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Those Darned Rules

Tiger Woods didn’t compete in this past weekend’s Masters Tournament, but we were reminded of a time when he was winning almost everything in sight. Being noticeably different from past golf champions he was bringing a lot of energetic new fans to the staid old game to root him on, which was great for the Professional Golf Association’s ratings, but in most cases they were fans of Woods and not of the game. In many of our conversations with them they seemed not to appreciate or even understand the brutally humbling sport, and were invariably confused about what nefarious goings-on must have been going on when their hero inevitably didn’t win.
We were reminded of this because another intriguing round of the sport of politics also occurred over the weekend, and we notice the same thing going on in both of the major party leagues. Self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, arguably the Democratic front-runner, and self-described billionaire Donald J. Trump, arguably the Republican front-runner, have been winning a lot lately, and both being noticeably different from past politicians they’ve both brought a lot of energetic new fans to the staid old game of party politics, and it really is hard to explain to either of these very disparate groups of political neophytes why their heroes suffered some unusual losses. The major parties’ nominating processes are more complicated than even the infield fly rule, and they did yield some admittedly unusual results.
Sanders won a convincing 56 percent of the vote in Wyoming’s Democratic caucus, continuing a seven-of-eight streak that includes some embarrassing blow-outs over arguable front-runner and former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President Hillary Clinton, but he wound up with a mere split of the state’s delegates. Trump got pretty much wiped out in the delegate race in Colorado by the described-by-everyone-as-a-conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but that happened without either a primary or caucus, which in these newfangled times is unusual. It’s all in the rule book, though, right next to the regulation about pine tar only being allowed so far up on a bat, and those who understand the game and appreciate it more than any of the players will know the rules must be enforced.
Those disgruntled Sandernistas seem to have the better gripe. Their guy keeps racking up so many convincing wins among Democratic voters that even the wags at Saturday Night Live are making fun of Clinton, but she keeps creeping ahead in the delegate count due to some goings-on that have clearly been going on for a while now, and we can easily understand why they’d think their guy is up against one of steroid-fed behemoths in one of those fixed professional wrestling shows the Republican front-runner used to produce, and well imagine their horror upon discovering that the supposed safe space of the Democratic party is so impure, but they should have the read the rules and been in the before something noticeably different attracted their attention.
These newfound fans of Sanders weren’t paying the least attention when Clinton’s fund-raising prowess and reputation for ruthlessness was scaring off all the few remaining viable opponents and getting all these rules written just in case of something decidedly different like Sanders, and they blithely figured they’d go along with any old candidate the Democrats might come up with, just as they’d always gone along with all the rest of the party’s dealmaking and ruthlessness, so there are limits to our sympathy. If their “revolution” has to occur four years from now with a 78-year-old Sanders leading the idealistic youth off the cliff we won’t shed a tear, as we’ll need them all for the alternative of a Clinton nomination.
