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Looking Ahead at Anger

In such a crazy election year as this we’ll leave it to all those poor pollsters and the more presumptuous sorts of pundits to predict who’s going to win that awful presidential race, but we will venture a confident guess that no matter how it turns out there are going a lot of very angry people. How angry remains to be seen, and we’d also prefer not to speculate about that.
The New York Times is worried that some supporters of Republican nominee Donald Trump will resort to armed insurrection should their man be denied the presidency, and has quite believable quotes from his fans in several states admitting that possibility with various degrees of enthusiasm for the project, and although we’d usually be inclined to consider that mere left-wing media propaganda we heard pretty much the same threats coming from one of the more effusive right-wing talk radio hosts while driving home on an otherwise lovely evening from a nice dinner with the folks. Trump’s recent talk of a “rigged election” and his vow to keep the country in suspense about whether he’ll accept an unfavorable result certainly doesn’t diminish the chances of post-election unpleasantness, and there’s no denying the videotaped evidence he’s encouraged rough behavior by his most so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters, so we can’t say that the once-venerable Gray Lady’s worries are entirely unjustified.
We do regard it as rank left-wing-propaganda-by-omission, however, that they aren’t also fretting about how some supporters of Clinton might respond to a still-at-least-slightly-possible Trump victory on election night. Trump’s supporters have been attacked by vicious mobs at several rallies, Republican offices have been fire-bombed and vandalized, and the theft of Trump yard signs has become so common that The Washington Post acknowledged it by running an op-ed from a convicted sign-stealer. Clinton has carefully courted the support of a “Black Lives Matter” movement that spilled over into violent and destructive riots in several cities, whatever’s left of that destructive “Occupy” movement and a broader campus left that has students scaring speakers away and professors calling for “muscle” to remove any pesky journalists, and certainly done nothing to diminish their red-hot hatred of Republicans in general and Trump in particular. The more left-wing media might have reason to regard a Trump win as only slightly possible, but we’d like to see them acknowledge that the likelihood of any widespread problems resulting from that is also worrying.
We hold out some hope that either outcome won’t result in anything of remotely civil war proportions, but not for very hopeful reasons. All the polls and plenty of anecdotal evidence suggest that most of Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters are past their prime rioting-in-the-streets age, and although some of them are still pretty feisty and pretty much all of them are gun-owning we can’t see them mounting anything that could reasonably be called an insurrection. Should all the polls and anecdotal evidence be proved false and Trump wins, we expect a far worse response, given that the angry will be younger and include a whole lot of recently experienced urban rioters and what Trump might aptly call “bad hombres,” but we expect that the campus left will retreat into safe spaces, the fires will burn themselves out before Trump starts to impose his promised law and order is required to put down anything approaching an insurrection, and after a brief panic the stock markets and the rest of that hated “establishment” will start negotiating deals with the self-proclaimed master deal-maker and four-times-bankrupt casino mogul.
There will be much ill-feeling among much of the the country no matter the outcome, and as Trump might say, that we can tell you, believe us, OK? For as long as we can remember politics ain’t beanbag, as one of our favorite old sayings goes, but this crazy election year’s awful presidential race has featured an unprecedented amount of mud-slinging, and so far as we can tell from our pox-on-both-their-houses perspective all of it has stuck on both of these awful candidates, so we expect that post-election recriminations are also likely to be more troublesome than usual. We’re pleased to note that neither candidate has a clear majority in any of the polls, however, because that means no matter who wins there’s still a chance that most of our fellow Americans will have righteously joined us in not voting for either her or him. Probably 90 percent of the country will have voted for one of the other, which is not so pleasing, but we can respect their reasons for doing so at this sorry moment in our binary world. No matter the outcome of this awful presidential race in this crazy election we promise that won’t be rioting in the streets, and even though we do have a handgun around just in case of the worst possible scenarios we won’t be fomenting any armed insurrection.

