Wednesday, August 30, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Is Minnesota In Play In 2018?

The mega-state of “Minnewisowa” (Minnesota, Wisconsin
and Iowa), includes states that had voted for Barack Obama
in 2008 and 2012,  but in 2016 Donald Trump carried Iowa
and Wisconsin, and even traditionally Democratic Minnesota
was in doubt until late on election night when it became
known that Hillary Clinton had won the Gopher State, but
only by a few thousand votes.

Minnesota is a state which then had two Democratic (called
Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party or DFL in Minnesota)
U.S. senators, the governor, five out of eight members of the
U.S. house, and control of the state senate.

But historically, Minnesota rides a political roller coaster.
During the 19th and early 20th century it voted reliably GOP.
Post-World War I populists then dominated state government,
and, after the DFL was created in 1944, the state began sending
liberal DFLers to Washington, climaxing with the careers of
Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, both of whom became
vice president and then their party’s nominee for president.
But in 1978, the conservatives won a statewide upset, electing
two GOP senators and the governor. By the early 1990s,
Minnesota had turned to the DFL again, and then GOP again,
and now after the first decade of the 21st century, the DFL
holds statewide elected offices one more time.

2016 brought still another reverse, with the GOP keeping
control of the state house and retaking the state senate. Most
revealing was the closeness of the presidential race. The
much-heralded DFL GOTV organization almost came up short
in delivering the votes for Hillary Clinton (who had lost the
state to Bernie Sanders in the primary/caucus season).

Donald Trump’s strong showing in Minnesota came in the
state’s rural and blue collar exurban areas which responded to
his antiestablishment message, and in the usual DFL
stronghold on northeastern Range area where the vote was as
much anti-Clinton as it was pro-Trump.

This chronic political confusion leads Minnesota into its next
statewide and congressional mid-term elections in 2018.

The race for governor is heavily populated, especially on
the liberal DFL side with at least five major announced
candidates who want to succeed DFL Governor Mark
Dayton who is retiring after two terms. At least one more
major DFL candidate is still expected to enter the race.

On the Republican side, there are fewer major candidates, but
that could change because at least one ‘household name”
conservative figure is reportedly considering the race. The 2016
results and the state’s history of changing gubernatorial parties
after two terms gives conservatives some reason for optimism.

In the southeastern MN-1 district, incumbent DFL Congressman
Tim Walz has decided to leave Congress to run for governor.
Walz’s last two re-elections were very close, and in 2018 the
open seat will likely go to Republican Jim Hagedorn who so
far has no serious GOP primary competition. Nor has a
strong DFL replacement for Walz yet appeared.

Walz, a former school teacher, is not very well-known in the
rest of the state, but is a strong campaigner. He will face
numerous liberal figures for the gubernatorial nomination.
This large field  which also includes State Representative Erin
Murphy, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, former State Speaker of
the House Paul Thissen, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and
State Representative Tina Liebling, probably means there will
be no DFL party endorsement. Even if there were, there would
likely be a bitter primary contest.

The Republicans likewise now have no frontrunner. A major
potential candidate is current Speaker of the House Kurt
Daudt, but he might not run. Formally in the race are 2014
gubernatorial nominee Jeff Johnson, State Representative
Matt Dean, and former state GOP chair Keith Downey. Other
state legislators and two prominent businessmen say they are
also seriously considering the race. Most of the candidates
are not very well-known statewide although Mr. Johnson was
the party’s gubernatorial nominee in the last cycle. Mr.
Downey has been endorsed by former Senator Rudy Boschwitz,
the much-respected and still active party elder statesman.

One candidate who might clear the GOP field at this point is
former Governor (and 2012 presidential candidate) Tim
Pawlenty who has been a highly paid industry association
executive in Washington, DC. but is known to miss politics.
Pawlenty won two terms as governor in St. Paul with a
plurality in three-party races. The third party then is no
longer considered a major Minnesota party. Mr. Pawlenty has
maintained his residence in the state. With the now fluid GOP
field, the former governor is likely to delay his decision until
later this year.

