Saturday, April 4, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Home Alone?

The phrase “voluntary quarantine” is technically a contradiction,
but we are now living through a period when the current health
emergency has already begun to change our language.

The 17th century origin of the word “quarantine” is the Italian
word for “forty days” --- a once traditional period of imposed
medical isolation. (Forty days and nights --- and years --- also
frequently appear as periods of human stress and trial in both
the Old and New Testaments.)

Today we have a modified version named “social distancing”
which isn’t really quarantine --- but is a radical change of
physical manners, that is, consciously expanding the space
between persons in public ,and abolishing all public physical
contact, including handshaking, hugging, embracing and kissing
on cheeks.

We now have a new labyrinth of solitude, to adapt the famous
phrase and book title of  philosopher/poet Octavio Paz. Imposed
solitude and its isolation represents a new and unfamiliar
experience for many young persons who have experienced a
continuum of family members, schoolmates and social friends
in most of their waking hours since they were born. On the other
hand, those same generations grew up and/or became adults in
the internet age and are accustomed to communicating online
and by cell phone. So these younger generations are already expert
in being “social” from a distance. Older generations are
increasingly challenged by imposed isolation because their social
experiences were mostly in-person with physical contact.

All generations face an unexpected dilemma --- what to do with
all the new waking time by themselves.

As I see it, this dilemma is also an opportunity ---an opportunity to
turn one’s attention to any number of matters  procrastinated or
ignored --- and an opportunity to expand personal interests both
physical and intellectual. Each of these opportunities has a payoff
not only in the present isolation, but after it’s over.

Of course, many now at home are sharing the time with others,
including parents, spouses, children, romantic partners, or friends.
This gives them daily social contact, but also risks the tensions of
overexposure. Ironically, those living alone have a potential
advantage --- the new imposed isolation is partly a variant by
degree of their traditional daily lives.

I realize the above is fairly obvious, and the personal need to
adapt and expand daily lives remains an individual’s choice.  The
duration of the imposed isolation defines the challenge. The longer
the duration the greater the challenge for societies and its members.

Like so many aspects of survival and endurance through a major
and shared crisis, attitude and character --- and not abstract
ideology --- are key to getting through it all. Widespread reports of
many helping and supplying the more vulnerable among us are an
early positive sign so far. Not all societies allow or encourage
self-motivated, personal and creative compassion, but where it
flourishes, the odds of getting through any long emergency are at
least improved.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reerved.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "A Bitter Gift" (poem)

A BITTER GIFT
by Barry Casselman


This interruption is a bitter gift
foreshadowing another and disparate event
which will test us even more when we arrive there.

Its donor is using an alias
we cannot trace or decipher,
but we know we must be able to decode its message.

Our formalities betrayed us,
thinking a handshake was a sign of good will,
or more peace in our time, or sanctuary.

Our confinement ends the reverie
we have been sleepwalking through the cascading moments
of still another innocence to be discarded
like all those others we have left behind, and now call history.

Then we realize a delayed sense
of how much has irrevocably changed
as if we had lost our childhoods one more time.

Without the usual ceremonies, we have graduated
to another degree with highest honors in surprise,
but no diploma, no applause,
no trace of our new destination,
except for the bitter gift.

Each generation, and each person in it,
has different tools to work through this hiatus
however long it carries us to where this bitter gift
becomes transformed like a ripening.


Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 27, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2020 Bets Are Off

The extraordinary global and domestic health emergency has
brought with it so much uncertainty, especially about its duration
so far, that it is not yet possible to make credible election
predictions for November, 2020.

The Democratic presidential primary season has been delayed and
interrupted --- although its eventual outcome has seemingly already
been determined. Many key Democratic and Republican U.S. house
and senate races are in a kind of limbo as candidates attempt to
raise money and their campaign profiles in .a politically numbed
environment.

Polling, always inexact and time-limited, is probably of little use in
present circumstances. Public opinion now, needless to say, is
acutely emotional and short-term. The all-important economy is in
a suspended near-term state. The routines of daily lives have been
drastically changed.

Virtually all public events and meetings have been postponed or
cancelled. In addition to sporting and cultural events, the shutting
down includes political meetings of all kinds, from fundraisers
and meet-and-greets to rallies and conventions.

Because of perceived danger and risk, the U.S. public is responding
cooperatively to temporary mandated “lockdowns” and other
restrictions on their daily lives. But the U.S.is a market economy,
and Americans cannot be expected to simply stay a home for an
extended period of time, many without job income and enduring
severe shortages of goods and services.

This is a unique moment when the political and business leaders,
including their teams of bureaucrats, managers and the creative
innovators among them need to think of new ways to pull us out
of the current crisis.

The preoccupation now must be dealing with and somehow
bringing to an end the emergency and its impact on the nation
and its people. Those who think solely or primarily in partisan
political considerations betray the larger public interests which
now must be served.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

For those who successfully lead us, regardless of their partisan
political  affiliations, with effective new thinking, there will be
rewards from a grateful nation later, but now the necessity is
coming up with those solutions, policies, strategies, treatments,
medicines and vaccines that will benefit everyone.

Not just the president and his administration, but the leaders of
the opposition party and the 50 state governors are being tested
in ways none of them imagined they would face on the scale now
before us.

Much is ahead now, and we must wish all decision-makers well
in what they will do --- not because we necessarily like all of
them or agree with all of them, but because so much now is at
stake for all of us --- and we’re in this together.

