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Haley’s Comet Changes Course

There’s a lot to be said about United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s announcement that she’ll soon leave the post, but the first thing we have to say is that we’re sorry to see her go. We thought she did a fine job under difficult circumstances, and we worry that her replacement won’t provide the same restraining adult influence on President Donald Trump’s worst foreign policy instincts.
Of course most of the political chatter on Thursday was speculation about why she’s leaving, and why now, and what she might do next, and of course there were plenty of theories to go around about each question.
Haley’s explanation that after four years in the South Carolina legislature and eight years as governor of the state and two years at the UN she’s in need of a break seems plausible enough, but she also appears fit enough that people couldn’t help speculating about other reasons.
One popular theory is that she’s getting out of the Trump administration while the getting’s good, which also seems plausible enough, given what’s likely to come along after the mid-terms, when the special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing” resumes indicting people, and a plausible Democratic majority in the House of Representatives might start its own troublesome investigations. She’s the first person to leave the Trump administration with reputation largely intact, and she might well be the last.
Another plausible theory is that Haley has a choice of many better-paying jobs in the private sector, and that after 14 years public service she could use the money. State legislators and governors make a good salary in South Carolina, as do ambassadors to the UN, but without graft you’ll never get so rich as we expect our celebrities to be. One of her home state’s oldest newspapers has reported she’s deeply in debt, according to a Washington Post columnist her parents’ home is reportedly in foreclosure, and there’s little doubt that Haley’s proved smarts and toughness and personal appeal, not to mention the connections she’s made in the course of a meteoric career, could well fetch a price on the open market to rectify all that quite quickly.
Why now is another interesting question, which has spawned many interesting theories about the rising influence of national security advisor John Bolton and the controversy regarding Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but our best answer is why not now? There are the usual suspicions about why she’s announced her resignation before the mid-terms, but there would have been the usual suspicions about why she did so after the mid-terms, and there’s never a time that isn’t preoccupied with some Trump controversy or another. Trump doesn’t have to name a replacement until late November, and would be well advised to wait until the voting’s done, so now struck us as good a time as any.
What she does next is by far the most intriguing question, and has already spawned much speculation that will eventually be tested by time. We’ll go out on a limb and predict that you haven’t heard the last of her. For now she’d be well advised to cash in on her opportunities at some more-or-less respectable multinational corporation and get on a sound financial footing, lay low while the Trump administration plays out, then remerge from the inevitable wreckage to rescue the once Grand Old Party. She seems uniquely well positioned to do so.
Haley is such a talented politician that even as the daughter of Sikh Indian immigrants she won two terms in the legislature of arch-conservative South Carolina, and then two terms as its Republican governor. Her governorship was notable for its traditional business-friendly and budget-balancing Republican principles, as well as the economic good times that resulted, but she also permanently lowered the Confederate battle flag from state buildings, more generally urged her fellow South Carolinians toward racial and sexual equality, always conducted herself with a ladylike respect for others, and otherwise violated what she surely knew were rapidly becoming the principles of the Republican party.
Haley was an outspoken opponent of Trump’s candidacy, but he wound up winning the South Carolina primary and eventually the Republican nomination anyway, and after that she was more muted in her criticisms. After Trump wound up winning the presidency she wound up as his UN ambassador, despite all the bad things they’d said about one another. In her new job she was tougher on Russia than Trump seemed to prefer, and frequently differed with the president on those race and sex controversies he’s always caught up in, but she was a loyal enough soldier that she left with Trump’s effusive praise. She’s vowed not to run against Trump in ’20, but at the young age of 46 she’ll still be in good shape for the ’24 race, and we wouldn’t rule out the possibility that she won’t have to run against Trump in ’20.
Somehow or another the Republicans have gained a reputation as a party of ugly old white men during Trump’s presidency, and an attractive young dark-skinned woman would be the perfect antidote. Her traditional business-friendly and budget-balancing Republican principles would also play well with the general public against the crazy tax-and-spend socialist those damned Democrats are likely to nominate, her elegantly ladylike demeanor and unifying rhetoric would play well with the independents turned off by Trump’s boorish demagoguery, and even the most fervid Trump fans would have to admit that she left to Trump’s effusive praise.
On the other hand, she might well find that she prefers a quietly anonymous and highly lucrative life in the private sector, and we wouldn’t blame her if she did. Even so, we’ll go out on a limb and predict you haven’t heard the last of her, and in any case we’ll wish her the best.

— Bud Norman

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With Less Than a Month to Go in These Rainy and Dreary Election Days