Trump’s so loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters will rightly note that Colorado’s convention is peculiar in this age of open primaries and other newfangled democratic fashions in the Republican Party’s nomination process, but we’re long-involved Kansas Republicans and keen fans of the game, damn it, and we’re not ones to tell those Colorado Republicans how to choose their delegates. The convention system they chose has a certain appeal to our old-fashioned tastes, even if there probably wasn’t any smoke in those “smoke-filled rooms,” at least not tobacco smoke, and we think there’s an argument to be made that it used to turn up candidates such as Abraham Lincoln and William Howard Taft and Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower who were on the whole better than what’s been offered up by the post-’68 moves to a more directly democratic choice. In any case the rules are chosen by the people who were chosen by the party members, and they were in place before Trump announced his candidacy, for reasons best understood by the more attentive sorts of Colorado Republicans, who surely weren’t anticipating that Trump would still be around, and Trump had every opportunity to play and win by those rules. By all accounts he barely bothered, while Cruz made every effort and every smart play, and we have no sympathy for the predictably pouting Trump.
Trump’s main argument for his candidacy is that he’s an extraordinarily competent deal-maker and manager and visionary who surrounds himself with the very best people and never gets out-played in any game, so the pouting only undermines the pitch. The professionally political Cruz was playing the Republican nominating process game back when Trump was firing Dennis Rodman on the celebrity edition of “The Apprentice,” which was played by Trump’s rules, and he’s clearly the better player. He’s also been peeling off extra delegates from states that Trump won but where the rules allow some goings-on, and with a big win in Wisconsin to add to his totals he’s pursuing a viable strategy to deny Trump the needed majority for a first ballot nomination, and carefully laying the groundwork to win on a second or even third and beyond ballot. Meanwhile Trump is shuffling his skeleton staff, speaking coyly about the the possibility of riots, allowing a surrogate to threaten to have angry supporters show up at wavering delegates’ hotel rooms, belatedly hiring someone who knows about all this stuff, and supposedly apprising himself of the rules of the game that he’s playing.
If he ever gets around to reading the rule book, Trump might be surprised to find that it was written with the intention of preventing any candidate entirely unacceptable to a broad segment of the party, such as himself, from winning the party’s nomination. A similar sense of self-preservation is the sound rationale for the even harder-to-explain Democratic rules, which are still trying to prevent a Henry Wallace or George McGovern or Bernie Sanders from winning the party’s nomination, which is admirable enough, but when the alternative is Hillary Clinton, what difference, at that point, does it make?
The current hybrid system of caucuses and primaries and conventions and unbound delegates and super delegates and whatnot seems likely to serve up the two most distrusted and disliked people in America for the office of President of the States, but it might not, in which case there will be huge numbers of Sanders or Trump fans and maybe both who will be doing some serious pouting, and no foreseeable happy outcomes for the country, but we’ll live with it for now. It’s better than what the Sandersnistas and the Trumpenproletariat would could come up on the spur of the moment with to serve their side, with no thought for the idea that just as a game is supposed to produce the best player the political process is supposed to produce the best candidate, the one most broadly acceptable to the party and most representative of its traditional ideals and most likely to win a general election, and that the people who have been involved in the party with years and sweat and tears should have some say in the matter no matter how many of those newly enthused fans who of some candidate flock to the party and openly boast of their intention to “burn it down” if their guy doesn’t win.