While Minnesota has an unusual number of competitive
congressional races, including at least one likely GOP pick-up,
some races could be affected by President Trump’s standing
in 2018. Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen represents a
suburban swing district, but he did not endorse Mr. Trump in 2016
and won re-election by a wide margin even though Hillary Clinton
carried the district. First-term GOP Congressman Jason Lewis in
the Second District could be vulnerable next year. He represents a
swing exurban district. GOP Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-6)
and DFL Congressman Collin Peterson (MN-7) both seem to be
holding safe seats for next year, although “blue dog” Peterson
represents a very rural and conservative district that will likely go
Republican when he retires. In MN-8, Republican Stewart Mills,
who twice came close to defeating Mr. Nolan, can easily wait until
the end of the year before deciding if he wants run for the third
time. A local GOP county commissioner (from the DFL stronghold
in the district), Peter Stauber, has already announced he is running.

DFL U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar is running for a third term in
2018, but is not expected to have a serious opponent. 

Republicans control both the state house and senate. No state
senators face election in 2018, and the GOP margin in the state
house indicates they will likely, but not certainly, keep their

Minnesota has a national reputation for being a dependably
liberal “blue’  state. Donald Trump’s candidacy challenged
that assumption last year. As the president is also doing in
rural regions across the nation, polls indicate he is holding that
support seven months in office and despite many controversies.
How Mr. Trump will influence voters in next year’s election,
however, is unknown at this time, but in the perennial
vagaries of Minnesota politics, he might not matter quite so
much in an election in which he is not on the ballot.

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Sudden Volatility In 2018 U.S. Senate Races

We pundits can’t help ourselves these days in prematurely
speculating about U.S. senate races; it is simply too
tempting given the political climate. But like the current
discussions about “global warming” and climate change,
the data of the present does not necessarily tell us what will
really happen in the future.

U.S. senate races, unlike most U.S. house races, are especially
prone to early miscalculation. This is because house district
demographics in most cases strongly favor one party or the
other, and particularly, incumbents.

Senate races, too, offer advantages to one party or the other,
and to incumbents, but as statewide races, they are inherently
more volatile when special circumstances arise. This is
especially true when incumbent senators run in states
where the other party has won the most recent presidential
election by a large margin.

I have already written about the potential “special”
circumstance of the impact of President Donald Trump on
the 2018 senate races, particularly if he and his party fail to
keep their 2016 campaign promises on legislation. That, of
course, could have a notable negative impact, and cost the
GOP not only to fail to enlarge their majority, but even (in a
worst case scenario) to lose their majority.

Over the many years I have been covering national politics, I
have observed that there always seems to be in every election
cycle some dramatic variances in races initially rated “safe”
for one party or one candidate. Death, other removal from
office, or late-breaking scandal is usually the cause of this,
but an unpredicted strong challenger is also often a cause.

In recent days, more than a year from election day, some
surprises already have appeared. Only two GOP incumbent
seats have been rated as vulnerable, and they still very much
are up for grabs --- GOP Senator Jeff Flake in Arizona and
GOP Senator Dean Heller in Nevada. Their continued public
opposition of their own party’s president has not helped
matters, and now each of them has a serious primary
opponent. In Alabama, the incumbent Senator Luther Strange
has been forced into a primary run-off, and is trailing his
controversial challenger. This is usually rated a very safe GOP
seat, but if Roy Moore wins the run-off, the race becomes more

On the Democratic side, at least two races, previously rated
“safe” for their incumbents have suddenly also become
potentially more competitive. In Michigan, liberal Senator
Debbie Stabenow was thought to be a sure winner in 2018. But
a potential challenge by celebrity Robert “Kid Rock” Ritchie
could make this race too close to call by next November. In
New Jersey, liberal incumbent Senator Robert Menendez was
calculated to win easy re-election, but now facing a criminal
trial, and possible replacement by the GOP governor, this
“safe” seat is now in question. In Missouri, liberal incumbent
Senator Claire McCaskill was rated as only a favorite, but the
potential entry of the conservative state Attorney General
Josh Hawley into the race would probably make him the
favorite in this state carried by the GOP in double digits in
In Montana, liberal Senator Joe Tester also was rated
to have a potentially close race, but when his major
conservative opponent took a federal cabinet position, it
appeared his seat was safe. Now a major GOP opponent,
State Auditor Matt Rosendale has entered the race, and if
he wins the 2018 GOP primary, Tester could have a close race
for re-election. Democrats Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota
and Joe Manchin in West Virginia, already rated to have
close races in their conservative states, are perhaps even more
vulnerable now, especially in the case of West Virginia where
the Democratic governor recently changed parties. In Indiana,
the vulnerable incumbent Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly
might be helped by an unusually bitter GOP primary.