We’d like to believe that the November 6 elections and the rest of that damnably cold month are still far off, but a chilly rain has been falling on both the just and unjust around here for the past few days, all the local lawns are sprouting yard signs for some candidate or another for some office or another, and that damnable calendar tells us that the reckoning is now less than a month away.
At this point we’ll not venture any predictions about how it all might turn out, except that it probably won’t turn out the way we’d prefer. Our best guess is that the Democrats will win a bunch of races and the Republicans will win a slightly smaller yet effectively similar amount, and that it will wind up with at least a two-year political stalemate, which is about the best we can hope for these days.
Given the undeniably rosy gains in the gross domestic product and unemployment and stock market and other economic indices the Republicans should be cruising to an electoral landslide by now, but given how very horrible the Republicans are about pretty much everything else in the news cycle the Democrats should be faring more than the mere single digit lead in the generic polling they’re clinging to these days. We don’t much trust President Donald Trump’s cocksureness that he’s going to sucker the rest of the world into the same sort of sweet deal that he won from talk show host Merv Griffiin to buy the now-razed Taj Mahal casino-and-strip-club, but we’re also pretty cocksure that the unabashed socialism of far too many Democrats these days would be even more catastrophic, so we’ll hold out hope that our remarkably resilient free market economy is left to continue moving up and down and yet generally upward.
As for the rest of it, the Democrats seem to enjoy the advantage at the moment. For now the big story is still the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice, which has the base of the Republican party enthused, but it’s also got the fairer sexes of the Democratic party thoroughly enraged, and we guess our many Democratic women friends’ rage will outlast our many male Republican friends’ exultation about a Supreme Court Justice whose name they’ll probably forget in less than a month’s time. The Republicans have reportedly resorted to a campaign theme that the Democrats represent “mob rule” that would ruin a good man’s reputation with one scarlet woman’s allegation of sexual misbehavior, but women account for about half the vote around here, and we’re pretty sure that there are more women among our friends who have have victims of sexual behavior than there are men of our acquaintance who have ben falsely accused of sexual misbehavior.
Even here in reliably Republican Kansas the Republicans seem to have their hands full. The rural First District and our own-urban-Wichita-and-surrounding country Fourth District seem safe enough for the Grand Old Party, but up in the Second and Third districts that bisect the Kansas City metropolitan area’s affluent white suburbs and hard-luck black ghettos the Democrats are polling so well that the Republicans are withdrawing national ad money. The Democratic candidate for governor is well within all the polling’s margin of error, too, for a variety of peculiarly Kansas reasons too complicated to explain here, and for a variety of other peculiarly complicated Kansas reasons we’d wager some small amount on her chances of ultimately winning.
It’s close enough that Trump himself flew into Kansas over the past weekend to headline another of is sold-out rallies on behalf of gubernatorial candidate and long-time political ally Kris Kobach and the rest of the loyal Republican ticket. He fired up the sell-out crowd with talk about how all the Senate Democrats had signed up with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s “Open Borders Bill,” which does not exist, and derided Democratic nominee Laura Kelly as a gun-grabbing “far-left” candidate, which she is not.
For whatever reason the Republicans seem to be having trouble winning both minority women voters and the better-educated sorts of white women voters around the country ever since Trump became president, and here in Kansas there are enough of them to maybe swing an election or two or three. All politics is local, though, so we have no idea how it will play out in your precincts, but around here and for right now the best  we’re hoping for a political stalemate that allows the rest of the country and its attended free markets to thrive for the time being.

— Bud Norman

Another Night of Mixed Results

The final rounds of the special election season came on Tuesday, with the same usual mixed results as before. Once again the Democrats fell short of victory in two more reliably Republican districts, but once again by margins that should worry many of the more vulnerable congressional Republicans up for re-election in ’18.
Those anxious Republicans can take some solace in the fact that the Republican prevailed in Georgia’s sixth congressional district despite the record-setting millions of dollars that Democrats from around the country threw into the race. The district is mostly the well-educated and well-heeled and mostly-white suburbs of Atlanta, and has been held by the Republicans for 40 years, including the entire famous tenure of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, but when a youthful Democratic candidate fell just short of a majority in the open primary his party sensed an upset. The national press paid outsized attention, the money from Hollywood and other Democratic denizens poured in, and there was much anticipation of an outcome that could be easily spun as backlash against President Donald Trump.
We’re far out of range of the broadcast commercials that were no doubt incessantly aired in Georgia’s unfortunate sixth district, and not very familiar with the local politics of the district, but so far as we can tell from all that outsized national press attention neither candidate tried to make the race about Trump. The Democrat presumably and reasonably believed that his opposition to Trump went without saying and instead focused on some local issues, which the Democrats in the rest of the country will no doubt regard as a fatal mistake, while the Republican reportedly ran as an old-fashioned establishment type who rarely mentioned Trump, which will surely annoy some Republicans and provide a lesson to others. Trump won the district in the presidential election by 2 percent, which was much lower than his margins in the less-educated and less-well-heeled and even whiter districts in the rest of the state, and the old-fashioned Republican who rarely mentioned Trump won by a slightly larger yet closer-than-usual margin, so the pro-Trump and anti-Trump people can make whatever they want of all that.
Less attention was paid and fewer donations were made to another race in the fifth district of South Carolina, which is less well-educated and well-heeled and more white than that Georgia district, and where Trump prevailed by more landslide margins, but that was also an embarrassingly close call. The Republican took just over 51 percent of the vote, far underperforming the the Republican in the election just eight months or so ago, and although local politics no doubt played a part there’s no spinning how that’s good for Trump.
All of the special elections have been in Republican districts where the incumbent was promoted to a cabinet-level position by Trump, which means that their would-be Republicans successors were necessarily well less qualified candidates, and of course the opposition is going to more energized than those less well-educated and well-heeled Trump supporters who are cocksure their man can take of himself. Still, the results are decidedly mixed.
The Democrats won’t be able to raise the kind of money for each mid-term race at the rate they did in that Georgia election, but neither will the Republicans. The Republicans did wind up winning all four of the races, albeit while losing percentage points that would flip a whole of districts. Trump retains a steadfast and significant percentage of voters, Trump’s detractors seem to have even bigger numbers, and it’s how they’re spread around the electoral map that seems matter. All politics really is local, too, so it’s hard to tell how that will play in out the hundreds of House seats and third-or-so of Senate seats up in a year and a few months from now. Of course there’s also no telling what might happen in a year and a few months from now.
Until then the Republicans retain the White House and the same majorities they held in the House and Senate before all this fuss, but for now they don’t seem to doing much with it, and the Democrats are still falling tantalizingly short of a victory to call their own.

