Wednesday, September 18, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Parliamentary Perils

From time to time, occasional voices in the U.S. are heard
lamenting our executive-legislative-judicial form of government,
usually accompanied by pleas to adopt a much more globally
employed parliamentary system.

No system is perfect, of course, but the long-range wisdom of the
founding American leaders is  being reinforced today as three of
the world’s democratic parliaments are facing profound crises.

(Historically,when one of the three U.S. branches becomes too
strong or too weak, another branch provides needed balance.
In recent years, Congress has become stalemated, but both the
executive and judicial branches have attempted to fill the
resulting vacuums. A case in point has been the use of executive
orders by both President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and
President Donald Trump, a Republican.)

Two of these parliaments are in nations which are our closest
allies, the United Kingdom and Israel. The third is in the world’s
largest democracy, India. Each of their crises highlights perils that
parliaments can face.

In the United Kingdom, the Brexit crisis has paralyzed its ancient
parliament, once the model for new nations across the globe. In a
national plebiscite two years ago, British voters narrowly but
clearly voted to withdraw from the European Union (EU) and the
parliament-determined government was charged to bring about
the withdrawal (known as Brexit). But under Conservative Prime
Minister Theresa May it failed to do so. This was because her own
party was divided between pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit M.Ps, and a
negotiated deal to leave the EU was blocked in the parliament, thus
thwarting the voters’ decision. A new Conservative prime minister,
Boris Johnson, pledged to make Brexit happen, deal or no deal, but
he no longer has a parliamentary majority, and the current members
not only are blocking an October 31 withdrawal, they are preventing
Johnson from calling a new election (which polls indicate he would
handily win) thus, in effect, paralyzing the current British government.

In Israel, a new election was called, and the two largest political
parties and their allies are apparently virtually tied, with most of
the votes now counted. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won
an election earlier this year, but was unable to form a coalition of
61 members of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) that would enable
him to remain in power. Netanyahu’s center right coalition appears
to have 54-56 seats, His center left opposition coalition appears to
have 41-43 seats.  The third largest coalition, representing Arab
voters, has 12-14 members. Finally, a conservative but secular
party has 8-10 members. The latter, led by Avigdor Liberman, has
called for a “unity” secular government, but refuses to support any
government that includes the Arab coalition. Thus, a new majority
is stymied unless the religious parties are willing to compromise
on the issue of drafting Orthodox men into the Israeli army,
an issue that Mr. Liberman continues to insist on. Mr. Netanyahu
remains in power for the time being, and as Israel’s longest-serving
and most successful politician, cannot yet be relegated to the defeat
now being proclaimed by hostile media in Israel and the U.S.

In India, the problem is not one of stalemate resulting from a
lack of a parliamentary majority. Prime Minister Modi of
the Hindu nationalist party, recently won a landslide re-election,
saying he would revoke the autonomous status of Kashmir, a
mostly Muslim province in northwestern India. This status had
existed since 1947 when Kashmiri leader Sheik Omar Abdullah
had negotiated it with then Indian Prime Minister Nehru. At the
end of the British colonial period, both India and Pakistan claimed
Kashmir, but Nehru offered Kashmir the closest outcome to the
full independence that the Kashmiris sought. Kashmir’s leaders
today assert that Modi’s and the Indian parliament’s unilateral
action is illegal, but India has sent in troops to occupy the area,
and has arrested most of the province’s Muslim political
leadership, including Sheik Abdullah’s son and grandson, both
former chief minsters of Kashmir. While Modi’s revocation is a
fait accompli, the controversial action risks staining India’s
reputation as a genuine democracy which adheres to the rule of
law.

All three of the above crises remain unsettled for now, but the
lack of an accepted legal mechanism to easily resolve the disputes
only illustrates a key weakness which can arise in the
parliamentary system.

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

Thursday, September 12, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Too Early To Panic, But.....

The failure of the Democrats to win an upset in a North Carolina
special congressional election, establishment media reports
notwithstanding, combined with still another demonstration of
Donald Trump’s ability to rouse his base in that same contest,
must be giving hitherto optimistic savvy Democratic activists
and strategists some pause in their expectations for 2020.

Special elections have to be regarded with caution for the
signals they might display, but in the last cycle, the 2018
midterms, these contests were often a demographic bellwether
of what became a “blue wave” in U.S. house races.

NC-9 turned  out to be a narrow but clear win for Republicans,
winning the race by 4000 votes in spite of having a well-known,
well-financed, attractive and strong Democratic nominee in the
race. The GOP nominee was not as well-known, under-financed
until the very end, and he entered the race quite late. Yes, the
district was historically Republican (Mr. Trump carried it by 12
points in 2016). but the Republican nominee  only won by 900
votes in 2018 --- and that  election was thrown out because of
apparent fraud.

As it was, the Republican might have lost if the president and
the national Republican Party had not stepped in during the
campaign’s closing days, but the fact is that they did step in,
and were not only successful, but improved on the GOP
performance from 2018.

