Monday, July 29, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Joe Biden's Moment?

 As we go to the second Democratic presidential debate in Detroit,
it is becoming evident that frontrunner Joe Biden is at a critical
moment in his long quest, begun in 1986, to occupy the White
House and lead the nation.

Mr.Biden has been on the national stage for a very long time, first
elected to the U.S. senate in 1972, the youngest person to ever serve
in that body. By 1987, he had announced his first run for the
presidency, but it was short-lived when he developed a
life-threatening double aneurism. When he recovered, he returned
to the senate and became, at different times, chairman of the
important judiciary and foreign relations committees. In 2008, he
made a second presidential run, also unsuccessful, but the eventual
Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, did choose him to be his vice
presidential running mate. For eight years he was U.S. vice president,
but following a family tragedy, decided not to run for president in
2016, although he likely would have been eventual nominee Hillary
Clinton’s most formidable rival.

Her major rival, in fact, became self-styled socialist Senator Bernie
Sanders who lost, but managed to draw much of the party activist
base to the left, especially in the ensuing 2018 mid-term elections
in which the Democrats won back control of the U.S. house.

Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election in an upset
that has sent shock waves through both major political parties.
President Trump has now solidified his support in the Republican
Party as he heads toward his re-election campaign, but the
Democratic Party is only united in its fervent opposition to Mr.
Trump --- otherwise it is divided between traditional liberals and
more radical “progressives.” Mr. Biden has emerged as the
standard bearer of the former --- while Mr. Sanders (who is back
for another try) has had to share the leadership of the latter with
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, as well as Mayor
Pete Buttigieg and others in the historically large field of more than
twenty candidates.

As might have been predicted, Mr. Biden was a target in the first
debate, especially by Senator Harris, and his debate performance
at best was lackluster. Nevertheless, he has maintained a lead in
most polls, albeit understandably somewhat reduced as voters
have been able to observe the other candidates, most of whom were
largely unknown nationally.

Mr. Sanders, who also has a big existing national Democratic voter
base, also has seen his numbers decline a bit. He remains a major
contender along with Senators Warren and  Harris --- and Mayor
Buttigieg. A “second tier” of candidates includes Julian Castro and
Beto O’Rourke --- and perhaps Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard ---
with about two dozen other candidates so far trailing in the polls.

Although some in the media have suggested that the Biden and
Sanders campaigns appear to be in some decline, I continue to
point out that each of them have loyal voter bases that just might
defy some pessimistic pundit prognostications.

The challenge for Biden and Sanders --- and all of their rivals --- is
somehow to maintain voter interest for the next seven months until
actual voting takes place in the caucuses and primaries. They must
also do this with their eventual opponent currently in the White
House. Not only does Donald Trump have the “bully pulpit,”  but
he has demonstrated a certain mastery of stealing media attention
(even though much of the media is hostile to him).

One Democratic strategy has been to keep alive old allegations
from 2016 (e.g. The Mueller Report), and to press for impeachment
proceedings in the U.S. house. “Old pros” such as Speaker Nancy
Pelosi and Joe Biden so far have seen these tactics as self-defeating,
inasmuch as the voting public (especially undecided voters) seems
to have moved on to 2020 issues.

Nevertheless, Joe Biden has issues to face, including his age and the
charge that he wants to return to a pre-Trump era. Should these
issues take hold, his frontrunning position could be vulnerable ---
and one or more of the other candidates could overtake him.

After a disastrous first debate with Walter Mondale, Ronald Reagan
used his own age the basis of a comeback in their next 1984 debate.
Barack Obama did not have a good first debate with Mitt Romney,
but was able to recover in the next one in 2012.

Joe Biden probably will be a central focus of both evenings of the
next debate in Detroit. How he and his rivals handle this internal
drama could be important --- and should be fascinating to observe.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Self-Destruction in 2019

Neither major political party has a monopoly on self-destructive
behavior at this stage of the 2020 national election cycle. The key
question is: Will this political masochism persist into next year when
the votes will be counted?

The Democrats cannot let go of their shock and disappointment in
2016 when Donald Trump upset the political establishments of both
parties. Their self-destruction is most evident in the U.S. house of
representatives which Democrats won back in 2018. The latest
example of this was the appearance of the former special prosecutor
before U.S. house committees. This move was designed to revive voter
interest in the special prosecutor’s report which found no wrongdoing
by President Trump, but was nonetheless considered damaging to the
president by many Democrats. The special prosecutor’s testimony
and manner, according to the public statements of many savvy (and
candid) Democratic commentators, backfired and was something of
a disaster. Ongoing efforts to impeach the president, also part of this
self-defeating behavior, suffered a setback. (Democrats should be
grateful to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who has resisted most of her
colleagues' ineffective behavior, and tried to make her party more
competitive not only to keep control of the U.S house next year, but
also in the effort to defeat President Trump’s re-election.)

