Tuesday, December 27, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Re-Set Is Always Bigger Than Anticipated

The new Donald Trump administration policy re-set, like the
recent historic ones before it, is likely going to be bigger
psychologically, as well as ideologically, than perhaps most
now assume it will be.

I cite, in the order they took place:

Hoover to Roosevelt in 1933
Carter to Reagan in 1981
George W. Bush to Obama in 2009

Each of the above represented a dramatic about-face in national
public policy. Each was not fully anticipated, even after election
day, to be the strong policy-changing phenomenon it became.
As the reader will note, there were only three such re-sets in
recent times. Roosevelt to Truman, Truman to Eisenhower,
Eisenhower to Kennedy, Kennedy to Johnson,, Johnson to Nixon,
Nixon to Ford, Ford to Carter, George H.W. Bush to Clinton, and
Clinton to George W. Bush each had transitions with some change,
obviously more when the presidency went from one party to the
other, but the changes were more of personality and degree than
of truly dramatic turns.

Big re-sets bring with them big political risks. In the cases of
Presidents Roosevelt and Reagan, their changes mostly worked
successfully for a longer period, and they were not only re-elected,
but in the case of 1988, Reagan’s vice president won. When they
don’t work well, as just happened with President Obama, they
trigger voter rejection.

In 2008, President George W. Bush finished his two terms under
the cloud of a mortgage banking meltdown that doomed John
McCain’s campaign against Barack Obama. Mr. Obama had not
campaigned as an agent of radical change, but as soon as he took
office he undertook major alterations of U.S. domestic and foreign
policy. The failure of his healthcare reform (known as Obamacare)
and the deterioration of his foreign policy worldwide, however,
made it difficult for Hillary Clinton to succeed him.

Actually, most new presidents don’t bring major policy re-sets
with them into office, and the state of general economic
conditions usually mark their tenure and their prospects for

Donald Trump, however, has not only promised major re-sets of
domestic and foreign public policies, his choice of cabinet
officers and White House staff clearly indicate such major change
is coming, and coming soon. It might not be “overnight” change,
of course, but his tax policies, trade policies, education policies,
immigration policies, judicial appointment criteria, as well as his
policies toward Europe, the Middle East, the United Nations, and
China each are likely to make some dramatic turns.

These changes, in themselves, do not guarantee success. I happen
to think his “supply-side” economic views, like Kennedy’s,
Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s efforts in the past will stimulate
the economy, but true supply-side success requires notable decreases
in public spending. Mr. Trump’s infrastructure ambitions might get
in the way of that. The new president, as I suggest, is likely to re-set
much economic public policy, but he could well not re-set much in
social policy, as some conservatives might hope he will.  His new
directions in foreign policy, and in reinvigorating the U.S. military,
are much needed, but the international landscape these days is a
an ambiguous and provisional stage of volatile operations --- and
Mr. Trump’s experience is limited (as was Mr Obama’s).

Donald Trump’s first 100 days as president of the United States
are something difficult to predict, from the vantage of three weeks
before he takes the oath of office, but they will be quite a spectacle.
Mr. Trump disrupted more than 50 years of political rules and
traditions, defied his critics’ judgments, and then won a national
campaign that upset almost everyone’s expectations.

As I asked out loud (in print) just after he won the Republican
nomination in Cleveland (then in terms of the general election
just ahead): What evidence is there that his performance as president
will be any less surprising than how he got to that white “bungalow"
on Pennsylvania Avenue in the first place?

We are only at the beginning of quite a political saga.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend Update 24


The next major international election that will test the current
populist wave sweeping many democratic nations across the
globe will be in France in April. Three likely leading candidates
for president have emerged so far. Manuel Valls has been the
Socialist prime minister, and entered the race when the current
president, Francois Hollande, decided not to run for re-election.
He faces several opponents in a January, 2017 Socialist primary.
Thought by many to be now leading is Francois Fillon, a former
prime minister, the center-right nominee who defeated both Alain
Juppe, also a former prime minister, and Nicholas Sarkozy, a
former president, for the Republican nomination. On the right,
Marine Le Pen is the likely candidate of the populist  National
Front Party, and is the wild card in the election because she
represents many unhappy French working class voters who are
dissatisfied with the traditional main parties of the left and the
right. Many of these voters have been likened to the U.K. voters
who voted for Brexit, the U.S. voters who chose Donald Trump
and the Italian voters who forced that country’s prime minister
recently to resign.


President Trump has named all but three of his cabinet
appointees, and most of his White House staff and
advisors (only a few of whom require Senate confirmation.
Most observers, on both the left and right, were surprised
by how many strong conservatives he has chosen, and by
how adroit some of his choices have been to bring the
Republican factions, some of which did not support him
before the election, together. The former have alarmed many
Democrats who now see a major policy re-set coming to
Washington, DC, and the latter have, for the time being at least,
upset many hostile media predictions that there will be a
Republican civil war in the capital.


The difficult challenge facing Democrats in the 2018 U.S.
senate races (when 25 incumbent liberal seats are up for
re-election and only 8 GOP incumbents face the voters) was
just heightened by the announcement that Republican Ohio
State Treasurer Josh Mandel would challenge incumbent
Senator Sherrod Brown, a very liberal Democrat, who is seeking
re-election. Mr. Brown defeated Mr. Mandel in their first contest
in 2012, but since that time, the Buckeye State has gone from
blue-purple to red on the political scale, climaxed this year by
Donald Trump’s winning the state, and by Ohio’s other senator, 
Republican Rob Portman, winning re-election by a landslide. Mr.
Mandel also won the statewide Ohio treasurer’s race in 2014, and
has made much-praised strides in the state’s finances. He leads
all his potential GOP rivals by a wide margin.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


I generally avoid hypotheticals, especially after an election
when the media (and the losers) often indulge in “what ifs”
such as “what if only a few thousand more voters in Michigan
voted for Hillary Clinton,” etc., etc. After the 2016 election,
however, several folks who do not like Donald Trump tried to
do something both unprecedented and wrong-headed --- they
made a huge effort to intimidate Trump electors across the
nation to cast their ballot for someone else. To show the
pointlessness and inappropriateness of this recent and failed
attempt by some leftists to thwart the constitutional process,
indulge me, if you will, in a quite credible alternative ending
to the 2016 presidential election.

Hillary Clinton clearly won the national popular vote. As I have
previously pointed out, we do not have a popular vote for U.S.
president, but an electoral college vote in the individual states.
Let us say that along with her winning most (but not a
majority) of the popular votes, Mrs. Clinton had also won
Florida and Arizona (each of which she actually lost by small
margins) with their combined total of 40 electoral votes, thus
winning 272 electoral votes or two more than necessary to be
formally elected president.

Her supporters, of course, would not then have mounted a
campaign to have electors change their votes. On December 19,
however, five Clinton electors did vote for someone else. Then
with only 267 electoral votes, this would have put Mrs. Clinton
below the 270-vote threshold required by the U.S. constitution to
win the presidency. The election would then automatically go to
the U.S. house of representatives where Republicans have a large
lead among the 50 states. Donald Trump, having lost both the
popular vote and the electoral vote, then would almost surely
win the vote in the U.S. house and become president next
January 20, 2017.

This, of course, did not happen, but some Democrats, having
opened the political Pandora’s Box of trying to intimidate electors
to become “faithless” in 2016, could now face a backfire in 2020
or 2024, when the tactic might work against the Democrats in an
entirely possible close election.

If it does, they will only be able to blame themselves.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 19, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: More Than A Formaiity

The formal voting of the electoral college in the 50 state
capitals and the District of Columbia is the constitutional
conclusion of the U.S. presidential election, but it is not
merely a formality. It is inherently part of the American
system of representative democracy until now.

The founding fathers in 1787 created an incredible document,
albeit one with some flaws. The worst of these flaws was the
prolonging of slavery and the arbitrary limit of voting rights.
Both of these were repaired, although it took a civil war to fix
the former, and more than 100 years to fix the latter.

Twenty-seven amendments to the U.S. constitution have been
made in the past 228 years to fix these and several other flaws.

The establishment of the electoral college as the specific
vehicle to elect the president of the United States was the result
of compromises that preserved a balance between the states
and the federal government overall, and to keep a balance in
the power between the large states and the smaller ones. As a
result, the election of the president is not purely a popular
vote election. After four elections in which the winning
candidate did not receive the most popular votes for president
in the l9th century, more than 100 years passed until this
circumstance reoccurred --- in 2000. Now, in 2016, it has
happened again.

