Wednesday, March 30, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: If There Is A Contested Convention, It Won't Be Brokered

Writing a few days before the Wisconsin primary on the last
days of March, there is no certainty that the Republican
nomination for president in 2016 will be decided before the
national convention in Cleveland in July, or at it.

But it is clear, if there is to be a battle at the convention, it
won’t be “brokered” as the commonplace adjective has it.
As political scientist Steven Schier puts it, “There are no
brokered conventions possible because there are no longer
any political brokers.” Professor Schier knows his political
history which decades ago did include powerful brokers who
met in proverbial smoke-filled rooms while dealing in and
delivering delegates as if they were wads of paper currency
in their wallets.

First of all, gone is the cinematic background; no smoking
allowed in virtually all public rooms. Second, the device of
“favorite sons” --- a mainstay of most conventions is no
longer. These “favorite sons” were usually governors who
were not serious about running for president, but who sought
political favors at convention time as a quid pro quo for
delivering their state’s entire delegation to a potential
winning nominee. Third, in place of favorite sons, some
state delegations were controlled by state or big-city political
bosses who likewise “wheeled and dealed” for favors and
influence --- always behind closed doors.

In those days, there were no social media, no television
cameras, no radio talks show hosts, and believe it or not,
the mainstream media (mostly print) was biased toward the
Republicans. Most significantly, most delegates got to attend a
national convention with the understanding that they would
do as they would be told to do by whomever were the party’s
or the convention’s “brokers.”

In fact, if the Republicans in Cleveland do not produce a
nominee before or on the first ballot, the nation will get to
observe the first transparently contested major party
convention in history. It will be uncharted political territory,
and we can only speculate how it might proceed.

First, and very importantly, there will be the rules of the
convention. The key factor is the rules committee which is
usually controlled by the party organization or establishment,
and not any of the candidates. Any rules from past conventions
can, by a majority vote in this committee, be changed. The
national party usually totally controls the national convention;
there are no legal appeals to their decisions (other than by
convention-wide vote).

Second, while there are no “brokers,” “favorite sons,” or “party
bosses, there will be at least three active candidates for the
nomination, and a few “suspended campaign” candidates who
have committed delegates on the first and, in some cases, the
second ballots. Senator Rubio, for example, is no longer an active
candidate, but is aggressively trying to hold on to his 170-or-so
committed delegates.

If the convention goes to multiple ballots, most delegates will
be, in effect, “free agents” who can vote for whomever they want,
even for someone who has not been previously an active
candidate. The latter is not likely, but a stalemated convention
could go this route. (This possibility is the source of the
speculation that House Speaker Paul Ryan or 2012 nominee
Mitt Romney could be nominated.) Again, the rules of the
convention will be key.

As it stands now, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz will finish the
primary/caucus season with similar (Trump likely ahead)
numbers of first-ballot committed delegates, with John Kasich
a distant but respectable third. There will be about 200 delegates
previously committed to candidates no longer active, and under
200 non-elected “super-delegates.”

In the emotion-packed convention atmosphere, a dramatic
withdrawal by one of the three surviving candidates, coupled
with that candidate’s endorsement of one of other other two
could have major, even decisive, impact.

In that circumstance, it might be observed that the bitter and
personal fight between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz might rule out
either of them supporting the other. There is a third candidate,
Mr. Kasich, who has fastidiously avoided personal attacks on
either of them. Might he be a likely winner in such a
circumstance, especially if national polls at convention time
show him to be the only Republican who defeats Mrs. Clinton?

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. There are major primaries
ahead, and significant numbers of delegates to be chosen, many
of them in winner-take-all states. Nevertheless, mathematics
cannot be denied. Mr. Trump is the only likely first ballot winner,
and that likelihood could be slipping away especially if Mr. Cruz
and Mr. Kasich continue to surge.

All we know is that the “no smoking” light is now lit; as is a new
light that proclaims “no closed doors.”

If there is a open contest in Cleveland, it will be all new history.

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

Monday, March 28, 2016


The title of this piece has two purposes. The first is to get
the reader’s attention in a very simple and direct way. The
second is a suggested direction in the midst of a tumultuous
and unpredicted presidential campaign cycle which is continually
setting off fireworks but showing little light.

The former needs no more explanation, and has presumably
succeeded for anyone still reading. The latter requires, I believe,
considerable discussion, particularly now at the stage of the 2016
presidential campaign when policy issues are being used as
grenades, and the debate is taking place in rhetorical fox holes.

I have previously described the feelings of many grass roots
voters, both on the left and the right (and even in the center),
as a mutiny against the captains of the political and media
establishments. Mutinies are powerful and emotional matters.
There is no room or time for calm discussion, for genuine
debates of complex public policy issues, and of course, civility.

As someone whose primary task is to offer lucid commentary,
I am nevertheless as likely as anyone to get caught up in the
ongoing energies of the back-and-forth emotion-provoking
accusations, insinuations, allegations and insults.

So I say “Stop!” for a moment to catch our collective breaths, and
to review just what is at stake in this year’s election.

We find ourselves in a curious moment in history. So much
technological change is happening so fast, and inevitably this is
causing massive economic changes. It goes without saying that
large economic changes provoke dramatic political changes.
The extremes of change are somewhat less dramatic in the
more “developed” nations, but the concurrent changes in
communications, particularly in the internet and its offspring
social media, have enabled persons all over the world to have at
least a visual sense of what is going on elsewhere. Combine all
this change with ideological and religious ambitions to share in
the material bounty now available, as well as in some cases the
desire to impose lifestyle and other restrictions locally and even
internationally, and you have the ingredients of new kinds of
social human relationships and relationships between “groups”
of persons.

