Sunday, May 29, 2016


The cliche phrase “Throw the bums out!” is less than a
hundred years old in modern usage, but it became a sort
of rallying cry in recent U.S. elections.

Until now.

This year, the voters seem to be telling the political
establishments a contrary message, “Throw the bums in!”

Of course, it all turns on what you mean by “bums.” For
the major party establishments, the bums are Bernie Sanders
and Donald Trump, the two outsider figures who have turned
presidential politics upside down in 2016. The decisive
Democratic and Republican primary/caucus voters, however,
see the bums as their champions. In Mr. Trump’s case, they
have awarded him the first prize of the GOP presidential
nomination. In Mr. Sanders’ case, the final outcome is not yet
entirely clear, but at the least, he now controls the Democratic
Party agenda for the time being.

The original phrase was used to suggest a barroom situation
in which ostensibly inappropriate and raucous persons are
removed by a “bouncer.” The contrarian phrase, ironically,
suggest that inappropriate and raucous political figures are
just what the public wants, that is, figures who will challenge
and upend the status quo of American politics.

If American voters have decided that it is time for they
themselves to assume the role of political “bouncer,” we
might be in for a political brawl in 2016.

On March 4, 1797, the first American president left office to
an openly elected new president, another of the founding
fathers, following the first truly competitive U.S. presidential
election. After the swearing in of John Adams, George
Washington said to him, “Now I’m fairly out, and you’re
fairly in.” From that time on, American elections have
been fierce contests, pitting powerful personalities and
interests against each other.

This year will be no different.

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

Friday, May 27, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: How Settled Is The Democratic Nomination?

At any other time in the modern history of presidential
nomination contests, the major party races could be safely now
said to be concluded. In fact, Donald Trump has just exceeded
the majority of committed delegates to his Republican
convention in Cleveland, and has no announced opponent left
in what was an historically crowded field of 17 candidates.
He will be nominated on the first ballot, albeit with lingering
doubt among many traditional conservatives and GOP stalwarts.

The Democratic contest, however, remains unsettled because
frontrunner Hilary Clinton’s only remaining opponent, Bernie
Sanders, refuses to concede the nomination in spite of Mrs.
Clinton apparent mathematical lock on it. Moreover, Mr. Sanders
has been winning almost all the later primaries, and is possibly
poised in a few days to upset Mrs. Clinton in the final major
primary in California. Should that upset happen, Mr. Sanders
would still be short of Mrs. Clinton’s elected delegate total, but
because about 500 unelected delegates (most of whom are
currently committed to Mrs. Clinton) will attend the convention
in Philadelphia, there would be an air of uncertainly surrounding
the first ballot. Technically, these non-elected “super-delegates”
could change their minds before the first ballot.

There is no true precedent for this ambiguous spectacle in
presidential politics. Pundits, myself included, have searched
the dusty shelves of past elections for precedents, but there are
none. The old ethnic, religious and gender demographic models
do not seem to work usefully, and the opinion polling techniques,
relatively reliable in the past, seem no longer instructive or

The Democratic Party initially faced serious obstacles in 2016,
primarily because it had held the White House for two terms
and U.S. voters recently have demonstrated a certain fatigue with
both major parties after eight years of their administrations.
But mainstream expectations were turned on their heads in both
parties when both Democratic and Republican primary/caucus
voters staged historic mutinies, producing both Bernie Sanders
and Donald Trump. When it became apparent that Mr. Trump
would actually win his party’s nomination, Democrats were
understandably heartened by the divisions in the conservative
ranks, and by what they felt were their improved prospects not
only in the presidential race, but down-ballot in U.S. house and
senate races as well. In senate races, particularly, liberal hopes
to regain control of that body were buoyed by GOP senate
candidates caught in the middle of apparent voter disdain for
Mr. Trump and their own mainstream campaign prospects.

Then the presumptive Democratic nominee, Mrs. Clinton, ran
into the unexpected and amazing surge of Bernie Sanders,
complicated by persistent several legal and ethical controversies
surrounding her.

Recent polling (for whatever it’s worth) indicates that a
November race between Mrs Clinton and Mr. Trump would be
close. Mr. Trump has signaled that he would not sit idly by while
Democrats attack him (as Mitt Romney ignored attacks in 2012).
More and more Republicans are accepting the Trump candidacy
(even as the candidate himself unaccountably continues to make
unforced errors by attacking Republican governors who have not
yet endorsed him).