— Bud Norman

Hope, Change, Making America Great Again, and Deja Vu All Over Again

A certain sense of deja vu pervaded our Wednesday, which recalled a similarly sunny but cool fall day just eight short years ago. We vividly remember how a charismatic but otherwise unqualified candidate had won the presidency with a vague set of proposals and a cult of personality, replacing a president of the opposition and joined by majorities of his own party in both chambers of Congress, and how there was much optimism among so many of our friends that a new era of hope and change had commenced.
Eight years later all the hope has changed to bitter disappointment, which has given way to a charismatic but unqualified candidate of the opposition with a very different set of vague proposals and an even more markedly different cult of personality, but he’s also got majorities in both chambers of Congress, and some of our very different sorts of friends are optimistically talking about making American great again. Maybe this time they’ll be right, but we sense the same sort of pride that always goeth before a fall.
When Barack Obama became president with Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House and Harry Reid as the Senate majority leader, and a squishy Supreme Court as the only remaining impediment to their power, the Democrats were unbearably cocky about it. Their more effusive cheerleaders were predicting 40 years of unbridled power, with the Republicans going the way of the Whigs, and utopia surely awaiting at the end of it. The president who had questioned his predecessor’s patriotism for running up half-trillion dollar deficits immediately started running full-trillion-plus dollar deficits with much of it wasted on a “stimulus package” of infrastructure spending that didn’t stimulate anything except the housing prices in the swelling D.C. suburbs. They also passed a radical re-making of the entire health care sector of the economy without a single Republican vote, promising that people who liked their doctor could keep their doctor and that the average family would save $2,500 a year and not a single dime would be added to those swelling deficits, all of which the Republicans refuted and would later prove to be utter balderdash. On the foreign policy front they immediately reneged on a missile defense promise to the Poles and Czechs, a token of their sincere desire to “reset” relations with the Russians, sold out the anti-communists of Latin America by backing a Marxist coup in Honduras, and traveled the Islamic world apologizing for anything that the United States might have said or done to provoke its 1,600-year-old jihad against the west, none of which has made the world any more peaceful.
After just two years of such nonsense the Republicans arose like a phoenix from the ash bin of history to re-take the House, added to their filibustering minority in the Senate, and had a grassroots “Tea Party” movement urging an ever more confrontational stand. They overplayed their hand enough to help Obama win reelection against a vastly more qualified but easily caricatured Republican nominee in ’12, but the Republicans held their House majority and by ’14 once again controlled the Senate, along with the biggest number of governorships and state legislatures since the days of Harding and Coolidge, which slowed if not stopped the Democratic agenda. That health care makeover was still veto-proof but at least didn’t expand, the debt continued to grow but the deficits were reduced back to those half-trillion figures of the preceding administration, the administration proceeded with an utterly ridiculous deal with the Iranians regarding their nuclear weapons ambitions but didn’t dare call it a treaty and thus settled for an executive action that could be more easily by repealed by a future Republican administration, and Democratic attempts at gun control and illegal immigration reform were also thwarted and the Democrats once again had to settle for more easily-revoked executive actions.
This wasn’t nearly confrontational enough for the more fervid “Tea Party” types, who were constantly telling one another via talk radio that the damned Republicans had just rolled over and given Obama everything he wanted, which came as quite as surprise to Obama and all the other National Public Radio listeners who were always hearing about the Republican’s stubborn obstructionism, so in ’16 they went with a candidate so impeccably anti-establishment candidate he promised to destroy both the Democrats and any Republicans who had ever had anything to with them. Donald Trump was a longtime Democrat and generous contributor to Democratic causes until recently, and had often spoken in favor of a Canadian-style “single payer” health insurance system or even an entirely socialized British-style of medicine, and his signature protectionist trade policies were pretty much the same as the Democratic party’s self-described socialist challenger and portended a similar desire to meddle even further in the rest of the economy, and he was promising to double his Democratic rival’s supposedly stimulative spending on infrastructure, and he was far friendlier to the Russkies and even more hostile to America’s allies than Obama, and just four years ago was criticizing the Republican nominee’s sensible enforcement policy on illegal immigration “cruel,” and he didn’t seem to know much about a whole lot of things, but that just proved he wasn’t one of those know-it-all establishment types who had supposedly proved so spineless. He was rude and crude and quick to pick pointless fights, but that only endeared to him Republicans who had endured eight years of Obama and were eager for confrontation for its own sake.
The anger Trump eagerly embraced made for a very different sort of cult of personality than the hippy-dippy peace-and-love and hope-and-change mantra of the Obama acolytes just eight years earlier, but it has the same indifference to careful consideration of objective facts or the possibility of political compromise, and looks just as likely to overreach. It comes into power along with majorities in both chambers of Congress, and hopefully with a less squishy Supreme Court as well, and we’re sure that the Democrats will soon regret that it’s also empowered by the last eight years of precedents on executive action.
Those supposedly insufficiently confrontational congressional Republicans did force Obama to resort to those executive actions, and we look forward to seeing their unappreciated work rewarded when a putatively Republican president easily undoes them, but we wonder if they’ll bother to resist any extra-constitutional executive actions a president putatively of their own party makes, and we dread seeing what they’ll be. Trump’s plan to cut taxes and increase spending on infrastructure and the military not touch any of the entitlements that take up the lion’s share of federal spending, not to mention his past statements about government-paid health care for everyone, aren’t likely to help with that debt problem that gave rise to the “Tea Party” movement that fueled the rise of Trump, and we’ll be interested to see how many of those Republican congressman who ran on that very issue will mount a dissent.
Throw in the very real possibility that Trump actually meant a lot of that crazy talk he spewed during the campaign about renegotiating the national debt and slapping 45 percent tariffs on Chinese goods and not honoring our military treaty obligations, as well as the very real possibility that the Republican congressmen that the more fervent “Tea Party” types have long derided as spineless will accede to it, along with the certainty that the majority of the country that didn’t vote for Trump will be nurturing their own grievances and honing their own readiness for confrontation, and we can well imagine that the next mid-term elections with also have a certain sense of deja vu about it.