In the other special election, NC-3, the Republican won, as
expected, in a landslide.

As 10 of the 19 remaining Democratic “major” presidential
candidates walk on the stage for their third debate, Democratic
voters are faced with a field in which their three frontrunners in
the polls are each over 70 and strongly represent one of the two
factions of a divided party. 

If North Carolina, or Georgia (two states targeted by Democrats to
take away from the GOP in 2020) had Senator Bernie Sanders or
Senator Elizabeth Warren at the top of their ticket next year, the
results in NC-9 signal their prospects to pick up these two
Southern states, as well as defeat incumbent GOP Senator Thom
Tillis, would seem reduced. With the more moderate Joe Biden on
the ticket, their prospects would seem better, but the Democrat in
NC-9 was even more moderate than Biden, and he was defeated
by considerably more votes than when he ran in 2018.

On the other hand, we are speaking here of traditional Republican
territory. The victories in the two special North Carolina elections,
while good news for the president and his party, don’t tell us much
about the rest of the U.S., particularly the key midwestern states
that decided the 2016 election.

Perhaps the greatest cause for unease among Democrats now is the
recent demonstration in North Carolina and elsewhere of the
president’s continuing strong support from his party base, and his
ability to bring his voters to the polls. Others have pointed out that
NC-9 was the last chapter of the 2018 mid-terms. Coming  a year
later, and with the Democrats ideologically more divided than they
were in 2018, the special election speaks most broadly of a
time-tested political reality --- that each cycle has its own particular
voter landscape, and will likely reflect the new circumstances that
even only two years can produce.

Having only one debate session for the third Democratic debate,
might be only a brief respite. An 11th candidate has now qualified
for the fourth debate (and 1 or 2 more are close to qualifying), so
the prospects of two debate sessions again is ahead.

Some might suggest the sense of division is symbolic of the
Democrats’ greatest challenge in 2020. There is no need for them
to panic --- so much can happen in 13 months and Mr. Trump has
his own potential problems --- but.....

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

Saturday, September 7, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Collapse Of The United Kingdom?

The news headlines from the British capital on the other side
of the Pond are unsettling to any admirer of British democracy
and sovereignty. That small island nation has played an outsized
role in modern global history, and although like all human
endeavors it has not been without its shortcomings, its current
peril should be of concern to all who have benefited from its
contributions to the rule of law, culture, human freedom and the
emergence of representative democracy.

For almost two centuries, the British empire through its naval
resources was the greatest world power. As a colonial power, it
exhibited arrogance and imposed itself on, and exploited, faraway
places. That included a period when the U.S. was a colony, and
ultimately felt the need to declare its independence. Even after
that was won, the British attempted to retake its American colony,
even sacking and burning Washington, DC before finally
withdrawing to its English shores and other colonies.

Its era of empire ebbed after World War I, and was finished by
the end of World War II. Most of its colonies became serious
representative democracies, including the U.S., Australia, New
Zealand, Canada, India, Nigeria and other nations. Unlike the
new nations formed from the lands of the colonial powers of
Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Italy, The Netherlands,
Austria-Hungary and Germany, the British left important civic
legacies that were largely beneficial to most of its former
territories.

One of those legacies was the Westminster (parliamentary)
system which traces back about a thousand years to the Magna
Carta. English imperial rule evolved into a powerless (but
usefully symbolic) monarchy. The U.S. adopted a different
system, but kept many British traditions of law, language and
public conduct.

In the evening of its waning global power, in the desperate days
of Nazi aggression, the United Kingdom and its people
demonstrated remarkable resiliency, resolve and courage in their
”finest hour.”

Today, the U.K. is a shadow of its former naval and military
prowess. Yet the British pound is still an independent global
standard currency. The U.K.remains an economic presence in
international trade, but its long-uneasy membership in the
European Union (E.U.) has reached a crisis over sovereignty,
and the U.K.electorate has voted to leave the E.U. The process
of this departure, known as Brexit, has been quite complicated,
primarily due to minority and regional opposition to Brexit in the
Conservative (Tory) government and the parliament it has, until
now, controlled.

Two years ago, a new Tory prime minister, Theresa May, was
elected by the party to make Brexit happen in an orderly fashion,
but she failed to do so, and the formal break has been delayed.
A new prime minister, Boris Johnson, was chosen to finish the job,
and he has promised to do so, even if a transition agreement
cannot be reached with E.U. leaders by an October 31 deadline.
Such a “no deal” outcome is unacceptable to a majority of
members of Parliament, including several Tory members, and
Mr. Johnson’s efforts to finalize Brexit have been apparently
blocked. His parliamentary majority is now gone. Not only can he
now not make a no-deal Brexit happen --- and given this
circumstance, E.U. leaders have no reason to make a new deal ---
the Parliament also will not allow Johnson to call a new election
which current polls indicate he would win.

