Wednesday, July 31, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Is There A Civil War In The Republican Party?

There is now much discussion about a presumed civil war
in the Republican Party. The issues provoking this are not
at all new, however, and it is not clear that a true civil war
is taking place.

There seems to be little doubt that the two major U.S.
political parties are now quite polarized. After World War II,
each party actually had a relatively “large tent” for its
supporters. On the Democratic side, there was a left
“(Henry) Wallace wing and a more traditionally liberal
Truman wing. On the Republican side, there was the more
conservative (Robert) Taft wing and a more moderate
northeastern Dewey wing. Within each party, there was,
compared to today, a very wide range of opinions held by
party leaders and grass roots voters.

Soon after World War II ended, the U.S. supreme court
decided to end segregation and later, end the prohibition of
abortion. The end of the war was followed by a new
international confrontation that was labelled the Cold
War between democratic capitalism and Soviet
communism.The subsequent rise of civil rights promotion
was supported by most leaders of both parties, as was a
foreign policy of opposing Soviet expansionism. In the
issue of abortion, each party was divided.

As the initial post-war period was followed by the Korean
War and the Viet Nam War, and an extraordinary economic
boom lifted the United States to the role of economic, as
well as military, superpower, the latitude of each political
party began to narrow dramatically. The “solid South,”
which had voted Democratic since the Civil War, now
elected Republicans. Social progressives asserted themselves
in the Democratic Party on the abortion issue while social
conservatives asserted themselves on the issue in the
Republican Party. On the Democratic side, civil rights issues
were expanded from fighting segregation to women’s rights.
On the Republican side, conservative economic issues rose
to new prominence, resisting the liberal desire to continue
and expand the “New Deal” into a full social welfare state.
In foreign policy, the recent Democratic tradition  of
internationalism was replaced with a new isolationism,
and it became part of the Democratic catechism to reduce
military spending. The traditional Republican isolationism
of most of the 20th century was, cultivated by its consistent
anti-communism, transformed into a new aggressive

More recent issues concerning illegal immigration, gay
rights and gay marriage, alleged global warming and
environmental concerns in general have further polarized
the bases of each political party.

A division within the Democratic Party, primarily over
economic issues, still exists, but the election of Barack
Obama as president in 2008, and his re-election in 2012,
has, in effect, suppressed this division, especially as the
support for the Democratic Party became localized in the
North East, Far West, and in most large cities. Liberal
leaders who hold moderate or centrist economic views
are generally silent, especially in the Congress.

Republicans who hold more moderate or centrist views
have also been mostly silenced or excluded from their
party leadership. The inheritors of Eisenhower
Republicanism no longer have much say in the conservative
party, and many have left the party to become "independents."
The alleged “civil war” in the GOP is not between
moderates and conservatives. While social and economic
conservatives dominate this party, they are being
challenged not from the left, but from the right. Part of
this challenge has been from voters, generally categorized
as the conservative sub-group, the Tea Party. Most of these
“Tea Party” Republicans have energized the GOP, giving
rise to sensational mid-term elections in 2010 that restored
the party to control of the U.S. house of representatives.

Another part of this challenge comes from a group generally
labelled as “libertarians.” Libertarians have traditionally
advocated conservative economic views of lower taxes,
lower government spending and smaller government. These
views have coincided with the general conservative views
of most contemporary Republicans. Under the leadership
of former Congressman Ron Paul, however, many in this
group took up a new isolationism in foreign policy that
included views indirect conflict with those held by a large
majority of contemporary conservatives. This became quite
clear in the contest for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination
when Ron Paul rarely exceeded 10% of the GOP primary vote.

Ron Paul’s son, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, has taken up the
leadership of the libertarian wing of the conservative party,
but apparently understanding the lack of support of
outspoken isolationism, has moderated his foreign policy
and other views. He remains controversial, but seems to have
more support nationally than his father ever had.

While the Republican Party remains unambiguously a
pro-life party (as the Democrats are unambiguously
pro-abortion), other social issues have arisen to divide the
party’s supporters.

At this moment, the primary conflict is over the attempts
to fashion immigration reform, specifically resolving the
issue of more than 10 million “illegal immigrants,”most of
whom have come from Mexico in recent decades.

In the past, this has been a bipartisan issue. Democrats,
who receive the lion share of Hispanic votes, have
understandably promoted a resolution of this issue
which includes enabling “illegals” to become citizens.
But many Republicans, especially in the large states of
Florida and Texas, also do well with Hispanic voters,
and moreover, understand that sending 10-plus million
“illegals” back to Mexico is not a viable solution.
Former President George W. Bush and former Speaker
Newt Gingrich have consistently supported immigration
reform, as do many current and former GOP governors
and members of Congress.