— Bud Norman

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Sports, Politics, and the Global Chessboard

The quadrennial Olympic competitions always arrive on the same leap years as the American presidential elections, and usually provide some pleasant if nonetheless metaphorical distraction from politics, but in this crazy election year it hasn’t proved sufficient. Even after more than seven years of those awful Obama administrations America is still great enough to be well ahead in the medal count, and there have been the usual plentitude of inspiring tales of individual American effort along the way, but as usual it’s all being re-told according to the same dreary collectivist storylines of race and class and gender and of course how that Muslim-American woman will be competing in the fencing competition in a hijab. By this point, we’re more interested in the upcoming world chess championship.
Most of the rest of the world will pay no attention to the event, and we really can’t blame it, but we have our own idiosyncratic reasons for being enrapt. We first took up chess way back when we were so young we required baby-sitting and our amorous parents hired the local high school champ to watch over us during their occasional and much-needed nights on the town, and he taught us not only the moves but also the tactical and strategic fundamentals of the game in the hope that it would keep us more or less quiet and still until our parents arrived home with an evening’s wages. The ploy had little effect on our more athletic and fidgety older brother, but it led to a years-long and mostly successful rivalry with a more mathematically-talented younger brother and our own life-long fascination with the game. A few years later the ruggedly individualist and undeniably brilliant American champion Bobby Fischer faced off against the collectivist and daunting Soviet Union’s reigning World Champion Boris Spassky in a compelling single combat contest of the ongoing Cold War, and it got more press attention than any of those heroes of a terrorism-stained Olympics or even that classic National Basketball Association finals between The New York Knicks and The Los Angeles Lakers, and when Fischer easily prevailed against Spassky’s brilliance and the commie’s conspiratorial advantages despite his temper-tantrum-induced disqualification in an early game we became lifelong followers of the World Chess Championship.
That Fischer guy could play a game of chess as beautifully as Mozart could write a symphony or Michelangelo could paint a ceiling, but the son of a Jewish mother’s virulent anti-semitism and the American hero’s outspoken anti-Americanism and the champ’s all-around nuttiness eventually undermined his heroic status. The only other American considered a world champion was Paul Morphy of New Orleans, who earned the unofficial title by convincingly beating the world’s best back in the antebellum and pre-official-championship days, and he also wound up going crazy, but in his days at least it had more to do with his unfashionably pro-Union views. Spassky was eventually recognized as a half-hearted dissenter against Soviet communism and an all-around-sportsman and undeniably brilliant chess-player in his own right, but the brilliant but more doctrinaire Soviet Anatoly Karpov wound up winning the next title by default when Fischer insisted on the most insane terms for a title defense.
Karpov successfully defended the title against two Soviet commie challengers, then retained his championship in a phony-baloney draw against the proudly half-Jewish and defiantly anti-Soviet challenger Garry Kasparov in ’84. Kasparov won fair and square against Karpov in ’86, then dominated the chess world into the 1990s.
Some of the corrupt organizational squabbling you find going on all the time in boxing then followed, with a charming enough English fellow named Nigel Short holding one of the disputed more-or-less world titles for a while, but Kasparov generally remained on top before retiring to take up a full-time career in politics, which he admirably continues here and abroad to this day, and a most worthy but altogether boring and draw-prone champion from India named Viswanathan Andad wound up as the little-recognized champion. He nobly defended the title the against yet another Russkie, then wound up losing his title in ’13 to a handsome and buff and combative 20-something Norwegian named Magnus Carlsen, who everyone in the chess world considered a more telegenic and exploitable champion.
This time around the big chess event will take place in November and December in the South Street Seaport district of lower Manhattan in New York City, and although the brilliant if oddly-named yet all-American grandmasters Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana were upset in the preliminary matches by one of those inevitable Russkie challengers there’s still an intriguing Cold War feel to the championship. Carlsen’s challenger is the outspokenly pro-Putin and pro-Crimean invasion Russkie Sergey Karajkin, and given the champ’s unabashed identification with the free west and under-the-gun Scandinavia the battle lines are quite clearly drawn. Unlike the Cold War days of ’72 we’re in an American election year when the Democrat nominee offered a “reset button” to the Russkies and pulled back on a nuclear-defense deal with the Czechs and Poles and seemed to invite the recent Russian revanchism, and the Republican nominee and his in-bed-with-Russia campaign team were apparently unaware of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine and seem quite content with Russia’s revanchism in any case, so our pro-western and pro-western-Ukrainian-type sympathies will be with some pretty-boy Norwegian rather than some nutcase half-Jewish and anti-semitic if undeniably brilliant and ruggedly individualist American this around.
Sports and politics are full of such ambivalent rooting, and even such an elegant game as chess isn’t immune to these complications.