Further complicating this unprecedented impasse, Parliament so
far is unwilling to dismiss Johnson with a no-confidence vote,
and replace him with the minority Labour Party leader who is
widely disliked for what his opponents call his anti-semitic and
radical views.

An independent pro-Brexit party, led by nationalist Nigel Farage,
has already won dramatic local elections, and if Prime Minister
Johnson is unable to make Brexit happen on October 31, it is
poised to devastate the Tory Party in a national election --- just as
it did in the recent local elections.

All of this could precipitate not only a constitutional crisis,
it could lead to an attempted secession of Scotland and perhaps
other parts of the United Kingdom (which also includes England,
Wales and Northern Ireland).

In short, it is a colossal political mess with no apparent way out.
The fact is that the British electorate voted for Brexit, and failure
to make it happen could bring some very hitherto un-British
activity to the streets of the now not so United Kingdom.

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

Monday, September 2, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Senate Prospects Fourteen Months Out

In the past few months, the 2020 U.S. senate election cycle has seen
some significant changes, especially in the names of those who seek
to be on the November ballot.

Most recently, Georgia Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, whose
seat was not up next year, announced his early retirement. His GOP
appointed replacement will now have to run in 2020. Georgia is no
longer safe Republican territory, and the state’s other senator, David
Perdue, also a Republican, is up for re-election next year. The GOP
Georgia governor is therefore under pressure to make a strong
appointment to replace Isakson.

Two other GOP incumbents, in Tennessee and Kansas, have decided
not to seek re-election in 2020, and three GOP incumbents running
for re-election, Senator Martha McSally of Arizona, Senator Cory
Gardener of Colorado, and Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina,
are considered vulnerable.

Should the Democrats win four of these seven seats, and not lose any
of their own, they would regain control of the senate in 2021.

However, there are at least four Democratic incumbent seats up in
2020 that the liberal party might lose. One is in usually heavily
conservative Alabama where a controversial GOP nominee lost in
2018, and is running again in 2020 against the Democrat who beat
him. If Alabama Republicans fail to put up any other nominee, they
would probably lose an almost certain pick-up. Similarly, in normally
conservative Kansas, another controversial Republican is running,
and if the state party can’t find a better  nominee, they risk losing a
seat they now hold --- and otherwise should win.

In Michigan, the Democratic incumbent, Senator Gary Peters, is
considered quite vulnerable, and the GOP has an especially strong
challenger, John James, running in the race. In New Hampshire,
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen is thought to be vulnerable,
especially if former Trump staffer Corey Lewandowki challenges
her. Finally, Democratic (DFL) Senator Tina Smith could have a
serious race now that a damaging GOP primary battle has been
avoided, and former Congressman Jason Lewis is the probable
nominee challenging her in a state that the president wants to win.

The one Democratic Senator to retire so far is from New Mexico,
but this liberal state is expected to replace him with another
Democrat.

The Democratic Party has recruited likely strong challengers in
Arizona and Colorado. The Republicans are likely to recruit strong
challengers in Michigan and New Hampshire. Altogether, ten
senate races are currently considered in play in 2020.

But with unexpected resignations, retirements, and the course of
the also upcoming presidential election unknown. other senate
seats could become competitive in the coming months.

The GOP controls the senate 53-47. It is likely but not certain that,
14 months out, the Democrats will make at least some net gains.
Whether those gains will be enough to retake control remains to be
seen, but it is almost certain that, with Donald Trump at the top of
his party’s ticket, the Republicans will have a voter turnout asset
they lacked in the “blue wave” 2018 midterm elections. Less
certain is whether the Democratic nominee will be a greater or
lesser turnout asset.

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Elizabeth Warren: Harbinger Or Throwback?

The extended interval between the first Democratic presidential
debate in late July and the first actual voting in Iowa (caucus) and
New Hampshire (primary) in early February next year has already
provided some apparent movement between leading contenders
--- and is likely to provide much more before we have the decision
of the voters.

After that first debate, Senator Kamala Harris (who had sharply
confronted former Vice President Joe Biden, the leader in the polls)
garnered media attention and rose in her polls. Biden took a dip
in the polls and became a target for his rivals. Then Mayor Pete
Butigieg got some media attention, and rose in the polls. Senator
Bernie Sanders, the only candidate returning from the 2016 cycle,
maintained a high media profile and poll numbers --- although at
some distance from Biden. Senator Elizabeth Warren issued several
position papers, was strong in the second debate, but often trailed
Biden, Sanders and Harris in polls.  Biden throughout this period
maintained a substantial poll lead over the others, and Sanders’
numbers declined a bit.  After the second debate, and issuing some
policy positions, the Harris poll numbers declined sharply, and
she received some criticism.

Another “tier” of the 26 candidates deemed “major” by the media
received some attention, but rarely exceeded 5% in the polls, and
many of them have not exceeded 1% in any poll. Twenty did qualify
for the first two debates, and ten have already qualified for the next
two (with a few more close to doing so).  At least five candidates
have formally withdrawn, but several of those who will not likely
qualify for the next debates have indicated they are nevertheless
remaining in the race.

