Friday, October 15, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "Pandemigration" And Other Issues In 2022

Democratic political demoralization in advance of the 2022

national midterm elections continues with the retirement

announcement of U.S. House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth

of Kentucky, This follows retirements of other senior U.S.

house Democrats in Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois and Arizona 

who might have been defeated in a potential “red wave” 

election next year.


Three senior Republicans have also announced their 

retirements, but they represent safe GOP districts.


In 2017-18, this phenomenon was reversed as many 

endangered senior Republicans retired in advance of the

“blue wave” 2018 national mid-term elections which gave

Democrats control of the U.S. house.


The political pessimism of the Democrats is apparently

being fueled by voter response to President Joe Biden and

many of the unpopular policies and proposals of his

administration. The disastrous way the U.S. withdrew from

Afghanistan and the ongoing Mexican border crisis have

evidently fueled the president’s precipitous personal drop

in the polls, but inflation worries and (according to polls)

unpopular proposals (such as defunding the police and

packing the U.S. supreme court) are reinforcing a mood of

vulnerability among many incumbent Democrats.


The border crisis, particularly, is creating prospects of

increasing negative reactions from voters in coming 

months as tens of thousands of would-be undocumented

immigrants are reportedly making their way in caravans

to the Mexican-U.S. border where already record numbers

of emigrants have massed in trying to enter the U.S. This

“pandemigration” has been encouraged by some voices

on the U.S. political left, following a controversial 

pandemigration in western Europe, (and its rejection in

parts of eastern Europe).


Less immediate,, but looming in coming months, is a 

serious supply chain crisis — brought on, critics say, by

Biden administration economic policies.


The Democratic political demoralization is beginning to

spill over into the key battle for control of the U.S. senate

in 2022 —- where Democrats are seeing their initial

advantage to attain a majority fade as independent and

suburban voters, according to recent polls, increasingly

are seemingly turning to GOP candidates.


Not all the news is bad for the Democrats. The post-

pandemic economy is slowly recovering, the stock market

remains high, interest rates remain low, and the natural

optimism of most Americans still prevails. The election is

still slightly more than a year away. The  Afghan debacle

will fade in voter memory.


But new and ongoing crises, especially economic ones,

are provoking veteran elected officials now to evaluate

their re-election prospects — and so far, the decisions 

have been ominous, particularly in U.S. house races, for

the  Democrats.


——————————————————————————

Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.




Friday, September 24, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Headlines In September

 CANADIAN ELECTIONS

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called as early

election hoping to win a majority of seats in his nation’s

parliament, but the strategy has failed as his Liberal Party

won almost the same number of seats they held in their

minority government. The main opposition Conservative 

Party gained only 3 seats, while the leftist New Democratic

Party won enough seats again to provide Trudeau with the

necessary majority to lead the country he has led since

2015. A sizable bloc of seats was also won by the Quebec

nationalist party in Canada’s second largest province.

Half of Trudeau’s party’s seats came from Ontario, the

largest province. Conservative Party strength was in

western Canada. Although the Trudeau’s Liberals won the

most seats, they were virtually tied with the Conservatives

in the national popular vote. Trudeau’s gamble clouds his 

political future, and he will once again have to satisfy his 

parliamentary partners, the New Democrats.


OVERRULING “THE SQUAD”

In a last-minute gambit, nine anti-Israel Democrats in the

U.S. House had $1 billion in aid to Israel’s vital “Iron  Dome”

system deleted from the infrastructure bill before Congress,

threatening not to vote for the bill if the aid were not removed.

Led by the radical “Squad” that includes Minnesota 5th

District Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, their victory was brief

as the U.S. House then immediately passed the aid in  a

separate bill with a bipartisan vote of 420 to 9 with 2 voting 

“present,” and one Republican joining the negatives.


NEW U.S./U.K./AUSTRALIA PACT

In a week of foreign policy debacles and other bad news,

President Biden joined traditional allies Australia and the

United Kingdom in  a domestically popular new defense

pact known as “AUKUS.” The agreement calls for mutual

defense cooperation to meet the new aggressive challenge

from China, and includes the sale of U.S. nuclear submarines

to Australia. The latter led Australia to cancel an earlier

order for French nuclear subs, and  deeply upset French

President Macron, who recalled his ambassador to the

U.S., and other European allies (who were not consulted on

the move). The pact was initiated by British Prime Minister

Boris Johnson who, like Mr. Biden, had not received much

good foreign policy news recently.



