Sunday, December 30, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2020 Cycle Opens With Democrats Divided

The 2020 election cycle is now beginning in earnest, and there are
serious question marks for the prospects of the two major U.S. political

President Trump’s re-election is in doubt --- if we take the
just-concluded 2018 mid-term elections as predictive. Although Mr.
Trump won a clear electoral college victory in 2016, he not only did
not win the popular vote, but his electoral college margin depended
critically on five battleground states, i.e., Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Michigan and Wisconsin. Most observers thought he would win none
of them, but he did win all of them.

Each of them remains as competitive in 2020, but Florida and Ohio
results in 2018 were encouraging for the GOP. Pennsylvania, Michigan
and Wisconsin, however, were not.Without them, all else being equal,
a Democratic nominee would be elected president in 2020.

Republicans lost control of the U.S. house in 2018, so the new cycle
has quite a different dynamic. The increased GOP margin in the U.S.
senate means that presidential appointments, judicial and executive,
will likely continue to go forward. Much, then, will depend on what
the U.S. house, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi as speaker, does.

There is, before the new Congress is sworn in, a division among
Democrats about how to proceed. The newer, younger and mostly urban
members of Congress seem inclined to proceed not only with public
investigations of Mr. Trump and his government, but also to impeach
the president and to pursue an historically radical agenda.

In recent days, two defeated Democratic incumbent senators in 2018
Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, have
publicly warned their party about lurching to the far left. Other center
left Democrats, especially those from battleground states in the South,
Midwest and Mountain West apparently agree, pointing out that most
of the Democratic U.S. house and gubernatorial 2018 gains were by
small margins, and were enabled by a significant number of GOP
incumbents retiring. In 2020 and 2022, most of the new incumbents
will have to defend their seats in competitive districts and states. Most
of these new incumbents won by campaigning on the center left.

Speaker-elect Pelosi  has won back her post through concessions and
compromise with her caucus, and will be pressured leftward by notable
numbers of her own members, most of whom were elected in 2018 in
overwhelmingly Democratic urban districts. It is not unlike he dilemma
GOP Speaker Paul Ryan faced in 2017 with divisions in his caucus.

Whatever course the new U.S. house takes, its confrontation with a
controversial Republican president and a stronger conservative U.S.
senate will spill over into an accelerating contest for the Democratic
nomination for president throughout 2019 and early 2020.

But the division among Democrats will not be the only major factor
in the 2020 cycle. Republicans, especially those now out of power in
the U.S. house, have their own divisions, and President Trump’s
administration faces numerous challenges, now known and unknown,
in domestic and foreign policies.

Just ahead is the first inning of the 2020 contest. Runs might be scored
by either side early in the game, but there will be many innings ahead ---
and anything can happen.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: These Latest Days Of Uncertainty

We each experience periods of uncertainty in our personal lives,
most of them awaiting the decisions and assessments of others
about our jobs, our own medical conditions and those of family and
friends,, grades at school, political and business outcomes and, of
course, how others feel about us. Uncertainty is a constant in daily life.

There are also episodic times when the uncertainty is more intense
and widespread --- as happens when there is a crisis or emergency faced
by a community or locale --- or the nation as a whole.

It obviously occurs on those rare occasions, when a threat is historic,
such as occurred in Great Britain in 1940, facing defeat and invasion, or
in the U.S. in the days that followed December 7, 1941 --- or November
22, 1963 --- or September 11, 2001.

There are also moments which, while not provoked by events as
dramatic as those just cited, still produce a pervasive anxiety.

I think this is what is happening just now --- precipitated by a
confluence of various events and  circumstances that only appears
infrequently, and which accumulates in varying degrees in our
daily subconscious, as well as our more fully conscious awareness.

Let me list only some of the most unsettling recent events and likely
circumstances that produce perhaps the most uncertainty:

The growing insertion of artificial intelligence and robotics into all
of our lives., and the inevitable massive job displacement that will 


The unconventional and disruptive new president of the United States.

A nearly worldwide populist and nationalist “revolt of the masses”
bringing about sudden political change and upheaval.

The astonishing velocity of the computer/internet/smart phone 

revolution in technology that now affects virtually everyone.

The emergence of China as a world economic and military power.
The chronic implosion of the solidarity and cohesion of the “old
world” of Europe. The reemergence of an imperial Russia.

The decline and demoralizaton of public education in the U.S. into 

many issues of political correctness and ideology.

An ongoing and unresolved public debate about the validity of
prognoses  for current climate change and environmental conditions.

The recurrence of serious epidemics and pandemics of new and
contagious diseases for which treatments are unknown or limited,
and for which global containment is problematic.

The growing assault on representative democracy, free enterprise
and free speech.

There are also numerous short-term events which contribute to
public anxiety, including “shutting down” the government, a declining
stock market, bad weather conditions, natural disasters, etc.

There is, however, a ”glass is half full” way to look at our present

First, in response to sudden change, disruption and transformation,
we can remember that life on earth, at the local and global levels, is
always changing. Many think they live as if the world were a
photograph, a fixed moment in time and not moving. Instead, it is a
four-dimensional film. Adaptation is vital in the world we live in.

Second, technology can be unsettling and disruptive, but it also
expands our human capabilities, cures hitherto incurable conditions,
extends life spans. enlarges our consciousnesses --- and its challenges
lead us to create, adapt and innovate.

Third, nations and regions historically take turns in rising and falling.
Old Greece, Rome, Persia, China, India, Turkey, Spain, France and
Russia have had their turns and their empires. A small island nation,
Great Britain, created a global 19th century worldwide empire.
Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union briefly tried to dominate their
regions in the 20th century. China and India today dwarf all other
nations in population size, but their roles in the world will also
depend on innovation and non-industrial production --- activities
which smaller and creative nations can and do also successfully

Fourth, the recent weakness and failures in U.S. public education,
combined with their high and rising costs has provoked new
approaches and countermeasures. An education system is only as
good as the results it produces. Teaching and learning in the U.S.
are undergoing a transformation.

Fifth delays and unfairness that result from bureaucracies, public
and private corruption, and the endemic lack of public scrutiny are
now being increasingly contested by demands for new public
transparency in government and the private sector.

Sixth, many frequent emotional claims of inequalities ignore the f
act that the fundamental economic and social levels of the world
have risen dramatically in only a few generations. Deprivation,
starvation, violence, unemployment, lack of freedom, famines
and natural disasters still plague humanity, but the extreme
inequalities of the past are no longer viable, and are diminishing
globally (if unevenly).

In short, life in our time, as in all previous times, is a work in progress.
As always, it is hard work, no matter how many devices we create to
make it easier.  Young generations, accustomed and conditioned to
current circumstances, generally don’t truly understand what previous
generations went through or struggled against. There are, of course,
no guarantees that some of what we worry about won’t occur., but if
we treat each day, good or bad, as a way forward, it is inevitably
better than only looking backward into what we think we fear.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Some Who Lose Are Winners

In politics, as in other endeavors, a loss often leads to later victory,
and two examples, one in each party, from the recently concluded
2018 mid-term elections could demonstrate this timeless phenomenon.

Democratic Congressman Robert (“Beto”) O’Rourke of Texas lost to
incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz this year, but he came
relatively close, became a favorite of the local and national liberal
media, and was able to raise a stunning amount of campaign funds.
Although his loss have led some to dismiss him as a flash in the
political pan, he is already being prominently as a potential
Democratic presidential nominee for 2020 or beyond.

Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally of Arizona lost her
2018 senate race, but was caught in the middle of an intraparty
political feud, and still came close. With her political future in doubt, 
the Arizona GOP governor has just appointed her to succeed retiring
(and appointed) Senator John Kyl to the other Arizona senate seat to
finish out the term of the late John McCain.

Both these impressive young political figures still have to demonstrate
their “staying power, and each faces hurdles ahead. They were among a
small group of young politicians who lost in 2018, but who made a very
serious impression in their campaigns --- including GOP senate nominee
John James in Michigan and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew
Gillum in Florida.

Beginning perhaps with Abraham Lincoln, who lost his early elections,
U.S. political history has many instances of losers who became ultimate
winners by persevering. There is also a list of those who kept at it, but
did not finally succeed, including William Jennings Bryan, Thomas
Dewey and Adlai Stevenson.

Which will O’Rourke and McSally be?

That is yet to be determined, but I suggest an eye be kept on them.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 14, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Do The Young Want?

There is a timeless tension between the young and the old. It is
biological, cultural and eventually, political as well.

In the Old Testament Book of Joel there is a famous passage which
reads “The old will dream dreams, and the young shall see visions.”
This circumstance is played out generation after generation, again and
again, endlessly.

