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The Establishment Strikes Back, Again

Donald J. Trump’s winning of the Republican presidential nomination was supposed to have signaled the end of that Republican “establishment” supposedly hated by all the “real” Republicans, but the ancien regime seems to be faring well enough in the subsequent party primaries. Tuesday night saw a couple of targets of Trump’s “tweeting” wrath winning comfortably against self-described “anti-estalishment” challengers, with Senator Marco Rubio easily winning re-nomination in Florida and Senator John McCain prevailing just as easily in his home state of Arizona.
Trump had scoffed at Rubio as “Little Marco” during their presidential primary rivalry, and the combined power of that schoolyard taunt and the otherwise impeccably conservative’s support for a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” deal in the Senate that swapped vague promises of stricter border enforcement for a vague semi-legalization of those illegal immigrants already here pretty much doomed Rubio’s candidacy, and he even lost his home state’s presidential primary to Trump to by an embarrassing margin. That Trump had four years earlier decried the Republican nominee’s “self-deportation” policy as “maniacal,” and contributed generously to the campaign funds of five of the “Gang of Eight” members, seemed to matter little when Trump was promising all the “real” Republicans that he was going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it and set up a ruthless “deportation force” that would kick out every last illegal immigrant.
By Tuesday night Trump was recently scoffing at the idea of “deportation forces” rounding up more than 11 million people, and no one could really say for certain where he stood on immigration, except that he was still talking about the wall Mexico will pay for and making other huge but vague promises about border enforcement, and that it should be clearer after a long-delayed speech on immigration that will occur after his meeting today with the President of Mexico. We’d wager a few pesos that the Mexican president won’t agree to pay for the wall Trump intends to build, but other than that we have no idea what position Trump might momentarily settle on in the long-delayed speech, and in any case it won’t keep Rubio from a good shot at reelection. Rubio had said he would return to private life after his public humiliation, but what was left of the GOP “establishment” begged him and his formidable fund-raising machine to help keep alive the hopes of a Republican Senate, and by sticking to his for-the-most-part impeccably conservative easily rebuffed a challenged by an “anti-establishment” and very wealthy real estate mogul.
Longtime Arizona Senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s heroic sacrifices as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict was scoffed at by the draft-dodging Trump’s sneer that he “was only a hero because he got captured,” but he wound up more or less endorsing Trump’s nomination nonetheless, and Trump wound up giving him a similarly ambivalent on endorsement, and then on Tuesday he ended up with a similarly more-or-less endorsement from the party’s nominee, and the oh-so-establishment and “Gang of Eight” octogenarian wound up winning by a more or less comfortable margin against an “anti-establishment” challenger. It’s a messy race, but another win for the establishment by our scoring.
Both Rubio and McCain still have to square off against Democratic challengers, and there’s no telling how that might turn out in this crazy election year, but the the aggregate of the latest polling suggests they’re both doing at least as well in their respective states as the Republican presidential nominee. In several other states those boring old “establishment” Republicans are polling better than Trump, and in the crucial swing state of Ohio where Trump is currently down by 3.8 percentage eight points in the Real Clear Politics average the soporifically Republican “establishment” Sen. Rob Portman is so far ahead of a generic Democrat that the Democratic donors are abandoning the race. In this crazy election year Trump might yet wind up winning the presidency, but it seems increasingly likely that there will still be both a Democratic and Republican party that he’ll have to deal with.

— Bud Norman

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No All-Star Game at the Halfway Point

The presidential political season has now passed the halfway point, without anything nearly so entertaining as the all-star games that mark the middle of more respectable professional sports, and although the front-runners in both leagues padded their leagues on Tuesday padded their leads the outcomes are at least still somewhat in doubt.
Over on the Democrats’ senior circuit, former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was awful in each of those capacities, won decisive victories in the populous and all-important “swing states” of Ohio and Florida, as well as the Democratic stronghold of Illinois, and the populous and possibly Democratic state of North Carolina, and is neck-to-neck with her lone challenger in the populous and even more possibly Democratic state of Missouri. Such a good night gives her a better than two-to-one lead in the delegate count, with all the super-delegates and other cards stacked in her favor, but she’s also had some bad nights, and against the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, at that, and he looks to be sticking around. Sanders’ supporters are quite committed to his crazy cause, and quite sanely if inadvertently aware of Clinton’s dishonesty and corruption and incompetence and purely opportunistic stands on the issues, as well as generally low moral character, and they’re coughing up twenty bucks at a time to keep funding his anti-establishment insurgency at a faster pace than the hated Wall Street fat cats can fund her unappealing campaign, and even if the Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn’t get a game-changing indictment against her for her irregular and national-security-endangering e-mail practices, or her scandal-ridden family’s highly suspicious “foundation,” she’s still got problems between now and her long-predicted coronation.
By now Clinton’s unfavorable ratings are so high that the current Democratic administration might be tempted to let the FBI proceed with that indictment, so that some wild card might be played at a contested convention, but Tuesday night’s Republican results suggest she might be running against pretty much the only person in the United States of America with even worse polls numbers. Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire and real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television-and-scam-university mogul, also racked up a sizable win populous and swing-state Florida, as well as Illinois and North Carolina, and is quite narrowly leading in Missouri as we write this, and with the winner-take-all rule in Florida and the more convoluted systems elsewhere he added to an already sizable delegate lead. There’s no denying it was another good night for Trump.
He’s got his problems, too, though, even if his own looming legal problems are merely of a multi-million dollar civil nature. He was humbled in Ohio, where favorite son Gov. John Kasich handily won all the delegates in a winner-take-all primary and some potentially important bargaining chips in the potential contested election, where they almost certainly would not go to Trump until at least the final ballot, and he was dogged in Missouri by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has several wins against Trump and almost certainly would have won Missouri if not for the presence of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is now mercifully out of the race after his un-favorite son finish in his home state, and the intra-party opposition to Trump is also committed and contributing and increasingly well-organized, and the deal-maker’s deal is far being made.
Even if he does seal the deal on a nomination, there are still those worse-even-than-Clinton’s polling numbers, and it’s hard to imagine that one of Trump’s stream-of-consciousness rants during his nomination acceptance speech will do much to change, and a certain number of us are going to start choosing between the Constitutionalists and the Libertarians and any other conservative-sounding third party, while a certain number of similarly picky picky Democrats will be investigating the Socialist and Green and other liberal-sounding parties, but until then there’s at least some outside chance of an honest conservative versus an honest liberal.