— Bud Norman

Baseball, Politics, and Prognastication

Watching the opinion polls at this point in a presidential race is as pointless as checking the baseball standings in the first few weeks of the season, but we’re the obsessive sort of fans who do both. It’s never too early to start cheering your favorites, in politics or baseball, those early season wins and losses count, and there’s a certain fascination in watching it all play out over time.
At an analogous point in the recently concluded baseball season we were confidently predicting The New York Yankees would outlast The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles to win the American League East, that The Detroit Tigers would be a in nip-and-tuck race with the Kansas City Royals down to the wire in the Central, and that all that talent on The Los Angeles Angels would eventually prevail in the West. We did slightly better predicting the outcome of the National League races, partly because they’re more predictable and partly because we paid less attention, although we would have never guessed the Chicago Cubs being in the playoffs. Any analysis of the political races is therefore offered with due humility, but we can’t resist a few too-early observations.
There’s a new poll from Iowa indicating that formerly inevitable Hillary Clinton is deep trouble in that first-to-vote and therefore inordinately influential state, and we think it’s predictive of future problems. Although she’s still leading the current field in the primary race, she has less than a majority and her lead over self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has shrunk to 11 points, and when you add the now seemingly inevitable entrance of Vice President Joe Biden into the race it shrinks further to five points. Among all of the state’s registered voters, Clinton is currently enduring a blow-out. Her unfavorable rating is at 59 percent, and after a quarter century in the public eye it’s hard to see how she can turn that around, and she’s losing badly to all of the possible Republican contenders in hypothetical match-ups. She fares worst, interestingly enough, against the former high-tech executive and failed senatorial candidate and equally female Carly Fiorina, who is currently beating her by a 52-38 margin.
A lawyer friend of ours who’s a Democrat by profession and a Kansas City Royals fan by vocation always bets on the money and brand name, and is convinced that whatever candidate has the biggest campaign chest and most recognizable name will always prevail, and that his beloved small-market ball club will always be denied its due by some evil free-agent-laden franchise from the bigger, badder cities and their capitalist ways. This is the way to bet, as Ring Lardner would have put it, so there’s no denying our friend right is more often than wrong, but his gal Clinton is looking a lot like one of the exceptions to the rule. We’ve rooted for The New York Yankees long enough to know that money and brand name don’t always translate into performance on the field, and Clinton’s game thus far has not been up to a self-described socialist and Vermont senator or an as-yet-undeclared Vice President Joe Biden, or even a trio of Republican political neophytes or a smattering of Republicans who have actually held public office but might be sufficiently anti-establishment to satisfy the party’s ravenous base. Throw in the fact that Sanders is reportedly raising even more money than Clinton, and with a far broader base of admittedly less well-heeled donors, and is drawing crowds that exceed the big rock star tour that candidate Barack Obama headlined back in ’08, and Sanders is looking like one of those small-market contenders that occasionally win the title.
Another prediction offered with due humility is that Biden will get into the race, and with the implicit or explicit endorsement of President Barack Obama, thus garnering all the dwindling yet still significant-voters within-the-Democratic-Party that entails, as well as the significant organizational and fund-raising benefits that go along with it, and that he’ll mostly draw his support from Clinton. We’ve seen exactly one Clinton bumper sticker, which was somehow sitting outside the local grocery store, but at all the culture-vulture and hipster events we attend there are far more Sanders ’16 buttons. The Sanders constituency seems to genuinely like the guy, the Clinton supporters seem to be betting on money and name recognition, and even this early on it’s hard to shake the feeling that this is one of those exceptions to the rules.
The rules seem to be enforced with the now usual disregard on the Republican side, as well, where the buffoonish billionaire and political neophyte Donald Trump is still leading what was once thought a strong field. That’s still true in that same Iowa poll that showed Clinton in trouble, although his lead has been whittled down by retired neurosurgeon and fellow political neophyte Ben Carson, with that pesky female Fiorina in third place and within striking distance. We can’t help noticing a newer poll that shows the soft-spoken and humble Carson ahead of the brusque and self-aggrandizing Trump, through, and we take that as a hopeful trend. Trump seems to have already hit that part of the season where that .600 average inevitably starts to run up against gravitational forces, and the same faith we place in both the Republican Party and the American League gives us hope he won’t make the finals. We’ll take Carson over Trump any day, and we’re liking Fiorina better all the time, even if she has to run against some old white guy, but we’re still holding out hope for someone who has actually held office, and it looks to be an interesting race.
Baseball’s post-season should prove interesting, as well. Our New York Yankees, for all their money and brand name and free-agent-laden roster, are down to one game against a Houston Astros squad we never expected. They’ve got the home field advantage, at least, which would have meant an automatic slot in the quarterfinals before this newfangled socialistic system, and in any case we expect it to come down to the small market Royals and Toronto Blue Jays, and despite a one-game deficit over the regular season the Blue Jays suddenly seem the team to beat, and we won’t wager any actual money on how it turns out. Over on the National League side The St. Louis Cardinals seem the way to bet, but that doesn’t always work out. At this point, out best advice for politics and baseball is to stay tuned.