Just as there is some talk by some anti-Trump Republicans for
running a third party candidate against their own nominee,
there is now talk by some Democrats of dumping Mrs. Clinton
before her convention, and inserting Vice President Joe Biden
(with Elizabeth Warren as his running mate) as their nominee
in Philadelphia. But this scenario fails to explain what the
Democrats would do with Bernie Sanders and his millions of
supporters. Denied the liberal party nomination in Philadelphia,
Mr. Sanders, as some have suggested, could then become the
Green Party candidate and siphon off millions of votes from the
Democratic ticket, thus producing a landslide for Donald Trump.

There has been nothing like this election cycle in American
politics. The source of the disruption is the American voter who,
after years of stalemate, empty rhetoric from politicians of both
parties, and their legitimate anxieties about the economy,
national security and America’s role in the world, are saying they
want something else.

I continue to eschew predictions, but I do suggest that keeping
watch on the motions and maneuvers of the politicians and the
political parties is less instructive than observing the emerging
new models of behavior by the voters themselves.

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Does California Matter?

California has been for some time our largest state. It has also
seemed be in some ways almost another country whose
capital was Hollywood, and its leading city was San Francisco.
With its geologic faults and frequent small earthquakes, it is
always rumored to be on the brink of “the big one” which
thankfully has not yet come. It has heat, Hispanic legacy, and
glamor in the south which borders on Mexico, and snow and
rugged terrain in the north which borders on Oregon. It has the
continent’s greatest vineyards, and grows much of the rest of
the nation’s fresh produce. It sends the  most members to the U.S.
house of representatives, but like every other state has only two
senators. Its population exceeds that of most sovereign nations
in the world, and its economy alone  is among the planet’s largest.

By tradition, it holds its presidential primaries at the very end of
the political campaign season, and for this reason, it has not had
any appreciable influence on the choice of nominees of either
major political party for decades in spite of providing by far the
largest number of delegates to both national conventions. In the
post-World War II past, the nominees were usually determined
earlier  in the process.   

With no incumbent president running in 2016, it was thought
possible that California might play an important part in this
cycle in at least one of the contests. There were five announced
Democrats and seventeen announced Republicans. In the former
race, it quickly narrowed to two, Hillary Clinton (the long-time
favorite) and Bernie Sanders, the surprise challenger. In the GOP
race, the surprise candidate, Donald Trump. actually took an early
lead which he did not give up. His sixteen rivals narrowed to two,
and then there were none. Mrs. Clinton, with the critical help of
non-elected “super-delegates” has likewise virtually clinched her
party’s nomination.

So once again, California (already suffering from a great drought)
has been hung out to dry in the electoral process.

Or has it?

It is obvious that both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump will have at
least the minimum number of committed delegates before the
June 7 California primary. Mr. Trump no longer has any formal
opposition, so the results there likely will not make much

But what if Bernie Sanders, who has been winning almost all of
recent primaries, wins California?

The 400-plus Clinton super-delegates are only publicly committed
to her, but technically can vote for anyone they choose on the first
ballot in Philadelphia. Without most of them, Mrs. Clinton cannot
be nominated. Mr. Sanders, minus the super-delegates, is only
relatively few votes behind Mrs. Clinton.

Notwithstanding this hypothetical, Mrs. Clinton currently leads
in California, according to polls, by several points. She has the
endorsement of most California officials, and Mr. Sanders,
hitherto swimming in small donor contributions, now has much
more limited resources, a huge disadvantage in this big state.
Almost the entire Democratic party establishment is now pushing
for Mr. Sanders to withdraw.

Unlikely as it now seems, a Sanders win in California would be an
enormous upset, even in this season of upsets.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Mutiny Of The Masses

As my long-time readers know, I hold the Spanish philosopher
Jose Ortega y Gasset in very high esteem, although his one-time
global popularity has declined in recent decades.

Sr. Ortega wrote many brilliant books before his death in 1955,
but one book endures most almost a century after it was written
in 1928. Its title was The Revolt of the Masses, and it chronicled
in elegant Spanish prose (which translates well into English) a
long-term pattern in human behavior beginning with the
Renaissance in Europe and culminating in post-World War I
western civilization --- namely the gradual and unrelenting
coming-to-power of the masses as they overthrew the
institutions of feudal and imperial rule.

