Saturday, April 30, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend Update 16

The next critical Republican primary contest is in the
midwestern state of Indiana. Most polls show the race to be
close between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, with John
Kasich trailing. One recent poll, perhaps an “outlier,” has
Cruz up by double digits. Indiana Governor endorsed Mr.
Cruz while at the same time strongly praising Mr. Trump.
With more than 50 delegates at stake, and with Mr. Trump
on a track to clinch the GOP nomination with more than 1237
committed delegates before the party’s national convention in
Cleveland in July, this primary could either make Mr. Trump’s
quest almost inevitable if he wins it, or slow his momentum
going into several far west primaries, including California, if
he loses it.


Although the liberal media, his opponents, and some Repubican
establishment figures, have criticized Donald Trump’s recent
foreign policy speech, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, one of the
most knowledgeable conservative figures in international affairs,
national security and the military, has warmly praised it. Many
of the Trump critics have cited the phrase “America first” in the
speech as call for isolationism (recalling Charles Lindbergh’s
use of the phrase in the 1930’s), but historian Gingrich pointed out
that the phrase was originated by Woodrow Wilson (hardly an
isolationist) in the 1920’s. Citing his own call for reform of the
state department in 2003 and during his own race for president
in 2012, Mr. Gingrich endorsed Mr. Trump’s for a change in U.S.
foreign policy direction, especially giving renewed priority to
American vital security and economic interests, but he has so far
not endorsed any candidate for president.

Hillary Clinton is now very close to securing the Democratic
nomination for president. Although he has made an unexpected
and strong race, Bernie Sanders appears to be falling
mathematically short of being able to overtake Mrs. Clinton’s
lead in the contest, especially with her advantage of having the
support of so many of the unelected “super-delegates” to the
party's convention in Philadelphia in July. Her advantage with
black, southern and Hispanic voters has overshadowed Mr.
Sander’s strong support among young, populist, and rural voters.
Because the Vermont senator has received so many millions of
votes so far, however, he remains a powerful force in the party.
If and how he supports Mrs. Clinton in Philadelphia (and
afterwards) could be decisive in how well she does against her
Republican opponent in November.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Are There More Surprises Coming?

The latest primary results have confirmed the momentum
of the frontrunning presidential candidates in both parties.
Hillary Clinton is the “presumptive” Democratic nominee.
Donald Trump is almost his party’s “presumptive” nominee,
but voters in Indiana and in the far west still have a voice in
this contest.

Ted Cruz has selected Carly Fiorina as his running mate in a
last-ditch effort to block a first ballot victory for Mr. Trump.
This is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s vice presidential
choice of Richard Schweicker in 1976, although that failed to
stop Gerald Ford’s nomination at the Republican convention
that year.

John Kasich now seems to be in second place in recent voter
choice, but he lags far behind in committed delegates. He
continues to depend on a stalemated first ballot at the GOP
convention in Cleveland, and on his remaining the only GOP
candidate defeating Hillary Clinton in national polling.

There are many calls now for Democrats to rally behind Mrs.
Clinton, and Republicans to rally behind Mr. Trump. Both of
these “presumptive” or “near-presumptive” candidates,
however, have unprecedented “negatives’ in polls of general
public opinion. The burden of persuasion, therefore, rests on
each of them to unify their parties and bring the supporters of
their opponents to their side for the November election.
This is especially true of Mr, Trump, who has no previous
government record and experience.

This election cycle has been the most unpredictable in memory.
Virtually all “conventional wisdom” has been wrong. There are
almost three months until the two national conventions.
When a theme of a campaign year is the unexpected, and there
is so much at stake, surprises can happen at any time.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 25, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Parties Are NOT In The Constitution

It might comes as a surprise to many Americans to learn
that there is not one word about political parties in the
U.S. Constitution. Not one word.

In fact, there were no real parties in the nation until the days
of President Andrew Jackson. Before that, and after George
Washington left office, there were political factions and groups,
but there were no true parties.

It was only in 1856 when the U.S. presidential election first
pitted today's major parties against each other, although in 1860
there were three major parties (the Democratic Party of that era
had split in two over slavery). In 1912, former President 
Theodore Roosevelt ran for president as the nominee of the
Bull Moose Party, and came in second ahead of Republican
incumbent William Howard Taft.

What is in the Constitution is a specific process for qualifying
and electing a president (and vice president) after the voting has
taken place in each state in November. The Constitution does
specify that the election process is the right and responsibility
of the individual states, each of which is to determine their own
rules and process of selecting electors. Those electors (one for
each member of that state’s delegation to the U.S. house of
representatives plus two electors from each state matching the
number of U.S. senators in its delegation.