In upcoming U.S. senate campaigns, Republicans in some states
seem determined to defeat themselves in a number of races they
would otherwise win or be competitive. They have done this often
in previous cycles when inappropriate nominees were placed on the
ballot  --- most recently in 2018 in Alabama where a certain GOP seat
was won by a Democrat. In the 2020 cycle, Republicans risk losing
safe seats in Kansas and again in Alabama, and a reasonable chance
for a pick-up from the Democrats in Minnesota if the nomination
contest is prolonged into a bitter primary. With only narrow control
of the U.S. senate at stake, Republicans can ill-afford to throw away
victories. Oversize political egos seem to be a chronic problem for
the GOP in some states.

The Democratic presidential nomination contest is still unresolved,
but it has been suggested if the party nominee goes too far to the left
next year, it will diminish Democratic prospects in the November

Much can change between now and 17 months from now, but there
are worrisome patterns in both political parties that could handicap
their own goals and prospects.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "Pass The Admonition"

So far, the Democrats running for president have been the
recipients of innumerable warnings and admonitions from
several political quarters, many of them hostile, but not a few
who are friendly and want to defeat Donald Trump in 2020.

These admonitions are somewhat varied, but most of them are
centered around the recent trend in liberal politics to move
toward a more radical or progressive program of public policies.

The two wings of the Democratic Party have clashed frequently
before. The traditional liberal wing has often provided winning
presidential candidates, and usually dominates the nomination
contests. At first, the early “smoke-filled” rooms of party bosses,
and later, the grass roots primary voters tended to prefer
candidates who could win. For every losing “radical” nominee
such as William Jennings Bryan and  George McGovern, there
were more traditional nominees such as Franklin Roosevelt,
Harry Truman, and Bill Clintons winning in November ---
and for every Robert LaFollette, Henry Wallace, Gary Hart and
Howard Dean, there was an Al Smith, Walter Mondale, Michael
Dukakis, and John Kerry to take up the party banner in November
--- albeit unsuccessfully.

After Hubert Humphrey lost to Richard Nixon in1968, Democrats
rejected Humphrey’s political heir Ed Muskie, and chose instead
McGovern. But he was perceived by many as too radical for that
time --- and he lost in a landslide in November, 1972. In 2016,
establishment figure Hillary Clinton barely defeated socialist
Bernie Sanders for her party nomination, but in spite of being
heavily favored, she lost in November to Donald Trump. These
circumstances have, in large part, set up the 2020 Democratic Party
nomination environment.

In the four years between presidential elections, I have long pointed
out, much changes in the U.S. But both political parties often act
primarily in reaction to the previous cycle --- and sometimes that
reaction does not reflect the dynamics of actual history. This
behavior has often produced (in both parties) nominees who came
in second in the previous or earlier nomination cycle. Ronald Reagan,
George H.W. Bush, Al Gore, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton would
be examples of this. For the 2020 cycle, Bernie Sanders’ candidacy
would fit this pattern. Sanders, although currently a major contender,
might not himself be nominated in 2020, but someone who espouses
the ideology template he brought to the 2016 campaign could well be.

The question is whether or not voters are inclined to accept and
embrace the ideology of the Sanders policy programs. Republicans
and traditional Democrats regard the Sanders ideology (and that of
his fellow contenders who share his views) as “socialistic” and too
radical for the U.S. Sanders openly proclaims his socialism, but his
rivals try to avoid the term, usually preferring the term “progressive.”

There is a vocal and significant base of voters who actively support
Sanders or his progressive rivals for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Only the more traditional liberal Joe Biden stands in their way, and
although the former vice president leads the others in virtually every
poll, his age and his longevity in elective office are perceived by
some in his party as a negative.

Admonitions about a too radical Democratic nominee coming from
Republicans and conservatives will understandably be mostly
ignored, but what of the increasing warnings coming from seasoned
liberal political figures and commentators?

