A Pandemic In An Election Year

The coronavirus arrived in the United States during an election year, which is quite inconvenient for American democracy.
Nine states have primary elections scheduled in April, but they’ll likely be postponed indefinitely, and there’s a chance both parties will have to postpone their nominating conventions. We’re hopeful there will be a general election as scheduled, even if it’s by mail or internet or some other sure-to-be-controversial method, but it will be an election like no other.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has a clear lead in the Democratic primary race and seems a sure bet to soon clinch the nomination, but last remaining rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn’t dropped out and nothing’s certain. Neither candidate is currently able to hold rallies or do other traditional campaigning, and both are finding it hard to get any coverage from media that have little time or space for anything other than coronavirus news. Whatever arguments they might make for themselves are largely unheard, and important issues that will likely survive the coronavirus are not being debated.
President Donald Trump has already clinched the Republican nomination, and although he can’t hold the campaign rallies he so dearly loves he has no trouble getting media coverage, but that’s not necessarily to his benefit. Even by November he probably won’t be able to run as planned on boasts about record stock market highs and unemployment lows, there are valid criticisms of his response to the coronavirus crisis, and he’ll find it hard to plausibly pin any of the blame on either Biden or Sanders.
Much depends on how the coronavirus and the economy play out between now and November, which is still far off, but we don’t expect the country will be tired of winning, and that it will be an acrimonious election.

— Bud Norman

On the Only Subject at Hand

Try as we might, we simply can’t find anything in the news to write about other than the rapidly spreading coronavirus. Pretty much everyone we run into as we continue to get out and about brings it up, and there’s at this point there’s no avoiding the topic.
Most folks in this hoops-crazy state like to talk sports, especially during “March Madness,” but the coronavirus cancelled both collegiate and professional basketball and will delay baseball and has temporarily shut down sports. Pop culture usually provides something salacious to talk, but right now the entertainment news is all about beloved movie star Tom Hanks and his lovely wife coming down with coronavirus and all the late television comedians doing their jokes about President Donald Trump without studio audiences to laugh along.
The coronavirus is pretty much all that matters for now in the economic news, which has lately been quite awful. The sports industry and school districts are shutting down, and music festivals and business meetings are being cancelled, and entire cities and countries are being quarantined. and travel bans are being imposed, and globalist supply chains are being interrupted, which is not good for the global economy or your favorite hometown business. Stock markets are plummeting, the Federal Reserve Board and the central banks of the other major global economic players are all slashing interest rates to zero and beyond and printing up more money to assuage the markets, and everything indicates that now is the time to panic.
Which of course makes the coronavirus the biggest political story of each passing day, which of course is bad news for Trump. He’s done his best to downplay the coronavirus as no big deal that would soon be forgotten, and even dismissed it as yet another “hoax” to torpedo his presidency, but now that he’s talking about massive government bailouts and travel bans from most of continental Europe he’s conceding that the coronavirus is a pretty big deal, and so far his proposals have not stopped the economic carnage nor quelled a public panic.
None of the damned Democrats seem to have any better ideas, but having been mostly out of power during two of the past three years they can’t be credibly blamed for the current mess, and they have plenty of talking points. According to the consensus opinion of America’s leading experts on this sort of thing, including some who are still on board with the federal government, the country is doing a woeful job of testing its citizens for the disease, and is therefore unable to do other things the country might do if it knew where the corona virus was popping up. Travel bans might be a painful necessity at the moment, but Trump’s European travel band doesn’t extend to Ireland and the United Kingdom, where there have been confirmed cases of coronavirus, and anyone in continental Europe could easily fly to the UK and then to the United States, so the damned Democrats are entitled to wonder if that has anything to do with Trump’s failing golf resorts in those countries.
For now the Democratic nominee seems likely to be former Vice President Joe Biden, rather than self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and we figure that’s also bad news for Trump. Biden is a very boring fellow, which a wary country might well long for come November, but Sanders is kooky enough that Trump might persuade a wary country he could be more destructive than the coronavirus. Biden was vice president during the administration of President Barack Obama, and you can way what you want about his slow-growth policies — we had plenty to say about it at the time — but they did take over shortly after an economic catastrophe and were in charge during eight of those 11 years of Bull Markets that went into Bear Market territory during Trump’s administration. Biden will also have plenty to say about how Trump fired the National Security Council’s pandemic response that the Obama administration had created.
We don’t give much credit to either Obama or Trump for the long run of the Bull Market, but rather credit the ingenuity and resilience of free Americans operating in a free market, trading freely with all the free people of the world. Here’s hoping that not only survives this coronavirus, but also the likes of Trump and Biden, and that there’s something else to talk about.

