The Prairie Editor
WISHES ALL HIS
NOT ONLY A HAPPY,
BUT A BETTER
NEW YEAR AS WELL
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Sunday, December 27, 2020
The time between a presidential election and a new
administration, especially when there is a change of
political parties, has a special flavor, but the interregnum
of 2020-21 seems to be in a category of its own.
Of course, the extraordinary months of pandemic, lockdown,
quarantine and universal anxiety which immediately
preceded the election were bound to have a great impact,
and they did, but the result has also been complicated by the
unusual character of both the outgoing and incoming
president, and by special circumstances.
Historically, bitter interregna are not unknown in the past
century. Herbert Hoover was not gracious on March 4, 1933
(thereafter, inauguration day was January 20) while he drove
with Franklin Roosevelt to the swearing-in. Since election
day, 1932, President Hoover had been desperately trying to
avert a total collapse of the U.S.economy and banking system
without FDR’s cooperation.
On January 20, 1961, Richard Nixon, then vice president,
watched the swearing-in of John Kennedy whom he believed
had stolen their close election a few months before --- and
this was reversed 8 year later on January 20, 1969 when then
Vice President Hubert Humphrey had to watch Nixon’s
swearing-in after their close and tumultuous contest.
On January 20, 2001, Vice President Al Gore looked on as
George W. Bush took the oath after their contested and close
election that was not decided for a month.
Outgoing President Donald Trump now believes his
re-election was stolen, and is minimally cooperating with
his incoming successor Joe Biden who will be the oldest
inaugurated president. The pandemic continues, and its
economic consequences are not fully known. Mr. Trump
has stalled stimulus legislation, asserting it is too little,
and appears at odds with his own U.S. senate majority,
while Mr. Biden faces a deep divide in his own party, and
an unhappiness with some of his cabinet and staff
choices. Before inauguration day, two Georgia senate
run-off elections will determine control of that body.
Democratic control of the U.S. house was significantly
reduced in 2020, as was its influence in many state
elections. Congressional redistricting will soon take place.
All of the above does not take place in an international
vacuum. Mr. Biden is known to have some very different
views on foreign policy, but Mr. Trump’s recent success
in the Middle East (which has received bipartisan praise)
presents problems for the incoming president’s stated
desire to reinstate the Iran accord cancelled by Mr.
Trump. Issues that vexed his predecessor in Asia (China
and North Korea) and Europe (Russia and Brexit) will
now vex Mr. Biden.
Although the election is over, prior to Mr. Biden’s
inauguration less than a month from now, much remains
unresolved. The holiday season that coincides with most
of the political interregnum period was unlike any other.
By January 20, 2021, more will be clearer, but uncertainties
are in the political forecast well beyond then.
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.
Sunday, December 20, 2020
The phenomenon of unintended and undesirable consequences
is not only well-known in politics, it is frequently ignored by
political leaders and strategists seeking short-term advantage.
Decision-makers in both parties and in the media do this,
especially in a political period like we are in now.
Some conspicuous current examples of this are worth noting.
Beginning on election night, 2016, many Democrats attempted
to undo or deligitimitize Donald Trump’s presidential win.
The effort lasted until election day, 2020. Most of these same
persons are now calling on Republicans to accept and “unify’
behind the presidency of Joe Biden. It in’t going to happen.
I want to make it clear that I am not here judging that the
Democrats were wrong in 2016-20, but I am pointing out that
their behavior was inevitably going to provoke the reaction
now occurring among many Republicans. Nor am I judging
here that those Republicans are right in 2020 that the
presidential election was stolen. Joe Biden, almost certainly
will be sworn in as president on January 20, 2021.
But Mr. Biden, as did Mr. Trump for four years, will almost
certainly face implacable legitimacy questions as he takes
over the executive branch of government.
Reacting to Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid’s
heavy-handed dominance of the U.S. senate, and his changing
senate rules to enhance his party’s control, when Republicans
regained control, they used Reid’s precedent to enable the
confirmation of conservative federal judges under new rules
that frustrated the traditional prerogatives of liberal senators.
When Democrats regain clear control sometime in the future,
they might use the GOP precedent to eliminate filibustering,
and thus frustrate a future Republican senate minority. At
the least, they will use the GOP rules to confirm liberal
In Iowa’s 2nd congressional district election in 2020, the GOP
candidate won by 6 votes (out of more than 300,000 cast.
After some initial recounts failed to reverse the result, but
well before she exhausted her legal remedies, the losing
Democratic candidate announced she would take her case
to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The state of Iowa has now
certified the Republican as the winner. The U.S. constitution
states, however, that each body of Congress has the final
say over its members, and the Democratic-controlled
house could overrule the Iowa certification, and seat the
Democrat. This is very rarely done --- the last time was in
1984 when the Democrats held a much bigger majority than
they do now. (Then, 10 Democrats refused to go along with
their own majority.) But even if Speaker Pelosi does have
the votes to overturn the certified Iowa result, she risks an
almost certain backlash in the next election, as well as
giving Republicans a reasonable precedent for overturning
future close elections.
In 2020, many Democrats went along with the radical call to
defund the police, as well as supported Medicare for All and
Green New Deal policies advocated by one wing of the party.