Politics and election campaigning will not, of course, cease.
Nor can we cease the nation’s commerce. Soon enough, we will
be debating the 2020 political issues, including some new ones.
We will also be shopping, meeting and dining out again.
Politics and commerce are vital to our economic, civic and
community health.

We might have to stand at arm’s length briefly, but we can only
survive and flourish again living and working side by side.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 20, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Waking Up To Now

The world, as we have known it. is now suddenly, irreversibly and
indelibly altered.

The full dimensions of this, and its eventual consequences, are now
unknown. The duration of the global and domestic emergency is
now uncertain.

As if all of that were not enough, most commercial, cultural and
social life is suspended as everyone retreats to their homes to wait
for an undetermined date of relief.

A comparable pandemic occurred more than 100 years ago, so no
one alive today has an adult memory  of that scourge which
appeared as the violence of a savage world war was ending.

Although the fighting of that war ceased in late 1918, the influenza
pandemic spawned in its waning days went on --- as if Nature were
punishing humanity for wasting so much life on the battlefields.
Nor did that world war end with its armistice. Its hatreds and
rivalries broke out again and again in the years that followed,
including a second world war with even more violence and
savagery. Nor when that war was formally ended, did the hatreds
and rivalries cease, but they broke out again here and there --- to
the present day.

The present pandemic emergency has unfolded so quickly, it might
still seem like a nightmarish dream.  It is, alas, no dream.

As we wake up to this time of contagion, we have a rare moment,
if we so choose, to think about matters usually left to poets and
philosophers --- that is, who we are as a species, how we are living
together on this earth, and what are the most vital conditions and
needs in each person’s daily life.

The latter is perhaps the more immediate issue. Most of us go
through our days as if they were destinations chosen by a TV
channel selector.

As human beings --- each with different life histories and life
experiences ---we will come up with different answers. But
whatever those answers, if they are as honest as possible, they will
be about survival --- and since this emergency reveals once again
how much we depend on those nearest to us (whether we “like”
them or not), there are bound to be significant common links to our
variety of answers.

I do not, at this point, presume to say what those links are, but I do
say, in light of this global crisis, that we have been sleepwalking
through our own history.

Necessity has awakened us. Few of us are poets and philosophers,
but all of us are participants. Dire as this moment seems, the
present emergency will somehow eventually pass. But if we revert
to sleepwalking when it does, then when the next global threat
appears --- and one or more will appear ---  simply waking up
again might not be enough.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Prediction Almost Forgotten

In 1985, I had been editing and publishing for several years a
community newspaper in Minneapolis which featured, in
addition to local news, some of the political news and analysis
I thought the city’s daily newspaper was ignoring. At first, I
wrote mostly about city politics, but soon added state politics,
and along the way made a few election predictions that caught
some attention when they came true. I also began writing on
occasion about national and presidential politics. Focusing on
centrist issues and politics, I had suggested in 1982 that a
then-unknown Colorado senator, Gary Hart, might emerge in
1984. Since I had been the first journalist to predict this, I got
some very brief national attention when he did emerge.

In 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. (He once told me that his grief made him decide to resign,
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 about him, and he seemed to hold some
of the centrist policy views I then thought promising.

So I wrote a front-page editorial about him, and predicted he would
emerge as a serious contender for the 1988 Democratic nomination.
At some point later, Biden came to Minnesota for a speech, and I
met him. It turned out he had already been thinking about 1988, and
soon announced his candidacy, emerging as the most serious
opponent to Democratic front-funner Governor Michael Dukakis.
But fate once again intervened, and Biden was diagnosed with a
serious double aneuyrism that forced him to leave the race.

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 helped lead 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 Biden’s
counsel on senate matters, with Biden then serving 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 front-runners for the Democratic nomination along with
Hillary Clinton. But once again, tragedy stepped in when 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 77, Biden led in virtually all early public opinion polls for the
2020 Democratic nomination. With many other Democratic hopefuls
moving sharply the left, he held the premier reputation as a liberal
moderate or centrist. 

In the primary and caucus system so far, Biden’s political prospects
have been on a roller coaster. The early favorite, his first debate
performances were weak, and his poll numbers sank.  In the first
three voting states, he trailed Bernie Sanders badly, even finishing
behind Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren as well. But as Sanders
was gathering momentum toward nomination, Biden won the South
Carolina primary stronger than expected,  A  combination  of the
Democratic Party establishment, several of his rivals, down-ballot
candidates, and black voters quickly coalesced around Biden, and
gave him significant victories (and the lead in national delegates)
on Super Tuesday in 14 states. Now the front-runner again, Biden has
dominated the next group of primaries, including just winning the
key state of Michigan.

Most political observers consider  Biden to be the presumptive
2020  Democratic nominee.  It’s now a two-person contest (reduced
from an original field of 28), and it is difficult to imagine how Sanders
can recover, barring the unforeseen, but the next debate is in a few
days, followed immediately by several large-state primaries on
March 17.

I had almost forgotten my 1985 prediction that a then-unknown Joe
Biden could become a Democratic presidential nominee. A great
deal has happened in the U.S. and the world in the past 35 years, but
somehow the prediction might indeed come to pass.

American politics, one can only conclude, moves in mysterious and
remarkable ways.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.