BORDER CRISIS WORSENS

With a Mexican border crisis clearly worsening despite

denials by the Biden administration and many privately

embarrassed Democratic leaders, record numbers of 

undocumented would-be immigrants from South and

Central  America and the Caribbean are at or crossing the

Mexican border. Some are unaccompanied children, and

none are required to be vaccinated to enter the U.S. The

images of crowded refugees at border points and bridges,

previously downplayed by many in the establishment 

media, is now a major story beyond the directly-affected

border states. Vice President Kamala Harris, charged by

President Biden to manage the crisis, is virtually invisible.

Local Democrats seeking re-election in 2022 are increasingly

worried by political fallout from the crisis.


VIRGINIA IN PLAY?

Most recent polls show the Virginia race for governor,

scheduled to take place in five weeks, to be too close to call.

Pitting former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe

against Republican busInessman Glenn Youngkin, the

race had not been expected to be close in a state which has

voted consistently Democratic in  recent years. The current

Democratic incumbent is term-limited. Virginia was carried

by Joe Biden by 10 points in 2020. Although rural Virginia

remains heavily Republican, the Washington, DC suburbs

in the state have been increasingly Democratic because so

many work for the federal government, and commute.


————————————————————————————

Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 







Wednesday, September 8, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Early Critical Mass

The political cliches about commenting on and predicting

future elections which are many months away don’t always

hold up in all circumstances — and this might be the case 

in the current national mid-term cycle. 


The reason for this is the fact that major races for

governor, senator and congressperson now require so

much money that individuals must make their decisions

to run and begin fundraising earlier than in the past. This

is true for incumbents as well as challengers, although

incumbents are perhaps more concerned about likely

defeat if their districts are likely to be unfavorably

redrawn or specific issues  endanger their re-election.


Both parties now face such an unconventional cycle more

than a year before election day. 


For Democrats, foreign and domestic crises have seen a

sudden and precipitous drop in President Joe Biden’s

popularity because of his mishandling the U.S. military

withdrawal from Afghanistan. Even before Afghanistan,

the Mexican border crisis was causing serious problems

for Democratic incumbents in southeastern states (Texas,

Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada) with some

already announcing their retirements. Perhaps most

significantly, potentially strong challengers to vulnerable

Republican incumbents are feeling the current negative

environment — and with the resulting uncertainty about

next year, possibly deciding not to run. The retirement of

a 13-term Democratic congressman in Wisconsin indicates

the negatives are occurring nationally, especially in

suburban districts and battleground northern states

where progressive policies of defunding the police,

politicizing the schools, packing the U.S. supreme court,

etc., are very unpopular outside inner cities.


The political environment might improve for the

Democrats next year, but candidates must, in most

cases. make up their minds now when their prospects

appear low.


For different reasons, Republican incumbents and

challengers might face negative circumstances, and

might decide not to run in 2022. In fact, four sitting

U.S. GOP senators have already  announced their

retirement. The dilemma for Republicans next year is

the activity of former President Donald Trump in

some gubernatorial, senate and house races —  some

involving GOP incumbents — where his preferred

and endorsed candidate might not be the strongest

candidate for the office. This might be the case in

Arizona, for example. In a competitive 2022 race,

a Republican nominee without Mr. Trumps’s

support  would be at a distinct disadvantage. All

polls show that Trump supporters still dominate 

the GOP voter base.


The two leaders of their parties are thus key to the

eventual outcome of the 2022 elections, and as well

are key in many cases to the critical period  now

taking place when candidates are making their

decisions about next year.


One political commonplace is axiomatic, i.e., that

candidates matter. Wave elections and local

circumstances might allow weaker nominees

occasionally to win, but generally only quality

candidates, especially challengers to incumbents,

prevail with voters.


When the strongest candidates decide not to run

because of gloomy prospects well before election

day, opportunities are sometimes lost. A case in

point, was the contest for the 1992 Democratic

presidential nomination. President George H.W.

Bush was so popular following the 1991 Gulf War

victory that many strong Democratic candidates

decided not to run, and allowed an unknown and

controversial Bill Clinton to win the nomination.

By mid-1992, the economy had tanked, Ross

Perot was running as a third party candidate,

and in November, Clinton won.


It is true that a political environment can change

dramatically in a matter of months, but it is also

true that the critical period when candidates

decide whether to run or not has irreversible

consequences long before election day.


We are in such a period now — a year before

voters go to the polls.


————————————————————————————

Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.





 

  


 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Media Biden Remorse?

Although the U.S. Afghan withdrawal has not yet fully played 

out, the so-called establishment media appears to have 

already abandoned its year-long cheerleading of Joe Biden, 

candidate and now president.