These phenomena haven occurred with unprecedented velocity
in recent human history, and particularly after the past “hundred
years” of world wars, decolonialization, and growing
democratization. Enormous pressures, conflicts, tensions and
dislocations result.

The first true modern democratic republic, the United States of
America, has not only survived and spawned more global
democratic institutions, it became in the 20th century the most
powerful economic and military power on earth. Its popular
culture also was imitated worldwide. But it was not the largest
nation on earth. Two ancient societies, much older than the U.S.,
had survived as nation states, albeit not as representative
democracies. One of them, India, gained its independence after
World War II, and adopted democratic political forms. The other,
China, also gained sovereignty after World War II, but adopted a
totalitarian structure. Both India and China operated in Marxist
economic terms.

Stalemated economically, but each with huge populations, India
and China altered their economic course. India has now more
fully opted for democratic capitalism; China has created a form
of state capitalism. Each with populations of more than a billion
persons, they face immense challenges as they attempt to
accommodate the economic needs and ambitions of their peoples
who are becoming better educated, better housed, better fed
and understandably wanting to share the bounties being enjoyed
in of the rest of the world.

The Soviet Union was for 70 years a communist totalitarian
state. With a large population and the biggest land mass on earth,
its Marxist economic system failed, as did versions of it in
India and China. Following a peaceful internal revolution in 1990,
and the dissolution of some its national components, it remains
ambiguously a force in international politics.

After a millennium of violent conflicts, the nations of Europe have
made efforts at a cooperative economic union. While democratic
institutions exist now throughout the continent, many individual
nations adopted a social welfare economic structure that has not
held up in the post-war world, especially as many of the economic
union’s member states accumulated debt, and experienced
growing unemployment. Attempting to transform their economic
union into a political union has proved unsupportable.

In the 19th century there was a mass migration of Europeans to
North America. At the beginning of the 21st century, there is a
mass migration to Europe from north Africa and the Middle East.
The essential difference between these migrations was that North
America in the 1800s and early 1900s was at the beginning of its
great industrialization and was underpopulated. Europe today is
mostly fully industrialized and heavily populated. Immigrants
to North America in the 19th and 20th centuries integrated
themselves into its unique “melting pot” society of many cultures,
ethnicities and religions. Immigrants to Europe today are finding
it more difficult to blend into the existing social structures, and in
some cases, they say they don’t want to do so.

The simple fact in the United States today is that it cannot ignore,
or be immune from, what happens in the Far East, the Middle East
or Europe. Whether it be economic rivalry, communicable diseases,
military threats or terrorism, these forces have near instantaneous
impact on the U.S. We also face uncontrolled immigration from
Mexico, South and Central America.

I ask aloud whether we are going to be able to meet the challenges
these daunting circumstances present to us as a society and a
nation if we don’t begin to discuss in thoughtful conversations of
what we are going to do about them.

Among the issues that candidates in both parties are using as
grenades (instead of useful debate) are free trade, immigration,
social security reform, healthcare reform, secondary school
reform, and the environment on university campuses. Avoiding
serious discussion of theses issue only ensures they will get worse
in the time ahead.

I said “Stop!!” at the beginning of this piece. Now I say “Start.”

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

Saturday, March 26, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend Update 14

Bernie Sanders won all three caucuses on Saturday,
March 26, and he won them by landslides. Results from
Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii gave the Vermont
senator a boost in his contest against former Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, although Mrs. Clinton enjoys a big
lead in delegates chosen so far. With margins of more than
two-to-one among caucus attendees, Mr. Sanders' effort
is a surprising development in a race many observers had
concluded was over. But his difficulty is that the remaining
states that vote allocate their delegates proportionally
instead of winner-take-all (as do some Republican primaries).
Mr. Sanders' hopes rest on his contention that the non-elected
super-delegates, most of whom now support Mrs. Clinton,
change their minds at the national convention in Philadelphia.


New polls in Pennsylvania and California indicate that
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s
initial lead in these two states (which have very large
numbers of GOP convention delegates) is fading. In
California, with the largest delegation of all (172), Ted Cruz
has almost pulled even with the New York businessman;
and in Pennsylvania (71), John Kasich from neighboring
Ohio has almost pulled even with Mr. Trump from
neighboring New York.

In spite of a media blitz contending that federal appellate
Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to fill
the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the recent death
of Antonin Scalia, is a judicial moderate, several Republican
U.S. senators are countering that Judge Garland is a
traditional liberal, based on his numerous court decisions.

At a critical stage of the 2016 presidential election campaign
season, it is becoming increasingly evident that both major U.S.
political parties are facing popular “mutinies” in their own
grass roots. Despite falling far behind in committed delegates,
support for maverick Bernie Sanders continues to surge in
several states which have yet to vote in the primary/caucus
season. At the same time, mavericks Donald Trump and Ted
Cruz hold the most committed delegates in the Republican
race for president. The Democratic “establishment” clearly has
supported Hillary Clinton since the outset of this cycle’s race,
and it does appear mathematically she will be nominated in
Philadelphia in July. Her challenge would then be to convince the
millions of Sanders voters to vote for her in November. On the
GOP side, presidential candidates that might be considered
establishment or mainstream have fallen, one by one, as
outsiders Trump and Cruz have dominated the primary and
caucus season so far. The only mainstream hope is for a
contested convention when, after the first and second ballots,
most delegate commitments will be gone, and then a creating a
groundswell for John Kasich among the delegates. In the case of
a successful GOP grass roots mutiny, the challenge for Trump or
Cruz, should one of them be nominated, would be to keep the
millions of mainstream conservative voter on their side in
November. The bottom line is that positive identification by
voters with the major political parties is evaporating, and the
numbers of voters who are leaning to ideological factions,
within and outside the major party organizations are rising.
From the point of view of these national political parties, this
crisis could not have come at a worse moment, and it has
produced the most un-traditional presidential election in

For now, yes.