One very recent poll suggests the Biden, Sanders and Warren are
now in a three-way tie for the lead --- with Biden’s poll numbers
down, Sanders somewhat up, and Warren making the biggest poll
gains. But several polls released after the one with the three-way
tie have Biden back in a double-digit lead. Polls, at this stage, with
so many different standards of the persons they sample, sample
size, and subjective interpretation of data, are simply often
unreliable.

Perhaps more of a bona fide signal, Warren has in recent days
drawn very large crowds (12,000 in  St. Paul; 15,000 in Seattle).

Elizabeth Warren, 70, professorial, tenacious, and ambitious, 
for several years now, along with her senate colleague Bernie
Sanders, 77, has been a loud and persistent voice for Democrats
to move much more to the left. She proclaims herself a
“progressive” --- Sanders proudly accepts the term “socialist” ---
but on most issues it is difficult to tell them apart. The question is
whether Warren and Sanders are harbingers of some imminently
new redistributionist U.S. policies or throwbacks to old leftist
notions that American voters have rejected in the past.

So far, as I continually point out, we have had no evidence from
actual voters. Americans have had to depend on the very subjective
views of the media and on early polling, usually of “registered”
voters (and not the more credible group, “likely” voters). With
Warren’s recent crowd-drawing, we have an additional useful
metric for evaluating how the various candidates are doing. It is
not a dispositive metric, of course, because a particular crowd can
be staged, but if any candidate can routinely draw very large
audiences, it might well mean something. We need only recall that
Donald Trump’s huge rallies beginning in 2015 were early clues to
his political appeal. (His continued ability to draw large crowds
indicates that his political base is intact.)

Already, Biden, Sanders, Harris and Warren have had fractions
of momentum --- with Warren currently having hers --- but as we
saw so vividly (as a recent example) in the 2012 Republican
nomination contest --- Mike Huckabee (who led in early polls but
did not run), Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum,
Newt Gingrich, and finally, the winner Mitt Romney) --- many
candidates rise and fall in the course of a long and tough contested
campaign. The voters of the Democratic Party are still divided in
their ideological direction --- and those who lean very “progressive”
have yet to fully explain and make credible their controversial
policy programs and positions.

“Decision” 2020, as some might label it, remains a distance away,
but that does not mean we cannot take note of certain signals from
those who will likely actually vote.

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


Saturday, August 24, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Premature 2020 Conclusions?

There is a growing media consensus that the 2020 Democratic
presidential field has already narrowed to only three candidates.
Those three are Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Each of them is a senior person. Biden and Sanders have seen their
poll numbers drop very recently; Warren’s poll numbers have been
rising.

This triumvirate allegedly excludes Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg,
Julian Castro, Cory Booker, AndrewYang,  Tulsi Gabbard and
Marianne Williamson --- each of whom have attracted at least some
notice --- as well as Tom Steyer, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke,
Steve Bullock who have also had some attention.

Aside from Biden, there has been no candidate considered a true
frontrunner. Five lesser-known candidates have already dropped
out, and a few more who have not qualified for the next debates are
expected to do so. About a dozen or more, however, might be
expected to remain in the race until actual voting begins.

Although the presumed triumvirate includes the party’s current
range of ideology, center-left to “progressive” left, it does not include
any of the candidates of the party’s younger generation.

It’s very important to remember that we have not yet heard from any
voters --- there are four months until the first caucus and primary.

The presumption that the race is down to three --- or even the five
(including Harris and Buttigieg) who maintain somewhat elevated
poll numbers --- seems obviously premature. Yes, the eventual
nominee might well be one of the three or five, but relying primarily
on polling at this stage is essentially speculative. What if some
well-known (self-funding) billionaire or celebrity enters the race?
What if these still early polls do not accurately reflect actual voter
sentiment? What if one of the now-leading candidates stumbles
badly?

With domestic and international events and circumstances
producing new headlines daily, drama in the economy and stock
market, and Donald Trump disrupting the political scene with
regularity, it would seem much too early to decide even the final
stages of the Democratic nomination contest.

We need to see what actual voters think.

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

Saturday, August 17, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Certain Uncertainty

Kashmir and the Straits of Hormuz are not familiar places to most
Americans, nor are the names Kamala Harris and Peter Buttigieg.
They are among many other “new”names and places suddenly in
the news. Most of the unfamiliar places and names will soon fade
from the news, but the events associated with them will continue,
creating more and more uncertainty until they are resolved ---and
a new set of unfamiliar names and locations will then replace them
in the news.

These are days of a certain uncertainty about economic, political
and diplomatic circumstances. There are crises, large and small,
seemingly everywhere and involving matters at home and abroad.

Unsettling moments such as these occur with historical regularity,
just as periods of apparent tranquility also take place, but most of
it is a kind of illusion because the world we live is always changing
out of daily sight.