— Bud Norman

Sanders vs. Trump vs. “The Establishment”

One encounters all sorts of people here in Wichita, and over the years we’ve acquired a dizzyingly diverse group of friends. We have friendships with men and women of all colors and sexual orientations and sports team preferences and political opinions. We’re friends with some fervid supporters of President Donald Trump and some equally fervid advocates for self-described socialist and potential Democratic rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and we have noticed they seem to have a lot in in common.
Both are true believers in their hero’s infallibility, and both are inclined to believe in conspiracy theories that some nebulous and nefarious “establishment” is out to prevent them from making everything right. Both believe that most of the mainstream media are in on it, too.
Trump has lately been “tweeting” to Sanders’ supporters that they’re right to be paranoid, as he knows all too well how nefarious that nebulous “establishment” and mainstream media can be in stopping a revolutionary movement, and it’s a smart move. Sanders’ most fervid supporters won’t vote for Trump in any circumstance, but from our barroom conversations with the Sandersistas they might well wind up voting for the Green Party or Socialist Party or Communist Party or not voting at all if the damned Democrats don’t nominate their guy, even if that means another four years of Trump.
From our seats here on the political sidelines we’re nostalgically yearning for a bygone era in our lifetimes when there actually was an “establishment” and a mainstream media to enforce the time-honored norms of civil discourse and international relations that mostly maintained America’s and the rest of the world’s peace and prosperity. The dirty hippies and the rest of the damn Democrats started the whole “anti-establishment” crusade, and thus set off a “sexual revolution” and a general distrust of time-honored institutions and mores in general, and in the last election a proudly libertine and “anti-establishment” Republican won on an Electoral College victory on a promise to burn it all down.
At this moment the frontrunner in the Democratic primary race is Biden, a relatively sane and centrist by-Democratic-standards, and the Super Tuesday victories he scored to put him in the lead for now, which has our Sanders-loving panicked. Biden was was helped when fellow centrists South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar dropped out and endorsed Biden’s candidacy, all of the media reported on Biden’s big night, which of course fuels all the conspiracy theories about “the establishment,” with Trump telling a rally crowd that there was surely some illegal quid pro quo involved.
As we see it Biden won the lion’s share of the “Super Tuesday” vote from rank-and-file Democrats, however, as the elite “establishment” doesn’t have nearly enough to account for the lopsided results, and people don’t really pay that much attention to what’s left of the mainstream media. Most Democratic voters apparently bought Biden’s pitch that he’d go back to the days of the President Barack Obama administration.
All of our Trump-loving friends remember that as the dark age of socialist dystopia, and our Sanders-loving recall it as the era when the nebulous and nefarious “establishment” kept Obama from fulling his promise to fundamentally transform America into to a socialist utopia. We were very critical of the slow recovery from the Great Recession that Obama inherited, but after the Republicans won back the House in the mid-terms and slowed the deficit spending the economy started progressing slightly better in the last three years of the Obama administration than it has in the first three years of the Trump administration.
Trump would clearly prefer to run against Sanders, having invited impeachment by attempting to extort dirt from the Ukrainians about Biden. After Sanders and his kooky left ideas suffered a huge defeat on “Super Tuesday” the stock markets all rallied from a severe coronavirus slump, which signals some support for Biden’s Obama era policies, but at least Trump can hope to divide the Democrats and suppress the sizable Sanders vote. Which just might work.
However it turns out, we’ll hope that some sort of establishment maintains the norms that have so far mostly worked.