— Bud Norman

The Democrats’ White Men Problem

The Democratic party has a problem with white men. We mean that in the vernacular sense that it has an animosity toward white men, but also in the literal sense that it is creating political difficulties for the party.
Whenever the Democrats win an election there is an obligatory spate of sneering stories about how the Republicans are demographically doomed to irrelevance as the party of white men, but after a big win such as the Republicans scored in the recent mid-term races even the most Democratic media are obliged to acknowledge that white men remain a formidable voting bloc. White voters accounted for 75 percent of the electorate in the mid-terms, the Republicans won their votes by a whopping 62-to-38 margin, and among the men who comprised approximately 50 percent of that category the voting was even more lopsided, so there has been some journalistic soul-searching about how the Democrats might broaden their appeal to white men.
One of the more thoughtful pieces appeared in The New York Times, where the apparently white and male Thomas P. Edsall bravely conceded that many of the Democratic party’s policies do not serve the economic self-interest of white males. He notes that Obamacare takes $500 billion of funding over ten years from Medicare, which benefits a population that is 77 percent white, and shifts it to subsidies for the uninsured, who are 59 percent non-white, and admits that many other aspects of the law have a similarly racial redistributionist effect. He clings to the hope that some minimum-wage hike referenda that passed in a few heavily white states suggests a willingness among white men to embrace central planning, fails to note a wide variety of other anti-white Democratic policies from affirmative action to anti-coal legislation that would lay off Loretta Lynn’s father to the Justice Department’s stated policy of not pursuing hate crime prosecutions on behalf of white victims, among countless other examples, and he quickly veers into the usual nonsense about the Republican party’s opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage and other social issues that tend to play better with blacks and Latinos than white people, but we appreciate his willingness consider that white voting patterns are to some extent rational rather racist.
More typical of the Democratic ruminating was Andrea Grimes’ foul-mouthed analysis at a pro-abortion web site of Wendy Davis’ hilariously inept attempt to win the governorship of Texas, which blames the debacle on white people’s lack of empathy for the poor black and brown women eager to abort their potential black and brown children. She fails to take stock of the embarrassing fact that Davis lost several majority-Hispanic counties which had previously been reliable Democratic constituencies, or Davis’ blatantly dishonest biography or any of her other countless gaffes, including some less than empathetic jibes about her opponent’s physical handicaps, and instead recycles the usual stereotypes of narrow-minded white people. The possibility that such unabashed racial and sexual prejudices might have had something to do with Davis’ landslide defeat has also apparently escaped Grimes’ attention, and that of the party at large.
The common Democratic complaint that white people are uniquely self-interested is all the more unconvincing after so many years of the “What’s The Matter With Kansas” argument that white people have been duped into voting against their economic self-interests by wedge issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Our frequent conversations with non-white folks and a sampling of their popular music suggest that blacks and Hispanics are more prone to anti-homosexual sentiment than the average white person, polling data verifies that Davis’ ardent enthusiasm for abortion was a key reason for her failure to carry those majority-Hispanic counties, the Democrats might have squeaked out a few southern Senate races with the large number of black of voters that have been aborted since Roe v. Wade, Asian-Americans in California are questioning their loyalty to a party that insists on affirmative action schemes that punish their overachievement, and there’s bound to be some limit to even the non-white Democrats’ patience for the party’s insistence on opening the borders to an unlimited influx from the third world. Writing off the vast majority of 75 percent of the electorate worked well enough in the ’08 and ’12 presidential elections, but the Democrats are wise to question the long-term viability of the strategy.
Although we are loathe to offer the Democrats any useful advice, as white men we will note that they have other pressing problems in winning our vote. The Democrats’ project of endlessly expanding government power, except of course for its ability to restrict abortion even in the most late-term circumstances, will inevitably infringe on the individual liberty to which white men have been long accustomed. A resulting racial spoils system will also offend a majority of white men, who have been successfully hectored by the past decades of education and popular entertainment into a belief in color-blind policies. The Democrats’ immigration policies might well succeed in diminishing the white male’s share of the vote, but we suspect that we’re not the only ones who resent being told by a bunch of mostly white know-it-alls what to eat and what kind of car to drive and what kind of light bulbs to screw into our lamps, and that freedom and economic opportunity will eventually have a broader appeal.