The political environment, needless to say, has considerable
time to change --- giving Democrats a big boost if President
Trump falters, or Republicans an advantage if the president
has a series of successes. There is also time for special
circumstances like those listed above to suddenly intervene
to change races for incumbents in both parties.

It should also be remembered that many incumbent senators
are quite old, and could choose to retire.

My counsel to readers is to withhold, at this time, judgments
about U.S. senate races in 2018. A year from now, the
political prospects might be quite different.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Fit Or Unfit, And Other Name-Dropping

One of the many absurdities being echoed today in the
establishment media by both politicians and journalists
is that Donald Trump is “unfit” to be president.

I am not speaking of those who oppose President Trump’s
policies, dislike his public persona, recoil at his tweets,
and generally disagree with him. All of these are quite
permissable and legitimate in a free country.

But “unfit?” What about liberal icons like Woodrow Wilson
and John F. Kennedy? President Wilson had a stroke on
October 2, 1919 while in his second term in office. He was
clearly physically and mentally “unfit” for the rest of his
second term during which his wife in reality ran the
government. In his first term, by the way, he promised that
the U.S. would not get involved in World War I. He then
led the nation into the war in 1917. Wilson was also a
notorious segregationist.

From the moment (and before) he was sworn in as president
on January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was physically “unfit”
because he had, and knew he had, a rare fatal adrenal
condition (Addison’s Disease) which at that time had no
cure. He was in constant pain every day he was president,
was heavily drugged by his physicians, and wore a back brace.
He had been diagnosed with this disease before being elected
president, kept it a secret, and could have died at any time.
Some might also assert that he was morally “unfit” to be
president because it is now known that he was a serial
sexual predator throughout his presidency, including having
young women secreted into the White House. I am not even
speaking here of his early disaster from the aborted invasion
of Cuba or his complicity in the growing U.S. role in Viet Nam.

But do you hear today about either of these liberal icons being
“unfit” for office?

I am not here agreeing with, or disagreeing with, President
Trump. The reader can make his own judgment about
whether they like or dislike him and his policies. I have in
the past criticized him and praised him on different occasions.

But Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.
I think those who claim he is “unfit” for office are, intentionally
or not, attempting to cancel the 2016 election. I know of no
physical or mental condition which renders Mr. Trump “unfit”
for office, especially at the indisputable levels that made
Presidents Wilson and Kennedy truly “unfit.”

That does not say Mr. Trump should not be opposed or
criticized. The remedy for whose who feel that way, however, is
to defeat his party in the 2018 national midterm elections, and
then defeat him in his re-election effort in 2020.

We are also enduring today, primarily through the media, an
orgy of dropping names (and statues) from public view. The
discussion of which public figures from the past deserve to
be honored is a legitimate one.  But when ESPN removes an
announcer who happens to be named “Robert Lee” from its
programming, you know the discussion has become a form
of hysteria. As John Hinderaker points out on Powerline.
Coca Cola was invented by John Pemberton, a Confederate
Lt. Colonel from Georgia (and a slaveowner). Does that mean
no liberal can drink, Hinderaker asks, a coke? When business
institutions and their CEOs panic and cower in the face of
this hysteria, you know the discussion is out of hand. Should
my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, disown its
own founder Ben Franklin (and one of the great minds of his
age) because he was once a slaveholder? Should the
Democratic Party be dissolved today because it was, more
than a hundred years ago, pro-slavery and opposed to giving
women the vote?

Tiny groups on the far left and the far right who have no
widespread public support have deliberately tried to provoke
this hysteria. It’s time for all those, liberal, centrist, and
conservative, to call this hysteria out.

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: More Historical Facts You Probably Didn't Know

Only 25 years old, and recently retired as an officer in the
British army, young Winston had traveled had over the globe,
writing articles and books, but it was his exploits (including
capture and escape from the Boers) which made the young
aristocrat famous in his home country well before his first
election to Parliament --- and four decades before becoming 
his nation's wartime prime minister.