To complicate matters, under Majority Leader Harry
Reid’s excessively partisan leadership, the U.S. senate
passed a very flawed bill that is unacceptable to the GOP
majority in the U.S. house. This has put GOP Speaker John
Boehner on the spot as he attempts to fashion an
alternative bill that is much more acceptable to his caucus.

Some anti-immigration reform GOP partisans have
threatened Republican incumbents with primary challenges
if they go along with any U.S. house bill, and this conflict is
one of the underpinnings of the so-called GOP civil war.

Ironically, the Republican Party is becoming more and more
well-positioned for the 2014 mid-term elections. It is
generally conceded that, as of now, there is little likelihood
of Democrats retaking control of the U.S. house. On the
other hand, there seems to be, as of now, a growing
likelihood that the GOP could win back control of the U.S.
senate. Not only did the conservative party gain much
advantage in the 2010 congressional redistricting, they gain
further advantage from their support from rural, exurban
and suburban voters. Furthermore, the continued chronic
unemployment and lack of economic growth has quickly
led to a “lame duck” atmosphere around presidential

So the apparent political “quiet” of the summer of 2013
might well belie a critical moment in the prospects of the
Republican Party as it heads to 2014 and, not much later,
the presidential election of 2016.

It would seem that the threat of a so-called Republican
“civil war” is better met squarely by Republican leaders at
all levels sooner rather later.

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: By The Skin Of Our Teeth Again?

One of America’s greatest and most enduring playwrights was
Thornton Wilder, although he is out of fashion today with
some academic and politically-correct critics. He lived from
1897 to 1975, and his best work was produced on Broadway
in the 1930‘s, 40’s and 50’s.  In my opinion, his masterpiece
was “Our Town,” a theatrical meditation on the nature of
life presented with a narrator and characters living and dead.
His plays are still produced frequently in schools, community
theaters, on regional stages, and occasionally revived on
Broadway and Off-Broadway.

Wilder also wrote novels, and one of them, “The Bridge At San
Luis Rey” won the Pulitzer Prize. Another of his outstanding
works of theater was entitled “The Skin Of Our Teeth,” and it
also won a Pulitzer, as did “Our Town.” Another play, originally
entitled “The Merchant of Yonkers” was adapted by him as
“The Matchmaker” and enjoyed a great run on Broadway. It
later became the basis of the play and movie “Hello Dolly!”

Wilder’s work often were meditations on the deepest issues of
the nature of life, but set in small towns and places. I have
always loved his title “The Skin of Our Teeth” which is a phrase
that comes from the Book of Job in the Old Testament. The
phrase has been somewhat perplexing since, of course,
there is no skin on human teeth. Its meaning in Job, and
subsequently, however, is clear. It means the narrowest of
escapes. (Biblical scholars now believe the phrase in the original
Aramaic Hebrew referred to the gums, the only part of Job’s
body not covered with boils.)

Winston Churchill once said that America always does the
right thing, after it has explored every other alternative. He
had read about the U.S. Civil War after allowing slavery for
almost our first hundred years, our late entry into World War I,
our delayed entry into World War II, and our initial hesitation
about confronting Soviet communism.

Churchill’s phrase and Wilder’s title from the Bible capture,
I think, the very nature of America’s role in the world in the
20th century, and so far in the 21st century.

Robert Kagan’s recent and thoughtful book The World 
America Made
asserts that the United States created much
of the modern world through its industrial/economic
innovation and impact, its military interventions, and the
idealistic and liberating example of its democratic republic.
Kagan suggest that we retreat from this at our, and the world's,

We can easily observe today many forces outside the U.S.
which continually challenge American leadership, and even
wish to destroy it. More disturbing, perhaps, has been the
rise inside the U.S. of some considerable public opinion
and private attitudes that the U.S. should no longer exert its
power and influence, either economically, politically or
militarily. There are those who could argue persuasively
that some form of this view is held by the current president
of the United States, many in his administration, some
in the Congress, and not a few in the media.

The so-called “global warming” issue which has been raised
so loudly in recent years is a form of this attitude. If global
warming presumptions were followed, most of the industrial
world, including the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, South Korea,
India, Canada and Europe would need to de-industrialize.
The global warming issue was not principally about the
environment (which is a legitimate issue); it has been primarily
a political issue between the developed and undeveloped
worlds, and between ideologies.

In recent years,the world has seen its share of great and
terrible natural disasters in the form of earthquakes,
tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, cyclones, and floods.
Because the populations in the world, especially in the areas
where these disaster have occurred, have grown tremendously
in the past 150 years, the loss of life and economic cost have
been enormous. Earlier in history, there were great natural
disasters, but the impact was limited, and the ability to assist
the victims was constrained by distance and lack of technology.

