Thursday, July 18, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "Pass The Admonition"

So far, the Democrats running for president have been the
recipients of innumerable warnings and admonitions from
several political quarters, many of them hostile, but not a few
who are friendly and want to defeat Donald Trump in 2020.

These admonitions are somewhat varied, but most of them are
centered around the recent trend in liberal politics to move
toward a more radical or progressive program of public policies.

The two wings of the Democratic Party have clashed frequently
before. The traditional liberal wing has often provided winning
presidential candidates, and usually dominates the nomination
contests. At first, the early “smoke-filled” rooms of party bosses,
and later, the grass roots primary voters tended to prefer
candidates who could win. For every losing “radical” nominee
such as William Jennings Bryan and  George McGovern, there
were more traditional nominees such as Franklin Roosevelt,
Harry Truman, and Bill Clintons winning in November ---
and for every Robert LaFollette, Henry Wallace, Gary Hart and
Howard Dean, there was an Al Smith, Walter Mondale, Michael
Dukakis, and John Kerry to take up the party banner in November
--- albeit unsuccessfully.

After Hubert Humphrey lost to Richard Nixon in1968, Democrats
rejected Humphrey’s political heir Ed Muskie, and chose instead
McGovern. But he was perceived by many as too radical for that
time --- and he lost in a landslide in November, 1972. In 2016,
establishment figure Hillary Clinton barely defeated socialist
Bernie Sanders for her party nomination, but in spite of being
heavily favored, she lost in November to Donald Trump. These
circumstances have, in large part, set up the 2020 Democratic Party
nomination environment.

In the four years between presidential elections, I have long pointed
out, much changes in the U.S. But both political parties often act
primarily in reaction to the previous cycle --- and sometimes that
reaction does not reflect the dynamics of actual history. This
behavior has often produced (in both parties) nominees who came
in second in the previous or earlier nomination cycle. Ronald Reagan,
George H.W. Bush, Al Gore, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton would
be examples of this. For the 2020 cycle, Bernie Sanders’ candidacy
would fit this pattern. Sanders, although currently a major contender,
might not himself be nominated in 2020, but someone who espouses
the ideology template he brought to the 2016 campaign could well be.

The question is whether or not voters are inclined to accept and
embrace the ideology of the Sanders policy programs. Republicans
and traditional Democrats regard the Sanders ideology (and that of
his fellow contenders who share his views) as “socialistic” and too
radical for the U.S. Sanders openly proclaims his socialism, but his
rivals try to avoid the term, usually preferring the term “progressive.”

There is a vocal and significant base of voters who actively support
Sanders or his progressive rivals for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Only the more traditional liberal Joe Biden stands in their way, and
although the former vice president leads the others in virtually every
poll, his age and his longevity in elective office are perceived by
some in his party as a negative.

Admonitions about a too radical Democratic nominee coming from
Republicans and conservatives will understandably be mostly
ignored, but what of the increasing warnings coming from seasoned
liberal political figures and commentators?

Soon after Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, a song titled “Praise The
Lord! Pass The Ammunition!” became very popular in a united U.S.
populace. After Donald Trump shocked the Democrats in 2016, that
does not seem to be the kind of song divided Democrats are singing
in 2019.

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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Unintended Consequences Everywhere?

The 2020 election cycle is becoming a cycle of unintended
consequences, especially for Democrats, who are so determined
to be rid of President Donald Trump --- either by impeachment
before November, 2020 or by defeating him at the polls next year.

But their ire and single-mindedness are routinely frustrated by
likely unintended outcomes almost everywhere they seem to turn.

For some Democrats, including their newest presidential candidate
billionaire Tom Steyer,  the highest priority is impeachment.
Because the liberal party now controls the U.S. house of
representatives, on paper they have the majority to vote the
impeachment (indictment) --- but zero chance for a conviction in
the U.S. senate controlled by the president’s conservative party.
Furthermore, impeachment is not very popular among many U.S.
voters, especially so late in Mr. Trump’s first term AND with the
campaign for the next term now already underway. The Democrats
probably don’t even have the votes to impeach in their own party
caucus because so many new members in their majority are from
districts carried by Mr. Trump in 2016, and if they voted for
impeachment, could easily lead to their defeat in 2020 --- thus
giving back the majority to the GOP in the next Congress.
(Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands this, and has consistently
resisted putting impeachment on the U.S. house agenda.)

Another strategy to block Mr. Trump is to require by law in
individual states that he make public his tax returns (which he has
so far refused to do), but as John Ellis writing in the presidential
briefing page in Ballotpedia ( ) points out, such
a move likely would backfire since states that have done or would do
this are already heavily Democratic --- not being on the ballot in them
would be no real penalty to  Mr. Trump and would enable him to
claim the national popular vote total to be incomplete and irrelevant.
Mr. Ellis also points out that removing Donald Trump’s name at the
top of those ballots would likely also help down-ballot Republicans
who would be otherwise hurt by the president’s unpopularity in those

Still another attempt to thwart the president has been to block his
attempt to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census. While
Democrats feel they have fair arguments for doing this, the 2020
census has no impact on the 2020 election (but it will impact 2022
and 2024). Although they are winning this argument in the courts,
this controversy enables the president and his party keep the volatile
immigration issue front and center, and thus motivate their voters to
show up at the polls. The White House has now abandoned the effort
to put the citizenship question in the census, but it almost surely
bring up the issue throughout 2020 when Americans will be
answering other census questions.

The Democrats have understandably welcomed the relentless
support of most of the establishment or liberal media. When I
coined the phrase “media coup d’etat” prior to the 2016
presidential election, I had no idea that anti-Trump media bias
would become an escalating, long-term phenomenon AFTER
the election ---and ultimately counterproductive as even many
non-Trump voters found the total negativism heavy-handed ---
and less and less credible. The evidence for this is the dramatic
decline in viewership and readership of the worst offenders
which continues even as I write this.

U.S. senate Democrats from day one have blocked many Trump
appointments, both for judicial and executive posts. To be fair,
Republicans had done this during the second term of President
Obama, and in response, the then senate majority leader (Harry
Reid) changed the senate rules. When Republicans took control
of the senate, and faced a liberal blockade of conservative
presidential appointments, they used the Reid precedent to adopt a
so-called “nuclear option” on confirmation procedures. The result,
under the current GOP majority leader (Mitch McConnell), has
been 127 federal judicial court, appellate and district, confirmations
and a belated speed-up of sub-cabinet confirmations --- an
unintended result of original Democratic strategy. (Of course, if
Democrats win back the White House and the U.S. senate, the
Republicans will face an unpleasant unintended consequence of
their own.)

One current unintended consequence favoring the Democrats is the
success of the GOP confirming conservative judges. Pro-choice and
other liberal voters will likely be motivated by this issue to go to the
polls in 2020.

Finally, the current internal insurrection in the Democratic Party, led
by a few outspoken young U.S. house members and some of the U.S.
senators running for president threatens to upend the apparent
opportunity for the liberal party to win the 2020 presidential election,
as well as keep its U.S. house majority and win back control of the
U.S. senate. The outcome of this ideological revolt is currently
unresolved. Standing in the way of the more radical liberal wing for
the present is not Donald Trump, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
who is trying to make this term her “finest hour” --- to protect her
party and her colleagues from a possible disaster that none of them
wants to happen.

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Some Cold 2020 Facts

The 2020 presidential election, perhaps even more than the 2016
cycle, will be complicated by several factors which so far are rarely
being mentioned, clarified or explained by the establishment
media and most of its pundits and pollsters.                   

This did also happen in 2016, but I think it is fair to say that most of
it happened because these “players” were in such self-denial that
they primarily and simply ignored the cold facts.

They don’t have that excuse this time.

First and foremost, virtually all NATIONWIDE presidential polls
are of little or no value in anticipating the true outcome  of the 2020
race for president. That is because a U.S. presidential election is not
a national popular vote election. It is instead (and has been until now)
a state-by-state electoral college election in which the winner must
win a majority (270) of the total electors (538) who cast their votes in
Washington, DC in December, 2020 --- following the November
popular vote. If, for any reason, a candidate fails to win a majority of
electoral votes, the election goes to the U.S.  house of representatives
where its 435 members determine the winner by a simple majority
vote (with each state casting one vote).

In 2020, as in 2016, the Democrats likely will receive huge majorities
in a few large states (California, New York, Illinois) ---no matter who
their nominee will be. These states produce net majorities of millions
of votes that are unlikely to be offset by the popular vote for the
Republican nominee in all the states that will be won by the GOP. In
2016, Donald Trump won the electoral college vote by a decisive
margin (304-227), even though he lost the nationwide popular vote by
more than two million votes.

