Thursday, May 31, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political News Catch-Up

After months of controversy, sensational headlines and a
criminal investigation, Missouri Republican Governor Eric
Greitens has announced his resignation. Although a court
case was dismissed by the trial judge, and the governor
claimed vindication, he still faced possible impeachment in
the state legislature. Major GOP leaders had called for him
to resign. His political problems were considered a serious
handicap to Republican chances to unseat a vulnerable
incumbent Democratic senator in 2018.

The victory of anti-establishment and anti-European Union
(EU) parties in Italy has created a major crisis in this major
EU partner nation. The Italian president, a member of his
country’s political establishment, is refusing to name
someone from one of the winning parties as the new
prime minster in spite of the fact that they now control
a majority of seats in the new Italian parliament. This has
set off a new crisis in the EU currency, the euro, as well as an
obvious constitutional crisis in a country already beset with
economic and banking woes. A coalition between the two
largest parties has been suspended, but new efforts to
revive it are underway.
[UPDATE: The Italian president has invited  a university
professor, Giuseppe Conte, the choice of the coalition parties, 
to be the new prime minister. He was sworn in on Friday, but 
faces a confidence vote in the parliament next week.]

Another major EU partner, Spain, is facing a new crisis as a
hardline Catalan separatist has been elected the new
president of the autonomous state in Barcelona while a vote
of confidence has been called for Spanish prime minister
Mariano Rajoy’s center-right government, now under fire in
Madrid. If he loses this vote, socialist leader Pedro Sanchez
would likely replace Rajoy, and call for new elections in
[UPDATE: Mr. Rajoy lost his confidence vote in parliament,
and has been ousted after 7 years in office. Socialist Party
leader Pedro Sanchez automatically became the new prime
minister, but his party holds only about 25% of the seats in 
the Cortes (parliament), and he almost certainly will have t
o call new elections soon.]

A nationwide truckers strike has virtually paralyzed Brazil.
President Michel Terner is attempting to halt this threat to
South America’s biggest economy, but so far faces an impasse.
Protesters seek to oust Terner in this latest Brazilian crisis.

Recently, the number of U.S. house seats considered competitive
in 2018 has been expanded on several political obsrverss by
about 15-20 district races. All of the new vulnerable seats are
now held by Republicans. In previous lists, the overwhelming
majority of incumbent seats considered vulnerable were also
Republican. The Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to regain
control. The reclassification of the additional Republican
incumbents in danger of losing presumably is based on recent
polling.  At the same time, these same observers, and virtually
all others, are reporting that the generic U.S. house poll has
fallen in less than two months from 13 points favoring the
Democrats to 1-4 points. Historically, a party had to have a lead
of 5 points or more to make even significant gains in a mid-term
election. How such a dramatic increase in GOP vulnerabilty can
occur while the generic Democratic advantage has fallen
dramatically at the same time is a curious contradiction in
political analysis.

New Jersey is  one of the most Democratic (blue) states in the
country, and normally the re-election of its Democratic incumbent
senator is no contest. Senator Bob Menendez faced a criminal
trial, but when the jury could not make a verdict, prosecutors
decided not to retry the case. His 2018 re-election was initially
considered a safe Democratic seat, but a respected state poll
shows his lead against a mostly unknown GOP opponent has
dropped from double digits to only 4 points. Menendez’s’
favorable numbers are also very low. His Republican
opponent, a former U.S. marine, and currently a CEO of a
major international company, can presumable partly self-fund.
This race now has to be added to 2018 senate seats in play.

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

Monday, May 28, 2018


One of the key military figures in the American revolution and
later in the struggles in the early years of the constitutional
republic was a dandy, a womanizer, and a bankrupt. He is still
remembered where he lived, places named after him, and
where he died. He once was elected to Congress, but was
turned out of it by a unanimous vote. He was one of George
Washington’s favorite generals, invented U.S. army basic
training, but he was hated and reviled by many of his military

Yet in 1794, he won such an important battle that he probably
saved the young, struggling nation from ruin and destruction.

He is in the history books, but if it weren’t for the colorful epithet
usually attached to his name, he might be almost forgotten.

Let’s start at the end.

A year following his greatest and most important victory, the
Battle of Fallen Timbers in Indiana in 1794, Major General
Anthony Wayne was on his way home to eastern Pennsylvania.
He had just averted a disastrous defeat of the American army by
a combine of the British army (which was illegally keeping forts
on U.S. territory in Ohio and Indiana), and their American Indian
allies fighting to preserve their tribal lands from the
encroachment of frontier settlers.