Technically speaking, there is no "popular vote" for president
and vice president of the United States. Less than 500 electors
actually choose them.

The Constitution also specifies the specific qualifications for a
president and vice president, and for the procedures to replace
them should a vacancy in those offices occur.

The process of selecting nominees for president has nothing to
do with the Constitution, and the U.S. supreme court has no
jurisdiction in this process. The high court does, however, have
jurisdiction over the actual election of the president by the
electoral college, as became very clear when the supreme court
made the final decision in the controversial 2000 presidential

All of the above has not seemed very relevant until this year
when the 2016 election cycle has been transformed by
extraordinary controversies in each of the two major political

The bottom line is this: the political party organizations of
each state have virtually absolute control of their delegations
to the national party conventions, and the national party
organizations have virtually absolute control of their own
conventions, as well as who is nominated.

Before 2016, these seemed to be only technicalities and not
very relevant.     

However, the remarkable “mutiny” of voters this year against
the “establishment” in both the Democratic and Republican
Parties has made the technicalities to be of critical importance.

One more point: the votes of Democrats and Republicans in
state primaries and caucuses are only recommendations to
their state parties. Each state party has the power to determine
who will be the delegates to their national conventions. The
state of Pennsylvania perhaps highlights this fact best. The
“popular vote” in next Tuesday’s state primary will only
determine a small percentage of whom the state’s delegates
will vote for in Cleveland in July. Most of the delegates are
elected separately on the Keystone State’s ballot next Tuesday,
and most of them go to the convention uncommitted. In
Georgia, Donald Trump won all of the state’s delegates in its
February primary, but the actual delegates are selected by the
state party; many of them might actually be for another

Thus, delegate counts based on primary and caucus results are
likely to be very misleading.

Furthermore, each party is sending so-called “super-delegates”
to their conventions. They are picked by the states’ party
organizations, and can vote for whomever they wish on any

When all is said and claimed, unless the contesting candidates
trailing the frontrunners in each party quit the race, we cannot
know for sure who will be the 2016 nominees until the ballots
at the conventions are over, especially the nominee of the
Republican Party.

That is the bottom line.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 22, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend Update 15

President Obama, through an editorial in a major British
newspaper, has urged voters in Great Britain to vote to
remain in the European Union (EU) on June 23. He has followed
that with a joint press conference with British Prime
Minister Cameron to reinforce his support for our ally to
keep its ties to the EU. It is not clear if the U.S. president’s
endorsement will help or hurt the pro-EU effort led by Mr.
Cameron. In his editorial, Mr. Obama cited the recent
agreement with Iran (signed by both the U.S. and Great
Britain) and the global warming treaty, also recently supported
by both leaders, as great successes and reasons for a pro-EU
vote. Mayor Boris Johnson, a member of Mr. Cameron’s own
Conservative (Tory) Party and widely believed to be the next
UK leader, is heading up the effort to persuade British voters to
vote to withdraw from the EU. He was critical of Mr. Obama’s
interference in the key national vote. As in the U.S., many
British voters oppose the Iran and global warming treaties,
and many Tory voters dislike Mr. Obama and his on-again-
off-again relationship with long-time ally Great Britain.
The June 23 referendum (popularly known as “Brexit”) is
expected to be very close.

Although a holdover rule from the 2012 Republican convention
technically prevents Ohio Governor John Kasich from even being
nominated at the GOP July convention in Cleveland, it in no way
prevents Mr. Kasich from receiving the votes on all ballots,
including the approximately 250 committed delegates he will have
likely won prior to the convention. It also does not prevent him from
being nominated in Cleveland. The candidate who receives 1237
votes on any ballot will be the nominee. It is not even clear that the
convention rules committee will keep the rule, which requires a
candidate to have won eight state primaries and caucuses. Both
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz do qualify under that rule, and each
has many more committed delegates than does Mr. Kasich, but a
stalemated convention could turn to the host governor of the
must-win state after the third ballot.

Immediately after Donald Trump’s big win in his home state of
New York, the mainstream media once again proclaimed him the
“presumptive” GOP presidential nominee. And once again, after
more careful consideration and a few days, many political
commentators realized the contest between Mr Trump, Ted Cruz
and John Kasich was not at all over.  With key contests in
Pennsylvania, Indiana, Nebraska, Maryland, Connecticut and
California ahead, Mr. Trump has to win more than 60% of those
delegates to secure a first ballot victory. The lion’s share of the
Pennsylvania delegates will go to the convention uncommitted
through the state party’s rules, and the choice of the large number
of delegates from California (to be chosen on the last day for
primaries) is unknown at this time. Should Mr. Trump fail to win a
majority on the first ballot in Cleveland, many of his delegates are
no longer bound to his candidacy, and an unprecedented open
convention would result, perhaps leading to several ballots.