Even if polls perfectly polled persons who will actually vote, and
their number of persons polled accurately measured who they will
vote for, the polls will be relatively useless if they are nationwide

The only polls that will be worth reading, now or later, are polls of
likely voters randomly selected in a relatively large sample IN THOSE

The Democratic nominee, whomever he or she is, barring a
historic screw-up of the candidate,, will not only carry the
aforementioned large states, but a number of smaller far western
and northeastern states. The Republican nominee (now likely to be
President Trump) will probably carry a number of western,
midwestern and southern states. Presidential poll numbers in these
states will mean little if anything.

On the other hand, good polls in the individual competitive states
will be very useful even now, and surely in the primaries (for
Democrats), and certainly for the final phase of the campaign going
to November.

Those states currently are, going east to west, New Hampshire,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Michigan,
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado
and Nevada. Six of these states were carried by Hillary Clinton in
2016; eight were carried by Donald Trump.

A few other states such as Texas could come into play as election day

A  non-factor in 2020 is the forthcoming and currently controversial
census. The results  of this year’s census will only affect elections
after 2020.

If, somehow (and it is now very unlikely), Donald Trump does win the
nationwide popular vote (even by a small margin), it would almost surely
would mean a landslide electoral college victory for him. Conversely,
a much larger popular vote win for the Democratic nominee (also now
unlikely) would mean his or her election as president.

The importance of certain issues, some now highlighted and others
played down by the national media, will be key to understanding the
2020 cycle, but again the rule established above for the voting will
apply --- polls that reflect nationwide views on issues will not be
useful, only the polls on issue attitudes in individual states will matter.
With the increasing impact of regionalism and local conditions, such
attitudes could vary widely from state to state.

Caveat lector! Election news consumer, be wary of what your read in
the next 17 months! Voter manipulation is everywhere. “Fake news” is
now endemic.

Only a very few will get it right BEFORE the election. Even they will not
be right all the time.

You now have fair warning.

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

Saturday, July 6, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: First 2020 Presidential Report Card

The first phases of the long trek to election night 2020 have been
passed with a series of candidate entry declarations, followed by the
first TV debate between the aspirants of the challenging party.

So what do we now know?

Barring a gigantic surprise, we know the name of the next  president
of the U.S. --- but we do not know which  party he or she belongs to,
or the specific name of the ultimate winning candidate.

We know the names of those Democrats who are getting most notable
numbers in the early polling, i.e., Joe Biden, Bernie  Sanders,
Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro and Kamala Harris.
They will be  in the next (July) debate --- and likely in the third debate.
 The remaining names from the first debate will also be in the second
one, but as of now we don’t know how many of them will make it to
the third debate, or even remain in the contest. The five candidates
who did not qualify for the first debate have an uncertain 2020 future. 

The punditry have weighed in, brandishing widely varied and  perhaps
dubious polls, declaring winners and losers. In particular, they cite the
“decline” in support for Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, the hitherto
frontrunners. With the national TV exposure, I have previously
suggested poll numbers would change somewhat after the first debate,
but also cautioned about reading too much into them, especially those
of Biden and Sanders whose bases are strong and resilient.

It was inevitable that attention would turn to one or two of the woman
candidates --- and to least one or two of the candidates with diversity
bases. Beyond that, it would take an extraordinary TV performance by
a candidate to excite genuine interest. I don’t think we saw that,
especially from one of the 14 “minor” candidates. At least not so far.
The first caucus and primary are more than six months from now, so I
think we have to be careful about declaring trends --- much less winners
and losers.

Biden and Sanders have run for president before, and been politicians
for a long time. They have indelible public images, and they have
presumably some strong cards yet to play. Other candidates have also
begun to raise some serious campaign funds --- ensuring they will be
able to survive until the primary voting begins.

The tendency of Democrats, both running for president and for other
offices, to advocate more controversial or radical policies has
continued from the 2018 mid-term election cycle, but it remains to
be seen whether this can be a winning strategy even among
Democratic Party voters - especially with Biden in the race.

There is also a heavy presumption that the eventual vice presidential
nominee will be chosen by the Democratic nominee from among his
or her losing rivals. Perhaps that will happen, but considering the
unusual cycle, perhaps not. In the autumn of 2020, a surprise might
be in order.

With President Trump still able to turn out huge crowds, and
apparently so far holding on to his base, the Republican 2020 ticket
remains formidable --- especially if it can make inroads into the
previously reliably Democratic black, Hispanic and Jewish voters.
On the other hand, Democrat have the opportunity in 2020 to retain 
and enlarge their share of suburban women voters they gained in 2018.

Two more debates, more reliable polls, and some current candidate
retirements from the field should provide us another report card on
the 2020 presidential contest, but as usual, I caution against
second-guessing the voters --- and I note the possibility of the

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What's Going On In This World?

The  activity of the earth’s outer crust is curiously much like a lot
of human activity --- both have often unexpected bursts which
accumulate under their surfaces and suddenly appear. Volcanoes,
in nature and in civilization, take a long time to form, but in a
instant can dramatically change their environments.

There is always some geological activity, and always a dynamic to
human civilizations, but there are moments in each when there is an
intensification of forces which can signal coming drama and change.

There are, of course, major differences between geology and
humanity. Perhaps most notably, there is a distinction in duration.
The earth’s crust has existed for millions of years following the
planet’s birth as a roving fireball. The earth is a very tiny entity not
only in its solar system, but even more so in our own galaxy and the
seemingly endless number of galaxies in what is so vaguely
verbalized as ”the universe.” The numbers involved quickly go
beyond any true human understanding.

Humanity has been accumulating some interesting numbers of
its own --- particularly in the numbers of world population and in
the numbers of generations since “history” began about 10,000
years ago, and even more since our humanoid forbears appeared so
much longer a time before settlement and language created what we
call "civilization."

Much has been made recently about unusual activity above ground
in the atmosphere where hurricanes, floods. droughts, extreme heat
and cold, and all the dynamics of climate occur. A debate rages
about what are their causes, whether they are inevitable and natural
or human-made, and what (if anything) can be done about them.

But what about bursts of earthquakes, moving geological fault lines,
erupting volcanos and other activities from the earth’s core? And
what about bursts of revolutionary human activity, intensification of
technological change, and altered generational perception?

The former is way above my intellectual pay scale, so I can only note
the phenomena --- and leave meaningful understanding (if any is
possible) to our best scientific minds and imaginations. The latter
might also be beyond our understanding, but at least it can be
discussed in a language we all try to speak.

In recent times, every 40-50 years has brought some kind of intense
global human change in the form of notable national revolutions,
major and widespread wars, and extreme economic cycles.

Just as we have seen large clusters of tornadoes in certain regions,
melting ice at one pole and freezing at the other, unusual activity in
the earth’s geological plates both on land and beneath the oceans, etc.,
so there seems a cluster of extraordinary human activity all over
the globe.

Those with an ideological “axe to grind” suggest, of course, a
self-serving meaning to these phenomena. For example, those
opposed to democratic capitalism assert history is on their side.
(They, of course, pretend the collapse of Soviet communism, the
failure of socialist states, and just recently, the rebuke to a would-be
dictator by the voters in Turkey, didn’t happen.) Those opposed to
totalitarianism, on the other hand, try to ignore the reappearance of
dictators, violent suppression, intolerance and terrorism.

Just as in the decades after the turn to the 20th century, the 1930’s and
the 1960s and 70s, signals and omens are everywhere seen.

Alas, we do no have a  Richter Scale, or any other device, to reliably
tell us what will happen next.

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

Thursday, June 27, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The TV Debates: Who Is Winning?

I have stressed the importance of the Democratic TV presidential
debates as a key opening of the 2020 election cycle, but now that they
have begun, I urge my readers to be cautious about the myriad of
interpretations (which have also already begun) about who wins or
loses them.

There are two main institutional forces which are competing for our
interpretive allegiance. First, there is the establishment media,
heavily biased toward the Democratic Party and relentlessly
anti-Trump. This media has trumpeted every radical move by the
so-called “progressive” wing of the party, and will continue to do so
in interpreting the debates, usually giving high marks to those
who espouse the leftward lurch. Second, there is the public relations
arm of each campaign which, no sooner has a debate concluded, are
touting their candidate as having having won. This is their job, but
few take them seriously.

A third institutional force which must be regarded with caution are
the polls --- the instant polls especially --- which history teaches us
are often misleading..

The non-establishment media, particularly the conservative and
pro-Trump media, need also be read or listened to with caution.
They have their bias, and are not likely to offer a fully fair analysis
of the Democratic debates, the liberal candidates, and their issues.

