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Well, At Least There’s Still More than a Year and a Half Left in the Race

The Cable News Networks has run the first significant Democratic presidential poll since the two-part and too-early Democratic presidential debates of last week. Given the results, we’ll mostly take a day off from our usual bashing of Republican President Donald Trump to note that the Democrats seem intent on nominating someone even arguably worse.
At the outset of the race the clear front-runner by double digits was former Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, who was also Vice President for eight years to President Barack Obama, who somehow remains popular in the Democratic party, even if much of the party now grouses that liberal administration we daily fulminated about wasn’t nearly liberal enough. Part of Obama’s enduring appeal in the party is that he was The First Black President ™, and given all the white flight to the Republican party over the past several decades of the Civil Rights era black voters are a sizable chunk of the Democratic primary electorate, especially in the southern states that hold early primaries, and Biden seemed to enjoy their gratitude that he’d been a loyal ally of Obama. The Democrats also retain a following among the Rust Belt white working class, even if Trump won enough of them last time around to squeak out an electoral majority, and the affable and commuter train-riding “Uncle Joe” and his aged self’s ties to an earlier era of populist Democratic politics made him seem well poised to win those votes back from Trump.
It was never likely to hold up, however, and seems to have taken a severe hit after just an hour of televised debate. The CNN polls shows Biden dropping 10 points, and although he’s still in the lead with 22 percent he’s only five percentage points ahead of California Sen. Kamala Harris, just six ahead of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and just eight ahead of self-proclaimed socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He retains a bigger lead over the other 21 or 22 or so candidates, but several of them still have a chance to break out.
Biden’s hold on the black vote was always tenuous, given that he was running against a bona fide black man with verifiable slave blood in New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker, who can also rightly claim to love in one of America’s most blighted and crime-ridden black ghettos, as well as California senator Harris, who has a Jamaican immigrant father and an east Indian immigrant mother, and grew up identifying and being identified as a black woman. Harris was the one who seized the opportunity during the debates, criticizing Biden for his way-way-back-in-the-’70s position against forced busing to achieve school desegregation, and it gave her a nine point bump in the poll while Biden took a ten point hit.
Harris is too far left and too much an “identity politics” candidate for our tastes, but she’s a former prosecutor and California Attorney General who always comes across as smart and well-informed in every interview, which contrasts to her favor with Trump, and she’s not quite so crazy as many of her competitors, so we warn both Biden and Trump to be worried. Given the current far left and “identity politics” predilections of the Democratic party, she seems a formidable opponent.
Biden’s hold on those aggrieved white Rust Belt blue collar workers was also tenuous, given that pretty much of the rest of the field was willing to outbid him with grandiose promises of free health care and guaranteed incomes and various other free stuff. Anyone who voted for Obama twice but then switched to Trump is not a true-blue Republican or conservative by our old-fashioned standards, and we suspect they were swayed by Trump’s even more grandiose and far-fetched promises of restoring the steel and coal and other Rust Belt industries to their long-long-ago ’50s glory, and now the rest of the Democratic party seems to willing to make to such gullible rubes even more grandiose and far-fetched promises. They can’t make the same make America white again promises as Trump, whose brand of identity politics also offends us, but Obama got their votes two times around and  we think they’ll once again fare well.
The estimable Washington Post editorial writer Eugene Robinson had an editorial on Monday taunting that we Never-Trump Republicans should reconcile ourselves to the idea that the Democrats are going to wind up nominating a Democrat. With all due respect to Robinson we didn’t need him to tell us that depressing news, and note that the three or four Democratic candidates we could conceivably vote for are all polling in the single digits, but we’re still hoping the party will come up with its least crazy possible nominee. Two major parties gone stark raving crazy are two too many, as far we’re concerned.
Our guess is that we’ll wind up once again throwing away our vote on some futile independent candidate, and that all our Democratic and Republican friends will accuse us of de facto voting for the hated other side. Once again, we’ll console ourselves that at least we threw our vote away on something better. How the rest of the country votes is up to the rest of the country.