— Bud Norman

The Next Two Years of Nothing to Do

With Republicans firmly in control of both chambers of congress and a Democrat still wielding a veto pen in the White House there is little chance of the federal government getting anything done during the next two years, which is fine by us. Inaction will be much preferable to all the things the Democrats got done when they controlled everything, and it should provide a political advantage to the Republicans.
The newly-elected Republican majority should be able to quickly pass a number of bills that the four-year-old Republican majority in the House has already approved, all of them with enough poll-tested popularity to make a veto politically problematic for the president, and the even the most dutifully partisan scribes will be hard-pressed to explain how the party that just racked up the impressive wins in the mid-term elections is thwarting the will of the people. There’s talk that a first volley will be a green light for the XL Keystone Pipeline, which everyone except for a few extreme environmentalists thinks is a good idea and long overdue, and even if the president is forced to sign it he’ll endure the resentment and reduced fund-raising of those few extreme environmentalists and get little credit from the rest of the country in exchange. An all-out repeal of Obamacare would be a futile if satisfyingly symbolic gesture without the 61 votes required to override a veto, and would stir up an unnecessary fuss over the one two items within the law’s thousands of pages that enjoy popularity among the more misinformed portions of the population, but piecemeal repeal of he law’s most troublesome and obviously stupid provisions should knock a few points off the president’s approval ratings every time he vetoes one of them. There are enough of those troublesome and obviously stupid provisions that the Republicans should have him down to zero in short order, but we’d urge that they continue the practice nonetheless. A much needed overhaul of the tax system would also be futile and afford an opportunity to bamboozle the uniformed, but the tax laws include enough obvious and undeniable trouble and stupidity that the Republicans should be able to score similar points with a series of slight reforms, with a corporate tax rate that imposes a competitive disadvantage on every American business in global markets an excellent place to start, and relief from the carbon regulations championed by the aforementioned few environmental extremists are just of many pro-growth proposals that will at least draw attention to the president’s unpopular positions.
A steady stream of obligatory news stories about these bills would quickly dispute the president’s cliches of a “do-nothing congress” and a “party of no,” but the Republicans could also benefit from what they don’t do and when they say “no.” Voting for budgets small than the presidents inevitably lavish proposals won’t cost any popular support, and we can’t think of any pending Democratic proposals that cannot be opposed without offending anyone other minimum-wage workers and ineligible voters and a few environmental extremists. More aggressive joint committee investigations into the scandals surrounding Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service, just about everything in the Department and Justice, and numerous other overlooked stories is also a good idea, not just for an easily forgivable spite but because the serious nature of these matters demands investigation and public attention. The Democrats who survived Tuesday’s mid-terms owe no favors to the president, whose insistence on making the election a referendum on his own unpopular policies was a godsend to the Republicans, and the congressionally-passed will in many cases even have a claim to bipartisanship.
Meanwhile, the president will get things done by executive action. Amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants and economically damaging regulations intended to prevent the climate from changing will prove unpopular, and the extra-constitutional way they are imposed will also prove unpopular, but at this point the very lame president seems quite unconcerned about public opinion or his party’s political fortunes. Any congressional efforts to thwart such actions by withholding funding or anything else at hand will please a large majority of the public, even if the resulting court battles stretch out long past the president’s final term, and will leave the next Democratic presidential with some difficult explaining to do. If the president finds it too bothersome to deal with an oppositional congress he might choose to focus his attention on foreign policy, where the constitution does allow him some leeway, but that’s likely to redound to the Republicans’ benefit as well.
The inevitable gridlock will delay for two years the tax cuts and deregulation and downsizing of everything except a military that desperately needs some additional funding, but if the Republicans continue their recent uncharacteristic savviness it might make all those things possible after one more election cycle. Tuesday’s election produced a strong slate of Republican candidates, the likely Democratic candidate is an aging and increasingly unpopular woman who is insuperable from the previous administration’s disastrous foreign policy and redistributionist economic theories, and if the government doesn’t do anything in the next two years it won’t do anything to change the minds that voted for solid Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Leap years always bring in the uniformed voters gullible to scare stories about wars on women and lynch mobs and cuts to Social Security, and demographic trends and an entrenched liberal news and entertainment media establishment and a growing number of people dependent on government support all make presidential elections difficult for Republicans, but the next two years of inaction could level the playing field.