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: New Political Paradigms

There can now be no reasonable doubt that American
politics is being changed in front of our eyes in this year’s
campaign cycle. As in all transformations, the omens, signals,
and premonitions of change have been visible for some time,
but as also with all transformations, few persons took
appropriate and timely note of them.

The last to realize them, typically, are the political
establishments of both major political parties --- those who
have a special interest in the old order under which they
have prospered.

Those few who did diagnose the situation, and were in a
position to gain from their understanding, have flourished in
the campaign season so far. They include Democrat Bernie
Sanders and Republican Donald Trump (and also perhaps
Ted Cruz.

Mr. Sanders’ party took steps to avoid a political mutiny by
creating a sizable number of unelected “superdelegates,”
and to design their caucuses to favor their establishment
candidate. It appears that these gambits have succeeded in
spite of an outpouring of popular support for the unlikely
candidacy of a 74 year-old socialist. Heavy-handed tactics by
state Democratic Party establishments in Iowa and Nevada
have evidently choked off challenger Sanders at key moments,
and Sanders supporters allege it was foul play. Establishment
Democrats now say confidently that Mr. Sanders’ supporters
will now fall in line and vote for Hillary Clinton, and bygones
will be bygones. If there has been a political transformation,
as I suggest, this smug presumption might not be altogether

The Republican Party establishment took their grass roots
voters for granted, too, but did not put in place any safeguards
against a conservative mutiny. The result has been a final
contest between Mr. Trump, Ted Cruz and the mainstream
survivor John Kasich (who trails his rivals in the primaries
and caucuses so far). It is not yet clear if Mr, Trump can or
will clinch the nomination before the convention, but he is
getting closer and closer to it with each primary day. Mr. Kasich
has one big card to play, and only if the contest is not decided
before the GOP convention in Cleveland in July. That card could
be played if, as is true today, the polls indicate that only Kasich
can defeat Hillary Clinton in November. But Mr, Kasich is so far
behind in committed delegates that even that card might not be
enough to win, especially if he does not publicly take into
account his own party’s political transformation.

In any event, the 2016 race remains unsettled, and will continue
to unsettled for some time. In a year of constant surprises, there
can be no doubt that more surprises are ahead.

Many of the old rules of presidential politics have been replaced
with new rules. Since we are in the midst of this change, we can’t
be sure what many of these new circumstances are, but I think
there is one change we can isolate and describe.

That change says to presidential candidates in 2020, 2024 and
probably beyond, that no serious political candidacy in the
foreseeable future can be conducted without a total reappraisal
of the impact of the media in the important first stage of a
race for president. That does not mean that every candidate must
be beautiful or handsome, eloquent, charismatic or a maverick.
But it does mean that merely a resume, previous public office,
conventional (read as “empty”) rhetoric, and a likeable manner
will not work. It also means that the media must be regarded
more seriously as an adversary that should not be merely
tolerated, but outwitted.

There is media bias on both liberal and conservative sides,
although the preponderance of mainstream media is liberal
and treats most conservative candidates unfairly. Moreover,
the notion that the major media primarily functions to inform
voters is false. Major media, especially broadcast media, is a
business, and is driven primarily by ratings and revenues.
There is very little that is “fair” about political media coverage
in the U.S. today.

The colossal irony of 2016 has been that the richest candidate
(by far) did not have to spend any money for his campaign.
Donald Trump received hundreds of millions of dollars of free
publicity because, unlike his rivals, he understood how to
use the media.

The question remains, and is unanswered at this point,
whether or not Donald Trump deserves his party’s nomination
and the presidency for being the first candidate to understand
and exploit this change in American politics.

But no matter the outcomes next July and November, it was
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders who first figured out that
party politics in America had changed, and that the logical and
best path for them was to try to speak to millions of voters
already in mutiny against the past.

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Dislocations Of Change

If you are experiencing an almost physical sensation of
dislocation, a sense of irrationality from others, a mood of
emotional despair about the future, or a general feeling of
political vertigo this presidential campaign cycle , you are
not alone.

You are not alone.

This “malady” is not new. In fact, it happens with a certain
frequency among various generations in the U.S. as seasons
of political change take place.

I’m not a physician, yet I doubt that there is any useful
medication for this condition.

I do think that there is a good alternative to any hysteria,
but it takes some effort to reappraise an altered political
environment, especially one that a person does not favor.

That reappraisal has to take place in the context of
extraordinary media manipulation of attitudes and emotions.
That bias exists on both the left and the right, among liberals
and conservatives,  and is designed to push individual citizens
and voters to rigid conclusions.

The real world, as I see it, is much more provisional and much
less understandable than any slogan, catch phrase or simple
meaning that the media and the politicians attempt to impose.

There is an old adage which advises “nothing is what it seem to
be.” A corollary of this suggests “the most meaningful truth
often lies beneath the surface of events.” These are not answers,
but they are guides to avert the worst consequences of most
change we periodically encounter.

There can be little doubt that we as a nation are now undergoing
a political transformation. It affects our political parties, the
presidential political process, and the consciousness of various
generations and demographic regions.

It will take some time for the exact nature of these changes to
become clear.  Uncertainty itself is no cause for alarm.

Let’s see how this all turns out.

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

Sunday, March 20, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2016 - The Next Phase

The next phase of the 2016 presidential campaign is the one
usually where the strongest candidates in each major party
secure their nominations.

