Thursday, December 26, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Mystery Of The Year Ahead

A new year is always is an unknown interval of time in our lives,
but the one we will call 2020 has an unusual number of public
mysteries in its calendar --- and unknown outcomes at home and

The most obvious for Americans is the national election in
November, but before that here will be primaries and caucuses
in the contest for he Democratic presidential nomination that
quite possibly might not end until the party’s national
convention in July. Control of the new U.S. house and U.S senate
is very much in doubt. The resolution of the impeachment
articles passed in the U.S. house, but not yet transmitted to the
U.S senate, is less a question than is how the voters will react to
its partisan process, and what effect it will have on the election.

Beyond the quadrennial political cycle, there is an indeterminate
economic cycle which can have so much impact on elections. Will
the stock market, so emotional in the short term, but often a good
predictor of the intermediate (6 to 9 months) term, go up or down?
Will employment continue at recent record levels? Will inflation
remain low?

How will the European Union fare after Brexit? Having won in a
landslide, can British Prime Minister Boris Johnson solve his
nation’s problems? What is the political future of Germany now
that Angela Merkel in retiring? Can French President Macron
resolve the current paralyzing national transportation strikes?

Will current instability throughout South and Central America
get worse? Can the Israelis resolve their political stalemate?
Will unrest bring down the regime in Iran?

President Putin?,North Korea? China? Libya? Turkey?
Afghanistan? India? South Africa? All of these and many more
nations and regions are in turmoil at the same time.

My point is that, while international volatility is a constant, it
would appear much more widespread than is usual --- and that
while domestic U.S. elections are always important, much more
about the national future seems at stake this cycle, especially
after so much recent disruption and ideological polarization,

Not all of the above will be resolved in 2020. A U.S. presidential
election will take place, yes, but other current uncertainties
might go on for some time.

There are numerous signals, hints and omens --- as there always
are --- of what might be ahead. I think the size of the margin
and the tone of the voter mood in the recent UK election is one
of those signals for those of us on this side of the Atlantic.

Nevertheless, political and economic forces appear to be
converging to provoke a mysterious and uncertain calendar year
whose numbers (20/20) otherwise denotes visual clarity.

We will see soon enough how this puzzling new year will turn out.

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Special Greetings!



Your appreciative Prairie Editor

Friday, December 20, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Malpractice?

Once upon a time, political life was regarded as public service
and a noble activity. In recent times, that sentiment reached a
rhetorical summit with the 1961 inaugural address of President
John Kennedy when he summoned the post-war generation of
Americans to think about what they might do for their country.
Of course, real public service cannot be reduced just to
sentiments or other high-flown language. Real public service is
made of good practices which benefits public needs.

We are currently living through an age of contempt for the
political life, the life of good public service. In the abstract, this
quality of public service is often portrayed as “self-less,” but
true selflessness is rarely found in the real world. A better
adjective might be “enlightened”--- in the sense of serving
real-life principles, often sacrificing something while also
receiving something in return. That is why compromise is so
often part of good public service, and why civility is so often
called for. Civility, of course, can be empty rhetoric, but in the
service of the public good it is much like the necessity of
lubrication in a car  --- moveable parts face natural friction.

Today, we have no small amount of moveable political parts at
work, but very little lubricating maintenance. The inevitable
result is machine breakdown or political stalemate.

Fortunately, there is available a regimen of healthy political
operation, but it is made of complicated components, including
the U.S. constitution, the rules of law and public order, national
instincts for decency and compassion. Employing these
successfully is no easy task. Contempt. confrontation and
discord are usually easier and more satisfying in the moment ---
and more attention-getting, especially in a cyber-intoxicated
political environment. They can lead to political malpractice.

There is also one true remedy for circumstances such as we
now face. It is is called voting. One citizen. One vote. Every other
remedy, in a time like this, is contrived, artificial and unable to
bring resolution.

The British have just demonstrated how voters can sort matters

The political farce we are now observing will not bring any
serious resolution.

Ten months from now, those citizens who vote will do so.

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

Friday, December 13, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Message From The Brits

British voters have now gone to the polls, and have reclaimed their
thousand-year old nation from a gaggle of bureaucrats, status quo
elitists and left-veering politicians who had taken over its historic

The campaign against Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson
would be familiar to many Americans as former leaders of his
own party came out against him, as did most of the establishment
media --- while many of his opponents tried to mire him in petty
scandals, and the leader of the opposition, indulging in overt
prejudices, promised to move the nation to the far left.