(When we have advanced artificial intelligence sufficiently, I suppose
it will also occur between generations of robots!)

The tensions become most evident in that period of transition when the
young are taking over from the old, and is usually most immediately
visible in a society’s politics. Less clear by then, cultural change has
already taken place --- although the old are slow to perceive it, and
when they do, they invariably complain about it.

I bring this up because we are now in a period of significant
generational change in the U.S., and it is making itself known in U.S.
politics more and more in each recent election cycle. Certain
commonplaces about the young are being upended, including their
frequent past habit of not participating in voting in elections.

The question that inevitably arises, especially for the old, in such a
period is “What do the young want?”

As an older person, I doubt that I can fully answer that question, but I
think I have a few clues.

I said that the old usually complain about what they perceive the young
doing, but the real complaint is almost always the other way --- they
young usually find the behavior and actual values of the old to be
unsatisfactory. The classic irony, of course, is that the old --- as parents,
teachers and role models --- created the very expectations for the young
that they themselves do not practice or fulfill. The old, in fact, sow the
inevitable disappointment in, and rejection of, their time of ascendancy.

But my assertion is not an exact or always predictable phenomenon.
A generation of Americans endured the economic depression of the
1930s, and its global precariousness of totalitarian violence. They and
their young then made a remarkable response (which then was labelled
“the greatest generation”) that saved democratic capitalism initially
from fascism, and subsequently from communism. This generation,
when W.W. II was over, then inspired in its young their own idealism
while (understandably) indulging in a national wave of materialism as
a response to the economic deprivations of their own youth.

The result was a generation bound to reject the previous generation’s
acceptance of military duty, its later materialism, and its legacy of
emotional and sexual repression. But when the new generation took
over, in a much more complicated technological and demographic
world, these predispositions failed to provide solutions that met
expectations. The younger U.S. generations now have little but mixed
messages and stalemate as a cultural and political inheritance.

On the other hand, an enduring part of that inheritance is a rich
tradition of freedom, representative democracy, entrepreneurship,
technological innovation and global compassion --- not any of which
should be sneezed at nor apologized for. If the response of the young
is to throw out the senior generation with its bath water, we have a
very serious problem, Houston --- and Topeka, Atlanta, Denver, Duluth,
Cleveland, Salt Lake City, Brooklyn and elsewhere.

There is a difference between what we want and what we get. A nation
starved and numbed by economic depression had little desire to fight
in foreign wars in 1941. A nation recovering from war in 1968 had
little desire to get into another. Circumstances, if the truth be told, are

The question then becomes “What are our circumstances?” We must
first answer that before we dream any more dreams or wonder what
visions our young think they see or want.

We are surrounded on all sides, I think, by those who tell us what
they want (and demand), but who is telling us where we truly now are?

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Disrupting Global Politics

The U.S. is experiencing some disruption of its political establishment,
especially since 2016, but now we are seeing a global pattern of
upended political traditions and leadership, and it appears to be

Donald Trump, it seems, was only among the first and perhaps most
notable of this phenomena, but the growing pattern suggests a more
significant circumstance than just a single national political figure.

Nothing seemed to represent post-war conventional politics more than
Europe and its economic association of member states, the European
Union (EU) dominated by Germany, France, United Kingdom and, to
lesser extents, Italy and Spain. In only a short span, the established
political environments of each of these nations has changed drastically,
including most recently and importantly, the announced retirement of
the most powerful EU figure, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Prior
to that, French politics was transformed by the election of Emmanuel
Macron with his new political party that now dominates the French
parliament. Equivalent political change has happened in Italy and
Spain. The opening salvo seems to have been the British election to
leave the EU (Brexit). All of these EU member nations are now
undergoing periods of instability and challenge from various populist
sources --- the whole of it complicated by the leadership of smaller and
newer EU member states which are opposed to many current EU

The political turbulence is not limited to the U.S. and Europe. Mexico
has just moved to the populist left with a new president, and Brazil
has gone to the populist right with its newly elected leader. Other
major Latin American nations, including Argentina, Colombia and
Venezuela are in various political turmoil.

Russia is reasserting its imperialism in Eastern Europe and Asia,
the  two continents it spans, and an aggressive China is asserting itself
not only close to home in Asia, but also in Africa and South America.

Small in population, but a whole continent in size (and so strategically
located) Australia has just seen new instability in its government, and
elsewhere in the Pacific Ocean region, transformational forces are at
play in the Korean peninsula, the Philippines and Japan.

New and controversial leadership in pivotal Saudi Arabia has appeared,
and the long-time leadership of Israel is under attack now not only
from outside, but also politically from within. Turkey and Iran continue
to try to destabilize their region.

In short, change, provocation  and grassroots turmoil are rather
suddenly almost everywhere.

Lamenting all of this with aspirations for a return to the old order of
the world is likely the least effective response. History does not often,
if ever, yield examples of the world going back to paradigms just
abandoned. Human societies and their governments are in constant
transformation, and if indeed there is peril in what is now changing,
there is also a profound need for some new thinking by those who lead
and administer what has been often called the”free world.”

I suggest that, beneath all the rhetoric now to come in the U.S. political
campaigns just ahead, in 2020 and 2024, it is some critical new thinking
that we need most of all.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Why 2020 Will Be Different

The 2020 U.S. presidential election will be significantly different from
not only 2016, but also it is likely not to be comparable to any other
modern political campaign.

Of course, every presidential election has its own characteristics ---
with its own usage of new technology, sometimes new electoral rules,
and almost always, different personalities. (The latter had only one
20th century exception --- Eisenhower vs. Stevenson in both 1952 and

But these elections are not always so significantly different, especially
in all three areas just mentioned.

For example, in terms of technology, presidential elections did not
change much between 1900 and 1932 (when radio appeared), and then
it was not until 1960 that television made a difference. It was not until
2004 (with new techniques of voter I.D.) and 2008 (with major use of
social media) that the computer had real impact. In 2016, it was Twitter.
In 2020, it will likely include the internet grass roots fundraising so
successfully used by the Democrats in the 2018 midterms (ActBlue),
but will then be employed by both parties.

In terms of electoral rules, the first 20th century change came in 1920
with the constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote.
In 1965, the Voters Rights Act removed barriers to minority voters
nationwide. The first presidential primary was created in 1901, but it
wasn’t until 1972 that the primary system effectively replaced the
importance of the national party conventions. In 2016, the Democrats
used the concept of convention superdelegates to modify the results
of the primaries and caucuses. In 2020, the impact of superdelegates
will be drastically reduced, and by moving up the California, Texas
and several other state primaries to only a month after Iowa and New
Hampshire, the Democrats have probably significantly altered most
presidential nomination strategies.

President Trump has indicated he will run for re-election. There is
some talk of an intraparty challenge from an anti-Trump figure such
as former Ohio Governor John Kasich. Given the president’s
popularity now in the GOP base, this does not seem likely to be
meaningful in the party nomination contest. Kasich or some other
well-known figure could also run as independents as did former
Democrats Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace (only three years
before Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president) who ran as independents
to the right and left of Democratic nominee President Harry Truman
in 1948. (The controversial but feisty Truman still defeated GOP
nominee Thomas Dewey in the November election.)

On the Democratic side in 2020, however, there are more than two
dozen high profile aspirants, including two former nominees, a
former vice president, several current and former governors, senators,
members of Congress, mayors and celebrities. Given Democratic
successes in 2018, and liberal antipathy to Mr. Trump, it has become
the largest serious early presidential field in U.S. history. The contest
has already begun, and after January, 2019 it will accelerate. Some
will quickly drop out or fail to enter, but new entrants can’t be ruled
out. The Democratic nomination contest is almost certain to be unlike
any other since 1900 or before.

Circumstances could prompt President Trump to change his mind,
and like President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, choose not to run in
2020, but this now seems fanciful. In such a case, Vice President
Mike Pence would be the favorite, but a number of GOP figures
would also probably run, and the subsequent contest could become
a reprise of what happened after Johnson’s 1968 withdrawal.

As I have previously written, President Trump’s re-election is, at this
point, far from certain. He will need to win most of the states and their
electoral college votes that he did in 2016. In 2020, the Democrats and
their sympathetic media friends will have presumably learned from
their miscalculations in 2016.

In addition to the changes, listed above, that we already know about,
there is always so much we don’t yet know --- including the
all-important state of the 2020 economy, the outcomes of President
Trump’s domestic and foreign policy programs, the actions and
performance of the new Democratic majority in the U.S house of
representatives, and events in the world.