Mr. Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops was not popular

with many in the military, neo-conservatives, and a number

of our allies, not to mention the Afghan government, but a

a majority of Americans does support in principle our leaving.

Former President Trump wanted to withdraw, but apparently

was constrained by a secure way in arranging the departure of

U.S, troops.


The drama now taking place is producing, much to the Biden

administration's discomfort, a series of negative visuals and

issues, including chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport where

U.S. citizens and Afghans who helped the U.S have gathered to

be evacuated. This has been complicated  by terrorist

threats and a tragic suicide bomber attack, killing Americans,

Europeans and Afghans.


That attack put focus on the fact that the Taliban who now

control the country, and negotiated the U.S. withdrawal, do

not seem able to control terrorist groups such as Al  Quaeda

and others who might pose a threat against the West, as

happened on September 11, 2001.


President Biden’s own presentation of his policy and the

evacuation has been inconsistent and muddled, and he has

even avoided taking questions from the usually friendly

media. His early assurances of an orderly and successful

withdrawal/evacuation have been wrong so far. The

premature abandonment of allied air bases and huge

quantities of planes, helicopters and military materiel

seems disastrous.


A few commentators defending the president contend that

all this was unavoidable, and that the bottom line will be 

that we will be out of Afghanistan — which is what the

American public wanted.


But most in the media, including Mr. Biden’s friends on

editorial pages and in the print/broadcast commentariat do

not appear to accept that rosy assessment. Visual memories

of the chaotic evacuation of Saigon in Viet Nam persist

almost 50 years later, and the notion of leaving Americans

and their Afghan friends behind seems unacceptable.


The precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops, accompanied by

pullouts of British, French and other troops, also creates a

very large strategic and political vacuum in the region,

affecting Russia, Iran, Pakistan, India, China and southeast

Asia. It isn’t really clear yet what the consequences will be.


The Taliban themselves seem unlikely to want to precipitate

a U.S. military return, but as already noted, they seem

unable to control jihadist and terrorist groups in their midst

who might provoke with another 9/11.


Afghan women and minority groups are certain now to 

suffer under Taliban rule.


In the past, the media ignored Mr. Biden’s problems. But

this one might be different.


———————————————————————————

Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Odd Money

As the U.S. moves toward digital money and away from

metal coins and paper currency, an earlier age of odd

coinage is further forgotten except by numismatists who

collect them.


Today, our coinage includes the penny, nickel, dime,

quarter. half dollar and dollar. One hundred fifty years 

ago., there were many more coin varieties in general 

circulation, some of them with odd denominations

that might seem strange in 2021.


In fact, most Americans have not ever seen a half penny,

two cent, three cent, half dime or twenty cent coins.


The earliest U.S. general circulation coins were minted 

in the 1790s. Prior to that colonial coinage circulated,

and after independence, each state state provided its

own coins. After 1789, a national coinage was needed,

and official coins with “United  States of America” on 

them appeared, including the half penny, penny, half

dime, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar.


The copper half penny circulated from 1793 to 1836.

The silver half dime was used from 1794 to 1873. The

modern nickel five cent piece was introduced in 1865.


A copper two cent piece was introduced in 1864, but

was discontinued in 1873. A silver three cent piece

circulated from 1851 to 1873, and a larger nickel three 

cent coin was used from 1865 to 1889.


Form 1875 to 1878, a silver twenty cent piece was in

circulation.


U.S. gold coins were minted from the nation’s 

earliest days in a variety of denominations, 

including a dollar in the precious metal (1849 to 1889),

a half eagle ($5.00), eagle ($10.00) and double eagle

($20.00). Like the lower value coins in copper, nickel

and silver, gold coins also came in odd  

denominations, including $2.50 (1796-1929), $3.00

(1854-89, and briefly ,$4.00 (1879-80). The latter gold

coins, called “Stellas,” were minted in very few

quantities, and are today extremely valuable, often

selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the

rare coin market.


Indeed, silver and gold coins,  especially the latter,

now have a metal value that notably exceeds their

stated value, and command premium prices in the

numismatic market. (Rarity and coin condition

determine the exact price.)


These days, vending machines, parking meters and

laundromats are increasingly using plastic for use,

as are most retail stores and restaurants for payment.

Bills are paid via the internet or check. The pay

telephone is virtually extinct. Some places won’t even

accept cash.


 Is the time coming soon when whole generations of 

Americans will have not ever have seen a coin or a

dollar bill, and will regard them as strange as most

Americans do today about the three cent piece?


———————————————————————————-

Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.