Soon after Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, a song titled “Praise The
Lord! Pass The Ammunition!” became very popular in a united U.S.
populace. After Donald Trump shocked the Democrats in 2016, that
does not seem to be the kind of song divided Democrats are singing
in 2019.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry  Casselman. All right reserved.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Unintended Consequences Everywhere?

The 2020 election cycle is becoming a cycle of unintended
consequences, especially for Democrats, who are so determined
to be rid of President Donald Trump --- either by impeachment
before November, 2020 or by defeating him at the polls next year.

But their ire and single-mindedness are routinely frustrated by
likely unintended outcomes almost everywhere they seem to turn.

For some Democrats, including their newest presidential candidate
billionaire Tom Steyer,  the highest priority is impeachment.
Because the liberal party now controls the U.S. house of
representatives, on paper they have the majority to vote the
impeachment (indictment) --- but zero chance for a conviction in
the U.S. senate controlled by the president’s conservative party.
Furthermore, impeachment is not very popular among many U.S.
voters, especially so late in Mr. Trump’s first term AND with the
campaign for the next term now already underway. The Democrats
probably don’t even have the votes to impeach in their own party
caucus because so many new members in their majority are from
districts carried by Mr. Trump in 2016, and if they voted for
impeachment, could easily lead to their defeat in 2020 --- thus
giving back the majority to the GOP in the next Congress.
(Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands this, and has consistently
resisted putting impeachment on the U.S. house agenda.)

Another strategy to block Mr. Trump is to require by law in
individual states that he make public his tax returns (which he has
so far refused to do), but as John Ellis writing in the presidential
briefing page in Ballotpedia ( ) points out, such
a move likely would backfire since states that have done or would do
this are already heavily Democratic --- not being on the ballot in them
would be no real penalty to  Mr. Trump and would enable him to
claim the national popular vote total to be incomplete and irrelevant.
Mr. Ellis also points out that removing Donald Trump’s name at the
top of those ballots would likely also help down-ballot Republicans
who would be otherwise hurt by the president’s unpopularity in those

Still another attempt to thwart the president has been to block his
attempt to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census. While
Democrats feel they have fair arguments for doing this, the 2020
census has no impact on the 2020 election (but it will impact 2022
and 2024). Although they are winning this argument in the courts,
this controversy enables the president and his party keep the volatile
immigration issue front and center, and thus motivate their voters to
show up at the polls. The White House has now abandoned the effort
to put the citizenship question in the census, but it almost surely
bring up the issue throughout 2020 when Americans will be
answering other census questions.

The Democrats have understandably welcomed the relentless
support of most of the establishment or liberal media. When I
coined the phrase “media coup d’etat” prior to the 2016
presidential election, I had no idea that anti-Trump media bias
would become an escalating, long-term phenomenon AFTER
the election ---and ultimately counterproductive as even many
non-Trump voters found the total negativism heavy-handed ---
and less and less credible. The evidence for this is the dramatic
decline in viewership and readership of the worst offenders
which continues even as I write this.

U.S. senate Democrats from day one have blocked many Trump
appointments, both for judicial and executive posts. To be fair,
Republicans had done this during the second term of President
Obama, and in response, the then senate majority leader (Harry
Reid) changed the senate rules. When Republicans took control
of the senate, and faced a liberal blockade of conservative
presidential appointments, they used the Reid precedent to adopt a
so-called “nuclear option” on confirmation procedures. The result,
under the current GOP majority leader (Mitch McConnell), has
been 127 federal judicial court, appellate and district, confirmations
and a belated speed-up of sub-cabinet confirmations --- an
unintended result of original Democratic strategy. (Of course, if
Democrats win back the White House and the U.S. senate, the
Republicans will face an unpleasant unintended consequence of
their own.)

One current unintended consequence favoring the Democrats is the
success of the GOP confirming conservative judges. Pro-choice and
other liberal voters will likely be motivated by this issue to go to the
polls in 2020.

Finally, the current internal insurrection in the Democratic Party, led
by a few outspoken young U.S. house members and some of the U.S.
senators running for president threatens to upend the apparent
opportunity for the liberal party to win the 2020 presidential election,
as well as keep its U.S. house majority and win back control of the
U.S. senate. The outcome of this ideological revolt is currently
unresolved. Standing in the way of the more radical liberal wing for
the present is not Donald Trump, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
who is trying to make this term her “finest hour” --- to protect her
party and her colleagues from a possible disaster that none of them
wants to happen.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Some Cold 2020 Facts

The 2020 presidential election, perhaps even more than the 2016
cycle, will be complicated by several factors which so far are rarely
being mentioned, clarified or explained by the establishment
media and most of its pundits and pollsters.                   