What made The Revolt of the Masses so remarkable, of course,
was its prophetic account of the rise of totalitarian fascism and
communism; its specific prediction in 1928 of Hitlerian nazism
and Stalinist communism, and their consequences, well before
these totalitarian upheavals murdered tens of millions of
persons and violently disrupted the lives of hundreds of
millions more.

Sr. Ortega, for all his prophetic brilliance, had his intellectual
shortcomings, and they have led to his decline as a universally
acclaimed figure in modern thought. He was, for example, a man
of aristocratic bent with many 19th century prejudices about
women and the mass of humanity (paradoxically, the very group
whose rise he predicted). In today’s politically-correct world,
some of his commentary would seem archaic and tone deaf.
He was also very much a Europhile who somehow (even as late
as 1928) did not perceive the United States as the imminent world
power and civilizing force it would soon become.

Ortega y Gasset argued, in short, that the masses of humanity,
long ruled over by feudal lords, kings, emperors and dictators,
were assuming real power in the world as they gradually
overthrew authoritarian institutions. He further argued that
this “revolt” was taking two forms. The first was “indirect”
power in the form of representative democracy. The second
was “direct” power in which societies acted through
totalitarian action, often by violence, without law, without
legislation and discourse, and without accountability. It was
his prophetic notice of the latter then making their first
appearances in Germany, Italy and  Soviet Russia that
worried him. In the decade following the publication of
The Revolt of the Masses, his anxieties would come all too
terribly and unspeakably true.

Sr. Ortega’s insights did not stop with the end of World War II,
or with his death. The historical process of the “revolt” has
continued with its two aspects in full force. As I pointed out,
he greatly underestimated the role of the U.S. in world affairs,
and of the endurance of its “liberal” or representative

Nevertheless, the phenomenon of mass “disturbance” has
apparently come to America in 2016, not in the pathological
form of any “direct action” movement, but in the form of
“indirect action” mutinies against the establishments of both
major political parties.

The liberal media and political establishments thought for a
while that this mutiny was limited to the other side, the
conservative side, when “outsider” Donald Trump suddenly
appeared and presumably has won the Republican nomination
for president, demolishing “political correctness” and
establishment power in the process. But this Liberal
smugness has now been replaced by the Democrat’s own
mutiny in the form of “outsider” Bernie Sanders and his
wave of populism.

Whereas Mr. Trump’s GOP opponents retired from the field
in the wake of his upset victories in the cycle’s primaries and
caucuses, Mr. Sanders has refused to withdraw, even in the
face of the enormous mathematical odds against his
nomination. Not only has he failed to retire, he has won an
impressive string of primary victories after the race was
“declared over” by the media and the political class, including
most recently, a win in Oregon and a virtual tie in Kentucky.

His actions, designed to move the Democratic Party far to the
left, apparently will be played out at the Democratic national
convention in Philadelphia two months from now. Before that,
the California primary will occur in June. This primary will
send a huge number of delegates to the convention.

Mr. Trump’s opponents have not been entirely inactive either,
but their efforts, almost certainly too late, will not likely change
the outcome at the GOP convention in Cleveland.

The 2016 U.S. election is both a fulfillment of Ortega’s insight
into the long-term rise of the masses, and a rebuke to his anxiety
about the strength and persistence of representative democracy.

After it occurs, history is easy to explain, But before it happens,
it almost always produces surprises.

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

Monday, May 16, 2016


The 2016 national elections not only feature the quadrennial
presidential race, but also include the contests for control of
the U.S. house and senate. There are also the individual state
contests for governor and control of state legislatures.

The now probable nomination of Donald Trump as the
Republican candidate for president has disrupted the
traditional course of the down-ballot races in 2016, as has
the probable nomination of Hillary Clinton as the
Democratic nominee.

Let us review these down-ballot environments.

Overall, it was anticipated to be nationally a favorable
GOP cycle this year because of the "voter fatigue" with a
two-term (and not very popular) Democratic president and
his administration. At the state level, on the other hand, with
Republicans holding most of the governorships and control
of state legislatures, it was the conservative party that seemed
most vulnerable

A Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump race, however, could upset
traditional expectations.