Friday, March 6, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: After Super Tuesday

More than any other change from the 2016 (and earlier) presidential
election cycles, the front-loading of many more delegate selections
into the traditional Super Tuesday date promised to alter the
chemistry of a contested race for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

The 14 Super Tuesday state primaries. with 35% of all delegates,
should now be known as Mega-Tuesday. Returns showed Joe
Biden continuing his sudden comeback begun only three days
before when he did better than expected in winning the South
Carolina primary, defeating then-frontrunner Bernie Sanders.

After Biden’s strong showing in South Carolina, rival presidential
candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar ended their
campaigns and endorsed the former vice president. This clearly
helped Biden on Super Tuesday as he easily defeated both Sanders
and Michael Bloomberg in most southern states --- with the
exception of delegate-rich Texas where the Vermont senator
almost tied Biden. Not known in early returns was the outcome in
the biggest state of all ---  California ---where Sanders had led in
pre-primary polls.  Later, the returns from the West Coast showed
Sanders winning decisively  in California, Colorado and Utah--- and
a bounty of delegates in that region.

It  became, in many ways, a regional electoral event --- with Biden
doing well in southern states (most of which will go Republican in
November), and Sanders doing well in the northeast and far west
(most of which will go Democratic in November). Not on the ballot
on Super Tuesday were the battleground states of Florida, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona.  Biden had already
done poorly in the battleground states of Iowa, New Hampshire and
Nevada, so labeling his performance on Super Tuesday as a
complete “comeback” might be premature.

Perhaps the most disappointed candidate on Super Tuesday was
billionaire Michael Bloomberg whose only victory was in American
Samoa where he spent millions while the major candidates ignored
the tiny far-away U.S. territory. After spending hundreds of millions
on his Super Tuesday strategy, Bloomberg ended up with only a few
national delegates. He has now ended his candidacy and endorsed
Biden.

Elizabeth Warren also came up empty-handed on Super Tuesday,
even coming in third in her home state of Massachusetts. She, too,
has now ended her candidacy --- but has not yet thrown her support
to anyone. Most of her voter base will likely go to Sanders.

The Democratic establishment, more moderate liberal voters, and
many down-ballot candidates and their campaigns have now fully
launched a “Stop Bernie” effort --- coalescing at perhaps the last
moment. But not only do battleground state primaries lie ahead,
so do other states with large numbers of delegates such as New
York, Illinois and New Jersey.

It would seem that if there are only two viable candidates from
now on, one of them should reach a delegate majority prior to the
July national convention in Milwaukee. If for some reason no one
obtains a majority. there are almost 700 super-delegates who, after
the first ballot, can vote at the convention.

Joe Biden is once again the frontrunner, but with more than half
the delegates still to be chosen, and a pattern of sudden
momentum changes already occurring in this campaign cycle, the
2020 Democratic contest is not quite over yet.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Turning Point Or Hiccup?

The current stage of the 2020 presidential election might appear
a bit confusing, especially the contest for the Democratic
nomination.

In the months preceding Iowa and New Hampshire the status of
“frontrunner” has shifted. Although Joe Biden, by virtue of his
name recognition, seemed throughout this period to be leading
the initially large field (28 announced candidates), several others
have enjoyed brief runs as “favorites,” including Kamala Harris,
Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Michael Bloomberg. But in
the early voting, it was 2016 runner-up Bernie Sanders who has
emerged as the leader.

The fourth state to vote before delegate-rich Super Tuesday is
South Carolina, a state where Biden has held a large poll lead
until recently. Then his lead began to erode. But on primary
election day. Biden won by a larger than expected margin. It was
only one state, but he survives to compete seriously on Super
Tuesday and beyond.

Bernie Sanders came in a distant second in South Carolina, but
will get some delegates. It might only briefly slow down Sanders’
early momentum because just three days later, 14 states will vote
on Super Tuesday --- and select one-third of the total delegates.
Sanders leads in polls in most of these states, including California
with its 400 delegates.

Some observers suggested that Sanders early success was making
him unstoppable. Indeed, if he had upset Biden in South Carolina,
then won big on Super Tuesday, it might have been difficult to deny
him the nomination in July. But self-proclaimed socialist Sanders,
not ever a true Democrat, alarms many in the party who feel his
proposed policies would lead to an electoral disaster, and cause
widespread defeats for down-ballot liberal candidates in
November.

Tom Steyer has now announced the end of his campaign. After
Super Tuesday, the field of candidates could be reduced to
Sanders, Biden, Mike Bloomberg (who competes for the first
time on Super Tuesday) --- and possibly Pete Buttigieg and
Elizabeth Warren.

The big question now is whether South Carolina was a  turning
point or merely a hiccup in this nomination race. Time is
running out for those who want to change the narrative for this
elecoral contest.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 24, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Bernie Declares War

Bernie Sanders, some leading Democrats believe, is highjacking
the national Democratic Party --- whose establishment has so far
been locked into the political pilot’s cockpit while the plane has
been commandeered in flight and ordered to land in hostile
territory.

Senator Sanders’ supporters, of course, don’t agree, and see their
quest as redemption for 2016 when traditional liberals gave the
Democratic presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton --- who
subsequently lost the November election to Donald Trump.

Justified or not, most conservatives and Republicans are looking
on at the growing civil war in the other party not only with some
astonishment, but also with the optimism that it helps them in the
imminent 2020 national elections.