It's perhaps the modern world's most notorious case (until 
Venezuela) of riches to rags. It is also a case study of what 
happens when the redistributionist economics genie is let loose.

Famed British novelist Graham Greene was a cousin of Robert
Louis Stevenson.

The “breaking” of the Japanese “Purple” code by U.S.
cryptologists prior to the outbreak of World War II is well-known,
but unlike the similar “breaking” of the German secret “Enigma”
code by the British later, U.S. and Allied military intelligence
services had just a partial advantage in the Pacific because
“Purple” was only the diplomatic code. It had been decoded by
 the brilliant efforts led by Colonel William Friedman who along
with his wife  Elizabeth had been cryptographers even before World
War I. Friedman’s subsequent pioneering cryptological methods
had trained a whole generation of pre-war U.S. codebreakers,
including Captain Joseph Rochefort who had been assigned 
after Pearl Harbor to tackle the still unsolved Japanese naval
code. Captain Rochefort and his team did break this code in
early 1942, and their efforts assisted in the key U.S. victory at
Midway. As in the case of Enigma, the Allies successfully
kept their knowledge of the secret codes from the enemy. On
occasion this produced painful dilemmas for Allied leaders
because acting on information obtained from secret enemy
codes in certain circumstances would have given away the fact
that the codes had been broken. A notorious example of this
took place in 1941 when British intelligence learned from Engima
that the Germans believed that a Lisbon-to-London passenger
flight then in the air included a major Allied figure, perhaps
Winston Churchill, and that it would be shot down. The major
figure was actually famed English movie star Leslie Howard,
but to halt the flight would likely give away the fact that Enigma
had been broken by the Alllies. The Nazi Luftwaffe did
shoot down that plane , and Howard  perished. Although
Colonel Friedman was rightly honored and credited for his
remarkable codebreaking contributions, bureaucratic politics
prevented Captain Rochefort from any honors for his vital role
until after his death when the full story of his wartime activity
was revealed and published. and he received many high
honors posthumously. The different timetable for breaking the
two Japanese codes has also led to the mistaken belief by some
that President Franklin Roosevelt knew about the attack at Pearl
Harbor before it happened. U.S. intelligence did have messages
decoded from the diplomatic code, but they were carefully
worded to avoid mentioning the decision, time and place of any

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017


There are two aspects to how we understand history.

One is history’s facts, especially those facts which can be
established by physical evidence such as photographs, tapes,
and recordings, films and videos, and written evidence. Most
of history beginning in the second half of the 19th century
can be so supported. Before that, physical evidence is usually
partial or incomplete. First-hand accounts are often very
helpful, but sometimes they are incomplete or biased.

The second aspect of how we view and understand history
comes from the interpretation of history’s facts, either
contemporaneous or, as is often the case, by historians and
other interpreters after the facts --- sometimes long after the

The U.S. Civil war was one of the world’s earliest heavily
recorded events --- this due to the then recent availability of
photography and the telegraph.

The nation today is currently going through an orgy of trying
to reinterpret history --- despite overwhelming evidence and
facts that rebuke efforts to manipulate public opinion, primarily
through an uncritical media and mob tactics.

I will address here just one case in point.

Robert E. Lee was a career U.S. army officer who distinguished
himself over decades of service in early U.S. armed conflicts.
There is no dispute about this. In early 1861, with civil war
looming, the elderly Winfield Scott, then the top commander of
the U.S. army, told President Abraham Lincoln that he wished
that Robert E. Lee, a 32-year veteran of the army and former
superintendent of West Point (from which he had earlier
graduated second in his class), to take command of the Union
army. In March, Mr. Lee accepted the rank of colonel. He then
ignored offers of a command from Confederate officials in the
states that had already seceded.  Colonel Lee’s views opposing
secession were widely known. On April 18, Lincoln offered Lee
command of the Union army. On April 21, Virginia, Lee’s home
state, seceded from the Union, and Lee declined Lincoln’s offer,
saying that his highest loyalty was to his home state of Virginia.
He soon accepted a role as advisor to the new president of the
Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and in 1862, he was made
commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia, a post
he held until his surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at
Appomattox in April, 1865.

During the Civil War, General Lee distinguished himself in
numerous battles and campaigns, although he made some major
mistakes and lost some major battles. He is generally regarded by
most military historians as an illustrious commander, although he
fought for a losing cause. During and after the Civil War, he was
the most admired man in the South.