When round one is concluded in Miami, the debates will move to
Detroit for a second go-around. Then, new qualifications will
determine who appears in the next rounds of debates before the
primaries and caucuses begin in early February.

Winners and losers will emerge in time. I have suggested that the
majority of Democratic voters, while clearly liberal and anti-Trump,
have serious misgivings about some of the most radical ideas that
have been put forward by some candidates. My hypothesis will now
be tested in the true reactions to the debates and the candidates.
I always come back to the voters, those who actually show up and
vote --- they are the true test.

Not only Democrats are watching these debates. Republicans are, too,
and so are a great many undecideds, independents, centrists, and even
those in both parties who are not altogether happy with their choices.

The key to the TV debates is where they take the Democratic Party
in its epic second confrontation with President Trump.

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

Friday, June 21, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Solstice Week To Remember?

The summer solstice of 2019 has just occurred, but few Americans
take notice of this planetary event which is as old as our solar
system, and marks the calendar border between two of the four
earth seasons.

This year would seem no different in the U.S. The clocks of daylight
savings time were already changed weeks ago. It is an off-year in
national politics. (Baseball pennant races garner more interest than
distant elections.) Most public schools have finished their classes.
Americans everywhere are beginning to leave their homes for
vacations near and far.

And yet.....

The coming week promises much more drama and action than a
typical sleepy summer week.

First, the likely consequential Democratic Party presidential TV
debates will begin in Miami. With an historically large field of 24
major candidates, 20 of whom will participate in the first debate,
the personality of the 2020 cycle will form dramatically further, as
voters get to see for the first time most of the challengers to
President Donald Trump side by side, albeit not in a true debate

Second, the U.S. supreme court will close its current term with
several very important decisions, some of which (such as a census
wording dispute) will have implications for 2020 --- and all of which
will have consequences for the future. With a new, and reputedly
more conservative, member, historic and split decisions are expected.

Third, an ongoing international controversy between the U.S. (and its
allies) and Iran has taken on an ominous aspect in the Straits of
Hormuz, and the coming week should see how this will develop.

Not yet to be resolved, but just underway are unexpected elections in
Great Britain and Israel for prime minister, the results of which
could significantly affect U.S. foreign policy. As well, certain trade
negotiations with China, involving tariffs on both sides, will be
continuing --- with tremendous consequences for not only
international trade, but also for U.S farmers, businesses and their

That is a lot of potential events, decisions, and news headlines for
what is usually a quiet summer week.

Perhaps those who consider the solstice a big deal should be given
their due this year.

Stonehenge, anyone?

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

Sunday, June 16, 2019


In an earlier post, I  suggested that the first Democratic presidential            
TV debates in Miami with ten candidates on the stage for successive
nights might present a variety of scenarios depending on whom
would be in each session. We now know that a full 20 candidates will
appear (4 have been excluded), and we know who will appear on each

Since it was presumably the chance of a “lottery” which produced
the two line-ups, what might we say about them?

First, the “luck of the draw” has resulted in most of the so far
leading candidates appearing in the second-night debate, including
Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. Only
Elizabeth Warren, who also has had consistently notable poll
numbers, appears on the stage in the first debate.

The second debate is likely to draw a somewhat larger audience for
its drama of frontrunner Joe Biden defending himself against
confrontations with Sanders, Buttigieg and Harris. Although the
latter will probably focus on Biden, it will be every man or woman for
him/herself, and some side punches can be expected, not to mention
Biden’s counterpunches.  Candidates Michael Bennet, Jay Inslee, John
Hickenlooper, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang
--- none of whom are known for histrionics --- will be especially
challenged to make an impression on the TV audience, but it also
presents them with an opportunity if they can somehow rise to the

In the first debate, the candidates (especially Warren) might also
make frontunners Biden and Sanders targets, but lacking the former
vice president and the Vermont senator present, it could well also
be a debate in which each of the candidates tries most to upstage the
others.  Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Bill DeBlasio, Julian Castro,
Kristin Gillebrand and Amy Kobuchar each have reputations for
attention-getting --- and this will be a real test of their reputed
skills. Tim Ryan, Jay Inslee, and John Delaney --- unless they offer
some surprises --- could find themselves quite overshadowed.

Wit, debating skills, stage presence and knowledge of the issues
will be factors in determining TV audience reactions. Derisive
scorn of President Trump, his policies, his twitters and calls for
his impeachment will be inevitable, but it will be interesting to see
who can do this with the most skill and originality. In fact, if most
of the candidates seem  like they are just echoing each other, the
overall effect of  this initial side-by-side public exposure of the
candidates to the public at  large might not be what Democratic
Party leaders and strategists are hoping for.

These insiders are known to wish that the historically large field
becomes much smaller quickly --- presumably before Iowa, New
Hampshire and Super Tuesday. They know that a long and divisive
nomination battle almost certainly helps the Republican cause,
particularly in affecting the key decisions of independent and
undecided voters. But this is the 2020 cycle with its uncertainties
of so many ambitious candidates, uncontrollable social media
and an unpredictable communications specialist in the White

There are four announced candidates who will not  be in the first
debate, but considering the low bar for qualifying,they have no one
to blame but themselves. At least one or two of them might try to
make it for the second debate in Detroit in July.

Meanwhile, the candidates and their advisors are furiously
strategizing and gaming the two debate sessions in Miami. There
will be surprises. Poll numbers afterwards will change. Dropouts
might occur.

The 2020 cycle has begun in earnest.

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


There are two kinds of “what ifs” in politics --- those which speculate
about events which have already taken place, and those which
speculate about future events.

I rarely take much interest in the former because they are primarily
just intellectual games, but on the other hand, I find the latter much
more interesting because, while speculative, they sometimes actually
take place.

There are many battlegrounds in the upcoming 2020 election cycle,
and more general interest exists probably in the presidential and
U.S. senate elections. Democrats took control of the U.S. house in 2018,
and are likely to keep control of that body next year, albeit they will
need to defend several 2018 winners in competitive districts.

One district Democrats need not fear losing is Minnesota’s 5th
District which includes the city of Minneapolis and one of its largest
liberal suburbs.  The district is reliably Democratic (the party in this
state is called Democratic-Farmer-Labor or DFL) which consistently
receive about 75% of the vote. Republicans and independents usually
receive about 25%.

MN-5’s current member of Congress is Ilhan Omar, a young Somali-
American first elected in 2018, and who has become well-known
nationally for many of her controversial views on both domestic and
foreign policy. I think it is fair to say that a clear majority of 5th
district voters agree with her on most of her domestic views (as is the
case in liberal cities across the nation), but some of her foreign policy
views and community identity views have not only aroused strong
opposition among local GOP and independent voters, but among many
DFL voters in various religious communities who do not share her
opinions about the Middle East and other international hotspots.

Congresswoman Omar has presented the DFL leadership with an
ongoing problem. Her own seat is presumably safe, but she has
become a lightning rod in the rest of the state where her views are
often perceived as radical or extremist. Even among the two new
DFL congressional incumbents in neighboring suburban districts
(MN-2 and MN-3) there is reluctance to challenge her controversial
statements publicly --- for fear of backlash.

Obviously, no Republican or no independent could defeat her in
2020. Although there is much talk of challenging her in the DFL
primary, no serious challenger has so far been willing to go against
her and the DFL state party which backs her.

But there is one DFL figure who lives in the district, and does not
owe anything to the DFL establishment --- which abandoned him in
That is former Senator Al Franken who many feel was “thrown
under the bus” in 2017 over controversies not considered sufficient
to force him to resign.

Franken is known to wish to restore his political reputation and
make a comeback. His problem with that quest is that there are no
current or foreseeable openings in Minnesota at the U.S. senate or
gubernatorial levels.

But what if Al Franken decided to challenge Ilhan Omar in the
2020 DFL primary?

I think the answer is that Franken would win. Local Republicans
I have talked to, while disagreeing with Franken’s domestic views,
have told me that they would vote for him, and even go into the
DFL primary to do so.  Many DFLers in the religious community
would also do so, as would the many other DFL voters who have
become embarrassed by Rep. Omar’s chronic public controversies.
Franken remains popular among many 5th District DFLers, many
of whom feel he was unfairly pushed out of office.

What makes it attractive for Franken to run is that winning would
redeem him from his 2017 debacle. If he won, he would also likely
be in the majority, would receive important committee assignments,
and although a first-termer in 2021, would be a celebrity figure in the
U.S. house. Also, by returning to public service, he could take his time
to run for higher office should a  vacancy occur.

I have no evidence that Al Franken is considering this race, but
rumors about it were circulating at a political event I recently

Although they would be rid of Ilhan Omar if Franken won,
Republicans would lose a controversial target that helps them
statewide --- the prospects are thus complicated for the GOP.