— Bud Norman

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The Race is On, and Off to a Slow Start

The Democratic party held its first presidential primary debate Wednesday night with ten candidates on the stage, and another ten slated for the stage in tonight’s part two, and another six or so contenders are being left out of the mix. What’s sure to be a prolonged reality show got off to a rather boring start, we thought, but it might gain steam as the contestants begin getting voted off the island.
The debate started off with some embarrassing technical problems from the National Broadcasting Company, and the format that followed was also problematic. Each candidate was given 60 seconds to explain how he or she would solve such complicated problems as climate change and gun violence and a majority-Republican Senate, which is more than we could do even in our very fast-talking high school and college debate days, and they each wound up with less than eight minutes of air time to talk to the Democratic primary electorate. As a result we don’t think anyone clearly lost or won, but that didn’t stop all the pundits from picking winners as losers.
We were most impressed by Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who talked about how the Democrats need to regain their former reputation as the party of the working class instead of the Ivy League and Hollywood and certain racial and sexual identity groups, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who stressed her record of winning in Republican precincts and getting bills passed and signed with bipartisan support, but we’re still registered Republicans and won’t be voting in the Democratic primary. Our many Democratic friends probably saw it differently.
The polls say the front runner of the ten randomly picked candidates who had met the party’s threshold for inclusion in the debates was Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and she didn’t make any glaring mistakes, but neither did she say anything that people will remember when the voting starts in the Iowa caucus some eight months from now. Hawaiian Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker seem to have at least improved their name recognition numbers, judging by the Google search results, along with New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and former San Antonio mayor and Housing Secretary Julian Castro, but none of them scored a knockout.
Gabbard is young and surprisingly physically attractive by political standards, and she also has an impressive military record that the aged and ugly and draft-dodging President Donald Trump can’t compete with, but she lost us when she made clear that she was even wimpier than Trump about enforcing a Pax Americana on a question about Afghanistan. Booker seems a bright fellow, but he also seems to exemplify the identity politics that Ryan rightly warned against. The white DeBlasio got a lot of Google searches when he mentioned his black son, but we think he’s been a disastrous mayor of New York City, even if he probably would win New York City and New York state’s votes by a landslide. Castro probably endeared himself to Spanish-speaking Democratic voters with some Spanish lines, and dealt a clear blow to former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s efforts to court that constituency, but we don’t habla much espanol and weren’t much impressed.
We were slightly surprised that none of the candidates went on at much length about Trump, although it’s a given that none of them like him and it’s pointless to argue about who hates him the most, but we were even more surprised to see that none of them took aim at former Delaware Senator and Vice President Joe Biden, the front runner in all the polls who will hold center stage in tonight’s debate. The other nine candidates who qualified to share the stage with Biden will probably be more critical, but for now the Democrats don’t seem to be forming their usual circular firing squad.
At this point, we’re only hoping our Democratic friends choose the least kooky of their options.

— Bud Norman

A Kansas Republican’s California Dreamin’

