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Trump Takes a Pledge

The Republicans got some good news today when Donald Trump at long last signed a pledge not to run as an independent candidate for president if he is not the party’s nominee, in which case he would surely have handed the Democrats a winning plurality and another four years in the White House. Now the party’s main concern is making sure that Trump isn’t the nominee.
Trump’s pledge might yet prove as reliable as his many wedding vows, but at least any quixotic third-party campaign he could conceivably attempt will start as a broken promise. This will presumably drain some of his support away, perhaps even to the point that he doesn’t do any more damage than moderate Republican John Anderson’s independent bid did to Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory back in ’80, and although the current Republican field might be lacking in Ronald Reagans one is grateful for such small consolations. There’s other good news for the Republicans to grasp to, as well, what with all that bad news about enough Democrats signing on the that awful deal that gives Iran a nuclear bomb and $150 billion, the dismal decline in the stock market, the soaring murder rates of black Americans in the cities where the “Black Lives Matter” movement has held greatest sway, the manifold problems of illegal immigration that Trump has so cannily exploited, the growing public skepticism about the “global warming” alarmism that is driving Democratic politics, and cumulative effect of so many issues where the Democrats are opposed to clear majorities of public opinion should provide the party with such an opportunity that only such a extraordinary buffoon as Trump could miss the chance.
Even with Trump sitting atop the opinion polls about the Republican race, we still regard his chances as improbable, although we can’t say implausible, even though we’d like to say it was impossible. Currently the rest of the top three is comprised of Dr. Ben Carson, the former chief of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, and Carly Fiorina, one-time secretary at a small insurance company and former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard, both of whom should fare better among any Republicans pining for an amateur politician. One can’t help noticing that Carson is black, and has a compelling up-fraom-the-ghetto-to-performing-brai-surgery story, and he’s obviously a more sincere contrastive and Christian than Trump. Fiorina also has a made-for-TV story to tell, she’s delightfully ferocious in interviews and debates, and is at least as solid as Trump in her conservative bona fides, so if the public truly is pining for its first woman president she’d be a much better choice than the one the Democrats seem to have settled on. Carson is soft-spoken and humble where Trump is loud and bombastic, Fiorina projects the same aura of hard-tacks competence that Trump aspires to and doesn’t need a rich father or cronyism to achieve it, and eventually the Republican primary voters and caucus-goers will notice that some of those politicians have been pretty good governors and senators.
Still, we can’t write off Trump. Not in a country where fellow pro-wrestling performer Jesse Ventura and “Terminator” star Arnold Schwarzenegger were elected governor, and where an erstwhile community organizer and undistinguished Illinois legislator and one-third term Senator was twice elected president, and where a movie about “Niggaz With Attitude” is the runaway hit of the year.

— Bud Norman

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Blaming the Victims

The first phase in dealing with an imminent doom, according to the famous Kübler-Ross “stages of grief” theory, is denial. The second phase, according to the Democratic Party’s playbook, is blaming the Republicans.
So it has gone with the slow, painful death of Obamacare. At first the Democrats were insistent that all was not only fine but also dandy with the health care reform law, but once even the morning newspapers and the late-night comics started kicking at the corpse that pretense has become impossible to maintain. Although the White House is still insisting that all is well, much like Kevin Bacon’s character in the climactic riot scene at the end of “Animal House,” the rest of the party has moved onto that necessary step of finding a suitable scapegoat.
The most reliable play in the party’s playbook is blaming George W. Bush, of course, but certain well-known facts make it difficult to execute in this case. Even the least informed of the low-information voters are aware that Obamacare is a creation of the Obama administration, with the very name being one obvious reminder of this fact, and the president has done too much bragging about it to deny responsibility now. The best minds of the liberal blogosphere are no doubt hard at work trying to contrive some plausible way to blame Bush, or at least Dick Cheney, but thus far the theory has not been unveiled.