So it’s just a ”what if” --- but a fascinating one, among many others,
in the momentous national elections coming relatively soon.

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

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Which States Might Switch In 2020?

Since the 2020 presidential election will ultimately be decided by
the state-by-state electoral college votes, and not by overall popular
votes, it might be useful to take an early look at which states might
switch from Democrat to Republican --- or Republican to Democrat
--- thus providing each party’s nominee with a route to victory in
November, 2020.

Donald Trump won in 2016, primarily with upset wins in Wisconsin,
Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Ohio. All five of these states
remain as battlegrounds in 2020, although the Democrats’ best
opportunities now seem to be in Pennsylvania, Michigan and
Wisconsin. With 46 total electoral votes, and if all other states
have the same results as they did in 2016, winning them would give
Democrats the presidency in 2020.

Democrat also seem now to have the  possibility to switch Arizona,
Iowa, North Carolina and  Georgia, as well as Ohio and Florida.
Winning all or many of these states in addition would give the
liberal party a decisive electoral college victory --- and probably a
popular vote landslide.

But the Republicans, if 2020 is a good year for the conservative party,
have opportunities to switch states, too. The GOP campaign has
already announced it will make a serious effort in New Mexico,
Nevada and New Hampshire, and GOP strategists are known to have
their eye on Minnesota (where they came very close in 2016) and
Virginia (where Democratic officials are mired in controversies).
Winning most or some of these could offset GOP losses in the
midwest, and keep the  White House Republican.

Other states which could become battlegrounds are Colorado
(Democratic in 2016) and Kansas (Republican in 2016).

Circumstances, political or economic, could bring  some of the
other 35 states, plus the District of Columbia, into unexpected
contention, but these states as  of now do not appear to be likely

The 2018 mid-term elections showed  a demographic shift of
many suburban women from GOP to Democratic, and recent
polling indicates modest but potentially significant shifts of
Hispanic and Jewish voters from the Democrats to the GOP.
Another critical demographic could be the strength of black
voter turnout in such large urban areas as Philadelphia and

With  more than a year to go, and the Democratic nomination so
unsettled with a large field, many factors, especially economic
ones, could prove decisive in the 15 or so battleground states.
How voters decide in those states, and likely in only some
of them, will determine the outcome in this key cycle.

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

Saturday, June 1, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Democratic Party Voters Take Over

Until now, the loudest voices in the Democratic Party presidential
nomination contest have been mostly those of the party’s neo-left
activist base promoting more radical issues articulated by certain
candidates --- all of this taken up by a sympathetic media which has
given an impression of solidarity and inevitability for these
candidates and issues.

I have suggested that the bulk of Democratic Party voters, while
unquestionably liberal on public policy and solidly anti-Trump, are
likely skeptical at the least to the most radical ideas --- and likely
not that much attracted to most of those who espouse them.

Current polling seems to bear this out, if we are to assume it reflects
likely Democratic voters. There is also the contention that current
polling simply reflects name recognition and pre-TV debate season
lethargy, and does not reflect voter assessment of the candidates seen
and heard on a stage together.

I have also argued the latter point, both based on experience and
common sense. Of course, both these assertions might be true, and
I think they are. In any event, the presidential campaign is about to
enter an important new stage: the increasing participation of the
mass  of the liberal party’s voters into the nomination contest.

With 24 notable candidates in the competition now weeks before the
first debate in which most have qualified to participate, the
Democratic National Committee (DNC) has just taken steps to make
this large field smaller for the third debate by raising the bar in poll
and donor numbers. This action will likely deter the very weakest
candidates in these categories, but since most of the 24 aspirants will
be seen and heard in the first two nationally-televised debates, it’s
just a guess how many will make it to the next stage that begins with
the third debate.

It’s guesswork because, once the debates begin, so many more
Democratic voters will begin to be heard from, culminating with
actual voting in Iowa, New Hampshire and the mega-(Super)Tuesday
in early March.

The 2020 cycle has, so far, defied most conventional wisdom. Bernie
Sanders, it was said, would not keep his base from 2016; Joe Biden
would not keep a big poll lead after he formally announced; Kamala
Harris and Elizabeth Warren would start strong, as would Cory
Booker; Robert “Beto” O’Rourke’s “charisma” would quickly make
him a leading  candidate; Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang, a small
town mayor and an unknown businessman; would not get much
attention; and so on. These predictions have failed to happen.

The DNC and party elders might want a much smaller field of
candidates as soon as possible, but Democratic Party voters might
not cooperate. Getting 2% poll numbers might not be so difficult after
national TV exposure --- nor, considering how easily most candidates
reached he 65,000-donor mark, should obtaining another 65,000 donors.

On the other hand, Democratic voters might solidify around one, two
or three candidates right away.  Or general party voters could act in a 
permutation of other ways. The point is that no one knows what’s
going to happen, and the reason is that no one knows what Democratic
Party voters are going to think and do once the campaign begins in

Best advice?

Wait and see.

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

Monday, May 27, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Breaking Global Election News

The  concept and practice of representative democracy is currently
besieged with criticism and doubts around the world, including at its
modern birthplace, the United States of America. This political
institution has varying structural systems, including those led by
presidents, prime ministers and even a few remaining constitutional
monarchs, but they all share one vital practice in common --- free
elections. With next year’s U.S. presidential election already underway,
it is easy for Americans to forget that similar voting has recently taken
place in most of the world’s other major representative democracies,
including several just in the  past few days. Here below  is a report on
these news stories:

Based on returns so far, elections for the European Union’s parliament
have resulted in significant gains for both anti-EU nationalist parties on
the right and pro-EU parties on the far left. Seats were lost by the
various pro-EU parties in the center which must now form  a coalition
to continue to control the economic organization of 28 member nations
on the continent. Notable upsets occurred in the United Kingdom (UK)
where a new pro-Brexit party led by UK nationalist Nigel Farage
trounced both the ruling right-center Conservative Party and  the
left-center Labour Party. Not only did Farage’s far right party make
dramatic gains, but so did the leftist anti-Brexit Liberal Party. In France,
President  Emmanuel Macron’s ruling (and also new) centrist party was
defeated by Marine Le Pen’s far right nationalist party. Only last year,
Macron had soundly defeated Mme. Le Pen in the French
presidential race. Socialists and other pro-EU parties did have some
success in the Netherlands and other western European nations. The
EU election, including countries having a total population of 515
million, is the second largest free election in the world.


British Prime Minister Theresa May, following her failure to secure
a negotiated Brexit deal with the European Union (EU), has just
resigned, effective June 6. She will continue to lead a caretaker
Conservative (Tory) government until the Tory party selects her
successor later in the month. There will be no general British election
to pick her replacement. Former London mayor and and U.K. foreign
minister (in  Mrs. May’s cabinet) Boris Johnson is the clear
frontrunner to be the next prime minister, but there are other
candidates. most of whom are pro-Brexit. Johnson has pledged to a
U.K. departure from the EU on October 31, whether or not a Brexit
deal is reached.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party 
have won a decisive re-election in the world’s biggest democratic
election just held. Mr. Modi first won in 2014, defeating the socialist
Congress Party which had governed India for most of the period
since it gained independence from Great Britain in 1948. The
subcontinent nation is one of the world’s two largest countries with
a population of 1.2 billion persons.


With a declining economy, newly-elected Brazilian President Jair
Bolsonaro already faces protests and calls for impeachment as he
attempts to introduce promised reforms in the chronically-troubled
nation of 210 million persons (and by far the largest country in South
America). Bolsonaro, a former army officer and long-time deputy in the
Brazilian legislature, upset the political establishment with his taking
office in January, and his attempted disruption of the nation’s ills has
met with mixed response. Compare often to Donald Trump, he has
further polarized always-turbulent Brazilian politics.

The largest nation in the world which does not hold free elections is
China (1.2 billion persons), but it has adopted a quasi-capitalist
economic model as it undergoes a continuing transformation of much
of its population that has been leaving rural farm communities to
move to the nation’s many large cities with multi-million inhabitants.
Although the political system is totalitarian, the rapidly-growing
Chinese economy has produced a consumer society, and the
national leadership under President Xi is currently locked into a
major trade dispute with the U.S. under President Trump in which
both sides are employing tariffs as economic weapons in a contest
of political shadowboxing. With resulting rising local prices of
imported goods and commodities, each side is attempting to force
the other to make trade concessions, and although the Chinese
leadership does not have to answer to its citizens at the polls, it does
face pressure from its huge population now accustomed to consumer
needs and expectations. This contest is likely to continue to be played
out in the remainder of 2019 and perhaps early 2020, and could have
impact on he U.S. elections.