The prime minister was portrayed as a bumbling, narcissistic
show-off who could not get along with his own party, and even his
own cabinet. In fact, several former associates deserted him, and
then pilloried him in the press. He tried to keep his campaign
promise to implement Brexit (which UK voters had earlier
approved) and actually came up with a departure deal with the
European Union (EU) when his critics, and even some of his
friends, said it was impossible. He dared to take his campaign to
blue collar voters in spite of his party’s stuffy upper class traditions,
and the presumption they would only choose the Labour Party. He
was ridiculed for his political manner, his tweets and his hairstyle.
He seemed to have everyone against him.

Except for the voters.

They gave Boris Johnson an historic landslide victory. He does have
his shortcomings, and faces daunting challenges ahead. but now
our British cousins have renewed their democracy, stood up for
their sovereignty --- and oh yes, sent us a message.

Nancy Pelosi, did you read it?

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Very Consequential Election

We are hours away from learning the results  of the latest
British elections, and although most Americans are not
compulsive Anglophiles holding their breath about the outcome,
it is likely to have major consequences on both sides of the

Much has been made of the decline of the historic globally
dominant British empire (of which the U.S. was once a colonial
part), and its continuing diminishment since World War  II. But
the relatively small island nation with a population of 65 million
remains as an economic, cultural and geopolitical force even as
larger countries have superseded it as a military and maritime

In very recent years, the United Kingdom (made up of the regions
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) been part of the
European Union (EU)) that was formed as a post-war economic
and trade association of many European nations which had often
previously been in conflict with each other for centuries. The EU
later established its own currency, the euro, but the British chose
to keep their own currency, the pound.

As its bureaucratic leadership moved the EU more and more into
supra-sovereign political decision-making, British voters, with a
thousand years of independent history became increasingly
disenchanted with their participation, finally in 2017 voting to
leave the EU (Brexit).

Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May failed to implement
Brexit, and had been replaced by Boris Johnson, a colorful Tory
character who has promised to fulfill the British voter mandate.
His major opponent in the upcoming election is Labour Party leader
Jeremy Corbyn who has been accused of anti-semitism --- and who
promises to move the UK sharply to the left. Corbyn’s personal
unpopularity has been cited as a major reason why Labour is
behind in the polls, but media reports say the race is tightening
at the end, and he could be the next prime minister if there is a
“hung” parliament (no party with a majority).

The largest “third” pary in the election is the Liberal Democratic
Party which is strongly anti-Brexit. The strongly new pro-Brexit
Party has seen many of it voters saying they will defect to the
Tories. Smaller regional parties could also win seats.

It is the most consequential British election in decades.Not only
will it direct the future of the UK, it will have major impact in
the U.S and Canada --- and in all of the UK’s neighbors on the

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

Thursday, December 5, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Coming Political Traffic Jam?

No one I know enjoys being caught in a traffic jam, especially the
kind that happens in so many urban rush hours these days, so
Democrats might need to prepare themselves for a period of
such frustration ahead --- perhaps one which will last until their
national convention in Milwaukee in late July next year.

The traffic jam, ironically, is of their own contrivance --- political
road repair (impeachment) too close to the rush hour (their own
nomination contest) which has too many cars (candidates) on the
2020 campaign highway.

It is becoming clear that U.S. house Democrats are going through
with an actual impeachment vote. They must be convinced they
have sufficient votes to pass it --- and to send it to the U.S. senate
for trial where 67 votes will be required to convict and remove the
president from office. (At least 20 or more Republican
senators would have to vote to convict --- which would amount,
in most cases, to mass political suicide.)

Democrats have a majority in the U.S. house now, but their
majority margin in made up of first-term Democrats who won
their seats in 2018 in congressional districts carried by Donald
Trump in 2016. Those Democrats, about 30 of them, will have to
face voters again next year --- and indications currently are that
Trump voters in many of those districts are angry about the
impeachment process.

