavior.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casseman.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Finger Pointing, Blame And Consequenceses

It was predictable and inevitable that, following the 2012 national elections,
there would be a great deal of finger pointing, blaming and other forms of
recriminations by conservatives and Republicans turned against each other.

This has now happened, and is happening, across the nation.

It does not do any of the participants in this political cannibalism much, if
any credit. The biggest beneficiaries of this spectacle are the Obama
administration and the Democrats.

One focus of this bitterness has been the announcement by GOP political
strategist Karl Rove that he would reconstitute his huge political PAC for
2014 with special emphasis on ensuring that Republicans have "electable"
nominees for the many likely contestable U.S.senate races next year. This
was received by some grass roots conservatives as an attempt to prevent
candidates they might favor from being nominated in 2014. Charges and
recriminations have gone back and forth.

My friend Michael Barone has recently acutely written that the quality of
candidates, not ideology, is the real issue. Some so-called "Tea Party"
candidates, most notably Marco Rubio in 2010 (but others as well) have
turned out to be excellent candidates and, later, public officials.

It should not be forgotten that the GOP Missouri senate nominee would
not have been in the November race in the first place if it had not been for
his Democratic opponent breaking the rules by actually aiding him in his
nomination contest and enabling him to be on the ballot. Nor should it be
forgotten that the GOP Indiana nominee defeated a long-time GOP
incumbent in the primary, an incumbent who would have easily won
re-election. In North Dakota, in the race for an open seat, the GOP
nominee ran against  perhaps the best new Democratic candidate in the
nation. On the other hand, GOP senate nominee Ted Cruz beat the Texas
Republican establishment candidate, and the election. Mr.Cruz is already
making his mark in the U.S.senate. As Mr. Barone has argued, it is the
candidate, not the ideology.

This attempt to pit the Republican "establishment" against the Tea Party
or other conservative groups is a recipe for defeat in 2014. It goes both
ways. Far right noise about challenging Tennessee GOP senator Lamar
Alexander can only make a sure seat vulnerable, as happened in 2010 in
Delaware and Nevada.

Mr. Rove is getting a bad rap, but to be fair, he perhaps did not explain
himself very well, and invited a negative response. This present turmoil
will likely continue for a while, but as 2014 approaches, Republicans had
better expiate their internal grievances, or its promising opportunity, just
as it had in 2012, will be lost.

A party cannot govern if it cannot win. Those who say they don't care
about winning elections should not be in the political business, and in
fact, they won't be for very long.

Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman.  All right reserved

Monday, February 18, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Twin Cities Restaurant Survey

The Prairie Editor asked his friend and long-time
food critic Leo Mezzrow to compile a survey of 
new Twin Cities restaurants as an initial special
report on dining out and food culture. This special 
report was sent directly to subscribers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Cubanos In Wisconsin (book review)

Initiating a series of book, film, food/restaurant 
and other cultural reviews for subscribers only, 
The Prairie Editor has sent this review directly
to subscribers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Future Of The Republican Party - Part 1

Both major American national political parties face significant change
going forward, but it is the Republican Party which must address its basic
priorities and policies in the immediate weeks and months of the 2013-14
calendar ahead.

The GOP failed to win back the presidency against a relatively weak
Democratic incumbent in 2012. As well, it failed to make gains in the
2012 U.S. senate races even though it had a tremendous mathematical
advantage to do so. The surprise about these failures has so unnerved the
Republican base that it has so far ignored how close the 2012 election really
was, and failed so far to get beyond its chronic internal stalemates.

The Republican Party's advantage in 2012 was primarily on economic
issues, but its grass roots leaders turned much of their attention to social
issues, especially in the nomination process, that the majority of
Americans felt were not its priorities.

Some elements of the GOP now prefer to blame the abortion issue as the
reason for their party's failures in 2012. But that is not supported by any
electoral data. What did hurt some Republican senatorial candidates was their
self-destructive expression of extremist views that have no support among
even most Republican and other pro-life supporters. For the foreseeable future,
the GOP will be primarily an anti-abortion party, as the Democrats will be
pro-abortion. But this issue will not be dispositive unless the candidate
who holds either view does so, and says so, from an extremist position.