— Bud Norman

Bon Voyage, Boehner

We won’t have Speaker of the House John Boehner to kick around anymore, at least not after the end-of-October resignation he announced last week, and we’re glad of it. His cautious style of leadership was ill-suited to these times of constitutional crisis, as far as we are concerned, and we never did enjoy kicking him around.
Although we consider ourselves as rock-ribbed and radical as the next Republican, and are in a very confrontational mood lately, we couldn’t quite work up the same red-hot hatred for Boehner that all the right-wing radio talkers and grassroots activists seem to have cultivated. Maybe we were just suckers for the lachrymose Speaker’s compelling sob story about his rise from a humble home atop his father’s bar in a working class neighborhood to the heights of politics, or it’s that our disagreements always seemed to have less to do with his policy preferences than about the tactics best suited to achieve them, or that we well remember what it was like when San Francisco’s well-heeled Nancy Pelosi so expensively wielded the gavel. To say that Boehner represented a great improvement over his predecessor is to damn with faint praise, of course, but at least the deficits are down since to slightly less scary levels since he took over the House and there haven’t been any bills passed nearly so bad as Obamacare and the rest of what has happening when the Democrats everything, and something in our perpetually pessimistic conservative temperament makes us glad for such small favors.
Those right-wing radio talkers and grassroots activists will rightly note that cap-and-trade and open borders and Iranian nuclear bombs with a $150 billion signing bonus and all sorts of other Democratic craziness that would have passed the Reid-Pelosi Congress have nonetheless been achieved by executive action, and with only feeble resistance from the Republican majorities that were installed in congress to prevent it. This is why we’ve concluded that Boehner had to go, and that so should his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but we will concede that their leadership has at least reduced the president to executive actions that can be more easily undone by the executive actions of a new and more sensible president.
We’ll even hold out hope that Boehner’s and McConnell’s cowardly cautiousness have made it slightly more more probable that we’ll soon have a new and more sensible president. Already such still-influential press outlets as The Washington Post are gleefully fretting that the conservative elements of the Republican party that forced Boehner out and now have their sights set on McConnell “can’t govern” and will instead rashly shut down the non-essential government, which is most of it, and that all hell will surely break loose. We’re inclined to believe that there’s already far too much governance going on, that progress would be better measured by the number of laws repealed and regulations rolled back and entire agencies abolished, and that a shut-down of all of those non-essential services would be salutary, especially during the winter when few people are planning vacations in those photogenic national parks, and we’re certain that even our left-wing radical president would blink before allowing a default on the national debt, but we acknowledge that not everyone shares our rather right-wing perspective on such things.
There are only so many of us right-wing crazies out there, and a smaller number of the left-wing crazies on the other side, and therefore policy is so often decided by those uninformed voters in the middle. What little information these voters possess usually comes from the 30-second news updates that are wedged in between the latest pop tunes on the radio each hour, and that brief attention span does not take in anything more than a vague awareness that the latest spat is all about those anarchist conservatives wanting to shut the government down. The other day we heard a short National Public Radio report about the latest possibility of a government shutdown explained as the Republicans refusing to fund the women’s health care services provided by Planned Parenthood, with no mention that Planned Parenthood is mostly a network of abortionists and that a series of hidden camera videos have revealed that they routinely sell the remains of late-term fetuses and even live but promptly terminated births for profit, and one needn’t be such a jaded old pol as Boehner or McConnell to worry how a fight on such terms might end up.
Still, we hope that whoever winds up with Boehner’s job, and with good luck McConnell’s as well, is at least somewhat more daring. The last government shutdown was widely blamed on the Republicans, but ended soon enough for the party to win gains in the election, and the next one might be as well-timed. If the Republicans are willing to fund pretty much everything except Planned Parenthood all of those right-wing talkers and a few of the honest press writers might be able to persuade the public that Democrats were the ones who shut down the government for radical reasons, and people might finally notice that a government shut-down isn’t that big a deal after all, and a reasonable Republican candidate might even enjoy support from that uninformed middle as well as all the suddenly enthused right-wing crazies such as ourselves. Something in our instinctively pessimistic conservative temperament, though, urges at least a wee bit of that old establishment caution.