But election results show that outside of the large urban
areas, these ideas were unpopular with voters, and cost them
several U.S. house and senate senate seats they might have
Many Democrats and some Republicans wanted so badly to
defeat Donald Trump in 2020, and they have apparently
succeeded. But the unintended consequences of their success
might not be so pleasant. They are now in charge of a
pandemic-ravaged economy, a quarantine-weary populace, in
a world of hostile global rivals --- with a sizable portion of
U.S. voters doubting their legitimacy as much as they doubted
Are they also rid of Donald Trump? Perhaps. But there might
now be eight more years of his presence instead of only four.
In any event, the nation continues, and for the sake of all, the
hope is that the new president can lead the U.S. successfully
through the many storms ahead.
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.
Saturday, December 12, 2020
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Most of the commentary about the 2020 national elections has
concluded that the voters did not give elected officials a clear
mandate for the next two and four years.
But such conclusions are based on partisan or ideological
premises on both the left and the right.
In fact, based on the actual voting results across the nation, the
majority of state voters expressed the pragmatic and centrist
desire for government to play a sensible and cooperative role
for the remainder of the pandemic crisis. Divided government
is careful moving government, and voters overall sent a signal
that they want no radical lurch to the left or right.
Urban violence, programs to defund the police and plans to
raise taxes contributed to the general down-ballot winning
performance of Republican candidates in 2020, but lack of a
genuine GOP healthcare alternative to Obamacare, seeming
indifference to some environmental issues, and the pandemic
denied conservatives a mandate as they once again lost the
national popular vote.
So-called identity politics, a strategy favored by Democrats,
presumes monolithic voting patterns of ethnic, religious and
labor groups. Its past success was notably not realized in
2020, as meaningful percentages of blacks, Hispanics, Jews
and union members continued leaving the Democratic Party.
If this trend continues, Democrats will lose control of the
U.S. house in 2022.
The mid-term elections of 2022 already loom. They will be
held after reapportionment of congressional districts and the
local elections of 2021. The pandemic, following widespread
vaccination, likely will be over, but its economic and social
aftermath likely will linger. Voters will not reward any party
or any administration which fails to advocate and implement
broad-based policy solutions.
Whoever is in charge faces a daunting, volatile, and
problematic two years ahead.
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
[THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN 2014]
Our world is a very busy place. There are more than 7.5
billion persons now living in it. There are more than 200
sovereign nations with borders, and perhaps at least as
many areas within those borders which desire to break
away and form their own new nations. The surface
of the earth is a vast area covered by land and seas and
ice. Underneath the earth’s surface are many layers of
substances, some of which are very hot, and routinely
erupt. At all times, the climate of the earth and its
weather are changing, distributing clouds, winds, rain,
snow, heat and cold. From time to time, small objects
from space enter our atmosphere, and occasionally land
as meteors. All living things, as well, create in their
daily existence changes on the land and in the atmosphere.
Uncountable electrochemical transactions are taking place
presumably everywhere at every moment, night and day,
year in and year out. Our world is a very busy place.
Human beings superimpose a rational explanation and
description of as much of this as they can. In spite of the
age of our planet, and the age of human life on it, which
is measured in millions of years, so-called recorded
history is only about five to ten thousand years old, and
so-called modern history is less than a thousand years
Before human recorded history, our ancestors lived in a
daily consciousness that noted natural patterns seen and
heard from the earth and the sky, in the seasons and the
nature of the geography where they lived. We now label
these ancestors as primitives. Their incipient cultures were
created not only from perceived natural patterns, but also
from their perceptions of irregularities, upheavals, and
One response to the unexplained by many of these early
peoples and their first societies was, each in its own way,
to transform the unexplained into omens and divine signals.
Out of these came much of ritual, tradition, religions, and
There is a curious reality about what we call modern science.
On the one hand, it works most of the time in a very practical
way. It was employed to create the industrial age. It enabled
human beings to fly (even to the moon and beyond), to extend
their lifetimes dramatically (including curing illnesses and
other pathologies), to create machines and devices which seem
to work amazingly (especially judged from the standards of
the past). On the other hand, science so far seems not to be an
absolute matter. Our most complex sciences, including
physics, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, chemistry, etc.,
always seem “unresolved” as our understanding of these
becomes more and more refined, and each frontier of our
perception of them presents inevitably still another frontier
and then another, sometimes even contradicting what was
We still do not “know” the full structure of the atom, of the
universe, or even of the simple planet on which we live.
It is today considered superstitious to try to connect natural
omens to human events, although human beings have apparently
done this since the beginning of their time. We are now, of
course, very “sophisticated” because we have contrived
computers and “miraculous” forms of transportation, not
to mention weapons and other devices of demonstrably
immense power and force.
And yet it is curious that, at preliminary moments of great
historical transformation, there always seems to be a notable
confluence of omens and unexplained phenomena which
precede these transformative moments.
Of course, our worldwide “instant” communications have
heightened our awareness of unusual events. In the past,
all omens were local. Now they are global. As the ancient
philosophies of the East remind us, very few things are what
they seem to be.
So are the unusual weather patterns (both warm and cold),
the recent chains of earthquakes along many of the world’s
faults; spate of droughts, floods and storms; appearances of
new diseases and plagues; the extinctions of various species
(and the survival of others) omens or not?
No one yet knows the answer to this question. But you don’t
have to be paying very close attention to news and events
to sense something curious and momentous is going on.
Copyright (c) 2014, 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.