In recent years, there have been efforts made to change this
part of the constitution, either to eliminate the electoral college
altogether, or to keep it, but make it conform to the national
popular vote. The latter is an ingenious way to bypass the
amendment process, but accomplish the same goal. Its advocates
have been asking state legislatures to pass a law that requires a
a state to cast its electoral votes for the winner of the national
popular vote, regardless of who won that state’s popular vote
for president. If this effort can obtain the support of enough
states to cast at least 270 electoral votes under this method, it
will make the old electoral college method moot, and will have
done it without the difficulties of a constitutional amendment.
If it succeeds, the only remaining obstacle would be a requisite
approval of its constitutionality by the U.S. supreme court.

There are legitimate and serious arguments on both sides of
the question of maintaining an electoral college system or going
to a purely popular vote for president. This debate will now
continue, and should, as the nation seeks to find the best way
to choose its chief executive and commander-in-chief.

What is not legitimate is the argument that a person who wins
the electoral college, but not the popular vote, is not properly
elected president. The system we now have is the one that all
candidates for president know is in place. The strategy of a
presidential election is based on this system. There is no way of
knowing, for example, whether or not Donald Trump would
have won the popular vote, too, in 2016 if he and his campaign
knew that was the only way to win the contest. There can be no
doubt that the Trump campaign would have been different if
the candidate and his campaign knew they had to win the
popular vote and not the electoral vote.

We live in a time when some are eager to discard some of the
traditions of our long and mostly successful form of government.
Some legacies, such as slavery, segregation, limited voter
suffrage, and others, indeed, needed to cast away. Others have
extraordinarily helped preserve our freedom and prosperity.

We have a new president, properly elected. He will now be
subjected to the attention all presidents receive, including praise
by some, and criticism from others, for his performance. And
should he wish for another term of office, he will have to submit
himself to the voters four years from now.

If enough states choose to adopt the popular vote for president,
he will have to abide by that method. Otherwise, we now have only
one way to choose the leader of the executive branch of

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 12, 2016


As long-time readers of this column know, the Prairie Editor
participates in an annual private dinner that commemorates
the memory of Winston Churchill on or near his birthday,
November 30.

Other such dinners take place in the U.S. and the United
Kingdom, and with no doubt more celebrated participants,
but none are likely to be more interesting in their culinary
fare, nor truer to the spirit of parliamentary debate in which
the English statesman so singularly and memorably contributed
during his long stint as a member of the British lower house.

It has been 142 years since Sir Winston was born , and the local
dinner here in Minneapolis was begun 42 years ago on the
centenary of his birth. It began as a dinner for six politically
active Minnesotans with a modest six-course menu featuring
breaded oysters, roast ham, good cigars, and some decent

The host, a prominent local attorney nationally known for his
arboreal conservation efforts, has repeated the dinner every
year since, all but one at his home. It now has nine guests (on
a permanent list), is black-tie (one guest shows up in a formal
Scottish Highland kilt), and the occasion goes through twelve
courses, numerous bottles of the finest wines and cordials, and
the best cigars, over an eight hour period beginning in the late
afternoon. The host, an excellent amateur chef, no longer does
the cooking himself, but the dinner is prepared by a talented
professional chef/sommelier who in his day job serves as one of
the major wine buyers in the region.

The participants are older gentlemen who have been, or are still,
active, in public affairs, and include a former congressman, a
former city councilman, two former candidates for governor,
a former presidential appointee, current and former business
executives, an architect, the host, and yours truly. Politically,
the guests range from liberal to centrist independent to

Toasts are offered to Mr. Churchill, Her Majesty The Queen,
the president of the United States, and (on this occasion) the
president-elect of the United States.

The event begins in a fireplace-lit library of leather chairs,
antique furniture, and two stories of a fine book collection,
with the serving of a variety of appetizers including breaded
oysters, Gouda cheese on zweiback, irresistible shrimp toasts,
and very dry Spanish sherry.

The conversation between the invitees, many of whom have not
seen each other since the previous dinner, is cordial, and with
the surprise presidential election result, was destined to be lively.
This phase is then closed with the playing of a recording of one
of Mr. Churchill’s speeches, delivered by himself.

The diners then move to the nearby formal dining room where
the table settings are elegantly arranged with sterling silverware
of numerous and various forks, spoons and knives, several crystal
wine and water glasses, and the finest china for each diner.

This year’s meal began with fresh lobster, three imported
cheeses and pasta, playfully described as “lobster mac and cheese.”
(The Kraft folks never sold any package which produced
so rich a dish as this.) The next course was sliced, slow-roasted
goose breast with a fig-madeira sauce accompanied by red
cabbage. The following course was tenderloin of American bison ,
served rare with a porcini shallot sauce, and was accompanied by
a brilliant potato pave, as well as sauteed fresh Brussels sprouts,
parsnips and carrots.

Accompanying the pasta course was a German Weiser Burgander
(pinot blanc) 2014.. With the poultry course came a French
Chateau de Haute Sette 2010 (Cahors). A powerful Roth Estate
Heritage Red 2013 (Sonoma)  was paired with the bison.

The next course was an arcata French bread with blue cheese
butter. Mineral waters, including San Pellegrino, Blu Italia, Evian
and Gerolstein were poured.

The chef’s own winter citrus salad was then served, and it was
followed by dishes of passion fruit and raspberry sorbets.

A traditional course at this dinner, in the English manner, is the
serving of a preserved citron. A number of guests have in the past
eschewed this course, and so candied ginger, apricots and dates
are also provided.

A new course at this year’s dinner was the presentation of an
historic panettone Milanese. This artisan holiday cake is now
made locally at Cossetta’s bakery and pasticceria by its own
bakers who were recently trained in Brescia, Italy by the greatest
living panettone master. It was served, as is often the custom,
with an espresso corretto, brewed on the host’s own
coffeehouse-quality apparatus.

The concluding course in the dining room was  Colston and
Basset farmhouse stilton cheese, accompanied by glasses of
Ferreira 20-year old tawny port.

The final phase of this annual dinner now moved to the host’s
living room where cigars of the world’s finest selections were
handed out. Snifters of Dudognons “Grand Champagne” cognac
or Tariquet bas armagnac were poured. For those who preferred
it, glasses of Iowa Templeton rye whiskey was offered.

The lively political discussion begun in the dining room was now
picked up in even more fervent detail over cigars and cordials.
A sheet was passed around to all attendees with which to make
predictions about politics, public policy, sports, and finance for the
coming year. (Only one guest had predicted the nomination of Mr.
Trump at the 2015 dinner, and only one had predicted that the
Chicago Cubs would win the World Series.)

Bringing the long evening to a close was the opening of bottles of
Duval Leroy Brut Reserve champagne and the serving of a
delicious guest-made cheesecake with fresh blackberries.

As the Churchill dinner attendees prepared to leave into the
chilly post midnight snowfall, each was offered a container of a
popular but removed-from-the-menu annual course, cream of
peanut soup Williamsburg. It had been prepared the night before
so that the gentlemen of this dinner might have a special culinary
memento to take home to their families.

Except on a few cruise ships, an elaborate Edwardian meal such as
this is almost no longer available. And even when a multi-course
gourmet meal is offered, there are very, very few such robust,
celebratory and provocative occasions as this one continues to
be on a cold winter night in these quickly-changing times.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Successful Men And Women

President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet-level appointments
and other staff choices have been so far quite impressive.
His opponents, including Democrats, others on the left and
the mainstream media are predictably not happy with most
of them. (Neither were Republicans and other conservatives,
it should be recalled, delighted with President Obama’s

The new president needs to gather around him men and
women he can trust, who generally share his views and will
follow his policies, and who have a high likelihood of success
in their work.

With most of his top appointments now made, there are a few
observations which can be made about them. First, there is a
remarkable diversity in them with figures from the
Asian-American, African-American, Indian-American
communities, as well as a very significant number of women.
There are several businessmen and high-ranking military
men. They are all, it should surprise no one, conservative,
and in many cases, quite opposed to the policies of the
soon-to-be-ended Obama administration.

But there is a common theme to virtually all of these
appointments, and that is that each of them has a record and
history of success in their work. What better predictor of
performance in public service is there than past  performance
in public and private life?

The federal government is now going to have a serious reset
of public policies. This is not only the consequence of Mr.
Trump’s victory, but of the voters decision to put the
conservative party in control of the Congress. It will not only
include the repeal of Obamacare (and its replacement with a
free market alternative) and the cancellation of many unpopular
executive orders and controversial federal regulations, it will
take place across the public policy board. There will be a new
foreign policy, new tax policies, new education policies, new
environmental priorities, and most importantly, a new
tone of voice from the “bully pulpit.” Mr. Obama, whether he
intended it or not, promoted a heightened “divisiveness” in the
nation. Mr. Trump’s challenge will be to lower the temperature
of political discourse.

All of the above lies ahead. Mr. Trump’s efforts might be or
might not be successful. There will inevitably be disagreements
with his words and actions not only by his opponents, but, on
occasion, by his friend as well.