— Bud Norman

The Desultory State of the Democrats

President Donald Trump is facing an impeachment trial and numerous other pressing problems entirely of his own making, but he can console himself he’ll likely wind up running for reelection against a Democrat. Judging by the last Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses that kick off the primary election race, the Democrats have problems of their own.
According to all the many polls going into the debate there were four candidates within the margin of error for winning or losing the Iowa caucuses, with a few others with realistic hope of catching up, and according to our traditional Republican instincts and what our Democratic friends are telling us they’re all flawed. Our more emotional Democratic friends revile the so the so-called centrists in the race, while our more cerebral Democratic friends worry that their party is veering too far the left, and from our current perspective here on the political sidelines we don’t like any of the candidates any more than we do Trump.
Nothing that happened in Tuesday’s debate will likely change many minds.
At this point, and as usual, the Democrats are obsessed with all that race and class and gender stuff, so that started off the debate. Putative Independent yet Democratic candidate and self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was recently accused by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts of saying a female candidate could not win a presidential election, which is arguable given the nation’s history but nonetheless a gross breach of Democratic etiquette, and as both are among the four front-runners and vying for the emotional left-wing Democratic vote it was a very big deal. Warren stood by her claim, Sanders didn’t exactly deny it but pledged his support only Democrat who might win the nomination, and after some back-and-forth that also included the centrist Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the only other woman on the stage, he seemed to come out all right.
We have a mostly delightful but severely feminist Democratic friend who so loves Sanders she would sit out an election even against Trump if Sanders weren’t the nominee, and was outraged that her sister and the mainstream media would make such a slanderous claim, and we’re sure she’ll be satisfied with the answer.
The rest of the debate was mostly limited to foreign trade and international affairs and health care and homelessness and other boring topics of greater importance. We can’t say how the candidates fared with a Democratic audience in Iowa or elsewhere, but from our traditional Republican seats here on the political sidelines we were unimpressed by the entire field.
Our traditional Republican instincts are appalled by Trump’s assaults on the carefully established international free trade order that has enriched both America and the rest of the world over the past few post-Reagan decades, and we’re thus far unimpressed by what he’s negotiated in return, but the Democrats are mostly as protectionist as ever. Biden is old enough to remember a time when there was a bipartisan consensus for the free trade agreements that have since made America and the rest of the world richer, so we give him credit for his unapologetic stance in favor of the so-far so-good status quo, but for the most part the Democrats. Even the most centrist Democrats seem more isolationist in the rest of foreign affairs than Trump, and are annoyingly apologetic about it.
We’ll give the Democrats credit for at long last having a serious debate how to pay for their pie-in-sky promises about how to make health care more universal and less costly, but so far they haven’t come up with anything better than what Trump has to offer, which isn’t saying much. We’re glad they acknowledge the homeless problem, not only in Democratic states but in places like here in Wichita, but the best that can be said for their solutions is that they’re less intentionally cruel than Trump’s.
The growing national debt didn’t come up, much to the relief of both parties, and nobody stood out as the next President of the United States. Given our desultory choices we might pick the front-running pick Biden, in the unlikely case we were Democratic primary voters, but that within-shouting-distance Klobuchar has decisively won races against Republican men in Republican districts of Minnesota, and she seems as sane as anyone in politics these days, and quite electable as well. Our endorsement will surely doom her in a Democratic primary race, though, so we’ll withhold that for now.
One of the Democratic front-runners is openly homosexual, another has falsely claimed Native American status, another has been videotaped acting creepily around young women, and the other is a self-proclaimed socialist. Which would not ordinarily bode well for the Democratic party, but they’re lucky to be running against Trump.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is admittedly a homosexual, but he’s also a decorated military veteran, which is more than Trump can say, and Trump isn’t an exemplar of traditional Judeo-Christian morality. Biden has been videotaped acting creepy around girls and is gaffe-prone, but he hasn’t been heard boasting about grabbing women by the genitals and can’t keep up with the daily gaffes Trump’s fans don’t seem to mind. Sanders did falsely claim Native American heritage, but if it comes down to a one-on-one debate she’s feisty enough to cite all the false claims Trump has made over his spotty career. Sanders is a socialist kook, but he seems to actually believe all the nonsense he’s spewing, which makes him the more “authentic” candidate. That nice Klobuchar woman from Minnesota could do well in a general election, and might even win our vote and make a good president, but she’s still a long=shot in a Democratic primary race.
There’s a lot of politics between now and November, though, so we’ll try to enjoy the warm weather and hold out hope.

— Bud Norman

About That Ballyhooed Speech

President Donald Trump’s much-ballyhooed address to a joint session of Congress wasn’t awful, at least by his usual standards. There was none of the “that I can tell you” and “believe me” and “OK?” or other tics that usually pepper his speeches, the characteristic boastful hyperbole was toned down a more typical political level, his sentences were parseable and occasionally almost oratorical, and he didn’t give the late night comics anything obvious to ridicule.
That was sufficient that even the media Trump has identified as enemies of the American people were offering begrudging praise, and although his most ardent supporters might have found it a bit boring and been disappointed that there it offered nothing to chant they probably liked it as well. Still, by the standard of what was needed it wasn’t a very good speech. Once people start to recover from the shock of a presidential-sounding Trump, pretty much everyone will find something in it to grouse about.
Trump shrewdly disarmed his most hysterical critics by opening with a condemnatory few words about a recent shooting in Olathe, Kansas, of two immigrants from India by a man who shouted “Get out of my country” as he opened fire, as well a recent uptick in anti-semitic incidents and other crimes apparently motivated by racial or ethnic animus, but it won’t stop complaints that his previous nativist rhetoric has contributed to the problems. His critics will also note that later spoke at greater length about the crimes committed by immigrants, and had a couple of widows on hand to illustrate the point, and emphasized how big the problem was by creating a new agency in the government to deal with its victims. Although we were advocating stricter enforcement of immigration laws way back when Trump was calling Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney “cruel” for his relatively modest proposals, we’re also leery of new agencies and can’t help wondering why the country can’t better serve victims of crime no matter who perpetrated it.
Trump also made clear he was steadfast against all crime no matter who perpetrates it, and he wasn’t quite so extravagant about overstating the extent of it as he has been in the recent past, but he didn’t offer any specific solutions, He spoke of supporting “the men and women of law enforcement,” which we take to mean to that his Justice Department won’t be harassing local police departments into retreat from their more aggressive tactics, as the administration President Barack Obama did, which almost certainly has to do with that undeniable if overstated recent uptick in crime driven largely a few cities where the Obama administration was particularly tough on the cops and crimes rates have indeed been soaring, but we would have liked to have seen that argument more fully developed.

The same lack of specificity permeated the rest of the speech. Trump swore his fidelity to “free trade,” but he sounded so perfunctory about it and so impassioned when he went on at much greater length about “fair trade” we would have appreciated a clearer description of what he wants the international commerce to look like. There is still an influential number of Republicans who still hew to the party’s erstwhile free market principles in Congress, and all the Democrats there who still aren’t so far left as self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were all for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals that Obama negotiated, and we expect they’re also wanting some further clarity about the matter. Anyone employed by or invested in one of America’s many export-dependent industries, such as the agricultural and aviation sectors that make up the biggest chunk of the economy around here, are also bound to be anxious for further details. He spoke of how America’s iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycles have a 100 percent tariff slapped on them by some unnamed countries, which so far as we tell are India and the Maldives, which is indeed unfortunate for any aspiring Indian and Maldivian biker gangs, but we like to hear more about a trade war might affect the wheat and airplane markets. He’s for getting rid of Obamacare’s individual mandate that requires people without health insurance to pay for the privilege, which is fine by us and a great relief after his campaign statements to the contrary, and he’s for interstate insurance markets, as is every sentient being on the planet, but he’s for that preexisting conditions part of Obamacare and was conspicuously vague about how he’s going to make all that work.