This might not happen in the traditional manner this cycle.
On the Democratic side, time and mathematics are running
out for Bernie Sanders, the only remaining challenger to
frontrunner Hillary Clinton. The Democrats designed their
process for just this outcome, and it has apparently worked.
The remaining ambiguity, however, is the putative nominee
herself as she is mired in chronic legal and ethical
controversies, as well as polls with unprecedented negatives
for someone who is in the finals for the presidency. Mr.
Sanders has the financial, staffing and volunteer resources to
continue until the end of the primary season, but unless there
is a dramatic development in his opponent’s controversies,
he is not going to be the Democratic nominee.

On the Republican side, however, a genuinely contested
convention is becoming more and more possible. Both Ted
Cruz and John Kasich seem to be getting stronger as the second
half of the primary/caucus season unfolds into two-plus months
of larger primaries in northern, midwestern and far western
states, many of which are primaries limited only to Republican
voters. Part of Mr. Trump’s early success can be ascribed to
open GOP primaries that allowed Democrats and independents
to vote in them. Several primaries ahead are also winner-take-all
which provide Mr. Trump with both an opportunity and political

Mr. Trump has been arguing that if he has the most delegates
prior to the convention, he should automatically receive the
nomination. If he is very close to a majority, it is likely that he
will win. But if he has, say less than about 1125-1150 delegates,
that argument will not hold much weight because many
delegates are released after the first ballot, and can vote for
whomever they wish. As in the case of Georgia, where Mr.
Trump won all of the delegates, those delegates are chosen
not by the candidate and his campaign, but by the state party.

William Seward led on the first ballot in Chicago in 1860, and
was by far the favorite for the Republican nomination that year,
but his numbers faded after that first ballot, and Abraham
Lincoln was nominated. The same thing happened in numerous
conventions in both parties during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Mr. Trump has not yet won 50% of the total popular vote in the
primary season, and has rarely topped 40% in individual
primaries. His challenge now is to win most of the remaining
primaries and more than 50% of the delegates chosen in them.

Mr. Kasich has only won one primary, and is not favored to win
very many more. His strongest argument for his nomination at a
contested convention is that he is the only Republican who can
win in November. Current polls show that this is true for now,
but Mr. Kasich needs those polls consistently to show this even
stronger and right up to the July convention in Cleveland. Not all
delegates are released after the first ballot, or even after the
second ballot, and the eventual nominee in a contested
convention will almost surely have to demonstrate that his ticket
will win the November election.

There are no more “super” primary dates. A number of larger
states with hefty numbers of delegates, many of them
potentially winner-take-all, will now hold their voting on
successive weeks. Since all of the voting in the south and the
far northeast has been concluded, those candidates who have
hitherto not done so well might now begin to do dramatically
better. Or Mr. Trump’s momentum, in spite of all obstacles,
might continue and even grow.

All we do know is that many of the “rules” of the past so far
have been discarded or suspended. This has been a once-in-a-
generation, perhaps even a once-in-a-century, election cycle.

There is no evidence yet that this won’t continue.

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

Friday, March 18, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Five Even More Amazing Facts You Probably Didn't Know

In 1853, then U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis of
Mississippi proposed that camels be employed for
transportation in the southwestern frontier. Seventy camels
were then imported from Egypt to form the U.S. Camel Corps
which had some success prior to the Civil War, although the
camels reportedly were difficult to manage.  By 1858, the
project was abandoned, and the camels were then used for
military purposes. The last known camel reconnaissance was
conducted by the then U.S. army commander in Texas,
General Robert E. Lee in 1860. After the Civil War, the U.S.
camel experiment was abandoned, probably in part because
of its association with the two leaders of the Confederacy.
All camels were sold at auction,and as late as the turn of the
century, feral (wild) camels were reported to be sighted in the
arid plains and deserts of the American West.

After he retired as the first president of the United States in
1797, George Washington retired to his estate at Mt. Vernon,
built a distillery and went into the whiskey business. It was
initially successful and profitable, In its second year of
production, its output was almost 11,000 gallons, making it
the largest whiskey distillery in North America. After his
untimely early death in 1799, the business was turned over to
surviving family members, and it failed a few years later.

Prior to 1856, the U.S. copper one cent piece was approximately
the size of a half dollar. In 1856, the smaller “penny” was
introduced with a flying eagle on its obverse, and in 1859, it was
replaced with the “Indian head” obverse. In 1909, on the
centenary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, the “Lincoln cent” (with
an obverse still in use) was introduced. Also in the mid-19th
century, experiments in other coinage denominations were tried,
including both silver and nickel three cent pieces, a copper
two cent piece and a silver twenty cent piece. All were legal
tender, but did not prove popular. Today, they are collector’s

Dr. Jill Stein, an internist who graduated from Harvard Medical
School, was the Green Party nominee for president in 2012, and
received almost half a million votes --- more than any woman
candidate for president in U.S. history. She is expected to be the
Green Party nominee again in 2016, but a woman nominated by
another party could exceed Dr. Stein’s popular vote totals.

The first modern American “summer festival” was founded in
1874 at a site on Lake Chautauqua in western New York, a few
miles east of Erie, Pennsylvania. On land that became known as
the Chautauqua Institution, the event was created by Protestant
religious leaders who wanted to hold a summer event of serious
ecumenical, educational and aesthetic discussion and presentations
of the performing arts. It quickly caught on, first in the region
(drawing visitors from Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Pittsburgh,
Rochester and other nearby cities, towns and rural communities),
and then nationally, as world famous theologians, philosophers,
political leaders and famed artistic figures spoke and performed
to large crowds in the “gated” community which featured
Victorian-styled homes, cottages, hotels and boarding houses.
Soon, “Chautauquas,” or local religio-cultural summer events
began appearing all over America, and the word “chautauqua”
became a word in the dictionary. From the early 20th century on,
the Chautauqua Institution season became a notable site for
major addresses by U.S. presidents and presidential candidates.
President Franklin Roosevelt made his famous “I hate war” speech
there, and more recently, President Bill Clinton spoke in the
legendary Chautauqua amphitheater. In the 1930‘s, Chautauqua
provided a haven for many of the world’s most famous musicians
fleeing Nazi persecution, including the composer Arnold
Schoenberg. The Institution’s largest hotel, The Atheneum, is a
magnificent example of grand Victorian architecture, and has
been seen as a setting for several motion pictures.