— Bud Norman

The Democratic Panic

Although the presidential election is still more than 15 months away, and the odious Donald Trump is currently atop the polls in the Republican race, it’s none too early for the Democrats to panic. The situation is now so desperate that such names as Vice President Joe Biden, former Vice President Al Gore, and current Secretary of State John Kerry are being bandied about.
Ever since she lost in ’08 the conventional wisdom has assumed Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic presidential nominee for ’16, but on this date in ’15 it no longer seems so wise. All the opinion polls have lately been brutal, with majorities of Americans finding her untrustworthy, a plurality of Democratic voters in the crucial first primary state of New Hampshire preferring her self-described socialist rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and her lead over potential Republican rivals in swing states has evaporated. The press has lately been just brutal, with apologetic reports dripping out about the Federal Bureau of Investigation involving itself in the matter of the private e-mail account she used to conduct public business, which naturally reminds everyone of the past 23 years of Clinton scandals, and then there’s the problem that she’s an inept politician and a thoroughly unlikeable sort and too tied up with corporations to pass muster with a currently far-left Democratic party. As hard as it is to abandon seven years of conventional wisdom, we’re not surprised to Democrats scrambling for a Plan B.
It is a sign of how very panicked the Democrats are, though, that such names as Biden, Gore, and Kerry are being bandied about. Biden is such a gaffe-prone doofus who has failed in two previous attempts at the presidency that even the leftist clowns at “Saturday Night Live” have taken notice, Gore is by now mostly associated with the “global warming” hysteria that the gleefully carbon-emitting general public isn’t the least bit hysteric about, and Kerry is the guy who lost to someone named Bush and has since negotiated that lousy Iran-gets-a-nuclear-bomb deal that all the polling shows the the public absolutely hates, and except for that faux-Indian woman from Massachusetts who thinks that businesses don’t have to hire security guards because the government is doing such a good job of keeping us all safe, it’s hard to think of a more plausible name the Democrats might come up with. The Democratic party’s current panic seems entirely justified.
Our guess is that the odious Trump’s current poll-leading twenty-something numbers are an absolute ceiling on his support, and won’t suffice when it gets down to a two or three man race, or a two man and one woman race if former computer company executive Carly Fiorina continues to surge, and that he’ll affect the general election only if his formidable ego compels him to run as a third-party candidate.n The eventual Republican nominee will likely be someone with a successful record of political leadership, with far fewer scandals than Clinton, and despite the best efforts of the media will be conspicuously less ridiculous than Biden, Gore, Kerry, or even that faux Indian woman from Massachusetts, We figure they might as well go with Sanders, who seems a likable enough fellow despite his self-described socialism, but coming from the virtually all-white state of Vermont he’s having trouble with the black vote, which is lately booing down his reasonable claim that “all lives matter” and is unaccountably loyal to the Clinton name, and if Obama were to come out for his Vice President or current Secretary of State rather than his mere former Secretary of State that would likely shift the black support and leave Clinton’s already troublesome poll numbers caving. A Gore candidacy would also peel off a significant number of Democrats nostalgic for the era of Hillary Clinton’s husband’s presidency, so almost any scenario makes Clinton’s previously assumed coronation all the more doubtful.
The Republicans could still screw this up, and the odious Donald Trump seems determined to make that happen, but as of now we can see why the Democrats are the ones in panic mode.