There are a few other Republicans left in Washington, so the Democrats know which direction to point their fingers as they shout “j’accuse,” but the accusation requires a more fertile imagination than the average non-Democrat is likely to possess. Not a single Republican voted for Obamacare, not even a single one of those squishy RINO types from the northeast, and almost all of them have repeatedly reiterated their opposition in a series of votes to de-fund, delay, or downright repeal the hated law. To further exonerate the Republican Party, even as it enrages the rank-and-file, all of those votes have done nothing to obstruct the relentless implementation of the law.
This doesn’t prevent the Democrats from blaming Republican obstructionism for the law’s increasingly apparent problems, of course, nor does it diminish the Democrats’ indignation. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, perhaps the most indignant politician ever, has accused the Republicans of “sabotage.” Former Vermont governor, Democratic National Committee chairman, and noted screamer Howard Dean has taken a similar line, saying the Republican have “thrown monkey wrenches” into the exquisite gear work of Obamacare. President Obama himself has accused the Republicans of “rooting for failure,” with a sports fan’s faith that rooting somehow affects the outcome of a game, and seems ready to fully shift the blame once he is at last forced to give up his denial.
A couple of explanations for the Republicans’ culpability are currently being auditioned before a friendly Democratic audience, which has been predictably receptive, but it remains to be seen if they will play to a wider audience.
White House spokesman Jay Carney has blamed the brief partial shutdown of the federal government, which he in turn blames on the Republicans, for the widely-reported failure of the Obamacare web site. This will no doubt seem quite convincing to any Democrats still eager for evidence that he partial shutdown of the federal government was a bad thing, but less-partisan observers will note that the web site’s disastrous launch coincided with the shutdown and it’s shoddy design by the Democratic-connected firm of Shemp, Curly, and Moe predated any thought of the shutdown by several years. Anyone gullible enough to believe this argument will need to apprised that there was a partial government shutdown, and brought up to speed on how it was the Republicans’ insane insistence on a one-year-delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate was responsible for the horrible consequences that no one noticed, and what an “individual mandate” is, and never mind that several Democratic Senators are now calling for its one-year delay, so it becomes a difficult argument to make.
The other Republicans to be blamed are the 26 governors who declined to set up Obamacare exchanges in their states, leaving the thankless chore to the federal government that had concocted the crazy idea, but this is also a hard sell. Here in Kansas the Democrats are seething that our very Republican Gov. Sam Brownback declined to create a state exchange, but they’re the same people who tell us that Obama is the most brilliant and virtuous person in the history of mankind and that Brownback is both moronic and venal, so it’s hard to see why they’d prefer to see the latter administering their health care than the former. All those Republican governors are said to be moronic and venal, but they don’t seem to have nearly the problems or done any of the damage that can be attributed to the allegedly brilliant and virtuous Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who did the job they declined.
Much of the public is predisposed to blame Republicans for anything that goes wrong, and the Democrats can always count on the supportive news and entertainment media to encourage that predisposition, but this time it’s going to require more extraordinary efforts. The Republicans didn’t design Obamacare’s slapstick web site, and were wise not to try, and even after the glitches and bugs and abysmal failures have been worked out the higher premiums, bigger deficits, decreased care, and increased bureaucratic nuttiness that was inherent in the law from the time every single Republican voted against it will become too check-writing clear to be denied or blamed on anyone but the Democrats.

— Bud Norman

State of the States

Michigan’s decision to join the growing ranks of “right to work” states was doubly satisfying for conservatives. It was a heavy blow to the labor movement in a state where unions had ruled for decades, and even more importantly it was a rare win at a time when conservatism seems to be routed.
The victory thus gives some hope for a conservative comeback, and it also shows how more such victories might be won at the state level. The Republican party has complete control of the state houses and governors’ mansions in 24 states and at least a share of the power in 11 others, even after an election that handed the party a bitter loss in the presidential race and rendered its majority in the House of Representatives largely irrelevant, and Michigan demonstrates how that can still make a difference. Twenty-one states of a Republican propensity are resisting the implementation of the hated Obamacare law by refusing to participate in its subsidized insurance exchanges, others are defying the federal government’s preferences regarding illegal immigration and voting laws, and further helpful mischief is possible.
Some of the action is taking place in states that Obama carried, such as the anti-union measures in Michigan and Wisconsin, suggesting that good ideas can be implemented in even the most benighted jurisdictions. Should the Republicans be able to figure out why Wisconsin will vote for a Governor Scott Walker and Michigan opts for a Governor Rick Snyder but neither will support a President Mitt Romney, the party might be back in business. Alas, we suspect that too many voters in these curious locales expect their state governments to provide only roads, schools, prisons, and other such basic services, and thus prefer the budget-balancing efficiency of the Republicans, but they expect the almighty federal government and its endless money-printing capability for an unattainable utopia, and notice that the Democrats are the only party promising to achieve it.
The states’ resistance to the federal government will only succeed to the extent that the courts allow it, and recent Supreme Court decisions regarding Obamacare and Arizona’s border enforcement efforts to do bode well. Four years hence the courts will probably be even less amenable to states’ rights, and the federal government even more eager to impose its will. All the more reason, though, for the states to put up as much of a fight as possible while they still have some power.

— Bud Norman