Recurring events often provoke what we do see --- elections,
revolutions, natural disasters, technology innovations --- humanity
and nature dancing together on a kind of global petri dish.

Key elections are ahead not only in the U.S, but also in Great Britain,
Germany, Argentina, Austria and Israel; recent key elections have
occurred in Mexico, India, Australia, Brazil, Italy, France and Turkey.
Major events are occurring in western and central Europe, Hong
Kong and the South China Sea, Venezuela and Central America.

As if all this isn’t enough, President Trump is reportedly thinking
about the U.S. purchasing Greenland!

(Incidentally, President Harry Truman originated the idea.)

I don’t know if such a purchase would rise to the historical
importance of the Louisiana Purchase or  “Seward’s Folly” of buying
Alaska (both in the 19th century), but it is a curiously newsworthy (if
also a diversionary) idea. For a mere $60 billion, every native
Greenlander could become a millionaire, Denmark (which owns the
frozen territory) could wipe out its national debt, and the U.S. would
not ever run out of ice cubes.

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Can A New 2020 Candidate Get In?

The possibility of yet another Democratic candidate for president in
the 2020 cycle is being raised by some Democrats unhappy with the
choices now available in the already historically largest field.

Beginning most notably in 1896, significant late-entry candidates,
some of whom went on to win their party’s nomination (William
Jennings Bryan, James Cox,Wendell Willkie, George Wallace, Ross
Perot) have appeared, but none won the presidency. Abraham
Lincoln was a little-known figure, but he was not in 1860 a late entry,
and Donald Trump (who was known as a celebrity) did enter the race
when most of his 16 rivals did.

Yet, as Mr. Trump and Barack Obama have recently demonstrated,
precedents in U.S. politics can be upset.

It is likely that the eventual Democratic nominee will come from
the list of the current list of 24 contenders. Part of the problem for
the liberal party is that it has so much time to fill between now and
the first caucus and primary, and the other party controls the White
House and the U.S. senate. It does control the U.S. house, but
controversial figures and factions in that body often overshadow the
presidential contest. Secondly, their Republican opponent not only
has the “bully pulpit.” he is a master of political scene stealing.
All of the above takes away attention from the Democratic
presidential candidates who have overfull schedules of flying hither
and you for speeches, town halls and meet-and-greets as well as
personal telephone fundraising and endless media interviews.

The general voter, and even the Democratic voters, are not paying
much attention yet,and the lack of a charismatic frontrunner makes
the large field of candidates, probably unfairly, seem less
distinguished than it really is.

This leads, among other consequences, to calls for more
candidates. In reality, there are only a limited number of figures
who might do this. Such a list would include former First Lady
Michelle Obama, TV icon Oprah Winfrey, former New York
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and businessman Mark Cuban. The
latter three are billionaires; only Mrs. Obama is a mere
multimillionaire. She and Oprah, however, are universally known
and enjoy wide popularity. All four either were mentioned as
possible candidates or considered running earlier. Mr. Bloomberg
almost announced, but when Joe Biden got into the race, he
demurred. If Biden somehow were prematurely out of the race,
Bloomberg might reconsider, but the most probable answer to the
question of new candidates is: VERY UNLIKELY.

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

Friday, August 9, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Other 2020 Elections

While it is understandable and inevitable that the 2020 presidential
race will receive top voter and media attention, there will be other
critical and vital election contests next year --- and they should not
be, even now so early in the cycle, overlooked.

I particularly call attention to the races for one-third of the U.S
senate seats, and consequently, control of that body. Control of the
U.S. house will also be at stake, as well as state governorships and
control of state legislatures --- each of which are very important ---
but it might be that the outcome of the U.S. senate races will have
the most impact in 2021 and beyond.

Whether Donald Trump is re-elected next year or he is replaced by
the eventual Democratic nominee, the control of the U.S. senate
will be key to the exercise of presidential power in the next term.

There are several permutations.The two which will produce the
least drama and conflict would be a Republican sweep or a
Democratic sweep of the executive and legislative branches. Under
those circumstances, executive branch appointments, including
judges, would proceed relatively unimpeded. With the historic
tensions between these two branches, and the divided policy
factions in each party, legislative action might not go that smoothly,
but there would not likely be the stalemate that now exists with
the current divided Congress.

Another set of permutations exist should the new (or re-elected)
president  be of a different party that controls the senate. With
new rules, begun under Democrat Harry Reid and expanded under
Republican Mitch McConnell, a simple and consistent senate
majority is a decisive factor in cabinet, sub-cabinet, judicial and
other presidential appointments being approved. Until a “nuclear
option rule was adopted, Democrats were able to hold up any of
President Trump’s appointments, and often did so. A Democratic
president in 2021 might well have the same experience with a
GOP-controlled senate. Conversely, should Mr. Trump win
re-election, but his party lose control of the senate, he could face
a stone wall blocking many of his appointments, particularly for
the U.S. supreme court and lower court federal judges.