This did also happen in 2016, but I think it is fair to say that most of
it happened because these “players” were in such self-denial that
they primarily and simply ignored the cold facts.

They don’t have that excuse this time.

First and foremost, virtually all NATIONWIDE presidential polls
are of little or no value in anticipating the true outcome  of the 2020
race for president. That is because a U.S. presidential election is not
a national popular vote election. It is instead (and has been until now)
a state-by-state electoral college election in which the winner must
win a majority (270) of the total electors (538) who cast their votes in
Washington, DC in December, 2020 --- following the November
popular vote. If, for any reason, a candidate fails to win a majority of
electoral votes, the election goes to the U.S.  house of representatives
where its 435 members determine the winner by a simple majority
vote (with each state casting one vote).

In 2020, as in 2016, the Democrats likely will receive huge majorities
in a few large states (California, New York, Illinois) ---no matter who
their nominee will be. These states produce net majorities of millions
of votes that are unlikely to be offset by the popular vote for the
Republican nominee in all the states that will be won by the GOP. In
2016, Donald Trump won the electoral college vote by a decisive
margin (304-227), even though he lost the nationwide popular vote by
more than two million votes.

Even if polls perfectly polled persons who will actually vote, and
their number of persons polled accurately measured who they will
vote for, the polls will be relatively useless if they are nationwide

The only polls that will be worth reading, now or later, are polls of
likely voters randomly selected in a relatively large sample IN THOSE

The Democratic nominee, whomever he or she is, barring a
historic screw-up of the candidate,, will not only carry the
aforementioned large states, but a number of smaller far western
and northeastern states. The Republican nominee (now likely to be
President Trump) will probably carry a number of western,
midwestern and southern states. Presidential poll numbers in these
states will mean little if anything.

On the other hand, good polls in the individual competitive states
will be very useful even now, and surely in the primaries (for
Democrats), and certainly for the final phase of the campaign going
to November.

Those states currently are, going east to west, New Hampshire,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Michigan,
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado
and Nevada. Six of these states were carried by Hillary Clinton in
2016; eight were carried by Donald Trump.

A few other states such as Texas could come into play as election day

A  non-factor in 2020 is the forthcoming and currently controversial
census. The results  of this year’s census will only affect elections
after 2020.

If, somehow (and it is now very unlikely), Donald Trump does win the
nationwide popular vote (even by a small margin), it would almost surely
would mean a landslide electoral college victory for him. Conversely,
a much larger popular vote win for the Democratic nominee (also now
unlikely) would mean his or her election as president.

The importance of certain issues, some now highlighted and others
played down by the national media, will be key to understanding the
2020 cycle, but again the rule established above for the voting will
apply --- polls that reflect nationwide views on issues will not be
useful, only the polls on issue attitudes in individual states will matter.
With the increasing impact of regionalism and local conditions, such
attitudes could vary widely from state to state.

Caveat lector! Election news consumer, be wary of what your read in
the next 17 months! Voter manipulation is everywhere. “Fake news” is
now endemic.

Only a very few will get it right BEFORE the election. Even they will not
be right all the time.

You now have fair warning.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. Al rights reserved.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: First 2020 Presidential Report Card

The first phases of the long trek to election night 2020 have been
passed with a series of candidate entry declarations, followed by the
first TV debate between the aspirants of the challenging party.

So what do we now know?

Barring a gigantic surprise, we know the name of the next  president
of the U.S. --- but we do not know which  party he or she belongs to,
or the specific name of the ultimate winning candidate.

We know the names of those Democrats who are getting most notable
numbers in the early polling, i.e., Joe Biden, Bernie  Sanders,
Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro and Kamala Harris.
They will be  in the next (July) debate --- and likely in the third debate.
 The remaining names from the first debate will also be in the second
one, but as of now we don’t know how many of them will make it to
the third debate, or even remain in the contest. The five candidates
who did not qualify for the first debate have an uncertain 2020 future. 

The punditry have weighed in, brandishing widely varied and  perhaps
dubious polls, declaring winners and losers. In particular, they cite the
“decline” in support for Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, the hitherto
frontrunners. With the national TV exposure, I have previously
suggested poll numbers would change somewhat after the first debate,
but also cautioned about reading too much into them, especially those
of Biden and Sanders whose bases are strong and resilient.