The leader of Indonesia (population 265 million), Joko Widodo, won
re-election last month in a rematch of 2014 agains his rival Prabowo
Subianto, but in recent days, protests about the election have appeared.
Indonesia is he third largest nation in Asia (after India and China)
where almost two-thirds of the world’s population live.

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

Monday, May 20, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: TV Debates Could Be The Key

As the date of the first Democratic presidential TV debate
approaches, it is becoming clear how this event might likely be key
to the initial sorting out by voters of the overlarge candidate field.

As now scheduled, the debate will take place in Florida on June 26
and 27 with as many as ten candidates on the stage for each night.

There are 24 “major” candidates now declared and actively
running, and most of them have, or will be, qualified for that
debate, resulting in some candidates being left off the stage even
if they have qualified.

Since  appearing in the first evening or the second evening of
debate, a certain unintended consequence will happen --- that is,
the chance impact of which candidates appear together.

What if, by the luck of the draw, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders
appear the same night? Or if they appear on different nights?
What if Pete Buttigieg and Robert “Beto” O’Rourke are on he
same night? Or different nights? What if Kamal Harris and
Elizabeth Warren share the stage? Or don’t?  Which current
underdogs will appear on which night, and in what combinations?

These questions don’t cover all the factors of how the public will
respond to the debaters, but it is an important unpredictable
element --- because TV debates often work significantly in
the viewer perception of contrasts between the skills and
personalities of the participants.

As the DNC has ruled, the determination of who will appear
on which night will be by chance, not by standing in the polls or
money raised.

Debate skill and projection of personality will also be important
factors. But if chance also determines who appears on which night
of the second debate the following month, voter sentiment might
remain undefined, and the large field might be at least partly
preserved into the new year and the first primaries.

This is the crux of the big question now, a month before the first
debate, about the nature of the Democratic contest --- will the
nominee be determined early, or in the primaries, or at the

A consequential question is whether or not the timing of selecting
the Democratic nominee matters to the ultimate outcome in
November. That question is obviously open to debate, and cannot
be answered now.

But with the Democratic Party apparently so divided on policies
(if not ideology), the potential of the TV debates to create voter
attitudes and enthusiasm or opposition remains very high.

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

Thursday, May 16, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Food And Dining Out In 2019

[On occasion, as a special feature for The Prairie Editor subscribers, 
I invite the venerable food critic Leo Mezzrow to write a column on 
a culinary topic. This one is about the state of the restaurant business 
today, and where to dine out in the Twin Cities of Minnesota and its 
environs. While my readership is national and worldwide, a 
significant number of readers either live in the area now, once lived 
here, or visit this now booming restaurant community. So I hope 
readers find  the list useful. ------ THE PRAIRIE EDITOR]

by Leo Mezzrow

The restaurant business, like so many other aspects in our American
culture, is going through a great deal of change. Some of this change
is good, and some of it is not so good, and most of it is being driven
by technology and economics. Some of it is also affected by changing
dining public tastes which, like all aspects of public fashion, are brief
and easily altered. While technically national inflation is deemed low
by financial institutions, prices seems to be rising notably for those
who dine out --- caused primarily by rising labor and food costs. Chain
restaurants, both low and higher end, seem to be affected the most,
but it can also impact the small neighborhood ethnic restaurant. Other
factors include increasing local regulations and rising local taxes,
especially in large urban cities. In short, it is a tough business getting
tougher. Somehow, however, the quality level generally of  U.S.
restaurants, and the food they serve, continues to rise.

An excellent example of this phenomenon is taking place in the Twin
Cities of Minnesota where, in less than a decade the local food culture
has blossomed. The seeds of this were sown in the decades before by
innovative local restaurateurs and their young talented chefs. Most of
those pioneers are gone now, and there were relatively few of them,
but they deserve much credit for provoking rising expectations in the
dining out public, especially among the young who have grown the
”foodie” population to a significant size. Interest in “good” food and
dining out has always been strong in the largest U.S. cities, and
certain smaller cities such as New Orleans and San Francisco, but
cities such as Minneapolis and St. Paul have come to the new
culinary party later.

Below is a list of my favorite newer Twin Cites restaurants (listed
alphabetically) with brief descriptions of their cuisines.  I have only
included those which I have visited. These are not food reviews,
and readers can do an internet search for addresses, phone numbers,
hours and days open, and menus. This list is current, but restaurants
do close, so  I recommend an internet search before going, Every
dining experience is unique, as are each diner's expectations, so I
can't guarantee the good time I have had. Prices will vary. Some
readers might also know other restaurants which are their favorites.

I will try to update this list on another occasion. Bon Apetit!

[NOTE: This list does not include my favorite area restaurants 
which are longer-established such as TILIA, 112 EATERY, 
about them another time.]


CAFE ALMA (innovative American)
CENTRO (Mexican)
COSTA BRAVA (Spanish tapas)
ESKER GROVE (innovative continental)
GIULIA (upscale Italian)
HAI HAI (Asian fusion)
THE LYNHALL (innovative American)
POPOL VUH (innovative Asian)
TAVOLA (Italian)
TULIBEE (innovative Nordic)
MOMO SUSHI (Japanese/Tibetan)
P.S. STEAK (upscale continental steak  house)


COMMODORE (Continental)
LOUIS AT COSSETTA (upscale Italian steak house)
PAJARITO (Mexican)


LATITUDE 14 (innovative Asian)

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

Thursday, May 9, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Is GOP Senate Control At Risk In 2020?

In addition to re-electing President Trump, retaining control of the
U.S. senate is critical to Republicans in the 2020 election cycle.

On paper, that control  is clearly at risk --- since more than twice as
many conservative seats than liberal seats are up for re-election, and
three of those GOP incumbents have already announced they are
not going to run again.

But paper is not reality, and only a few GOP seats are likely to have
serious contests in 2020. The seats of the three retiring GOP senators
are in heavily GOP states, as are most of the other GOP senators
running for re-election.

With A 53-47 current lead, the GOP can also afford to lose 1 or 2
net seats. Republican are already considered likely to take back a
set that was unexpectedly won by a Alabama Democrat in a 2018
special election when the Republican nominee was so controversial
that many Alabama conservative voters stayed home.

Two Republican incumbents are considered especially vulnerable
next year --- Arizona Senator Martha McSally and Colorado Senator
Corey Gardner --- but Democrats so far have been able to recruit a top
challenger only in Arizona (former astronaut Mark Kelly) In Colorado,
they have not yet done so.

In fact, in several contests strong potential Democratic challengers
have not yet been recruited with a number of possible strong liberal
candidates either choosing to run for president or taking a pass
in 2020. These include Texas, Colorado, Georgia,  and North Carolina.
Republicans likewise have not yet recruited formidable challengers to
potentially vulnerable liberal incumbents in Michigan and Minnesota
--- although there is at least one strong GOP potential candidate in
each of these states.

One Democratic incumbent senator, Tom Udall of New Mexico, is
also retiring, but like his retiring GOP colleagues, his is likely to 
remain a safe seat for his party.

The basic environment of the 2020 battle for control of the U.S.
senate has been known for some time. but Democratic prospects
for this contest, as well as the one for the White House have until
recently appeared to be favorable.  For the present, however, the
historically large (and likely unwieldy) number of Democratic
presidential candidates, and a weak recruitment of Democratic
senate challengers has clouded that optimism.

The growing difficulty in the U.S. senate races is that time is running
out. The nature of a U.S.senate race today, especially in states of even
modest size, requires almost all challengers to either raise a lot of
money early or be able to self-fund with considerable resources. There
are exceptions such as the 2018 Utah senate candidacy of Mitt Romney
to succeed retiring Senator Orren Hatch. But even the exceedingly
well-known Romney was running in a very conservative state, and was
in a position to self-fund if he had to do so

Control of the U.S. house in 2020 remains a complicated matter.
Democrats must defend a large number of seats they won in 2018 by
relatively small margins, several of them in districts won by Donald
Trump in 2016. Court-ordered redistricting continues to favor
Democrats, and their surprising strength among suburban women
in 2018 might continue in 2020. On the other hand, President Trump
was not on the ballot in 2018, and the booming economy with
historically low unemployment (particularly among blacks and
Hispanics) had not been as realized then as it is now --- at least  for
the time being. In 2018, Democrats did an excellent job of recruiting
challengers. In 2020, the onus of  this task falls to the Republicans.
Unlike senate races, candidates for the U.S. house have more time,
in most cases, to enter a race. For these and other reasons, a useful
assessment of the the battle for U.S. house control needs to wait for
more time to pass.