Speaking of the Republican party’s erstwhile free market principles, Trump also took some largely unearned credit for strong-arming and bribing some recognizable brand names into keeping some of their American workers on the job, and he promised more of the same. There were no flow charts or graphs to exactly how Trump intends to personally manage a $17.4 billion economy with all of these great deals, and we couldn’t help recalling how he’d run his casinos and airline and real estate university and various other namesake ventures, but we were reassured that at least he didn’t say “believe me, OK?” He promised to do a lot of de-regulating, which warmed our principled free market Republican hearts, and even announced a policy of only allowing one new regulation for every two repealed, which struck us as rather arbitrary but nonetheless reasonable, but all that talk about intervening in every corporate re-location suggests that the one new regulation will be more far-reaching that those few forgettable lines from section two A part IV of the This Thing or the Other Thing Act of 1936 and that bit about proper wattage of lighting in federal buildings from the Affordable This or That Act of the dying days of the Obama Administration that are tossed out.
Trump read the usual Republican boilerplate about the national debt, and rightly noted how it had nearly doubled during the Obama administration, but he also proposed enough infrastructure spending to re-build the entire country, and suggested we could do it maybe twice or even three times if we don’t get it just right, and surely we’re not the only ones left hoping for a more explicit explanation of how he plans to pull that off without the debt. He’s talking big tax cuts and promising that along with all de-regulating they’ll speed up the sluggish pace of economic growth, which we our free market sensibilities regard as good bet, but we’re not such risk-takers that we wager it will be enough to rebuild an entire country of this size a couple of times over. Trump said we’d already spent that much in fighting the war against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is only true if you very much want to believe Trump because that he can tell you, OK?, and he seemed to promise there’d no more such foolish spendthriftiness for at least the next four years, but he also promised to eradicate the Islamic State terror gang and radical Islamic extremism in general, so we’re still unclear how those numbers will work out.
The only other mention of foreign policy was some talk about new alliances with old enemies, which Trump likened to our post-World War II arrangements with Germany and Japan, which we took to mean that he’s going full steam ahead on selling both of them and number of other countries out to the Russian dictator that he has frequently praises. It got short mention in the speech and the immediate stories about it, but given all the allegations of Russian meddling in the election and the recent leaks about the Trump campaign’s contacts and the past officials with undeniable ties to the Russkies who have been kicked off team Trump and whatever might or might not be in those still-undisclosed tax returns, as well as all that gushing praise Trump keeps heaping on Putin, the story is likely to linger.
All those Democrats who laughed at Romney’s Cold War-era foreign policy are suddenly sounding like John Birchers, and there is still a significant number of Republicans left who hold to the party’s erstwhile stern position about the Russkies, and we expect they’re eagerly awaiting more details about the matter. The same coalition is likely to take a look at the fine print in all that infrastructure spending, too, as every last pre-Trump Republican stood firm-fast against such spendthrifty tomfoolery back when Obama was proposing it, and all those Democrats who used to think it was a great idea will hate it because it’s now Trump’s idea, and we have to admit that they’ll have an argument that the private investment part of the spending is an invitation to outright corruption, and even the Sanders wing of the Democratic party will probably oppose Trump-branded protectionism. The Democrats were mostly well-behaved during the address, but they couldn’t suppress a laugh when President Trump repeated candidate Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of corruption, and given that Trump retains full ownership of business interests that don’t necessarily align with the national interest we expect the late night comics will provide plenty more laughs about it in the coming months and years.
For now, though, Trump will probably enjoy a few days of relatively good press. That shtick of reading parseable sentences without provoking any “Twitter” feuds worked well enough for Trump that even the enemies of the American people are glumly admitting a certain presidential tone, and it will be interesting to see if he sticks with it.