On the other hand, the issues of immigration, citizenship and border control
will likely be some of the keys to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
There is no greater proof of this than the polls which show that an immigration
reform GOP candidate would receive almost double the number of Hispanic
votes than Mitt Romney received in 2012.

GOP politicians from border areas or with Hispanic heritages generally have
practical and reasonable views on immigration. This should come as no surprise.
They answer directly to voters who must deal with this issue every day. Newt
Gingrich is one of the few non-border, non-Hispanic politicians who has figured
out the way forward on this question for his party. His party should pay attention
to what he is saying, and what other Republican leaders who want to put this issue
behind them are saying.

A preoccupation with volatile and emotional social issues has tied one or both
arms of the Republican Party behind its back. While it is true that numbers of
Americans feel sincerely and passionately about these issues, their numbers are
relatively small. They do have perhaps enough votes to sabotage a Republican
nominee for president in 2016, but they lack the votes necessary to assure his or
her election. This is the dilemma facing the party.

I repeat: the critical issues facing the nation are economic issues, including the
impact of Obamacare, continued deficits, continued high unemployment,
potential emerging inflation, free trade, education reform and entitlement reform,
If the party fails to present its policies successfully on these issues, first in 2014,
then in 2016, it will lose again, no matter how much it beefs up its get-out-the-vote

A party which is perceived as xenophobic, intolerant and pessimistic about the
prospects of its own citizens might win local and state elections on occasion, but it
cannot elect a president, and it cannot govern a large nation facing increasing
competition and threat from outside its borders.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


The nature of the modern democratic capitalist state is
that its citizens are constantly required to make choices,
choices that are political, and economic. These choices
are made within reasonable constraints of law, ethics and
custom. Religious and social choices are also made, but
ideally they are outside the purview of the law and the state.
Democracy is not a word, it is a way of a society’s and a
nation’s life. Some in the world today consider democracy
a slogan, and others do not want to admit that democracy
cannot exist without capitalism. Still others, those who
recognize capitalism, do not want to recognize the right
of human freedom with its constraints of law, ethics and
custom. Choices cannot be made without freedom. On the
other hand, freedom is not merely license. Democratic
capitalism is a living organism of the balance between
choices and limits.

It has become clear over time (the past 250 years) that
democratic capitalism, freedom, the rule of law and the
ethics and compassion of society within the  confines of a
nation state have a vital relationship to each other, and that
the successful modern state with democracy and capitalism at
its base is an evolving balance of the these forces within it.

There is an impulse which has recently emerged in some
western democracies, including the United States, which is
an expression of impatience with the mechanisms of the
democratic state. This impulse claims as its motivation a
primary concern for an abstract equality within a population,
and a process of an arbitrary redistribution of wealth to achieve
it. Initially, this had taken earlier forms of socialism, fascism
and communism in Europe, and made its way to other parts of
the globe. However, wherever this radical form took over a
nation state, there was both a loss of freedom and an eventual
economic failure. This impulse can come from the so-called
left or right. It is always disguised with the clothing of ideology,
but at its naked base, it is antithetical to human freedom.

Wherever a population loses its rights to make political and
economic choices, that society eventually becomes totalitarian
and economically untenable. There are no truly successful
socialist/communist/fascist states in the world today, nor have
there ever been any. Even the modified versions of social welfare
states, most notably in Europe, have turned out to be unstable
over the long term, especially as they have attempted to abolish
national borders, encourage large-scale open movements of
populations, allow bureaucratic elites to make and decide final
public policies, and to establish abstract principles of equality
within societies.

That does not mean that democratic capitalist states do not
or should not change, nor that principles of fairness and
compassion should not be behind that change. Universal
suffrage, human rights and the conduct of capitalism under legal
and ethical rules, should always be observed.

Populist appeals are usually smokescreens for totalitarian forces
and figures. The impulse to abandon democratic capitalism,
albeit an imperfect form of government and society, is just such
a smokescreen. It should be named for what it is, and resisted
by any free people.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.