Today, when tragic disasters occur, many nations in the world
offer valuable assistance, but it is the U.S. with its economic,
medical, technological and transportation resources which
helps by far the most. When small nations and ethnic groups
face persecution and destruction , it is the U.S. which has stepped
up to the plate to defend human rights. When new epidemics and
other medical threats arise, it has been U.S. medical research and
innovation which has come to the rescue worldwide.

It is relatively easily to self-diminish a superpower’s military
strength, to regulate its industries out of existence, to withdraw
from world’s political environment. But how then are lives saved
from natural disaster and epidemics, how then does a great
nation trade with the rest of the world, how then are nations
protected from aggression and totalitarianism?

The notion that the U.S. can voluntarily resign as a superpower
and still prosper and be secure is ludicrous. Without perhaps
understanding the consequences of their views, many in the U.S.
advocate this resignation. In fact, recent trends seem to be going
that way.

This is where we require a new direction, if only by the skin of
our teeth. Those who are pessimistic or have given up hope
altogether should remember that America has always avoided
a downfall by the narrowest of escapes.

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

Saturday, July 20, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Is The Future For Our Political Parties?

I was having lunch with a friend who recently retired
from elected office.

The conversation got around to the future of the major
political parties, and he wondered aloud if they were
going to be very important going ahead. It’s a fair and
good question since the public attitudes toward these
parties seem a a low ebb for the time being.

But I’m not so sure the current decline in the national
political parties is going to be permanent, nor that they
will be replaced any time soon.

At the outset of the nation, there were no political
parties, but there were political differences which were
soon transformed into two parties, the Federalists and the
Democrats. The Federalist Party then became the Whig
Party, and after that, in 1854, the Republican Party.
Numerous third parties, over 225 years, have arisen and
then disappeared. Occasionally, one of these parties
have affected the outcome of a presidential election, and
in a few cases, elected members of Congress, but the U.S.
in contrast to most of the world's other democratically elected
governments (most of them using a parliamentary system),
has remained a two-party system.

The philosophies of the two parties have evolved over time.
Originally a radical abolitionist party, the party most black
Americans voted for (until 1932), and then anti-trust and
progressive, the Republican Party became the more
conservative and pro-big business party. Originally a rural,
anti-abolitionist party, the Democrats became the more liberal
and pro-labor union party, and after 1932, claimed the most black

From a primarily agrarian society, the U.S. became the leading
industrial nation in the world.

From the end of World War II through the end of the war in
Viet Nama, roughly 30 years, the image of the two parties and
their supporters remained relatively stable. But the Democratic
Party leadership, which dominated this period, held on to the
“New Deal” politics which had brought them to power in 1933,
and by the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, significant changes in
voter values brought a new alignment. The “solid South,” more
conservative than the other regions in the country, no longer
voted Democratic. The Northeast, once very Republican, but
now significantly more urban, began to vote for more
Democrats. The Far West (California, Oregon and Washington)
likewise became notably more liberal, while the rest of the
West voted mostly for conservative Republicans. The Midwest
was split, with more urban/industrial states voting Democratic,
and more agrarian states leaning to Republicans.

With the rise of new ethnic groups in the U.S. population,
particularly Hispanics and Asians, the voting demographic
once more has changed. The liberal or “progressive” politics,
especially in social issues, of the Democratic Party has
established it in most large cities and urban areas across the
nation, while the conservative politics of the Republican
Party have re-established it in more rural and suburban areas.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the latest redistricting for
the U.S. House of Representatives where the Republicans now
have a distinct advantage. But the transformation of the
political parties is more than an urban-rural divide.

Long known, especially through most of the 20th century, as
the party of big business and the rich, the Republican Party
has become a significantly more working class party which
supports small business but not “big” business. The
Democrtic Party now claims the allegiance of many more rich
Americans and upper middle class elites. Financial donor
records indicate that it is now the Democratic party which
is more favored by large corporations and other big business
interests. This reality goes against the persisting populist
rhetoric of the Democratic Party, but since the election of
President Reagan in 1980, a noticeable shift has occurred to
the conservative party by many working class Americans,
especially those who are more socially conservative, and those
who have become more middle class in income.

In very recent years, during the administrations of President
George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, the nation
has become more divided and polar politically than it has
been since before World War II.