— Bud Norman

Do Not Remain Calm, Democrats, All is Not Well

Republican nominee Donald J. Trump took a slight lead over presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Real Clear Politics’ widely watched average of polls on Monday, and at least three pundits were urging that the Democrats not panic about it. Given what was going on both outside and inside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, those pundits’ pleas for calm recall that scene in “Animal House” where Kevin Bacon is urging the townsfolk fleeing a fraternity-induced riot to “remain calm, all is well,” just before he is squashed into the sidewalk, Wile E. Coyote style, by the terrified trampling horde.
Outside the Wells Fargo Convention Hall there were large groups of angry supporters of self-described socialist and Democratic runner-up Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wearing the same “Hillary for Prison” t-shirts and shouting the same “Lock her up” chants that were de rigueur at last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and even on the credentials-only inside the presumptive nominee hardly fared better. Surly Sanders delegates were booing any mention of Clinton’s name even during the opening prayer that the rigorously secular Democrats still offer for some reason or another, and kept it up even when Sanders himself was speaking on behalf of the presumptive nominee. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and Rep. Denbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was denied a speaking slot and will resign her post at the end of convention because of the leak of thousands of e-mails showing she had long plotted against Sanders on behalf of Clinton, endured a similar chorus of boos while addressing her home state of Florida’s delegates. Speeches by such liberal icons as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and First Lady Michele Obama and and illegal immigrant girl were better received, but hardly any reason to delay the panic.
Those Kevin Bacon-ish pundits pleading for Democratic calm could rightly point out that Trump’s lead is indeed slight, well within the margin of error, and that other usually reliable forecasting models continue to show Clinton with a lead, although also slight and well within their margins of error, and that of course the election remains a few months away, but a few months ago everybody had Clinton up nearly double digits so the clear trend is not encouraging for Clinton supporters. They rightly note that Clinton has far more money and a larger campaign apparatus, but the dissolution of her once formidable lead has come as she’s vastly out-spent her opponent on attack ads. They also note the Trump’s long forestalled lead came with the usual “convention bump,” but that was no usual convention the Republicans held and it didn’t get the “yuuge” ratings the candidate expects probably would have cost the usual candidate a point or two, and what’s going on in Philadelphia doesn’t seem likely to undo the damage.
Hope springs eternal in the Democratic soul, so there are also reassurances to the faithful that Trump will surely do something to disqualify himself from the race, but all hope has already been extinguished in our formerly Republican souls and we can’t think of any reason our leftists friends should have any. If they’re hoping that Trump will mock somebody’s handicap or disparage American prisoners of war or publicly boast about his penis size or peddle some bizarre and slanderous conspiracy theory about the Kennedy assassination he’s already done that, and much more, and got a bump in the polls every time. If they’ve got their fingers crossed that he’ll make some more dangerous statements about paying America’s creditors less than promised or not fulfilling our treaty obligations or taking The National Enquirer seriously, that all happened while he was taking his slight lead in the race.
Trump prevailed with such unprecedented tactics against a crowded field of better-funded and better-organized Republican challengers, who varied in quality but in every case were more appealing public figures than Clinton. What those pleading-for-calm pundits won’t tell their readers is that Clinton is such a thoroughly awful candidate in every way that her unfavorable ratings are now even higher than Trump’s, which is saying something that should provoke a widespread and bipartisan panic throughout the land. Her tenure as First Lady was mostly spent enabling her perv husband’s sexual assaults, which Democrats at the time applauded because at least he was pro-abortion, but these days the feminist wing that was supposed to go all sisterly solidarity for the First Woman President are carrying mattresses around campus to protest a mythical “culture of rape” with the Republican nominee praising the good works of Planned Parenthood and quite obviously insincere about his recently acquired anti-abortion principles nobody’s all that anxious about the looming theocracy these days. Her brief and inconsequential time in the Senate was mostly spent plotting her presidential run, which she lost to an even more junior and inconsequential Senator, and her run as Secretary of State was one disaster after another. She’s humorless, apparently in ill health, and every bit as mean and morally compromised as her more entertaining and robust opponent.
The longtime political operative doesn’t seem to understand this strange American moment nearly as well as the longtime reality television show star she’s running against, too, and thus has wound up on the wrong side of big issues. That 11-year-old illegal immigrant girl given a spot on the Democratic convention stage sure was cute, but no so cute as to dissuade the majority of Americans who are so eager for some semblance of immigration law enforcement that they’re even willing to indulge wild fantasies about giant walls that the Mexicans will pay for.
Her frequently stated belief that all Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people who have nothing to do with terrorism is more consequentially wrong than Trump’s wild overstatements about how they’re all out to get us and we have to start getting tough even on the Gallic French and Teutonic Germans who have been willingly living among them. Trump’s protectionist trade policies are so similar to the self-described socialists Sanders’ that he’s making an unlikely plea to Sanders’ supporters, and although Clinton has been dragged into pretty much the same disastrous and suddenly bipartisan position her past support for the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade-friendly policies make her seem the less sincere of the two remaining contenders.
She’s also stuck with the race-baiting “Black Lives Matter” movement that isn’t playing well outside the black community that was going to vote for any old Democrat anyway, while Trump is so law-and-order that he once called for the execution of the young black and hispanic men convicted of raping the “Central Park Jogger” and then continued to do even after they were exonerated by incontestable physical evidence, which won’t endear him to those black voters who were going to vote Democrat anyway and probably won’t much bother many of his own supporters. Trump is against Obamacare, which is good enough for his supporters, and although his vague descriptions of a replacement that would “take care of everybody” and the “government’s going to pay for it” probably won’t win him many new supporters at least it will make it hard for Clinton to pull out the usual heartless capitalist cliches. Trump’s newfound enthusiasm for government-paid child care and “LGBTQ” issues right up to and including that creepy guy hanging around the women’s restrooms and showers obviates much of the old Democratic playbook, too, and somehow in this strange American moment it didn’t keep him from romping to a Republican nomination.
At this point Democrats might as well start facing the dreary fact we were forced to confront last week that either one of these dreadful candidates might win, and that in either case the country is going to lose. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, we advise trample them as you flee in horror and leave them squashed on the sidewalk in Wile E. Coyote fashion.