Sanders’ outspoken socialist and fiscally controversial new
entitlement policies, even more moderate Democrats and their
strategists say. will not only cost them the presidential election,
but could also cause them to lose control of the U.S. house and
increase GOP control of he U.S senate.

The voters who will decide these questions are independents and
the undecideds of both parties, but polling so far seems to indicate
large numbers of Americans do not favor policies which cannot be
paid for except by draconian confiscatory taxation that eliminates
market choice and the private sector.

Sanders, a socialist Vermont city mayor in the 1980s, and
subsequently a socialist U.S. senator who caucused with the
Democrats,  has declared war on liberals and progressives he feels
don’t go far enough to combat the capitalist system and
conservative policies.

The question of the hour is whether the Democratic Party
establishment and his major presidential rivals, have enough time,
and votes. after Sanders’ successes in Iowa, New Hampshire,
Nevada, and possibly in upcoming South Carolina and Super
Tuesday, to block his nomination at the party’s July convention in
Milwaukee.

He already leads or is strong, in polls in several Super Tuesday
states. The most likely alternatives to Sanders are Joe Biden, Mike
Bloomberg, or Pete Buttigieg, but none of them have yet
demonstrated any momentum among primary or caucus voters.
The longer the other candidates, especially those failing to win
many delegates, remain in the race, it divides the anti-Sanders
vote, and helps the Vermont senator accumulate an unbeatable
lead, if not a majority, before July. (This is what happened in the
Republican nomination contest in 2016).

Almost certainly, Sanders political ideology and policies will
become the main issues of the 2020 cycle --- and not as much the
controversies surrounding Donald Trump. At the outset of the
2020 cycle, Democratic strategists planned for the latter --- it
was, after all, the primary reason for the partisan impeachment.
Democratic candidates for house and senate would now almost
certainly be asked by their opponents in November if they support
the views of their own candidate for president. How would this
play out not only in districts and states carried by Mr. Trump in
2016, but also in districts and states carried for Mrs. Clinton by
moderate Democrats?

In the next several days, the national Democratic Party will come
to a proverbial fork in the political road. Which direction its
voters take will reveal a great deal about what will happen eight
months from now when decisions are finally made.


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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 21, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "Battle Of The Boroughs" In 2020?

The city of New York is playing an outsized role in providing
2020 presidential candidates, including the incumbent Republican
Donald Trump (Queens), Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders
(Brooklyn), Democratic rising figure Michael Bloomberg
(former New York mayor in Manhattan), and the current mayor
(now withdrawn from the race), Bill DeBlasio.

(It was even the birthplace (Manhattan) of the recently elected
Prime Minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson!)

It’s not that New Yorkers have not figured prominently in cycles
past. Theodore Roosevelt and Donald Trump were the only New
York City natives who were actually elected president. Al Smith
(Democrat) from Manhattan was nominated, but lost. DeWitt
Clinton (Federalist), Franklin Roosevelt (Democrat) and Hillary
Clinton (Democrat) were born or lived in the New York City
exurbs --- although only Franklin Rooseveltvbecame president.
Martin Van Buren (Whig) and Grover Cleveland (Democrat) were
presidents who came from upstate or outstate New York.
William Seward (Republican), Horace Greeley (Democrat), Peter
Cooper (Greenback), Horatio Seymour (Democrat), Samuel Tilden
(Democrat), Charles Evans Hughes (Republican) and Thomas
Dewey (Republican), also from the state or city, were presidential
(unsuccessful) nominees. New Yorkers Averell Harriman (Democrat),
Nelson Rockefeller (Republican) and George Pataki (Republican)
were among those who recently ran, but weren’t nominated.

Yet despite so many New Yorkers in presidential politics over the
past 200 years, in any previous cycle there was almost always only
one from the then-largest state or city in the race.

This year there were four --- now there are three --- and one of them
is likely to be sworn in as president on January 20, 2021. The two
most likely to win, it is true, no longer make New York City their
residence. The certain GOP nominee and incumbent president,
Donald Trump, now lives in Florida The current frontrunning
Democrat, Bernie Sanders, now lives in Vermont.

When the New York Yankees won the American League baseball
pennant, and the Brooklyn Dodgers or the New York Mets won
National League pennant the same year, the World Series became
known as the “subway series.”

If Donald Trump faces either Bernie Sanders or Michael
Bloomberg in 2020, it could be known as the “battle of the
boroughs.


New York City might not be what it once was --- the nation’s
preeminent economic and cultural center --- but seemingly it has
a few political cards yet to play.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What If It's Bernie?

There are now two compelling political questions: “What if it’s
Bernie?” and “What if it’s NOT Bernie?”

The answer to each of these questions, while critical to the
outcome of the 2020 presidential, as well as the congressional,
elections, might not be as simple a might be supposed, although
most Republicans would be ecstatically optimistic if Bernie
Sanders were the Democratic nominee.

Mr. Sanders’ self-proclaimed socialist ideology, while attractive
to many in the liberal party, does not make it likely he would
win in November, but might the outcome be worse if the
Democrats nominate someone else?

The controversial final results of this year’s Iowa Democratic
caucus were a technical debacle, but perhaps more seriously, they
revived the grievance of the 2016 Sanders campaign --- that the
Democratic Party establishment unfairly blocked their candidate
in Iowa and elsewhere from the nomination they believed he could
have won.