On paper, the Democrats have a distinct advantage in the
critical electoral college map. Also on paper, the Republicans
have the advantage to control the U.S. house of representatives.
As for the U.S. senate and state governorships, their political
landscapes are muddled by the fact that only some of these
posts are up for election this year.

Although the GOP holds 31 of the 50 governorships, it stands to
pick up one or two more this year because more held by
Democrats than by Republican are up in 2016.

It appears likely that Democrats will pick up a net number of
U.S. house seats this cycle, but liberal control is problematic
(yet not impossible) because of the large conservative lead in
that body. A current survey of competitive and open house seats
shows a possible net gain for the Democrats of 6-12 seats.

The U.S. senate, however, is quite a different story. Democrats
are poised to make gains in this body, perhaps enough to wrest
control from the GOP. Most vulnerable are the GOP incumbents
in Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as the open seat in Florida
now held by retiring Marco Rubio. Senator Ayotte in New
Hampshire is being challenged by a popular Democratic
incumbent governor, and even long-time Senator McCain in
Arizona is now considered to have a close race. Only in Nevada,
where Harry Reid is retiring, are there bright prospects for a
GOP senate pick-up.

So a very big question at this point is about how much the
presidential race will affect these down-ballot races. There are
various theories about this. A conventional analysis favors the
Democrats who traditionally turn out heavily in a presidential
cycle. This analysis points to the election of Mrs. Clinton,
liberal control of the U.S. senate, and big gains in the U.S. house.
This analysis cites the electoral college advantage of the large
“blue” states of New York, California, Illinois, as well as a
number northeastern and midwestern states with their black,
Hispanic and Jewish voters, most of whom traditionally vote
Democratic. In fact, these voters, according to 2016 exit polls,
continue to favor liberal candidates. Since many more GOP
than Democratic incumbents in the senate are up this year, this
also favors the liberal party.

A contrarian analysis, however, cites the notable number of new
voters so far in the 2016 cycle for a different outcome. These
“new” voters have appeared in both parties, including white blue
collar voters for Mr. Trump; and young and populist voters for
Bernie Sanders. Only Mr. Trump will appear on the ballot in
November. So the questions are: Will Mr. Trump’s new (and
former Democratic voters) show up in November; and will Mr.
Sanders’ young and populist voters show up for Mrs. Clinton?

The unarguable facts are that more Republicans turned out to
vote in the 2016 primary/caucus season than did Democrats.
Mrs. Clinton’s percentages of black and Hispanic voters did hold,
but the turnout was well behind 2008. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr.
Trump have, as presumptive nominees, historically high
negatives among voters, and each of them faces desertion from
some of their voter base.

At this point in the national election cycle, there is always some
suspense about the November outcomes. I suggest this is
especially true in 2016 when so much in the election season has
been unorthodox, unexpected, and even perhaps, bizarre.

Pundits are particularly on the spot. They have to rely on
traditional patterns and measurements (polls). It is possible, of
course, that the post-convention campaign will revert to the old
models. So far, however, these models have been “disrupted”
(if not broken).

The voters to date have been in a mutinous mood, unsatisfied
with both party establishments in the nation’s capital.

I suggest we don’t yet really have a credible sense of how 2016
is going to turn out. I contend that the polls tell us little yet of
how voters are going to make their decisions this year.

It’s going to be an election for the books, and no doubt many
books will be written in pure hindsight.

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

Friday, May 13, 2016


I consider myself blessed with having such a varied
group of subscribers/readers, persons who range from
left to right, including many in the political center. My
readers also include those who have supported most of the
presidential candidates in both parties. I am not a political
reporter who is supposed to be objective; instead I am an
opinion journalist who expresses his views on a variety of
subjects. Nevertheless, I try to be as fair and accurate and
respectful as possible. I cannot remember a political cycle
when these standards were more scarce.

I am always amazed at, and grateful for, the tolerance of my
readers who often disagree with me perhaps on some
particular viewpoints I express, but who remain loyal and
supportive of this website and its author.

My most basic political value is my belief that in our republic,
a representative democracy, the ultimate decision makers are
the nation’s citizens who assert their authority by voting in the
various local, state and national elections. Some call this a
Jeffersonian view, a Lincolnian view, or  a (Theodore)
Rooseveltian view, but by whatever label, it is a pragmatic
and idealistic value in our enduring, evolving and (so far)
successful experiment in self-government.