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


With the latest primary results now before us, the 2016 major
party presidential nominating campaigns are down to their

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton’s significant lead has
been further increased, and it is more and more difficult to
imagine her opponent Bernie Sanders winning the top of the
ticket spot in Cleveland through his efforts in the remaining
primaries. Mrs. Clinton, however, has many problems as her
party’s putative nominee, and it is not yet certain what the
outcome will be in Philadelphia in July, or after July.

The Republican contest, on the other hand, remains laden
with uncertainties, few of which were clarified on March 15.
Once again, Donald Trump prevailed in most of the primaries,
and he did win all of the delegates in the large state of Florida.
Furthermore, by doing so he eliminated one of his major rivals,
Marco Rubio. John Kasich did win his first primary in his home
state of Ohio, and also all of its delegates. But Trump won only
a portion of the delegates in the remaining three states (Missouri
was so close there will likely be a recount), and his need to win
more than a majority of the delegates remaining to be chosen
was again not appreciably advanced.

All eyes now turn to Mr. Kasich and his ability, as the sole
remaining non-Trump, non-Cruz candidate, to create a coalition
in the primaries to come --- and at the GOP convention in
Cleveland. In short, Mr. Kasich has to win more primaries (such
as in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Oregon).

Ted Cruz has now won eight primaries/caucuses, and is
relatively close to Mr. Trump in committed delegates. There are
also states ahead, especially in the West, that he can win.

Mr. Trump has already asserted that he ought to be the nominee
by virtue of the success he has had so far, and particularly if, after
the final primary, he is in the lead. He has also suggested dire
consequences if he is not nominated. While conceding that if he
is very close (less than 100 votes short of a majority) going into
Cleveland he will likely win, a contested convention is very much a
possibility as of this writing. “Threatening” the Republican Party
will not gain him the nomination; he must continue to win primaries
if he is to prevail in Cleveland.

Mr. Trump often writes about and speaks about his ability to make
“a deal.” In that process, the key and final moment is when the
deal is “closed.” Whether Donald Trump can close the deal on his
candidacy in 2016 remains his greatest challenge.

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

Monday, March 14, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "Brexit" And Other Crises

In case my American readers have forgotten, in the midst of
our tumultuous presidential campaign, virtually every major
nation (and not a few smaller ones) in Europe is facing a
significant political crisis just now. My European readers,
watching the U.S. political melodrama with some unease,
know about their own continental political and social
melodramas only too well.

This limited space prevents me from commenting on the
whole picture of this crisis of the West, so I will only take a
a quick look at the crises in the two major European powers,
Great Britain and Germany.

In the United Kingdom (UK), the nation, already under internal
pressure for the departure of Scotland from the kingdom, the
Conservative prime minister has scheduled a referendum on
the question (nicknamed "Brexit") of the UK membership in the
European Union. British euroskepticism, or the desire to end
Britain’s formal relationship with the EU, has been gaining
strength in the island nation in recent years. The UK wisely
did not ever accept the Euro currency, and it has observed the
dizzying and repetitive economic failures recently among
several EU members, including Greece.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron promised a referendum,
and then attempted to win major concessions for continued UK
membership so that he could persuade voters to vote “yes” on
the membership question. He did obtain some concessions, but
many in his own party, and outside it, consider the concessions
inadequate, especially in the face of the growing threat that the
EU will impose conditions on the UK that will involve the loss
of its thousand-year old sovereignty. Cameron’s fellow Tory,
Mayor Boris Johnson (also an M.P.), has emerged as the leader
of those Britons who intend to vote “no.” The voting will take
place on June 23. The outcome is unknown at this time, but it is
believed that the vote will be close.

In Germany, its crisis has taken a different form. Chancellor
Angela Merkel has responded to the massive movement of
refugees to EU nations, by welcoming more than a million of
them into Germany. When she made this decision, she was at
the height of her popularity in Germany, and of her influence
in the European Union. The massive influx of migrants, many
of them Muslim, has not been universally welcomed in Europe,
and that includes in the previously booming unified Germany.
Mrs. Merkel’s popularity has declined rapidly, and her nation’s
influence on its neighbors has been partly shifted eastward to
Turkey which holds the key to further refugee immigration.
German nationalism, dormant since the end of World War II
has been reignited, and Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic
Union Party (CDU) has just suffered notable defeats in local
elections, putting members of a new nationalist populist party
in state parliaments.

It needs to be pointed out that Mrs. Merkel’s compassionate
actions in regard to refugees is quite understandable in the
light of Germany’s past that includes a world war and the
Holocaust. But like so many decisions made in post-war
Europe, including the creation of the EU itself, decisions
were made by political elites and bureaucrats without true
building of grass roots support.

Similarly, Mr. Cameron’s efforts perhaps were made before
building grass roots support for remaining in the EU among
British voters. The issue is not the UK’s economic relationships
with its continental neighbors. Even top euroskeptics such as
Tory M.P. Bill Cash, acknowledge the importance of those
relationships, but of the aggressive evolution of the EU charter
into areas which take away its member nations’ political and
economic sovereignty.

Americans can understand this issue from recent attempts
at the United Nations which attempt to cancel U.S.
sovereignty with binding legal agreements (something bitterly
opposed by most Americans, and which could not be ratified
by Congress).

