Thursday, March 10, 2016

The GOP's Wild Ride

  We have now reached the nightmare for the establishment GOP. The hated Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are looking like the will end up battling each other to become the party's nominee, while the establishment is left with plans of chaos at the convention in July. In my adult life, which goes back to Reagan years of the 80s, the Republicans have seemed pretty stable and orderly when comes to picking a presidential nominee. Since 2008 the order has been unraveling until it reached bizzaro world anarchy you have now.

  In 2008, after some initial chaos in the Summer and Fall, the path to the nomination was somewhat smooth for John McCain once voting started. It makes sense that there would be some chaos, because you had open nominations on the Republican and Democratic side. Then in 2012 Mitt Romney ended up winning the nomination, and was aided greatly by strong establishment support, more money and better organization than any of the challengers like Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum. The Republicans seem to settle on the safe pick, because they just wanted somebody to beat President Obama. The problem for Romney is the nomination took him so far to the right, out of his comfort zone, that nobody bought the "severely conservative" Mitt Romney appeal.

  Now the Republican base is so angry and put off that even with big wins in the 2010 and 2014 off year elections, they were not able to deny his re-election in 2012 or undo Obamacare even though they have been promised that is GOP's top priority. In 2012 the Republican's flirted with an out of the box candidate, but ended settling on the establishment friendly Mitt Romney. This year the voters have simply rejected the establishment choices and the side of the road is littered with candidates like Scott Walker, Jeb! Bush, and Chris Christie with John Kasich and Marco Rubio hanging on for dear life to not get thrown out of the clown car. Instead the clown car is being driven by huckster and reality tv star, Donald Trump, who has the campaign strategy of shouting whatever the really mad base wants to hear. The fact that Trump is winning means that experience and policy mean nothing to a good portion of the base. In interviews there seems to be a lot of "What the heck, give Trump a shot" answer from his supporters. This means that establishment can't use simple logic and reason to beat Trump, because his supporters simply don't seem to care.

   The Republican establishment basically has three uncomfortable choices that all seem to point towards Hillary Clinton being sworn in as the next president. Choice one, accept that Donald Trump is the nominee, but that means they will probably lose the Senate and chances for Trump beating Hillary is at best a coin flip. Choice two, put all your money and energy into Senator Ted Cruz beating Trump, but it's hard to tell if establishment hates Cruz or Trump more. Also Cruz has the only mathematical chance of beating Trump, he is still facing an uphill battle. While Trump is a wild card that could win White House, I just don't see how Cruz will be able to win anything other than the red states, and will be a drag on down ticket races. Choice three, try to hold Trump under the winning number and stage a coup at the convention in Cleveland. The strategy will be based on how close Trump comes to the delegate number, if he does fall short, but no matter if what if Trump supporters think the establishment is trying to steal nomination, there will be a full scale revolt, and the ensuing civil war will all but guarantee President Hillary Clinton.

  After the 2012 election the conventional thinking was you can't insult black people, women, and Hispanics and hope to win a national election. While they played lip service to these groups, the actual policy tells a different story, and tends to point towards doubling down on winning more of the white vote. As long term strategy, winning with just white vote has no chance, and even winning 2016 is iffy at best. There is no way to see who the nominee will end up being, much less predicting what would happen if they lose again. What will happen when you don't have Obama fueled hate to run with? Is Donald Trump a one time anomaly or shape of things to come in the Republican party? Can you make changes as your base continues to get older and whiter? That having brown faces on stage talking to a sea of white faces does not mean the same thing as being an actual big tent party? No matter what at some point there will need to be some soul searching for the GOP.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Bernie vs Hillary: Day after Michigan

  I posted about the Bernie versus Hillary yesterday, and I was ready to concede that Clinton Campaign was on the verge of putting the race away. She looked she was poised for big wins in Michigan and Mississippi, and while she did get the Mississippi win, Bernie Sanders put up a huge upset win in Michigan. I understand that the overall course of the race has not changed, but even with every structural advantage Hillary Clinton has, she is still struggling to win consistently outside of the South. Next week Clinton has another chance to break this trend with primaries in Illinois and Ohio. If the Clinton wins in those two states, and if she combines that with probable wins in Florida and North Carolina her campaign will be back on track to her being the nominee. If she loses or has close wins, there will be no reason for Sanders to quit any time soon, because the race is about to shift to more Northern and Western states. The campaign seems to sense that are at crucial junction, because they have flooded MSNBC with a steady stream of surrogates to say that Michigan was a tough fight, but things are still on the right course. I was feeling pretty good until today, and I got hit with wave after wave justification of Hillary losing Michigan is not a big deal. Now I just feel a bit testy and annoyed by Team Clinton. I know she is just playing the same math game that Obama used in 2008, and no matter what I will support Hillary in the Fall, I just need a break from it today.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Bernie vs Hillary