However, his “team of rivals” and “team of successful men and
women” appointments so far mean that all Americans,
whether they voted for him or against him, have some credible
evidence that the political change made on election day, 2016
could have positive and hopeful results.

It’s time for the so-called mainstream reporting media, having
failed in their abortive coup d’etat to prevent Mr. Trump from
taking office, to take the collective chip off their shoulders,
and give President Trump a fair shake. The editorial media is
free to say what they will, and should, but I will repeat one more
time: The front page is not the editorial page.

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Contagion of Mutinies

The latest election results from Europe confirm what The
Prairie Editor
has been contending for many months, that a
worldwide “mutiny of the masses” is underway, sweeping aside
establishment institutions and politicians --- and upending the
democratic political environments virtually everywhere.

Following the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, the Colombia
referendum, and Donald Trump’s victory in the United States, we
now have the resignation of the Italian prime minister following
a rejection of his national referendum. Changing Italian
governments, of course, has been a common occurrence in the
post-World War II era, but this one is probably different, coming
with it an imminent Italian banking crisis that could upset the
whole European Union financial system.

But that is not all.

In Austria, a far right candidate for president only narrowly lost
this past weekend. The anti-establishment Pirate party in Iceland
has been asked to form the next government there. Mutinous grass
roots anti-establishment movements are poised soon to make
large gains, if not take power, in France, Germany, Spain and The
Netherlands. The Scandinavian nations, once the epitome of leftist
social welfare regimes, are moving distinctly to the right. Noisy
separatist movements are active in the U.K., Spain, Belgium, The
Netherlands, and Italy.  Economies are at the edge of collapse in
Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy. All of the newly-independent
Eastern Europe nations are understandably nervous about the
aggressive posturing of a revived Russia under Vladimir Putin.

In short, there is a contagion of a mutiny of voters in the free
nations of the West.

The new American president, brought to power by this impulse,
now faces a complex shifting of the international order,
confounded not only by the voter mutinies in the free world, but
also by powerful challenges from the totalitarian states of Asia,
including China and North Korea, and from the deterioration of
Cuba, Venezuela, and Brazil in South America. And I have not yet
mentioned the perpetual tinderbox of the Middle East with its
ongoing crises in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, as well as the threats to
the neighborhood from a capacious Iran seeking to dominate the
region. Finally, there are chronic crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan
and Southeast Asia, including the recent political rise in The
Philippines of an anti-American demagogue.

It is onto this extraordinary and daunting international stage that
the new president of the United States and his secretary of state
will enter and must perform on January 20, 2017.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Democrat's Dilemma

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York is the new Democratic
minority leader in the U.S. senate, and he is no doubt eager to
put his own stamp on his conduct on that institution, especially
as he succeeds the polarizing, mean-spirited Harry Reid who
contentiously held that same post before him.

Mr. Schumer’s liberal party is also coming off a presidential race
it had expected to win. It had also anticipated picking up more
than the two senate seats it did gain, and a net gain of more U.S.
house seats. Currently, it appears that the Republicans will have
52 seats in the new senate in January, and the Democrats will have
48 seats. The latter number includes two independents, Angus
King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont who caucus with
the liberal party. It also includes two very centrist senators,
Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West
Virginia. Senator Heitkamp is rumored to be a possible cabinet
member in the new Trump administration, and should that
happen, her replacement in conservative North Dakota would
likely be a Republican.

Republicans also have advantage of Vice President Mike Pence
serving as the presiding office of the U.S. senate, with the power
to break any tie votes.

Mr. Schumer has let it be known, as have several of his liberal
colleagues, that the Democrats in the senate intend to be very
aggressive in blocking the initiatives and appointments of
President Trump. Since 60 senate votes are required for
bringing many laws to the floor, this could be an effective tool
for the liberal opposition.

But while Harry Reid was known for his hyper-partisanship
and highhandedness when he led the senate, Chuck Schumer is
known for his willingness to make deals. Moreover, the critical
prospect hanging over Mr. Schumer’s political head is what
might happen in the mid-term elections of 2018 when 25 of his
Democratic colleagues are up for re-election and only 8 GOP
senate seats are up. Many of those liberal incumbents are from
states that voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, and if the Democratic
opposition is perceived negatively by the voters because they
appear to be stalemating the government and blocking economic
recovery, the 2018 election could be a replay of 2014 when the
conservative party picked up 9 seats.

Historically, the first mid-term elections in a new administration
do not go well. Incumbent presidents and their parties lose seats
in the Congress. Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, George W. Bush
and Obama faced economic downturns. The short but spectacular
political career of Donald Trump, however, has seemed to defy all
recent precedents. The fact that his economic policies are designed
to stimulate economic growth and higher employment could break
this pattern of cyclical recessions in the short term and create a
positive outlook in 2018. That might suggest political disaster for
Democratic senate election hopes that year, especially if the liberal
party and Mr. Schumer were perceived as standing in the way of
national prosperity.

Making Mr. Schumer’s task even more complicated is the internal
party reaction to the losses of 2016. Already there is pressure from
the more leftist wing of the Democratic party, led by Bernie
Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, to move the Democrats further to
to the left, possibly under a new and radical party leader. This is
almost precisely what occurred in Great Britain recently when the
liberal Labour Party was defeated by the Conservative Party in
national elections. Abandoning the center left, Labour chose a
distinctly radical leader who made the radical wing of the party
feel good, but immediately sent the Labour Party poll numbers
into a nosedive (where they remain today).

Chuck Schumer is a very bright man, and an agile politician.
Although an aging and (many feel) discredited Nancy Pelosi was
re-elected as the minority leader in the U.S. house, the true
leadership of the national Democratic Party now passes to him,
at least until the next presidential election. With the
unconventional and unpredictable Donald Trump in the White
House, and Republican majorities in both house of Congress, the
senior senator from New York faces the biggest challenge and
most difficult choices of his political career.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Interim Of Adjustment

The next seven weeks will be an interim of adjustment for
almost everyone in the public policy/political world. Both
winners and losers need to take, I think, some deep breaths.
It is not, in my opinion, a time for either gloating or despair,
but rather a time to get used to some new political realities.

Much is now being made in the media, and by pollsters, that
the nation remains “deeply divided.” Like all conventional
wisdom this past campaign season, this is likely less accurate
than it seems to be. In a period of change, divisions can

Donald Trump has defied conventional wisdom as no other
political figure has in modern times. He has won an historic
victory, but he did not win the popular vote, nor did he win the
electoral vote without narrow margins in some states. Now in
control of most institutions of state and local government, the
Republican Party has a critical burden to deliver reform and

Mr. Trump’s appointments will not be greeted with pleasure
by his opponents. They are not meant to do so. A cabinet and
its staffing are meant to enable a president, especially in 2017,
to effect reform. So far, Mr. Trump’s appointments seem
designed to enable him to work closely with the U.S. house
and senate to make reforms happen.

The Democratic Party is now faced with two very important
decisions. One is to decide who are the voters it wants to reach
out to in the future. This is especially key because the coalitions
of recent decades, so carefully assembled and successful, might
not fit the needs and expectations of voters next year and
beyond. I have already noted that the British Labour Party,
following a national defeat, chose to go the left with the result it
has lost support, not gained it. The second key decision is to
decide how to respond to President Trump and his new
administration. With only a small margin in the U.S. senate,
Republicans will need some cooperation from Democrats on
some issues. Liberals will need to decide whether their
legitimate role as the opposition excludes cooperation and
negotiation, and how their decisions on this will be perceived by

Republicans, on the other hand, need to decide not only how to
make change and reform government policies, but also how to
work with their Democratic colleagues. When the Democrats
were in control, their leaders, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi,
essentially ignored their opposition --- and the result was
disaster. Their highhandedness led directly to political defeat
in 2010 and 2014. This might be the result for Republicans in
2018 if they forget that they did not win all thr votes in 2016.

The Democratic nominee for president received more votes than
the Republican nominee did on election day, but she did not win
a majority of votes cast. Liberals, therefore, should not assume
their brand of public policy represents a majoritarian view. In fact,
so many of their supporters located in only one kind of location,
If conservatives can follow through with more appeal to inner
city voters, the Democrats are in more trouble than they now

In fact, the 2016 election has revealed a new electoral playing
field. Both liberals and conservatives need to think very
carefully and creatively about what they will do next.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 28, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Loudest Noise Ever Heard On Earth

The loudest noise ever heard on earth did not come from a rock
music group, nor from a bomb exploding. It happened one
morning in August, 1883 in a part of the world thousands of miles
from the U.S. and Canada, and even thousands of miles more
from the then-dominant economic and military powers of the
world, all located in Europe.

That was 133 years ago, and although the intervening 20th
century held historic disasters, terrors, inventions, discoveries
and holocausts, there has really not been anything like it since.