His father, General Henry “Lighhorse” Lee had been one of the
heroes of the U.S. Revolutionary War.

His father-in-law owned slaves on their Virginia estate before the
Civil War, but late in life decided to set his slaves free. When he
died in 1858, his family (including Robert E. Lee) decided to honor
his request to set all of the family slaves free in five year’s time. In
a letter to the New York Times that year, Lee confirmed his and the
family decision to set the slaves free in 1863. There is a controversy
about the timing of this emancipation --- some say that on his death
bed, Lee’s father-in-law said the slaves should be set free
immediately. Lee said this wasn’t true.

Robert E. Lee personally opposed slavery, and letters to his wife
written before the Civil War, attest to this. On the other hand, he
did not ever publicly denounce slavery, as several prominent
southerners did do. In the end, of course, he took the side of those
who wanted to preserve this human evil.

Because he did fight for the South, which was considered at that
time an illegal and treasonous act, many then considered Lee a
traitor. Many do so today, although others contend that he was
guided by his stated principle that he was first a Virginian.
The Civil War settled that question once and for all, but in 1861
there were many Americans, citing states rights in the U.S.
constitution, who felt that state identity was equal to or higher
than federal identity. (The only reason he was not hanged as a
traitor, however, was because of the magnanimity of President
Lincoln and General Grant. He then lived in declining health as
the head of a small Virginia college, and died at age 63 in 1870.)

Those are the facts.

Robert E. Lee was wrong about the greatest issue of his day. 
His failure to publicly renounce slavery, though he personally
opposed it, was also a wrong choice. Moreover, his failure to
emancipate his father-in-law's slaves (of which he was now
part-owner) was by today’s standards a mistake --- and I will go
further --- even by the standards of his own time, inexcusable.

Like virtually every prominent figure in history, Robert E. Lee
was a flawed individual. His flaws, I think, also led to the tragedy
of a life that appeared headed to greatness --- and almost surely
would have concluded in greatness if he had accepted President
Lincoln’s offer. Instead, he died ultimately in failure.

However, to suggest that Robert E. Lee was not a great general,
and not adored by troops, and not an iconic figure of that tragic
national occasion known as the U.S. Civil War, is simply an effort
to erase history.

Those persons, for example, who deny the Nazi Holocaust of
World War II, or those who deny the barbarity of Soviet dictator
Josef Stalin, also want to erase history.

History cannot be erased without dangerous consequences.

Whether or not there should be statues of Confederate figures,
or other memorials through the use of their names, is a question
to be decided by the community where they exist. The idea that
small, unelected and extremist mobs (and egged on by some
in the media) should determine what we can remember is
unacceptable in our Republic, and no matter if one is a Democrat,
a Republican, an independent a liberal a conservative or a centrist,
any American should be offended when a mob, on the far right or
the far left, presumes to take away our rights and freedom.

Robert E. Lee is no hero of mine. He fought for the wrong cause,
and he shared in the responsibility of the deaths of thousands of
his countrymen. My heroes in the Civil War were Mr. Lincoln and
Mr. Grant. They, too, had flaws; they, too, shared the burdens of
responsibility, but they chose the right principle.

We should remember that when making judgments about our
own leaders.

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Mitch McConnell Is Right About Being Wrong

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is likely correct
when he says that President Donald Trump does not
understand how the U.S. senate works. The problem for the
top GOP senator is that the way the U.S. senate works in the
past decade (under the leadership of both parties, it must be
noted) is not to do its work. The record of the senate, and of
the whole Congress, is almost entirely about stalemate and
inaction in the face of  so many very clear and present
national problems.

The U.S. senate has a strong tradition of not being the U.S.
house of representatives, the”people’s representatives” in
a body that number 435, and are elected from individual
districts across the nation. From 1789 to 1913, many
senators were not even popularly elected, but appointed by
the individual states. Their number is only 100, and their
terms are three times longer than U.S. house members. The
nation’s founders intended the senate to act as a check on
the “people’s” house, and so it has mostly (but not always)
functioned for two centuries. Over that time, the senate
adopted a myriad of rules which initially functioned as
intended, but over the years have become arcane obstacles to
the functions of the legislative branch, especially when one
party does not have a very large majority.