As I have previously pointed out, in spite of their differing
forms, the crises in Great Britain and Germany (and in the
other European nations) have a common cause, that is the
failure of their political establishments, both on the right
and the left, to gain the consent or support of their
respective nations’ grass roots voters.

In the late 1920’s the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y
Gasset saw a similar phenomenon developing which he
labeled “the revolt of the masses.” His prescience foresaw
the rise of totalitarian fascism and communism, and the
unspeakable horror and violence which resulted only a
decade later.

Today, virtually all of Europe lives in a much more
democratic environment. There is little need for revolution.
But, as I have diagnosed in the current U.S. presidential
election crisis, there is a spirit of mutiny rising everywhere
against entrenched political establishments on both the left
and the right which are mired in political stalemates.

I have come to realize that this is not some temporary or
superficial  political phenomenon, but one which requires a
thoughtful and transformational response. Lincoln’s immortal
remedy “of the people, by the people and for the people” cannot
be regarded as just some pretty and empty phrase. It is, to the
contrary, the only route out of our crises.

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

Saturday, March 12, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Trump's Last Stand?

I thought the headline above might catch the reader’s special
attention, especially as it might seem at this moment an
improbable one.

Donald Trump, in fact, could be only a few hours away from
effectively securing the 2016 Republican nomination for
president of the United States.

If he wins both Ohio and Florida, and sweeps Missouri,
Illinois and North Carolina, on March 15, it would difficult
to imagine a route for Ted Cruz, John Kasich, or anyone else
to prevent Mr. Trump’s victory in Cleveland next July.

So why “The Little Bighorn” headline?

I could not resist it, in part, because of George Custer’s
legendary swagger and his hairdo. Just to recall, General
Custer was the flamboyant West Point graduate (with blond
curls) who became famous and controversial in the Civil War
(partly through his shrewd use of the media establishment
of that day) for his daring antics.

After the war, Lt. Colonel Custer (his general’s rank had been
a temporary one) was sent out to the western frontier to fight
Plains Indians. Near the Little Bighorn River in Montana,
he took a powerful U.S. Army force into a direct assault against
“troublesome” Native American warriors, assuming that his
forces would thus settle the problems in the region. At the
decisive battle, he took several measures that indicated that he
did not think he might be defeated.

As it turned out, his “last stand” became the iconic Indian
ambush, and Custer’s entire force, himself included, were
wiped out. Custer did not have the most troops in the battle,
and his tactics were later criticized by the military
establishment, including President Grant and General Philip
Sheridan, his longtime mentor.

With hours to go before the critical March 15 primaries,
there is much suspense about their outcome. On the one hand,
as I suggested above, Mr. Trump is in a powerful position, and
perhaps close to clinching his party’s nomination. On the other
hand, his numerous rivals in the earlier part of the 2016
campaign have been reduced to three, Ted Cruz, John Kasich
and Marco Rubio. Mr. Cruz recently won his home state primary.
Mr. Kasich is governor of Ohio, and Mr. Rubio is a U.S. senator
form Florida; and each faces “must-win” primaries in their
home states on that date.

Although Mr. Trump leads in committed delegates so far, he
only has a plurality. In recent primaries and caucuses, he has
failed to win decisive delegate totals. Ohio with 60 delegates and
Florida with 99, each winner-take-all, offer him an opportunity
to pull far ahead of his rivals if he wins both or, should he lose
them, be in a much weaker position for what might then result
in a “brokered” GOP convention in July.

It is now up to the voters in each of these states. By now, the
whole electorate is aware what is at stake. So far, Mr. Trump
has been stronger than his opponents, albeit outnumbered by
their combined totals. He has ignored traditional strategies
throughout his campaign, depending on large rallies and
shrewd use of “free” press coverage (eagerly supplied by the
media establishment).

Will March 15 be Donald Trump’s “Little Bighorn” or his
“Appomattox Court House” (where General Grant accepted
General Robert E. Lee’s surrender)?

It is up to the voters.

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

Thursday, March 10, 2016


There is a dizzying effect being produced by the 2016
presidential nomination contests in both parties that is
more intense and more extreme than I remember from the
previous cycles I have observed. Perhaps that is only caused
by special trick of memory, the trick of forgetting what the
past was like, even the past we ourselves have lived through.

We are now about a week from a pivotal moment in the
Republican race, and about a week after the Democratic
race, once thought concluded, was reignited.

Of the latter, it still seems unlikely that Bernie Sanders can
overtake Hillary Clinton in the vital delegate totals, but
Michigan was a dark omen for her campaign and for polling.
Objectively speaking, there is really no positive explanation for
Mrs. Clinton to lose a very large industrial northern state with
a substantial minority population. Nor is there a satisfactory
explanation for all polls taken hours before voting to show
Mrs. Clinton winning by double digits.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have equally troubling
circumstances to confront. March 15 could be the de facto
end of the nomination contest if Donald Trump sweeps most
of the five major state primaries, four of which could be
winner-take-all. So far, Mr. Trump is leading in four of them.
The exception is Ohio where one of his last credible rivals
has gone into the lead in his home state. But even if John
Kasich wins Ohio, he must follow through with several strong
performances, and some outright victories, afterwards if he is
to have a chance to be nominated.

Unless Mr. Trump’s campaign suddenly collapses (which is
highly unlikely), the only reasonable path for victory for Mr.
Kasich would be, in combination with Ted Cruz, to prevent
Mr, Trump from getting a majority of delegates, or even close
to a majority of delegates, before the GOP convention in
Cleveland, and then to prevail at a “brokered” convention.
Marco Rubio is now likely to lose Florida next week, and there
will be pressure for him, if that happens, to withdraw.