— Bud Norman

Republicans Versus Republicans Versus Democrats

Although we rarely bother to glance at Facebook, we couldn’t help taking a peek at the disconsolate postings of our left-wing friends after Tuesday’s many Republican victories in the mid-term elections. As Conan the Barbarian famously said when asked what is best in life, “Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, hear the lamentations of their women.” We also tuned into our usual right-wing talk radio fare and visited the usual right-wing internet publications, hoping to share in the expected exultations, but found a rather muted response.
Much of the credit for the Republicans’ remarkable success must be attributed to Kentucky Senator and presumptive Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, New Jersey Governor and Republican Governors Association chairman Chris Christie, and former Bush administration political boss and current activist Karl Rove, along with countless unknown professional party operatives, which takes much fun out of the victory for a certain sort of Republican. Even as the GOP celebrates a historic victory over the darned Democrats it continues to endure a civil war between the ideologically pure and rabid “tea party” and the pragmatic and wimpy “establishment,” and the most dedicated adherents to the former faction regard the aforementioned gentlemen as the worst of the latter faction. The Republican congressional leadership’s post-election assurances that there will be no government shutdowns or threats a credit default or any of the sort of brinksmanship championed by the more confrontational conservatives has already exacerbated the resentment, and their failure to acknowledge the dutiful support of their intra-party rivals has been ungracious and unhelpful, so a shared victory does not seem likely to result in a Republican rapprochement. Which strikes us as unfortunate, as we are sympathetic to both sides of the battle and can easily envision a successful alliance.
The “tea party’s” paranoid panic about the state of the nation strikes us as entirely appropriate, and we share its belief that desperate times call for desperate measures. From our prairie perspective McConnell has been too timid and too moderate in his leadership of the party’s Senate minority, the timidity and moderation of Boehner’s speakership has been all the more infuriating because he led a majority, Chris Christie is a Republican only by the appallingly low standards of the northeastern states, Rove deserves as much blame as anybody for the deficit-spending and governmental growth of the Bush years, and we regard those professional operatives with the usual Republican disdain for slick college kids in fancy suits who attend inside-the-beltway cocktail parties. The “tea party” also embodies the bedrock principles of low taxes and limited government and individual liberty and red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism that we believe are the only way out of the current crisis, and we hate to think how Tuesday’s results might have turned out if like-minded conservatives had decided to sit out the election for spite rather than pitch on the effort for the candidates that weren’t entirely to their liking.
Still, we’re magnanimous enough to offer some thanks for the shrewd moves the “establishment” has made against the heated advice of their internecine adversaries. The government shutdowns and budgetary brinksmanship that the “tea party” advocated were well-justified and caused little harm in our opinion, but there’s no denying the damage it always does to Republican poll numbers and it’s a lucky break it was all long forgotten by the mid-term elections. A constant onslaught of primary challenges by newly enthused “tea party” insurgents had the salutary effect of dragging the Republicans in a more steadfastly conservative direction, but it also yielded more than a few rank amateurs who blew winnable races with amateurish gaffes that were used to tarnish the party at large. An all-out effort by the “establishment” to winnow out such troublesome candidates include a heavy-handed effort to choose a more polished state government veteran over the more fire-breathing “tea party” choice in Colorado and a downright disgusting effort to oust a “tea party” candidate prone to indelicate remarks about race in Mississippi by the most blatant appeals to cross-over-voting black Democrats, but it also resulted in a very impressive slate candidates across the nation. This time around the best efforts of a biased media couldn’t find any notable misstatements by Republicans to endlessly replay on the late night comedy shows, and all had to admit that such Democrats as Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and Kentucky senatorial hopeful Allison Lundgrem Grimes And Wisconsin gubernatorial challenger Mary Burke had descended into farce. Those right-wing talk radio hosts kept insisting the Republicans present an attackable agenda of what they are for, but the election results suggest they were right to focus on the widely unpopular things they opposed.
What the warring factions of the Republicans are opposed to is pretty much all they agree on, after all, and that should be sufficient for an effective if uneasy alliance. Given the unfortunate reality that we confront six years into the age of hope and change, holding off the most outrageous actions of a president emboldened by his lame duck status will be conservatism’s most pressing challenge and one that we expect to have a unifying effect. There’s a chance that the Republican leadership will go wobbly on the president’s promised executive actions regarding illegal immigration, in which case the civil war will be on again with a righteous vengeance, but otherwise the congressional leadership should be able cobble together an agenda palatable to the conservative base. Prompt movement on the Keystone Pipeline, cutting the corporate tax rate to a globally competitive level, repeal of certain problematic portions of Obamcare and promise of an eventual repeal of the whole damned thing, and of course resistance to whatever executive actions the president might sign regarding climate change or social justice or whatever other trendy cause he embraces should satisfy every sort of Republican and play well with the general public. With the shrewd professionalism of the “establishment” and the intellectually sound enthusiasm of the “tea party” peaceably combined, and with a promising slate of potential presidential candidates, the Republicans might stand a chance of restoring order in ’16. At such point we’ll have to fight it out between low taxes and even lower taxes and limited government and even more limited government, and there will be the usual squabbles about tactics, but we’d prefer that to fighting with Democrats.

— Bud Norman

A Good Day, All in All

There was a lot of good news on Tuesday. Republicans won control of the Senate, increased their majority in the House of Representatives, reelected a few governors who will now be formidable presidential candidates, and the drubbed Democrats are blaming their already unpopular president. Still, our reaction is a sense of relief rather than elation.
That unpopular president will remain in office for another two years to create all sorts of domestic havoc with his pen and phone and penchant for ignoring constitutional restraints, he’ll still have plenty of legitimate authority to continue his disastrous foreign policy, and the best one can hope for from the newly Republican Congress is that they’ll limit the damage. Although the president was brusquely rebuffed by the electorate that will likely make him all the more defiant of public opinion, and the election results cannot be seen as a widespread public embrace of any Republican principles rather a much-needed obstructionism. Several races were saved by a temporary truce between the warring factions of the Republican party, a welcome development, but the divisions remain and the elections will likely bolster the less conservative side. Such godawful Democrats as Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall survived the night, too, and such sizable states as New York and California remain lost causes.
Our reflexive Republican gloominess notwithstanding, however, there really was a lot of good news. The sound of “Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid” is soothing to our ears, and a more conservative and assertive House majority might well prod its Senate colleagues into a more confrontational stance. The surviving Democrats won’t feel any further obligation to rally around a lame duck president who did little to offer them help and often seemed intent on sabotaging their campaigns, and whatever mischief the president might attempt on his own is going to be a good issue for the Republicans to run on in the next presidential race should the country survive to that late date. That nonsense about a “Republican war on women” fell so flat it probably won’t be revived any time soon, shameful efforts to increase black turnout with talk of Republicans gunning down innocent black children in the streets didn’t prevent their candidates from losing in Georgia and North Carolina and other southern states, and even great gobs of money from labor unions and fashionably liberal billionaires and gullible unemployed hipsters living in their parents’ basements under a fading “Hope and Change” poster couldn’t buy a win in the most hotly contested races.
Some pretty impressive politicians also stepped into the spotlight, too. We’re expecting good things from Senator-elect Joni Ernst in Iowa and Representative-elect Elise Stefanik in New York and Utah’s Representative-elect Mia Love, among others who won their first races, and we can also hope that their hard-earned wins put a final nail in the coffin of that “war on women” nonsense. Gov. Scott Walker’s comfortable margin of victory in Wisconsin, which was his third win in four years after a brutal recall effort two years ago, and came despite the more bare-knuckle sort of tactics by the pubic sector unions he had bravely challenge, sets him up nicely for a presidential run that we would be inclined to support. Wins by the similarly successful governors Rick Perry of Texas, John Kasich of Ohio, and Rick Snyder of Michigan indicate that the party will have a strong field of candidates outside of Washington, D.C., to choose from. Almost as satisfying was that such odious Democrats as Texas gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis and incumbent Colorado Sen. Mark Udall and Wisconsin gubernatorial nominee Mary Burke not only lost but wound up as laughingstocks in the process.
Things worked out well here in Kansas, as well, although it was too close for the comfort to which we have become accustomed. Gov. Sam Brownback had to sweat out a tight race, having annoyed the teachers’ unions and the Republicans who had been nicked by his budget-cutting and the hard-core Democrats who for some reason seethe with a red-hot hatred for every curly hair on his head, but he won despite the further disadvantage of not being able to tie a gubernatorial candidate to that unpopular president. We know Brownback to be a good man, but we’re mainly glad that the Democrats won’t be able to claim that his tax-and-budget-cutting policies had been repudiated.  In a race without an admitted Democrat, Sen. Pat Roberts won by a more comfortable margin, although not nearly what a Republican incumbent should expect in this state.  We attribute the victory mainly to that unpopular president and the putatively independent opponent’s inability to avoid an association with him, but also to the endorsements of such locally beloved conservative icons as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has been at the forefront of a national effort to restrict voting to eligible voters, survived an challenge that had been well-funded from donors around the nation who seek make voter fraud easier. All the Republican congressional incumbents won handily, including the First District’s Tim Huelskamp, whose conservative fervency had so annoyed his own party’s leadership that he was stripped of important committee assignments and was at one point thought vulnerable. Our favorite Sedgwick County Commissioner won, too, despite the reservation of the Republicans with a business interest in county politics and the Democrats’ lavish backing of an heiress to a local black political dynasty.