This year, in the more transparent but delayed results, Sanders
clearly had a greater voter turnout, but received fewer delegates
than Pete Buttigieg. There is an explanation for this, but many
Democrats, already resentful of  the electoral college election of
Donald Trump in 2016 when he lost the national popular vote,
are unconvinced. Furthermore, many prominent Democrats,
reportedly including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, appear
to be part of an overt “Stop Bernie” movement nationwide.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders played the good soldier and endorsed Mrs.
Clinton. There is polling evidence that some of his supporters did
not vote for Clinton in November or stayed home. If Sanders is
perceived as being unfairly blocked again in 2020, the political
consequences could be major.

The dilemma for mainstream Democrats is that a no-win situation
results. If they don’t block Bernie, they believe they will lose the
election --- but if they do block him, they could also lose the election.

Since 2016, the movement leftward in the Democratic Party grew
significantly, particularly in large urban areas. Not only have older 
liberals such as Elizabeth Warren  joined Sanders on the left, but an
outspoken party group of four young congresswomen known as
“The Squad” are making daily headlines with anti-Democratic
establishment views on the left. Even on local and state levels,
incumbent senior liberal elected officials are being challenged in
primaries by younger fellow Democrats for not being “progressive”
enough.

Nevertheless, a large bloc of traditional liberal and progressive
voters remain in the Democratic Party.  Their early favorite, Joe
Biden, has yet to show his strength among party voters, and should
this continue, an unconventional candidate, billionaire Michael
Bloomberg waits to take his place. Biden and Bloomberg both
emphatically reject the Bernie Sanders policy agenda.

The motif of the Democratic presidential contest is the dissonant
melody of ideological division. How Democratic voters  employ
this motif into the composition of their 2020 ticket should be, when
it finally is presented, rather interesting.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: After New Hampshire

In recent presidential election cycles, there have been customary
nods to the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary not only as
kick-offs to pre-convention political party voting, but also as 
credible signals about the outcomes of competitive nomination
contests.

Perhaps not this cycle.

The Iowa Democratic caucus came, but went into a political
purgatory  of mismanagement, errors and delay in reporting
results, and a controversial conclusion when the final count was
made. Bernie Sanders clearly came out on top in turnout, but Pete
Buttigieg got more delegates, reviving a Sanders campaign
complaint from 2016 that the local Democratic Party establishment
had conspired to rob the Vermont senator of an Iowa victory.

The informal Iowa caucus voting was followed by easier-to-report
counting of paper ballots in the New Hampshire primary a week
later. This count was much quicker and more credible, but almost
as inconclusive as Iowa because this cycle’s Super Tuesday, coming
soon after, is front-loaded with so many states, delegates at stake,
and a new major candidate, Michael Bloomberg, on those ballots.

By skipping Iowa and New Hampshire, and already spending $350
million on his campaign so far, Mr. Bloomberg went a long way to
neutralize these traditional first-in-the-nation states --- and making
a contested Democratic national convention in July more likely.

The results in New Hampshire gave Bernie Sanders his second
straight narrow popular vote win over Pete Buttigieg, but each of
them now heads into several larger states where they might not be
frontrunners. Elizabeth Warren came in fourth in her neighboring
state, and although her poll numbers in recent weeks have fallen,
she has a national base with which to recover. The same is true
for Joe Biden, fifth in New Hampshire and fourth in Iowa, who also
has a loyal base in states ahead. Warren and Biden, however, need
to begin to win some states and accumulate delegates.

Although late polls predicted Amy Klobuchar would come in third
in New Hampshire, she did better than expected. On the other hand,
she did poorer than expected in her neighboring Iowa where she
finished fifth. Her poll numbers in most upcoming states are not
strong. Her home state of Minnesota votes on Super Tuesday, and
she faces serious efforts by Sanders (who won there in 2016) and
Bloomberg. She will need to win Minnesota, and do well in
neighboring Wisconsin to remain viable.

Andrew Yang and Michael Bennet have now dropped out. Deval
Parick is likely out soon. That leaves eight candidates --- and six
major ones, including Sanders, Buttigieg, Biden, Warren, Klobuchar
and Bloomberg.  The latter enters the race formally on Super
Tuesday, March 3. He is already a big shadow on the race, spending
that $350 million and registering third in some national polls. Like
Donald Trump he is a billionaire, and not historically a member of
the party he  is running in. He is a self-described moderate who
explicitly opposes the ideology of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth
Warren.

After New Hampshire, the big question marks now are Michael
Bloomberg, whether Joe Biden can recover, and can the Democratic
Party establishment block Bernie Sanders?

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Iowa Caucus Finito

The Iowa Democratic caucus (1972-2020) will be the last of its kind.
Iowa doesn’t deserve what was allowed to happen on February 3;
it is a good place (full disclosure: I went to graduate school there),
but its role in first-in-the-nation presidential voting is over.

It has been a source of controversy for several cycles, most
notably in 2016 when the Bernie Sanders campaign alleged that
the Iowa Democratic Party establishment helped Hillary Clinton
narrowly defeat Sanders in that year’s caucus using the very
complicated Iowa procedures.

It was to make those procedures transparent that caused Iowa
Democrats to seek a method that would report each phase of the
caucus, but apparently the method was not tested prior to the
event, resulting in a disastrous delay for any returns, frustrating
the candidates who had put so much time and effort campaigning
in the state, the media which had assembled to report and analyze
the vote, and of course the local and national public eager to know
who had won or lost.