It not only was the singular natural disaster of modern times,
it provided noteworthy turning points in modern political and
technological history.

No one now alive was alive when it happened, and there were
no recordings, films, videos, smart phone photos , or even selfies
of it, and perhaps most amazing, very few persons today know
anything about it.

Believe it or not, it could happen again.

Let’s start with the facts.

We now know the center of the earth is made of very hot molten
material. We know that hot center is surrounded by a thick belt of
rock-like material which, for the most part, keeps the molten
material, from reaching the surface of the earth, either on the
ocean floor or the planet’s land surface. But there are exceptions.

The earth is covered with geologic “plates” at the top of the
rock-like belt containing the molten center. These plates, under
pressure from the hot center are in constant, but very slow, motion,
and on occasion collide with each other along “fault” lines. The
movement of the plates and the faults is very, very slow, but also
results in huge pressures that, from time to time, are relieved by
land or sea earthquakes or through volcano explosions. There are,
in fact, thousands of small earthquakes taking place every year,
and numerous “active’ volcanoes spewing out steam and/or lava.
Scientists have learned much about all of this over the past
century, and have created some very sophisticated devices and
equipment not only to detect earthquakes and volcanic activity,
but also to try to predict them before they happen. Every year
or so, we observe major seismic events whose natural power is
measured by a Richter scale formula. Seismic events above about
5.5 on this scale are not only widely felt, they can cause major
damage, and injury especially above the 6.5 level. Each decimal on
this scale represents double the energy produced by a seismic event.
Thus, an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter Scale has ten
times the power and energy of a similar event that measures 7.0.
Seismic prediction, however, so far cannot be more than guesswork,
and probabilities of when new earthquakes and volcanic eruptions
will occur are expressed in decades or longer.

There were two major eruptions of the volcano on the island of
Krakatoa in 1883, and although the second one was by far the
largest, and the one known best in history, the first one made some
special history of its own.

The small island of Krakatoa is located in the Sunda Straits, a few
miles to the west of today’s Indonesian large island of Java. Java is
part of a group of geologic islands that then was then known as the
Dutch East Indies, and was located between Australia and the Asian
mainland that included French Indochina, Burma and Malaysia.
The great nearby British and Portuguese colonial port cities of
Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau were then in their heyday. The
Dutch had begun to colonize this group of islands in the early 17th
century, and had been cruel and exploitive masters  of the mostly
Islamic native population. On Java was located the colonial capital
of Batavia (now Jakarta) where the the Dutch governor general
ruled in the name of the Dutch king.

On Sunday, May 20, 1883, residents in the area nearby the small
island of Krakatoa first became aware that its volcano was
becoming active. A tall thin plume of white smoke arose from the
peak of its 2500-foot cone-shaped mountain, as ash and pumice
filled the air and settled on everything in its path. By May 23rd,
word reached the nearby colonial capital where recently installed
transoceanic telegraph cable ( a recent invention) was connected to
a Lloyd’s of London insurance agency office. At about 3:40 p.m.
that afternoon the telegraph operator sent a message about the
eruption at Krakatoa to London where it was received a few hours
later. In the next day’s edition (May 24) of the London Times
appeared a 19-word article:

Volcanic Eruption. Lloyd’s Agent in Batavia, under date 
of May 23rd, telegraphs “Strong Volcanic Eruption. 
Krakatowa Island, Sunda Straits.”

Thus, began humanity’s first real-time global communications
on the planet Earth, something which the whole world takes for
granted today, and which in its latest form includes satellite
television transmission and the internet. If you will, it was
civilization’s first true sense of globalization. Fascination with
the volcanic eruption in the little South Pacific island instantly
went, in today’s terms, viral. This worldwide interest was, it
should also be noted, eagerly promoted by the only international
news establishment of that time, Reuter news service.

But Krakatoa soon went silent, with only a small continuing
white plume rising in the sky to indicate that beneath its surface
something was still going on. In Java and nearby islands all went
back to normal. The world, and the neighborhood, soon lost

Until Monday, August 27, 1883 at 10:02 a.m.

Twenty hours and fifty-six minutes earlier, on a warm and sunny
Sunday afternoon, the first explosions at Krakatoa were heard,
and they continued throughout the night with smoke, pumice and
volcanic fire increasingly filling up the sky and sending huge waves
into the Straits.

But at precisely 10:02 a.m. there occurred something never before
recorded or experienced by modern human beings, a noise so
violent and loud that it was actually heard thousands of miles
away. This climaxing explosion utterly destroyed the entire land
mass of the island and the volcano, and sent it in billions of dust
particles for miles into the air, and then around the world. The
blast changed global climate for years. The resulting two
gigantic sea waves or tsunamis did most of the human damage,
killing most of the 36.417 fatalities and all of the 165 villages
destroyed. Hundreds of thousands were injured, and probably
millions were displaced. On the island of Rodriguez, 2968 miles
from Krakatoa, the explosion was heard. To this day, it remains
“the longest distance ever known between the place where
unamplified and electrically unenhanced natural sound was
heard and the place where the same sound originated.” A popular
science writer of that time explained to his readers what that
meant  --- someone in Philadelphia hearing a sound in real time
that originated in San Francisco.

The volcano of Krakatoa disappeared from view, but it did not
go away. Over the past thirteen decades, it has continued to be
active under the sea, and, in fact, has created a new Krakatoa
island with another cone-shaped small mountain, Since the 1883
eruption, seismologists has learned a great deal about the
ever-changing geology of the earth, the tectonic plates which
cover it on land and under the sea, and  much more scientific
understanding of earthquakes volcanoes and tsunamis.

There were also political consequences from Krakatoa. Simon
Winchester, author of Krakatoa: The Day The World Exploded
(HarperCollins, 2003), points out that  Krakatoa helped inspire
one of the first Islamic fundamentalist anti-Western movements
in modern times, a movement partly provoked by a local cleric’s
earlier prophecy that a volcano would erupt, and partly by a
then-small group of radical Islamic figures in Saudi Arabia who
used the eruption as an opportunity to incite terror against the
Dutch in southeast Asia. The Dutch army suppressed this
movement at the time, but Indonesia gained its independence in
1949, and is today the largest Moslem nation on earth (total
population of 260 million). It still lies on major Pacific Ocean
fault lines, and a new Arak Krakatoa island still sends up a thin
cloud of white steam into the air.

(Winchester’s excellent book is recommended for those who 
want to learn more about the details of the Krakatoa event.)
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: For The Time Being, A Republican Nation, But......

The nation, after the 2016 elections, is now overwhelmingly
a Republican governed country at the state and national
levels. If there is any ambiguity about this, it is at the U.S.
supreme court, where there is a very temporary tie between
liberals and conservatives. This tie, and the direction of the
lower federal courts, however, will soon lean to the right as
the new president has promised to name conservative judges
for the next four years.

The U.S. house and senate, most governorships and state
legislatures are now in Republican hands, and appear likely to
remain so for some time. Only in large U.S. cities (and a few
states) are there islands of dominant liberal political control,
and these are, or have, urban centers facing continuing high
unemployment, growing crime, and rapidly increasing local
taxes to pay for fixing decaying infrastructure and expanding
public services.

Only eight years ago, it was almost the opposite. Then,
President-elect Barack Obama could look forward to a
Democratic Congress, many more Democratic governors and
state legislatures, and the eventual prospect of naming three
(and seating two) members to the supreme court --- and lots of
liberal judges to the lower federal courts. Books were written
smugly predicting an endless era of Democratic and liberal
majorities and control by “progressive” governments.

The first major domestic reform act of this liberal hegemony
(and it turned out, also its last) was the Affordable Care Act, also
known as Obamacare. But instead of the traditional ritual of
negotiation and compromise with the political opposition to
ensure widespread acceptance of a major reform, the new
president and his congressional leadership allies chose to push
the legislation through without even reading their own fine print.
It was an enormous mistake, and the opposition to Obamacare
did not ever go away. In the mid-term elections of 2010 and 2014,
the conservative opposition made large gains, and although
Mr. Obama won re-election in 2012, his party did not regain
domestic control as the federal government settled into
stalemate. As foretold even before its enactment, Obamacare
crashed and burned just before the election, and contributed
notably to the Democrats’ 2016 defeats.

At the same time, numerous conservative state governors and
legislatures took over and seized the agenda for domestic
reform. Their local successes stood in powerful contrast to the
stalemate in the nation’s capital.

Only through executive orders and unending new federal
regulations was the liberal Obama administration able to hold
any grasp on U.S. domestic policy, but these acts were also
very unpopular and contributed further to a growing antipathy
to progressive government and its philosophy.