— Bud Norman

The Race Plods Along

The votes keep coming in, but so far they haven’t added up to a clear winner in either of the presidential races. There are two front-runners who continue to front-run, but neither can feel comfortable with their leads.
Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and once-presumed First Woman President Hillary Clinton continues to slog it out with self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, of all people. Clinton picked up another convincing win in Mississippi on Tuesday, continuing a winning streak in southern states where all the white people have long since registered Republican and the Democratic parties are dominated by blacks, who for some vague reasons seem to prefer Clinton to the nebbishy socialist from a lily-white state whose efforts at identity politics have often been clumsy, but she lost a squeaker in Michigan, where the racial demographics are more typical of the country at large, and which the Democrats rely on in general elections.
This wasn’t supposed to happen, but it keeps happening, and this is before Clinton is either indicted on felony charges or has the Federal Bureau of Investigation furiously leaking all the reasons she should have been indicted but was saved solely by naked political favoritism, which can’t help, so we expect this race to continue. The peculiar rules of the Democrat’s delegate selection process seem to award Clinton a “super delegate” or two no matter how she performs at the ballot box, and it remains to be seen how the broad diverse tapestry of the Democratic party will respond to some nebbishy white guy’s call for a socialist revolution, and she continues to more-or-less front-run in the polls, but we have to imagine there is some panic afoot in the party’s smoke-free back rooms. They might even decide to go ahead and let the woman get indicted just to get her out of the race and allow some hair-plugged white knight or faux Indian princess to come to the rescue, or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on our part, but any scenario seems bleak for the Democrats.
They do have the last-resort advantage of running against Republicans, though, and the loyal opposition seems determined to help out. After wins in Michigan and Mississippi and Hawaii, the front-runner is still Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television-and-scam-university mogul, whose national unfavorable ratings in one recent poll hit an eye-popping 67 percent, which is even worse than Clinton’s, which is saying something. The wins added to a solid but not insurmountable lead in the delegate count, and was sufficient for Trump to boast that it’s all over and time for the entire party to rally around his vaguely defined cause, but surely he’s a shrewd enough negotiator to know that’s not going to happen. A consistent two-thirds of the party continues to vote against him, with a large chunk of it having highly unfavorable views of him, and much more than a few of us are willing to fight him until the very end and beyond, and a careful look reveals that all the undecideds who haven’t yet become enamored of Trump after so many months of saturation media coverage of his garish insult comic routine are predictably deciding they don’t like him, and all this is just as the effective-because-they’re-true negative ads have been starting to come out.
Worse yet, from Trump’s bottom-line perspective, the fractured field that has allowed his pluralities to prevail in so many contests is narrowing, with Tuesday’s results effectively knocking Florida Sen. Marco Rubio out of the race, although he might risk humiliation by continuing to campaign in his home state. Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s narrow-third place finish in neighboring Michigan won’t keep him from contesting his home state as a favorite son, but if he wins that he denies Trump some much-needed delegates, and if he doesn’t it will all come down to Trump against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who picked up another upset win in Idaho and once again out-performed the polls in his losing efforts, leads Trump in head-to-head matches in the polls, and is clearly eager to be alone on a debate stage with Trump.
This might end in a race between two of the most deservedly disliked and distrusted people in America, or a nebbishy socialist and an evangelical capitalist, or some combination thereof, or maybe even some hair-plugged white knight or faux Indian princess will come to the rescue, and we’ll even hold on to some faint hope of another deus ex machina.