All the state and local races were close enough that the Democrats around here had great expectations, so it was also nice to see their hopes dashed yet again. Tuesday might not prevent another desultory couples of years, but it did provide some compensatory satisfactions.

— Bud Norman

Another Election Day

Today is Election Day, at long last, and we are glad of it. No matter how the races turn out, we will welcome a respite from the relentless campaigning.
Kansas is usually spared the worst of it, but this year a confluence of unfortunate events have made the state’s gubernatorial and senatorial elections unusually competitive, and as a result the state’s politics have been unusually pervasive. One can turn off the radio and television to avoid the barrage of advertisements, and curtail the evening walks to avoid all the yard signs proclaiming the neighbors’ poor choices, but there’s no escape in the internet, no avoiding the mailbox stuffed with fliers, and the phone has constantly been ringing with robocalls. Our avid interest in politics led us to consider all of it carefully in the beginning, but by now the fliers go to the trash unread and the commercials are ignored and the robocalls are hung up on as soon as they begin. Not that we’re shirking our civic duty to be well informed, as we knew all the arguments and had made our choices the day after the primaries, and although we’ve taken care to be apprised of any new revelations there haven’t been any worth noting.
The polls and the pundits give no indication of what the results will be, which is also unusual for Kansas at this late date in an election. Part of the problem is that the war within the Republican party between the “tea party” and “the establishment” has been especially hard fought here, leaving its candidates bruised and battered. Gov. Sam Brownback’s aggressive tax-cutting and budget-cutting was accomplished with help from like-minded “tea party” types who pulled off a remarkable primary purge during the movement’s high-water year of 2014, and a number of “establishment” types who had grown comfortable with expensive and bloated state government so long as they ran it have bolted from the party. Their support plus the wrath of the teachers’ unions who resented Brownback’s sensible proposal to allow incompetent teachers to be fire and all the liberals who hate Brownback with a red-hot passion that can not be explained in any possible terms have given a good chance of victory to Democratic opponent Paul Davis, a typical liberal from the typically liberal college town of Lawrence who has plenty of money to spend on adds that make his typical tax-and-spend politics sound some sensible and mainstream. Sen. Pat Roberts would be considered a “tea party” type in most jurisdictions, by contemporary Kansas Republican standards his 86 percent rating from the American Conservative Union is considered wimpy and he barely survived a primary challenge by a more rock-ribbed amateur only because of the opponent’s amateurishness and the fact that a couple of no-name votes split a crucial share of the widespread anti-Roberts sentiment. The Democrats still withdrew from the race, however, in order to clear the way for a self-proclaimed independent named Greg Orman whose personal fortune and the donations of some even more well-heeled out-of-state liberals have allowed him to run a very professional campaign positioning the former Democratic candidate and longtime Democratic donor as a non-partisan centrist. Throw in a widespread anti-incumbency mood among that significant bloc of voters too stupid and lazy to consider which party’s incumbents they hate most, and it’s a rare nail-biter in this state.
We remain cautiously optimistic that both Brownback and Roberts will survive close calls, but won’t make any wagers. All the tiresome cliches about how it all comes down to turnout are applicable, and it’s hard to figure who has the edge in this regard. The Democrats are fired up with their red-hot hatred of Brownback, but his ardent supporters in the anti-abortion movement are reliable voters with the extra incentive of Davis’ radically pro-abortion record and the more libertarian among the party will be spooked by the prospect of handing another two years of control of the Senate to Democrats.and we expect that many of the “establishment” types who don’t actually hold jobs in the state government and party establishment are still Republican enough that they won’t vote for what is after all a tax-and-spend platform. All those Democrats itching to vote against Brownback will also vote against Roberts, even if without the enthusiasm of voting for an admitted Democrat, but we expect that Republicans will also wind up voting for Roberts, even without the enthusiasm of voting for a more full-throated and rock-ribbed Republican. Numerous politicians with impeccably conservative credentials have pitched in on the campaign, that vanquished primary opponent has belatedly offered his endorsement, and the non-stop argument that a vote for Orman could keep the Democrats in control of the Senate should limit the number of conservatives sitting this one out.
So it really all comes down to getting out those voters who haven’t been paying attention, and there’s no telling how that will unfold. The National Rifle Association has spent a great deal of money to get the state’s sizable population of gun owners revved up on behalf of both Brownback and Roberts, a ridiculous referendum proposal to raise Wichita’s already sky-high sales taxes will bring out a lot of tightfisted taxpayers in the state’s largest city and will probably add a few votes to the Republican totals, the weather is forecast to be chilly, Roberts has a party organization while Orman will be piggybacking on the Democrats efforts, Kansas State University’s beloved football coach has come out strong for Roberts, and the same anti-Obama sentiment that is said to be brewing a Republican wave has been washing over Kansas for the past six years. Only the most hard-core of the Democrats seem fired up, too, and the all-important hipsters down at the local dive seem not to have noticed all the pervasive politics. It’s enough to make us confident, but quite cautiously so.
We’ll take our biennial stroll to a nearby Lutheran church and cast our votes, then anxiously follow the results here and across the nation. We’re watching the Wisconsin gubernatorial race and the Iowa Senate contest and of course will be keeping track of the Republicans’ numbers in the Senate and House, so it will be a full day of politics. After that we’ll try to take a day off from the stuff, and savor of the sound of the phone not dining with robocalls.

