Advertisements

Election Results From Real America

There were several elections of interest around the country on Tuesday, and the Democrats got the best of it. It’s easy to overstate their performance, and what it might portend for the rest of the country next November, but the Republicans would be wise not to underestimate the damage.
Virginia was a Republican stronghold from the ’60s until recently, but after Tuesday’s races the Democrats are firmly in control of the state. They already had a Democratic governor and lieutenant governor, and now the party holds every other statewide office and have majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The Republicans had retained control through two presidential elections when the Democratic candidate easily won the state’s electoral votes, but that was mostly due to some nifty gerrymandering, which wasn’t enough to overcome the overwhelming majority of votes cast throughout the state for the Democrats and will likely go away when the Democrats get a chance to redraw the maps next year.
The recent problems in Virginia are part of a worrisome trend for the Republicans in the country at large. Affluent and highly educated suburbanites have been abandoning the party in droves since President Donald Trump was elected, and although the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and Richmond are more hostile than most Republicans have also lost congressional seats in Kansas and other reliably red states. Virginia also has a growing number of Latinos and a sizable and politically engaged black population, and they’re also averse to the party of Trump, who was not invited by any Republican to cross the bridge and do some campaigning.
Trump was gratefully welcomed to give one of his famous rallies in Kentucky, a state he easily won in the presidential election, but despite his efforts Democratic challenger Andy Beshear wound up with more votes than incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. The margin was slight enough that Bevin has refused to concede defeat, which is what one expects of Republicans in the age of Trump, but even if he’s able to litigate and recount his way to a slim victory it’s still an embarrassment for his party. Trump can rightly blame Bevin for being a failed governor and unpopular candidate, and he surely will, but he won’t be able to boast of his enormous appeal in Kentucky, and there’s still that nagging problem of the big cities and their suburbs going for the Democrats.
There was some good news for the Republicans in Mississippi, where Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves beat Democratic state Attorney General Jim Hood by a solid if unspectacular score of 52-to-46 in the gubernatorial race. The Republicans’ problems with suburbanites and racial minorities was stark there, too, and the blatant appeals to white working class resentment that worked well enough in Mississippi might not fare so well elsewhere in the country.
Meanwhile, here in our humble hometown of Wichita, a larger-than-usual turnout in our nonpartisan local election ousted an incumbent mayor who is generally assumed to be a Republican and replaced him with a state representative is known to a Democrat. There are all sorts of peculiarly local reasons for the outcome, involving such matters as a ballpark and a big bucks water contract and plans to tear down some locally beloved buildings and pay some well-connected local businesses to put up something new, but it’s still notable that such a reliably Republican state as Kansas has a Democratic governor and its biggest city has a Democratic mayor, not to mention a Native American lesbian kick boxer Democrat as a congresswoman for the suburban and educated 2nd District up by Kansas City.
Next November is far, far away, and there’s no telling how awful the Democratic presidential nominee might be, but it’s hard to see the Republicans reversing some worrisome trends that keep revealing themselves in all the post-Trump election results. Perhaps Trump can find some way to ingratiate himself to those affluent and highly educated suburbanites and the racial minorities closer to the heart of town, but he has to keep stoking the racial resentments of his white working class base at the same time, and he’s not much for nuanced arguments. He’ll also be preoccupied with that pesky impeachment inquiry, which seems to turn up further damning testimony every day, and from the halls of Congress to the Wichita Republican headquarters his party seems in disarray.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

Catalonia, Catalonia, What Makes Your Big Head So Hard?