This historic ideological failure and its brevity should be a
cautionary tale to the new president, his administration and the
Congress. No matter how right conservatives believe their cause
is, and how successful they are confident their policies will be,
there is no substitute for building and maintaining strong and
enduring grass roots support. The careful construction of this
support will require negotiation and consultation not only with
the opposition party, but within the conservative coalition itself.
This coalition finally came together for the 2016 elections, but
as we all now know, it could easily come apart when the hard
work of governing takes place after the election.

Speaking of cautions, the Democrats, now reeling from their
historic defeat, seem poised to choose a radical member of
Congress to lead their party. I suggest they take a hard look at
what happened when their equivalent British party, Labour,
chose a radical member of parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, to lead
them. Labour subsequently saw themselves marginalized in
British politics as the new leadership advocated unpopular
policies and measures that most British voters simply could not
accept. For the Democrats to marginalize themselves now, at a
moment when they are weakest, seems to be more suicidal than

There are no permanent conditions in the politics of a democratic
republic, Today’s victories can, and often do, lead to tomorrow’s
defeats. Rhetoric and ideology are easy matters when compared
to the hard work of actually governing. At the beginning of a new
era, and the end of another, both sides might well profit from
thinking themselves carefully through what they will do next.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Media In Tantrums

Many in the establishment media, having got 2016 wrong,
now are indulging themselves in an orgy of preemptive
rationalization of what happened on November 8, 2016. It
reminds me of a children’s temper tantrums.

Among their proclamations, they are contending that the polls
were not wrong, that the 2016 results are not a political
realignment, and everyone but the nominee herself was
responsible for Hillary Clinton’s epic loss.They have also
promoted a campaign of false information to attack one of
the new president’s first appointees.

As one of the few national journalists who got 2016 mostly
right, I have some contrary views to these assertions.

In early 2015, I wrote that then-presumptive Democratic
nominee Clinton was a poor candidate and a potential disaster.
I suggested that after two terms of President Obama, the U.S.
electorate was inclined to elect a Republican. Later in 2015,
however, I did not see either Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump
emerging in their nomination contests, and only after Mr. Trump
kept upsetting predictions in early 2016, did I realize that he
would be nominated and could even win the presidency. I then
put forward the notion of a “mutiny of the masses” as the
explanation of Mr. Trump’s rise. These “left-out” Americans,
many (but not all) of them blue collar workers,  including
previously secure Democratic voters, were rising up against
the political establishments of both parties. In the face of an
unprecedented intrusion of bias into news reporting about the
presidential contest, I suggested that there was a “media coup
” Thanks to frequent citations by Newt Gingrich and
others, this went viral over the internet and the national news
radio and TV networks.

Now, in the aftermath of this extraordinary election, many of
those who got it wrong, I think, continue to misread the results.

I say again most polls were wrong. In some cases, they were
very wrong, but in other cases their final numbers were “within
the margin of error” so their apologists are claiming that they
were, in fact, accurate. I make this point: polls are not facts;
they are indications of what is going to happen. It was based on
these polls that most pundits predicted a Clinton victory. The
fact that they were “within the so-called margin of error” does
not take them off the hook. In 2012, most final polls indicated
that Mitt Romney was going to win. He lost. Most polls indicated
(many albeit within the margin of error) that Brexit would fail.
If polls give the wrong signal, and the public is led to  the wrong
conclusion because of that signal, then I suggest the polls were
wrong. No complicated arguments about margins of error and
mathematical nuances can fix this fact. Why were they wrong?
They were wrong because most of the polls made incorrect
assumptions about who would turn out to vote in their arbitrary
“weighing” of the raw polls results. Those few polls which got
the results right were regarded by most pundits as “outliers”
and likely wrong because they did not “weigh” their data as
the polling establishment did. It turns out that the outliers were
notably more accurate in 2016.

There was a small group of us who suggested that the polls
were wrong because the “mutineers” --- alienated from the
political and polling establishments --- were not being accurately
measured. Just before the election , a number of pundits
confidently predicted these “silent” voters did not exist, or if
they did, there were as many of them who would vote for Mrs.
Clinton as would vote for Mr. Trump. Notably, liberal pollster
Nate Silver commented uneasily just before the election that he
saw an unusually large number of “undecided” voters in the
final polls, but he concluded that Mrs. Clinton would likely win
anyway. To his credit, Silver forcefully rejected those polls which
gave Mrs. Clinton a huge margin, but in the end he proposed
three possible outcomes --- Clinton winning by a landslide,
Clinton winning by a smaller margin or Trump winning by a
narrow margin. Those, of course, were obvious outcomes, but
Silver opted for Clinton as his last call, and thus did not repeat his
success in 2012.

The New York Times, one of the charter members of the media
coup d’etat, has now more or less apologized through its
publisher, and promises to do better next time. (Let’s see if that
promise is any more reliable than those made by most
politicians.)  Most of the other major media outlets have not yet
even indirectly and publicly owned up to their improper news
coverage of the campaign, but readers and audiences already
know they got it wrong. I have stressed that editorial journalists
did nothing improper since they were understood to be expressing
their opinions and not offering news, Nonetheless, several
prominent op ed writers on both the left and the right went
overboard in their denunciations of the man who is now the
president-elect. Let’s see if they now give Donald Trump a fair

Beware of any more smug conclusions from pundits, especially
those who got 2016 wrong. In 2020 they might be right again, but
it won’t happen by interpreting 2016 wrong after the fact as much
as they did before the fact.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: U.S. Senate En Route To 2018

The Republican U.S. senate majority has survived a very
potentially vulnerable election in which they risked 24
incumbent seats to the 9 risked by the Democrats. Although
their 54-46 majority was reduced to 52-48, they win on
any tie vote since Vice President-elect Mike Pence will now
also serve as the presiding figure of the senate with the power
to cast the deciding vote should there be any such ties.

The most sobering prospect for the Democrats, however, is
that in the next mid-term elections, in 2018, the circumstances
of 2016 will be reversed --- with 25 incumbent Democratic
senate seats at risk, and only 8 GOP seats.

Of course, any speculation now about individual races in 2018
is premature, since it is likely that there will be incumbents in
both parties who will retire. Furthermore, the dimensions of
any Republican pick-up of current Democratic seats will
depend in large part on the performance of the incoming
Trump administration in its first two years. Historically, it
should be noted that two recent successful presidencies,
those of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, suffered setbacks
in their first two years.

Nevertheless, (without retirements) a first glance at the 2018
races indicates that about a dozen Democratic senate seats
are likely vulnerable, including those in North Dakota,
Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico, New Jersey, Montana,
Missouri, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Washington and
Wisconsin. (Eight of these states were carried by Mr. Trump
in 2016.) Of the eight GOP seats up in 2018, only two (Nevada
and Arizona) seem initially at risk.

Should Mr. Trump be successful in his first two years, and
the Republicans continue to recruit outstanding challengers
(as they did in 2014), the Democrats risk occupying less than
the 40 seats they would need to block conservative

As I noted, it is quite early in the 2018 campaign, and only one
incumbent (in Missouri) has formally announced her intention
to run for re-election. But any liberal senators plans to block
the initial efforts of President Trump and the conservative
majorities of both houses of Congress have to be sobered by
the risk that their efforts would be perceived by voters two
years from now as obstructionist and prolonging stalemate.

At the same time, these GOP majorities will need to produce
reform and results. The voters, as only one example, clearly
signaled they want Obamacare repealed (AND replaced with a
better system). If internal squabbles prevent the new
administration and new Congress from delivering on their
promises, it is clear that voters will not shrink from
expressing themselves again with their ultimate veto power
in 2018.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Close But Epic Victory

It was a true political upset which will almost certainly have
a large impact on U.S. politics for some time to come, but its
shock to most (but not all) political observers, should not turn
any heads from realizing it was also a very close presidential
election in 2016.

The very fact that the losing presidential nominee narrowly
won the popular vote, and that the vote margins in several
states that went finally to the winning candidate were small,
underlines this caution.

On the other hand, the close election does not presuppose that
President-elect Donald Trump does not now have what is often
called a “mandate” to keep his promises, and for the
Republican Party, now in control of both the executive and
legislative branches of the federal government (and most state
governments as well) not to enact bold legislation and policies
to try to reverse the decline of the nation. In fact, the very
closeness of the vote compels the conservative party to act
boldly and quickly, because if it does not do so, and promptly, it
would be relatively easy for the liberal party to recover in 2020.

Promises were made, and voters expect the promises to be kept.
The so-called first 100 days in 2017 are as critical in many ways
as they were beginning in March, 1933 when a newly-inaugurated
President Franklin Roosevelt and a Democratic Congress acted
with so much resolve that an economic disaster (and probably an
actual revolution) was averted. Confidence in government was
restored then. Mistakes were made, and then revised, but the
voters who had fired President Herbert Hoover were not
disappointed or made to feel they had been fooled by political
rhetoric. The Republican Party of 1933 then lurched into reaction,
and leaderless, went into decades of political decline.