Both parties have taken advantage of these rules, but it was
then Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who
exploited their technicalities so as to bring the work of the
senate effectively to a halt after Republicans retook control of
the U.S. house in 2010. He constrained debate on proposed
laws, and made it almost impossible to make amendments
he opposed. When Republicans regained control of the senate
in 2014, and kept control of the house, they faced certain vetoes
from the Democratic president.

In 2016, Republicans not only kept control of the Congress, they
won back the White House. To attract voters, they made certain
promises to repeal Obamacare, replace it, and pass legislation
concerning major issues of tax reform, renewing infrastructure,
immigration, restoring our military defense and education to
name a few.

Except for a much-needed overhaul of how the nation treats its
veterans, very little has been done that requires congressional
action (the veterans reform was bipartisan).

The U.S. house, after initially faltering, did pass Obamacare
repeal with modest replacement. The senate has now failed
twice to do even that. We are also told that there are not enough
GOP votes to pass tax reform, much less deal with the budget.
A single senator can prevent a presidential nomination to the
federal judiciary from even coming to a vote. No, longer valid
rules exist that can hold up presidential appointments almost

To be fair, Republicans often did this to President Obama,
especially later in his second term.

That, it seems, is how Washington works.

Mitch McConnell is an honorable and able man, and usually
agrees with President Trump on what should be done. He did
almost pass Obamacare in the senate, but was thwarted by one
last-minute grandstanding vote change.

Donald Trump was elected, however, to shake up the stalemate
in the nation’s capital, and apparently he won’t take “no” for
an answer. Whether or not he “understands” how Washington
works is not the point. The point is that the voters want action
--- and if it is necessary to change how Washington works to
bring about action, THAT is the point. Mr. McConnell’s job, Mr.
Trump contends, is to make things  happen in the senate, not to
complain that the senate cannot do it because “it’s not how the
senate works.”

Some might not agree with what President Trump wants to do.
In fact, it is the duty of the opposition party to “oppose” when
it disagrees. Fair enough. But this issue is not about the
Democratic Party. It is about the Republican Party, the party
now in control of the federal government and most state

No more excuses. No more complaints, Mr. McConnell.

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


It is by now a commonplace that the nation’s voters are
acutely divided on ideological lines. One party temporarily
controls the federal government and most of the state
governments, but the other party controls the largest cities
and most of the largest states. The party now in power is
considered the “conservative” party; the other party is
considered the “liberal” party.

This circumstance has occurred with some regularity in
our political history. At the very outset, there was a strong
difference between the views of Thomas Jefferson and
Alexander Hamilton --- although the first two major parties
did not appear formally for more than a decade. The divide
between North and South then festered until the Civil War.
In the depression years before World War II, the contrasting
political philosophies hardened, and during the Viet Nam
War and its aftermath, the major parties once again felt
a greater divide between them.

Of course, each political era has its own character and its
own issues.   In the national campaign of 2016, forces
within each party arose to attempt to direct public opinion
to new thinking on the populist left and the populist right.
The outcome of that election, following years of stalemate
under presidents of both parties signaled the genesis of a
political transition to directions which are not yet clear, but
the accompanying public discourse has seemed especially
bitter and polarizing, reverberating with an intensity
reminiscent of earlier periods in the 19th and 20th centuries
already mentioned.

The notion, however, that the nation and its voters are
somehow divided in an unprecedented way is simply a media
and academic fabrication. Polar opinions about presidents
and political parties is a permanent condition of American
public life. The names change, the issues change, but the
division goes on and on.

We hear today pompous assertions that the current president
is “unfit” to hold the office. The very same word and meaning
was used against such presidents as Andrew Jackson,
Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman,
Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Somehow, despite those ominous contemporary judgments,
the republic survived their tenures. Most of them, in fact, left
an indelible political mark.

Bipartisanship is usually a good thing, but it is always
provisional and limited. At key moments, bipartisanship might
be necessary to pass legislation or make social change, but it is
always followed by a resumption of the timeless political
arguments which run through the history of any democratic
republic --- and especially ours.

We should not be fearful of admitting to, or participating in,
differences of opinion, political arguments, and divided
partisanship. They are as natural as breathing; they are the
aspiration and respiration of freedom.