Whatever it will turn out to be, the elements of an unprecedented
political spectacle not seen before are already in place.

Lights. Microphones. Press conferences. Grandstands. Drama,


Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Getting Our Attention

With so many presumably credible, but no frontrunning, candidates
for president in 2020, the Democratic Party has a lot of sorting out to
do in the next 18 months as it prepares to challenge and attempt to
defeat a sitting president. It can be done, and was done as recently as
1980 and 1992 --- when Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, and George H.W.
Bush, a Republican, learned that incumbency does not automatically
bring re-election.  

Presidential elections and their nominating environments have
changed significantly in recent decades, but one basic factor has not
altered in that time --- the critical need for non-incumbent presidential
aspirants to draw attention to themselves. This attention-getting takes
many forms, old and new, and almost always involves the media.

Perhaps the origin of this goes back to the Republican nomination
campaign in 1860 when the least likely candidate among a dozen in the
field gave a provocative speech at a New York City auditorium after
inviting reporters from every major eastern city in the north (who he
knew would record it in shorthand --- a skill every reporter had to have
in that era before recording devices). He also knew those reporters
would then transmit his speech via telegraph, and that it would appear
in print the next day all over the North. He not only guessed correctly,
but the reaction to his speech thus circulated was a sensation, and he
went literally overnight from being the least likely nominee to being
the frontrunner.

His name? Abraham Lincoln.

There are many other examples. In 1896, William Jennings Bryan
won the Democratic presidential nomination with his famous ”Cross
of Gold” speech while William McKinley won the Republican
nomination by speaking from his porch to crowds who came to his
home in Ohio. Calvin Coolidge stood down a public strike when he
was governor of Massachusetts, and its news eventually made him
president. By 1928, Herbert Hoover’s management of the Great Flood
of 1927  made him the nominee to succeed Coolidge. Wendell Willkie,
then a virtual political unknown, stampeded the 1940 GOP convention.
Harry Truman’s leadership of a wartime U.S. senate committee lead
to his being chosen President Roosevelt’s vice president in 1944. On
FDR’s death a few months later, Truman was president. Richard
Nixon led an anti-communist investigative committee in the senate in
the 1950’s, leading to his being chosen vice president by President
Eisenhower. Barack Obama made a notable keynote speech to a
Democratic convention, and became a media favorite. And then, of
course, there was Donald Trump.....

Using the new technology of the telegraph, Lincoln had catapulted
himself into public attention. Today, there are cable television, talk
radio and social media using the internet. When there are large
numbers of candidates, one or two usually emerge --- and most of
the time the few successful presidential nominees find a special
issue or an innovative way to get the vital public attention they need
to win.

The Democratic nominee in 2020 will be the one who most effectively
does this. Watch the twenty-plus liberal party aspirants as they make
their moves in the next several months.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Caselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The World Is Still Turning (Developing.....)

While the U.S. was preoccupied with its domestic national mid-term
elections, it should come as no surprise that the rest of the world
continued its own affairs with some notable unsettling alacrity. Here is
a summary of a few highlights:

British Prime Minister Theresa May has reached a tentative agreement
with the European Union for terms of the United Kingdom’s departure
(Brexit) from the group. But major figures (euroskeptics) within her own
Conservative (Tory) Party have denounced the agreement and say they
will vote against it. The opposition Labour Party has also declared it will
vote “no” on the agreement. A defeat would almost certainly force
Mrs. May to resign, and a new Tory prime minister named. Developing.


Long-time legislator Jair Bolsonaro,a conservative populist who models
himself after U.S. President Donald Trump, was elected president of
Brazil, the largest nation in South America, in a run-off on October 28.
He ran against, and succeeds, a left-of-center government that had been
mired in corruption. He will take office in January, but already he has
upended Brazilian politics. Developing.


The newly-elected Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leftist
populist, will be inaugurated on December 1. Sr. Lopez Obrador has
said he wants to work cooperatively with U.S. President Donald Trump.
A first test of this will be the new Mexican government’s handling of
the thousands of Honduran asylum seekers now massed at the
U.S.-Mexican border at Tijuana. Developing.


Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyauu survived an attempt by his
chief coalition partner to bring about early elections  It was precipitated
by the government’s seemingly mild response to the latest Hamas attacks
on the Jewish state originating in Gaza. Asserting that there were good,
but unannnounceable, reasons for the response, Mr. Netanyahu stared
down his opposition one more time. Developing.


Thousands of French consumers are leading mass protests against new
President Emmanuel Macron and his government in response to a rise
in gasoline taxes. M. Macron’s party has a clear majority in the French
parliament, but the upset winner of the last national election has seen
his popularity plummet in the polls. Developing.

In a very provocative action, the Russian navy seized three Ukarinian
navy vessels in the international waters of the Black Sea --- although
this is clearly illegal under the Convention of the Law of the Sea which
specifies that navy vessels of one nation have immunity from attack by
navy vessels of another nation. Developing.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Post-Election Mop-Up

There are always unresolved election results the day after election day,
and this cycle was no different.

These occur because an election is too close to call until all votes are
counted, or because local election rules delay counting absentee
ballots for one day or more, or because local rules require a run-off if
no candidate receives 50% of the vote, or of a mandatory recount is
required, or if an election is being challenged in court.

Most notable of these were three U.S. senate races, two governorships
and several U.S. house races.

On election night, it first appeared that it  might be a very decent night
for Republicans, with GOP senate challengers leading not only in three
they clearly won (North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri), but also briefly
in Arizona, Montana and Nevada --- which they eventually lost when
all the votes were counted. The GOP also won two states, Tennessee
and Texas, considered vulnerable, and critical Florida, a pick-up which
took a recount to confirm. Mississippi will require a run-off, and
remains undecided. [UPDATE: The Republican appointed incumbent
has won the run-off. The final tally in the 2018 U.S senate races is that
the GOP picked up a net of two seats, and their margin after January
will be 53-47.}

The dimension of the Democratic gains in the U.S. house was not clear
until Wednesday, and a few are still undecided --- although Democrats
now are clearly in control. A number of GOP incumbent were defeated
in purple, blue and redrawn districts. Although a few conservatives won
previously liberal seats, overall it was a very good day for U.S. house

Two key, and hotly contested, governorships remained in Republican
hands, Georgia and Florida, and the GOP gained one in Alaska, but
the liberals picked up a net of seven --- and also made gains in control
of state legislatures.

The day after the election it then appeared to have been a very good
election for the Democrats, especially with Florida in some doubt.

Now, with the dust at last settling, the 2018 mid-terms seem to be a
mixed result, with plenty of good news for Democrats who made
notable gains among suburban women. But Republicans did make just
enough gain in their control of the U.S. senate to make confirmations
of federal judges and presidential appointees much easier --- and
President Trump’s base held in states he carried strongly in 2016.
Many elections were very close, and some Democrats who lost made
a lot of noise disputing their races. Republicans now are on notice for
2020 that they need to be prepared, as they were this year in Florida,
for bitter post-election battles in recounts. The closeness of so many
congressional races also puts Democrats on notice that they cannot
take for granted the successful re-election of many of these seats in     
the next cycle.

Attention now turns to 2020. Again, any initial speculation based on
2018 is likely premature.  Unlike 2004, 2008, and 2016, the
Democrats don’t even have true frontrunners for their presidential
nomination, although they do have a very large early field (now more
than 25) of credible hopefuls. Incumbents are hard to beat, but the
all-important economy seems, at least through the stock markets, to
be hesitating.

Like riding in a canoe going through a stretch of river rapids, U.S.
national political prospects are very bumpy and uncertain as they
enter the next cycle.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Don't Jump To Conclusions About 2020

As we head into the 2020 presidential election cycle (with several
under-the-radar Democratic campaigns already underway), it might
be useful to discard some early now-proclaimed conventional wisdom
about how that voting might turn out.

Two major and contrary commonplaces, I think, are woefully premature
--- if not off the mark. Curiously  each of these presumptions have both
some Democrats and some Republicans holding them --- and each come
from reactions o the 2018  mid-term elections just concluded.

The first, held by overly optimistic Democrats and overly pessimistic
Republicans, is that Donald Trump will now finally be replaced in 2020
by the Democratic standard bearer because they think mid-term results
were a clear repudiation of the president. The second, held by overly
optimistic Republicans and overly pessimistic Democrats, is that now
President Trump will be re-elected because they think the new liberal
U.S. house majority will cave into the temptation to overplay its hand
against the president, and make him (as happened in 1998 when
Republicans impeached President Bill Clinton) more popular than
ever in a backlash.