The early reaction so far from Democrats echoes some of this.
If defeat provokes the liberal party further to the left, as the
Labour Party did recently in Great Britain after its defeat by
the Conservative Party, they will marginalize themselves for
years. If the Bernie Sanders wing of the party takes over, with a
radical party leader, this is likely to happen. (Many forget that
in 2005, the Democratic Party turned to Howard Dean, who had
failed to win its 2004 presidential nomination, and who --- to the
surprise of many --- pragmatically put the party back on its feet,
and set the stage for its recovery in 2008.)

The suspense of the presidential campaign is now over. The
suspense of how the new president will form and conduct his
government in partnership with the two houses of Congress
which his party controls has begun.

When Jimmy Carter came into the White House in 1977 as a
fresh face, there was much hope for a new political era, but he
failed to act promptly and to work with the Congress. It was his
successor, Ronald Reagan who did and created a realignment.
President George W. Bush was bogged down by foreign wars,
but his successor thumbed his nose to Congress and failed to
satisfy even his own base of voters, and this has led to Donald

It will be interesting to observe what Mr. Trump, not known to
be a student of history, will do now. He was dismissed as a
political neophyte, but he pulled off one of the great political
upsets in U.S. history, so perhaps being a reader of history
is not as necessary as other qualities for a new president.

In any event, we will find out soon enough whether this is the
onset of a new political era or just another political hiccup.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Mutiny Succeeded; The Coup Failed

The Prairie Editor brought two phrases into the 2016
presidential election. The first was the “mutiny of the
the second was a “media coup d’etat.” I was
correct about both of them, but neither of these phrases
was more than a diagnostic until the election was actually

Now we know that the mutiny succeeded, and the coup failed.

I did not endorse Donald Trump in print, nor did I, at the
outset of the 2016 campaign cycle, think he could be
nominated, much less win the presidency. But later in the
primary/caucus season, after Mr. Trump kept winning in
spite of widespread exclamations that he could not, I realized
that he was connecting to an authentic phenomenon, that is,
a profound mutiny among many voters who had reached their
limit of tolerance for the political and media establishments
on both ideological sides. I did not waver in this diagnosis, but
not until the final days of the campaign did I realize that the
mutiny would succeed.

At the same time, I became alarmed at what I perceived as an
irresponsible pattern in my own profession of journalism, that
is, what I considered an unacceptable bias in both major print
and broadcast news reporting for one presidential nominee
over another. I did not criticize editorial or opinion writers and
broadcasters, but I did perceive the news reporting side of
much (but not all) of the U.S. media was exceeding its proper
role and attempting to predetermine the election outcome.
It was, in effect, I thought, a media coup d’etat.

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United
States should be no cause for gloating by those who supported
him, nor for those who, like myself, sympathetically explained
and analyzed his candidacy. As I wrote in my election eve post
on this website, the next president faces enormous challenges
and obstacles, and now President-elect Trump must work
quickly to begin to deal with the problems and crises which
will surely come ahead.

The mutiny of the masses, in spite of having succeeded in the
election of Mr. Trump, is not concluded. He and the U.S.
Congress, now controlled by his party, must respond to the
legitimate grievances of the mutineers. Mr. Trump’s election
has been a shock to the system, and hopefully a catalyst for
transformation of a worn out system of ways to do the
public business. Government transparency is now an
immediate requirement. Failure to provide it will only provoke
another mutiny.

The media establishment, both on the left and the right, need
to take a hard look at how they perform their roles in a free
country. They have, for the time being, lost much of the
confidence many Americans have historically put in them,
especially the expectation that news reporting would have
fairness and balance. Print, radio and TV editorial journalists
should continue to express their opinions freely, but the media
establishments need to recognize that, in the phrase I have
consistently used, “The front page is not the editorial page.”
Only when this is observed will the American public
confidence in the establishment media be restored.

President-elect Trump and his incoming administration will
face a problematic world, domestic and foreign, when they
take office on January 20 next. Their brief celebration of
hard-earned victory is understandable, and Mr. Trump’s
historic achievement needs to be acknowledged. But now
comes the difficult part.

The voters have had their say. Now it’s time for action and

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 7, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Election Day, 2016

In a few hours, the polls will close across the nation, and the
tumultuous and unanticipated 2016 presidential campaign
will be concluded, a new Congress will be elected, and
several state legislatures and governorships decided.

It has been quite a ride.

I have not endorsed any candidate for president to this
point, and in the spirit of not presuming to tell my readers
how they should vote, I will not do so now. Nor will I reveal
which candidate I am personally going to vote for.

What I will say is that I am going to mark my ballot much
less for a personality, and more for a candidate’s party, what
it stands for, and whether it will advance the ideas, principles
and values that I believe in. I think such an approach might
be useful for any voter whether they are liberal, conservative
or centrist.

Whoever wins this election day will face obstacles and
challenges few new presidents have ever encountered. In
1933, Franklin Roosevelt entered the White House in the very
midst of an historic economic crisis which required, literally,
immediate attention. The crisis facing the nation today is
considerably less visible, but no less dire. In 1933, it was
primarily an economic catastrophe which had appeared. In
2017, the perilous circumstances of a transforming economy,
domestic and global, are accompanied by unprecedented
technological change, threats of terror, a dangerously weaker
U.S. military, a widespread failing educational system, a
looming crisis in American healthcare, and many more 
serious issues. No matter who becomes president, he or she
will face the inevitable loss of half the full-time jobs in the
nation (due to robotics) within the next decade or two --- with
no now known source of jobs to fill the resulting employment

The United States has survived and flourished by continually
reinventing itself politically, socially and economically. Doing
this has enabled us to make it through 228 years, and to become
the world’s most successful large nation, as well as the protector
of other, and smaller, representative democracies which face
natural and human-made threats.

We have reinvented ourselves with innovation and the practice
of liberty for two centuries, and now we must do it once again.
If we do not, the alternative is the unthinkable, but possible. 

That is what truly is at stake when the votes of more than a
hundred million Americans are counted on November 8, 2016.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Special Advisory






Sunday, October 30, 2016


An “October surprise” in the 2016 presidential election has
occurred, and as always, it was unpredictable.

Some did predict other possible “surprises” such as new
very damaging “wikileaks” about Hillary and/or Bill Clinton,
a new scandal about Donald Trump, or a dramatic event
affecting U.S. foreign policy. But it was none of the above.
Instead, it was the revival of an issue which was thought no
longer pertinent, that is, the criminal investigation of Hillary
Clinton’s previous public service. That issue had become a
sleeping volcano after FBI Director James Comey publicly
declared he was ending this investigation weeks ago.

At that time, Mr. Comey was applauded by Mrs. Clinton, her
campaign and most Democrats for “good judgment,” and
was criticized by Mr. Trump, his campaign, and many
Republicans for “covering up” alleged wrongdoing by the
Democratic nominee. Mr. Comey subsequently made it
explicitly clear that he thought Mrs. Clinton had shown very
bad judgment in some of her actions, but it was also clear
that he was not willing to take any action just before the
presidential election in which Mrs. Clinton was one of the
two major party nominees.

End of story, yes?

Not exactly.  In the days and weeks following his decision to
end the investigation, Director Comey and the FBI itself came
under extraordinary scrutiny as various “leaks” and other
new information became public and cast a darker and darker
shadow on Mrs. Clinton’s previous actions. Rumors abounded
that various figures at all levels of the FBI organization were
unhappy with Mr. Comey’s decision.

Historically, James Comey is a Republican with a strong
reputation for honesty and integrity. For this reason, President
Barack Obama appointed him to be FBI director. In this post,
he works under the attorney general of the United States,
Loretta Lynch, another appointee of President Obama. No
matter what an FBI investigation produces, the final say about
whether or not a prosecution takes place is up to the U.S.
attorney general.

For this reason, perhaps more than any other, Mr. Comey’s
decision was widely accepted by the public. It was understood
by everyone that it was an inevitable fact of life that a
Democratic attorney general working for a Democratic
president who was actively campaigning for his Democratic
successor would not prosecute this case.

I have no idea what is on the newly discovered e-mails which
prompted Mr. Comey to reopen this investigation, but the timing
of it leaves only one reasonable conclusion --- that what is on them
is VERY serious material. There is no other possible reasonable
explanation I can imagine.

I want to stress that Hillary Clinton has not been charged with,
nor been convicted, of any crime. She is, in one of the most vital
principles of U.S law, innocent until proven guilty. At the same
time, recent leaks to the media involving her e-mails, her use of
her computer server, and her actions involving the charitable
foundation co-founded with her husband, the former U.S.
President Bill Clinton, have cast considerable doubt about her
judgment, ethics and character.