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

Saturday, May 4, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Another Day, Another Democrat Running For President

Until the Democratic TV presidential debates begin in late June,
the most notable political news appears to be the seemingly endless
announcements of candidacies of Democrats with ostensibly
serious credentials. After the entrance into the race by former
Vice President Joe Biden (at gate number 21), it might have been
supposed to be the end of it, but already we have two more,
including Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, and the prospects of
several more. Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Bill Di Blasio of New
York are signaling their interest, as is Steve Bullock of Montana.
Andrew Cuomo of New York is writing op eds laden with hints.
Friends of Michelle Obama say the former first lady cannot be ruled
out. Given the sudden rise of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who
knows what other obscure urban mayors or state legislators are
dreaming of instant 2020 political celebrity.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) now says the first two
debates will have no more than twenty participants, ten on successive
days, in each. It set rather low bars for qualification. Seventeen have
already qualified, two are almost qualified, and each of the remaining,
including all those still unannounced, would probably qualify by the
deadline two weeks before the first debate.

As I wrote previously, the DNC has tied its own hands by declaring a
boycott of the Fox network (for being too conservative), and thus
provides candidates excluded from the debates, and even those included
but low in the polls, with an incentive to remain in the race past their
otherwise normal shelf life --- resulting potentially with an excessively
large number of candidates on the Democratic state primary ballots.
If the latter occurs, the risk is that no candidate will have enough
delegates to secure the nomination before the July, 2020 Democratic
national convention in Milwaukee --- and that a bitter battle there
might split or dishearten the party’s already fractious voter base.

Some might argue that  a contested Democratic convention, which
hasn’t happened for more than 70 years, would give the liberal party
much needed TV coverage and inspire voter interest, but the record
shows that large divided Democratic fields in conventions of 1920
(44 ballots) and 1924 (103 ballots) produced losing tickets in
November against the Republican nominees. Moreover, no party
nomination field has ever been as large as the one for the 2020
Democratic contest.

Conventional wisdom, furthermore, has been mostly wrong so far in
the 2020 cycle. Bernie Sanders, the upstart of 2016, was said not to be
able to hold on to his base, Joe Biden was said likely to fade after he
formally announced. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke was said to be the
“charisma” candidate. A small-city mayor (Pete Buttigieg) was said
to have no chance to gain traction. More radical candidates (Elizabeth
Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker), it was said, would do well in
initial polls.

The current cycle, however, is taking several contrarian turns, with
Sanders and Biden showing resilient voter appeal, Buttigieg stealing
the charisma “show” from O’Rourke, and more radical candidates
(other than Sanders) trailing in the early polls. Some preoccupation
with impeaching President Trump also is not resonating with most
of the liberal party base, nor is much of the issues lurch to the left.

I have previously pointed out that President Trump has serious
problems for his re-election, particularly in the all-important
electoral college, including the rust belt states he won (Pennsylvania,
Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin)  and southern states he won (North
Carolina and Florida). I said he had few prospects of picking up states
he had  lost in 2016. Now, only a few months later, his prospects have
improved in most of the states he narrowly won in 2016 (particularly
Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida), and he has new
opportunities in some states he lost (Virginia, Nevada and Minnesota).

Most polls show Mr. Trump below 45% approval and above 50%
disapproval. Virtually all of the polls, however, are composed of
“eligible” voters or “registered” voters. The major poll which is
composed of “likely” voters shows Mr. Trump at about 50% approval
(currently at 50-47% approve). Polls of likely voters are usually much
more accurate. The establishment media is embracing the former,
and dismisses the latter. (Of course, they were certain Hillary Clinton
would win in 2016.)

Current conditions could easily change, Sanders and/or Biden could
fade. O’Rourke or Harris or another candidate or two could suddenly
catch on. The debates could change the whole picture of the contest.
Disclosures could force a candidate to withdraw. News, domestic or
international, could change the political environment. Trump could
lose some of his support.

But until now, conventional wisdom and establishment media
speculating don’t seem to be working.

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

Monday, April 29, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Democrats' Presidential Debate Dilemma

The Democratic National Committee(DNC) has put itself into a
political conundrum of its own contrivance, and unless it resolves this
dilemma, it could negatively affect the liberal party’s attempt next
year to recapture the White House and defeat Donald Trump.

The circumstance of an historically large field of candidates in itself
is not necessarily problematic. Republicans in 2016 ended up with 17
major candidates at the outset of their national TV debates. GOP
officials like to say that their rules and control of the debates made
them successful, but it was probably more that the series of debates
took place on all the networks, and their ongoing spectacle attracted
large audiences which, thanks to a TV entertainment-savvy candidate
led to his upset win of the GOP nomination and his surprise victory
in November.

Before going further, a bit of presidential debate history.

The first formal TV debate occurred in 1960 between Vice President
Richard Nixon and Senator John Kennedy. Kennedy’s appearance is
credited with boosting his eventual narrow victory, although polls of
radio audiences who only heard the debate thought Nixon had won
the debate encounter. The TV network then, and subsequently until
2016, controlled the format of the presidential debates, selecting the
locations, moderators, questions and rules of the debate. After the 2012
GOP debates which provoked a roller coaster of “winners” from debate
to debate, and charges that moderators were biased, the Republican
National Committee (RNC), as well as the DNC, decided to assume
some control. The 2016 GOP field required each debate to be in two
segments (to accommodate the number of candidates), and the RNC
insisted on input on the moderators. Since all the major five networks
(NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and FOX) had at least one debate, the
candidates  had to observe the rules, or risk being excluded from them.

The 2020 presidential debate cycle will begin in late June, 2019 with a
Democratic debate in Florida. Currently, there are likely to be more
than 20 “major”candidates in their field. Sixteen have already qualified
for the TV debates, and up to a half dozen more could qualify by June.
The DNC is setting up the rules for these debates, but one decision it
has made could end up self-sabotaging their own efforts.

Claiming that Fox News is biased against Democrats, the DNC has
announced it will not sanction any debate on the network. Inasmuch
as the other four networks are widely believed to be hostile to President
Trump, singling out the more conservative Fox  network has seems
ludicrous on its face. But the DNC would penalize any presidential
candidate who appeared in a Fox debate, presumably by excluding
them from the other debates.

Fox has quickly responded to the DNC by offering individual
Democratic candidates “town hall” programs of their own. Since Fox
has very large audiences, these town halls have so far been quite
successful, most notably perhaps the one with Bernie Sanders. Other
Democratic candidates are lining up for their own town halls --- which
constitute major free political advertising.

There is nothing now to prevent Fox from scheduling their own
presidential debate, albeit without DNC sanction, sometime in the
autumn or winter. Although they could be penalized, candidates lower
in the polls have little to lose and perhaps much to gain by defying the
DNC and appearing in the Fox debate. Bernie Sanders currently is a
Democratic frontrunner, and presumably need not fear DNC penalty.
If the DNC tried to exclude him from a debate, after what it did to him
in 2016 when he ran against Hillary Clinton, there would be massive
outrage and a  civil war among Democratic voters in response that
would threaten the Democrats’ chances in November. Senator Sanders
has already had success on Fox, and could appear in a Fox debate
therefore presumably with impunity. What would the other major
Democrats then do --- boycott Fox and allow Sanders and several other
candidates the free advertising of a  debate by themselves?

The decision by the DNC to boycott Fox seems ultimately arbitrary
and untenable. Fox is no more biased than any of the other networks,
and in offering Democratic candidates town halls ostensibly less so. Its
large audience base makes its air time desirable to any candidate, high
or low in the polls.

It is overwhelmingly tempting now, as former GOP White House press
secretary Sean Spicer and others have asserted, for Fox to schedule a
presidential debate later in the year, with or without DNC sanction. If
some candidates boycott it, it will only increase the audience size and
interest in it, especially if Bernie Sanders and/or other major candidates
appear in it.

It would seem to be good sense for the DNC to drop its boycott of Fox.

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

Monday, April 22, 2019


The so-called “road to the White House” is strewn with potholes this
cycle, and no one is getting there at full speed with their gas pedal
down all the way.

Both parties have road crews out this spring trying to repair the road,
but so far it’s difficult to stay ahead of new potholes appearing to
disrupt the political traffic.

Since the Republican nomination is so far firmly held by incumbent
President Donald Trump --- and his assumption of vindication
following the issue and publication of the redacted Mueller report,
and since he already occupies the White House, the road’s potholes
are primarily an obstacle for the historically very large field of
Democratic challengers. (But Mr. Trump has his own set of
potholes ahead.)

Early assumptions made in late 2018 and early 2019 have mostly
been upended already, and the Democratic Party itself seems to
have decided the potholed road isn’t worth the trouble --- and
seem ready to take a detour to the house on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Their problem is that there is no known map to guide them on
such a detour, and they risk ending up in a political cul-de-sac with
no timely exit.