Sailing along the south shore of Lake Erie, an old war wound (a
bullet lodged in his thigh) became infected, and he suffered a
chronic case of gout. It was December, 1795, so the relatively
young general sailed into a small northwestern Pennsylvania port
(now Erie, PA) guarded by the formerly French Fort Presque Isle
now manned by the U.S Army. The fort’s commandant had served
under General Wayne, and immediately put him to bed in the fort
blockhouse where he seemed at first to improve, but after two
weeks, he died from his illness.

Thus ended the colorful, sometimes glorious, often controversial,
life and military career of one of he nation’s early soldier heroes.

Anthony Wayne grew up in a rural area near Philadelphia. He had
not intended to have a military career, but when the Revolutionary
War broke out in 1776, he organized a local militia. He was soon in
the thick of the action, fighting at Commander-in-Chief George
Washington’s side as one of his most trusted officers.

Along his way in this period, he acquired the nickname “Mad
Anthony” primarily for his often strange behavior and because he
was so fastidious and elaborate in his attire.

(His attire included hats with feathered cockades that were given
to him by admirers, and became his trademark. Growing up in
Erie where he died and was buried, I was familiar with the lore
of the legendary general. After graduate school and before moving
to Minneapolis, I taught high school during the day, and operated
a book store and gallery after school hours and on the weekends,
The name of my bookstore/gallery? Mad Anthony’s Hat!)

He was a figure at many important occasions, including Valley
Forge and Yorktown. He suffered a terrible defeat commanding at
the 1777 Battle of Paoli, but recovered his reputation at the 1779
Battle of Stony Point. Washington often turned to Wayne in
difficult situations, including sending Wayne to Georgia just after
the British surrender  where he distinguished himself in
negotiating with the local India tribes and ending hostilities. The
grateful new state of Georgia awarded him a plantation.

After the war, Wayne had an up-an-down career and family life.
But in 1794, President Washington reactivated Wayne and sent
him to resolve one of two crises that threatened the very
existence of the new constitutional government.

One was an actual insurrection in western Pennsylvania where
farmers, angry at a new tax on whiskey, had begun an armed
Whiskey Rebellion. The tax, conceived by Secretary of the
Treasury Alexander Hamilton, was designed to help pay for the
U.S. revolutionary war debt. But many of the farmers were
veterans of that war --- a war provoked by unpopular British
taxation. Washington’s dilemma was that he had to assert the
power of the new federal government, or it would collapse. He
sent part of his army to suppress the rebellion, finally donning
his old uniform, and leading the army himself (the only example
in U.S history of a sitting president leading his troops into battle).

The second crisis was equally threatening. Although the British
had surrendered at Yorktown, they continued to occupy, in
violation of the subsequent Treaty of Paris, forts on the Ohio 
frontier. They also conspired with their Native American
tribe allies to prevent any settlement of Americans in the
territory that the Treaty had surrendered. Tribal chiefs had
not surrendered at Yorktown and had not signed the peace
treaty at Paris, and were determined to stop encroachment on
their lands.

Washington decided to both send an army to Ohio Territory
to assert U.S. rights, and to negotiate with the Indians. When
those negotiations failed, it was necessary for the new U.S.
army (called then the American Legion), led by Major General
Anthony Wayne to defeat both the British and the tribes in

The campaign did not at first go well, but in a climactic
confrontation at Fallen Timbers in what is now Indiana,
Wayne’s forces triumphed. The British then withdrew, and the
tribal chiefs negotiated a settlement.

Had Wayne and his troops failed, public support for President
Washington and his government might well have collapsed,
and the British might have reclaimed its lost colony.
Western settlement would have stopped.

Most Americans today believe the surrender at Yorktown in
1781 and the enactment of the U.S. constitution in 1788,
firmly established the new republic. In fact, the security and
strong footing of the new nation was provisional for many

“Mad” Anthony Wayne played a major role, especially at the
end of his military career, in securing the republic. But worn
out from war battles, business mistakes, family problems and
personal attacks by rivals and colleagues, he was denied a
homecoming and an old age of acclaim and honor in that bitter
winter of 1796 at that remote outpost in Erie.. He was only
51 years old.