I think a look at the all-important electoral college map demonstrates
why any early conclusions are premature.

One lesson from 2016 that I think many political strategists have had to
re-learn is that a presidential election is an electoral college election,
and not a popular vote election. Looking at that electoral map, each
party is very likely to win states with about 190 electoral votes.
Hillary Clinton won relatively narrowly in states with about 40 electoral
votes; Donald Trump had close wins in states with about 115 electoral
votes. This would seem to give Democrats a paper advantage in 2020.
The mid-terms, while overall good for Democratic candidates, showed
GOP strength in Ohio and Florida (49 electoral votes) so that the most
likely 2020 battlegrounds will be Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin,
Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Minnesota --- with possible additions
of New Mexico,Virginia, Kansas and Iowa. Of course, over the next two
years, the aforesaid list could change.

Democrats now have a problem that Republicans don’t have --- there is
no likely and popular (and younger) liberal presidential hopeful --- at
least not yet. But Democrats were in the same predicament n 2007 after
they did well in he 2006 mid-terms --- but by 2008 Barack Obama had
appeared. With a little help from a mortgage banking disaster, he won
the White House that year.

Republicans, it is now frequently said, did poorly among suburban
women in 2018, but identity group voting patterns can change between
cycles. President Trump, it has also been noted, is doing better than any
of his recent GOP predecessors among usually critically important
Democratic blue collar, black and Hispanic voters ---caused by
historically low unemployment in these groups. Rising anti-Israel
attitudes by some Democratic leaders is also boosting the president
with Jewish voters, most of whom have recently voted for Democratic

President Trump has been routinely underestimated by many of his
opponents and many in the media. He has also provoked strong
antipathy for many for his political style and rhetoric.

The new Democratic majority in the U.S. house faces a very critical
test before 2020. President Harry Truman ran successfully against a
Democratic “do-nothing” Congress in 1948. After 1998, President Bill
Clinton became more popular after Republicans impeached him, and
only when Al Gore abandoned Clintonian centrism by campaigning to
the left did he fall short in 2000, a race that was his to lose.

In short, President Trump and his supporters have few solid reasons
now to presume he will be re-elected --- and Democrats have few
solid reasons to feel secure that they can defeat him.

It is true that first-term presidents are difficult to defeat. Barack
Obama had a disastrous mid-term in 2010, but won in 2012. On the
other hand, Jimmy Carter had a disastrous economy in 1980, and lost
his re-election badly to Ronald Reagan.

Yet precedents must be observed with care. Each presidential election
has a character of its own. Predictions at this point are just talk.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Different View Of World War I

As might be expected, much is being written at the centennial
commemoration of the end of World War I. The moment of the
armistice began with an indelible set of “elevens” (11:11.11 a.m.
on 11/11).

The armistice was agreed to about six hours before, and it was
immediately communicated to all the belligerent parties who then
proceeded to kill thousands of soldiers on both sides needlessly over
the next few hours ---a fact so typical of the useless slaughter of men
in that event we now call “The Great War.”

I have suggested for some years an alternative interpretation to the
duration of World War I. It is my contention that, on that November
day in 1918, the clock mysteriously did not strike “12” --- not at noon
and not at midnight. Hostilities might have seemed to cease, but in
reality they did not. World War I did not end. Instead, it was only the
beginning of a modern “Hundred Years (plus) War” which continues
to this day.

My contention is not just based on just the fact that another world
war followed soon after, then a “cold war” and a Korean war, a Viet
Nam war, a Middle East war --- and now a terrorism war. No, my
contention is based on the facts that each of those subsequent
conflicts arose out of the real and specific consequences and details
of a war that began with an improbable bullet which killed the heir
to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire in a Balkan city street.

The paper treaty and the attitudes of the victors held back the hands
of the clocks from striking “twelve” and a new day. Each of the wars
that followed was in a significant way determined by that war’s
battles, issues, and the treaties and borders which were intended to
settle its conflicts. These insinuated themselves into developments in
colonial Africa, colonial Asia, the Far East, North America, and of
course, Europe itself, including Russia Even the island continent of
Australia came of global age in World War I, joining her British
Empire colleagues in the unspeakable slaughter on distant battlefields.
The future superpower China, no longer an imperial state, drifted into
chaos as the victorious European powers and their then-ally Japan
crowded in for influence and territories. Obscure Bedouin sheiks
were made kings of haphazardly bordered new states in the remnants
of the defeated Central Power Turkish empire. Armies of the victors
remained to try to salvage a tottering czarist empire after the
armistice, but only enabled a new kind totalitarian state that would
play a central role in the century’s continuance of the Great War to
the present day.

My case for the new Hundred Years War is not at all abstract  nor
imaginary. It’s all there in the unnecessarily created ethnic, religious,
language and cultural conflicts begun worldwide in 1914. In fact, this
war, technically begun because a chauffeur made a wrong turn on a
crowded Serbian city street, has cost hundreds of millions of lives;
directly changed the course of a billion persons, and  now involves
indirectly virtually the whole human race numbering almost 8 billion.

A wrong turn indeed.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A First Look At The 2020 U.S. Senate Elections

Electioneering no longer ceases in America. No sooner has one election
concluded, the next election pops into view.

The tumultuous 2018 campaign brought not only mixed results, but also
some road signs for the next big election in 2020 when there will be a
presidential election as well voting the for entire U.S. house, one-third
of the U.S. senate, and several governorships and state legislatures.

Discussion of most of these would obviously be premature, especially
of the U.S. house and state races, because so much about them depends
on local conditions still unknown. The presidential race, of course, will
soon preoccupy pundits and conversations, but lacking any announced
challengers to President Trump, it might be prudent to delay that
discussion, at least for a while.

But there is one part of the 2020 election, with its particular conditions,
that’s worth an early examination.

In the next cycle, the Republican mathematical advantage in the races
for he U.S. senate will be reversed. In 2018, the GOP had only 9
incumbents seats up for election while the Democrats had 26. In 2020,
it will almost be reversed --- 21 Republican seats at stake, and only 12
Democratic seats.

As in 2018, the ages of some incumbents in both parties will be in their
mid-to-late 70s and early 80s, and they could retire.

But quite different from the 2018, only two seats would be contested by
incumbents in states which usually vote for the other party.  And those
two senators, one Democrat and one Republican are the only two of the
33 who would now be rated vulnerable.  The Democrat is Senator Doug
Jones of very conservative Alabama who won a special election in 2017
only because state Republican voters deserted their own very
controversial nominee. He is likely to lose in 2020. The Republican is
Senator Susan Collins of Maine where she has been very popular. She
became the hero of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings when she not
only voted to confirm, but delivered a widely-hailed speech doing so.
Maine is a liberal and independent state, but moderate Collins has fit
it well. Democrats now say they will make her a target, but unlike
Senator Jones in Alabama, she would currently be favored for

There are older incumbents from both parties. In 2020 Senator Lamar
Alexander of Tennessee will be 80, Senator Jim Imhofe of Oklahoma
will be 86, and Senator Paat Roberts of Kansas will be 84. All are
Republicans, as are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who
will be 78 and Senator Jim Risch of Idaho who will be 79. But even if
they do retire, each come from very conservative states, and their
GOP replacements on the ballot would be strongly favored to win.

Similarly, Democratic Senators Dick Durbin (who will be 76) of
Illinois and Edward Markey (who will be 74) of Massachusetts
represent very liberal states, and would likely be replaced by
Democrats should they retire.

Two Democratic incumbents from purple states, Senator Gary Peters
of Michigan and Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota, might face serious
contests if Republicans can recruit first-rate challengers. This would be
more likely in Michigan where charismatic John James made an
impressive but unsuccessful run against Democratic Senator Debbie
Stabenow in 2018, and would be a formidable challenger against Peters.

After the above exceptions, it looks like easy re-election for the
remaining incumbents of both parties, including Democratic Senators
Booker of New Jersey, Coons of Delaware, Reed of Rhode Island,
Schumer of New York, Udall of New Mexico, Warner of Virginia, and
Merkley of Oregon --- and Republican Senators Caputo of WestVirginia,
Cassidy of Louisiana, Cornyn of Texas, Cotton of Arkansas,, Daines of
Montana, Enzi of Wyoming, Gardner of Colorado, Graham of South
Carolina, Perdue of Georgia, Rounds of South Dakota, Sasse of
Nebraska, Sullivan of Alaska, Tillis of North Carolina, and Ernst of
Iowa. If the Republican wins the 2018 run-off in Mississippi, she would
also be favored in 2020.