The mathematics favoring Hillary Clinton’s win as the Democratic
presidential nominee was critically advanced in the New York
primary, and now it is almost certain she will be nominated in
Philadelphia on the first ballot. Once the nominee, however, she
faces a critical choice of moving toward the political center where
the vital votes for winning the November election are located, or
moving even further to the left to keep the millions of Bernie
Sanders voters from staying home or voting for the Green Party
probable candidate Jill Green. Normally, most of the voters of
the losing candidates for the party nomination unify after the
conventions and vote for the nominees. In 2016, however, this might
not be the case in both parties where the differences between the
contestants is unusually great. Mr. Sanders, a self-proclaimed
socialist, received almost as many votes in the primary/caucus
season as had Mrs Clinton, and had successfully pulled her
campaign to the left. Many mainstream liberal Democrats consider
Mr. Sanders’ politics extreme, and with Mrs Clinton’s negatives so
high, might consider staying home if she does not move back to the
political center.

The 2016 baseball season has opened, but it has done so, perhaps,
without some of the enthusiasm it has enjoyed over the past
century as the national pastime. Part of this might be due to the
increasing popularity of other indigenous U.S. sports, including
football and basketball, as well as the dramatic rise of sports
from other parts of the world, including golf, tennis, hockey, soccer
and lacrosse. The increase of women active in many amateur and
professional sports other than baseball might also be a contributing
factor. Recent controversies over drug use, high salaries, strikes,
player misbehavior and high game ticket prices have probably
diminished general interest in the game. Another probable cause
is the retirement and aging of many of baseball’s superstars, and
the noticeable lack of comparable replacements. As a lifelong
avid baseball fan, I report this decline of the sport with acute

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


The system for nominating a president of the United States
by a major political party is broken. Considering the
experience now being endured by both the Democratic and
Republican Parties in the 2016 election cycle, the breakdown
might well be irremediable without drastic changes.

I offer as evidence the fact that four of the five surviving active
candidates have such extraordinary high negative standing with
the general electorate as measured by virtually all public
opinion polls.

The Democratic race, barring some non-electoral intervention
(i.e. legal proceeding), is probably concluded, and the long-time
frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, will likely be officially nominated
at the Democrats’ convention in Philadelphia in July. In addition
to being a weak political campaigner and public speaker, Mrs.
Clinton has accumulated a myriad of controversies over her
private and public conduct over past decades. Her sole remaining
opponent, Bernie Sanders, is an elderly socialist who, despite
years of holding various elective office, has demonstrated little
understanding of the presidency. During the campaign now
concluding, each of them has alienated significant segments of
the Democratic party base.

The Republican race is not yet concluded, although its leading
candidate, Donald Trump, could gain enough committed
delegates to assure nomination before the July convention in
Cleveland. Like Mr. Sanders, Mr. Trump was not even a member
of his party until recently. Large numbers of traditional GOP
voters say they will not vote for him in November. He has two
opponents remaining.

The one who has the most committed delegates, Ted Cruz, has
appealed to only one segment of his party’s base. Like Mr. Trump,
he invokes very high negatives among voters in his own party.
The remaining candidate, John Kasich, does have both an
impressive resume and enjoys so far a positive image among
his party’s voters, but he has  conducted a poorly organized
campaign which has so far failed to inspire Republican voters.
He has so few committed delegates (and won only one primary,
his own state) that his only chance to win is if there is an early
ballot stalemate in Cleveland.

The presidential campaign, and its televised debates and on the
stump, have, in both parties, deteriorated into exchanged insults,
put-downs and innuendo.

While each candidate has their strong supporters, there is very
little evidence that the winners in Cleveland and Philadelphia
will have an easy time to bring their parties’ electorate
together in November, much less appealing to independent

As I have pointed out numerous times in this space in recent
months, the two major political parties have created their
nomination processes in such a way that healthy and positive
grass roots voter participation is discouraged, blocked and
not transparent. The system also often turns away highly
qualified and immensely talented potential presidential

Does anyone seriously suggest that the current remaining
candidates for president in both parties are the best this
nation can consider?

It’s too late to fix any of this in 2016. We will now have to live
with the consequences of a broken system. But it is not too
early for thoughtful liberals, centrists and conservatives to begin
devising a much better system for 2020 and beyond.

If this is not done, it’s going to get worse, not better.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 15, 2016


There is a popular term in political parlance which describes
those who forcefully participate in a political campaign or
cause. It is the term “activist.” But what is the word for those
who are notably less personally involved in such events? Is it
the term “passivist?” That word describes the contrary action,
but in a time such as we now seem to be in --- a time of major
political change and transformation --- I don’t think the term
adequately portrays the true impact of someone who is not
an “activist.” I think a better term is “bystander.”