But the polarities of the policies and rhetoric of the leadership
of the two parties have been too confining for many voters in
various parts of the U.S. Social conservatives have dominated
the Republican Party for a number of years, but many
Republicans, otherwise economically conservative, have been
excluded from party affairs. Many of these Republicans live
in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic region, and enjoy
continued support in their communities and states. At the
same time, many social liberals in the Democratic Party are
also more moderate on economic issues, and are turned off
by the anti-business rhetoric and policies of Democratic
spokespersons and in the U.S. senate and house. These more
centrist voters in each party have been increasingly excluded
from party affairs, and have led more and more of them
to identify as “independents.”

On the other hand, attempts to satisfy these unhappy voters in
both parties through the formation of third parties or rogue
political groups fail to change the two-party system.

The so-called Tea Party voters in the Republican Party
illustrates this. This group, often unfairly characterized in
the liberal media, has been a genuine grass roots movement
in the Republican Party (and part of, I might add, the working
class ascendancy in that party). When it demonstrates its
voting power, as it did in 2010, it has altered GOP party
values and policies. In 2012, however, (perhaps overvaluing
its success in 2010), it sometimes worked against overall
interests of the conservative movement by insisting on
some inappropriate candidates. and demands on national
national candidates, which contributed to (but to be fair, did
not entirely cause) an overall unsuccessful outcome.

Another major reason for GOP lack of success in 2012
illustrates why I think the prediction of demise or recession
of the two major parties is very premature if not wrong.

The Democratic Party clearly had the best get-out-the-vote
and voter I.D. apparatus in 2012. It was probably the biggest
reason why, in a period of economic downturn, the
incumbent president was re-elected. In 2004, however, it was
the Republican Party which had the superior get-out-the-vote
effort, and re-elected its incumbent president even though
Democrats thought they would win. My point is that
sub-groups in a major party or even third parties do not
have the resources to create and implement successful
national campaigns.

I would agree that if one or both of the major two U.S.
parties would refuse to modify and transform themselves
in response to voter concerns, there would be some kind
of change in the two-party system. In the 1850’s, the
Whig Party did just that, and precipitated the formation
of a new major party. From the 1930s to the 1960s, the
Republican Party resisted change, and kept losing.
The same will happen to the Democrats, I think, if they
persist in pushing national policy too far to the left.

There are individuals who decry the two-party system,
and many of their arguments are rational and reasonable.
But the two-party system is part of the nation’s political
DNA. Before this system would be abandoned because
one or both of the two major parties were no longer
reflecting their voters concerns and interests, one or both
of the failing parties would be replaced by another.

How many Federalists or Whigs or pro-slavery Democrats
do you know today?

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I hope my readers are not too disappointed to learn
that I am not rushing to put into print some commentary
about the current controversy over filibustering in the U.S.
senate or the aftermath of the Zimmerman trial in Florida.
Both of these circumstances have been magnified in the
media far beyond their true significance, and I feel no
need to contribute to their misappropriation of public

I do write often about power and politics, not because they
are the most important matters in the world, which they
are not, but because they are rich displays of how our nation
and other nations in the world manage themselves between
the punctuation marks of the earth’s season, the caprices of
the weather, and the natural convulsions of earthquakes,
typhoons, floods, tornados, tsunamis, hurricanes, sinkholes,
droughts, and whatever else Nature so inscrutably gives to
us and our fellow creatures who dwell on this little planet.

Just as a strand of silk can be intrinsically stronger than
steel, I suggest our little practice of making poems with
our languages, and music with our voices and instruments is
often more powerful, more enduring, and yes, more fascinating
and unpredictable than politics and power.

Recently, a friend gave me a DVD set of the Showtime series
“The Tudors,” a four year panorama of the reign of Henry VIII
in England. About the same time, I had a conversation with
another friend about two old interests of mine, one, a group of
third century, A.D. Chinese poets known as The Seven Sages
of The Bamboo Grove, and two, the first novel probably ever
written (over a thousand years ago), “The Tale of Genji” by a
Japanese noblewoman Lady Murasaki.

At some point, it occurred to me, the three, however many
centuries apart, were connected in my thinking about them,
and I am now, perhaps somewhat capriciously, going to
discuss them instead of Florida prosecutors, Harry Reid,
and the other sad shallowness of so much in our public media.

The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove were each important
Taoist scholars, musicians and poets (as well as officials) in
the capital when the Confucian Jin Dynasty came to power in
260 A.D.. Criticizing the corruption and life at court, they soon
retreated to the estate of one of them, near a large bamboo
grove, on the Yangtze River where they lived a life of drinking,
playing music and writing poetry for a number of years. Only
a few of their poems survive, but they became a legendary
part of Chinese culture and an influence for centuries
afterwards. Perhaps the most accomplished among them,
Juan Chi (or Ruan Ji) had the most of his work survive,
including a book called “Poems From the Heart.” Here is
one of my favorites, which I recently translated (based on
more literal translations):

by Juan Chi [Ruan Ji] (210-263 A.D.)