As I have previous admitted, I did not see either the Donald
Trump or Bernie Sanders phenomena coming in advance.

Nevertheless, they are the biggest personal political stories
of this cycle so far. One of them is almost certainly going to
be his party’s presidential nominee, and the other, while
falling short of the nomination, has seemingly profoundly
changed his party’s public policy views.

I have endorsed no one, and I am so far making no predictions
about the outcome in November. The only persons who I
take strong issue with are those who presume that those
who does not hold his or her political view are somehow
“ignorant,” ‘dumb,” “political traitors or “quislings.” This
applies to reporters, opinion journalists, campaigns and
candidates. Alas, this has occurred not only in the media, but
has been practiced by most of the presidential candidates in
both parties.

When it comes to holding political views in our nation, we
have to remember that it's still a free country.

The frustration of the American voter, ranging from right to left,
is the real story of the 2016 election cycle, as are the changing
demographics, especially generational ones, among the
nation’s voters. I did not see the significance of this change as
much at the outset of this cycle as I see it now --- although I have
been writing about the causes of the changes for many years now.

As my readers know, I often write about U.S. and world history,
including notable events and precedents. I don’t think history is
always repeated, but I do think it usually instructs us.

There are also instances of momentous political change when
our old models no longer apply. This year is one of those moments,
and I caution anyone who tries to make a credible prediction at
this early time, two months before the major political
conventions and five months before the general election.

I particularly caution about the dependence of the political class
on old models of ethnic, religious, racial, gender and economic
groups and how they behave at the ballot box. I also caution
about the past dependency of public opinion polls. Even “exit”
polls need often to be taken skeptically.

When “disruption” takes place in the political arena, the old
models break down. Old models and traditional polling make
political conversation simple and predictable.

But there is very little so far in 2016 that is simple or predictable.

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Some Little-Noticed Foreign Developments

While most Americans are understandably pre-occupied
with the U.S. presidential election, there are some
interesting international developments worth noting at
least, and perhaps keeping an eye on, including:



    IN AREA.









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

Monday, May 9, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2016: A Political Odyssey?

The most influential movie of modern times was probably
2001:A Space Odyssey. This is not meant as aesthetic film
criticism, There have been no doubt films of “greater” artistic
merit, acting ability, text, music, sets and direction.

2001: A Space Odyssey goes beyond these and other categories.
It first appeared in 1968. It was a science fiction film about
traveling to outer space and what we might encounter there.
Science fiction films are almost as old as the cinema; they
have been made for more than  hundred years, beginning with
Georges Melies famed but crude silent classic A Trip To The
(1902) and continuing to the spectacular high-tech
futuristic films of today such as Star Wars and Close
Encounters of the Third Kind.

2001: A Space Odyssey was not just a sci-fi movie, however. It
was something much more complicated. It might be described
as a kind of poem, or a philosophical vision, or an epiphany
about human history. It was also a prophecy in film form, and
it appeared at a time of great national political turmoil and

Now almost fifty years later, it amazingly holds up in its visual
credibility. Although we landed men on the moon only one
year after the film was released, and although we have since
sent unmanned vehicles further into space, and although we
have miniaturized computers through chips, and expanded
their capacities greatly, much of what the film portrays and
presents has not yet happened. And no one has solved its
celebrated enigmatic (if melodramatic) ending.

Some of the film remains controversial. For example, it posits
that there are other, more advanced, life forms living
elsewhere. Further, it suggests that a computer could develop
an identity of its own that would not be subservient to its
human masters. We still do not have any evidence of
extraterrestrial life, and although we are on the brink of
creating artificial intelligence, we have no cases yet of
computers taking over.

What this film did do was change our consciousness. And how
it did it is the real purpose of my writing this article.

There was much advance publicity for this movie that was the
creation of one of Hollywood’s greatest directors, Stanley
Kubrick, and one of the world’s greatest science fiction
authors, Arthur C. Clark. Months of promotion, preceded the
premiere of the film. Yet when it opened, it immediately began
to appear as a box office flop. Audiences were small, many film
critics and in the cinema establishment did not like it. Its studio,
MGM, made preparations to pull the film and accept failure.