— Bud Norman

A Not-So-Super Tuesday

Although it’s still too soon to abandon all hope, and never so late that one should abandon the fight, on the day after “Super Tuesday” it seems all too likely that the American people will have to choose between two of the most widely distrusted and disliked people in the country for their next president.
The big day brought split decisions, but the clear winners on points were Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television-and-scam-university mogul on the Republican side, and on the Democratic side it was one of the guests at his most recent wedding, the former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and rape-enabling charity-hustler and law-flouting incompetent Hillary Clinton. Both have unfavorable ratings well above the 50 percent mark, with sizable majorities of the country having reasonably concluded that they are not the sort of people they would want as a president, yet now are both the prohibitive favorites to win their parties’ nominations.
Trump’s Tuesday wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, and Vermont give him a nine-out-of-14 record so far, and some recent polls have his national average far enough into the 40s to prevail in even a narrowed field, and the place and show results aren’t likely to do any narrowing. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won on his home field and also took neighboring Oklahoma — God bless our beautiful ancestral state — which makes him three-out-of-14 but still in the race, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio finally got a story in the caucus state of Minnesota, where the Republicans well remember their last flirtation with professional wrestling characters, and he would have scored a big win in Virginia if not for Ohio Gov. John Kasich sticking around until the primaries move into his region of the country, so for the next round there will be at least three candidates splitting up a seemingly shrinking portion of the anti-Trump vote.
In his victory speech Trump generously praised himself for his courage in running and with characteristic graciousness described his rivals as “losers,” or “loosers,” as his internet commenting fans are wont to write, but he seemed to realize that he hasn’t yet sealed his latest great deal. The peculiarly proportional rules of Republican politics split up the night’s delegate count in a way that gives him a significant but not at all decisive lead, and still far short of what’s needed to clinch the nomination. Tuesday’s results will at least winnow out the retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, either by his graceful withdrawal or unfortunate irrelevance, and one can hope that he’ll join a growing number of Christian leaders and use his remaining influence to denounce the man who slanderously ridiculed his story of faith. Those peculiarly proportional rules of Republican politics remain a problem for any candidate who isn’t pulling in more than 50 percent of the vote, which Trump still hasn’t done, and in getting there Trump will finally face a well-funded barrage of facts about his failed businesses and his penchant for hiring the illegal aliens that he’s vowed to save the country from and why he’s not making the financial disclosures that will prove how very, very rich he is, and he’s even getting some campaign jibes about those short fingers of his, and the late night comics are already having a ball with him, and there’s a deposition coming up in a couple of months regarding that scam university of his, and surely Trump knows as well as anyone that in this crazy election year anything could happen.
Still, for now Trump steamrolls ahead, and at this rate he’s likely to crash into his former wedding guest Clinton in a train-wreck of a general election. Clinton won victories in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, while her rival, self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, won in Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma of all places, and his home state. That makes Clinton nine-out-of-14, if you don’t count that highly suspicious series of coin flips in Iowa as a tie, but by the peculiarly proportional rules of the Democrat party every delegate won by either candidate seems to yield two super-delegates for Clinton, so at this rate we have to admit that maybe she was inevitable after all. All the yard signs and bumper stickers and buttons we see in our neighbor say “Bernie,” but there are a lot of chocolate-milk-sipping pajama boys in our fashionable neighborhood near the art museum, which might or might not be representative of the paler portions of the Democratic party, but in Alabama and Arkansas and Georgia and Tennessee and Texas and Virginia the Democrats tend to be black, which seems to be the storyline in the Democratic primary. So far the Black Lives Matter activists and other black trend-setters are starting to side with Sanders, but the overall trend is that the same southern blacks who went for President Barack Obama over Clinton are now going for Clinton and her First Black President husband over that Jewish guy from lily-white Vermont, even if her philandering husband did sign all those mass incarceration and welfare reform bills she now rails against.
Such allegedly racist Republicans as ourselves can at least enjoy the spectacle of the political race war waging within the Democratic party, and the sweet irony that all those white hipsters’ socialism might fail because they are found guilty of white privilege, but it’s a slight satisfaction given the inevitable consequences of such tribalism. Our own party’s clear front-runner recently told a national broadcast audience that he wasn’t sufficiently familiar with David Duke or the Ku Klux or some notion of “white supremacism” to comment on it, and the internet swelled with supporters saying it was a crafty set-up question by the “cuckservative” Jew-controlled media, the front-runner has an annoying habit of re-“tweeting” their “tweets,” and his own tweets have included some outrageously bogus numbers about white people killed by black people, so we’d have to say that the post-racial era of politics that our current widely disliked and distrusted president once promised hasn’t happened.
Perhaps it will all work out in the end, somehow. This Sanders fellow seems honest enough, even if he’s an honestly crazed honeymooning-in-the-Soviet-Union socialist who would bring upon America all the misery that inevitably follows socialism, and that Spanish-speaking and Canadian-born right-winger Cruz talks cold-blooded capitalism and kind-hearted Christianity with the sort of sincere zeal that seems more threatening to the establishment than all of Trump’s”anti-establishment” bluster and vague promises about great deals with the establishment and all his other wedding guests, and no mater the outcome at least it would be a clarifying election. If it turns out to be Rubio or Kasich in the mano-a-mano cage match duel to the death in the finale episode of the Republican party’s reality show that would be good enough for us.
By the peculiarly proportional rules of the American political system, though, it’s looking as if we’ll have a choice between two people that most people don’t think are at all suited to the job of being president.