As of this writing, 100% of the returns have not yet been officially
reported, but what we do have is almost complete (albeit not yet
error-free). Bernie Sanders had the largest turnout, followed closely
by Pete Buttigieg. Also relatively close to the top, in third, was
Elizabeth Warren. These three met the 15% minimum, and will
receive most delegates. In fourth, just below 15% was  Joe Biden,
followed by Amy Klobuchar. No one else of the eleven active
presidential candidates had more than a limited turnout.

If there were any mild surprises, it was that Mr. Buttigieg did
somewhat better than expected,  Mr. Biden somewhat worse, and
that Mrs. Klobuchar (from neighboring Minnesota) failed to rise
above fifth place, despite a big effort of time and money.

All five will now go on to New Hampshire and Super Tuesday with
the other six candidates.  Mr. Biden particularly hopes to revive his
frontrunner status with wins in Nevada and South Carolina. Michael
Bloomberg, who skipped competing in states before Super Tuesday
in March hopes his strategy and heavy spending will put him near
top. Mr. Buttigieg hopes his Iowa showing can be repeated in later
contests. Mr. Sanders hopes to win New Hampshire, and create
a momentum taking him to clinch the nomination before the July
Democratic convention.

But hopes and dreams are fragile in presidential politics, and there
are now many obstacles in the way of avoiding a contested party
convention in Milwaukee. A serious “Stop Bernie” campaign is
underway led by the Democratic Party establishment (including
reportedly former President Obama). Joe Biden still inspires support
from all-important black voters in large states.  Mike Bloomberg’s
unprecedented costly ad campaign has already elevated him in the
polls. Andrew Yang has a following, and could do better than expected
in primaries ahead.  Elizabeth Warren might revive her  prospects ---
although she needs to do well in New Hampshire, her neighboring
state.

With the Trump impeachment failing in the U.S. senate, a rallying
State of the Union speech, rising poll numbers, and the Iowa
Democratic caucus debacle, the president’s re-election prospects
are now brighter than ever, but those prospects for an election day
about eight months away could change quickly if the currently
soaring economy should suddenly sputter or international
developments intervene.

Right now, however, most attention is aimed at the Democratic
nomination contest. If the 2020 Iowa experience, aside from the
numbers, reveals anything, it is that the party challenging the
president and seeking to keep control of the U.S. house needs to
get its act together.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Saturday, February 1, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Race To Date

The 2020 presidential race, and especially the Democratic
nomination contest, is about to enter an important new stage
when some actual preferences of voters are counted in primaries
and caucuses.

Until now the process has been organizational, promotional  and
speculative with the Democratic field initially stuffed with 28
candidates of various former and current political officials,
including a vice president, governors, senators, members of
Congress, mayors --- as well as two self-funding businessmen.

The 28 initial aspirants are now reduced to 11, with two frontrunners,
two reasonably close to the frontrunners, two hoping for a breakout
moment, and two billionaires spending unprecedented sums with
unconventional strategies.

The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary
are imminent. They have often been important in the past,  but are
less likely to be so in this cycle following a Super Tuesday when so
many states and delegates have been front-loaded into the process.

Iowa might be less about determining the winner and more about
who withdraws next. Pete Buttigieg needs to revive a sagging effort,
and Amy Klobuchar (from neighboring Minnesota) has to show new
strength in her own region. Polling in Iowa is very inexact because
of the nature of the caucus, but 4-5 candidates seem able to win
delegates, and there might be multiple claims of victory. Unless
there is a surprise result, Iowa could be inconclusive.

New Hampshire is eight days later. Again, it more likely will
produce more losers then winners. Elizabeth Warren is from
neighboring Massachusetts (as is Deval Patrick). If Bernie
Sanders from next-door Vermont does well in Iowa, he will need
to do so in New Hampshire as well.

Joe Biden will need to do well on Super Tuesday and in South
Carolina where he has had a large polling lead. Michael Bloomberg
has taken a pass on Iowa and New Hampshire, and bet his political
megafarm on Super Tuesday. He is spending enormous sums, and
seems to be getting some results in new polling. He could be the
wild card of 2020.

The impeachment trial had sidelined the four senators running
for president, but after Iowa and New Hampshire the full field will
be on the campaign trail, and impeachment controversies will no
longer dominate media coverage and distract the Democratic race.

There are announced opponents of President Trump for the
Republican nomination, but if he is acquitted in his impeachment
trial, there is no serious contest. Whether or not the unsuccessful
Democratic impeachment effort produces their desired impact of
hurting the president’s re-election --- or backfires to help him ---
will be a major factor in this cycle, but this lies ahead.

Iowa and New Hampshire might signal that no Democrat will
clinch his or her nomination before the party’s Milwaukee national
convention in late July.

There are a great many maybes and ifs ahead in this election cycle,
but it has now begun in earnest, and there is no going back for
either party to try to do it differently.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Senators In Their Seats

The U.S. senate is in extraordinary session, an impeachment
quasi-trial of President Trump, following the actions of the U.S.
house indicting the president on two counts.

There is much speculation about this highly-politicized event
which can be described as a media melodrama, particularly
about which, if any, senators might fail to vote on strict party
lines. The ultimate outcome is not now in much doubt, especially
considering that Republicans control he U.S. senate. 53-47,
and 67 votes are required to remove the president from office.