— Bud Norman

In Search of the Missing Voter

All of the amateur psephologists on the right have been glumly sifting through the election data, searching for some hopeful explanation of what happened on Tuesday, and several have seized on the curious case of the missing voters.
Early counts of voter indicate turnout was lower than in the 2008 election in every state, and although the unaccountably prolonged process of vote-counting will eventually increase the final numbers it appears the decline was significant. Conservatives can find some consolation in the fact that Obama almost certainly won’t match the number of votes he won four years earlier, but they also have to face the sobering truth that Romney will likely wind up with fewer votes than the famously uninspiring campaign of John McCain.
Although some of the decline can be attributed to the storm that swept through much of the northeast in the week preceding the election, other reasons are clearly required for the rest of the country. The fall in Obama’s vote haul is easily explained by the vast gulf between the extravagant earth-healing promises of his ’08 campaign and the dismal economic record that he was saddled with in ’12, but it’s harder to say why anyone willing to take the effort to vote for McCain wouldn’t have done the same four years later for Romney.
Some will say it was because the election was of little interest outside the swing states that were blitzed with campaign rallies and constant television advertising, a plausible theory given that most of the mass media quite were happy to distract their audiences from the important issues of the campaign, but turnout was apparently down in those beleaguered swing states as well. Others will contend that Romney was never fully embraced by the most hard-core conservatives of his party, but by the election day he was certainly regarded as a more rock-ribbed type than the even squishier McCain. There are the predictable suggestions that Romney’s Mormonism scared off evangelical voters, but our wide circle of evangelical friends and acquaintances seemed genuinely enthusiastic about his candidacy.
Only in retrospect do we see that Romney’s upbeat and well-behaved campaign might have failed to motivate those McCain voters to trudge back to the polls. The campaign’s assumption was that animus toward Obama would suffice to turn out the right-most voters and that a soft sell was required to win over the moderates who might be scared off by an angrier tone, which seemed reasonable enough at the time and at one point even seemed to be working, but as of now there is no denying that it simply did not work. A more alarmist campaign that screamed of the impending debt crisis and collapse of the entitlement system might not have worked, either, but at least it would have given the Republican party’s candidate in 2016 a chance to say that the voters were warned.
Our best guess, though, is that all those missing voters simply gave up on politics at some point in the last four years. Some were likely the usual sort of apolitical Americans who got caught up in the unusually high level of interest in the ’08 campaign and quickly reverted to their less depressing interests, while others were people who followed politics with a sufficiently keen attention to notice how very badly it is going and how unlikely it is that anyone currently in the political arena will be able to change course. It was always a gamble that Romney would have been able to tame the ravenous appetites of the public for the government goodies, and one that we were willing to make, but it’s not entirely irrational for someone to conclude that it really wasn’t worth leaving the house and standing in line.
Those people aren’t going to like what they’ll get, of course, and one can only hope that they’ll dislike it enough to be back the polls next time.

— Bud Norman

A Very Bad Night in America

Well, it’s bad. The internet tells us that the Fox network has just called Ohio for Barack Obama, and that pretty much ensures that the nation will have another four years of him.
There are fewer people at work than four years ago and many more on food stamps and other forms of government assistance, and it is now likely that four years hence the productive class will be smaller yet and the dependent class even larger. Our government is now $6 trillion deeper in debt than it was four years ago, and four years from now it will likely be as many trillions closer to — or already beyond — the point of financial insolvency. The west’s declared enemies now wield power in a larger section of the globe than four years ago, the entirety of the west is four years further into decline, and there is now little hope of reversal of either trend in the next four years.
Countless other calamities are now foreseeable over the next for years. Another generation of jurisprudence will decree that the constitution is no barrier to the government’s ever-expanding power. A potential energy boom wrought by new technologies will be forgone in favor of a fantastical environmentalism. Much needed educational reforms will be lost to the teachers’ unions’ preference for a failed status quo and the inevitable declining fortunes of local school boards. An absurd system of centrally-controlled medicine will be instituted.
Worse yet, the country has resigned itself to this fate. Old and crucial notions of self-reliance and freedom have been vanquished, a majority of the nation choosing dependence on the labors of others and the false security of such largesse. The nation that once celebrated individual achievement has chosen to believe that you didn’t build that.
There is still a resistant House of Representatives, a good number of states where the majority of citizens prefer their liberty to the government’s smothering embrace, and a tradition of American toughness that cannot be extinguished in one night, but Tuesday was a very bad night for the cause.