Then something unexpected happened. As word spread in the
industry that the film was failing, movie theater owners around
the country began to contact MGM with reports of an unusual
phenomenon. Audiences had been disappointing, but some time
after the premiere, theaters noticed that some young filmgoers
had begun to show up. First just a few came to see the film at a
theater, and the next day, a few more came, and in the next several
days, the crowds of young audiences grew exponentially. Soon, it
was an enormous hit, with these young film audiences not only
packing the theaters, but some individuals coming back again and
again. It became the highest grossing film of the year, and now
years later, it is almost always listed among the top ten films of
all time.

I first saw the film not long after it had opened. I was then a
young poet studying at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in Iowa City.
At that time, I was seeing a lot of experimental films then being
made, and rarely saw a “commercial” or “Hollywood” film. But
word was out that 2001: A Space Odyssey was something special.
So I went to see it, with another poet in the Workshop program, at
the local movie house, sat down, and the lights went dark.

The film opened with some gorilla-like pre-humans on the screen
subtitled as “the dawn of man.” After depicting a day of these
primitive humans, a mysterious dark monolith appears in their
midst. Soon, one of them is playing with an animal bone, and
he suddenly turns it into a weapon against others in a hostile
confrontation.  After killing one, he tosses the bone in the air.
Before it lands lands, it segues suddenly (by film technique) into
a futuristic space craft traveling in space, with the Blue Danube
playing in the background. Earlier, at the film's beginning,
the now iconic music of Richard Strauss’ tone poem Also Sprach 
Zarathustra was played acting as a fanfare trumpet taking us
into this tale of evolution and a 2001 expedition to the moon to
investigate a mysterious monolith that was millions of years old,
transmitting an unexplained signal. The film was subtitled an
“odyssey.” Like ancient Homer’s legendary quest on land, so was
this a quest in space.

What followed was a revelation about the future that took my 1960s
breath away, juxtaposing with visions of space travel, computers
and curious philosophical mysteries that were so dazzling that
when the film ended, I and my friend remained in our seats, and
we saw it over again.

That’s how change happens. It usually begins unexpectedly, but
dramatically, and only a few notice it. Then they tell others, and
soon there is a crowd. It often begins with young persons or
frustrated persons who, without realizing it, were ready for the


A room is dark, The TV is turned on. It’s 2016 and a presidential
debate is on. One of the candidates attacks another. Harsh words
fly back and forth. Suddenly, Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare For the
Common Man
is played. 

What occurs next is astonishing. But will it be just another typical
occurrence, or is it momentous change?

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

Friday, May 6, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Period of Adjustment

Establishment and mainstream voters in both major political
parties are now going to through “periods of adjustment” as
the realities of the 2016 presidential campaign so far sinks in.

A number of prominent Democrats and Republicans, and not
a few not-so-prominent party activists are blowing off
considerable steam by proclaiming they will, under no
circumstances, vote for their party nominees (assuming. of
course, the near certainty now that they will be Hillary
Clinton and Donald Trump).

This is early May. I suggest that many, if not most, of these
“alienated” party members might have something different
to say next autumn and on election day, 2016.

Some, to be sure, will sit home and a few might even vote for
the other party’s nominee, but not only history instructs us
to voter behavior after such a period of adjustment. Common
sense and laws of political gravity also weigh in heavily, and
these are informed by practical matters, such as control of the
two houses of Congress, appointments to the Supreme Court,
the future of Obamacare, and foreign policy in a world becoming
more perilous each new day. Democrats and Republicans see
these matters in VERY different ways in 2016.

One of the many consequences of the primary/caucus season
these past few months is the realization that the “populist”
mutinies in both parties were not superficial, and that the real
ideological and generational components of both parties are
probably irreversibly changed. Bernie Sanders has apparently
not won the Democratic Party nomination, but the liberal party
now has another and new base. Donald Trump might not win in
November, but the Republican Party will now have a new
establishment in any event.

Mr. Trump is now showing off another side to his political
personality, including a generous and reassuring tone he has
not displayed hitherto. Will this continue? Now faced with the
possibility that he could become president of the United States,
it will be quite insructive to see how much self-discipline and
political intelligence he can demonstrate in attempting to build
his coalition in the general election.