Races could develop, however, in Delaware, New Hampshire, Colorado,
and Kansas, but only if very strong challengers are recruited.

Circumstances might change, yet as matters stand now, little alteration
in the senate is expected in 2020. Ironically, even though the
mathematics of number of seats contested that cycle favors the
Democrats, they currently face the most competitive races, and might
have to face a larger GOP margin going into 2022, especially if Donald
Trump is then favored for his re-election.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Rorschach Test Election

The 2018 U.S. mid-term elections have taken place, and discussing
what the results mean will be a Rorschach test for most Americans.

In other words, any assessment will likely reflect the political
orientation of any pundit and voter.

With only a few races yet to be finally decided, we know the following:

Democrats had a generally good night, winning back control of the
U.S. house, increasing their numbers of state governors and control of
house of state legislatures. This is likely to  have positive effects for
Democrats in the congressional redistricting that will follow the 2020

Republicans had less to feel good about, but they did increase their
control of the U.S. senate. This is very likely to improve their ability,
under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to confirm federal
judicial appointments, including any possible further U.S. supreme
court nominees --- and should also enable the administration to have
presidential appointments confirmed more easily and faster.

Beyond that, the reasons and consequences of what happened at the
polls depends on your political views.

For example, Democrats will be buoyed, especially in blue and some
purple states by their gains, not only from the enthusiasm of their
voter base, but also gains among independent voters. Many Democrats,
furious with the 2016 presidential election, will interpret 2018 as a
rebuke to President Donald Trump and his policies. Some Democrats
will now favor using their house majority status as a tool to investigate
and harass the president.

Republicans, on the other hand, will be pleased by most returns in
red states where they will infer that Mr. Trump is still very popular,
perhaps even more so than two years ago. They will cite the president’s
success in the mid-terms in helping make critical gains in the GOP
margin in the U.S. senate (so that occasional defections on some issues
will not imperil their majority). They will now feel more secure that any
unwelcome initiatives from he Democratic-controlled U.S. house will
fail in the U.S. senate.

Although most of their high-profile new figures lost their 2018 elections,
including Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Andrew Gullem in Florida and
Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Democrats have welcomed these and many
other new and young faces into their party --- especially considering their
aging and seemingly weak (though numerous) bench for 2020.

Republicans, too, welcomed new and young figures, including Josh
Hawley in Missouri, Martha McSally in Arizona, and John James in
Michigan (who lost).

So how does a centrist and independent (who affiliates with neither
major party) assess the election?

A more non-partisan evaluation, discounting the many emotional
and ideological issues involved, might look at some basic political
mechanics and circumstances. For example, in The Prairie Editor’s
last post before election day, the title question was “Will The
Democrats Keep Their Advantage?” Just as the liberal party had many
more incumbent senate seats to defend, the conservative party had
many more incumbent congressional seats, governorships and state
legislatures to defend. Each party, it turns out, successfully defended
their advantage in 2018.

In 2020, much of this will be reversed, Republicans will have to defend
more senate seats than the Democrats --- and Democrats will have to
defend their new U.S. house majority. This will take place in a
presidential election year, with the incumbent already announced he
is running for a second term.

Defeating an incumbent president is historically rare and difficult.
The burden for doing so is almost always on the challenger. The
state of the economy will be very important. The success or lack
of success in foreign policy will be a factor. The quality
of new ideas and programs contrasted with existing ideas and
programs will be pivotal. And, of course, the appeal of the two
nominees will be vital.

Democrats, after the mid-terms, have reasons to be optimistic about
2020, but now controlling the U.S. house of representatives and more
state governments, they are no longer just on defense. Their conduct
will now profoundly affect public opinion. If, as some loudly proclaimed
during the 2018 campaign, they use their power for incessant
investigations and even impeachments, they could throw away all or
most of what they have gained. In 1998, Republicans used their house
majority to impeach President Clinton --- which not only failed in the
senate, but made Mr. Clinton more popular than ever.

But the Democrats are not alone in determining what lies ahead.
The central figure going forward to 2020 is, as almost always, the
incumbent president. Mr. Trump had some personal successes in the
2018 mid-terms, but his party did take some notable losses. What, if
anything, did he learn from the mid-term campaign experience? What
changes, if any, will he now make?

In answering these questions, we will perhaps learn the most about
the real impact of the campaign just concluded.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved

Saturday, November 3, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Will The Democrats Keep Their Advantage?

I have already written about the one area where Republicans have
the advantage in the 2018 mid-term cycle --- the contests for control
of the U.S. senate. As election day nears, this advantage seems to be
holding, although the dimensions of GOP senate gains won’t be clear
until the votes are counted.

Otherwise, Republicans are on the defensive --- in the contests for
control of the U.S. house, governorships, and control of state

The Democrats’ advantage is considerable, and has led to the
widespread conventional wisdom that the liberal party will regain
control of the U.S. house, perhaps by a clear margin. It is also expected
that Democrats will make big net gains in governorships and state
legislatures. Most of this consensus was built early in the cycle when
it seemed that only the Democratic Party base would have a high
turnout, and when an establishment media campaign promoting an
inevitable “blue wave” was ubiquitous.

Late in the cycle, however, the confirmation hearings for Justice
Brett Kavanaugh took place, and liberal efforts to block him not only
failed, but managed to wake up the conservative electorate. President
Trump then embarked on a relentless series of enthusiastic rallies
in states with competitive races, and a caravan of thousands of
Central American migrants made its way to the southern U.S. border,
vowing to enter the U.S.

These developments have put the Democratic gubernatorial advantage
at some risk.

Republicans (not all of whom are conservatives) are doing unexpectedly
better than expected in both blue and red states. GOP incumbents have
commanding leads in Maryland and Massachusetts, both very blue
states, and GOP challengers are doing well in Oregon, Connecticut and
Minnesota. They are also competitive in Florida, Arizona, and Nevada
where Democrats hope for pick-ups. A Republican pick-up also seems
quite possible in Alaska, which had been expected to re-elect the only
independent governor in the nation.

Nonetheless, Democrats seem also certain to make net gains in
governorships this cycle --- which is important because governors
usually play important roles in new-decade redistricting of the U.S.
house. Among the usually red states, Democrats have strong
candidates in Iowa, Ohio, Kansas. South Dakota, Oklahoma and
Georgia, and also have opportunities for pick-ups in Wisconsin, and

In the critically important contests for control of the U.S. house, only
the size of Democratic net gains seems to be in doubt. The conventional
wisdom of liberal takeover, however, has become muddled as many
close house races have tightened sharply at the end of the campaign.
Many, if not most, of the potential pick-ups are in red or purple
districts, and these are the ones which have become closer. President
Trump’s personal campaign to nationalize the 2018 election is likely
responsible for part of this.  There are also questions about the
accuracy of some polling this cycle.

President Trump has put his political reputation on the line. If the
Democrats win clear control, it could have a negative impact for his
announced 2020 re-election campaign. If somehow, Republicans
keep control, it could be a big boost for him in two years, especially
if GOP control of the U.S. senate is significantly increased by 3-5
seats (or more).

Hours from election day, both sides are holding their political breath
awaiting the voters’ verdict. Talk of waves, blue or red, has receded,
but expectations of a national judgment on President Trump and his
administration have only been increased.

This judgment, however, as it was in 2016, will not be an overall one,
but rather, it is important to note, a judgment state by state.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Late-Breaking Mid-Term Developments

Once GOP State Treasurer Josh Mandel withdrew from the 2018
Ohio U.S.senate race for family reasons, it was generally considered
no serious contest for incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown’s
re-election. Even after Ohio GOP Congressman Jim Renacci won his
party’s nomination, Brown led in the polls by double digits, despite
the fact that Ohio had been trending clearly Republican recently, and
conservatives held virtually all statewide seats, including governor and
both houses of the legislature. Donald Trump had carried Ohio in 2016,
and Senator Brown obviously held views to the left of most Ohioans.
Perhaps, then, it should not be a surprise that at the end of the campaign,
this race has sharply tightened, with Sherrod’s lead narrowed to only a
few points over Renacci. This does not mean that the Republican will
win, but it does provide new suspense for election night.


The Arizona U.S. senate race is one of the most difficult in the nation
to assess and predict. An open seat vacated by retiring GOP Senator
Jeff Flake, the contest is between two women members of Congress,
Martha McSally, a Republican who had been an Air Force fighter pilot,
and Democrat Krysten Sinema, a one-time radical who had created a
new political image as a more moderate liberal. Because center-right
McSally had to endure a contentious primary, she has trailed Sinema
in the polls until recently when she seemed to surge ahead a few
points. Newer polls go back and forth between them, and each has
asserted controversies about the other.The GOP candidate for
governor is leading by double digits in this slightly red state, and
President Trump has held a rally for McSally, but the contest remains
too close to call.