— Bud Norman

Election Day

At some point today we will don cap and jacket to stroll over the fallen leaves and past the humble bungalow houses toward a nearby Lutheran church, where we will cast our vote. After so many years in this old neighborhood it has become a familiar ritual, and we can anticipate that it will involve the same friendly banter with the curmudgeonly old retiree from the local university who always mans the polls, the same short chats with the familiar faces who somehow always show up at the same time, voting the same straight Republican ticket, and the same stroll home past the aging limestone elementary school for assurance that the kids are still stuck in class.
This time will be different, though, in some vague and disquieting way. Every election is the most important of our lifetimes, or so the candidates would always have us believe, but this one truly is of the utmost importance.
If Barack Obama manages to eke out a majority of America’s voters, it will nudge the country past a point from which no Republic has returned. A coalition of the government class and its dependents will have triumphed over those who are expected to pay its bills, a majority of Americans will have acquiesced to the government’s power to force individuals to purchase products they do not want and venerable religious institutions to act contrary to their most cherished beliefs, a cult of personality sustained by a corrupt and decadent media will have triumphed over truth, and the unsustainable costs of the new order’s ravenous appetites will careen the country toward economic disaster.
A victory by Mitt Romney will not necessarily avert these disasters, but it will make better outcomes possible. Romney and his running mate are honorable men, rooted in the best traditions of the country, who see the nation’s economic health with clear eyes and have demonstrated the political courage needed to take on the great challenge of setting the country back on to a path of freedom and self-reliance.
Thanks to our country’s brilliantly devised constitution it is within the realm of possibility that a Republican-controlled House of Representatives or a sufficient number of resistant state governments could slow the march toward the same welfare state model that is currently falling apart throughout Europe, Latin America and other benighted parts of the world, but an Obama victory would make the momentum almost impossible to resist. Even the most brilliantly devised constitution is only as strong as the men and women that the citizenry entrust with its care, and the people are always free to choose badly.
This will make for a long walk back from the voting booth, but we’ll walk with hope and a prayer for the country.

— Bud Norman

The Last Weekend

The first weekend of November is usually a good one here in the Riverside neighborhood of Wichita. On Saturday a group of arty older women who call themselves the Heifers hold their annual chili cook-off at their charmingly decrepit studio next to the coffee shop, and Sunday brings the yearly Frostbite Regatta, when rowing crews from colleges and universities and clubs around the region race along the Little Arkansas River where it winds through the picturesque parks and under the elegant old bridges. When the sun is warm and bright, as it was this past weekend, it’s as pleasant a time as one will find on the calendar.
Even with the extra hour of sleep afforded by the switch to daylight saving time, however, a certain anxiety pervaded our weekend’s festivities. There was no shaking a constant mindfulness that on Tuesday our beloved country faces a momentous decision about its path, with one leading to crippling national indebtedness, social disintegration, and international disorder, the other offering a fighting chance. Nor we could we shake a nagging worry that the country might choose badly.
We had reason to be hopeful, at least. The polls indicate a tight race, but they all show Obama below the 50 percent point where a sitting president usually needs to be at this point in an election, they all show a majority of independents breaking for Romney with sampling that assumes a higher Democratic turnout than early voting and other indicators suggest will occur, and newfangled telephony and old-fashioned media bias raise further suspicions. Pictures from Romney’s closing rallies in key states show huge and enthusiastic crowds, the news cycle has allowed a trickle of embarrassing stories about Benghazi and a flood of bad news about storms both economic and meteorological, and some very smart people who are often right and confidently predicting a Republican victory.
Further hopeful signs could even be found at the Heifer’s chili cook-off on Saturday, where the mood was palpably different from what prevailed there four long years ago. Being arty older women, the Heifers are an earnestly liberal lot in the feminist fashion, and four years ago they were giddy with anticipation of the brave new world that would surely emerge after Obama’s imminent election. We remember how they sloughed off our glum predictions of four years of slow economic growth, high unemployment, and mounting debt, confident of the coming hope and change. This time around we found little talk of politics, except with an old newspaper colleague who couldn’t avoid the topic and admitted to being disappointed, but there was a reassuring sense that they’re worried as well.
On the way to church the next morning we took solace in the knowledge that our Catholic friends would be hearing a reminder that their church has been forced into court to protect their ancient faith from the dictates of the administration. The only mention of the election at our own determinedly apolitical church was in a prayer giving thanks for the blessing to determine our nation’s destiny with a vote, and humble request for the wisdom needed to use that power correctly, but in the post-sermon chatting a reliably conservative friend expressed a guarded optimism. He’s also a smart guy who is often right, and it heartened us to hear his theories.
Still, the nagging doubts followed us to the regatta, where it even interfered with the simple pleasure of watching fresh-faced and well-toned college girls rowing by. We ran into an old and cherished pal from the boyhood days who now lives in the neighborhood, and he was also optimistic but a bit more guardedly so. Four years ago he voted early and then headed for the Ozark hills to hide out on election day, spending the whole time listening to the soothing sounds of old Jackie Gleason Orchestra records and knocking back martinis, and we took it as another hopeful sign that he’s planning to stick around this time.
We’ll take that optimism into the week, as best we can, but there’s also a nagging worry that the election is even close. The profligacy, authoritarianism, incompetence, dishonesty, and envious aspects of the past four years should be repudiated by a landslide, and if it isn’t it will be because much of the population prefers the seductive safety of a welfare state to the invigorating uncertainty of freedom, and it’s worrisome that we should still be worried.