We usually think of history in the past tense, i.e, events that
have already occurred. History, in this sense, is something we
read about, study, argue over, and perhaps try to learn from.
Because this sense of history is no longer in front of our eyes,
it becomes ambiguous. We can ‘interpret” it in many ways.
This was especially true before the invention of visual and
sound methods of recording. The inventions of the still
photograph, the phonograph, film and tape and video recording
made history less intangible. They created “evidence” of
past historical events, and increasingly influence public opinion
in local, national and global terms.

But visual history-in-the-making, or in the present tense, can
also be ambiguous, since it is almost impossible to present an
an objective “total picture” of an event or circumstance.
Television, the cinema and now the internet, including “social
media” offer us broader and faster “news,” but these
techniques also can and do distort history-in-the making.

Landmarks in what I am talking about including the photographs
of the U.S civil war, films of the battlefields of World War I,
documentary films of the Holocaust concentration camps,
photographic images of Hiroshima and and Nagasaki in 1945,
and videos of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 -- each
of which communicated to successive generations of large
populations the powerful and terrible impact of violent war
and persecution.

There is also the larger sense of history as a continuous human
journey, that is, something which cannot be accurately presented
just with recordings of sight and sound, but which is indefinitely
occurring around and including each of us.

Life today in our American or European societies is both
complicated and relatively free of restraints, especially in
comparison to the distant or even recent past. This is the natural
result of such rapid advances in communications, transportation,
electronic technology and medicine. Huge events can occur near
or far from us, but we can for the most part ignore them in the
course of our daily lives with little apparent consequences.

The citizens of the U.S. are now engaged in their quadrennial
presidential and biennial congressional elections. These always
bring with them a certain noise and melodrama, as well as a
new cast of political characters. The political combat, we need
to recall, is always heated and often vitriolic.

But the 2016 cycle does seem to have some different character ---
at least in contrast with the cycles I have observed and written
about since 1972. Prior to, during and just after 1972, the nation
endured some searing traumas, including the assassination of
the president in 1963, the antiwar movement after that, and the
unprecedented resignation of both the vice president and the
president in 1973-74. By the 1980s and beyond, however, there
seemed to be a reasonable continuity, albeit with political
change and reversal. Political life and practice evolved, but with
comforting precedents and understandable directions.

One of the “disruptions” of 2016 seems to be the entrance of
new groups of “activists” into the political process. These
include substantial numbers of those who have not previously
voted and younger voters. This has been quite unnerving to the
established political class because various conventional
techniques of political communication and measurement are
no longer working. These include mass mailings, traditional
polling methods, political advertising and organizational
methodologies. In short, voters are now very hard to measure and
to influence by the methods and devices of the past.

I have described some of these phenomena as “mutinies” of the
left, right and center. It also can be described as the rise of new
groups of “activists” who were formerly bystanders in American
political life.

I think it is a mistake, as some of the old establishments in both
parties are suggesting, to think this is a very temporary
phenomenon that will pass away after the election.

The dynamics of what is happening in 2016 are composed not only
of economic, national security and social issues and conditions,
but of true generational issues and identities. Many ideological
stereotypes are being swept aside.

If you ask me, this is no time, no matter what you have been in the
past, to be just a bystander.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Keeping The Republic

As we all know from what we learned in school, a “republic”
is not the same as a “democracy.” A republic, to be sure, employs
the “democratic process,” but since the Athenian city-state, it has
not been practical for a large political entity (such as a nation) to
be governed by what essentially would be public meetings in
which all citizens vote on every public action or policy.

So our forebears invented the human institution of a republic in
which all citizens (ideally) are eligible to choose persons to act on
their behalf on matters of the public interest. Early republican
experiments in Greece, Rome, and later in renaissance Italy did
not endure, and were replaced by various kingdoms and
totalitarian states.

Then in the mid-1770s, there occurred an event in a far-away
colony of one of the major powers of Europe, the island kingdom
of England. That event, in reaction to the colonial power’s attempt
to restrict its colonial subjects, was a true modern revolution, and
its leaders, searching for a new political formulation, came up with
a partly flawed but resilient solution --- the United States of America.

The flaws included the prolonging of the institution of slavery, and
the limitation of electoral suffrage mostly to white male landowners.
Over the next 100 years, the issue of slavery was resolved in a
traumatic civil war, and the issue of suffrage was gradually repaired
to include women, and finally to all citizens 18 years or older.