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

[NOTE: Readers wishing to learn more about this extraordinary
figure, might obtain the excellent new book, Unlikely General:
"Mad"Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America by Mary

Friday, May 25, 2018


The novelist Philip Roth has died at 85.

He was a major figure in his generation of Jewish-American
writers that included Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, J.D.
Salinger, Norman Mailer, Cynthia Ozick, Edward Wallant,
E.L. Doctorow, and many others. Only Bellow (born in
Canada) in this group received the Nobel Prize for literature,
but Roth did win many other prizes and awards.

I first read his short stories in the 1960s when I attended the
University of Pennsylvania. I liked his stories very much, but
I had a hard time with his novels, especially his later ones.
They seemed to me too overladen with a certain prolonged
angst that was not my own.

Midway in my time at Penn, I decided to make creative
writing my major. There were no big-name writers on the
Penn English department faculty in those days, but
better-known authors were brought in as short-term guest
instructors, including Archibald MacLeish, May Sarton and
others, For my final semester at Penn, I learned the guest
instructor would be Philip Roth. (Years later, Roth joined
the regular Penn faculty,)

His appearance in class was not at all the image that came
from his earthy and emotional stories. He was impeccably
dressed, thin, scholarly, reserved and preoccupied. There is
a certain tension that often exists when writers of an older
generation speak to writers of a younger generation. When
Roth gave each of us a mimeographed copy (which I still
have) of his recently published story The Psychoanalytic 
Special to read and discuss at our next class, this tension
erupted. Many of us were critical of the story. I remember
how surprised and defensive he was when the discussion
did take place. Roth was 31 at the time, and was going
through a painful separation from his first wife. None of us,
of course, had been divorced.

At the end of the term, Roth invited each of his students to
meet with him privately to discuss their work and their future
plans. When I came to his office, he was polite and serious. He
made some nice comments about the writing samples of mine
he had read, and then he asked me about my plans after

I told him that I had taken the law boards, received a high
score, and planned to go to law school. He responded by
suggesting that I instead attend the University of Iowa’s
Writers Workshop, then, as now, a leading graduate writing
program in the country. He said he would call Paul Engle,
the founder and director of the Workshop, to recommend
me. I was very flattered, thought about it for a few days, and
told him at our next and last class that I would apply. He did
make the call, and soon afterward I was accepted.

At the Writers Workshop there were many well-known
authors on the faculty, In addition, nearly every major
American writer, as well as some from other countries,
made their way to Iowa City in those days (and, I believe,
still do) to give a reading or lecture and spend some informal
time with the students, Roth himself had taught at the
Workshop a few years before.

One teacher at Iowa was the Chilean novelist Jose Donoso
who introduced me and my classmates to the then-newest
generation of European and South American writers. Another
was the American author Kurt Vonnegut who, unlike Roth,
was disarmingly casual and unfocused in the classroom. But
we found his storytelling and informality irresistible when we
went barhopping with him after class. We also were charmed
by the style of his off-the-wall novels. He wasn’t then as
well-known then as he became later, but it wasn’t long before
 his little cult of devotees grew into a national readership.                               

After that last class at Penn I did not see Philip Roth again.
In recent years, I thought I would have some occasion to
see him and thank him for what he did, but it did not happen.

Several books of poetry and fiction --- as well as a few about
history and politics --- later, my work has few if any influences
from Philip Roth. Considering, however, the limits of style
and theme from others on a writer’s work, and the greater
importance of the paths we take in our lives, I think that
Philip Roth gave me the larger gift.

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: France's Secret Asset

The nation of France is not the largest sovereign country in
the world in population or size. In fact, it ranks relatively low
in these key categories.

But it is the second largest nation in an important, yet often
neglected, category.

France controls vast areas of the world’s international waters
in virtually all parts of the globe. In fact, it legally controls
millions of square nautical miles in the Atlantic, Pacific Indian
and Antarctic Oceans, as well as in the Caribbean and
Mediterranean Seas. This means that it owns the resources,
including undersea oil, gas and mineral reserves

Until recently, this did not seem that valuable. But new
technologies now enable drilling and mining in deep waters ---
and such nations as the U.S. in the Gulf of Mexico, Great
Britain in the North Sea, and Israel in the western
Mediterranean have reaped the bonanza of billions of dollars
from their offshore operations. Newer technologies for even
deeper and more complicated undersea mining are now
presumably being developed.