   OK let's get the obvious out of the way first. Unless there is some kind of huge turn around Hillary Clinton has put together the kind of mathematical advantage that she was on the wrong side of in 2008 versus Obama. The Clinton campaign has learned some important lessons from Obama by putting together a series of big wins, support of super delegates and winning big chunks of delegates in states that Sanders won. Over the next couple of weeks they can put a solid lock on the nomination if the results reflect what the polling says it will. Even though I support Bernie Sanders and voted for him in the Tennessee primary, I will vote for Hillary in November over whoever pops out of the GOP clown car. Hillary Clinton would be a better president than Cruz, Trump, or whoever the GOP picks in Cleveland if they successfully stage a coup in July. So the bottom line of all this is simply Bernie Sanders is the candidate I would like to be the nominee, but Hillary Clinton is the one I am going to get.

   Jamelle Bouie from Slate has done a really good job of summing the state of the Democratic race in his piece "The Real Difference Between Bernie and Hillary". Mr. Bouie says, " Hillary Clinton is running to lead Democrats, Bernie Sanders is running to lead liberals." That one sentence covers why I am supporting Sanders over Clinton. While I am Democrat because they tend to be more liberal than the current GOP, I support Sanders specifically because he represents a more liberal wing of the party. I am not naive and I understand that you need coalition of voters to win the nomination much less the White House. Senator Sanders is having a difficult time winning with just liberals, just like Senator Cruz is having trouble winning on Republican side with mostly very conservative voters. Based on that reasoning we can assume that Hillary Clinton will not only be the nominee, but has a very good chance of being the next president. Based on that, let's look at where we stand with Clinton 2016.

   At first it appeared that Clinton had no true competition for the nomination, and it looked it was going to be a fairly easy path for her, but then Bernie Sanders came out of the left wing of the party and message caught on especially with younger voters. Hilary was forced to talk her progressive and tried to get left on Bernie on guns to try and show that she and not Bernie is true progressive champion. her tag line is, "I am a progressive that gets things done", which indicates that Sanders is an out of touch idealist who has no shot of getting anything done as president. She is trying to get younger voters on her side, but has done much better with older voters who tend to be more conservative. She has overwhelming won the support of other elected officials, who seem to feel more comfortable with her than Sanders. She has done very well with African American voters, especially in southern states where they make a up large part of the Democratic base. It is the African American vote that let her gets big wins in the Southern states.  Although I think the Sanders campaign has served a purpose. If nothing the success of Bernie Sanders has forced Clinton to at least acknowledge the liberal wing of the party instead of going straight for the more centrist positions.

  One of the more frustrating aspects of the election cycle is Hillary Clinton and her supporters are not only trying to sell the idea that she is the true liberal but that she is also some kind of anti-establishment outsider. Bill and Hillary Clinton helped create the coalition that not only won two elections for Bill, but was pretty much the template that helped Obama win two terms and Al Gore and John Kerry used in their narrow loses to George W. Bush. Despite all the claims by the Republicans of runaway liberalism, the Clinton/Obama coalition has mostly been a center left one. It's hard to believe that Gore or Kerry would have been substantially different as president than Clinton or Obama. It seems Hillary is trying to say she is a voice of liberalism, but her actual policies are much more in line with the more moderate wing of the party. Such as I can collect large speaking fees from big corporations but as president I am going to crack down on them. Also I understand establishment seems to be a dirty word this cycle and Clinton is trying to downplay that angle in some ways, but her actions all but scream I am the establishment. Having most of the female Senators on stage with you or having a never ending stream of elected supporters is no way to play up your outsider street cred. The real test will be what Team Clinton does when they feel they have a true lock on nomination, early indications are they will immediately pivot to the center which will be more comfortable for her than trying to pretend that is anything other than a hawkish blue dog.