On the Democratic side, the next few months could become
more complicated. Mr. Sanders refuses to concede, and in fact,
is being encouraged recently in primaries and by donors.
He contends he will compete actively up to, and including in,
the national Philadelphia convention. He seems to be in a
position to extract concessions from Mrs. Clinton and her
establishment wing of the liberal party, and that could become
problematic in the Democratic appeal to voters in November
when a large number of non-affiliated, more centrist and
moderate voters must make their choice for president.

I contend that the outcome of the election next November is
not credibly predictable in May. A “disruption” of the traditional
political process has occurred, and one surprise still follows

A smart political figure in both parties probably keeps his or her
own counsel, and thinks long and hard before making any rash
pronouncements they might later have to take back or regret.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


The nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential
nominee in Cleveland in July, and his possible election in
November, will change American politics indelibly.

First of all, it will change the demographics of the Republican
Party, lately a party divided between a mainstream
conservative establishment and a growing populist conservative
grass roots base.

The beginning of this divide took place in 1964 when an
“outsider” (Senator Barry Goldwater) won the GOP nomination
asserting values and beliefs that were not only jarring to
Democrats, but to establishment moderate Republicans who
would have preferred New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to
be their standard bearer. Mr. Goldwater then lost badly in
November, but his flag was picked up after a politically
unfortunate interregnum with Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew
(both of whom finally resigned in disgrace) by Ronald Reagan, a
fading movie star who had been elected governor of California.

In 1980, much to the surprise of most observers, Mr. Reagan
won the presidency from a hapless one-term incumbent (Jimmy
Carter) with the key help of some blue collar Democrats, and he
followed that victory with a huge landslide in 1984 against Mr.
Carter’s vice president, Walter Mondale. He accomplished this
with even more blue collar and middle class voters who had
previously been electing Democrats.

Much as the Democrats and their media allies like to portray
Republicans as plutocrats, exploiters of the poor, and religious
fanatics, that image is now more than a half century or more out
of date. (In fact, most of the new super-rich are liberal voters
and donors, and many liberals are for anti-free speech political
correctness, and are feverishly anti-religious). Corporate
America has been tilting to the Democrats for years, and the
party that championed the founding of the state of Israel has
now become predominately (and shamefully) anti-Israel.

Most Republicans today are struggling entrepreneurs, blue
collar and lower-income white collar workers who often hold
traditional social values and religious beliefs. The old
upper-income, Ivy League-educated GOP establishment has
dwindled, although it has maintained a hold on conservative
institutions. There are divisions within these ranks. Social
conservatives often resist social changes in American society,
while “libertarian” conservatives embrace them. Some
conservatives are pro-free trade internationalists; others
have U.S. self-interests as a priority. There are differences
about the use of the military. The conservative grass roots
are not a monolith.

One casualty of this evolution of the Republican Party has been
the turning away from a former center right base that included
pro-choice and “moderate” Republicans. Sometimes call “Rinos”
(“Republicans in name only”), this cleavage paralleled an
equivalent cleavage on the Democratic side in which “pro-life”
and traditionally-religious centrist liberals were systematically
drummed out of the party.

Donald Trump’s emergence turns this upside down. A former
liberal Democrat (as was Ronald Reagan), super-rich, educated at
a top Ivy League university, Trump nonetheless speaks the
language of the new class of Republican conservative grass roots
voters. He annoys, with that same language, the old establishment
political class of the GOP who have for years now enjoyed the
votes of the new class, but ignored their concerns, anxieties and

Although I did not at all see the Trump phenomenon coming, and
he was not my preferred candidate for president in 2016, I now
see what I have described in recent months as a “mutiny” of
voters to be exactly that. The working crews of the Republican
and Democratic parties have risen up against the captains and
officers of the two major parties. In the case of the Democrats,
the mutiny has apparently been partly put down for the time
being, but in the case of the Republicans, the mutiny is apparently
succeeding with a “stowaway” named Donald Trump as the new

It is a self-delusion for the old GOP mainstream to believe that
Mr. Trump is destined to lose the 2016 election, and that all will
revert back to normal in the Republican Party after that election.
The columnist George Will personifies this kind of thinking. He
calls any conservative who supports Mr. Trump a “quisling” --- a
term derived from the name of a Norwegian fascist politician who
became the puppet leader of that nation under Hitlerian control
during World War II. Mr. Will, who for years has picked losers to
be nominees of the Republican Party, typifies the snobbery which
has alienated so many grass roots conservatives. Mr. Will is a
bright, articulate and often thoughtful essayist on public policy
issues, and I often agree with his views, but not his elitist disdain
for anyone who disagrees with him.