At the risk of revealing our rather advanced age, we admit to remembering a time when the Republican party used to win some significant elections in the populous state of California. The California born-and-bred Richard Nixon won the state’s electoral votes in a failed bid the year after we born, then famously lost a race for the state’s governorship, prematurely taunting the press that they wouldn’t have Nixon to kick to around anymore, but went on to win the state’s presidential electoral votes in both the close call of ’68 and his landslide reelection year of ’72. The quintessentially Republican Ronald Reagan then won two gubernatorial elections in the state, served the state well in both terms, and in our young adulthoods thus won the state’s electoral votes in the 1980 presidential race, and California was among the record 49 states he won in his record landslide reelection in ’84.
Since then the Democrats have kept winning the state’s presidential votes every four years, but the Republican party at least kept a significant foothold among all the the Okies and Arkies in the central part of the state and the well-educated and well-off and over-taxed and over-regulated Republicans in Orange County and other suburban congressional districts. The California Republicans were always outnumbered by the California Democrats, but populous California has such an outsized number of congressional districts that there were usually enough Republicans to bolster the off-and-on Republican republican majorities in the House of Representatives. At the moment California is a big reason that the Republican House majority is once again off, however, with even those suburban districts flipping to the Democrats, and Orange County now entirely blue, and for the foreseeable future the Grand Old Party seems out of business in the Golden State.
A big part of the Republican party’s problem is the changing nature of California, of course. The state is a bit blacker and a whole lot browner than it was back when Nixon and Reagan were winning the state’s electoral votes, a large number of those Central California Okies and Arkies have moved back to Oklahoma and Arkansas, and a bigger chunk of the remaining white folk work in Hollywood or have high-tech jobs in the San Francisco area and are thus obliged to vote Democratic no matter how over-taxed and over-regulated they might be. California’s a crazier state than ever, too, from our old-fashioned conservative and entirely sane Kansas Republican perspective, and we must admit we can’t quite see how the party should accommodate it.
Even so, we must acknowledge that the Republican party has changed in ways that even the craziest Californian can rightly object to. These days the Republicans are openly the party of white inland Americans reasonably terrified by the California-ization of America, and although there’s a compelling argument to be made to those mostly hard-working black and brown Californians that they’re also over-taxed and over-regulated, the party lately seems less interested in making that argument than whipping up the same sort of odious identify politics among the state’s remaining white folks that California’s Democratic party has has long whipped up among its black and brown and guilt-ridden white folk.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have managed to lose almost all of those once reliably California Republican districts in the mostly white white and well-educated and well-off Republican suburbs. Part of that is probably that that big tax cut bill that the Republicans hoped to run on, which capped the tax deductions that high-property tax states such as California could deduct, thus leaving a lot of over-taxed Republicans in California and other high-tax Democratic states with an even higher tax bill. We remember discussing the matter with a Kansas Republican friend who thought that was a good idea, as those damned Californians deserved it for living in a Democratic state, but at the time we thought it was easier for him to say than a Republican congressman running for reelection in California or some other high-tax Democratic state, and after the Republican bloodbath in the past suburban Californian midterms we feel vindicated. We also suspect that the current Republican party’s suddenly unabashed sexual piggishness had something to do with all those well-educated and well-off yet over-taxed and over-regulated Republican women voting for Democrats,and claim vindication about that.
At the moment much of California is on fire, and the fires don’t seem to care much if you’re black or white or brown or male or female or rich or poor or somewhere in between, and we can’t blame any crazy Californian for concluding he Republican party largely seems to believe they had it coming. Republican President Donald Trump’s first “tweets” about the tragedy didn’t mention any sympathy for the victims or support for the first responders, but instead emphasized the state’s poor forest management policies and threatened to further withhold federal funding the emergency. When Trump at last appeared over the weekend at the fire’s edges he had kinder words for the firefighters, and was backing off his threats of withholding federal relief, but he continued to blame the state for its troubles. Trump couldn’t explain how he’d acquired such expertise in forest management during his real estate and reality show career, and all the people with real credentials about it said he didn’t know what he was talking about, and even the Finnish head of state that Trump cited as a consulting expert didn’t back up his claims, but as always he stood his ground.
The Trump-run feds have more jurisdiction over California’s public land than the state does, and according to longstanding Republican principles most of California is still privately held, however, so by now we can’t blame even the craziest Californian for believing that the Republicans in the other 49 states figure they had it coming. As much as we hope that Kansas never gets quite so crazy as California, we only wish that crazy state well. There are more Americans there than in any other state, and they contribute a similarly outsized share of our nation’s economic output, and we have to admit that at least some of those Hollywood movies and high-tech gadgets are beneficial to our lives. We also have some beloved kinfolk remaining in California, and although they’re up-to-date Republicans who probably figure the state had it coming we hope their houses don’t burn down, and we wish them all well. Even so, we can’t blame any of them for worrying and that the Republicans in the other 49 states will pitch in if worse comes to worst.
At the risk of sounding downright ancient, we’re still hopeful for an  eventual post-Trump 49-state Republican majority for low-taxes and light regulations and stick-together national unity that includes even some of those crazy Californians.