The surprise election of Donald Trump in 2016 has seemed to usher
in a suspension of many political rules and cliches both in the U.S.
and across the world.

A Jewish TV sitcom comedian (with no political experience) has
just been elected president by a landslide in historically anti-semitic
Ukraine. Upsets from the left and right have recently taken place in
Brazil, Italy, Austria, Mexico and elsewhere in Europe and South
America. Hitherto popular leaders in France, Canada, Spain,
Germany and Turkey are seeing grass roots uprisings challenging
their power. Citizen everywhere seem to be upset, impatient and
politically impertinent.

I think it is time to recognize that the U.S. presidential political
rule book will be of little use this cycle. A new strain of political
microbes seem on the move globally, and there is not yet a way for
political establishments to thwart them.

Even the re-election of Israeli Prime Minster Bibi Netanyahu’s
government recently reflects voter agitation with conventional
political wisdom. Accused of wrongdoing, challenged by a united
group of respected generals in a new party, considered by many
older voters to have been in office too long, Netanyahu was written
off by hostile U.S. and Israeli media as a sure loser. And indeed,
many older Israeli voters who had supported him in the past did not
vote for him. But unexpectedly, young voters did vote for him, and
his party not only gained seats, but won more than any other party
--- which was unpredicted.

The first U.S. presidential TV debates, less than two months away,
will clarify some voter attitudes toward the large number of
Democratic candidates, but even that won’t stop the surprises.

The 2020 political road is likely to be bumpy all the way.

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

Friday, April 12, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What's Already Different About 2020

The 2020 presidential election cycle has recently begun in earnest,
and already there are visible differences between this unfolding
campaign cycle and 2016, as well as earlier cycles.

Some of these differences are obvious. Except for Donald Trump
and Bernie  Sanders, the other major candidates did not run in
2016 --- although some of the Democratic hopefuls had
considered running, or did run, in earlier cycles.

In 2016, the largest field was on the Republican side which initially
included 17 major candidates. In 2020, it is the Democrats who have
the large field --- in fact, it already has 18 formally-announced major
candidates, with 3-5 more expected to enter,

In recent decades, primaries and caucus have become increasingly
important, replacing smoke-filled rooms, favorite sons, and political
deals. Even the winner-take-all of a state’s delegates is no more.

In those recent decades, a tradition of Iowa being the first caucus,
and New Hampshire holding the first primary was observed by both
parties. This appears to be continued in 2020, but moving up of large
state primaries, most notably California, from later in the cycle,
might de facto replace them as some individual campaigns ignore
Iowa and New Hampshire for the larger treasure of delegates to be
won in California and Texas which will vote soon after.

State presidential caucuses have smaller voter participation, often
dramatically and undemocratically so, and for the 2020 cycle, two
states, Minnesota and Washington, have already abandoned their
caucuses for primaries. This trend might well continue.

Absentee balloting for cause has long been practiced, but many
states have adopted early or mail-in voting, or absentee voting
without cause. Same-day voting registration is taking place in more
states. These changes are causing election night results, as many
were in 2018, to be inconclusive until the following day. A reprise
of Bush vs. Gore 2000 could happen again.

The 2020 cycle could be one where third party candidates might
affect the outcome. There will be Green, Libertarian and Socialist
candidates as usual next year, but at least one notable independent
candidate, business executive Howard Schultz, has said he will run.
If many voters are unsatisfied with both major party nominees,
third party and non-voter totals could be significant.

Super-delegates, especially in the Democratic Party, played a very
significant role in 2016, but a new rule bars these delegates from
voting on the first ballot at the national convention, They will be
able to vote on the second and subsequent ballots. It is unclear
how his reform will play out.

In an attempt to force President Trump to release his tax returns,
a few states are trying to require candidates to make their tax
returns public in order to be on the November ballot. This
controversial move will almost certainly go before the U.S. supreme
court before taking effect.

At the outset of 2015, Jeb Bush was  an early favorite, and Chris
Christie the candidate with lots of charisma.  Neither got very far
once the debates and voting began. This cycle, Joe Biden (not yet
formally announced) leads in most polls, and Beto O’Rourke was
pegged as the charisma candidate. Already, Bernie Sanders is
challenging Biden in the early polls, and Pete Buttigieg is proving
so far to be a challenge to O’Rourke’s appeal. Once the debates
begin, other candidates could catch on.

Campaign funds, as always, play a role early in presidential
campaigns, but the ease with which most of the Democratic
candidates have initially raised $5 million or more, and the large
number of candidates, might diminish the psychological impact of
fundraising. In 2016, Donald Trump had the personal resources to
self-fund, and won. 2020 candidates who can do the same also can
lessen the impact of early fundraising of those candidates who
don’t have big personal resources.

Both parties face defections from their traditional voter bases in
2020. A preview of this occurred in 2018 when many suburban
women voted Democratic and many Hispanics voted Republican.
Next year could see further GOP erosion in the suburbs, and further
switching of Hispanic, Jewish and black voters to the GOP.

In the 2020 cycle, there is much incentive to garner media attention
early, especially in 2019. This is likely to tempt presidential
campaigns to take chances and make bold moves and statements.
Some will be successful, and some will backfire. All of them increase
the element of surprise and unpredictability into the campaign cycle.

So far, President Trump does not have even a remotely serious
challenger to his nomination. Barring the unforeseen, he will be on
the ballot in November, 2020. His proven ability to provoke, anger,
shock or please various groups of voters is perhaps the primary
carryover from the last presidential election.

Otherwise, 2020 goes into much new political territory.

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

Friday, April 5, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Our Era Of Unrelenting Contempt

In the name of tolerance, a great deal of intolerance is being dished
out to the American public, most of it via media venues which profit
in various ways by its relentless agitation and incessant noisy racket.

Nowhere perhaps is this phenomenon more audible and visible than
its presence in the 2020 presidential campaign cycle already well
underway. At first, it might have been supposed that the verbal,
physical and legal confrontational rancor would be mostly between
the two major political parities and their nominees --- with a
continuing emphasis on attacking the incumbent president.

An apparently record number of nominally serious candidates for the
challenging party’s presidential nomination, however, has quickly
produced efforts to attack certain candidates and push them, or keep
them, out of contention --- from forces within that party itself.

A lament, has subsequently been heard about about the lack of civility,
fairness and clarity in the rhetoric and tactics of the political combat
now taking place.

The truth is, it is time to say, that politics in America has just in fact
returned to its bare knuckle origins. We tend to forget that at the very
beginning of the republic the discourse of U.S. politics was personal,
defamatory, often slanderous, and usually contemptuous.  No one was
spared --- not even George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Abraham
Lincoln. As the nation grew in size, population, and economic and
military power  in the 19th and early 20th centuries, its political
discourse became only slightly less contemptuous --- that is, until
mass communications in radio and television began to moderate its
tone when identified speakers voices and faces were seen and heard.

With the sudden advent of the internet and social media, anonymity
returned and so did the contempt. As with other forms of public
violence, mass attention could also be obtained by many of those
who eschewed anonymity for public displays of revenge, ugly
put-downs and sensational ex post facto political allegations.

The laments about this state of public affairs do not hinder it in
any way --- and so it not only continues, but grows louder, more
vicious, and more uncivil. Furthermore, it now appears to know few
if any allegiances, alliances or restraints.

It is not going away any time soon. In fact, it will now grow louder,
especially as the 2020 political cycle now underway. proceeds toward
election day eighteen months ahead. Even when that election
determines winners and losers, it will not fade away, as the precedent
of the 2016 aftermath has established.

One profound consequence of all of this is, and will continue to be,
that some of the most qualified and talented men and women in our
nation will simply and understandably avoid or pass on contributing
to public life, elected or appointed.

Nothing, of course, is permanent in human affairs, but the politics of
contempt will not go away until it so exhausts voters that public opinion
finally reasserts itself and declares, like a parent to a spoiled child, a
firm and unchallengeable “NO!”

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Latest Political Developments

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller, after 22 months, has filed a lengthy
report to U.S Attorney General William Barr, and found no evidence of
crime or collusion on the part of President Trump, his family, or top
staff in regard to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election
---  according to the attorney general’s own public summary of the report.
Although numerous Democrats, many in the mainstream media, and a
few remaining “never-Trumpers” in he GOP have decried the report, it
has been widely received initally as vindication of the president and
those closest to him. Details of the report have yet to be released.

Two-term Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Udall of New Mexico
has announced he will not run for another term in 2020. His seat had
been considered a safe one in the next cycle. Two long-time Republican
incumbents, Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Pat Roberts
of Kansas had previously announced their 2020 retirements, but unlike
Tennessee and Kansas, New Mexico is a considered more of a
battleground state between the two major parties. Nevertheless, lacking
any announced candidates for the now open seat, Democrats would be
favored to retain it. All current New Mexico members of Congress are
Democrats, although current state GOP chair Steve Pearce was, until
2018, a Republican congressman from this state.