It’s time to stop being obsessed with the mere fact that we
have disagreements. Instead it’s time to use our debates to
solve our problems, meet our challenges, and adapt to the
remarkable changes taking place all around us.

Vive les differences!

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Does The Party Switch By The West Virginia Governor Mean?

The announcement by Democratic West Virginia Governor
Jim Justice that he is now a Republican does not likely
portend a sudden series of prominent party switches, but
it does tell us something about the contemporary U.S.
political environment.

First of all, party switches are quite rare, and usually, when
they do occur, they are responses to very local circumstances.
West Virginia in the past decade has gone from being a
reliably liberal Democratic state to being a conservative one.
Except for Mr. Justice and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, there
were no other truly prominent Democrats holding office in the
state. Mr. Manchin, it should be noted, is probably the most
conservative Democrat in the U.S. senate, and has frequently
himself been mentioned as someone who could switch

Liberal Democratic Party policies precipitated West Virginia
political transformation from a blue state to a red state.
The Obama administration effort to replace coal and coal
mining was the most obvious factor in this coal mining
state, but a whole range of social and economic liberal issues
contributed as well. West Virginia was an early warning sign
of this trend which climaxed in the upset election of Donald
Trump in 2016 when he swept most of the hitherto Democratic
rust belt states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and

But GOP gains in urban rust belt areas, and rural areas,
were offset by Democratic gains in the urban coastal areas
and states. Just as Senator Manchin and his Democratic
colleague North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp serve as
conservatives mavericks in otherwise Republican states,
Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins serves as probably
the most liberal GOP in the senate, and along with Senator
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, often fails to vote with the GOP
majority on key issues.

Although it was not crucial to the presidential election,
there was a larger Democratic than Republican popular vote
in 2016.

It is not just that the nation has been divided politically; the
evidence from West Virginia is that this division will continue.

Not only that, but President Trump’s base is holding, even as
his political problems and challenges mount. Governor
Justice would not have made his announcement at a Trump
rally if that were not the case.

That does not mean this circumstance cannot change. Mr.
Trump obviously has repair work to do at the White House,
and both the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential
election are ahead. But, as I have pointed out repeatedly,
writing off this president has so far been just wrong. The
primary reason, as I have also suggested, is that Mr. Trump
(notwithstanding his foibles) is also the agent for a major
political transformation that is slowly but persistently taking

Governor Justice’s party switch in West Virginia was his
recognition of this political fact on the ground.

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Would This be A Brilliant Move By President Trump?

We now live in a time when almost anything is possible in
the imagination of journalists. As someone whose
undergraduate university degree was in creative writing
(with honors no less), I don’t want to be left out of this new
media sport.

So I have come up, during lunch with a friend, with an idea
that, as far as I know, no one else has publicly suggested (I
would stand corrected if I’m wrong about that).

Since good writing often has some ambiguity, I’ll let the
reader decide how serious I am about this.

Here is my idea:

In the face of published reports that Jane Sanders, wife of
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (and very serious 2016
Democratic presidential candidate), is being investigated by
the FBI for her actions as president of Burlington College in
Vermont circa 2010, I suggest that President Donald Trump
pardon Mrs. Sanders before any investigation goes any further.
Inasmuch as Senator Sanders himself could be involved in this
matter, President Trump could pardon Bernie as well.

This would, of course, end any further investigations in this
matter. Since everyone is innocent until proven otherwise, and
no indictments have been made, I want to make it clear that I
am not suggesting that either Senator or Mrs. Sanders are
guilty of anything, But an FBI investigation does indicate that
something is awry, especially after the media reports it. Just
look at all the investigations and allegations about Mr. Trump
and his family --- without yet any hard evidence of wrongdoing.

President Trump, after pardoning Jane Sanders (and Bernie)
would hailed for his political magnanimity, and his popularity
among the populist left wing of the Democratic Party could
soar (although his favorability in his own party might take a

Oh well, there is always a trade-off in politics when you take
a bold action.

It would have the effect of enabling Mr. Sanders to freely
pursue the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, an
outcome GOP strategists might favor. It might also have the
effect of totally confusing the massive effort of the establishment
media to ruin Mr. Trump’s presidency.

I say, Mr. President, go for it.

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