The nature of the human species on this planet has been to multiply
its numbers. In ancient times, the world’s human population was a
few million. By medieval times, before the occurrence of epidemics
of bubonic plague, that number had multiplied to many millions.
Recovering to pre-industrial times, it approached a billion, and in
growth predicted by Malthusian calculations, it grew exponentially
to the present day number of more than 7 billion.

The creation of the modern republic did not have rigid forms. In the
U.S., it was the creation of a three-part government. In most other
“democratic” nations, it took the form of a parliament. Some of
them had prime ministers, some had presidents, and some still kept
constitutional monarchs. But the common thread was representative

Republican governments, especially as their societies grew in
population, had to create new institutions so that the elected
representatives could practically manage the increasing role of

Especially after the 19th century industrial revolution, the primary
institution for governing became the “public bureaucracy” ---
unelected individuals whose responsibility is to carry out the
work of the public interest. Because human beings are not
automatons, the behavior of these bureaucrats was often not
transparent, fair or without corruption. From its beginnings, the
bureaucratic class came into conflict with the public at large. The
public tool of correction remained the elective process because the
bureaucracy existed at the service of the elected representatives
who, in turn, could be replaced by the vote of all the citizens.

The reader might find the above to be obvious and self-evident, but
I have reviewed its history for a very timely reason.

The U.S. is currently engaged in its quadrennial presidential and
biennial congressional elections. What is distinctive about this
year’s elections is that the presidential election has no incumbent,
and that the congressional elections are mostly pre-determined by
localized demographics. Even so, such a circumstance has often
occurred before, including the less common extreme polarization
of the two major political parties.

Much more rare, however, is the very distinctive mood of the
electorate in 2016 which includes an accumulated frustration
not only with the bureaucratic institutions which manage the
day-to-day affairs of public life in America, but also with elected
representatives themselves who, at the federal level at last, seem
mired in stalemate and inaction.

This voter frustration has also coalesced around unlikely
presidential candidates in both parties, candidates opposed by
both party establishments. No one I know predicted, even only a
few months ago, that Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or
John Kasich would be four of the five finalists in the 2016 cycle.
Only Hillary Clinton was forecast as her party’s probable
nominee, and while she continues to lead Mr. Sanders in the
number of committed delegates, her campaign has been fading in
recent contests. 

The political personalities of Mr. Sanders, Mr. Trump and Mr.
Cruz have each provoked not only enthusiasm among some voters,
but strong antipathy among others. Mrs. Clinton also has very
high negatives (which is especially noteworthy since she is the
frontrunner). Particularly among mainstream voters who support
none of these candidates, and among partisans for each of them,
there has arisen a bitter rhetoric attacking not only the individual
candidates, but also the voters who support them.

My purpose in writing this is to suggest that, while it is natural
and proper to make criticisms of those who are running for
president, it is not valid or appropriate to put down those voters
who support them. This is especially true for mainstream voters,
many of who contend that Sanders or Trump supporters are
“ignorant,” “ill-informed,” or not well-intentioned. Instead of
castigating or demeaning mutinous grass roots voters in both
parties, these mainstream voters would be better served to get
off their political fannies and go to work for the candidates they
do support, presumably Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kasich.

It takes a lot to provoke a whole electorate as it has been
provoked this year. Ours is a republic which is ultimately run by
its citizens who are the voters. This is neither a liberal nor a
conservative principle, nor is it the property of only Democrats
or only Republicans.

It is an American principle. Founding father Benjamin Franklin,
at the conclusion of the constitution convention in 1787, was
reported asked, “Dr. Franklin do we have a republic or a
monarchy?” Franklin’s celebrated reply was “A republic, if you
can keep it.”

Beneath all the rhetoric of 2016 so far, and in these perilous
days, that is the fundamental issue to be decided one more time.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.

Monday, April 11, 2016


I have complained publicly about the Democratic Party’s
establishment chicanery this year in some caucus states
where they have seemed to thwart the popular vote for
Bernie Sanders in favor of Mrs. Clinton. Now the Republican
Party in Colorado has topped this tomfoolery by awarding
all that state’s GOP delegates to the national convention
without a primary or a caucus.

The beneficiary of this move has been Ted Cruz; both Donald
Trump and John Kasich are rightfully complaining. Mr. Cruz’s
partisans apparently engineered this move; Mr. Cruz has
embraced it. Coupled with Mr. Cruz’s call to use a technicality
to prevent John Kasich from even being placed in nomination
in Cleveland, this does not reflect well on the senator from
Texas who is trying to catch up to Mr. Trump’s lead in first
ballot committed delegates.

The U.S. constitution is quite clear that election procedures,
including the electoral college selection of the president and
vice president, are the responsibility of each individual state.
Approximately one million Colorado GOP voters have now
been denied the right to have a voice in the choice of a
Republican presidential nominee. They and public opinion
now are the only true recourse to this egregious action.