— Bud Norman

Hope and Change and Motor Homes

Oh, how well we still remember that heady late spring of ’08, when all of our liberal friends were somehow entranced by the media-amplified celebrity of a youthful and fashionably swarthy young Senator who was standing in front of faux-Greek columns promising hope and change and a fundamental transformation and a lowering of the sea levels. A mere eight years or so later the grayer and more pallid President Barack Obama was in Elkhart, Indiana, “The Recreational Vehicle Capital of the World,” bragging to the locals about the modest comeback of the motor home industry during his administration, and clearly annoyed that he’s already been eclipsed from the spotlight and is now in danger of being replaced by the media-amplified celebrity of an aging and orange-skinned reality show star who’s promising to make America great again and somehow has most of our conservative friends warily going along with it.
The speech was little noted and will soon be long forgotten, to borrow a line from a better day of political oratory, but we think it worth some brief ridicule. Obama attempted to defend his economic record, refute the arguments of his would-be Republican successor, and imply some further annoyance that his would-be Democratic successors aren’t exactly running on his record, and we found it embarrassingly unconvincing in every attempt.
We concede the unemployment rate and the stock market indices and other usually reliable economic indicators are better than when Obama took office at the tail end of a steep recession, and that there’s always an argument to be made that we could have done worse, yet we remain quite unimpressed. We’re a bit older than the president, and started paying attention to these things long before he did, and by now we’ve been through enough recessions to have noticed that whatever’s left of the free market system always pulls out of those slumps no matter what cockamamie solutions the government of the moment might provide. We judge just how harmful those policies are by how quick and broad and persistent the ensuing recovery is, and how much debt was racked up to keep it going, and by those standards the Obama record has been abysmal. The decline in the unemployment rate is largely explained by the unusually high number of potential workers who have dropped out of the labor force, the stock markets are high mainly because capital has nowhere else to go in a time of zero and even negative interest rates, and whatever good news you find in the rest of those leading economic indicators is probably a result of all that fracking and the resulting lower energy costs that the heady campaign of ’08 promised to prevent, and of course we also have all those trillions of debt that will eventually have to be dealt with.
This is also the first time in American history that a two-term president didn’t preside over a full year of at least 3 percent of national economic growth, but he can claim that it has averaged around 2 percent, which inarguably could be worse, and is a full percentage point within 3 percent, and his still-loyal and his mostly economically illiterate and innumerate supporters won’t notice that it’s actually a full 50 percent off the previous historic low benchmark. All in in all Obama needs a better case than that rebound in the motor home market, which was probably already doomed to low-growth no matter how much fracking occurs with the demise of road-loving bohunk seniors who used to show up at the annual local Polkatennial across town at the Cotillion Ballroom on their tours of the polka festivals, and he didn’t seem to have it.
His refutation of the would-be Republican successor’s policies was even more unconvincing, as he seems to have been paying no attention to what his orange-skinned fellow reality star has been saying. Without mentioning the presumptive Republican nominee by name, which we appreciated, the President ascribed to him all sorts of stereotypical Republican positions. He noted that “economic anxiety” had caused an “unusual election year,” which is truthful enough, and argued that “provocative ‘Tweets'” are not enough to support a candidate, which would be truthful enough coming from anyone but Obama, but he went on to add that the Republican would “lower wages, eliminate worker protections, cut investments in things like education, weaken the safety net, kick people off health insurance, and let China write the rules for the global economy.” He further ridiculed the notion that the many billions of dollars of regulatory compliance costs have somehow hampered the economy, and fondly recalled all those Nixon-era regulations that have kept us from doom. The president must have had such old-fashioned and cruel-hearted Republicans as ourselves in mind, because the party’s current presumptive presidential nominee is open to giving a yuuge raise even to the most inept minimum wage workers, promises no changes whatsoever to those debt-driving entitlement programs, likes the single payer system of Canada and the outright nationalized British style of health care and promises “we’ll take care of everybody,” seems intent on a disastrous trade war with China, and promises that he’ll regulate the entire economy right for a change.
No wonder the president seemed to annoyed that neither of his would-be Democratic successors aren’t enthusiastically running on his record. One is a self-described socialist who talks down the Obama economy more derisively than the Republican, and we don’t doubt that Obama would be annoyed to be succeeded by the first president who was at least blunt enough to be a self-described socialist, and the other is a former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State who was so awful in every capacity that she makes the presumptive Republican nominee look respectable. It’s not the hope and change and fundamental transformation that was promised back in those heady days of ’08, and the sea levels continue their centuries-old rise, but here we all are in the “Recreational Vehicle Capital of the World.”