The last time Spain had a civil war it was fought between supporters of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco and communists who wanted to establish a worker’s paradise similar to Stalin’s Soviet Union, which offered an even worse choice than the one America voters faced in the last presidential election. This time around it’s the seceding government of the largely autonomous Catalonia region against the federal government, and although it lacks the military might to wage an actual shooting civil war like America once endured with its secessionists the spat doesn’t look to end well for anyone.
Catalonia’s regional government has declared its independence from Spain, but the Spanish government has asserted constitutional authority to prevent that from happening. The Spaniards have kicked all the rebellious Catalan officials out of office, arrested several of them, sent in enough firepower to get it done, and the smart money is betting they’ll prevail. So far no nation has recognized Catalonia’s independence, and the polling there suggests most Catalans would prefer to remain Spaniards.
An independent Catalonia would be a tiny country with a tiny population and tiny economy, too, but it could be viable. It has the world-class city of Barcelona as its capital, lucrative borders with the Mediterranean Sea and France, and a long tradition of running its regional affairs to the satisfaction of its people. Catalonia also has its own way of talking, a rich distinctive culture that gave the world Antoni Gaudi’s mind-blowing architecture and some great cuisine, and no doubt some very valid complaints with the Spanish federal government. There’s a case to be made for Catalonia’s independence, but from our vantage point here in Kansas we’re not buying it, and we’re sure it worries people all over.
Even here in Kansas, where the leaves are beautifully turning and we’re temporarily back to sunny skies and temperatures as moderate as you can hope for in late October, there’s a certain uncomfortable sense that here and around the world too many people are itching to sever the bonds that have long bound them to their countrymen. It’s probably more pronounced in Spain, where the Catalans have officially declared their independence and the Basques have long waged an occasionally terrorist war for it, or in Canada where the Francophone Quebecois have long threatened to assert their independence, or in the United Kingdom, where the Scots recently agreed by a scarily slim majority to stay on board. There are countless independence movements in South America and Africa and the Middle East, as well, and given how none of those regions have managed their affairs to anyone’s satisfaction that’s all the more unsettling.
Even here in relatively hale America there’s the longstanding talk about Texas reasserting its independence and California splitting into three states, as well as all the ongoing talk on both sides about the reliably Republican-voting blue states and the the hard-core Democratic blue states parting ways, and although none of it seems likely to come pass any time soon it doesn’t look to end well. If the tiny country of Catalonia and its tiny population and tiny economy gain independence, it will only encourage the separatist movements in the Basque region of Spain and the Quebec province of Canada and the Scottish portion of the United Kingdom, not to mention all those destabilized elements in the more already unstable portions of the world, and it might even wind up enflaming the conflicts here in once-Bleeding Kansas.
From our perspective here in Kansas we’re sympathetic to local rule, and can’t blame Europe’s nationalist parties for their skepticism about European Union rule, and well understand that a lot of those South American and African and Middle Eastern boundaries were badly drawn by European powers, and that some adjustments in some places are required. Catalonia’s case, though, is less compelling. When America declared its independence from the United Kingdom its Continental Congress acknowledged that “When in in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth to which the Last of Nature and Nature’s God entitles them, a decent respect for the opinion of mankind requires that they should declare the the causes which impel them to the separation.” The rebellious congress of the United States America compellingly made that case in the Declaration of Independence, and so far the Catalans haven’t.
So far as we can tell the Catalans’ case isn’t based on any valid complaint that the federal government has prevented them from running their region to the people’s general satisfaction, but rather on a stubborn ethnic pride that wants to assert itself. This is understandable enough from our perspective here in Kansas, where we also have our own way of talking and doing things and resent any outside interference, but not convincing. So far at least Kansa continues to do things mostly it own way, begrudgingly allows those crazy Californians and New Yorkers and the rest of the blue states to do things their own way, and as bad as things are everywhere they could be a lot worse.
So far as we can tell Catalonia and Spain could continue the same slightly tolerable arrangement, and we hope they do. Some adjustments to the borders might be required elsewhere, but for the rest of us some stability and a lack of stubborn ethnic pride would be more comforting right now.

— Bud Norman

The Climate and the Political Climate

Perhaps it would all make perfect sense if only we held the fashionable faith in the gospel of anthropogenic global warming, or the divine omniscience of President Barack Obama, but a reported plan for the administration to go around the usual constitutional requirements and oblige the United States to a treaty that would restrict its carbon emissions and thus save the world from climatic catastrophe seems wrong in every way.
As heretical as it might sound in this devoutly post-religious age, we remain skeptical that there is any anthropogenic global warming going on. Such skepticism is now considered somehow anti-science, an odd state of affairs, but we’ve read the hacked e-mails where the global warming alarmists were alarmed by the 18-year-pause their almighty models didn’t anticipate, and noticed the lack of predicted hurricanes and tornados and other calamities that were confidently predicted but have not materialized on schedule, and find ample reason to suspect the science isn’t so darn settled that we should hobble the American economy because of its tentative conclusions.
Even if there is a problem, there’s no reason to believe that the proposed treaty would solve it. Most countries will ignore it, including such heavy carbon-emitters as China and India as well as such erstwhile economic allies as Australia and Canada, and happily take up whatever profitable and job-creating enterprises the United States high-mindedly relinquishes for the sake of a futile gesture. The New York Times’ hopeful description of the plan says it would “name and shame” countries to force them into compliance, but it’s hard to imagine any country sacrificing economic growth for fear of being named and shamed by Obama. We’re nearly six years into the Age of Obama, and thus far the rest of the world still seems to be acting in its own perceived self-interest without much regard for Obama what thinks about it.
That part about going around the usual constitutional requirements is troubling, too. On issues ranging from those pesky immigrations laws that the president never liked to the eponymous Obamacare legislation that the president himself signed into law, Obama has already drawn criticism not just from his usual Republican critics but also the more principle liberals about his disregard for the constitutional restraints on his power, and this treaty ploy or a rumored amnesty for millions of illegal aliens and especially a combination of the two would have to be considered a constitutional crisis. We rather like the constitution, and would prefer to see it survive the present administration, and we’re sure most liberals would as well if the next administration turns out to be Republican, and a non-solution to a non-problem seems an especially poor reason to jettison such a successful system of governance.
There might be some political advantage that the president stands to gain from the gambit, but we can’t spot it. Heretical skepticism about global warming is widespread, and even most of the people who read about it in the paper and figure it must be true are not going to pleased that Obama has kept his campaign promise to make electricity rates “skyrocket.” Administration officials freely concede that they’ll try to bypass the 67 votes in the Senate that the constitution requires for ratification of a treaty because there’s not a snowball’s chance is global warming that they’ll ever find enough suckers in the chamber to vote for this awful policy, and that implicitly acknowledges that public sentiment is such that even in the most red states even the most entrenched senators would fear the wrath of their constituents. Like the threatened executive action granting amnesty this might be meant to provoke an impeachment, which would rally all those dispirited Democrats who see no reason that Obama shouldn’t be granted dictatorial powers, but he’s picking the fight over stands that the public overwhelmingly oppose and are likely to bring those opponents to the polls in record numbers.
The only explanation is that the president has not only a fashionable but a very sincere belief in the gospel of anthropogenic global warming, and an even more fervent faith in his own divine omniscience. That is not reassuring.

— Bud Norman