Like virtually all the great colonial powers in the 16th, 17th,
18th and 19th centuries, France had to give up its many land
colonies in North and South America, Africa and Asia in the
20th century. But while Great Britain, Portugal, Germany,
Italy, Belgium and the Dutch surrendered virtually all of their
"confiscated" territories, and gave them independence, the
French transformed some of its larger island colonies into
full-fledged departments (equivalent of U.S states) with full
French citizenship and voting representation in the French

Its shrewdest diplomatic gambit, however, was to hold on to
and claim several tiny (and sometimes uninhabited) islands
scattered in remote areas of the world’s oceans. With the
global agreement (not yet signed by all nations) known as the
Law Of The Sea, nations which owned small islands could
claim an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for 200 nautical
miles offshore in all directions. 

One colorful example, Clipperton Island (actually an atoll)
located about 700 miles west of Acapulco, Mexico in the
Pacific Ocean, demonstrates what a secret asset it might be
to France.

Clipperton Island (also known as Island of Desire) has only
about two square miles of land ringing a lagoon, is
uninhabited with almost no vegetation and little animal life
other than crabs and birds. It has a dark history --- it is
named after an 18th century English pirate who landed
there; was discovered by the French in 1711; and in 1906 was
occupied by Mexican settlers who, after being abandoned
during the Mexican civil war suffered one of the more
gruesome and depraved experiences of that era before its
few survivors were rescued.

It has no known resources, no tourist facilities, and is located
in the middle of nowhere, far from any shipping or air routes.

But Clipperton Island has one very big asset.

It entitles France to control the economic resources for
approximately 185,000 square miles around the atoll.
Until now, that did not mean very much. But it could mean a
great deal in the future when undersea resources can be
easily exploited.

By the way, I said that  France was the second largest nation
in area of international waters sovereignty. The largest?

Surprise! The United States of America.

For more than a century, the U.S. received trusteeship or
ownership of numerous islands in the Pacific Ocean, as well
as in the Caribbean and Bering Sea, not to mention Hawaii and
the rights off its three coasts and Alaska --- and in the
Arctic and Antarctic.

Apparently, its small islands are mostly a secret, too.

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

THE PRAiRIE EDITOR: What If There Is No Wave --- Blue or Red?

The presumption has been --- in the lead-up to date to the 2018
mid-term election cycle --- that voters would turn out so heavily
for one side or the other that it would be a so-called “wave”
election with many U.S. house and senate seats being taken from
incumbents. Pundits and other political observers have mostly
forecast a “blue” wave for the Democrats who, inspired by their
anger about the Trump administration, would take back control
of the U.S. house and lose almost no net seats in the U.S. senate,
as well as make significant gains in races for state governors and

Fewer commentators have argued, to the contrary, that 2018 will
produce a surprise “red” wave for the Republicans, led by a
booming economy, continued lower unemployment, and a series
of President Trump foreign policy and trade successes over the
summer. Such a wave would keep U.S. house losses to less than
10, pick up 6-10 U.S. senate seats, and maintain the huge GOP
dominance in the states.

The optimism of these opposing forecasts might be assumed by
their partisans and their sympathetic media, but so far these
outcomes are not supported by much hard evidence.

Of course, 2018 might yet produce a wave election, blue or red,
as has happened with some frequency in recent cycles, but it
might be politically prudent to consider what would happen if
there was no wave this year, but a mixed result.

What would that look like?

I suggest it would result in continuing Republican control of
the U.S. house, but by a reduced margin. Democrats
would win close races where anti-Trump sentiment is strong,
but lose those where the president still has support. The GOP
would pick up a few U.S. senate seats, but far fewer than they
might have, considering the mathematical advantage they have
this cycle. Close races for state governors and legislatures
would be determined almost everywhere by local conditions
and the relative quality of the candidates in each contest.
Waking up the day after such an election cycle, it would be
difficult to assert credibly a clear pattern of the national voter

It is true that huge sums of money are going to be spent by
the candidates, their parties, and the proliferating PACS on
both sides. It is also inevitable that media coverage of the
election will be as bitter and biased as it has been for some
time. Everyone’s mailbox, TV screen, internet inbox and car
radio will be overloaded with voluminous political advertising.

These efforts could induce a wave, or they could provoke a
voter backlash.

If the quality of polling in recent cycles is repeated, it could be
quite difficult to discern a voter trend in close races until just
before election day. Even exit polls are now suspect.