Democrats control the, and they have imposed entire
control  of the impeachment proceedings. On the other hand,
Republicans, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, control the U.S.
senate --- and thus control the timing of a  senate impeachment

We are now near the end of the first week of December. If they
choose, Democrats could impeach the president just before
Christmas. If that happens, Senator McConnell is likely to
begin the senate trial in at the end of January, or even later.
A five-to-seven week trial, the likely duration, would then occur
at the same time as the usually heaviest campaigning for the
Iowa caucus, New Hampshire primary and the delegate-rich
Super Tuesday primaries. Most of the leading Democratic
presidential candidates are sitting U.S. senators (Elizabeth
Warren, Bernie Sanders, Corey Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and
Michael Bennet) and they can be required by senate rules to sit
in their senate seats during the entire trial. They would not be
able to do much, if any, campaigning during the most critical
period. Only Joe Biden among the frontrunnners could
campaign, as could Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg,
Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, and Tulsi Gabbard --- each of
whom could then win delegates who otherwise would go to
one of the candidates who is a U.S. senator, but is locked into
the senate trial.

Even if the final rules don’t compel senators to attend, any
Democratic senator running for president who skipped the
trial to campaign would be widely criticized for neglecting their
constitutional duty, especially since all or most of them would
be expected to vote to convict.

This likely would have two extremely negative consequences for
the Democrats. First, media preoccupation and voter attention
would almost certainly be drawn to the trial, overshadowing
even those Democratic candidates able to campaign in Iowa,
New Hampshire, and the many Super Tuesday states. Second,
this could also likely enable many of the non-frontrunners to
win enough delegates to take the nomination to the late July
Democratic convention in Milwaukee without a winner.

If that happens, a bitter convention battle is assured. The
Democrats could wake up then at the beginning of August
with a nominee --- but far less campaign funds than they
would need for the general election only three months away,
and a likely bitterly divided party.

Meanwhile, President Trump will have survived the senate
trial, spent very little of the huge campaign war chest he is
already accumulating, and will have most of his party’s
voters energized to vote for him in November. Furthermore,
the trial itself, as perhaps the impeachment inquiry is doing,
could produce a backlash among key independent and
undecided voters on election day.

Thus, a political traffic jam like no other in U.S. political
history could occur. Like weather forecasting, it’s always
speculative to make political predictions. We also haven’t
seen an open national political convention for a long time.

But we do know that when you block a busy roadway, or
narrow it to fewer lanes, during rush hour, there will be a
very big jam.

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

Monday, December 2, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Minnewisowa 2020

Since I invented the term “Minnewisowa” in 2004 in
my then weekly Washington Times column, its
political pertinence in national elections has grown
with each presidential cycle.

It was a classic portmanteau invention as I combined
iconic syllables of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa to
create a virtual megastate that follows very similar
voting patterns based on contiguous location, so many
shared media markets. similar rural-urban
demographics, comparable ethnic origins and almost
identical occupational histories.

It was a particularly useful analytic tool in 2016 when
the voters of all three states, expected to choose
Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, provided their
electoral votes to Mr. Trump in Wisconsin and Iowa ---
while Mrs. Clinton barely won Minnesota by a very
surprising small margin. In both 2008 and 2012, Barack
Obama carried all three states.

The outcome in 2020, of course, is unknown, but at the
beginning of 2019, based largely on the results of the
2018 mid-term elections, it appeared that Minnewisowa
was going to reverse course in 2020 by giving all of its
electoral votes to the Democratic nominee --- whomever
it would be. Opinion polls continued to support this
contention until recently. Mostly in response to the
Democrats’ highly politicized impeachment inquiry,
and an unprecedented Trump campaign effort in
Minnesota, that seems to be changing.

With 27 electoral votes, Minnewisowa is a presidential
battleground powerhouse --- as it was in 2016 when the
Midwestern states, especially Michigan, Wisconsin and
Iowa, provided Donald Trump his victory margin.

The significant rural and small town areas of each
Minnewisowa state component, in addition to being
turned off by the impeachment inquiry, also do not
seem excited by the leftward direction that some of the
major Democratic candidates have taken. These ideas
are popular in the three major Minnewisowa urban
centers (Minneapolis-St.Paul, Milwaukee and Des
Moines), but that might not be enough to offset the
more conservative voting outstate.

In fact, Minnewisowa might be a microcosm of all the
competitive states in 2020, including those in the
Middle Atlantic (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio),
South (North Carolina, Georgia and Florida) and West
(Arizona, Nevada and Colorado) despite its obvious
differences with those other regions.

It needs to  be remembered that Donald Trump did not
win Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania by
big margins in 2016. With so much undecided, including
the Democratic nomination contest, the state of the
economy next year, the outcome of current foreign
trade negotiations, and who will win key battleground
states, the election is up for grabs.

What is likely, however, is that whatever electoral
direction Minnewisowa takes, it will act in some
unison --- as it has so often in the past.

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