Conventional wisdom throughout this cycle has contended that a
Democratic takeover of the U.S. house was a virtual certainty with
a likely pick-up of as many as 35-55 seats from the GOP majority as
part of a blue wave.When reality set in as the campaign was coming to
a close, it became clear that Republicans were probably going to add to
their current slim U.S. senate majority (51-49), and following the
Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, probable conservative voter turnout
would negate any wave. Nevertheless, the almost certainty of a liberal
U.S. house takeover persists, albeit on a more modest scale. Recent
polls, however, have called conventional thinking into question with
Democratic challengers leading in only 25-30 seats ---and often with
shrinking margins. With GOP challengers now likely to pick-up 2-5
Democratic seats, the magic number for control is even higher, and the
new house majority could be a toss-up

The We’ve-Got-Something-For-Everyone battleground state of
Minnesota continues to defy prognosticators with its panoply of close
races and potential pick-ups on both sides. Governor, a special U.S.
senate election, 4 close U.S. house seats, a contentious attorney general
race and control of the state legislature are all up for grabs ---and late
polls indicate virtually all of them could go either way.

It initially appeared that the nation’s only independent governor was
headed to re-election over his Republican opponent, but then a former
Democratic U.S. senator got into he race, and the GOP nominee was
way out in front in a three-way poll. Then the independent sitting
lt. governor had to resign after a scandal, so the governor called it quits
and endorsed the Democrat who still trails in a two-major party person
poll! There are also third-party candidates on the ballot who could now
affect the outcome. Predictions, anyone?

The two biggest young fresh stars of 2018, one a Democrat and one a
Republican, have got a lot of attention, but both are behind and might
not win. Democratic Texas gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke and
Republican Michigan U.S. senate nominee John James each have
enough charisma to fill a dozen statewide races, but each of them  have
an uphill task against favored incumbents of the other party.
Nonetheless, remember their names --- win or lose, they will likely be
running again.

The biggest technical question of this cycle might be whether or not
the public pollsters and the mainstream pundits who have relied on
them got it right. Most went for the notion of a blue wave, but that
does not seem, at the end, to be happening. Yet it’s possible that the
polls were not so wrong. Either way, there will be some gloating after
November 6, or some troubled attempts at rationalizations --- as we
saw after election night, 2016.      

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Senate Crimson Tide?

The true political hue of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections is not yet
discernible with a week to go, and might not be correctly identified
until after the polls are closed. Governorships, state legislatures, and
U.S. house seats offer the Democratic Party an enviable opportunity
to make important gains, and perhaps even to win back control of one
of the bodies of Congress.

Their mathematical advantage, however, does not exist in the races for
the U.S. senate which the Republicans currently control 51-49. In that
body, approximately three times as many Democratic incumbent seats
are up this cycle, and about a dozen of them are usually describable as
competitive. Four of the GOP-held seats are also considered vulnerable.

A further obstacle for the Democrats is that many of their incumbents
running for re-election are in states that Donald Trump had carried by
big margins in 2016, including Montana, North Dakota, Missouri,
Indiana and West Virginia. Five other incumbents were in states Mr.
Trump had more narrowly won, including Florida, Wisconsin,
Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Only two vulnerable Democrats
were running in states Hillary Clinton had won, Minnesota and New

Going into the final week, the incumbent Democratic senators from
Ohio, Pennsylvania and probably West Virginia now seem likely to
win. The Democratic senate seats in New Jersey, Michigan and
Minnesota --- thought to be “safe” at the beginning of the cycle ---
now are each in play. GOP challengers have pulled ahead of
Democratic incumbents in North Dakota, Missouri and Indiana.
Montana and Florida seem total toss-ups, and Democratic poll leads
in New Jersey, Minnesota and Michigan are narrowing in the closing
days. Only in Wisconsin, does the liberal incumbent maintain a
double digit lead.

Of the four vulnerable GOP senate seats, Republicans in Texas and
Tennessee lead in these clearly red states. Only Nevada Republican
Senator Dean Heller is running in a blue state, but he is narrowly
ahead in the polls there. Mr. Trump carried Arizona by a small margin,
and GOP senate nominee Martha McSally has a small poll lead over
her Democratic opponent.   If present trends continue (and they might
not), the GOP might avoid losing even one seat.

Democratic senate net losses seem likely now, but how many is
anyone’s speculation. One or two pick-ups are probable but it could
be several more.

I will  in a subsequent post examine the circumstances in which
Republican losses seem likely.

As the 2018 cycle comes to a close, there is not only the usual
intensity, but also a surfeit of complication, scattered public violence,
name-calling, excessive finger-pointing and outright deceptive noise.
In spite of this, the voters are going to make some key decisions and
register their opinions at the most appropriate location --- in the
profound and private quiet of the ballot booth.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Implosion In Minnesota?

Several last-minute developments in many of the Minnesota 2018
races, including governor, a U.S.senator special election, four close
U.S. house races, and a controversial contest for state attorney general,
have thrown outcomes here on November 6 into mystery and doubt.

Most notably, the state Democratic Party (here called the Democratic-
Farmer-Labor Party or DFL) has seen a wave of bad news at the
campaign’s end.

This includes the tightening of the races for governor, the U.S. senator
special election, and attorney general --- each of which initially showed
the DFL candidates with substantial leads, at least in public polls. All
three races are now considered competitive, and controversial DFL
nominee for attorney general, Keith Ellison, has fallen behind his GOP
opponent by 7 points. DFL nominees still lead in recent polls by 3-6
points in the other two races, but their advantage is clearly shrinking as
election day approaches.

In a major unforced political error, appointed DFL U.S. Senator Tina
Smith skipped a much-watched TV debate on the leading Minnesota
station (KSTP-TV) in which the candidates of both parties for governor,
both U.S. senate races and attorney general participated. Senator Smith
said she had a scheduling conflict, but so did the other senate race
where, also with a scheduling conflict, incumbent DFL Senator Amy
Klobuchar and her GOP opponent arranged to tape their debate earlier
so that it could be broadcast with the others. By not showing up,
Senator Smith gave her opponent, GOP State Senator Karin Housely
a whole hour interview by herself. It is difficult to understand the DFL
strategy to present an empty chair and an uncontested interview to
their opponent only two weeks before the election when so many
undecided voters are making up their minds in a clearly competitive
race. Her senate colleague Amy Klobuchar’s  arrangement to tape her
own debate undercut Smith’s scheduling conflict alibi.

In the northeastern Eighth congressional district, historically a DFL
stronghold, incumbent DFLer Rick Nolan is retiring, and the GOP
challenger, County Commissioner Pete Stauber has built such a
commanding lead that the DCCC has pulled $1.2 million in ads, and
in effect, conceded the race to he GOP. Not only would this now become
a rare Republican pick-up, but if the final result resembles Stauber’s
latest 15-point lead (Donald Trump carried the district by 16 points in
2016), Eighth District voters are also likely to contribute GOP margins
of tens of thousands of votes to Republican statewide candidates.
(During most of the past half century, this district gave margins of
tens of thousands of votes to the DFL.)

President Trump has recently held huge rallies in Duluth in the north
and Rochester in the south on behalf of his party’s candidates,
reinforcing a post-Kavanugh resurgence of the GOP base which has
occurred across the nation, especially in red and purple states.
With DFL enthusiasm seemingly blunted by the controversial Keith
Ellison candidacy for state attorney general, momentum has apparently
shifted to the conservatives in the closing days of the campaign.

But all is not rosy for the GOP. DFL Senator Kobuchar is sailing to an
easy re-election, and two incumbent Republican congresmen, Jason
Lewis in the Second District and Erik Paulsen in the Third District are
facing very serious DFL challenges, and could lose. A second potential
GOP congressional pick-up in the southern First District is also too
close to call with two weeks to go.

Republicans hold the state house of representatives by a notable
margin, but all of these seats are up for election in 2018. The state
senate is currently tied at 33-33, and control will be determined by a
special election this year, the only state senate seat on the ballot.
This seat is in a usually conservative outstate district.

Unexpected national developments and a possible third Trump visit
to the state could enhance or diminish any political momentum, but
the purple state of Minnesota is now, with only days to go, both
electorally and psychologically a toss-up.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Pre-Election Dizzy

About a month before election day, the actual voting begins to occur
as each state with its own rules allows for applications for absentee
voting, gives them out, receives them, and in many cases, permits
early voting itself.  Many states also allow party registration
switches. Most of this is public information, and analysts from each
political party and some individual campaigns can pour over this
data, compare it with the data from previous elections --- and then
try to glean clues, signals and patterns of what will result when the
votes are actually counted.