— Bud Norman

So Crazy, It Might Just Work

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has a penchant for promulgating far-fetched conspiracy theories, from President Barack Obama’s foreign birth to a Republican rival’s father being in on the John F. Kennedy assassination to his likely Democratic rival ordering the assassination of Vince Foster, but he’s lately stumbled on to one that seems at least plausible. Speaking to one of his typical adoring crowds in Anaheim, California, while the typical rioting went on outside, Trump told his audience an intriguing tale about how he might not wind up running against his presumptive Democratic rival and former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after all.
With his usual stream-of-consciousness eloquence, Trump told his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters that “It could be we’re going run against ‘Crazy Bernie,'” a reference to the somehow-still-in-the-race self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who we must agree is actually crazy, and “That could be,” which we also glumly acknowledge. “He’s a crazy man, and that’s okay,” Trump went on to say, adding “we like crazy people,” an admission that is also actually true. He went further on to say that “I hear they want to put (Vice President Joe) Biden in. I hear they’re going to slip Joe Biden in, and he’s going in Bernie’s place,” adding that “the system is rigged against Bernie — 100 percent.” We have also heard “they” want to put Biden in, and from more reliable sources than the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and at this point even the late night comedians can’t deny that the Democratic party’s system has indeed been rigged 100 percent against Sanders, even if something in our old-fashioned Republicans has to give some begrudging respect to a Democratic Party establishment that at least still resists Sanders’ outright socialism, so it all seems quite plausible even if still seems somewhat improbable.
Trump had already pounced on all the news that even the most polite news media could not ignore regarding the latest developments in Clinton’s ongoing e-mail scandal, which the presumptive Republican nominee quite succinctly described as “very bad.” An Inspector General’s report on her obviously insecure and seemingly insecure e-mail practices as Secretary of State was scathing, a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into that matter and the likely related questions about her family’s phony-baloney “family foundation” and the donations that look to have resulted in favors to foreign governments during her government service is still ongoing, a thoroughly and disgustingly politicized Justice Department seems likely determine if an indictment will be made solely on political grounds, and even the most polite media were acknowledging that it was indeed very bad, and suddenly it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to speculate that some other fix might yet be in.
We’re not so bold as to venture a guess whether the hypothetical late entry will be Biden or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or some other won’t-come-right-out-and-admit-they’re-a-socialist savior the party comes up with, or even if any of these alternatives will come to pass, and in this crazy election year we won’t venture any guesses how any of these possibilities might pan out. Any non-Clinton candidate the Democrats might come up with would be unburned by the longstanding and still recent scandals so sordid they make even the presumptive Republican nominee’s checkered career as a real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-scam-university-and-reality-show mogul seem pristine, and he or she would start out the race with such scant name recognition that it would take any of them, even the Vice President of the past seven-and-a-half years, months to reach the negative approval ratings of the presumptive Republican nominee, and it would be a plot twist that even the acknowledged master of the post-reality show such as Trump would be hard-pressed to deal with.
We’ll stay tuned, but with no hopes this will turn out well. As much as we’d like to believe that Obama isn’t at legally an American that birth announcement in the Honolulu Observer has always settled the matter, and the Americanism of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is even less in doubt, and as much as an honest critic might say about how Clinton and her husband handled the provable suicide of their former law partner and administration official only the most crazy sort of conspiracy theorist still believes they ordered his assassination, but at this point there are few other certitudes in this crazy election year.

— Bud Norman

Meanwhile, on the Democratic Side

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee lost yet another primary by a blow-out margin in Oregon on Tuesday, and was declared the “unofficial” winner of Kentucky’s contest by a mere hanging chad or two, and by now it’s none too soon for the Democrats to start to panic.
Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President Hillary Clinton’s inability to finish off the geriatric Old Left fossil and self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders should be troubling enough for her party, but there are also those polls showing her suddenly in a very tight general election race with the self-described billionaire and real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump, whose insult comic shtick has already vanquished a deep field of far more qualified candidates, not to mention all those young and enthusiastic fans of the Old Left fossil booing her high-powered surrogates off a Democratic state convention stage. It’s not at all what the Democratic powers-that-be intended way back when in ’08 when they decided Clinton would be the nominee after putting of the First Woman President for the First Black President and all his “Hope and Change” nonsense, and they’ve no one to blame but themselves.
Clinton’s blow-out loss in Oregon to a self-described socialist and Old Left fossil is easily explained to anyone who has watched the hilarious hipster satire “Portlandia” on Netflix or whatever cutting-edge cable channel it originally appears on, and the Kentucky close-call is easily explained to country music fans familiar with the great Kentucky-born-and-raised Loretta Lynn’s classic about a “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and Clinton’s walked-back but still irrevocable promise to continue the First Black President’s war on the coal industry, so we’re slightly surprised that she didn’t get blown out like she did in neighboring West Virginia, where Democrats were making downright Trumpian rude gestures towards her over the policy and vowing to vote for the self-described billionaire on the Republican side, but the rest of the party’s troubles can’t be so easily dismissed. Those tight-race polls should be more troubling, given that Trump has some sky-high negative numbers in all the polls himself, and deserves them at least as much as Clinton does her own severe negative polling numberw, but that the youngest and most enthusiastic segment of her party is booing her high-powered surrogates off the stage of a Democratic state convention should scare the hell out of the party “establishment” that so long ago cooked up her cockamamie candidacy.
Those disgruntled hipsters in Oregon will mostly wind up voting for Clinton in the general election if only for a well-founded fear of Trump, and those hillbilly coal miners and their daughters in West Virginia and Kentucky will largely wind up voting for Trump in a well-founded fear of their jobs, but such a well-established Democrat as California Sen. Barbara Boxer being booed off a stage for mentioning Clinton’s name is most troubling yet. There’s an unmistakable and easily understandable-to-anyone “anti-establishment” mood in this year’s presidential race in both parties, and at the moment the Democratic Party’s bet on a former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State seems as foolish as bet against the house odds at one of Trump’s bankrupt casinos. The hated Republican “establishment” couldn’t stave off the abhorrent likes of Trump, the hated Democratic “establishment” seems likely to drag Clinton’s at-least equally abhorrent and equally-negatively-polling carcass across the finish line, and after seven-and-a-half-years of “Hope and Change” this is where even those cocksure Democrats find themselves.
Our “anti-establishment” sentiment will be voting third party this year, and ¬†for whichever hopeless candidate claims to take the strongest stand against the looming national bankruptcy and for common sense that the presumptive Democratic nominee and her still-pesky rival and the presumptive Republican nominee all agree can be forever forestalled by whatever establishment they hope to install, so at this point we’re quite neutral observers of this whole mess. From this perspective the Democrats seem more hopelessly split, as most of the Republicans seem willing to side with the self-described billionaire who seems to now on the angles on this awful reality showl, and we can hardly blame them given their desultory options, and we at least hope that those Democratic Party’s powers-that-be are as panicked as we are at the moment.