Much of the nation’s day-to-day business occurs at the local and
state level, so I do not mean to minimize the impact of elections
of governors and state legislators. Nor do I mean to diminish the
work of the U.S. house. Under Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi,
the current U.S. house has often been an effective counterpuncher
to he White House. But Mrs. Pelosi, like GOP Speaker Paul Ryan
before her, faces divisions within her own caucus that reduce the
ability of that body often to act successfully.

Republicans only narrowly control the U.S. senate today (53-47).
Almost twice as many GOP incumbents than Democratic
incumbents are up for re-election in 2020 --- although relatively
few incumbents in either party are now vulnerable. Many senate
races are already well underway, but many others could see new
retirements or challengers.

Presidential politics, especially in this phase, present more drama
than even highly competitive individual senate races, but that does
not reduce their importance to what will happen at the ballot box
next year.

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

Monday, August 5, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: No 2020 Exit?

A self-described progressive faction seems to be driving the 2020
Democratic campaign bus, but some shrewd and candid liberal
strategists and pollsters are warning that this faction is navigating
the field not only without a road map, but without even any GPS.

As with any dense map of political streets, there are cul de sacs
everywhere.  The result, these veteran liberal savants suggest,
could be that the eventual Democratic ticket, no matter who is on
it, will find themselves and their party without a viable avenue to
victory well before election day.

Many observers don’t yet quite fully fathom the impact of these
possible unforced errors of the Democrats.

This has happened before. In 1964, it was Barry Goldwater. In
it was George McGovern. In 1984, it was Walter Mondale (an
otherwise conventional liberal, but who promised voters he would
raise their taxes). Each of these elections ended in a landslide
against them.

The Democrats do have alternative transportation, Such a political
“Uber” ride would have Joe Biden at the wheel. But this isn’t
apparently acceptable to the progressive faction which has
numerous candidates in the party’s presidential field, including
first and second “tier” aspirants Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren,
Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro and Cory Booker.

While Biden continues to lead clearly in the polls, the political
discussion seems dominated by the progressive faction. (Only
Bernie Sanders eagerly accepts the label “socialist.”)

In 2015, Donald Trump emerged quickly from the TV debates of a
17-person Republican field. By the time of the first caucus (Iowa)
and the first primary (New Hampshire), he was the candidate to
beat. All through the autumn and the early winter of 2015, he
outraged many in his own party while at the same time he built a
base at the grass roots level. Like him or not, he was not boring.
Meanwhile, the incumbent president, then a lame duck, was not
much of a political presence in his own party’s nomination
contest. Most observers concluded Hillary Clinton would win the
Democratic nomination, and in November, the presidency.

2020 is a much different political environment. The incumbent is
running for re-election, and so far had not been shy about being
the commenter-in-chief about the ups and downs of the contest on
the other side. He is also the national scene-stealer-in-chief --- and
refuses to let the Democrats put him on the defensive.

Of course, events and circumstances beyond his control or any
Democrat’s control could alter this race --- still 15 months away.
Foremost of these is the economy which is now booming, but
which many economists and market observers say is ripe for a
correction or downturn. (A minority of contrarians, however, see
this widespread economic pessimism as evidence the economy
could remain robust through next year.)

In the meantime, most voters, especially those not fully decided
about which side they are on, are not yet apparently engaged in
the presidential race. Perhaps ominously, they are not yet engaged
in the Democratic nomination contest.

This could change, but Democratic Party leaders have not only
their ticket to worry about, but equally important, a credible
map for their ticket to win in November, 2020.

Phantoms of past landslides always haunt the dreams of
political parties.

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

Thursday, August 1, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Brexit Might Mean To The U.S.

Americans have heard and read much about the British political crisis
called “Brexit,” but not much has been written about what the British
exit from the European Union (EU) might mean to the United States.

The idea of a union of European nations has a history initially going
back to the 19th century, but gained notable impetus after the 1918
armistice of World War I’s catastrophes of wasteful soldier casualties,
its demographic displacements and the suffering of civilian populations,
as well as its eruptions of religious, ethnic and cultural conflicts ---
which are still very much felt today. The first institution of its kind was
more global, a League of Nations, but that failed to halt the violence
between European states.. Only in the wake of World War II, were
most of the European nations able to agree to an economic union. The
intention of its founders, but not all of it member states, was to evolve
from an economic union with a common currency and no borders to a
political union that would ultimately eliminate the individual
sovereignty of its member nations.

Behind this thinking was an idealistic desire to avoid militarism,
violence and the chronic disruption of the continent’s peace,
commerce and well-being which had raged for centuries --- and
which, at various intervals, had been primarily initiated by Germany,
France, Spain and Great Britain against each other both on the
European continent and throughout the world as these and other
European states attempted to claim colonies and reap global
economic spoils.

An economic union, called the Common Market, made much political
and economic sense, but too rapid adoptions of a common currency
and political union were not shared, particularly by Great Britain which
declined to use the euro common currency that did appear, and
increasingly resisted EU attempts to diminish its sovereignty.