— Bud norman

The Politics and Other Problems of Nicknames

The stock markets were down but not precipitously in the calm before the trade war on Wednesday, all the late night comics had already beaten us to the obvious jokes jokes about the president and the porn star story, and there were no new “tweets” or significant developments in the “Russia thing.” During this blissful lulls in the news we came across one of those inside-the-pages and bottom-of-the-hour stories about the upcoming senatorial race in Texas, and we took a peculiar interest because it involved nicknames.
Even if you don’t usually follow Texas politics, as we usually don’t, you’re no doubt by now familiar with incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, the ferociously anti-Republican establishment Republican who came in second in the Republican primary to the even more anti-Republican establishment candidate and eventual Republican President Donald Trump. Cruz easily won his party’s renomination in Tuesday’s Republican primary, partly with help from the endorsement of Trump, who had nicknamed him “Lyin’ Ted” and disparaged Cruz’s wife’s looks and accused Cruz’s father of complicity in the assassination of President John Kennedy during the primary battles, and for now he’s the betting favorite in the race.
In the general election Cruz will be pitted against Democratic winner Rep. Beto O’Rourke, which is a name you probably won’t recognize even if you’re a Democratic news junkie in Texas. He’s a congressman from one of the southwester-nmost of Texas’ many congressional districts, and a Democrat in a reliably Republican state, and apparently one of those occasional Texas liberals, but this is the first we’ve heard of him.
The first thing that Cruz pointed out, though, is that he’s not really “Beto” O’Rourke. He’s actually Robert “Beto” O’Rourke. In Spanish-speaking cultures “Beto” is an affectionate shortening of everyone from Roberto to Albertino to Henberto, although not usually Robert, and the Canadian-born and Cuban-descended released a satiric poem implying that the clearly-not-Latino O’Rourke was shamelessly pandering to the Latino community. In this age of shameless identity politics pandering by Democrats it would usually be a plausible argument, but in this particular case there are a couple of problems.
The first is that O’Rourke has apparently been going by “Beto” since long before he launched his political career. He’s among the fourth generation of O’Rourkes to grow up in the very latino town of El Paso, which he now represents in Congress, he immediately responded to Cruz’s taunts with a photo of himself as an adorable elementary school student clad in a “Beto” sweatshirt, and by all accounts all of his latino and caucasion classmates and constituents have always known him as “Beto.”
Then there’s the fact that Sen. “Ted” Cruz is actually Sen. Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz. He’s not lyin’ when he calls himself “Ted,” as he’s been going by that moniker since long before he launched a political career, but in this age of shameless identity politics by the Democrats he stands credibly accused of pandering to the racial resentments of the Republican party. How that plays out in the complicated politics of faraway and unfamiliar Texas remains to be seen, but from our Kansas perspective we would have advised that Cruz commence his reelection campaign  by pointing out that by any name O’Rourke is still an indisputable Democrat.
Our longstanding policy is to refer to any person we meet by whatever name they prefer, but that’s a matter of mere politeness rather than politics, and it’s rather personal. For many decades now we’ve gone by “Bud,” which of course is not our given name, as no decent parents ever named a child “Bud,” and although it’s an old inside joke that’s by now impossible to explain we still insist on it in all social occasions. We used to do all our bank transactions by the name, but one day we had to fill out a whole lot of forms to deposit a check written to “Bud,” something to do with the Democrats’ damned Dodd-Frank Act. We still sign everything important with “Bud” in quotation marks after the first and middle names, just to avoid any possible confusion, and always resent the imputation that a friendly nickname is a nefarious alias.
To whatever extent O’Rourke was hoping to ingratiate himself to Latino classmates, or Cruz was hoping to win over WASPy neighbors, we figure they they were both being friendly.
In any case, we wish both Rafael and Robert or “Ted” or “Beto” or whatever you call them the best, and hope it doesn’t come down to their preferred nicknames and the dumb identity politics on both the left and right. If it came down to a blind test by voters based solely on the candidates’ last names, we suspect a lot of Texas Democrats would go for Cruz and a lot of Texas Republicans would go for O’Rourke, Irish though it is, and that seems a damned dumb way to decide an election.