— Bud Norman

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A Not-So-Super Tuesday

Although it’s still too soon to abandon all hope, and never so late that one should abandon the fight, on the day after “Super Tuesday” it seems all too likely that the American people will have to choose between two of the most widely distrusted and disliked people in the country for their next president.
The big day brought split decisions, but the clear winners on points were Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television-and-scam-university mogul on the Republican side, and on the Democratic side it was one of the guests at his most recent wedding, the former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and rape-enabling charity-hustler and law-flouting incompetent Hillary Clinton. Both have unfavorable ratings well above the 50 percent mark, with sizable majorities of the country having reasonably concluded that they are not the sort of people they would want as a president, yet now are both the prohibitive favorites to win their parties’ nominations.
Trump’s Tuesday wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, and Vermont give him a nine-out-of-14 record so far, and some recent polls have his national average far enough into the 40s to prevail in even a narrowed field, and the place and show results aren’t likely to do any narrowing. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won on his home field and also took neighboring Oklahoma — God bless our beautiful ancestral state — which makes him three-out-of-14 but still in the race, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio finally got a story in the caucus state of Minnesota, where the Republicans well remember their last flirtation with professional wrestling characters, and he would have scored a big win in Virginia if not for Ohio Gov. John Kasich sticking around until the primaries move into his region of the country, so for the next round there will be at least three candidates splitting up a seemingly shrinking portion of the anti-Trump vote.
In his victory speech Trump generously praised himself for his courage in running and with characteristic graciousness described his rivals as “losers,” or “loosers,” as his internet commenting fans are wont to write, but he seemed to realize that he hasn’t yet sealed his latest great deal. The peculiarly proportional rules of Republican politics split up the night’s delegate count in a way that gives him a significant but not at all decisive lead, and still far short of what’s needed to clinch the nomination. Tuesday’s results will at least winnow out the retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, either by his graceful withdrawal or unfortunate irrelevance, and one can hope that he’ll join a growing number of Christian leaders and use his remaining influence to denounce the man who slanderously ridiculed his story of faith. Those peculiarly proportional rules of Republican politics remain a problem for any candidate who isn’t pulling in more than 50 percent of the vote, which Trump still hasn’t done, and in getting there Trump will finally face a well-funded barrage of facts about his failed businesses and his penchant for hiring the illegal aliens that he’s vowed to save the country from and why he’s not making the financial disclosures that will prove how very, very rich he is, and he’s even getting some campaign jibes about those short fingers of his, and the late night comics are already having a ball with him, and there’s a deposition coming up in a couple of months regarding that scam university of his, and surely Trump knows as well as anyone that in this crazy election year anything could happen.
Still, for now Trump steamrolls ahead, and at this rate he’s likely to crash into his former wedding guest Clinton in a train-wreck of a general election. Clinton won victories in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, while her rival, self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, won in Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma of all places, and his home state. That makes Clinton nine-out-of-14, if you don’t count that highly suspicious series of coin flips in Iowa as a tie, but by the peculiarly proportional rules of the Democrat party every delegate won by either candidate seems to yield two super-delegates for Clinton, so at this rate we have to admit that maybe she was inevitable after all. All the yard signs and bumper stickers and buttons we see in our neighbor say “Bernie,” but there are a lot of chocolate-milk-sipping pajama boys in our fashionable neighborhood near the art museum, which might or might not be representative of the paler portions of the Democratic party, but in Alabama and Arkansas and Georgia and Tennessee and Texas and Virginia the Democrats tend to be black, which seems to be the storyline in the Democratic primary. So far the Black Lives Matter activists and other black trend-setters are starting to side with Sanders, but the overall trend is that the same southern blacks who went for President Barack Obama over Clinton are now going for Clinton and her First Black President husband over that Jewish guy from lily-white Vermont, even if her philandering husband did sign all those mass incarceration and welfare reform bills she now rails against.
Such allegedly racist Republicans as ourselves can at least enjoy the spectacle of the political race war waging within the Democratic party, and the sweet irony that all those white hipsters’ socialism might fail because they are found guilty of white privilege, but it’s a slight satisfaction given the inevitable consequences of such tribalism. Our own party’s clear front-runner recently told a national broadcast audience that he wasn’t sufficiently familiar with David Duke or the Ku Klux or some notion of “white supremacism” to comment on it, and the internet swelled with supporters saying it was a crafty set-up question by the “cuckservative” Jew-controlled media, the front-runner has an annoying habit of re-“tweeting” their “tweets,” and his own tweets have included some outrageously bogus numbers about white people killed by black people, so we’d have to say that the post-racial era of politics that our current widely disliked and distrusted president once promised hasn’t happened.
Perhaps it will all work out in the end, somehow. This Sanders fellow seems honest enough, even if he’s an honestly crazed honeymooning-in-the-Soviet-Union socialist who would bring upon America all the misery that inevitably follows socialism, and that Spanish-speaking and Canadian-born right-winger Cruz talks cold-blooded capitalism and kind-hearted Christianity with the sort of sincere zeal that seems more threatening to the establishment than all of Trump’s”anti-establishment” bluster and vague promises about great deals with the establishment and all his other wedding guests, and no mater the outcome at least it would be a clarifying election. If it turns out to be Rubio or Kasich in the mano-a-mano cage match duel to the death in the finale episode of the Republican party’s reality show that would be good enough for us.
By the peculiarly proportional rules of the American political system, though, it’s looking as if we’ll have a choice between two people that most people don’t think are at all suited to the job of being president.

— Bud Norman