— Bud Norman

All’s Quiet on the Election Front

One of the many blessings of living in a reliably Republican state is that every four years we’re spared the constant barrage of political advertising that afflicts those poor souls living in the so-called “swing states.” The commercial advertising that fills the void is the usual irritating noise, but at least none of the spots we’ve been subjected to have been approved by Barack Obama.
Momentous though it is, the presidential election is so barely detectable around here that a determinedly apolitical sort could almost manage to convince himself that it’s not happening at all. Plenty of yard signs shout at anyone who attempts a walk around our neighborhood, but most are for local races that inspire only mild passions. We have a Facebook friend we’re not sure we know who has lately been filling our e-mail with several missives a day extolling the wonder of Obama, but she’s the only one, and her enthusiasm seems a minor annoyance compared to the mass hysteria that swept through the social media last time around. Only the most politically avid of our actually friends and acquaintances even bring up the presidential election, and even those conversations are lately truncated by a lack of something new to say.
A local referendum to fluoridate the water supply seems to be the hottest issue in the city, judging by the proliferation of yard signs and the actual mail filling our actual mail box. There’s an unusually rancorous judicial race underway, with both incumbent and challenger airing nasty accusations during the talk radio schedule. A few other Republicans are also hitting the airwaves with regular advertisements, including the sure bet incumbent congressman who’s been touting his conservative bona fides and doesn’t even mention the sacrificial lamb challenger that not one voter in 100 in this district could even name.
These issues are important, of course, and we’ve given them what we consider the due diligence of a responsible. We’re all in for the incumbent congressman, who truly is a solid conservative and whose undistinguished and wildly liberal opponent is quite deserving of his anonymity. We’re inclined to the challenger in that judicial race, not because we believe her accusations but rather because the worst the incumbent has on her is that she only moved to Kansas five years ago and a poll of local lawyers gives him a higher approval rating; the newcomer thing is ordinarily a problem for us but because she’s a Republican we figure she’s more Kansan that the native, and the approval of local lawyers does not sway us. After some deliberation we’ve decided to vote against fluoridation, not because we believe that it poses a threat to our precious bodily fluids but because some of our fellow citizens clearly do not wish to drink fluoridated water and we require an extraordinarily good reason to force anybody to do something they don’t want to do.
Still, such nonchalance about the presidential race is disquieting. It can be dismissed as a result of the fact that all the campaigning is occurring elsewhere, or the near-certainty of how the state’s few electoral votes will be cast, or even the nervousness that both sides seem to feel, but it can’t be because the election isn’t of the gravest importance. The most comforting explanation is that people have already made up their minds, having given the matter four years of consideration already, and are simply too polite to roil a friendly conversation with serious politics, but we suspect that there’s a widespread apathy out there. Those who wish to divine some happy omen for Obama from this lack of fervor should know that it’s not complacency, not by a long shot, and at best it’s a very grudging acceptance of a desultory status quo and a resignation to a future of decline no matter the outcome of an election.
One can only imagine what this election season must be like in such targeted states as Ohio, and one shudders to do so. Surely there are people there who can look through all the ads and speeches and nakedly partisan press coverage to see the nation’s current sorry state, however, and here in the deep red territory we can only hope they make it to the polls in time.

— Bud Norman