She has now been placed in a similar position to that of
then President George H.W. Bush in 1992 when he was running
for re-election. Days before the election, his former cabinet
member Casper Weinberger was indicted. At that point, his
opponent the Democratic nominee, Bill Clinton, and his
campaign made a major issue of this October “surprise,”
and many historians consider this event cost Bush his

The Clinton campaign is complaining that Director Comey has
defied the instructions of the attorney general in re-opening the
Clinton investigation. Of course they are! What choice do they
have? But the bigger question is what would move Mr. Comey to
take the action he has. An intelligent and savvy man, he knows
what he has done and the probable impact it will have on the
election only days away.

Alexander Butterfield was a loyal figure in the inner office of
President Richard Nixon. Under oath in 1973, before a
congressional committee, he revealed the existence of tapes
made of President Nixon’s private conversations in the Oval
Office. After subpoenas made those tapes public, it led to the
unprecedented resignation of a president of the United States.
History has not treated well those whose comments on those
tapes revealed wrongdoing. Mr. Butterfield is a minor, probably
unheralded, but nevertheless a genuine American hero.

That notorious incident in U.S. presidential history produced
figures of honor and dishonor. FBI Director Comey knows his
days in his present job will end in a few months (with the
inauguration of a new president), but he knows his reputation
will become the captive of history --- and his conscience will
not leave his side as long as he lives.

As I have suggested previously, the 2016 presidential election has
been an relentless inferno. Without question, the two major party
nominees are the least admired in modern history, The campaign
has been filled with scandal. pomposity, negativism and in
virtually every aspect, the least common denominator.

At the end, perhaps appropriately, we have had two tide-turning
events. One was an off-the record private tape and the other is
an unresolved criminal investigation. That the leadership of this
Republic will be decided under these clouds should be the
lament of all voters, regardless of their political views.

But that is where we are, one week from election day.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 28, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Front Page Is Not The Editorial Page

Andy Warhol once wrote that (almost) everyone gets fifteen
minutes of fame. That’s of course a typical sound-bite
aphorism exaggeration, but for those in certain professions,
such as political writing, it can be somewhat true.

I’ve actually had a few of these, though they were properly
short as predicted. In 1982, I wrote an article in a Minneapolis
newspaper I edited and published that predicted an unknown
Colorado senator named Gary Hart would emerge to challenge
Walter Mondale seriously for the 1984 Democratic presidential
nomination, and when he beat Mondale in the New Hampshire
primary, I was briefly “discovered” by the national media. (I
still prize a gracious letter to me from Hart campaign chair Ted
Sorenson asserting that I was the first journalist to predict
Hart’s national rise.) In 1985, determined to try to do it again.
I wrote in my newspaper that a then little-known Delaware
senator would be a serious candidate for president in 1988. By
1987, he was Michael Dukakis’s most formidable rival, and once
again I received brief attention. As it turned out, Senator Joe
Biden developed a double aneurysm and had to withdraw, but
I must note that he eventually did make a bit of a comeback,
and is currently the vice president of the United States.

Then in 1990 I began writing articles in a Washington, DC
newsletter that the governor of Arkansas was going to be
the next Democratic nominee in 1992, although at the time,
incumbent President George H. W. Bush seemed unbeatable.
Few took me seriously.

Finally, in the off-year elections of 2010 and 2014, I called the
the number of eventual gains for the Republicans, especially
in the U.S. house, as well as any other national pundit, and it
was briefly noted.

I have also on several occasions got it wrong. I did not think
Ronald Reagan would be elected president in 1980. I thought
Mitt Romney would win in 2012. And I did not see either Bernie
Sanders or Donald Trump coming on so strong in 2016. (I’m just
lucky, I guess, that most folks remember your successes and forget
your failures.)

This brings me to an op ed I wrote for my Prairie Editor blog a
few days ago that contended that many in the national media were
indulging in a kind of coup d’etat on behalf of one of this cycle’s
presidential nominees against the other one. Newt Gingrich liked
my characterization so much that he began citing it on various
national radio and TV programs, as well as posting it on the
biggest social media sites. Subsequently, numerous journalists,
print and broadcast media, and online sites noted my piece.

Newt Gingrich is a partisan in this year's presidential race. He is
on record as supporting Donald Trump. He often acts as a
surrogate for Mr. Trump (and, I might add, seemingly doing a
much better job most of the time advancing the Republican
ticket than the nominee himself does.

What makes my coup d'etat comment perhaps unusual is that I
have not endorsed, nor do I publicly support either candidate. In
fact, I have often criticized each of them when they said or did
what I felt were outlandish things. My purpose was not to serve the
campaign of one candidate, but to defend the responsibility of the
media to be fair in their reporting the presidential contest. I was
being critical of print and broadcast reporters and editors, not of
editorial journalists. My view can be summed up in one sentence:  
The front page is not the editorial page.

I make no claim to being "objective." In fact, my readers (who span
the whole political range from left to right) expect me to be an
opinion journalist and not a reporter. Nevertheless, I was for many
years a reporter, and I know the difference between fairness and obvious
bias. Nor does my assertion of a media coup d’etat come to most
American eyes and ears as a surprise. Almost every voter already
knows that much of the media is in the tank for one candidate. It’s
just also true that a large number of voters are pleased by this and
understandably perhaps are not being critical.

But I don’t think a biased media trying to predetermine the
outcome of the 2016 presidential race is good for anyone. Yes,
it pleases those who are for the candidate who is the beneficiary
of the bias in the short term, but in the long term it is an
egregious violation of the role of the media in our American
representative democracy. It trespasses on the rights and duties of
the voters, and it violates the underpinnings of one of the pillars
of our Republic --- the role and responsibility of a free press.

As I have already said, most adult Americans already know that
my contention of media bias is true in this cycle. Some who do,
and want to rationalize its occurrence, are openly acknowledging
it, and saying it is a good thing because the biased media is
protecting the electorate from an “evil” candidate. Words like
“fascistic” and “Hitlerian” are often employed wrongly to justify
this view. In fact, it is those who use this rationale, and these
emotionally overblown words who are the ones using elitist,
totalitarian and demagogic language to serve an arrogant and
dangerous view of the role of the media in America.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the American press was extremely
partisan. Newspapers in those days were unambiguously for one
political party or another, for one political candidate or another.
As the media grew and diversified in the early 20th century, radio
and TV came into being, and standards for a "fair" press emerged.
After World War II, the principle of balanced and fair reporting of
the news was firmly established, even as the institution of editorial
opinion expression was preserved and also flourished.

In less than two weeks, U.S. voters will choose their next president.
They need to make their decision not only from reading and
listening to the opinions of others, but even more vitally, from
being presented fairly the facts, issues and prospects that will
assist them to decide their vote.

I don’t think my assertion of calling out the media will amount
to very much in the larger scheme of things, but I’m glad to add
a voice to defend the principles which create, enable and require
a free media to do its job in a free country.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Are These Mutineers About To Take Over?

In a few days, a national election will take place in which a
political party of mutineers, led by a woman, could likely take
over the government. This nation, which has the world’s oldest
legislature, would almost certainly be turned upside down,
and the political establishments of both major parties thrown

Am I speaking about the U.S.A.? Are the mutineers Trump
supporters? Is the woman Hillary Clinton? Is the legislature
the U.S. Congress?

None of the above.

On October 29, 2016, the voters of Iceland will go to the polls
to elect their new government. The political party most likely
to win this election did not even exist three years ago. Iceland is
currently governed by a coalition of the Independence Party
and the Progressive Party. These two establishment parties now
trail the provocatively named Pirate Party that was founded by
Birgitta Jonsdottir in 2013 in response to a financial scandal
involving figures from the ruling government. Winning 3 seats in
parliament, the Pirate Party, led by Ms. Jonsdottir, promptly moved
to overthrow the nation’s blasphemy laws (Iceland’s version of
“political correctness”) and succeeded.

In 2016, following the scandal, a demonstration took place in the
nation’s capital which brought out a huge percentage of the entire
population. It is now considered the largest public demonstration,
in terms of proportion of the population, ever to take place in any
nation! (It would be the equivalent of 21 million Americans
demonstrating in Washington DC.)

From that point on, the Pirate Party has led in the nation’s public
opinion polls.

Iceland is one of the world’s smallest nations. It is also one of
the northernmost countries in the world. It is located entirely on
an island of active volcanoes, glaciers and hot springs, and has a
land mass of 40,000 square miles. Its population is 323,000 (about
the size of the city of Minneapolis). It was founded in the 9th
century A.D. by a Norwegian chieftain. It soon became an
independent commonwealth and established the world’s oldest
parliament, the Althing, in 980. Icelanders speak their own
language, Icelandic.

Unless Americans were bargain-hunting for airfares in recent
decades, and took advantage of Icelandic Air’s low rate flights to
and from Europe (always with mandatory stops in Reykjavik,
Iceland’s capital), few U.S. citizens have visited this tiny and
remote country.