The Democrats control the U.S. house, and chose to shut out the
president’s party members from nearly all of the impeachment
proceedings. Speaker Pelosi seemed in a hurry at first, but then
delayed transmitting the two counts to the senate until public
pressure forced her to do so. Her reasons for the delay are not
clear, although many have speculated her purpose was to help
one of the Democratic presidential candidates.  Whether or not
that is true, two of the frontunners she is known to oppose are
temporarily sidelined from campaigning just before the initial
voting in Iowa and New Hampshire by the mandatory
requirement that they sit in their senate seats throughout the
senate impeachment proceedings.

Having shut the Republicans out of the house impeachment, the
Democrats are now complaining that they can’t control the rules
in the senate trial where the Republicans have the majority,
particularly in bringing in new witnesses the Democrats did not
call to testify when they were in control. Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell says this is blatant hypocrisy, and will have none of it.
The Democratic prosecution have now presented their case, and
the president’s defenders are now presenting theirs. If no new
witnesses are called, the trial could soon be over and a vote taken.
If new witnesses are called, the trial could go on for many more
weeks --- sidelining four  senators who are presidential candidates
from Super Tuesday and other key primaries as well as distracting
the Democratic presidential campaign altogether.

Barring the ubforeseen, those wishing  to remove the president are
far short of the 67 votes they need. They might well not even have
a majority for either count.

For the actual voting, speculation centers around about a dozen
senators. On the Republican side, media pundits have suggested
that Utah Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, retiring
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, Alaska Senator Lisa
Murkowski, Arizona Senator Martha McSally, Maine Senator
Susan Collins, and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner might vote
to convict.  That speculation, however, ignores the fact that any
GOP senator who would vote against the president would almost
certainly lose his or her re-election by massive desertion of angry
GOP voters. Only Senator Alexander is not in that position. Most,
if not all, Republican senators are expected to support the
president --- even those who are not very fond of him.

On the Democratic side, it could be speculated that West Virginia
Senator Joe Manchin, Alabama Senator Doug Jones, Michigan
Senator Gary Peters. Maine (Independent) Senator Angus King,
New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Minnesota Senator Tina
Smith, and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema might vote against
conviction. Manchin and Jones are the most likely to break with
their party. Peters is facing a tough re-election in a state where
impeachment is reportedly not popular.  King can be very
independent The others are more likely to vote with their party
on this issue.              

The purpose of the Democrats’ impeachment was to severely
diminish Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election --- or to undo his 2016
election.  It’s too late to do the latter, but the jury has not yet
returned  its verdict for November, 2020.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2020 Democratic Race Takes Shape

With only days to go before the first actual vote counting (in the
Iowa caucuses), the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination
contest is taking some shape, albeit one made of mostly political
shadows.

It is now likely (but not certain) that the eventual nominee will have
the surname of Biden,  Sanders, Warren or Buttigieg.  These four
candidates have survived the early phases of the campaign, and
consistently hold a clear lead in most poling so far. Two liberal
billionaires, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, entered the race
late, but have already spent enormous sums to gain recognition.
Of the other six candidates, only AndrewYang appears to have
created a notable (but small) grassroots base. the remaining five
have low single-digit polling support in most states.

One major caveat to the above is the growing possibility of a
so-called brokered convention. If that happens, current bets
would likely be off the table. Strange things can occur at such  an
event. (A case in point is he 1924 Democratic convention when,
after 103 [!!!] ballots, a very dark horse candidate, John W. Davis,
was nominated, defeating the two frontrunners and the rest of
the field. He then went on to a big defeat by the Republican
incumbent President Calvin Coolidge.)

Deals and delegate trading are routine at brokered conventions,
and while today’s delegates are much more independent than in
the past, almost anything could result, given the wide current
divide in the Democratic Party.

On the other hand, the primaries and caucuses could determine a
nominee before the convention. A reasonable case could now be
made for the four leading figures previously cited.

Two figures from previous and unsuccessful runs , Joe Biden and
Bernie Sanders are considered the frontrunners  Biden, the more
moderate liberal, and Sanders, the self-proclaimed socialist
progressive, each have a loyal base who don’t seem to care about
their candidate’s foibles. Each of them will likely accumulate
serious numbers of delegates in the primary/caucus season 
between February and June. So should Elizabeth Warren, a
first-time candidate, but also someone with a loyal national
following.

Depending on how newcomer Pete Buttigieg, the surprise so far
of the campaign, does --- and mega-spending Michael Bloomberg
and Tom Steyer do --- in winning delegates, the contest could go
into the July convention in Milwaukee undecided. Other
candidates such as Yang could win numbers of delegates.
Democrats have a  history of convention surprises, including
William Jennings Bryan, and Davis.

It is even possible that the party’s nominee could be someone
not even a candidate before the convention  (as Bryan was in
1896).

Twenty-six men and women have sought the Democratic 2020
nomination.Now there are only twelve left. The impeachment
melodrama remains to be concluded. The Democratic Party
voters, and not just ambiguous media polls, remain to be tallied,
and the secret code of this critical election cycle remains to be
deciphered.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry  Casselman. All rights reserved.                                          

Saturday, January 11, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Update On 2020 House And Senate Elections

The impeachment carnival and Democratic presidential nomination
contest have seemed to crowd out news of the critical election cycle
this year for control of the U.S. house and senate.