— Bud Norman

Let’s Make a Deal to be the Last on Gilligan’s Island

The latest episode of the Republican party’s ongoing presidential nomination reality show was the best one yet, but it might yet be too little and too late to save this series from an unsatisfying conclusion.
Telecast by the Cable News Network in Mercury Radio Theatre’s “War of the Worlds” fashion as an actual presidential debate, the episode featured two of the last survivors on the Republican party island, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, ganging up against the thus-far series favorite, self-proclaimed billionaire real-estate and gambling mogul Donald J. Trump in an entertaining showdown. Ohio Gov. Rick Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson were also featured, and were quite boringly reasonable and level-headed in their brief moments, but they were just “and the rest,” as the first seasons of Gilligan’s Island’s theme song would have put it.
Regular fans of the show already know that Trump’s long experience in professional wrestling and reality shows have given him a decided advantage over the neophyte politicians who are now dancing with the stars, along with his unprecedentedly strong stand against illegal immigration and the fact that he’s not one of those neophyte politicians who are part of the “establishment,” which has long been established as the unseen villain of the series, and thus far his would-be rivals have mostly been preoccupied with sniping at one another. On Thursday night’s episode, though, all of these plot lines saw intriguing twists.
Both Rubio and Cruz demonstrated some professional wrestling moves and reality show savvy of their own, with Rubio noting that despite an unprecedentedly hard line against illegal immigration Trump has a longstanding practice of hiring illegal immigrants, and Cruz happily accepting Trump’s inadvertent compliment that nobody in the hated “establishment” likes him, and both provoking Trump into the face-making and rudely interrupting with shouts of “liar” histrionics that always get the show’s sizable anti-Trump audience booing and hissing.
Rubio got the better of the attack on Trump’s previous preferences for foreign workers, and when Trump objected to Rubio’s revelations that Trump had not only hired Polish workers for the dangerous asbestos removal to build the towering achievement of the Trump tower and had also stiffed them on their wages Rubio seemed to win the exchange by asking viewers to look it up. When Rubio noted that Trump had also preferred to hire Ukrainian maids for his Florida resort rather than American applicants willing to do the job, he was able to add the biographical detail that his own mother was a legal immigrant who had become an American citizen and supported him on his rise to a presidential contender by working as a hotel maid in Florida, and Trump was reduced to the open-borders argument that he merely hiring people to do work that Americans wouldn’t do. When he tried to strike back by noting Rubio’s involvement with the “Gang of Eight” that had sought to do the work of the open-borders crowd, much hated by all the show’s fans, Cruz was able to effectively jump in and note that Trump had been a big contributor to all of the Democratic members of the gang, and that only he of the three had been consistently righteous in his opposition.
Rubio at long last brought up that phony-baloney Trump University scam that’s winding its way through the courts, and the four bankruptcies and and made-in-China Trump ties and alluded to all the other failed Trump ventures of the invincible deal-maker, and Cruz noted that Trump’s claims that it’s all a lie is in itself a lie. Trump claimed to be a strong defender of Israel even as he defended a recent claim that he’d be neutral in a dispute between democratic and capitalist and humane Israel and the theocratic and no-economy-at-all-because-it’s-too-busy-hating-Israel Palestine, and Cruz noting Trump’s history of donating to anti-Israel politicians all the way back to Jimmy Carter. Trump tried to revise a minor plot line from a few weeks ago when Rubio started repeating himself, and wound up repeating himself to a point that the audience laughed along with Rubio. Between the two, Rubio and Cruz also brought up that Trump has been all over all the place on his health care plans, is losing in his beloved polls to the very vincible villain Hillary Clinton, won’t release the tax returns that might reveals he’s not such a successful businessman or generous philanthropist, has clearly lied about his views on the Libyan war, and donated $100,000 to the Bill and Hillary Clinton foundation that is one of the Republican’s juiciest issues.
In response Trump tried to revise another even more minor plot line about how Cruz had sullied Trump’s good friend Carson with a “tweet” of a CNN report about Carson’s withdrawal he was saved from Cruz noting how Trump had ridiculed Carson’s as “pathological” and akin to a child molester only by the intervention of CNN’s generally inept moderator. Another panelist from an affiliated Spanish-speaking network kept asking all the candidates if they “get it’ that the Republicans have to endorse an open-borders platform, which worked to Trump’s advantage, but overall it was a rough night for Trump.
Which won’t matter to Trump’s fans, of course. If their hero anti-immigration hero has a long history of hiring immigrant workers, well, that’s just because he’s a shrewd businessman, which is what’s need to make this country great again. If he’s not such a shrewd businessman as he’d have you believe, well, any source that would report such a thing is obviously not in favor of Trump and is therefore biassed against him, and you gotta hate any media that hate such a media star who’s going to make America great again. If Trump’s anti-Israel that just proves he’s not a stooge of Zionist conspiracy that’s bringing in foreign workers to drive wages down, and if Trump did that he’s just a good businessman. Who cares if he’s for socialized medicine or not, just so long as he builds that damned wall, and if he uses foreign workers to do that it’s just because he’s a good businessman. If he wrote a $100,00 check to his most recent wedding guest Clintons’ money-for-favors foundation, well, that’s just because he got snookered into thinking it was for some good work in Haiti or one of those places where no one ever does a publicized audit.
The far louder than Rubio-and-Cruz-combined media will be saturating the public with even more lurid tales of Trump’s business dealings and personal foibles just after he clinches the nomination, and will starting noticing that his refreshing political incorrectness is actually just downright rude, but until then his fans can revel in how he’s playing the media. With a potentially decisive number of delegates up for grabs in the impending “Super Tuesday” primaries are the next big episode in this series, that might be sooner rather than later. The good news for Trump is that Rubio and Cruz did about equally well, meaning they’ll continue to split that vast majority of the anti-Trump vote between themselves, and Trump’s 35 to 40 percent will prevail.
If the rest of the participants in this bizarre reality show had played their parts differently we might have would up with a sequel that featured a more-or-less conservative against one shade of socialist or another, which would have made an interesting show, but instead we might wind up with a corrupt semi-socalist and the semi-capitalist who paid her to attend his latest wedding in the worst episode of “Let’s Make a Deal” ever.