— Bud Norman

Meanwhile, at the Democratic Race War

As we avert our grimace from the Republican Party’s reality show of a presidential nomination contest to the Democratic race, we find that things there are no more comforting. The front-runner is still former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was just godawful in each capacity and is just about as dishonest and corrupt and law-flouting and dislikable a person as you’re likely to find this side of the front-running Republican candidate, and the only still-in-the-running alternative is self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
This brief description of the race is disheartening enough, but a closer look makes it scarier yet. The race thus far has been run along racial lines, with Sanders doing well in mostly white states but Clinton winning in all the southern states where most of the whites have long since fled to the Republican party and the remaining Democratic electorate is mostly black, as well as Nevada where the party is mostly Latino, and if that’s the state of racial relations within the oh-so-sensitively-inclusive Democratic Party it does not bode well for the even more ethnically fissiparous nation at large. If all those well-meaning white folks in the Democratic party with their very sincere white guilt can’t come to some agreement with their righteously indignant black brothers and sisters, what chance does the country have when you add all us allegedly racist Republican rednecks into the general election conversation? Not to mention all those Asians, who tend to vote Democrat even though only we allegedly racist Republican rednecks bother to protest the quotas that keep so many of them out of the Ivy League universities, or the Latinos, whose preferences regarding legal and illegal immigration policy run counter to both the economic interests and base prejudices of so many of those righteously indignant black brothers and sisters, not to the mention the exponential intersectionality of all the sexual orientations and gender identities that are involved.
It’s hard enough understanding the relatively simple black-white thing going on in the Democratic party. Clinton lost more than 90 percent of the black vote in the Democratic primaries eight years ago, when she was running against the First Black President, but this time around she’s running as the First Black President’s Secretary of State and the First Lady of the first First Black President, even though the economic statistics for black America have been dire under the First Black President and her service as his Secretary of State was one national security disaster after another and all her first First Black President husband’s policies on crime and welfare and other racially-tinged issues are now anathema to the “Black Lives Matter” movement that claims to speak for all black Americans. Sanders is still in the race because all the most well-meaning white hipsters and their aging antecedents in the party are hot for his socialist brand of everything’s free and we’ll work out the payments later, and we share those well-meaning white hipsters’ surprise, if not their dismay, than their black brothers and sisters aren’t on board for the revolution. If you can recall the ’60s, and were reading Ramparts and The Village Voice and Rolling Stone and The New Yorker and all the right rags, you’d know that the black brothers and sisters were supposed to be the vanguard of the revolution, not the stooges of reactionary resistance of the Wall Street-funded, Wal-Mart corporate-board-serving, Donald Trump’s-third-wedding-attending establishment.
While we have no affection for Sanders, who is after all a self-described socialist, and one who literally honeymooned in the Soviet Union, at that, we’re surprised that so many black Democrats haven’t warmed to him. Some of the celebrity and intellectual black people have, possibly because they’re more worried about losing their status as celebrities and intellectual than they are about their status as black, but the votes are in and the vast majority have so far been for Clinton. That’s mostly been in southern states any Democrat is unlikely to win in the general election no matter who the Republican or increasingly likely third-party nominees are, but there’s been the same trend even in those mostly white states that Sanders won, and as the Democratic Party is currently constituted across all the states the minority vote will likely deliver a majority by convention time, especially when you add in all those “super-delegates” the very diverse party bosses are imposing. The black and Latino factions don’t seem particularly interested in a revolution, especially one led by a Jewish guy from a lily-white state, which seems to matter in that oh-so-sensitively-inclusive Democratic Party, and are perfectly content with the establishment, no matter how much Wall Street funds it or what bargains on Chinese-made goods Wal-Mart is offering, and if their economics interests clash on the immigration issue they figure they’ll pay for that later.
We can almost muster some pity for those poor white hipster socialist revolutionaries, abandoned by the black brothers and sisters they had so assiduously apologized to, beset by a hated “establishment” that turns out to be the party they had always sen as salvation from some other more hated Republican “establishment,” and stuck with voting for Clinton, whose entire career repudiates all their high ideals. Worse yet, they find that a majority of their party turns out not to have ever believed in any coherent philosophy of liberalism, but was only interested in sticking it to the other guys, and for reasons that had something uncomfortably to do with the darkest impulses of an ethnically fissiparous nation, and was striking whatever deal it could for itself.
The poor bastards. Over here on the Republican side a lot of us are finding out that a lot of our political coalition never believed in any coherent philosophy of conservatism, and is more interested in sticking it to the other guy than conserving such freedoms as press and property, and that there’s also a sudden hesitance to denounce even those darkest impulse of an ethnically fissiparous nation, and that the whole sales pitch is that it’s going to be a great deal for those get on board, but at least we won’t have to vote for it.