As the immediate past sessions of these two legislative bodies have
so dramatically demonstrated, with each party controlling one of
them, significant actions other than legislation, can and do take place.

In he Democratic-controlled U.S. house, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after
first hesitating to do so, has led a partisan effort to pass two articles
of impeachment of Republican President Donald Trump.

In the Republican-controlled U.S. senate. Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell has led a partisan effort to confirm a record number of
conservative federal judges, most of whom with lifetime
appointments.

With the two major parties so politically divided at this time, very
little bipartisan compromise and legislation is taking place, but the
politicalization of the impeachment process and the stacking of
the courts have important political consequences,

No matter who is elected president, the two bodies of the Congress
can continue their  extra-legislative functions, especially if control
remains in the same  hands. Although impeachment will almost
certainly fail in a U.S. senate trial this year, theoretically a new
Democratic-controlled U.S. house could impeach the president
again next year following his re-election, If he loses, however, and
Republicans win the house, they might decide to impeach the new
Democratic president.

Likewise, if he GOP wins senate control again, and Mr.. Trump is
re-elected, conservatives would likely fill more than half the federal
judiciary for decades. Even if a Democrat is elected president,  a
GOP senate could block many of his judicial nominees, particularly
to the U.S. supreme court.

There are other permutations of these scenarios, including a
Democratic takeover of the senate, but the vital point is that the
outcome of these elections is VERY important.

So what are their prospects with under ten months until election
day?

In the U.S. house, the Democrats were heavily favored to keep
control even if President Trump were re-elected, but the
impeachment activity seems to be changing that. Although the
media is making the large number of GOP incumbents retiring a
big story, most of those are in safe Republican districts,  Perhaps
the bigger story is the one being told by former Speaker Newt
Gingrich who, in a recent column, cited the record number of
GOP congressional candidates, including women and minorities,
already running in 2020. With more than 30 seats won in 2018 by
Democrats in districts carried by Mr. Trump in 2016, the current
backlash to the impeachment, and the strong recruitment of
GOP challengers, the early odds favoring the Democrats, Mr.
Gingrich contends, are diminishing.,

In the U.S. senate, Democratic hopes were buoyed by the fact that
twice as many GOP incumbent seats than Democratic seats were
up for re-election this cycle. But this was illusory since so many
Republican seats were in conservative states. Nevertheless, a
number of GOP senators are potentially vulnerable, particularly
in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina, and a path to
Democratic senate control exists. On the other hand, the
Democratic incumbent in Alabama is very vulnerable, as are, to
a lesser degree, Democratic incumbents in Michigan, New
Hampshire and Minnesota.

The presidential election seems more likely to affect the   
congressional elections outcomes than usual in 2020. Both party
bases seem to be aroused this cycle, but Democratic turnout
could critically depend on their nominee ---and when that
nominee is chosen. Donald Trump remains so far the  central
figure of 2020, both positively and negatively. And, as always.
election-year economics and international events will be key
factors.

Most party nominees in competitive races are now known,
although a few key races, including the Kansas and Alabama
senate races, and two Minnesota potential GOP U.S. house
pick-ups in Minnesota, have yet to be determined.

These and other close races, plus the uncertainty of the
Democratic presidential nomination, will require resolution
before any credible assessment of the 2020 national elections
can take place.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Tedious Strategy

The perceived program of the Democratic Party today can be
reduced to two words: DUMP TRUMP! (The exclamation point
is a necessary part of this breathless political rhymed-program.)

It has also been a singular strategy of many Democrats, some
establishment Republicans and most of the traditional media
since their traumatic hours late on election night, 2016 when
they first realized Donald Trump had actually won the
presidential election.

However,  a myriad of attempts to prevent, and later “dump,”
Mr. Trump from office have all failed, as would the latest and
most formal, impeachment.

The nature of most of his opponents’ desire to remove the
president from his office is primarily visceral. It is not only his
verbal style, his tweets, his body language and hand gestures,
it is almost everything about him --- his hairdo, his financial
resources, his earlier professions --- or as might be informally
said: his whole package.

This significant assemblage of passionate opponents is matched
by a political base of those who love or admire the very “package”
of attributes which his antagonists despise.

Although the intensity of anti-Trump feeling seems to be
especially strong, student of U.S. history will see equivalences
in public emotions toward earlier presidents, particularly Andrew
Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon
and Ronald Reagan --- but it is noteworthy that each of them were
re-elected (Roosevelt to four terms). Much of this was attributable
to the loyalty of their party’s voters. (Mr. Nixon resigned after his
landslide re-election only when his base abandoned him.)

We have a two-party electoral system and a presidential election
every four years.

Having failed to “dump” Mr. Trump by so many other means,
and with a new presidential election less than a year away, a more
successful program ahead against the incumbent might just be
Defeat Trump” (with or without exclamation point).

I believe most of the Democratic presidential candidates, facing
the potentially toxic distraction of the impeachment stand-off,
and a good many other Democrats, certainly no fans of Mr.Trump,
would prefer to get back to the electoral process in which they
might succeed in putting someone else in the White House next
January 20th.

With even Speaker Nancy Pelosi swept up, willingly or not, in the
flood of the “dump” program, and her party heading to a bitter
brokered convention, it would appear, however, that a possibly
successful “defeat” program is now beginning to fade inexorably
from sight.

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Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.