(translated by Barry Casselman)

Sleepless, late at night, in my room,
I rise to play the zither.
The moon shines through the thin curtain,
a cool breeze ripples into my gown.
A lone swan moans in the wilderness.
Flying birds chatter in the bamboo groves.
Pacing up and down, unsure what is next,
mournful thoughts arise and besiege my heart.

Like all masterpieces of literature, however short, there is
something timeless about this poem. Juan Chi’s circumstances,
and those of his colleagues, were not unlike, in fundamental
ways, circumstances today in which the ineffectiveness of
governments in the world’s capitals, the widespread corruptions,
and the detachment of political life from ordinary persons’ lives,
echoes through almost two millennia.

Lady Murasaki (or Murasaki Shikibu) born in Kyoto in 973 A.D.
was part of a noble family in the late Heian period, and became
a lady-in-waiting to the Empress Shoshi in the Japanese imperial
court circa 1000 A.D. She was also a writer, and her extraordinary
“Tale of Genji” is generally considered the first true novel in any
language. Writing poetry was a common practice among the
women of the aristocracy of that time when Chinese was the
official language of the court and spoken almost exclusively by
men. Murasaki had taught herself Chinese secretly while her
brother was being taught, but her writing was in Japanese, only
then emerging as a written language. It is thought that her talent
as a writer was why she was brought to court. She also secretly
taught the young empress Chinese. Her novel, begun at a lovely
rural retreat from court, is more than a book of manners and
history of the period. Muraski’s sensitivity, intelligence and
psychological probity make the book timeless and universal in
its insights.

The Showtime series “The Tudors” may not be a masterpiece, but
its richly-costumed and elaborately-set story of Henry VIII, his
wives and his royal court 1300 years after the Seven Sages of the
Bamboo Grove, and 500 years after Lady Murasaki, re-enacts
life at the “highest” level in ancient times with its emperors,
kings and queens, nobles and knights, and the manners and
mannerisms of the old aristocracies. Henry VIII is a particularly
fascinating character in the long line of English monarchs, with
his many wives, his battles with the Catholic Church in Rome,
and eventually his creation of the new Anglican Church which
survives to this day.

His descendent, the soon-to-be-born child of William and
Catherine (and great grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II) will 
someday presumably occupy the British throne. (Elizabeth I
was one of Henry VIII’s daughters.) The absolute power of the
English king in the 1500‘s has given way to a ceremonial and
mostly powerless monarchy today, but it still commands
media attention.

In China, the age of emperors ended in 1911, and the great culture
of that nation was replaced ruthlessly by a series of communist
chairmen, the first of whom, Mao Tze Tung, ordered and
supervised the Great Famine of the 1950s in China during which
tens of millions of Chinese peasants died of starvation. More
recent leaders of China have adopted some Western economic
methods, and the newest China, with its huge population, tries
to take its place among the leading nations of the 21st century.

In the early 1930s, a militarist regime took over imperial Japan,
and its aggressive leaders began to seize neighboring
countries, and made an alliance with Nazi Germany and fascist
Italy that formed the Axis powers which attempted to destroy
the other civilizations of the West and the East. After the end
of World War II, Japan adopted a democratic government, and
has taken a major role among the industrial nations.

The world has changed since the times of the Chinese dynasties,
the Japanese emperors and the English kings, but these nations
are still here, still making news on the world stage, still filling
their capitals with “commoner” courtiers and secret plots and
cybernetic machinations.

In Washington, DC, and in our nationally-televised show trials,
the U.S. has its own comedy of manners, its own political
courtiers, and its own colorful episodes, now called partisan
soap operas.

But where are the great poems, and where are the epic novels,
of today?

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

Monday, July 15, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Time To Mend The Wound

The issue of immigration to the United States has become
an open wound. Current attempts to fix this situation
through legislation have become stalled following the
passage of a bill in the U.S. senate. The latter was
accomplished by the political midwifery of senators of
both parties who realized that bipartisanship was the only
way to fix our troubled immigration circumstances.

Unfortunately, the issue has been obscured by campaigns
from the left and the right, and in both national political

There are currently more than ten million so-called “illegal
immigrants” in the U.S., most of whom entered and/or
remained in the country from neighboring Mexico in the
past several decades.  Although categorized as “Hispanics”
significant numbers of immigrants from Spanish-speaking
places other than Mexico came to the U.S. legally and are
now citizens. Many Mexican immigrants also came to the
U.S. legally. But many more did not.