Although Mrs. Clinton still remains a strong favorite to win her
party’s nomination, she faces the possibility of unusually serious
defections of Sanders voters to the Green Party in November,
or even more likely, unusually low Democrat turnout in the
general election.. The latter has been given reinforcement by
noticeably decreased Democratic Party turnout in the primaries
(compared with dramatically increased Republican Party primary

The anger of many Republican grass roots voters has found a
temporary sanctuary in Mr Trump. Faced with a Trump victory,
other Republican grass roots voters are now angrily threatening
to bolt their own party in November if Mr. Trump is nominated,
voting for Mrs. Clinton or staying home. Everyone is angry.

Political oxygen is very scarce.

It is time for every American voter --- left, right and center --- to
take some deep breaths. This is not the World Series or the Super
Bowl when, if your team loses, you have a few beers, a good night’s
sleep, and wake up thinking about next year’s season. It is about
the direction of the nation, its domestic well-being and its place
in the world. The most important contest is in November.

I want to remind the reader that whoever wins the presidential
nomination of each party, they will have won it in an open and
fair contest. Unlike in many other nations in the world, it is an
important American tradition that we respect the winner in a fair
contest, be it in sports or politics.

The primary season is not yet over in either party because we
really do not yet know who will be on the November ballot. But
as we approach the pivotal moments in the nomination contests,
I think it is important to remember that living and breathing
always requires plenty of oxygen.

Deep breaths, my countrymen and countrywomen. Deep breaths.

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

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Leader (For Now) Of The Republican Party

The leader of a political party is always its presidential
nominee when he or she is chosen, and if that nominee
wins the presidency, the leader until his or her presidential
term is over. If the president is from the other party, the
leader is either the previous presidential nominee or the
highest elected figure of that party in the Congress or
among the governors. As of now, and until someone secures
the 2016 nomination, that person in the Republican Party is
the speaker of the U.S. house, Paul Ryan. Some might argue
it is U.S.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or 2012
GOP nominee Mitt Romney, but I think it is now Paul Ryan.

Mr. Ryan is doing rather well leading a contentious U.S.
majority, having been literally begged to take the job after
the resignation of the previous speaker, John Boehner. In
addition to his long and important service in the house, Mr.
Ryan was the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, and did a
fine job campaigning across the nation.

If John Kasich, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio win the conservative
party’s presidential nomination, they will become the leader
of their party. Most scenarios for them are set as an outcome
of a “brokered” convention in Cleveland, an outcome
becoming more and more likely as the primary/caucus season
proceeds. On the other hand, Donald Trump leads in delegates
as I write this, and he alone of the four surviving GOP
candidates seems to have a path of securing the nomination
before the Cleveland convention.

Since Mr. Trump is only officially a Republican since he became
a candidate for president last year, and since he has supported
major candidates of both parties before that, as well as held in the
past policy views (now reversed) strongly opposed by most
Republicans, the question arises: “Would GOP presidential
nominee Trump become automatically the leader of his party?”

On paper, the answer is yes. Republican National Committee
Chair Reince Priebus has also indicated that the answer is yes.
However, this cycle (unlike any other in memory) the answer is
more like maybe.

The Democrats might have faced a similar dilemma if Bernie
Sanders had prevailed as its nominee, but that is now becoming
much less likely. (Unless, of course, the presumptive nominee
Hillary Clinton were forced to withdraw.)

In fact, there are now de facto four major U.S. political parties,
i.e. the mainstream liberal Democratic Party, the new populist
quasi-socialist Democratic Party, the mainstream conservative
Republican Party, and the populist-nationalist Republican

The leaders of both parties will have more to sort out in the
next few months than just their presidential nominees.

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

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Jill Stein, M.D. was the Green Party candidate for president
of the United States in 2012. She received almost half a
million votes nationwide, making her the most successful
woman candidate for president in U.S. history. She has
announced her candidacy for president again for 2016, and
likely will be the Green Party nominee this year.

Dr. Stein was born in Chicago, practices as an internist, is
married to a physician, and they have two children. She is
65 years old. She attended Harvard Medical School, and
lives with her family in Boston, Massachusetts. She has
previously run unsuccessfully for governor, U.S. congress
and for other offices in Massachusetts.

As a minor party nominee, Dr. Stein attracted little
attention in 2012 when she received less than one-half on
one per cent of the total popular vote. But in 2016, she could
become an important factor because it is known that
some supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders,
angered by the Democratic Party establishment’s alleged
attempts to sabotage the Sanders campaign in Iowa and
Nevada, are vowing to vote for Dr. Stein if Hillary Clinton
is nominated.

Motivating some Sanders supporters, should the Vermont
senator fail to win the nomination in Philadelphia, is not only
their antipathy to Mrs. Clinton, but their desire to achieve 5%
of the popular vote, a threshold that would entitle the Green
Party to federally dispersed campaign funds in the next
election. In 2000, activist Ralph Nader ran as the Green Party
candidate, received almost 3 million votes nationwide (2.7%),
and was responsible, many believe, for Al Gore losing the
key state of Florida that year, thus giving the presidential
election to George W. Bush who had received less popular
votes than Gore.

Dr. Stein’s populist views on many issues are believed closer
to those of Mr. Sanders than those of Mrs. Clinton.

By the time the 2016 Democratic primaries are concluded,
millions of Democrats will have voted for Mr. Sanders. Should
only a portion of them either stay home in November or vote
for Dr. Stein, that could easily affect the outcome of the

The Republicans are also bitterly divided this campaign cycle,
and their nominee might also face stay-at-homes and desertions
to third party candidates. Those possibilities will be examined
in a future column.

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

Friday, March 4, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Grown-Up On The Stage

The Republican presidential nomination contest has, in the
past several days, gone through a probable sea change, but it
is perhaps not the sea change which might have been
predicted only weeks before that.