Each party goes into the election with some serious problems.
Democrats are divided between mainstream liberals and those
who want to take the party to the left. Republicans are divided
in Washington, DC where they control the Congress by 
mainstream conservatives and those further to the right who
are preventing key legislation.

Behind it all is the extraordinary and disruptive personality of
President Trump who invokes passionate antipathy among
most Democrats and passionate support among most

It is likely, considering the powerful emotions felt by loyalists
on both sides, they will  predictably be voting for their own
party’s candidates in November --- all the coming political
gimmickry notwithstanding. It is also likely their turnout will
be strong.

But those voters who belong to no party, or have only weak
ties to one party or the other --- what will they do next

Are they 5% or 10% or 20% of the electorate --- or less or
more? How many are they and what they will do --- those
are the key questions of this political year --- and their
answers will tell us whether or not there will be any kind
of wave.

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Any pundit is eager to be able  to alert his or her readers to news
of an emerging political trend, especially if the trend is credibly
to a big electoral wave, red or blue, The temptation is considerable
to be the first to herald a sensational outcome at the polls .

Most cycles the signs come relatively early. This was true in he
mid-term elections of 2010 and 2014 when voter dissatisfaction
with Obama administration policies (but not with Mr. Obama
personally) foreshadowed Republican gains. Of course, many in
the media turned their eyes from the voter signals --- and saw
only that the president was still relatively popular. In 2016, with
no incumbent in the presidential contest, the mis-reading by many
observers was epic and historic.

Now we are less than six months from the 2018 mid-terms, the
primary season is underway, and the irresistible search for
political omens is on.

So far, however, the omens appear to be mixed and contradictory.
Democrats have done well in most special elections, but have
actually won few of them, Their general opposition to the
Trump presidency does give them energy and motivation to go
to the polls. But Republicans seem to be sticking with their
support of the president, and the early primaries can be seen
to foretell strong conservative turnout in November as well.

The Democrats have a clear advantage to make big gains in the
U.S. house --- as the Republicans have a big advantage in expand
their now slim control of the U.S. senate. These advantages have
not so far been diminished by the early primary voting.

In  California, liberal prospects are complicated by state law
which requires the two top votegetters in a primary, regardless
of party, to be on the November ballot. This has put at risk
several likely Democratic pick-ups in Congress there because so
many Democrats are running in some primaries that it is quite
possible that only Republicans will be on the ballot in those
races on election day. The reverse is true in the race for
California governor in which there might only be two Democrats
on the ballot --- thus denying conservatives top-of-the-ticket
motivation for their voters. This would also likely dampen GOP
turnout overall --- a serious handicap to winning down-ballot

Primaries in Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia heartened
Republicans generally as voters nominated strong U.S. senate
challengers, but the Democrats still have the advantage of
incumbency in those states.

Minnesota’s primary is not until August, but the state has
non-binding endorsing conventions before that, and this
process has muddied several races. The state has the unique
distinction nationally of having two U.S. senate seats on the
ballot in 2018 (one of which is competitive), four very close
U.S. house races (half the state’s entire delegation), and an
open contest for governor that could resound nationally.

Important state primaries are ahead. Montana, Wisconsin
and Michigan have key GOP senate primaries. A gubernatorial
controversy in Missouri still affects that potential GOP senate
pick-up opportunity.

President Trump looms over the 2018 election in spite of not
being on the ballot The North Korean crisis in on-again then
off-again, the Middle East is in perpetual motion and new
global trade agreements are yet unfinished.

The Democrats continue to be pulled to the left by grass
roots forces. Four members of the socialist party in
Pennsylvania, running as Democrats, just won state house
primaries --- and are likely to win in November. That has
excited the more radical wing of the party, but has not
likely helped more moderate Democrats running in other
Pennsylvania races.

Far right Republican candidates in Arizona, Wisconsin
and other states present their party with a similar

The vital difference, bottom line, can be put to the relative
quality of the candidates in competitive races this year.
The hype so far predicting a political wave, either blue or
red, may turn out to be just political smoke in the end.
The political party which does best might be the party
which recruited and nominated the better candidates.

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018


In only a matter of a few days, what was heralded as a coming
Republican electoral nightmare (a/k/a a 2018 blue tide) has
been awakened into another and contrary reality, a dramatic
political reversal on the horizon in the form of an incoming
Trump tide.

With unemployment falling to recent historic lows (especially
among hardest hit communities of blacks and Hispanics), a
rising stock market, early positive effects from the 2017 tax
reform legislation, and a remarkable series of potential
triumphs in foreign policy, President Donald Trump is leading
his party back from the edge of mid-term election disaster as
he takes command of the domestic and international stage.