Over the years, millions of Mexican workers came to the
U.S. as seasonal laborers, working often for lower-than-
normal pay in farms and agricultural jobs. Some of them did
not return to Mexico. Many others simply crossed the
previously porous U.S/Mexico border to escape poverty in
their home country.

Most illegal immigrants now live in a relatively few states,
although there are some in almost every state.

Tolerated for years with a wink, especially to those
agricultural and other business interests which benefitted
most from these illegals, their sheer numbers and their
plight in living with a hidden legal secret finally brought
the issue in the open. It has been complicated by the fact
that many illegals have had children and grandchildren in
the U.S.

It has been pointed out that throughout its history, the
United States has been a nation of immigrants. Even the
continent’s oldest residents, called Native Americans, were
themselves immigrants from Asia by land and boat
thousands of years ago. Immigration, in effect, is the primal
American condition.

On the other hand, no nation, especially in the current era of
international crime and terrorism, can tolerate a disorderly
system of immigration, nor large numbers of its residents
living outside the proper systems of taxation, citizen
accountability and benefits.

Most of us are agreed that the time is past due to deal with
this problem. As individuals, we would not without great
personal risk go day after day without healing an open wound.

It should not be a partisan issue. Former President George W.
Bush and former presidential candidate John McCain have
consistently supported immigration reform. But in the most
recent presidential election, only former Speaker Newt Gingrich
of the major Republican candidates supported immigration

Opponents of immigration reform contend that illegal
immigrants should be returned to the country where they
came from before being allowed to re-enter the U.S. and become
citizens. This notion, however, is practically impossible, and
so another policy is required.

Opponents also contend that no reform should be attempted
until the U.S. border with Mexico is “sealed” to prevent further
illegal immigration. In fact, no border more than 1000 miles
long by land can be perfectly “sealed.” Nevertheless, border
security can be, should be, and is being significantly improved.
Meanwhile, there needs to be a process whereby the millions of
immigrants now living illegally in the U.S. can be given a legal
status. That does not mean they should be quickly given U.S.
citizenship. The senate bill creates a process in which those who
came here illegally in the past can become citizens after 15 years.

There are also legitimate issues about whether or not illegal
immigrants, if given legal status, are entitled to the many benefits
which citizens and legal residents now receive. The senate bill
resolves many of these, but I do agree that the senate bill is too
long (more than 1000 pages, an echo of Obamacare which was
2500-plus pages, and we were told we had to read it after it was
passed before finding out what was in it.), and it has in those
many pages too many loopholes.

Republicans control the U.S. house of representatitves.  Under
the leadership of Speaker John Boehner, they could and should
create better and alternative legislation, and insist on their
improvements in the resulting conference with the U.S. senate
before final legislation is sent to the White House for presidential
signature and enactment.

Many voices on the right and the left, with differing motivations,
now speak out against immigration reform, In the national
Republican Party particularly those voices threaten retribution
against their own candidates and incumbents in 2014 if
immigration reform is passed. This has been complicated by
some in the Democratic Party who want to pass reform for
partisan gain (and enjoy taunting Republicans).

The U.S. house needs to look beyond this. The Republican Party
needs to be part of the solution to immigration reform. No one
living in America, if they are law-abiding, should have to live in
fear and secrecy.

The claim by some that passing immigration reform will be a
long-term windfall for the Democratic Party, insuring their
domination of U.S. for decades to come is, in fact, a political
“red herring” and not based on the facts. Neither party
can automatically presume the allegiance of Hispanic voters.
With its conservative principles, the Republican Party has as
much claim to the votes of Hispanic voters in the future, voters
who are by tradition and heritage conservative.

The U.S. senate bill is flawed, but can be repaired by the U.S.
house. It should be done now, well before the 2014 midterm
national elections. Those elections should be contested over
other issues, issues which impact all Americans.

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

Thursday, July 11, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Government By Mood

The government of the United States of America has
endured and flourished through good times and bad
times. Its rules, legislation and customs have changed
over more than two centuries, but it has consistently
proceeded as a government of laws. This has provoked
those who have opposed some laws to work to repeal or
change them. It has caused elected and appointed
officials to operate within them, even if they did not
always agree with them. Some misbehavior did occur,
and trespasses took place. Occasionally, officials
were prosecuted or removed for office for operating
outside them. But overall, Americans play by the rules.

Today, in Washington, DC, a new phenomenon has
appeared. This government by mood says that if the
rules stand in the way, just ignore them.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Can We See 2014 Yet?

The 2014 midterm U.S. elections are more than a year
away, but the strategies for them are already being
formulated by the two major parties.