We are now in this curious and obviously recently created interval,
and already the number-crunching folks are busy at work, feverishly
going over each day’s data. Secretaries of state are ballyhooing their
statistics, especially if they are improving, as evidence of their work
to “get out the vote.”

At the same time, many volunteers are making campaign contact
with large numbers  of voters by phone, internet and in personal

Many pundits rely on ubiquitous polling of varying reliability and
credibility, while others assess the impact of fundraising and
campaign advertising, lawn signs and the ever-increasing revelations
from opposition research.

Conventional election wisdom usually ranks polls, fundraising and
advertising very high --- primarily because they are in full view and
easily quantified. Voter ID and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts are
mostly under-the-radar, and thus more difficult to assess, as is the
impact of unpaid publicity and deeper voter psychological reactions
to events, personalities, issues and public anxieties.

In 2016, conventional election wisdom crashed because the traditional
models failed to accurately predict the outcome. Hillary Clinton
consistently led in the polls, raised and spent the most money, and had
most of the media on her side. Her opponent was outpolled, outspent
and broke virtually all of the conventional rules of campaigning and
political discourse. Yet Donald Trump won the election by winning
the electoral college votes in the individual states, not the overall
popular vote that was measured by the polls which conventional
wisdom had made a greater priority. His appeal to voters was also
judged by conventional standards which no longer applied.

In 2018, the congressional Democrats have financially far outraised
their Republican opponents, especially in contested races, and are
spending the most money on advertising. Establishment media polling
has favored them throughout the cycle, including in many of the U.S.
senate races where they are vulnerable. The poll numbers in the latter
are now, it is true, changing at the end of the campaign --- and 
conventional wisdom is finally acknowledging the Republicans' clear
mathematical advantage in this cycle.

But in the U.S. house races, conventional wisdom continues to assert
that the Democrats will take back control by winning more than 23
seats net from the current GOP majority. In fact, most establishment
pundits rate 50-65 GOP incumbent seats variably “vulnerable” and
only 1-3 Democratic seats vulnerable to Republican pick-up.

Indeed, the much-touted “blue wave” could happen --- although since
the controversial Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, it would even
appear to conventional thinking that a blue “surge” might be limited
to U.S. house races and governorships.

There will now be an acceleration of speculation in the remaining two
weeks of the campaign. Airwaves, mailboxes, the internet and
billboards will be incredibly crowded with ads, propaganda and
sensational revelations from both sides. Some of it might impact the
now diminishing number of undecided voters. Conventional wisdom
will be tested one more time.

This cycle it might hold. But 2016 unleashed new forces in both
political parties --- and history suggests such forces don’t disappear

Surprises invariably happen in these circumstances. Prepare for them.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All right reerved.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Unusual Movement In New Polls?

There appears to be, over the past few days, some unusual movement in
the major published polls. It is not entirely uniform, and there are still
almost three weeks until election day. This movement is also too new to
be conclusive, and my readers know that I take most polling with some
skepticism. Nonetheless, something appears to be going on with the
electorate in the final days of the 2018 midterm election cycle --- a time
when a large segment of voters who are undecided or uncertain about
their votes actually make up their minds.

This is a very short post, and deliberately non-specific, but if the current
movement continues and grows, I will report it.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. Al rights reserved.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Mid-Term Crunch Time

The 2018 mid-term elections are only three weeks away, and as I have
predicted, the polls are tightening and more “safe” seats have become

The key to this period is that many voters are only now paying attention
to the individual races, Those who are “undecided” or capable of
changing their minds seem to be a larger percentage this cycle, as
indicated by many polls.

What should we now look for?

First, watch for polls further tightening or changing leaders.
Double-digit leads can dive into lower single digits almost
overnight. When this happens, it’s a race worth watching.

Second, polls this cycle (and the last one) have undermeasured certain
kinds of voters. Conservatives and Republicans often distrust polls
and refuse to answer them, thus distorting the results.  But it is also
true that some polls have undermeasured the kind of voters who share
 Bernie Sanders’ political views. Some recent primary upsets attest to
that. Watch for pollsters to try harder to obtain polls results that will
reflect the final results credibly.

Third, it’s difficult to measure, but the so-called “Kavanaugh effect”
appears to be a late-breaking factor in 2018 --- with Republicans being
roused to vote, especially in red states, but Democrats in blue states
also being motivated more to vote. Conventional media assumptions
have been that women, in particular, were upset by the Kavanaugh
confirmation,and will vote  Democratic as a result. There is evidence,
however, that many women found the Democrats’ tactics objectionable.
Only the final results will tells us which is true.

Fourth, President Trump has appeared to “nationalize” much of the
election --- with his opponents and critics determined to give him a
defeat, but also his supporters roused to turn out to give him a victory.
His rallies on behalf of GOP gubernatorial, U.S. senate and house
candidates have drawn enormous and enthusiastic crowds, and the
candidates whom he supports have generally seen their poll numbers
rise after a rally. Democrats have some political celebrities on their side,
including former President Obama, and they clearly help their
candidates, especially in heavily blue state races, but most of the
competitive races this cycle are in red states.

Fifth, President Trump has the “bully pulpit” and particularly is
skillful in commanding media attention. Does he have an October
“surprise” or two ahead?

Sixth, opposition research is now a common factor in U.S. politics,
and late-breaking revelations can change a race quickly if credible.
This strategy was taken to the extreme by the opponents of Justice
Kavanaugh --- and they failed --- but some revelations can be
devastating  to a campaign. Opposition research strategies often
appear near the end of the contest.

Seventh, a great deal of money has been raised this cycle by candidates
and PACs in both parties. Campaign radio, TV, billboard, mail and
social media ads are already flooding everywhere. They will peak in the
next three weeks. How effective they will be is unclear, as many voters
are turned off by their sheer noise and clutter.

Eighth, and most important in my view, the key figure in any election,
and no less so this year, is the individual voter. Candidates, campaign
operatives and advisors, pundits and the media in general, like to
second-guess them. That’s what happened most notoriously in 1948
and 2016, but it seems to be true that only the voting results on election
day will tell us what really happened.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: International News Clips

The largest nation in South America, long known for its rich culture,
also has a history of political and economic instability. The latter trait
recurs with some regularity in Brazil, the Portuguese-speaking nation
with a population of 210 million, 3.2 million square miles of territory,
and so many natural resources. Settled in 1500 by the Portuguese,
Brazil separated from Portugal in 1822, and began a long history of its
own emperors, corrupt republics, military and civilian dictatorships.
Recent governments held out hope for economic stability and more
democracy, but after a series of scandals, the impeachment and
imprisonment of the president, crime waves, and widespread citizen
protests, a charismatic figure from the right, Jair Bolsonaro has
emerged as the likely new president. A Brazilian legislator for 28
years, Bolsonaro promises Brazilians a stable economy and a
crackdown on crime and corruption. In the first round of the
national elections, he received 46% of the vote, and will now face off
against the leading leftist candidate on October 29. A former army
captain, Bolsonaro has expressed praise for earlier military rule of
the country, which has been criticized by his opponents, but Brazilian
voters seem responding more to his calls to end corruption.

President Emmanuel Macron won as upset victory in 2017, routing all
the established political parties on the right and the left. Not only was
it a personal victory, the new centrist party he created won a majority
of seats in the French parliament. But his efforts to reform French
policies have run into snags as the nation’s economic growth lags
behind the rest of Europe, and chronic unemployment remains in
spite of his programs to create more jobs. This year so far, M. Macron’s
popularity has fallen from 50% to 29%. Asserting that his “cultural
revolution” will take time, his opposition has only stepped up their
attacks on his administration --- although with parliamentary control,
he remains in charge for now.