— Bud Norman

Democracy in the Desert

The state of Nevada has many fine people and is a lovely place to visit, especially those vast portions of it where you won’t find any people at all, but we don’t see why it should play such an outsized role in picking the country’s president. Only two other states had already knocked all the relatively sane Democrats out of that party’s race, a mere three had eliminated some worthy contenders from the Republican race, and now Nevada has apparently decided that it will all come down to the two candidates most disliked and distrusted by the American public.
That’s how the sporting press will perceive it, at least, and their perceptions might once again become reality. Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regained her front-runner status over self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders last week with a race-baiting win in Nevada after a shellacking in New Hampshire followed a highly suspicious win Iowa, and after another race-baiting win expected in South Carolina she’ll be back to being inevitable. The boastful real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-television mogul Donald J. Trump just picked up another double-digit when in Nevada, too, following similarly strong showings in New Hampshire and South Carolina after a narrow loss in Iowa, which he attributed on rather flimsy grounds to fraud, so the storyline is that the next 56 states will be a cinch.
This analysis will suffice for a lead paragraph, but down toward the bottom of the inverted pyramid are a few facts worth noting. There have only been four states and a relative handful of delegates allocated, although Clinton seems to be picking up these “super-delegates” at a rapid pace, the dynamics of both races could still change in the upcoming states, especially as the Republican field narrows, and Nevada is a weird place. The vast empty stretches of the state are populated by the few people needed to staff the convenience stores required to get one from Reno to Las Vegas to the state capital of Carson City, and in each of those population centers the politics are conducted in a way that would have made state founder Bugsy Siegel proud. It’s a state where the Democrats are mostly black and hispanic and equally put-upon white casino and hotel workers, who are ripe for a race-baiting campaign, and where the Republicans are the ones who hire the Democrats and are not off-put by Trump’s past as a semi-successful gambling mogul, and both party’s caucuses were beset by the quadrennial complaints about incompetence and corruption.
This time around the Republican complaints were mostly against the Trump campaign, which of course will deny it and won’t worry at all that it’s supporters would be the least bit upset if even he had cheated, because at least he fights and the Democrats do it all the time, so that should at least deny the chance to call anyone else a cheater. There will be some sober reflection on whether runner-up Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or third-place finisher Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be the best one to run in a two-way race against Trump, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson will likely be sticking around to siphon a few essential-digits from the anti-Trump vote, and although the Trump victory can’t be written yet all the scribes will be working on it for the tickler file.
Nevada’s a fine place to visit, but it shouldn’t have that power.