The major prize in this election is likely to be control
of the U.S. senate. This prize eluded the minority
Republican Party in 2012, as the superior Democratic
get-out-the vote effort combined with several flawed
GOP senate nominees actually gave the liberal party
a net gain in the senate in spite of many more
Democrats running for re-election than Republicans.

This circumstance is repeated in 2014, and the question
is: Will the conservative party fare better this cycle?

So far, the number and location of retiring incumbents
favors the GOP, in addition to the fact that only 14
GOP seats are up for election, compared to 20 for the
Democrats. Only one or two GOP senate seats are
currently considered even vulnerable while 8-10
incumbent Democratic seats are rated from very to
moderately vulnerable.

Nevertheless, the full number of retirees may not yet be
known, neither are the identities of many challengers to
Holding the majority in the senate, and facing chronic
unemployment, the Democrats are so far on the
defensive. There has been some marginal improvement
in the economy in recent months, and the stock market
is up, but uncertainly has arisen about the continued
artificial support of the economy by the Federal Reserve.
Furthermore, the catalyst of the stunning defeat of the
Democrats in U.S. house races in 2010, the massive
Obamacare legislation, hangs around the necks of many
liberal house and senate candidates as implementation of
the medical reform legislation looms imminent. The recent
delay by the Obama administration of the business portion
of this reform was an explicit admission of the problems
these new laws face. The delay might avoid some negative
reactions, but the unpopularity of Obamacare among voters
suggests that part of the Republican strategy in 2014 will be
to warn voters that re-electing and electing Democrats will
only insure that Obamacare and its problems will then come
full-force in 2015.

Some provisions of Obamacare, while they might be
economically unfeasible, are popular with voters, including
the requirement to insure persons with major medical
issues, and the mandatory transfer of high risk insurability.
Not only that, the obvious problems currently in the
healthcare industry clearly have demonstrated the urgent
need for some kind of healthcare reform, so conservatives
will likely have to advance some plan for alternative reform,
presumably a free market approach, in order to take full
advantage of the Democratic legislation’s disarray.

In 2012, the economic downturn and high unemployment
were not as politically critical as some observers thought
they might be for several reasons. One was that the
numbers seemed to have bottomed out. By removing
non-job seeking workers from the unemployed statistics,
the official unemployment number was lowered to under
8%, even though the real number was more than 10%.
Republican strategists were notably inept in pointing this
out. The stock market and real estate market declines had
seemed to begin to reverse themselves, and this continues
a year later, although the fundamental lackluster economic
performance persists.  With the old established media
cheerleading for the Obama administration during the
2012 campaign, and continuing to do so, GOP critics and
strategists have an additional burden to overcome in
persuading voters that the liberal economic program is
not only not working, but preventing the economy from a
natural and overdue recovery.

Another reason Democrats were successful in 2012 was
a much superior voter identification and get-out-the-vote
effort around Mr. Obama’s re-election. The mechanics
of that effort remain in place, but there is no presidential
election in 2014 with which to energize the campaign.
Nevertheless, Republicans in the individual 2014 house and
senate campaigns will have to demonstrate that they
learned something from their opponents’ success in 2012,
and can revamp their strategies accordingly. If they do not,
several marginal races, particularly in U.S. senate contests,
will be won by Democrats, possibly denying GOP control.

It is anticipated by most observers that control of the U.S.
house will not switch back to the Democrats in the 2014
cycle. Overconfidence by conservatives, however, might not
be altogether in order. Both houses of Congress do not enjoy
much popular support these days. A sustained economic
recovery, however unlikely, could begin to develop by next
year, and this would seriously undercut the GOP argument in
the 2014 cycle.

Electoral politics at the national level is a serious business.
Quality of candidates and campaigns do make a difference,
no matter what the “trend” or “mood” of an election is.
Although Democrats are seriously on the defensive on
economic issues and Obamacare, that does not necessarily
mean they will do poorly in the 2014 elections.

It would appear that international issues and U.S. foreign
policy, although filling daily headlines with dramatic crises,
will not be dispositive issues in 2014. Perhaps some
Republicans would like to make them into issues by calling
attention to Obama administration foreign policy failures,
but with U.S. retreat from the international arena, and
reducing our military presence in the world, voters will likely
be much more concerned with “pocketbook”concerns in 2014.

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

Thursday, July 4, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Deciphering Events Far Away

Trying to understand events in other parts of the world
is becoming increasingly difficult, paradoxically even as
communications technology brings them physically into
view almost instantly and so graphically.

Thus, the second “Arab revolt” in Egypt can be seen on the
streets of Cairo in dramatic detail, and with numerous
reports from local journalists and eye-witnesses on the spot
in a continuous display.

But what we see, although vitally important to the historical
event taking place, may not reveal what is happening behind the
scenes where the most important decisions are being made.