The long-festering separatist movement  in the northeastern Spanish
region of Catalunya, previously suppressed by the Spanish government
in Madrid, has re-emerged as a divisive force in the modern democratic
Spanish nation. Torn by a civil war in 1936-39 that turned out to be a
rehearsal for World War II, Spain was ruled by a dictator, Francisco
Franco, until 1975. Spain then reverted to a constitutional monarchy
under King Juan Carlos, although political power was in the hands of
a prime minister and his government --- and the parliament (Cortes)
which was democratically elected. Just prior to the civil war, in 1930,
the royal government under Juan Carlos’ grandfather and his powerful
dictatorial prime minister General Primo de Rivera was overthrown by
a coup which soon led to the creation of a brief and weakly constructed
republic. Although Spain had been a European power in its “Golden
Age” and for centuries, and had numerous colonies in North and
South America, Africa and Asia, the country itself was divided into
very distinct regions, including Galicia in the northwest, the Basque
Country in the north central, Andalusia in the southwest, and
Catalunya. Each of these regions has a distinct history and their own
language, but had been united by the Castilian kings in Toledo and
later in Madrid. Regional independence movements were
suppressed under Franco, but reappeared, especially in the Basque
Country. A much more civil movement  existed in Catalunya
and its capital Barcelona ---where much of the nation’s industry was
located. Catalan separatists argued that Madrid took much more
taxes from the region that it returned, and that they wanted to restore
an independent Catalan nation  When the conservative government
was replaced by a socialist government earlier this year, separatist
leaders renewed their call for a Catalan plebiscite on independence
--- which has been ruled illegal by the Spanish courts.


Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has submitted
her resignation to President Trump. Ambassador Haley has been an
outspoken and eloquent spokesman for the Trump administration,
and enjoyed notable popularity among many Republicans. A former
governor of South Carolina, she gained national prominence as a
leading woman conservative before being named to the cabinet
(and high profile) position by the president. At  the U.N., she was a
powerful and unflinching voice for U.S. foreign policy

Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suffered significant
losses in recent Canadian provincial elections, including Ontario,
New Brunswick, and most surprising of all, Quebec. This shift to the
right and the Progressive Conservative Party marks the first time in
many years that voters have rejected so many candidates of Trudeau’s
Liberal Party in these provinces.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 7, 2018


The political trauma of the confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh’s
elevation to the U.S. supreme court tested not only the nominee, but
some very basic American principles as well as the character of several
men and women who now hold high office.

Some commentators are now discussing the winners and losers
resulting from this battleground, and there are no doubt some
political winners and losers in this matter.

I suggest, however, the greatest good to come from this event was a
reaffirmation of an essential American value --- the rule of  law that
asserts a person is innocent until proven guilty.

The senate confirmation process was not designed to be a legal  trial,
but in recent years, this constitutional function of “advice and consent”
has often been cast as a judicial proceeding --- and increasingly with
fewer and fewer of the rules and protections that our system
provides to every citizen. This is part of a general phenomenon that
in some quarters has arisen to question the very assumptions of our
representative democracy itself. Such self-questioning is cited in
our Declaration of Independence as a healthy process, but only when
it represents the considerations of all citizens --- especially in the task
that sometimes occurs in many nations, namely the overthrow of

After separating us from a despotic English king, the founders of the
new republic established an evolutionary and correctable written
constitution grounded with basic unalterable principles. Perhaps
paradoxically, many of our rules of law were inherited from English
law. Over time and through a tragic civil war the U.S. has repaired
many of its initial flaws that reflected not only public opinion in the
18th century, but also certain compromises our founders made to unite
thirteen disparate North American colonies into a functioning nation.

The constitutional creation of a supreme court did not enumerate
fully its powers, especially to overrule acts of the executive and
legislative branches. As the nation matured, the supreme court did
become the ultimate arbiter of constitutional government while
usually restraining itself from intervening on clearly expressed
powers granted to the other branches.

Over time, many circumstances and conditions change, and even
an institution such as the supreme court evolves in its public role.
In recent years, there arose a national controversy over the “activist”
supreme court (and lower courts) which has assumed its right to
“revise” certain founding  ideas. This latest debate was
begun in the 1930s and has continued to the present day.

The current supreme court reflects a narrow majority of justices
who hold more “originalist” views than do the previous and
long-standing majority of activist justices. With the retirement of
Justice Anthony Kennedy,  a conservative who on some social issues
sided with liberal colleagues, the stage was set for a full new

This was the context of the confirmation hearings  of President
Donald Trump’s second nominee for the supreme court. That most
liberals and Democrats strongly oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s
legal philosophy, however, was not the question before the senate.
The decision about the ideological orientation of the judiciary is
decided in the presidential election. Only the president can nominate
a federal judge. The function of the senate “consent” to a nomination
is as a safeguard against a president failing to choose a judge of high

Lacking any credible grounds to oppose  Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s     
standing and ability in the law, his opponents decided to attack him
on his character and personal life. In order to pursue this strategy,
his opponents needed to promote a public relations atmosphere in
which Judge Kavanaugh would appear to be on  trial in the senate
with allegations that presumed he was guilty --- a complete reversal
of a fundamental American principle.

The leaders of the senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley rose to the occasion.
They began their confirmation work as partisans, but  because of
their opponents’ strategy, they ended the confirmation process as
constitutional champions as well. There were a number of high and
low moments as the process went on, but it was a speech by Maine
Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, which best expressed
the  largest and most critical issues. In fact, it was such a tour de force
that it is likely to be the one utterance in this matter which will be
read and quoted long after the present controversies are forgotten. It
was a moment of rare true political eloquence that ensures her place
in the history of the notable members of the U.S. senate.

In the wake of the confirmation vote, some commentators are arguing
the U.S. supreme court is now “politicized.”  One wonders where
these commentators have lived for the past 40 years! The supreme
court has already been a political issue for most of that time. The
Kavanaugh confirmation was only latest chapter in this saga. Both
parties have responsible for "politicizing" the federal courts.

Beyond the political, however, this confirmation was the test of a key
threshold American principles --- the principles of the rule of law and

Considering the techniques now employed to bypass that threshold,
however, all of us --- liberals and conservative --- will need to
perform “sleepless vigilance” (Lincoln’s timeless phrase) to protect
our most essential principles from wherever threats to them might
yet come.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


Each mid-term election has its own character, its own set of political
demographics and circumstances, its own hot-button issues, and mostly
its own center-stage personalities. At the same time, certain historical
patterns can often be found in the results after the votes are tallied ---
but rarely before election day. Historical similarities do often occur, and
there are characteristic patterns which appear in one mid-term,
disappear in the next, and then reappear in another.

One of the recurring patterns, in addition to the often cited one in which
the party in power loses seats in the U.S. house and senate, is the
circumstance of when the mid-term is a provisional report card on the
current president and his administration’s policies. Recent presidents
of both parties --- Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama ---
each had problematic first two years in their first term, and did not do
well in their first mid-term elections. But each of them recovered, and
won a second term. Only Jimmy Carter failed to recover from his first
two years, and was defeated for re-election.

But not all mid-terms are so nationalized. Both Presidents Bush had
first mid-terms in either economic boom or, in the case of George W.
Bush, the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001..

We also need to remember that second-term mid-term elections are
different from those which occur two years after a new president is
elected. Those mid-terms also often result in the party out of power
making gains, but in 1998 during a booming economy Republicans
(who controlled the house and senate, but not the White House) lost
seats in the house and made no gains in the senate. After the election,
in December, 1998, the house impeached President Bill Clinton, but
failed to convict him in February, 1999. The two issues in 1998 were
the economy and the impending impeachment. Voters approved the
former and opposed the latter.

What about 2018?

The economy is booming. Democrats are so far delaying the
confirmation of President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. supreme
court. Many Democrats are saying that if they recapture control
of the U.S. house, they will attempt to impeach Mr. Trump. The
president’s popularity is under 50%. The Trump administration has
just completed a successful renegotiation of the NAFTA agreement.
Mr. Trump’s promised border wall with Mexico has not been built.
The president has nominated a large number of conservative federal
judges --- most of them replacements for retiring liberal judges. The
Democrats have no central theme to the mid-term elections, running
a variety of establishment liberal and much more radical candidates
across the nation. Donald Trump is the single most significant factor
in both Democratic turnout (against him) and Republican turnout (for

i think we can safely conclude, therefore, that the 2018 mid-term
elections have been nationalized. Of course, these same elections are
state-by-state and district-by-district, and local conditions and
individual candidate personalities are always important, but in the
final weeks of this cycle, the overriding questions appear to be about
President Trump, his nominee for the U.S. supreme court, and the
impact of the economy.

The reader can come to his or her own conclusion about which party
a nationalized mid-term election will most benefit. The national
popular vote remains divided, as it was in 2016, with Democrats
having an edge. But 2018 is not a national popular vote election --- it is
a state-by-state and district-by-district election. National polls thus
mean relatively little, even if they are accurate --- something very much
in doubt so far.

Nevertheless, 2018 is an either/or election --- a voter statement about
whether they are overall pleased or displeased with their national and
state governments.

There are still apparently a lot of undecided or wavering voters in key
competitive races, but election day is now approaching rapidly.

Place your bets.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.