— Bud Norman

Another Post-Reality Show

The Obama administration has escalated its war on America’s longstanding and satisfactory-to-more-than-99-percent of-the-population social arrangement regarding public restrooms and dressing rooms and overnight accommodations and certain sporting competitions being chromosome-segregated, and we see no light at the end of the tunnel.
Not content with challenging North Carolina’s recent law codifying that generally agreeable former social arrangement, the administration’s Department of Education has now threatened that any school district or federally-supported college or university which does not allow any boy or young man claiming to be a girl or young woman to enter into whatever restroom or dressing room or overnight accommodations or sporting event he desires will be in violation of federal law and ineligible for federal funding, and any attempt by a school district or federally-supported college or university to find out if that boy or young man really does think he’s a girl or young woman or is just trying to get into a girl’s restroom or dressing room or overnight accommodations or sporting event for more prurient reasons is similarly illegal. This obviously insane policy is based on the law known as “Title IX,” which conspicuously makes no mention of this nonsense, and which was passed and signed into law way back in 1972, when its backers would surely have scoffed at any paranoid right-wing worries that they ever meant any such thing, and repeated efforts to insert such language to the bill have repeatedly failed in Congress, but in an age when people can be whatever sex or race or height they want to be a law can surely mean whatever our betters at Obama’s Department of Education think it should mean.
Although less than 1 percent of the population stands to benefit from this social rearrangement, and most if not all of that mere fraction should not be encouraged in its probably passing fantastical notion they are actually of a different sex than what their genitalia and chromosomes indicate, and even though we hope that only a surely larger but still small number of boys will avail themselves of the legal opportunity to crash the women’s restrooms and dressing rooms and overnight accommodations and sporting events of women, the social rearrangement seems likely to prevail. Neither the self-described socialist or the disingenuously crony-capitalist still duking it out for the Democratic presidential have expressed any reservations, and the unabashedly crony-capitalist presumptive Republican presidential nominee is hardly any better.
After the administration announced its opening salvo on North Carolina for daring to try to preserve the old social arrangement, the presumptive Republican nominee’s first response was a criticism of the state for bringing down the wrath of some aging rock stars and youthful corporations by bucking the latest trend, and he even invited his fellow reality-show star Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner to use the ladies room at his fabulous Trump Tower, but he quickly retreated to a “state’s rights” position that generously allowed the Tar-Heels to take what he had already admitted was a losing stand. In the aftermath of the escalation he’s still sticking to that “state’s rights” position, which we concede is at least better than what the Democrats are offering, but he’s been careful not to suggests that states would be right to insist on the old and largely satisfactory social arrangement, and “state’s rights” has the same unmistakable unsavory historical connotations as the otherwise equally benign “America First” slogan when he says it.
The presumptive Republican nominee’s reluctance to directly challenge the absolute absurdity of the post-reality nature of the administration’s policy or its post-reality interpretation of the law is by now not surprising, though, nor is his reluctance to talk back his criticism of a state that dared defy the policy. He’s a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt-gambling-casino-and-strip-joint mogul and a veteran of the professional-wrestling and reality-show business, and he seems quite eager to assume any post-reality legal powers that the presidency has gained over the past seven-and-a-half-years, and at this point in his career as the presumptive nominee of the Republican party we must glumly admit that his oh-so-politically-incorrect and at-least-he-fights sense of the pop cultural zeitgeist of the moment is certainly better than what our more hopeful souls could ever hope for.
At least the Republican National Committee and numerous Republican governors and attorneys general and countless other elected Republicans officials have taken a more forthright stand to fight against against this politically correct and post-reality craziness, and in favor of those longstanding social arrangements that have so long been agreeable to more than 99 percent of the population, but at this point they’re the dreaded “establishment” that the presumptive Republican nominee’s most fervent supporters want to burn down. This is how longstanding and generally agreeable social arrangements that have worked for millennia end, and a post-reality show begins.

— Bud Norman