It was inevitable that attention would turn to one or two of the woman
candidates --- and to least one or two of the candidates with diversity
bases. Beyond that, it would take an extraordinary TV performance by
a candidate to excite genuine interest. I don’t think we saw that,
especially from one of the 14 “minor” candidates. At least not so far.
The first caucus and primary are more than six months from now, so I
think we have to be careful about declaring trends --- much less winners
and losers.

Biden and Sanders have run for president before, and been politicians
for a long time. They have indelible public images, and they have
presumably some strong cards yet to play. Other candidates have also
begun to raise some serious campaign funds --- ensuring they will be
able to survive until the primary voting begins.

The tendency of Democrats, both running for president and for other
offices, to advocate more controversial or radical policies has
continued from the 2018 mid-term election cycle, but it remains to
be seen whether this can be a winning strategy even among
Democratic Party voters - especially with Biden in the race.

There is also a heavy presumption that the eventual vice presidential
nominee will be chosen by the Democratic nominee from among his
or her losing rivals. Perhaps that will happen, but considering the
unusual cycle, perhaps not. In the autumn of 2020, a surprise might
be in order.

With President Trump still able to turn out huge crowds, and
apparently so far holding on to his base, the Republican 2020 ticket
remains formidable --- especially if it can make inroads into the
previously reliably Democratic black, Hispanic and Jewish voters.
On the other hand, Democrat have the opportunity in 2020 to retain 
and enlarge their share of suburban women voters they gained in 2018.

Two more debates, more reliable polls, and some current candidate
retirements from the field should provide us another report card on
the 2020 presidential contest, but as usual, I caution against
second-guessing the voters --- and I note the possibility of the

Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What's Going On In This World?

The  activity of the earth’s outer crust is curiously much like a lot
of human activity --- both have often unexpected bursts which
accumulate under their surfaces and suddenly appear. Volcanoes,
in nature and in civilization, take a long time to form, but in a
instant can dramatically change their environments.

There is always some geological activity, and always a dynamic to
human civilizations, but there are moments in each when there is an
intensification of forces which can signal coming drama and change.

There are, of course, major differences between geology and
humanity. Perhaps most notably, there is a distinction in duration.
The earth’s crust has existed for millions of years following the
planet’s birth as a roving fireball. The earth is a very tiny entity not
only in its solar system, but even more so in our own galaxy and the
seemingly endless number of galaxies in what is so vaguely
verbalized as ”the universe.” The numbers involved quickly go
beyond any true human understanding.

Humanity has been accumulating some interesting numbers of
its own --- particularly in the numbers of world population and in
the numbers of generations since “history” began about 10,000
years ago, and even more since our humanoid forbears appeared so
much longer a time before settlement and language created what we
call "civilization."

Much has been made recently about unusual activity above ground
in the atmosphere where hurricanes, floods. droughts, extreme heat
and cold, and all the dynamics of climate occur. A debate rages
about what are their causes, whether they are inevitable and natural
or human-made, and what (if anything) can be done about them.

But what about bursts of earthquakes, moving geological fault lines,
erupting volcanos and other activities from the earth’s core? And
what about bursts of revolutionary human activity, intensification of
technological change, and altered generational perception?

The former is way above my intellectual pay scale, so I can only note
the phenomena --- and leave meaningful understanding (if any is
possible) to our best scientific minds and imaginations. The latter
might also be beyond our understanding, but at least it can be
discussed in a language we all try to speak.

In recent times, every 40-50 years has brought some kind of intense
global human change in the form of notable national revolutions,
major and widespread wars, and extreme economic cycles.

Just as we have seen large clusters of tornadoes in certain regions,
melting ice at one pole and freezing at the other, unusual activity in
the earth’s geological plates both on land and beneath the oceans, etc.,
so there seems a cluster of extraordinary human activity all over
the globe.

Those with an ideological “axe to grind” suggest, of course, a
self-serving meaning to these phenomena. For example, those
opposed to democratic capitalism assert history is on their side.
(They, of course, pretend the collapse of Soviet communism, the
failure of socialist states, and just recently, the rebuke to a would-be
dictator by the voters in Turkey, didn’t happen.) Those opposed to
totalitarianism, on the other hand, try to ignore the reappearance of
dictators, violent suppression, intolerance and terrorism.

Just as in the decades after the turn to the 20th century, the 1930’s and
the 1960s and 70s, signals and omens are everywhere seen.

Alas, we do no have a  Richter Scale, or any other device, to reliably
tell us what will happen next.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.