This incident is further evidence of how undemocratic the U.S.
presidential nomination process has become. Only a nationwide
mutiny of the voters has illuminated this circumstance in both
national parties --- which has been festering invisibly for decades.

I have many time quoted Ortega y Gasset’s timeless warning
that, no matter whatever else is good in a republic, if the process
of elections is corrupted, matters will ultimately go badly.

We live in a time when the democratic process is under attack,
both from without and within. The worst course to take in such
an environment is to give fuel to democracy’s critics.

Is it any wonder that voters across the ideological spectrum
are so upset?

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 8, 2016


The 2016 presidential nomination season has revealed that
the primary/caucus process is not only very flawed, but
quite likely marks out an inevitable path to the end of the
two-party system as we know it.

This is a serious contention, but I do not make it lightly.

There is no “villain” in this scenario, only a failure by the
powers-that-were of the two major parties to adapt to
economic evolution, technological change and the fair
application of the democratic process.

First, economic evolution. Any nation, especially a highly
developed industrial one, is going to change over time.
The current nomination rules were designed for a post-war
society that was emerging from an economic depression,
and was enabling its ‘blue collar” workers to move from
lower-paying industrial jobs to higher-paying special skills
in non-industrial work. The G.I. bill enabled millions of
returning veterans to obtain college educations and
professional training. Most American workers, many of them
union members, had becomes Democrats during the 1930’s
and 1940’s. Management and highly professional workers
gravitated to the Republican Party. These directions are
now being reversed.

Second, technological change. In the same post-war period,
the communications environment was altered drastically.
First, there was television. Then there was the internet, Now
there is ubiquitous social media. A celebrity culture born in
the U.S. after World War I, and intensified by the movie and
sports culture before World War II, became a national
“entertainment” culture. The very nature of political
communication was transformed. The major political
parties and their professional consultants developed
patterns of political campaigning, but a natural inertia,
aggravated by the four-year presidential cycles, made the
parties fall further and further behind communication
realities. Occasional successful efforts to adapt, such as
the 2004 Bush campaign and the 2012 Obama campaign,
evidently are not fixed national models. Moreover,
national TV  debates have become a central factor in the
nomination process of both parties, but if 2016 is any
indication, few candidates were truly prepared for their
participation in this key part of the campaign.

Third, fair application of the democratic process. The
emergence of “caucuses” instead of primaries in many
states are a deliberate attempt by political parties to
prevent voters from having a vital role in nominating
candidates at all levels of government. “Caucus” states
in the presidential nominating process are a flagrant
anti-democratic device that keeps grass roots party voters
from choosing the candidates they favor while enabling
party “establishments” or “special interests” a back-door
technique for imposing nominees in general elections.
Only tiny percentages of eligible voters participate in any
caucus, and many states which have them even further
complicate their final tallies with arcane rules and
formulas that make their outcomes seem bogus.

The stereotypes of both the distant and recent past are no
longer valid. Blue collar workers are in many ways
conservative, and since Ronald Reagan, have been moving
toward the Republican Party.  Richer Americans, and many
top executives of the new industries, as well as white collar
professionals, not only give money to the Democratic Party,
but increasingly vote for Democratic candidates. The media,
once very conservative in its bias, have become quite liberal
in their bias. Social and ethnic issues have become generational.
Older Americans continue to vote their stereotypical way, but
Americans under 50, and especially Americans under 30, defy
the stereotypes.

The political parties almost always learn most from the
previous election, but usually do not try to learn from
what has been changing since them.

The 2016 cycle is not over. But so far there are four major
political parties in the electoral field; namely, a mainstream
liberal Democratic Party, a radical populist Democratic
Party; a mainstream conservative Republican Party, and a
populist nationalist Republican Party. Divisions within the
two major parties always exist, but I suggest that the
divisions in 2016 are greater, perhaps even irreconcilably
so, than any time in memory.

There seems to be an intuition in the general electorate that
none of the remaining presidential candidates in both
parties rises yet to the level these perilous times require.

Let us hope that this is not true. If it is, however, this year’s
election might prove to be like something we have not seen

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: New And Unchartered Territory

History is like the weather --- unpredictable, ruthless and
quickly changing. The 2016 presidential campaign has turned
into a sudden storm on all sides, and is taking the nation into
new political territory.