The U.S. House of Representatives, voting almost identically as they
had to oppose President Donald Trump’s recent declaration of a
national emergency on the U.S.-Mexican border, failed to reach the
required number of votes necessary to override the president’s veto
of their action. It was Mr. Trump’s first veto since taking office in 2017,
and his executive order remains in force.

The finalization of the departure (popularly known as Brexit) of the
United Kingdom (UK) from its membership in the European Union
(EU) has run into bureaucratic, political and procedural delays that
threaten fulfillment of the earlier British voters’ decision to leave the
continental alliance. UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative
Party is divided over the issue, and the House of Commons has
repeatedly rejected her negotiated arrangements with EU member
nations for the departure. The biggest, but not the only, obstacle to
parliamentary approval is the relationship of Northern Ireland, a
part of the UK, with the Republic of Ireland and other remaining EU
member states.  Mrs. May has obtained a delay of the formal April
separation on the condition that parliament agrees to it, but she has
already conceded that she lacks the votes even for that. At the same
time, parliament has voted that the British cannot leave the E.U.
without a negotiated plan for separation. This “no exit” scenario
threatens not only to provoke the prime minister’s resignation, but
even might precipitate, Brexit opponents claim, a new national vote
on Brexit itself.

Mayor Peter Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, a hitherto unknown
seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. president, reportedly is
drawing some crowds and attention as he travels across the country
to introduce himself to voters. At 37, he would be the youngest person
elected president if he won, the first openly gay president, and the
first sitting mayor elected. (Presidents Cleveland and Coolidge served
as mayors early in their careers, as did presidential nominee Hubert
Humphrey.) A former Rhodes Scholar, he was deployed by the navy in
Afghanistan, and is currently a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve,
He received earlier notice when he unsuccessfully ran for DNC chair
in 2017.  Buttigieg graduated with honors from both Harvard and
Oxford Universities. A polyglot, he is reportedly fluent in Italian,
Spanish, French, Arabic, Maltese, Norwegian and Dari.

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

Saturday, March 23, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Surprise Coming In Democratic Nomination?

With well-known names of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders holding big
leads in early polls, and massive media publicity being given to Robert
(“Beto”) O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, is it even
possible that the eventual Democratic nominee will be someone else,
perhaps a virtual unknown now in early 2019?

There will be at least 20 nominally credible Democratic candidates
trying to oust President Trump in November, 2020, even more than
the 16 who competed for the Republican nomination in 2016 when the
“impossible” happened, and Mr. Trump won an historic upset.

Recent history suggests that a surprise is quite possible, albeit very
difficult to predict with the names we now know.

There are now two relatively distinct themes within the Democratic
contest. One is the continuation of the more radical views of Senator
Bernie Sanders in his confrontation with Hillary Clinton in 2016. She
had represented a more pragmatic and traditional liberal policy
view, and had narrowly prevailed after a bitter primary/caucus
campaign cycle. Sanders had been a career-long socialist, but almost
took over the Democratic Party’s policy agenda.

The second theme so far in 2020 is really a continuation of the more
gently progressive agenda of the Clinton wing of the party, but this
cycle is voiced by former Vice President Joe Biden (who has yet to
formally announce his candidacy).

All of the other candidate represent so far variations of these two
contrasting themes --- although most of them lean to favor the more
radical issues of Medicare for All, open borders, abolition of the
electoral college, free college tuition, and the Green New Deal that
grew out of Sanders‘ 2016 presidential campaign.  The Biden wing
of the party stresses environmental, gun control, pro choice, regulatory
and traditional entitlement issues that contrast with the conservative
Republican agenda. All sides in the Democratic nomination race seem
truly united on only one subject --- their visceral opposition to Donald

As in 2016, there are important secondary and personal issues that
differentiate the candidates. Mrs. Clinton would have been the first
woman president, but had various controversies arising from the time
she was First Lady and, later, Secretary of State. Sanders, a socialist,
then 75, had only briefly been a Democrat. In 2020, with so many
more candidates, the secondary and personal issues are even more
numerous and complicated. Actual age, or generational age, could be
an issue for Sanders, Biden and Warren in the senior range, and  for
O’Rourke, Peter Buttigieg, and Tulso Gabbard in the youthful range.
Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson have no elective experience.
Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Karen Gillibrand, Julian Castro, Jay
Inslee, are unknown outside their states.  Harris, Klobuchar, Terry
McAuliffe (not yet announced) and Andrew Cuomo (also not yet
announced) have controversies arising from their political past. And
most of the remaining hopefuls are virtually unknown.

Yet Barack Obama and Donald Trump, only a short time before their
first presidential races were unthinkable as nominees, much less as
presidents. Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Wendell
Willkie, and Harry Truman emerged suddenly as serious presidential
contestants. The recent record for early frontrunners is very mixed,
to say the least.

The debates, as they have been for over half a century, are often key
to a presidential nomination and election. Little is likely to be
resolved until they are underway.

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Joe On The Brink Again

Thirty-four years ago, in 1985, I made a prediction in a community
newspaper I edited and published in Minneapolis. Although the
publication featured local news and city politics, from time to time I
wrote about and editorialized about national politics. Three years
earlier, in 1982, I had predicted that a then-unknown Colorado
senator, Gary Hart, might emerge in 1984. Although he didn’t win,
he did emerge. By 1985, I thought I would try again for the next
election in 1988.

Another young and unknown senator had caught my attention. His
name was Joe Biden. First elected to the U.S. senate in 1972 when
he was only 29 (he could take office only because his 30th birthday
was before the day he was to be sworn in), he almost didn’t serve
because his wife and daughter were tragically killed in an auto
accident just after the election. (He once told me that his grief
made him decide to resign before being sworn in, but that
Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey at a December meeting for
incoming new senators persuaded him to take office.

Two of his young sons survived the accident, and eventually he
remarried, had another daughter, and settled in as a senator from
Delaware. I had read some about him, and he seemed to be a fresh
face and voice in his party.

So I wrote a front-page editorial about Biden, and predicted he could
emerge as a serious contender for the 1988 Democratic nomination,
and might even be elected president. At some point, Biden came to
Minnesota for a speech, and I met him for the first time. It turned out
he had already been thinking about 1988, and soon announced his
candidacy, emerging as the most serious opponent to Democratic
frontrunner Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. But fate once
again intervened, and Biden was diagnosed with a serious double
aneurism that forced him to leave the race in 1987.

Biden recovered, and once again settled into a leading role in the
U.S. senate where he first became chairman of the judiciary
committee (where he led the effort to block Robert Bork’s
appointment to the U.S supreme court), and later chairman of the
foreign relations committee. In 2006, a newly-elected senator from
Illinois sought now senior Senator Biden’s counsel on senate
matters --- and Biden then served as a mentor. The new senator’s
name was Barack Obama.

In 2008, Democratic nominee Obama chose Biden to be his vice
presidential running mate.

In 2016, after two terms as vice president, Joe Biden was inevitably
one of the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination along with
Hillary Clinton. But once again, tragedy stepped in as Biden’s eldest
son Beau, the Delaware attorney general with a bright political future
of his own, died of cancer.  Overwhelmed with grief, Biden chose
not to run.

Now 76, Biden leads in numerous public opinion polls for the 2020
Democratic nomination. With many younger Democratic hopefuls
moving to the left, he maintains the premier reputation as a liberal
moderate or centrist. His years campaigning across the nation for
Democratic candidates has made him numerous friends among party
activists, and no other Democratic candidate can match his foreign
policy experience. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,
another major moderate figure, said he would not run if Biden does,
and now has withdrawn.

There is now widespread belief that Biden will announce his
presidential candidacy sometime in April. If he does, he will almost
certainly be a frontrunner along with Vermont Senator Bernie
Sanders, the runner-up for the 2016 Democratic nomination.

Sanders was then an early voice for the drift leftward in the liberal
party, and that is where most of the many lesser-known Democratic
hopefuls are clustered, months before the first TV debates in June.
A few candidates have cautiously floated their more moderate
credentials, but with Bloomberg out of the race, Biden would likely
attract voters in the party’s still very large older liberal base.

Biden’s age is not the only issue of his candidacy. Four decades of
elected public service are also in play in what is almost certainly
going to be an epic battle to be the candidate against Donald Trump.
This time, I’m making no predictions, but I am nonetheless aware
that some predictions (perhaps even those thirty-four years old) can
come true when you least expect them to do so.

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