While most of the nation slept on Wednesday night, the
president and first lady, and the vice president, welcomed
home from North Korea Secretary of State Pompeo and three
freed Americans from North Korean imprisonment. Thursday
morning, the world awakened to a remarkable diplomatic U.S.
triumph as the president also announced that he would meet
with the North Korean leader in Singapore in June.

In contrast with the two presidents who preceded him, Mr.
Trump did not declare “Mission Accomplished!” (George W.
Bush), nor did he fail to bring the Korean dictator to the
bargaining table (Barack Obama). Instead, the president
cautioned that the freed U.S. prisoners and the date and place
of the summit were only a beginning.

A day before, in several key primaries, Republican voters
avoided past political mistakes, and nominated their strongest
candidates in three key 2018 U.S. senate races against
vulnerable Democratic incumbents. Conservative turnout was
strong in spite of this cycle not holding a presidential election.
But again, no final result was achieved --- November is five
months away.

Coming up, the president will attend the formal opening of
his historic action of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to
Jerusalem --- something promised by many U.S. presidents,
both Democratic and Republican, but not done.

At the same time, the president ended a unpopular Iran deal
that wasn’t working --- in spite of opposition from many
European allies who who were placing their economic
interests above Middle East security. Once more, the aftermath
of this strategic move has not yet played out, but it is now
clear that U.S. passivity in the world is over.

Finally, in spite of almost universal criticism of threatened
U.S tariffs in readjusting global trade agreements, President
Trump’s initiatives are beginning to obtain concessions
and welcome changes from trading partners. Again,
negotiations are still underway, and it’s too early to declare

For months, I have been cautioning that the optimistic liberal
narratives of a blue wave that would lead to a Democratic
takeover of the U.S. house and widespread other victories for
the liberal party were premature. Not necessarily wrong, but

Now I caution Republicans and conservatives that current
good news for their party and their president does not mean
there will be a certain red wave in November.

Many days and many events are yet to take place before
Americans cast their votes this year. Dreams, media fantasies,
wishful thinking, polls, and nightmares do not make an election.

Voters do.

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

Monday, May 7, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Very High Stakes Governor's Race

The third and final act of the Minnesota 2018 election grand
opera is the race for governor. National party strategists and
pundits will be paying much more attention to Acts I and II,
i.e., the close races for U.S. house and senate that are making
this state so important to whom will control Congress in the
next term, but the contest that will likely have the most
impact will be the one that will choose the next state chief

Both major parties face possible primary contests for their
gubernatorial nomination. Democratic (DFL) frontrunner,
retiring Congressman Tim Walz, faces two major challengers
in retiring State Auditor Rebecca Otto and Erin Murphy, a
state representative. The affable Mr. Walz is hoping for party
endorsement at the June state DFL convention, but might have
to face a competitive August primary. On the GOP side, former
Governor Tim Pawlenty entered the race only a month ago, but
has already raised far more campaign funds than his only
remaining major opponent, 2014 gubernatorial nominee Jeff
Johnson. Johnson has worked to gain support among party
convention delegates for months, and wins straw polls at the
district level, but these activists  represent less than 1% of the
state Republican electorate. Johnson failed to win this race four
years ago, but Pawlenty has won it twice, albeit by only a
plurality with a major third party candidates on both ballots.

With his early start, Johnson could be endorsed at the state
GOP convention, but recent past DFL and GOP endorsees
have subsequently lost their party nomination in the
statewide primary.

Republicans control both the house and senate in the state
legislature now, and are expected to keep control for the next
session. But their margin in the senate is only one seat (no state
senate seats are up for election this year). Their margin in the
state house is comfortable, but not necessarily safe should
there be a DFL wave this cycle.

There could also be a GOP wave in Minnesota in 2018.