Although the mathematics of the Democratic nomination race
had indicated that this race was concluded, the voters are
signaling they are not convinced of this finality. Bernie Sanders
crushing victory over Hillary Clinton in the Wisconsin primary
defies conventional political thinking. Coupled with six straight
caucus victories, Mr. Sander’s campaign is apparently not dead.
The contest now shifts to New York state where Mrs. Clinton
lives and represented as a U.S. senator for two terms. Mr.
Sanders, however, was born and raised in Brooklyn, so both
candidates can claim home field advantage. As she did in
Michigan and Wisconsin, Mrs. Clinton once had a lopsided
lead in the polls in New York, but her lead is down to single
digits, and narrowing. If Mr. Sanders were to defeat Mrs.
Clinton in New York two weeks from now, it could have a
profound effect on the Democratic race.

The voter “mutiny” in the Democratic Party is mirrored by a
Republican “mutiny’ in their presidential nomination contest.
At least until Wisconsin. Ted Cruz defeated Donald Trump
there by a huge margin. John Kasich came in third with 15%
of the vote. Most importantly, Cruz won almost all the
Wisconsin delegates, further distancing Mr. Trump from the
needed 1237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the
first ballot. The Wisconsin vote might be the beginning of a
“counter-mutiny” against businessman Trump who hitherto
has dominated the GOP debates and caucus/primary season.
Wisconsin might have also marked a turning point in the race
that leads to the first genuinely open and contested GOP
convention in many decades.

Complicating this race is the fact that the two men with the
most delegates, Trump and Cruz, have extraordinarily high
negative popularity poll ratings, and lose to Hillary Clinton.
Although Mr. Kasich trails in committed delegates, and has
won only one state outright, he is the only Republican who
consistently defeats Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Sanders in the
national polls. In a stalemated convention, after three or
four ballots, he could easily be nominated, and would be
the heavy favorite to win the presidency in November.

A technicality in the GOP convention rules would bar Mr.
Kasich from being nominated in Cleveland in July, but it is
difficult to imagine that a Republican convention in Cleveland,
Ohio would risk certain defeat in November if it prevented
Ohio’s very popular governor from even being nominated.
The rule can be changed by the party organization.

Both parties might be tempted to insert a non-presidential
candidate into their conventions. For the Democrats, that
might be Vice President Joe Biden. For the Republicans, it
might be Speaker Paul Ryan. But either of those actions
would be desperate moves. The weather produces its own
climate change, but bypassing Bernie Sanders or one of the
GOP candidates would be such drastic human-made climate
change that the great partisan storms and cold electoral winds
that would result could change American politics indelibly.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 4, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Trying To Push Kasich Out Of The Way

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are trying to push John Kasich
out of the presidential race. “Rule 40b” was passed by the
Republican National Committee (RNC) in 2012 to protect their
putative nominee, Mitt Romney, from last-minute challenges.
The rule states that, in order to be nominated for president at
the GOP national convention, a candidate must have eight wins
in primaries or caucuses. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz qualify
by this standard, but the third major surviving candidate, John
Kasich does not.

Candidates Trump and Cruz know that if there are only two
candidates nominated in Cleveland in July, one of them will win
the presidential nomination. They also know that if Mr. Kasich
is nominated, and he has 300-350 committed delegates, their
chances to win are greatly diminished, especially since a recent
Trump-Cruz feud has become so personal and bitter that neither
of them is likely to support the other.

Not only is a truly contested national GOP convention growing
more and more likely, but a stalemated convention after the
first ballot is also growing more likely. Most frustrating for the
two men, who currently have the most committed delegates
between them,  is the knowledge that many delegates are
released after the first ballot, and most of the rest are released
after the second ballot. Further complicating their goals,
neither of them, according to virtually all current polls. defeats
Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. John Kasich does.

Of course, current polls are of questionable accuracy, but there
is little doubt that both Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz have high
negatives --- historically high. On the other hand, Mr. Kasich
currently is regarded positively by most voters, and is the only
GOP candidate attracting significant numbers of likely
independent and Democratic voters. (Mr. Trump, to be fair,
does attract a number of unaffiliated voters who do not usually

The bottom line is that the Trump-Cruz strategy is transparent,
and Mr. Kasich is not withdrawing any time soon. Some of the
states he might do well in are ahead (e.g., Pennsylvania, New York,
New Jersey, California and Oregon). He knows that the real name
of this game is not how many states you win or the number of
delegates you have, but who is most likely to win the presidential
race in November against the Democratic nominee.

If the GOP convention in Cleveland goes to three or more ballots,
there is the possibility that someone who did not appear in the
primary/caucus season might be nominated. It has not happened
before this, but it’s always a possibility. In that case. Speaker of
the U.S. House Paul Ryan might become the consensus candidate.

It is difficult to imagine a ticket headed by Mr. Ryan not winning by
a landslide in November (and carrying with him continued GOP
majorities in both house of Congress).