First of all, the frontrunning status of tycoon Donald Trump
is under serious assault. He remains in front, and in fact, if he
can win decisively on March 15 when five major states hold
their primaries, the nomination is his.

And yet, there is the possibility that Mr. Trump has peaked,
having previously escaped the usual vetting scrutiny under the
cover of both bluster and friendly media coverage.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, has made a thorough
attack on Mr. Trump’s qualifications and sincerity. It will likely
persuade few, if any, Trump supporters. It was received
with some mixed reaction from Mr. Romney’s own supporters.
Nevertheless, Governor Romney has serious standing in his
party, his own integrity remains unchallenged, and he has
clearly earned the right to comment on the 2016 campaign.
He did not endorse any of the other three candidates. I doubt
that there are very many conservatives who do not think today
he would have made a much better president than the man who
did defeat him in 2012.

In the televised debate which followed a few hours later, however,
something significant emerged in the contest between the four
remaining contestants. That was the stark contrast between one
of them and the other three.

Was that one Donald Trump, the frontrunner? Was it Marco
Rubio, the latest consensus hope to defeat Mr. Trump? Was it
Ted Cruz, the brilliant debater?

No, it was the one seemingly grown-up person on the stage,
Governor John Kasich of Ohio.

Let’s review the facts. Governor Kasich is the only GOP candidate
left who has exercised true power, both as a legislative leader in
Congress and as  governor of Ohio. Not only has he held power, he
has wielded it with notable intelligence, common sense and great
success. Alone among the survivors on that debate stage, he has
not indulged in personal attacks against his rivals. His
communication skills, frankly a bit shaky in the earliest debates,
have been harmonized by the debate experience, his numerous
town meetings in the early caucus states, and the pressure of
making his first try for national office. He is an authentic and
strong conservative, a man of deep Christian faith, solid on almost
all of the GOP social issues, and yet a man of obvious compassion.

He is also a man of character, and not without idiosyncracies. A
few years ago, I spent part of a day with Mr. Kasich and a mutual
friend. It was informal. It was not an interview. Although this
experience, and a speech he made later in the day, heightened
my respect for his ability, seeing him up close left me with some
doubts about his temperament, and this feeling has persisted
until recently. I now think I was wrong about this. Anyone who
runs for president has a strong ego and an idiosyncratic focus.
The Oval Office is not for the weak of heart and mind.

I also want to be fair about Ted Cruz. I do not agree with some
of his issues, but in the Detroit debate he performed well. He was
the only candidate who pointed out that the chronic problems of
the Motor City and so many other large urban areas in the nation
are due to liberal Democratic mayors and liberal Democratic
policies. I do not agree with his stated immigration policies,
but his intelligence is clear. He might make an excellent
replacement for the late Justice Scalia on the U.S. supreme court.

The commonplace arose in recent weeks that Marco Rubio was
the only one who could “stop” Donald Trump. His youth, his
articulateness and his ethnic background argue for his being on
the Republican ticket next November, but perhaps not at the top
of the ticket.

I have not condemned Mr. Trump, and I have increasingly
recognized that he might well be the GOP nominee. But his
political schtick is wearing thin. He offers almost no specifics,
and demonstrates only a limited command of the profound
issues that will face the next president. It was he who initiated
the lamentable rounds of name-calling which have characterized
the televised debates, and there is unavoidably a sense of
pettiness in his character side by side with his obvious
shrewdness and abilities.

I come back to a constant theme of my political writing. I believe
the choice of the next president belongs solely to that entity
called the electorate. It is not the prerogative of any party
“establishment,” nor is the right of any special interest, nor is
it the right of any pundit, print or broadcast, to try to impose
their views on the voters. I am not endorsing any candidate
in either party, nor am I a member of either party. But I do have
opinions and observations, some of which change over time, and
I have the right to share them.

Occasionally, each of us has moments of clarity, and in watching
the Detroit debate, I saw one grown-up on the stage. I am sharing
that now, and any person who reads this can make of it what
they will.

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

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: An Uprising Inside An Uprising?

There can be no reasonable doubt by now that there is a
remarkable and rare disturbance within a wide range of
the American electorate. The anger, passion and dismay of
these voters might favor different personalities and opinions,
but there is evident a general American electoral uprising.

Until now, these emotions have been directed primarily to
two figures, Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald Trump on
the right. In the earliest primaries and caucuses, Mr. Sanders
has enjoyed some success, particularly among young voters
and left populist voters, but his only opponent for the
Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, has not only a
built-in advantage among the so-called unelected
super-delegates, but is also picking up more elected delegates
at a rate that might be difficult to overcome. (However, clouds
of legal controversy hang over Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy.)

The same is not true on the Republican side where the
darling of the right populist voters, Donald Trump, has also
won several contests, but has so far not an insurmountable
delegate lead so as to clinch the GOP nomination
before the July GOP convention in Cleveland. On the other
hand, his candidacy has most dramatized the uprising on the
right, and just before the Super Tuesday voting, many were
speculating that he was “unstoppable.”

In fact, he won seven of that day’s contests while his two major
opponents were able to win four between them. Now word comes
that Dr. Ben Carson will not participate in the next GOP debate,
and will end his campaign in a few days. This will increase the
pressure on John Kasich to withdraw as well, inasmuch as he did
so poorly on Super Tuesday and faces the humiliation of losing
his home state of Ohio on March 15. (Mr. Trump currently leads
in Ohio polls.)

This is rapidly becoming a three-person race in the GOP contest.
Marco Rubio rather obviously needs to go back to Florida, and
turn that race around before March 15. (He also currently trails
Mr. Trump in the Florida polls.) Ted Cruz will remain in the race.

The prospects for a brokered GOP convention continue to form.

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