It needs to be remembered that the various European nations began
to organize in their modern forma more than a thousand years ago from
competing and warring barbarian tribes to the north of the Roman and
Greek civilization centers and capitals which had emerged more than a 
thousand years before that. The Roman empire soon had moved north
in conquest, subduing the barbarian tribes, bringing the Latin language
and Christianity with them.

But midway in the first millennium, A.D. , the tables were turned on
the Romans, and their empire was ended. The barbarian tribes which
they had subjugated by invading their territories became feudal states
of kingdoms, duchies and fiefdoms with their own languages, cultures
and character. When Catholicism (still led by the pope in Rome) was
challenged in England and northern Europe during the Reformation,
religious conflicts further complicated the imperial ambitions of the
local royal leaders, and centuries of aggression, betrayals and
territorial resentments followed --- leading to Napoleon in the 19th
century, and, as mercantile, industrial and mass societies arose, to
world wars, Nazi fascism and Soviet communism in the 20th century.

I have simplified and condensed much in the above, but it illustrates
why trying to impose a political union of Europe in only a few years,
while historically understandable and idealistic, is so problematic ---
especially in nations and societies which have becomes inherently
democratic.

The desire to impose an order determined by self-appointed and elite
arbiters is, in spite of its idealistic rationales, ultimately a totalitarian
impulse.

The British empire was created not only by imposing itself militarily
and economically through maritime dominance of places far from its
small island nation, but by the presumption that it had the right and
destiny to do so. The 20th century and its brutal conflicts cured the
British of these illusions, but did not diminish its enduring
contribution to certain global systems of democratic politics, the
rule of law and national sovereignty.

Once Europe overstepped its ambitions of denying British
sovereignty, the experiment was off. The United Kingdom was
scheduled to leave the EU in April. An agreement between the
parties delineating the separation was preferred, but not necessary.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit terms, which she awkwardly
negotiated, were not acceptable to a significant number in her own
Conservative (Tory) Party in Parliament. These euroskeptics, long
opposed to the EU, and others in the Parliament, ended Mrs.
May's feckless premiership. She has now been replaced by the
controversial former mayor of London, and later foreign minister
Boris Johnson.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Now what?

As Sir Bill Cash, the godfather of euroskepticism and the senior
figure of the backbencher euroskeptics, has repeatedly pointed out,
Britain will continue to trade with  Europe, albeit on some different
terms. Great Britain and continental Europe are inextricably linked
by proximity and trade, and no serious Brexiteer is suggesting
otherwise.

For the United States, Brexit presents the two leading
English-speaking nations with new opportunities for economic
trade and cooperation. Britain still leads its voluntary global
Commonwealth which includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
India, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan and several smaller African,
Asian and South American nations --- a quarter of the world’s
population, but it could increase its trade with the U.S. via new
arrangements outside the former constraints imposed by the E.U.

Perhaps equally consequential for the U.S. side of the Atlantic
would be the British successful resistance to the loss of its
sovereignty, a threat the U.S. also faces in certain international
courts and global environmental institutions which seek to
by-pass U.S. legal procedures, standards and customs --- and
U.S. public opinion.

On October 31, 2019, Great Britain is scheduled to leave he EU
--- with or without a separation deal. The new prime minister
has pledged to try one more time to negotiate a deal with EU
leaders, but he has also asserted that if those negotiations fail,
Britain will leave the EU on that date anyway.

With Brexit concluded. the U.K. becomes potentially even
more important to the U.S. with possible major new trade and
other economic relationships. The ingredients and the incentives
are already in place, but it will take initiatives from both
President Trump and Prime Minister Johnson to make them
happen and succeed.


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


Monday, July 29, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Joe Biden's Moment?

 As we go to the second Democratic presidential debate in Detroit,
it is becoming evident that frontrunner Joe Biden is at a critical
moment in his long quest, begun in 1986, to occupy the White
House and lead the nation.

Mr.Biden has been on the national stage for a very long time, first
elected to the U.S. senate in 1972, the youngest person to ever serve
in that body. By 1987, he had announced his first run for the
presidency, but it was short-lived when he developed a
life-threatening double aneurism. When he recovered, he returned
to the senate and became, at different times, chairman of the
important judiciary and foreign relations committees. In 2008, he
made a second presidential run, also unsuccessful, but the eventual
Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, did choose him to be his vice
presidential running mate. For eight years he was U.S. vice president,
but following a family tragedy, decided not to run for president in
2016, although he likely would have been eventual nominee Hillary
Clinton’s most formidable rival.

Her major rival, in fact, became self-styled socialist Senator Bernie
Sanders who lost, but managed to draw much of the party activist
base to the left, especially in the ensuing 2018 mid-term elections
in which the Democrats won back control of the U.S. house.

Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election in an upset
that has sent shock waves through both major political parties.
President Trump has now solidified his support in the Republican
Party as he heads toward his re-election campaign, but the
Democratic Party is only united in its fervent opposition to Mr.
Trump --- otherwise it is divided between traditional liberals and
more radical “progressives.” Mr. Biden has emerged as the
standard bearer of the former --- while Mr. Sanders (who is back
for another try) has had to share the leadership of the latter with
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, as well as Mayor
Pete Buttigieg and others in the historically large field of more than
twenty candidates.

As might have been predicted, Mr. Biden was a target in the first
debate, especially by Senator Harris, and his debate performance
at best was lackluster. Nevertheless, he has maintained a lead in
most polls, albeit understandably somewhat reduced as voters
have been able to observe the other candidates, most of whom were
largely unknown nationally.

Mr. Sanders, who also has a big existing national Democratic voter
base, also has seen his numbers decline a bit. He remains a major
contender along with Senators Warren and  Harris --- and Mayor
Buttigieg. A “second tier” of candidates includes Julian Castro and
Beto O’Rourke --- and perhaps Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard ---
with about two dozen other candidates so far trailing in the polls.

Although some in the media have suggested that the Biden and
Sanders campaigns appear to be in some decline, I continue to
point out that each of them have loyal voter bases that just might
defy some pessimistic pundit prognostications.

The challenge for Biden and Sanders --- and all of their rivals --- is
somehow to maintain voter interest for the next seven months until
actual voting takes place in the caucuses and primaries. They must
also do this with their eventual opponent currently in the White
House. Not only does Donald Trump have the “bully pulpit,”  but
he has demonstrated a certain mastery of stealing media attention
(even though much of the media is hostile to him).

One Democratic strategy has been to keep alive old allegations
from 2016 (e.g. The Mueller Report), and to press for impeachment
proceedings in the U.S. house. “Old pros” such as Speaker Nancy
Pelosi and Joe Biden so far have seen these tactics as self-defeating,
inasmuch as the voting public (especially undecided voters) seems
to have moved on to 2020 issues.

Nevertheless, Joe Biden has issues to face, including his age and the
charge that he wants to return to a pre-Trump era. Should these
issues take hold, his frontrunning position could be vulnerable ---
and one or more of the other candidates could overtake him.

After a disastrous first debate with Walter Mondale, Ronald Reagan
used his own age the basis of a comeback in their next 1984 debate.
Barack Obama did not have a good first debate with Mitt Romney,
but was able to recover in the next one in 2012.

Joe Biden probably will be a central focus of both evenings of the
next debate in Detroit. How he and his rivals handle this internal
drama could be important --- and should be fascinating to observe.

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Self-Destruction in 2019

Neither major political party has a monopoly on self-destructive
behavior at this stage of the 2020 national election cycle. The key
question is: Will this political masochism persist into next year when
the votes will be counted?

The Democrats cannot let go of their shock and disappointment in
2016 when Donald Trump upset the political establishments of both
parties. Their self-destruction is most evident in the U.S. house of
representatives which Democrats won back in 2018. The latest
example of this was the appearance of the former special prosecutor
before U.S. house committees. This move was designed to revive voter
interest in the special prosecutor’s report which found no wrongdoing
by President Trump, but was nonetheless considered damaging to the
president by many Democrats. The special prosecutor’s testimony
and manner, according to the public statements of many savvy (and
candid) Democratic commentators, backfired and was something of
a disaster. Ongoing efforts to impeach the president, also part of this
self-defeating behavior, suffered a setback. (Democrats should be
grateful to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who has resisted most of her
colleagues' ineffective behavior, and tried to make her party more
competitive not only to keep control of the U.S house next year, but
also in the effort to defeat President Trump’s re-election.)

In upcoming U.S. senate campaigns, Republicans in some states
seem determined to defeat themselves in a number of races they
would otherwise win or be competitive. They have done this often
in previous cycles when inappropriate nominees were placed on the
ballot  --- most recently in 2018 in Alabama where a certain GOP seat
was won by a Democrat. In the 2020 cycle, Republicans risk losing
safe seats in Kansas and again in Alabama, and a reasonable chance
for a pick-up from the Democrats in Minnesota if the nomination
contest is prolonged into a bitter primary. With only narrow control
of the U.S. senate at stake, Republicans can ill-afford to throw away
victories. Oversize political egos seem to be a chronic problem for
the GOP in some states.

The Democratic presidential nomination contest is still unresolved,
but it has been suggested if the party nominee goes too far to the left
next year, it will diminish Democratic prospects in the November
election.

Much can change between now and 17 months from now, but there
are worrisome patterns in both political parties that could handicap
their own goals and prospects.

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

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 ( www.ballotpedia.org ) 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
states.

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
totals.

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
STATES WHICH ARE COMPETITIVE.

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
approaches.

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
unexpected.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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
format.

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
employees.

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

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Starting Line-Ups

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
night.

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
occasion.

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
House.

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

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What If.....?

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
attended.

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
battlegrounds.

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
Pittsburgh.

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
earnest.

Best advice?

Wait and see.

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