— Bud Norman

Two Down, Forty-Eight to Go

Another football season is in the books, basketball won’t begin its all-important post-seasons for a few more frigid weeks, and baseball’s spring training seems an eternity away, so at the moment the only scores a sports fan has to pore over are from the New Hampshire presidential primaries. Although it’s still early in the long political race, the results are already intriguingly different from all those pre-season predictions.
Over at the Democratic league, the senior circuit in more ways than one, the presupposed long-shot, self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, was a blow-out winner over former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the once-presumptive First Woman President of the United States. Following her minuscule margin of victory in the season-opening Iowa caucus, which by now everyone knows was officiated as fishily as the 1972 Olympic basketball finals, Clinton’s long-assumed coronation suddenly seems very much in doubt. All the bettors in the party and the press who went big on her candidacy seem panicked, all the big news and entertainment media are begrudgingly obliged to acknowledge the existence of a self-described socialist called Sen. Bernie Sanders, all the kids are acting like they’re at the Ed Sullivan Show when The Beatles were playing, and all those federal agents are still snooping around her e-mail accounts and fishy family foundation donations, so the race is at least more interesting than was promised.
Next on the schedule is South Carolina, and any objective sportswriter might resort to an old cliche and say Clinton is in desperate need of a win there to salvage her season. In her last failed season Clinton lost badly in South Carolina, following a much-needed win in New Hampshire, but this time around she’s assumed to have a home field advantage. The more polite press are embarrassed to explain exactly why, but it’s implied that it’s something to do with the fact so many of state’s white people are Republicans that the Democratic party is largely comprised of black people. Last time around Clinton was running against Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive and sure enough First Black President, but this time she’s running as Obama’s personally-chosen Secretary of State and the wife of the first First Black President, and she’s running against a guy from the whitest state in the union that anyone who’s ever seen a “Seinfeld” episode will immediately recognize as not only New York but Jewish, and even we hesitate to imply how that will play with an average South Carolina Democrat, so if Clinton doesn’t win there it will probably mean that the establishment team is forced to make one of those messy early-season quarterback changes.
There was a blow-out win in the Republican contest, too, but to the discerning eye of a veteran political sports fan it was not so significant. Real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump more than doubled the numbers of his nearest competitor, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is merely ¬†one of the Congressmen who delivered the last more-or-less-balanced budgets and a twice-elected chief executive of a bellwether swing state, which should tell you something about how very different this season of Republican politics has already been. This is enough for the headline writers, and will allow Trump the end-zone dance that was so cruelly denied the showboating quarterback Cam Newton in last Sunday’s Super Bowl, but it doesn’t have the same effect on the standings. The Democrat race is already down to two teams, but the Republicans still have a crowded field of contenders, and although we wouldn’t compare it to the Masters we will analogize that there are a lot of holes left to be played. A full 66 percent of the voting¬†went to someone other than Trump, who continues to suffer downright Clintonian levels of disapproval in the same public opinion polls that show him leading the race nationally, New Hampshire is a crazy state that goes for Pat Buchanan one year and Mitt Romney in another, and the guys who were hanging around in the round are all capable of shooting high scores.
Still, it’s a win for Trump, the end zone dance will have to be indulged, the headlines will be all that anybody reads, and those who of us who are lustily booing his professional wrestling shtick will have to get used to it for a while. The early result will likely shake out a few of the bottom-tier candidates, and their cumulatively important number of supporters will likely be distributed among the remaining candidates who are someone other than Trump, but it leaves in place all the jockeying for inside lanes that have caused all those campaign pile-ups Trump has somehow always raced past, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will still be sniping at one another and everybody will be sniping at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who won Iowa and had a good-enough showing in New Hampshire, for some reason known only to 16 percent of New Hampshire’s Republican voters Kasich will also be sticking around and acting above the fray. All in all, a good night for Trump.
Next on the schedule is South Carolina, though, which is a different course with different ground rules and extended three-point lines or whatever sports analogy you might prefer. Like New Hampshire it is an open primary, which allows the independents and Democrats that Trump seems to be drawing to participate in the Republican election, but the white folks and the few few black folks who predominate in the party’s voting tend to be Christian and capitalist and traditionally conservative, earning it a reputation as a “firewall” against insurgent candidacies, so it could prove unfriendly for Trump. Our best guess is that he’ll get his usual sizable chunk of the electorate, but our hope is that someone will be able to garner a competitive share of the more sizable-not-for-Trump vote. Cruz would seem a possibility, but retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson might still be around to take away some much-needed evangelical votes, and with Kasich still around to steal votes from Rubio and Bush, who are for some reason known only to themselves still squabbling with one another rather than leading a full-on assault against Trump, there’s little likelihood of whatever’s left of “the establishment” playing any role in this race.
It’s still early in the season, as already noted, but so far it looks to be a memorable one.

— Bud Norman

What All the Fuss Is About

One of the problems with these quadrennial presidential election years, among many, is that one can so easily get caught up in all the political plot twists and lose sight of what all the fuss is about. While most of the media attention was devoted to fall-out from last Monday’s Iowa caucuses and all the subsequent bickering leading up to next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, for instance, someone in the know was giving sworn testimony to Congress that our current immigration law enforcement policies are such that “We might as abolish our immigration laws altogether.”
That was the sworn testimony of Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Control Council, the union that represents agents and support staff of the United States Border Patrol, and he laid out a convincing case for his hyperbolic claim. He further testified that his members have been ordered to release illegal immigrants and to no longer order them to appear at deportation hearings, and he attributed the policy to the embarrassing fact that fewer than half of those ordered to appear such hearings have ever bothered show up, and that by the way many of those who have been caught and released are almost certainly members of notoriously murderous criminal organizations. Despite our innate suspicion of public sector unions we’re more inclined to believe Agent Judd than the far-away-from-the-border spokesmen at the Department of Homeland Security, who continue insist the border is hermetically sealed, despite all those press photographs from the pre-race days of trains crossing the border with roofs full of unaccompanied minors flipping off the photographers, and we’d like to think there’s still some seething anger about it.
The anger was once so seething that Donald J. Trump, a real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show-and-professional-wrestling mogul who boasts that his only previous involvement in politics was buying off politicians, was able to vault to the top of the Republican primary polls by unleashing his suspiciously newfound seething anger and promising to build a great big wall that Mexico would pay for to end the problem. He later promised to build a great big door in that wall to welcome the good ones back in, with promises of a top-notch staff to determine which ones are the good ones, but then he got beat in the crazy Iowa caucus by Texas Sen. Cruz, a loose cannon conservative who might or might not have betrayed the secure border cause in some procedural vote or another, and suddenly there’s a lot of talk about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a former firebrand and current “establishment lane candidate” who clearly betrayed the cause once but sure sounds as if he’s gotten the true religion since then, and would arguably be held to it especially if he is the pragmatic opportunist he’s accused of being, and suddenly all of them would rather talk about the “tweets” and sound-bites of the post-Iowa news cycle.
Over on the Democratic side, they’re talking about an odds-defying series of coin tosses and who hates the financial sector of the American economy more and whether a commie or a potential convict should lead the country, and there’s conspicuously no mention of all in their debates about all those people in the know who are testifying before Congress that America might as well not have any immigration laws. The commie has expressed some relatively sane ideas left over from the days of Hugo Chavez and the New Left’s anti-“wetback” days, while the potential convict is probably more malleable to public opinion, but they’d rather not talk about it.
A friend of ours mentioned that he’d heard on one of the more serious talk radio programs reporting that illegal immigration isn’t a pressing issue in the next big deal New Hampshire primary, far away from the southern border and yet where Trump was last reported to be be leading despite a recent drop in his poll numbers and post-Iowa surges by both Cruz and the third-place-with-alleged-momentum Rubio, and we admit we find it all most fascinating. Still, we can’t shake a nervous feeling about someone in the know confirming our suspicion that we might as well abolish our immigration laws.