   Which brings us to the general election in November. If Ted Cruz is the nominee at the very least her electoral map will match what Obama was able to accomplish. There is nothing to indicate Ted Cruz can win the swing states that have been in play since 2000. If Republican establishment manages to get someone other than Trump or Cruz the nomination, they are probably facing a full scale war inside the party and will probably mean a fairly easy win for Clinton. If Trump wins the nomination, I have no idea what would happen. So far the conventional wisdom about Trump has been wrong, so it is just very hard to predict what a Clinton versus Trump election looks like. Clinton should be able to beat Trump, but then again nobody thought he would be in the position he is now. In the next week there are primaries in Ohio, Florida, and Michigan. For Trump, in Florida and Ohio it will be a test of how he will do in states the Republicans need to win if they want to win the White House in 2016. For Clinton, Michigan and Ohio will be test of her appeal outside of the south. For the most part Clinton has run up big wins in states that Democrats will probably not win in November, and having much closer races in traditionally blue or battleground states, because no matter what the Industrial Midwest will play a big part in deciding who the next president is. At the end of the day most of the Bernie people will support Clinton, and while it is gotten a bit testy at times, it is nowhere near the mosh pit the Republican as become. Most of disagreements have been about policy, instead of how big is Trump's dick or any of the other silly things that have come in the GOP debates. The Democrats will probably be united, while the Republicans are a ticking time bomb on the verge of a civil war.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Turning 50

  Today I turned 50, and to be honest I am not sure how I feel about it. Turning 30, so far, has been my hardest milestone birthday. There was just something about not being in my 20s anymore was harder than I thought it would be. Turning 40 was tricky, but it just felt like a number. Turning 50 was somewhere in between the two events. I know turning 30 was about not being young any more, but when I turned 40 it did feel as pressing. Now I am 50 I do feel some pressure about where my life is right and where it is going in the next couple of decades as I move into a new phase of my life. So I guess it is less about the actual age, but more about the uncertainty of what the next phase of my life will look like. I am at the point in my like where some successful people have already retired, or least in a position to where they know what the backside of their life looks like. Of course there are a lot of people that are my age, and don't feel comfortable about their future, so I am not exactly special when it comes to those kind of questions. I just wish I had a better sense of what is coming next. There is that question: where do see yourself in the next x number of years, and I have never been good at answering those kind of questions. I am usually doing good to have a sense of where I am in the moment, much less what the future looks like. I guess today more than other days there is a sense of "Well now what ?". The good news is I do enjoy most aspects of my life and I think I am going to have a good 50th birthday. My life is not a failure, and I must press forward and make the most of my future opportunities. I just have to realize that I can make changes for the good that will effect the rest of my life. Together with my wife, Dabney, we will continue to work to make not only our own lives better, but also help our friends and family when we can. That having someone that you can depend on can get you through the tough times. So today is a day to celebrate the future, and not to dread it. With the help of friends and family I will enter the next phase of my life. Thanks to everyone, and together we will make things happen.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

GOP Clown Car Part 16: What Happens Next

  Many others have used the term clown car to describe the strange and wacky group of candidates that are running for president. Clown car is perhaps too happy of a description of what is happening here. I think a better description for the 2016 Republican race is a car full of carnies, which reflects the dark nature of this group of grifters and con men that say they are running for president, but are really just a bunch of guys trying to make as much money as they can off of the idea becoming the next president. Governor Perry and Governor Walker both seemed to be actually running for president, but quickly dropped out when it was clear that was not going to happen, because they were short on support and money. Of the candidates left Bush, Rubio, Kasich, and Christie seem to be actually running to become of the next president. Cruz is probably more of a huckster than a candidate, but you have to think there is some dark fantasy he has of being President Cruz. I am not sure where Trump falls on this scale, because his entire nature is self promotion and making a buck, so it is a given he looking to make money, but with his massive he ego he could think that he would be able to make a ton of money and become president. The rest of these guys are looking to make as much money as they can off of the right wing gravy train, and like Newt Gingrich in 2012, would more surprised than anything if it looks they might be winning.

  One of the strangest offshoots of this wacky GOP race is the idea of how some of the supposedly smartest guys have said some of the dumbest things in the name of connecting with the far right wingnut base of the party. Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, and Ted Cruz are intelligent and well educated men, who have simply gone off the rails of sanity by playing to the religious right so much. All three men realize than they will probably not be the next president, but have doubled down on saying the right things that will excite the base. Fox News, book tours, lecture circuits, and conservative gatherings are waiting with open arms for these guys when they stop pretending they are running for president and jump on the gravy train. So what if most of the rest of the world thinks you are some kind of lunatic, they are not the ones paying your bills.