Begun in poverty, and ruled from Scandinavia for most of its
history, Iceland won its independence in 1918, and became a
republic in 1944. With aid from the U.S. Marshall Plan after
World War II, the little republic industrialized, and is now rated
the 13th most developed nation on earth.

Iceland endured a financial crisis in 2008 (at about the same time
one took place in the U.S.), and many of its banks failed. Unlike
in the U.S., many bankers were jailed for their role in the crisis.
With an influx of tourism, and an international $4.6 billion
bailout, the country has recovered.

Recently, however, it was revealed that the prime minister’s wife
was involved in a financial scandal. The prime minister then
resigned and new elections were called.

Birgitta Jonsdottir is a poet, web programmer and former
Wikileaks activist in Iceland. She and her “pirate” mutineers
represent an entirely new direction in European politics. If the
Pirate Party wins on October 29 in this tiniest of European
nations, the reverberations of its mutiny could be enormous
throughout this entire ancient continent.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Roller Coaster In Hell

To say that enduring a volatile time is like riding on a rolling
coaster is a cliche, but enduring the 2016 presidential campaign
is something more --- like riding a roller caster in hell -- and
like nothing else we’ve been through collectively as a nation in
modern times. (There were some "infernal" campaign cycles in
the 19th century.)

There are now about two weeks to go. The formalities of the
primaries, caucuses, vice presidential choices, conventions
and TV debates are concluded. A few October “surprises”
have been trotted out. The polls are inconclusive (the most
accurate poll in 2012 shows Trump ahead by 2 points, two other
major polls show race tied, several major media polls show
Clinton ahead by several points).

Conventional wisdom, encouraged by the political and media
establishments, is now settling on a comfortable victory by
Hillary Clinton, a narrow take-back of control of the U.S.
senate by the Democrats, and major gains (but not control) in
the U.S. house by the Democrats. In short, a liberal landslide.

It could indeed turn out that way, but I would not rule out some
surprises, even astonishing ones, election night. Is that because I
know something secret, or even wish for something shocking at
the polls? No, it is because a presidential election cycle with so
much volatility, unconventionality, and surprise is more likely to
end with a loud noise than with a whisper.

Over the past eighteen months, I have commented regularly about
this election. After miscalculating which candidates would emerge
and win in both parties, I got the end of it partially wrong. Even
though I have been writing about voter dissatisfaction for years, I
did not see its apotheosis coming in 2016. I dismissed Donald
Trump early and often, especially after his celebrated “gaffes,”
and watched him rise back again.

I finally came up with the notion of the “mutiny of the masses,”
an uprising of a hitherto unrecognized group of Americans, many
of whom do not regularly vote, and some who usually vote for the
major parties --- all of whom are profoundly unhappy with how
government is managing its public affairs and duties.

After Bernie Sanders, the object of the liberal members of this
group was defeated for the Democratic nomination, the only
remaining champion of these mutineers was Donald Trump, the
Republican nominee. After the major party conventions, most
of the major media, including some in the conservative media,
turned their wrath on Mr. Trump in what I described as a
“media coup d’etat.” Mr. Trump, in the most unorthodox
presentation of a presidential nominee in memory, made his
way through three TV debates. Polls then wavered wildly as the
media and his opponents battered Mr. Trump even as more and
more damaging disclosures were made about Hillary Clinton,
her husband and their controversial mutual foundation.

Air Force One 2017 is now setting up its landing pattern over its
home air base. On the ground, millions of Americans await its
final touchdown,  and to see who comes out the door as it pulls
up to the electoral count. Perhaps conventional wisdom is right,
and the now-predicted winner will be the new president. Perhaps
the “mutiny of the masses” will have been only a passing phase,
and perhaps the media coup will have succeeded in its goal. I
have little concrete evidence against this conventional wisdom.

But in Brexit in the United Kingdom, national elections in
virtually all European countries, and the recent referendum in
Colombia in South America, a worldwide “mutiny of voters”
has defied the polls, the media, the experts and most

Can that mutiny happen here?

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: And The Winner Of The Third Debate Was......

I think I’ve done my share of criticizing some of my media
colleagues for their performance in covering the 2016 presidential
campaign, including admitting my own shortcomings, but I am
now compelled to pay homage to journalist Chris Wallace for his
performance as the moderator of the third and final  2016
presidential debate. He was easily the biggest winner of the
night in Las Vegas.

I know a good many of the national journalists who cover
presidential politics, and count many of them as friends, but I
have not ever met Chris Wallace. He has a distinguished media
lineage, being the son of broadcast legend Mike Wallace. (I would
think his late father would be immensely proud of his son today.)

Mr. Wallace has set the gold standard. He has demonstrated that
substance can be maintained by a strong and fair moderator.
Both major political parties should require his level of
performance in moderators of all future debates.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 17, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Robert Zimmerman, Laureate

Robert Zimmerman was born in Duluth and then raised in
the remote northern Minnesota town of Hibbing seventy-five 
years ago. He has now won the 2016 Nobel Prize for
literature. Along with the prize medal, he will receive more
than a million dollars. He doesn’t need it; he’ll probably give
it to charity.

He doesn’t need the money because he’s made a fortune over
the years, and he doesn’t need the recognition of the prize
because he’s one of the most famous persons in the world
where he is known as Bob Dylan, folksinger and songwriter.

I suppose the award will be a bit controversial since Dylan is
not formally a poet, a fiction writer or a dramatist --- the usual
categories for the recipients of the prize. The Nobel committee
has given him the prize for his lifetime of songwriting and lyrics,
a music form of poetry. Since the origins of poetry are generally
believed to have arisen from early music and song, I don’t think
even “purists” about what is literature, and what is not, have a
case against this laureate. Considering his enduring body of
work, which he has refined over half a century, and the impact
of it on American and world culture, I don’t think there is a
reasonable argument that he should not be so honored.

I share a few things with Robert Zimmerman, including
perhaps most strikingly, the same birthday (although he is older
than I am). We also share a similar background, and for many
decades I have lived in the Twin Cities where he made his early
foray into a musical life. Years ago, I dated a young woman whose
mother had been Zimmerman’s religious school teacher in
Hibbing, and she told me a few stories about when he came over
to their house. Decades after that, I settled in Minneapolis to
publish a newspaper in the neighborhoods of the West Bank and
East Bank where young Bob had come in the late 1950a as a
scraggly teenager with a guitar. One of my advertisers, now
deceased, was a West Bank bar owner who had operated an East
Bank coffeehouse a few years before, and he related to me his
first-hand account of young Zimmerman coming into his Ten
O’Clock Scholar one Friday afternoon, looking to play and
sing. My bar owner friend told Zimmerman that he could
perform that evening --- which he did. At some point in the
evening, while the Hibbing teenager was playing, the bar
owner’s wife came in and asked who was playing. After he told
her the name, she reportedly said, “He’s terrible. Fire him!’
And so ended, Bob Dylan’s first professional singing gig, as it
was told to me. (He had earlier played the piano for two nights
for Bobby V’s band). The bar owner also told me he ran into
Dylan years later in Manhattan, and Dylan had remembered
him and treated him graciously. Local folks have also reported
to me seeing young Zimmerman sitting on the sidewalk in that
East Bank neighborhood called Dinkytown, and performing
for passers-by, something which folksingers still do there
today. The area was, in fact, a place where many well-known
folksingers and musicians got started, including “Spider John”
Koerner, Dave Ray, Tony Glover, John Beach, Peter Ostroushko,
Butch Thompson, Willie and the Bees, and performers from the
legendary West Bank School of Music.

I published my newspaper for fourteen years in those
neighborhoods, and lived there for many years more. From
time to time, I would hear stories about Bob Dylan coming
back to the West Bank and the Twin Cities anonymously to
see family members and to hear some of his old musician
friends perform. I did not ever see him myself, nor have I ever
met him. I probably won’t either.

Although I make a living as a journalist and writer about
history, I am first an American poet. I attended the Iowa
Writers Workshop, got a degree there, and my work has
appeared in some of the leading U.S. literary magazines.
Books of my poetry and short fiction have been published.
I guess that makes me more formally a person of “literature.”
Some of my fellow writers and others, as I mentioned earlier,
might object to Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize for
literature. In fact, the Nobel committee has been quite erratic
in the recent past, awarding the prize on occasion more for
political “correctness” than for true merit, in my opinion.
On the other hand, a few years ago, the prize went to the
Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer who, in spite of being
almost unknown outside a few literary circles, was perhaps
then the greatest living poet in any language. That was an
inspired choice to be Nobel literary laureate that year --- just
as I think it was an appropriate choice to give the prize in
2016 to a Jewish kid from northern Minnesota who grew up
to sing to, and to inspire, so many around the world.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.