When the first series of Arab national uprisings first
began in 2011, they seemed to be spontaneous “grass roots”
phenomena against totalitarian regimes, and were dubbed
“The Arab Spring” in the West (U.S. and Europe) in an
expectation that they would lead to new attitudes among
Arab populations, an introduction of representative
democracy into the region, and a reversal of the economic
and political conditions which had dominated that part of
the world for so long.

While it was true that many of the leaders of these
uprisings were young and idealistic, the complexity of the
Middle East also brought into contention for power many
nationalist and religious groups that would only replace one
totalitarian regime with another. Any hopes that new
governments might be more pro-American, less anti-Israel,
and more tolerant of other religions (primarily Christianity)
were soon dashed.

In a free election, leaders of the Moslem Brotherhood won
control of Egypt, but soon proved unable to govern this
largest of Arab nations successfully. Once again, large
numbers of Egyptians took to the streets in protest against
the new government. In fact, the numbers of protesters
were so great that the true power in Egypt, its military, was
forced to act to maintain order and stability. The elected
leader was deposed, and many leaders of the Moslem
Brotherhood have been arrested and otherwise detained.
At the same time, the tone of most of the protesters was
decidedly anti-American and anti-Israel.

On the surface, therefore, it might seem that only one
Islamic regime will be replaced by another. That might be
the case, but a little noticed event took place at the same
time when the Israeli government agreed to Egyptian army
movements in Gaza, something which is part of the
Egyptian-Israeli agreements which have been in place
many years. Also, quite noticeably, the Israeli government
has been decidedly quiet about events in Egypt, although
it is obvious they are following those events very, very
closely. Does this mean a positive turn in the Egyptian-Israeli

We don’t know the answer to that question, nor to the
question of what kind of government will now follow in
Egypt, because, as I have been suggesting, we receive very
little news beyond the television coverage in the public
squares. Part of this is due to the very limited ability of
American or European journalists to cover these events on
the spot. Assaults on journalists have been frequent. Part of
it is also due to the very limited access Western journalists
have to Arab leaders and decision makers. And part of it is
due to the bias of many journalists about U.S. and European
foreign policies, especially those who want to portray those
policies in a positive way, no matter what.

In 2011, there was a wave of optimism in the West following
the so-called “Arab Spring.” This, it turned out, was premature
at best, and perhaps even an overall misreading of what was

In 2013, words of caution are much more in order.

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Cul-de-Sac Diplomacy

The term cul-de-sac or “dead end” is French and Catalan in
origin, but was first used by English aristocrats after the Norman
Conquest when French was commonly spoken by the elites
in England. The French themselves prefer the term huit clos
or “no exit.” The phenomenon itself, that is, a street or road
which has no way forward, originated in Egypt about 1885 B.C.,
and is believed to have been defensive in its intention as a way
to frustrate an advancing enemy. (Modern architects and planners
now employ culs-de-sac as a design technique to control and limit
traffic, especially in residential neighborhoods.)

Whatever the modern adaption of a cul-de-sac, I suggest that
we are observing a reversion to its original intent in Middle
East politics and diplomacy, especially in the foreign policy of
the United States and Europe in their relations with the Islamic
nations of the Middle East. In this sense of the term, I also
suggest, the principal nations of this region which are hostile to
the Western nations, while at a military and economic
disadvantage to their “enemies,” are successfully frustrating
international diplomacy, especially the diplomacy of the United

This was not as clear just after September 11, 2001 when Western
allies, led by the U.S., embarked on retaliation of the attacks on
the U.S. in Afghanistan, and expanded this campaign to Iraq.

Today, as events in Syria, Egypt and Libya continue to unfold
with a mixture of widespread protests and uprisings from the
“Arab street” against totalitarian governments there, it is
becoming more and more obvious that the interests of the U.S.
and its allies, including Europe, face culs-de-sac everywhere as
they attempt to intervene in the Middle East in both their own
interests and any “humanitarian” concerns. The key reality is
that all local sides in the current Middle East turmoil seem hostile
to the U.S., Israel and the Judeo-Christian West.

It is perhaps ironic that where the cul-de-sac originated, ancient
Egypt, sees the revival of its original purpose in contemporary
Egypt. The contemporary West seeks diplomatic “traffic control”
through its intervention, but Islamic nationalists seek to keep
the West out.

The diplomatic strategy of the U.S. is not working. Its temporary
“victory” in Iraq threatens to be soon undone, and its last outposts
of cooperation, in Jordan and Egypt, seem to be rapidly dissolving.

Four thousand years later, the cul-de-sac is operational no matter
what term is used.

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