  As far as how this will all work out, no one really knows what is going to happen. It is probably going to be a ton speculation over the next couple of months until the actual voting starts. By then a few more candidates will have dropped out, and after Iowa and New Hampshire, there will be a fairly good idea of who the real contenders are. Once the Republicans get through this brutal nomination process, it then becomes, how damaged will this candidate actually be. An outsider like Trump or Cruz might fire up the base but will horrify the rest of the country. An establishment person like Bush, Rubio, or Kasich might have the same challenges of a less than excited base, that McCain and Romney faced the last two cycles. If the Republicans are facing the same electoral map that has been around since 2000, they have to figure how to win both Ohio and Florida, even though they have completely ignored the 2012 advice on how to deal with women and Hispanics. No matter who wins this thing, they appear to be facing an uphill battle next November.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

GOP Clown Car Part 15: Donald Trump

  Now for the man who may not be the next president, but by far has had the most effect on the 2016 presidential process. Donald Trump has become the king of all media during the Summer and early Fall of 2015. If you looks across the ideological spectrum left to right there have been multiple stories about Trump and his effect on this presidential cycle. Hour upon hour on cable news, and hundreds, if not thousands, of stories in both the print and internet worlds. It's gone from there is no way he can win to "Oh My God" he might actually win the nomination. There are better people than me that have written excellent pieces on all manner of things Trumpian from the perspective of past, present, and future, form very serious to humorous, so I am just going to throw a couple thoughts out there. Then we can all settle back and see what happens over the next few months.

  I guess for me the most interesting aspect of the Trump phenomenon is the Trump versus Jeb! Bush story line. Donald Trump wants to be president, but has the attitude of if don't win, I am going to make sure I do everything I can to make sure that is not Jeb Bush on the ballot next November. Trump's attacks on the Bushes have been from the start of his campaign, and have been very pointed and brutal. Trump has not only knocked Jeb! out of his front runner position, but has played a major role in the perception problems Bush's campaign is currently facing. It remind's me a lot of the movie Caddyshack, where Ted Knight's incredibly square and uptight character, Judge Smails, is constantly hounded and tortured by Rodney Dangerfield's outrageously loud and vulgar character, Al Czervik. Judge Smails tries to ignore, insult, bully, and beat Al but always comes up short. Like Caddyshack, you have Jeb as the uptight country club type and Trump is very much like Dangerfield's nouveau riche "I have a shit ton of money and I am just going to keep buying all of this awesome stuff and showing it all off" character. Jeb has tried everything he can to make his 2016 campaign about anything other than Donald Trump, because ignoring him didn't work, and taking him on has been disastrous. The latest Trump versus Bush dust up is over is the amount of blame his brother George is due for 9/11, and it appears Jeb is losing this battle, as well. By the end of Caddyshack, Al drives Judge Smails a little crazy, and while Jeb hasn't gone crazy, his campaign is starting to sound desperate, as they are trying everything they can think of to change the narrative and show that Jeb is still a serious contender. 

  The other aspect of the Trump story I find interesting is his relationship with the Republican base, specifically his followers. Trump's followers are very loyal and passionate, and his level of support has the Republican establishment in a state of shock as reported by Byron York in the Washington Examiner. It reminds me of your teenage daughter dumping the guy you don't really care for, but then starts dating some obnoxious punk kid that you really hate. Trump is tailor made to fill that bad boy role, with a lot of big talk and showing off all his cool things, like planes, estates, golf courses, and casinos. Trumps biggest group of supporters is non-college whites. It is a group that is angry and passionate, and there is something about Trump has struck a nerve. Like young love, it is all emotion, and not logic, which probably why Trump's poll numbers have not been hurt by lack of policy papers or specifics. This kind of relationship is a tricky spot for the parents or in this case the Republican establishment. You clearly see this kid is completely full of shit, and has no idea what he is talking about half time, but the problem is your daughter sees none of the faults. You try to sit her down and calmly explain why it is not a good idea to date this guy, and that he is not really the person that she thinks he is. While the parents are looking are looking at this logically, she is looking at this emotionally and the two views will not sync up. This leads to trying to decide if you should let nature take it's course, hoping and praying she sees what a massive tool he is or do if you should push her to end the relationship now, knowing that if you push too hard that it makes her want him all the more. An article in Politico talks about Republican operatives dealing with the idea of Trump being the nominee, and how it has gone from no shot at this to he has a chance. After two cycles of picking the safer establishment guy and still losing, there seems to be a good portion of the Republican base willing to give the bad boy a chance.