— Bud Norman

On the Day After Opening Day

For such avid fans of the blood sport of American politics as ourselves, the quadrennial Iowa presidential caucuses are like the opening day of a once-every-four-years baseball season. Some youthful enthusiasm left within us wants to extrapolate the rest of the reason from the season from the first day’s statistically insignificant scores, some more sober sensibility acquired over the years reminds us that are plenty of games left to be played in what is always an up-and-down season, and we always wind up indulging in the obligatory speculation.
Over on the Democrats’ senior-in-more-ways-than-one circuit we note that former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed Next President of the United States Hillary Clinton is still going into extra innings as we write this against self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, which bolsters our pre-season suspicion that it’s going to be a long and hard-fought contest. In a far more crowded field the upstart Republicans’ winner was controversial right-fielder Texas Sen. Cruz, who had a plurality of 28 percent, with real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show-and-professional-wrestling mogul Donald J. Trump coming in from way out in the metaphorical left field to take an unaccustomed second place with 24 percent, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, now cast as the party’s steady center-fielder, just behind with an intriguing 23 percent, which at least provides hope for another long and hard-fought race.
Of course, one needs to keep in mind the peculiar ground rules that govern Iowa’s opening games. The Democrats require caucus-goers to spend all night standing with their fellow rooters in the corners of various frigid high school gymnasiums and senior centers spread across the state, staring one another down to attract the rooters from the candidates disqualified in the first rounds, which should have given her opponent’s more youthful and fired-up supporters an edge, so even a slight win will still count as a win even by pliable rules of politics. The next game will be played according to more traditional primary rules in New Hampshire, but that’s right next door to Vermont and Sanders has held a comfortable lead in the polls there for some time, so a win in Iowa means at least Clinton won’t get off to that 0-for-2 start so many formerly front-running candidates have never recovered from. Still, those bettors who put their chips on Clinton a full four years ago are likely in for a nervous season. Veteran political sports fans will recall that a similarly spirited far-left candidacy by Sen. Eugene McCarthy knocked sitting President Lyndon Johnson out of the race with a win in New Hampshire way back in the memorable ’68 season, and although those with more reliable memories will more accurately recall that Johnson eked out a victory it was close enough it was still enough to convince Johnson that he wouldn’t make it to the general election finish line, which makes it a potentially worthwhile analogy.
Cruz only won eight delegates to Trump’s and Rubio’s seven, and long-shot retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson got three, with even longer shots libertarian Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and erstwhile starting center fielder Jeb! Bush of the erstwhile Bush dynasty getting one apiece for finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, so with 1,114 delegates needed to clinch the pennant there’s still plenty of race of left. It’s still a crucial tally in the win column for Cruz, however, and although he’s starting from behind in New Hampshire the Iowa winner has traditionally picked up a few points in other contests. Veteran political sports fans will also recall how little-known Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter got a sudden amount of name-recognition-generating publicity from an upset win in Iowa and rode it to the Democratic nomination back in that sub-.300 year of ’76, and although those with more reliable memories will recall that Carter actually finished second to “undecided,” which ultimately proved poetically appropriate enough, the point still obtains. For someone running against a reality-star with almost unlimited free publicity and near-universal name recognition, it’s an especially important point.
In an ordinary season an ordinary candidate could claim more than seven delegates from a second-place finish in Iowa, but Trump is no ordinary candidate. The most likely explanation for the front-running Trump’s second-place finish is that Iowa’s Republican caucus is largely dominated by evangelical Christians who prefer a Baptist minister’s son such as Cruz to a thrice-married gambling mogul who publicly boasts of the billions he made by buying off politicians and all the married babes he’s bagged along the way, but we don’t think even Trump will attempt that spin and we don’t think New Hampshire voters would buy it even if they are next door to Vermont. Much of Trump’s appeal is based on his argument that he always wins, and that Americans might even get bored with all the winning he’s going to do for America, making it hard for him to spin an actual vote where he not only came in second but a full 76 percent of the voters went for someone else. He wisely declared himself “honored” by a second-place finish, noting only obliquely how many observers had thought Iowa an unfriendly field, and he’s still got the lead in New Hampshire before getting back on evangelical turf in South Carolina, but to mix the sports analogies somewhat at least he won’t be getting that early-round knock-out.
Rubio’s close third-place finish, on the other hand, should be worth more than just seven delegates over the coming weeks. It represents a significant bump in his previous poll standings, will merit enough mention to up his name recognition a few notches, and will likely even knock out some of the other players vying for the centerfield position. When the fourth-place Carson sooner or later bows out we suspect most of his support will flow to Cruz, so Rubio will need all the meager votes scattered about the rest of the soon-to-drop-out candidates, and when Bush makes his inevitable exit Rubio will at least be spared the millions of dollars of negative advertising that have been aimed him, so in this game opening day does matter more than in baseball.
Both leagues might wind up battering themselves into a sorry state for the eventual general election World Series, but that’s way too far away to speculate about now.