There has been a mean side to Donald Trump’s discourse in the
2016 campaign, including three among many instances, his
put-down of Marco Rubio as “little Marco,” his denigration of
John McCain’s distinguished war service, and his completely
wrong and mean-spirited description of Tom Ridge as a “failed
Pennsylvania governor.” (Mr. Ridge was probably the most
accomplished chief executive of the Keystone State in the
post-war period.) Some of Trump’s language about women was
not merely politically-incorrect, it was just plain crude and sexist.
Most observers, myself included, put a focus on this, and not on
the larger strategy Donald Trump was pursuing this campaign
year, and we missed the connection the New York businessman
was making with the Republican grass roots on other issues.

If Donald Trump, the GOP nominee, is merely a duplicate of
Donald Trump, the nomination aspirant, he will likely fail in
November. Knowing his experience and his ego, I think that is
unlikely, but should he fail to be elected president, the republic
will survive.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, will not be the same
whether Mr. Trump wins or loses. A new generation and a new
class of conservatives have taken over the ship (as has also
happened in the Democratic Party), and from now on (as far as
we can see on the political horizon), it will not ever again be
politics-as-has-been-usual in the U.S.A.

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

Monday, May 2, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Reinventing The Political Wheel

Say what you will, Donald Trump has done what few persons
in U.S. history have done --- he has upended a long-standing,
but slowly evolving, political process, and created, at least for
the time being, a new presidential nominating campaign

It appears he was done it more or less improvisationally,
combined with years of experience in show business, public
relations and self-promotion, and has done it primarily by
himself with only limited counsel from others.

This, in itself, is no small achievement, and if, as now looms
as fairly certain, Mr. Trump is nominated for president by the
Republican Party at its national convention in Cleveland in
July, he will have made major if improbable history as few
others have ever done.

In 2007-08, we witnessed an inexperienced, amateur politician
with almost no public record wrest the Democratic Party
nomination from one of the savviest political couples of all
time by persistence and innovative calculation, so perhaps we
were preconsciously prepared for a second non-professional
political figure to overcome so many odds and so many
expectations --- and succeed him. 

“Image” has long been considered a vital factor in creating
political success. Donald Trump has added “language” to the
formula, albeit not the elegant and eloquent kind of language
that Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy
employed, but a blunt, earthy, colloquial and often rude public
language that set him apart quickly from 16 rivals.

His visual image alone, in fact, was almost a cartoon ---
primarily an outrageous hair styling --- that seemed to many
observers alone to be disqualifying. An otherwise tall and
impressive stature seemed undercut by idiosyncratic and
odd hand motions. His language itself was immediately
jarring -- to the ears of the mainstream media and the old
political class.

None of the above, however, seemed inappropriate to so many
grass roots voters on the conservative side. Bullied for years
by “politically-correct” liberal tactics, as well as ridiculed by left
and right activists and their media allies, a significant portion of
grass roots working and middle class voters found a champion
in the fearless tycoon who dared to say what they were thinking,
and refused to back down when challenged by almost the entire
strata of political establishments in both parties.

In spite of his “rich kid” upbringing, private school and Ivy
League education, immense wealth and his presumptive
manner, an ignored and vilified class of voters had found
someone who could deliver “pay-back” for the political slights
suffered for years, as well as articulate their anxious concerns.

Employing the eternal “squeaky wheel” technique in the
televised debates and public appearances, Donald Trump
gained perhaps a billion dollars (or more) of media coverage
and publicity without spend very many of his own cash
(and while his opponents spent hundreds of millions to fail
to obtain what he received mostly for free.)

Expected to be one of the first to fall out of the race, he will
probably be the last person standing. You couldn’t make this
story up --- and no one did in advance.

If the rise and success of Donald Trump to this point was
predicted by no one, and with the incongruous success
(short of the nomination) of Democrat (and socialist) Bernie
Sanders equally unanticipated, what makes anyone think
they can foresee what will happen next, and in November?

In show business,  most novels and soap operas, spectacles
such as this one lead either to a happy or unhappy ending.
This event, however, leads to something else. One of the
nominees is going to be hired in November, and the other is
going to be fired (remind you of something?), and then the
real show will begin with no ending in sight.

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