  Trump has ridden this wave farther than anybody thought possible, and survived a lot of things that would have normally ended a lot of campaigns. While it certainly seems possible he could win the nomination, conventional wisdom has been wrong a lot so far, and he still at best has fifty fifty shot at being the nominee. Right now, the thinking is that at some point money and lack of support will cause more of the other contenders to drop out, and this will bring more attention to who is left. Once actual voting starts Trump will not do as well as he is now. I think it easier to tell a pollster you would vote for Trump, than actually going in the booth and hitting that button. Then the questions will become if Trump is not the nominee, how much damage will Trump's fiery rhetoric have done to the eventual nominee, and is it already to late to fix the damage?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

GOP Clown Car Part 14: Ben Carson

  The last two clowns in the clown car are possibly the hardest two to figure out. Two outsiders, who have struck a nerve with Republican base. Both have said and done things that would normally doom a campaign. Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon turned presidential candidate, is currently running second to real estate mogul, Donald Trump, in the current Real Clear Politics average of polls. Dr. Carson is over ten points ahead of third place candidate, Marco Rubio. Together Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson are over 45% in the polls, and while Trump has gotten plenty of national press, other than articles about some bizarre comments Dr. Carson has said recently, he has not had nearly the same amount of press coverage that Trump has had. The two front runners are taking slightly different paths. Trump has done more public events, but has used the media's never ending fascination of all things Trump to get almost daily coverage, instead of using traditional advertising. Dr. Carson has been a conservative hero ever since he attacked President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast. He has not only made money off this, but he has also turned that right wing love into a so far successful run for president, and has mostly been in right wing world during his campaign.

  Unlike Trump, who has mostly operated in the mainstream media, Dr. Carson has not done that much, traditional campaigning, and has mostly been operating in the insular world of right wing media. Dr. Carson's comments on Roseberg, Oregon school shooting is only the latest example of outrageous comments he is made while running for president. Dr. Carson's comments are bizarre for a presidential candidate, but not so strange in the realms of right wing media, which started back in the '90s with Rush Limbaugh, and the right wing talkers spewing hate. Then adding Fox News and the right wing internet and blog sites an enclosed world has been created. Some the most vile, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and violent comments have come out of the right wing media in the past couple of decades. The bile has only become more toxic in the age of Obama, and also the place where Carson got his start. Considering that right wing media is some people's only source of news and information, it is pretty easy to see why Dr. Carson is very popular with a certain portion of the Republican base. When  Dr. Carson makes some of his more outrageous comments, he sounds like somebody that is used to talking to that audience. One of the ways you can tell that Dr. Carson has been in the cocoon of right wing media too long is how shocked he seems to be when reporters have the gall to ask him about some of his more out there statements. Sarah Hill on Salon listed some the more outrageous things that Carson has said. Hill also adds to the mix the almost godlike attitude surgeons have. So he goes from being a famous surgeon to right wing media celebrity. He is used to being loved and adored, and is never really questioned because people love him so much.

 In addition to being able to say lots of mean and awful things without consequences, the right wing media is a great place to make money. In fact, Gary Legum on Salon thinks that Dr. Ben Carson is a straight up grifter, that is only in it for the money. I have no idea if this is actually true or not. On one hand, he does like the money he makes being a star in the right wing media world, but on the other hand there does seem to be at least some motivation to be the next president. He just does not want to run a traditional campaign. So he takes two weeks off to sell a book, while everybody else is grinding away in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. I think it says more about how is used to being surgeon/right wing hero Dr. Ben Carson, who doesn't like to be questioned about his actions and statements. To be fair, so far it is working, he just does what he does, says what he says, and he is still second place. Now we just wait, and see what happens.

  I simply do not know how long the run will last for Dr. Carson. People could decide that they don't like Carson as much and the gravity drags him down. Maybe he will be around, when the actual voting starts. He has the best shot in Iowa, but is running farther behind in New Hampshire and South Carolina. What does a winning strategy look like for Carson? Does he have the infrastructure to last past the earlier states? There just seems to be so many questions about the future Dr. Carson's campaign, and nobody knows what the answers are.