Retiring DFL Governor Mark Dayton has raised state taxes
until very recently. Failures in state medical insurance and
auto license systems have plagued his administration. His
initial popularity has declined. As his would-be successor,
Tim Walz has to decide whether he will offer more of the same
to voters, or take his party in a new direction. As is happening
nationally, Bernie Sanders DFLers, personified by Minneapolis
Congressman Keith Ellison (one of the few in Congress who
supported the Sanders presidential bid), are lobbying at the
grass roots level to move the DFL even further to the left. But
much of Walz support comes from those who want to expand
the DFL base into suburban and rural Minnesota where the
party has recently been weak, and leftist notions are not

Tim Pawlenty has spent the years since he left politics (after his
unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2012) as a highly paid
executive for a nationao financial services industry advocacy
group. His opponents are predictably trying to paint him as a DC
lobbyist. His defenders reply that this industry has a reported
200,000 workers throughout Minnesota --- and that this is a vital
industry in the economy. During the 2016 presidential campaign,
he denounced candidate Donald Trump after a controversial
video was a released. Pawlenty says he did this as the father of
two daughters, and who felt Trump’s remarks on the video were
extremely inappropriate, but that he voted for Trump and now
agrees with many of his policies. Do Trump supporters outstate
want an early Trump supporter or a later Trump supporter who
is much more likely to win? The answer to that question will be
key. Pawlenty’s first two terms had some mixed results. He will
now have to make the case that his third term will be better, A
veteran of the state legislature (he was once house majority
leader). Pawlenty argues he is a forward-thinking pragmatist
who knows how to get things done. He has come out swinging
against the failures of the Dayton administration.

Recent reports by state conservative think tanks allege that DFL
tax and education policies are driving families and businesses
out of the state. Public employee unions are also a powerful
part of the Minnesota DFL, and (as in neighboring Wisconsin)
this could be a major issue in the governor’s race. Mining and
environmental issues have helped turn northeastern Minnesota
(especially the mineral-rich area called The Range) from a past
reliably large DFL majority to giving GOP candidate Trump a
16-point margin in 2016.

The DFL still has large majorities in the state’s two largest cities
of St. Paul and Minneapolis. With labor union money and an
experienced GOTV organization, plus the natural energy from
liberal antipathy to Donald Trump, the Democrats in Minnesota
remain a formidable force, but Republicans now have a  strong
voter ID and GOTV effort. So many close races this year gives
them an energy of their own

Unemployment is currently low in the state, and other economic
conditions here, as will be true in the rest of the nation, will play
an important role in the 2018 election, especially in the race for
governor, because the two major Minnesota political parties have
such different visions of how the state should be run.

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

The Prairie Editor is a subscription website. You are welcome
to use this visit with our compliments. Should you wish to
receive this commentary on national and international
politics and public policy for the next year, including alerts for
each new article plus subscriber-only articles and bulletins,
please scroll down on the right to the "SUBSCRIBE" button,
click on it, and pay the annual fee with your credit card on 
Paypal. Please consider joining our community of readers!              

Thursday, May 3, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Minnesota Political Opera

Like a classical grand opera, the 2018 elections in Minnesota
have three acts.

Act I --- the competitive U.S. house races were recently surveyed
on these pages. It is time to take an updated look at Act II --- the
competitive U.S. senate race.

There are actually two U.S. senate races in this state this cycle
because Al Franken unexpectedly resigned last year. The
Minnesota governor then appointed his lt. governor, Tina Smith,
to fill the seat until this November when a special election would
be held Franken would have run for re-election in 2020).

Senior Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat (DFL), is normally up
for re-election in 2018. This would be her third term. As the most
popular DFL figure in the state, she is not expected to have a
serious contest.

But, as it appears now, Tina Smith is in for a competitive contest
from State Senator Karin Housely, a Republican. The question is,
with two generally unknown statewide candidates, just how
competitive will this race be?

Senator Smith has considerable experience behind-the-scenes in
local and state politics. She not only has been a successful
campaign manager, she has served as chief of staff to a former
Minneapolis mayor and to the current governor, Mark Dayton.
Her election at lt. governor in 2014 was as part of the DFL ticket
overshadowed by Dayton. Like many political staff members,
she works easily with the boss, and fellow staff, but does not
necessarily have an outgoing style of relating to voters. As an
appointee only months before the special election, she needs to
campaign heavily to become better known. Her dilemma is that
she also must appear to be working hard in her new job, including
casting votes that will keep her in Washington, DC most of the
spring and summer. (In 1978, a popular, but appointed, Minnesota
senator missed many votes in order to campaign, and it led to his
surprise defeat at the polls that year.)

If Tina Smith can be characterized as more private and a bit shy,
her likely Republican opponent, Karin Housely, could be described
as ebullient and outgoing. With a background in business and
experience in the state senate, she has local credentials, but a small
resume for national politics. When she announced her candidacy, it
was greeted by some skepticism among several GOP insiders.
Her initial efforts, however, including her recent legislative
efforts on behalf of the state’s elderly, has improved hopes of many
conservatives --- although Senator Smith remains, for now, a slight
favorite in November.