— Bud Norman

The Divided States of America

Once upon a time a little-known state senator from Illinois gave a speech to the Democratic National Convention and wowed the delegates with a speech that famously declared “There’s not a black America and a white America and a Latino America and an Asian America, there’s the United States of America.” So stirring was his unifying rhetoric that the obscure state senator was elected President of the United States just four years later, and six years into his presidency the country seems more racially divided than at in any time in recent memory.
Take a close look at the polls around the country and you’ll quickly notice the glaring racial gaps. There’s a tight Senate race in Georgia partly because the Democrat is heiress to a political dynasty dating back to the days when that state was among her segregationist party’s solid south but mostly because she now somehow has the support of 84 percent of black voters to bolster her meager 23 percent support among whites. Another close race in North Carolina has the Democrat running neck-to-neck because she’s adding 87 percent of the black voters to her 30 percent share of the white vote. In Arkansas the Democrat is running behind with only 77 percent of the black vote added to the usual 30 percent of the white vote. The Democrat in Louisiana is behind her race because a mere 65 percent of the black vote is insufficient to make up here 20 percent support among whites. In California the incumbent Democratic governor is currently losing a majority of the white vote, but seems destined to roll to re-election on the basis of strong support from black and Latino voters. The same racial and ethnic disparities are apparent in states and districts where the minority vote is less consequential to the outcome of the elections, but even there the implications for racial comity between groups with such distinctly different preferences about how to be governed are not at all encouraging.
Various explanation for this racial divide have been offered, and one can choose among them according to his ideological preference. Democrats will insist that the federal government has not only been the guarantor of minority civil rights but also their political and economic benefactor, and that a minority of whites bravely willing to relinquish their historically privileged position provides the democratic majority needed to continues that government’s relentless expansion. Republicans will argue that the relentless expansion of government threatens individual liberty and the economic and cultural dynamism it creates, and when the vast majority of minority inevitably reject this arguments the few racists remaining among the conservatives will claim vindication for their belief that only white men are equal to the harsh demands of liberty. No matter the outcome of those close races, race relations will be further strained.
In the past several election cycles the Democrats have also benefited from a “gender gap” that saw the Republicans’ significant advantage among male voters overwhelmed by an ever more significant disadvantage among women voters, but those nagging poll numbers suggest that this time around the Republicans are still winning with men and have recently gained parity or even a small edge with women. The always implausible claim that Republicans are waging a “war on women” provoked laughter from the audience at a recent upstate New York congressional debate and have led Colorado’s Democratic Senate nominee Mark Udall to be widely known as “Mark Uterus,” and pre-feminist levels of female participation in the workforce workforce and other unsettling economic facts have caused many women to question the Democratic party’s solutions to their problems and consider the possibility that both sexes have an equal stake in increasing economic opportunities through free market solutions, so the Democrats have resorted to ever more incendiary methods to increase their racial advantage. In key states where the minority vote can be decisive the Democrats are raising the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, despite the evidence widely reported by usually supportive press outlets that the policeman acted in self-denfese, and Republican efforts to prevent voter fraud with photo identification requirements and other common-sense reforms are offered as further proof of the Republican party’s racism. These efforts are also likely to exacerbate America’s racial tensions, but staving off an expected Republican landslide in next weeks mid-term election is apparently a higher priority than unifying rhetoric.
This  stark disagreement between the races about how America should be governed won’t end with the mid-terms, and will probably be worsened. Republican majorities in the Senate and House will be all the more resistant to the policies that are proposed as righteous retribution to the country’s racial minorities, congressional Democrats who survive the white backlash will be emboldened to make more explicitly racialist appeals to non-white voters, and the free-market and free-individual reforms that would benefit everyone be more unlikely to happen.
The next presidential election will afford an opportunity for the Republicans to make their limited government appeals to groups that have disproportionately benefited from the relentless expansion of government, and we hope they’ll take full advantage. The pitch won’t alienate many whites, and we’re hopeful it will appeal to the self-reliant and freedom-loving non-white people that we resolutely believe are out there. Sooner or later the Democrats’ uneasy coalition of blacks and Latinos will begin squabbling over their unavoidable economic and political competitions, women will realize their fortunes are tied to the same economic conditions that affect men, and a policy of neutrality rather than preference will prove the only viable option. In the past several election cycles there has been a spate of stories about how the Republicans’ need to reach out women and racial minorities to remain competitive, but if the conventional wisdom holds up a week from now there will be stories about how the Democrats need to address their problem with white men, and to the event that limited government and increased individual liberty are a white male thing that will be good.

— Bud Norman