— Bud Norman

And So It Begins

The arduous process of picking a new President of the United States begins today in Iowa, as it quadrennially does for some reason or another, so there’s nothing we can do about it now. While at church on Sunday morning we offered up a humble prayer of gratitude that America still has some say in the matter and a plea that it choose wisely, and we suppose that’s the best we can do at this point.
Watching the returns will likely test our faith, however, as any sort of providential outcome seems unlikely. The Iowa Democrats are choosing between former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most thoroughly corrupt and incompetent crony capitalist of our time, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose most admirable quality is his willingness to admit that he’s an outright socialist bent on eradicating capitalism altogether, and that at least he’s not charging big speaking fees to those evil Wall Street types and isn’t under the scrutiny of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Meanwhile the Iowans of our Republican party are reportedly choosing between front-running Donald J. Trump, a real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul who prides himself on his unabashedly corrupt and inarguably competent crony capitalism, and underdog Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose more red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism and strict constitutionalism and unabashed evangelical Christianity have suddenly made him the target of both the “establishment” and “anti-establishment” wings of the party, although there’s still a chance that a conservative-but-more-pragmatic sort such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio might at least do well enough to alter the storyline somewhat through the next less-noticed 49 rounds of the party primary process.
The Democrats’ descent into this madness has been going on at least since George McGovern’s nomination back in ’72, and except for a few brief moments of political sensibility during times of war as far back as Woodrow Wilson’s administration, but the Republicans’ situation seems rather all of a sudden.
Until last summer, Republican presidential nomination races always had a comfortingly familiar feel to them, with us more rock-ribbed and ideologically-grounded conservatives out here in the hinterlands squabbling with those pointy-headed and lily-livered country club types back east over matters of tactics, but eventually uniting for a shared disdain for those outright and all-but-in-name socialists and multi-cultural bullies over on the Democrat side, and if we lost we squabbled over the blame and if we won squabbled over both the credit for what went right and the blame the for what went wrong despite the victory. In any case we all at least paid lip service to the non-crony sort of capitalism, we all grumbled about the breakdown of the constitutional order, and even the most secular country club types acknowledged a certain necessary Judeo-Christian underpinning to the whole western civilization project that we also all agreed upon. Then all of a sudden a real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show star shows up boasting of all the politicians he’s bought off and all the married babes he’s bagged and the billions he’s made along the way, and the four bankruptcies and the failed airline and the defunct football league and the highly dubious if not downright fraudulent eponymous “university” and all the other debacles of his career go unmentioned, and he fires up the population by addressing the unaddressed immigration problem with righteously indignant but outrageously unworkable ideas, and his past employment of illegal workers and his politically criticism of the hated “establishment” Republican Mitt Romney for suggesting a more sensible “self-deportation” policy just one presidential election ago are similarly forgotten, and with a few late night insult comic jabs against prisoners of war and the handicapped and an admirable woman rival’s face he became the politically-incorrect hero of the “anti-establishment” wing. Then he began boasting of how the “establishment” loved him, and its most formerly hated exemplars began to sing his praise, and both talked of how they could cut some good crony capitalist deals together, and suddenly it is hard to see how any red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and unabashed evangelical Christian can compete against both wings.
One hopeful theory holds that many the fans of the real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul and political newcomers unlikely to brave a cold and long Iowa night of caucusing, or be able to find their way there, but some of the pollsters are calling for what Trump would call a “yuge” turn-out, and they might prove right. There’s not the enthusiasm for red-in-tooth-in-claw capitalism that one might hope for in a state that’s swung a sweet crony-capitalist deal on the engine-corroding and consumer-gouging and doing-little-for-the-ecology ethanol subsidies, which the deal-making real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul has promised to sweeten beyond what even any Democrat has proposed, and strict constitutionalism and evangelical Christianity might not prove as significant a negotiating point. We have no disputes with the Democrats or Republicans of Iowa, and although we’ve found it a hard state to hitch-hike through in the winter we are great fans of Grant Wood and that deep-brown dirt they’ve got, but so long as they’re first in line to pick the next president we don’t see how we’ll ever get rid of that ridiculous ethanol subsidy.
Iowans are disproportionately white and rural and union-enrolled and otherwise atypical of the broader American population, too, but so long as the state’s Democrats keep picking either an establishment or more frankly socialist candidate they’ll been immune from any criticism about, Whatever candidate the Iowa Republicans choose will be subject to all sorts of quota-driven scrutiny. Both candidates will reap much publicity and considerable momentum going into the next round of voting in New Hampshire next week, and after that second round of 50 all the press will be writing their premature obituaries the same way they do after the second of of a best-of-seven professional basketball series. Sometimes those premature obituaries proved prescient, so we will wait and see.
The red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and unabashed evangelical Christian is at long last blasting away at the real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul’s crony capitalism with an ad we think states the case rather succinctly, and what’s left of conservatism’s intelligentsia is arousing itself on behalf of the cause, and even some of those right-wing radio talkers are suddenly asking questions, but it’s probably too late for today’s voting, and today’s voting will be big story until next week’s voting, so we’ll wait and see. In the meantime, we’ll take whatever deal we can get.

— Bud Norman