Other factors could affect the outcome of this race, especially if the
final vote is close. The DFL contest just added a challenger, a former
Republican who is very critical of President Trump. But neither he
nor any GOP challenger to Senator Housely is likely to win an
endorsement in June nor a nomination in August. A strong
independent candidate on the left or the right, on the other hand,
could be a factor in November if the race is tight.

The economy and President Trump’s’s popularity in late October
could be bigger factors, as could the relative merits of the two
campaign organizations and their fundraising. Senator Smith has,
so far, raised more money.

With so much at stake for the Trump administration agenda and
the Democratic Party’s hopes for 2020, there will be considerable
outside financial input from both national party campaigns and
national conservative and liberal PACs.

Finally. the Minnesota voters’ historic tendency for ticket-splitting
could be crucial --- with two senate seats up this cycle.

Act II of this electoral Minnesota opera, just as Act I, will also
draw plenty of national media attention for its numerous
possible pick-ups and national impact. But Act III --- a critical
race for governor --- could prove to be the state’s most
significant race of all. More about that soon.

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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A British Trump --- 175 Years Ago!

About 175 years ago, a political figure emerged in Great Britain who, in
many ways, could be uncannily compared to Donald Trump.

When it comes to earlier British political leaders, most Americans only
know a few names such as Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone and
Winston Churchill. A few more know the names of William Pitt and
Lloyd George. But there were many more distinguished leaders largely
unknown on this side of the Pond, including reformer and friend of
Abraham Lincoln, John Bright. (Bright did not become prime minister,
but had a huge impact on the mid-19th century United Kingdom.)

There was also an enormously significant leader who served for many
years as foreign minister and prime minister , and who had much to do
with Great Britain becoming  the world power after the defeat of

His name was Henry John Temple, the 3rd Viscount of Palmerston,
but he is remembered in history simply as Lord Palmerston. He lived
from 1784 to 1865. His public life lasted from 1807 until he died, and
from the 1830s on he was the principal foreign policy influence on his

His policy might be summed up as "make Britain great again!”
Partly as a result of his leadership, his small island nation became the
most significant sea power in the world, and its colonial empire the
largest in the world.

He was not universally popular, and had many political critics and
enemies. Although born into the British aristocracy, he disrupted the
British establishment of his time, and was not even a favorite of
Queen Victoria, the British monarch virtually all of the time he was
in power.

Although much of his foreign policy seemed belligerent and
controversial, he masterfully controlled British public opinion by
stimulating British nationalism.

He attended the University of Edinburgh (the Wharton School of
that time) where he studied under influential Scottish economist
Dugald Stewart, who wrote and lectured about Adam Smith (the
Milton Friedman of that time).

His characteristic strategies were brinkmanship and bluff, and he
frequently threatened war to achieve his ends. He was often
tendentiously outspoken.

Unlike John Bright, he did not support the North in the U.S. Civil
War, but Britain did not recognize the Confederacy in spite of
there being so many British sympathizers with the South.

The era which followed his death produced two great prime
ministers, Gladstone (who Palmerston brought into politics) and
Disraeli, the leader of the opposition party.  A peak in the power
and dimensions of the British empire was realized after
Palmerston left the political stage, but he had been significantly
responsible for its rise.

Perhaps what Lord Palmerston is most remembered for today is
not his foreign policy (nor for his octogenarian philandering,) but
for his masterful management of the British media --- which in
those days meant the newspapers. Although most Victorian
prime ministers seemed to ignore the press, Palmerston was the
first to recognize the value of the press in influencing public

Possibly it is the latter trait which most closely compares Lord
Palmerston to Donald Trump, the modern U.S. political master
manipulator of the media --- although, in Trump’s case (and in
contrast to Palmerston), most of the media are against him.

At about the same time, but slightly later, the first U.S.. president
to effectively use the media, Abraham Lincoln, appeared, but he
also took advantage of the then new invention of the telegraph, as
later, Franklin Roosevelt used the then new invention of radio, and
John Kennedy used television. Donald Trump, of course, uses the
internet and Twitter.

But it was an anti-establishment British aristocrat, Lord
Palmerston, who almost 200 years ago first disrupted public
opinion with controversy and bold headlines.

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