— Bud Norman

Hillary and Sanders and Sexism

Although we keep reading in the respectable press that Hillary Clinton’s Democratic presidential nomination is once again inevitable, and her ascension to the presidency more or less a fait accompli, we still harbor hopeful doubts about it. The pre-written and utterly ridiculous accounts of her routing of the Republicans during that Benghazi hearing can’t last forever, and we we can’t help noticing that she’s already resorting to some desperate pouting about her womanhood and victimhood.
That rout of the Republicans during the Benghazi hearings only makes sense, after all, if you’re relying on the respectable press. Those unfortunate souls with nothing better to do than slog through all the videos and transcripts learned that Clinton was proved to have ignored at least 600 requests for enhanced security at the Benghazi consulate prior to the forewarned terrorist attack, that she knowingly lied to the families of four dead Americans and the rest of the country that it was a spontaneous demonstration against a little-known YouTube video rather than a forewarned terror attack, and that an obscure filmmaker was imprisoned and profuse apologies were issues to the Muslim world for enforcing the First Amendment and allowing the slander of the prophet of Islam as result. The accounts of the respectable press will suffice for Clinton for now, but eventually all that indisputable footage will surely end up in an eventual Republican candidate’s well-funded and widely disseminated attack ad.
More worrisome to the Clinton campaign, and more hopeful to us, is the resort to womanhood and victimhood. It started in the first debate, when Clinton cited her sex as a her most important difference to President Barack Obama, who won the office as The First Black President just as Clinton intends to win it as the First Woman President of Any Racial Heritage, and she’s lately upped the ante during a tiff with pesky challenger and self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over gun control. One of Sanders’ rare crowd displeasing moments during the first debate was when he was forced for to defend his past opposition to gun, which has earned a D- minus grade from the National Rifle Association that is suddenly a disqualifying grade in a Democratic nomination race, and he clumsily defended it as a vote from a “rural state” that is mostly hippies running dairy farms to supply the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream empire with organic milk is just as insistent on its gun rights as Kansas, rather than admitting the more plausible-to-Democrats explanation that  it was because of his longstanding commitment to armed socialist revolution. Since then Clinton has been openly embracing an Australian-style gun-grabbing law that the Democrats used to insist they would never attempt, and Sanders has vociferously responded, which Clinton has described as a sexist “When women talk, some people think we’re shouting.”
This might well prove savvy in a Democratic primary, where there are a preponderance of women, and no doubt more than a few of them who believe they have at some time been wrongly accused by some man of shouting, but we expect it will prove less reliable in a general election. The general electorate, which is still approximately 50 percent male and still includes a fair number of married women who will understand the futility of this complaint, might not prove so forgiving. In any case, the First Woman President won’t get the same 95 percent of the woman vote that the First African-American President won from the African-American vote, and to whatever extent the general electorate remains stubbornly sexist it is looking for a woman who won’t blame her failures on sexism, and that whole Australian-style gun-grabbing thing seems unlikely to play well in a country where not only men but women who have been spooked by that whole culture-of-rape narrative the left is peddling are committed to their God-given and constitutionally-protected right to arm one’s in self defense.
The whole I-am-woman-hear-me-roar thing was bound to surface sooner or later, although we expected it when the Republicans settled on some white guy or another, and especially if it was the boorish Donald Trump, but that it’s already being deployed against the likes of a self-described socialist and Vermont Senator such as Bernie Sanders smacks of desperation. She seems to be benefiting from the double standards of current political discourse, and we’re quite sure that any male politician who had endured such serial humiliations from a spouse would be an object of ridicule rather than sympathy, and with all those men and all those respectably married and Republican women in the mix we think the pitch might yet fall short of an electoral majority.

— Bud Norman