This is why there is such urgency in the efforts of Mr. Trump and
Mr. Cruz to get Mr. Kasich out of the race.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 1, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Revisiting Ten Critical Problems That In 2013 Were Not Being Solved

In 2013, I wrote a column on this site specifying ten
critical unsolved or deteriorating problems facing the
nation that needed to be addressed then, and during the
next presidential campaign. Today, in the midst of that
“next” campaign, I come back to my original list of
critical problems and examine what has been done or
not done about them.

(My updated comments appear in italics.)


With so many crises facing the nation both domestically
and internationally, it is curious and alarming that ten
of the most serious and urgent problems are not being
meaningfully addressed by the president, his
administration, or the Congress.

Here is my list of those imminently problematic issues
(not necessarily in order of importance):

PENSION FUND LIABILITIES, public and private, continue
to grow. The bottom line of this is that workers at some
time in the future will either not receive pension benefits or
they will be greatly reduced. New corporate pension funds
are generally being phased out, but many existing ones
significantly remain unfunded. There is some work being
done to repair local and state pension funds, but those for
federal employees often remain in perilous circumstances.
(These public and private pension funds continue to
accumulate larger and larger unfunded debt, but in spite of
sensible ideas brought forward to “fix” them, little has been
done. One partial and necessary solution is to increase the
current retirement age for Social Security from 65 to 70 or
72 for younger workers recently entering the employment

UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES are vastly underreported.
The current “official” number is about 7.5%. The true
number is almost certainly closer to 14.3%. This
misreporting of unemployment figures lessens the urgency
to resolve the chronic problem. The Old Media co-conspires
with various levels of government’s desire to disguise the
true dimensions of unemployment in the U.S.
(The latest “official” number is at almost 5%, but the true
number is higher. Systematic removal of millions of persons
“no longer seeking work” from the “official” figure is the
major explanation of this. Unemployment is down now, but
the number of Americans not working is at an all-time high.)

is staggering. Although under-reported, even the reported
numbers clearly shows the profound damage to this
community. While smokescreens about alleged “racism” and
discrimination abound, very little is being done to actually
find meaningful jobs for these young Americans.
(The black unemployment rate continues to be much higher
than the national average,}

is undermining the quality of higher
education in the U.S. Although some welcome reaction
to hitherto radicalization of much of the college and
university programs is now taking place, the value of
the “liberal arts education’ has dramatically declined
in most major U.S. colleges and universities.
(Negative reaction to “political correctness” is being
registered in the 2016 presidential campaign, but it remains
widespread on most American campuses.)

INFRASTRUCTURE in the nation is being neglected
while endless debates about “global warming,”
boutique farming and hyper-environmentalism deflect a
much-needed discussion about the state of America’s
roads, highways, water availability and quality, food
production, and health conditions in the workplace is
(American infrastructure has become an issue primarily
for state and local governments. Federal policy has become
enmeshed in a hyper-expansion of federal regulations.)

ELITISM IN U.S. ARTS CULTURE is separating the
creative visual, musical, performing and literary arts
from a large number of Americans via government
aid programs and “official” arts criteria that encourages
elitist art programs. The result is an overall decline in
American culture, and reduced public participation in it.
(U.S. arts culture has continued to decline.)

GOVERNMENT INTRUSION into American private
life is increasing. Although headlines about government
surveillance is now frequent, this masks more serious
issues about increased federal (and some state and local)
regulatory intrusion on individuals, small business and
general entrepreneurial activity.
(A public backlash to government surveillance has
highlighted the issue, but expansion of federal regulatory
policies continue.)

are replacing common sense and genuine public interest
in the modernization of the nation. Excessively costly
high-speed rail and unnecessary local light rail systems
are being proposed, designed and built. The
overbuilding of public colleges and universities, local
takeovers of private utilities, delays of needed pipelines,
and other ultimately unjustifiable and unsustainable
programs are being implemented without proper public
review and approval.
(An imbalance in priorities for public spending continues,
and needed public services and facilities for veterans have

While the U.S. defense budget is very
large and popular (and often justifiable) target for waste
reductions, current policies to drastically reduce the
nation’s armed forces, naval and international
strategic presence are increasing the nation’s vulnerability
and its vital interests in a time of heightened international
instability and overt threat.
(Reductions in our armed forces and national security
institutions continue.)

isa self-induced obstacle to American leadership in global
innovation. One area government funding can clearly
contribute to improved national well-being is through
encouraging and enabling new scientific research. This is
especially critical in the current era when emerging
economic competitors such as China, India, and Brazil are
aggressively challenging American leadership in this area.
(American scientific innovation continues to lead the
world, but there is no evidence that public support for these
efforts in improving.)

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2016 by barry Casselman. All rights reserved.