The Damned Democrats’ Debate

The six candidates who still have a plausible shot at winning the Democratic party’s presidential nomination had a debate Wednesday night in Nevada, which is having one of those weird caucus rituals on Saturday, and it was a raucous affair. All of the contenders spent so much bashing one another they had little time left to bash President Donald Trump, who surely enjoyed the show.
According to the latest polls ┬áthe clear frontrunner in the race is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist and the darling of the loony left portion of the Democratic party, which is plenty big enough to give a him a 32 point plurality in the crowded field, with fellow loony lefty Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren fading into fourth at 12 percent. Former Vice President and former frontrunner Joe Biden, who is courting the party’s relatively sane centrists, is in second with 16 percent, but that’s barely ahead of the 14 percent by billionaire media mogul and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is courting the same votes. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have 8 and 7 percent respectively, which also come from the relatively sane centrist faction.
All of which led to Wednesday’s brass knuckle free-for-all, with the relatively sane centrists attacking one another as well as the loony left contenders, and the loony left contenders also firing in every direction. As best as we can score the bout, Bloomberg got by far the worst of it.
Bloomberg skipped the opening contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, and has carefully avoided any public appearances or interviews with the media, so his recent rapid rise in the polls is entirely due to the $50 million of his own money that he’s poured into national advertising on radio and television and the internet, and one big question was how he’d fare on his first debate stage since his mayoral campaigns. Not vey well, as it turns out.
Everyone in the Democratic party and most of the independents they’ll need to win in November have by now had their fill of New York City billionaires, so all the other candidates gleefully piled on. Warren blasted Bloomberg’s longstanding reputation for saying outrageously things in public and the numerous lawsuits brought by women against his company for fostering a hostile workplace and having women bound by nondisclosure agreements, which seems to be what New York City billionaires do, and Warren succinctly summarized his response as “Well, I’ve been nice to some women.”
Klobuchar criticized Bloomberg’s failure to release his tax returns, another one of those thing New York City billionaires seem to do, and although he promised he’d get around to it soon his explanation for the delay only emphasized that he’s suspiciously rich. Sanders whole platform is anti-billionaires in general, so he further demonized Bloomberg to his fans. Others on both the left and center criticized the “stop and frisk” policing policies aimed mostly at minorities that Bloomberg championed as New York mayor, and although Bloomberg has fulsomely apologized for it that probably won’t do him much good in the largely-Latino Nevada caucus or the majority-black South Carolina primary that’s coming up next.
Everyone but Warren argued that Sanders’ self-described socialism might render him unelectable in a country that’s still mostly center-right, and was forced by the centrists to defend the economic feasibility of his pie-in-the-sky health care proposals, but Bloomberg drew a gasp an then boos when he accused Sanders of being a communist. The 78-year-old Sanders recently suffered a heart attack and was roundly criticized for failing to keep a promise to release his full medical records, and he offered the same explanation that Trump did about his undeniably grueling campaign schedule, but he didn’t seem on his game.</div div style=”text-indent:20px;”>Biden went largely unscathed, but the lack of attacks seemed to emphasize his slow decline into irrelevance, which will rapidly accelerate if he doesn’t do very well in Nevada and then South Carolina, and he still not much of a campaigner and didn’t do much on Wednesday to turn things around. That’s good news for Buttigieg and Klobuchar, who could now overtake both Biden and Bloomberg for those relatively sane centrist Democratic voters. Buttigieg criticized Klobuchar for failing to remember the name of the Mexican president during a recent interview, but she admitted to the understandable momentary lack of memory and made Buttigieg look rather pedantic. On the whole, we think she got the better of it.
Sanders has run afoul of the hotel and casino and restaurant workers union that is largely Latino and a huge chunk of the Nevada caucus-goers, who don’t like his plan to take away their hard-earned health benefits package as part of his single-payer “Medicare for all” plan, which gives the relatively sane centrists a chance at a much-needed win. As bad as Bloomberg was in his first public appearance he probably won’t be the beneficiary, no matter how much money he spends, and we expect Biden to continue underperforming, so that’s an opportunity for either Buttigieg or Klobuchar.
Buttigieg is openly homosexual, and although that didn’t matter to the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire and doesn’t offend our old-fashioned sensibilities any more than Trump’s tawdry sexual history, the largely Latino voters in Nevada and the black majority of voters in South Carolina might not be so open-minded, and even in this day and age it eventually will raise unavoidable questions about his electability, a sanely centrist with impressive military experience though he might be. Which is good news for Klobuchar, a happily married heterosexual woman and mother who has won every race she’s ever run even in Minnesota’s most Republican districts, and can brag of the bills she’s written that got passed and signed even in this polarized age, and she doesn’t want to take away anyone’s private health insurance.
As we scored the free-for-all cage match Klobuchar had a pretty good night, which is the only bad news of the evening for Trump. Eventually Warren will drop out and her 12 percent will join Sanders’ 32 percent, but if Klobuchar is the last relatively sane centrist standing she could have 45 percent of the party on her side, and even more if the Democrats decide that their socialist utopia can wait another four years and beating Trump is the party’s top priority. Trump will come up with some taunting nickname to tar Klobuchar as a loony leftist, and he won’t be able to resist making some outrageously sexist comment about her less-than-beauty-queen looks, but that won’t endear him to the educated suburban Republican women he have left the party in droves over the past three years, and we think she’d be a formidable foe. She also punches back, and she’s pretty darned good at it.
There are still 48 states and all those territories to go, though, and a big chunk of the Democrat party is clearly intent on leaping off that loony left cliff, so we’ll see how it turns out. The scariest part is that even the looniest left Democratic nominee could come up with a bigger plurality in this polarized nation than Trump.

— Bud Norman

Hillary Clinton’s Lost Weekend

The past weekend was kind to us here in Wichita, what with the Wingnuts knocking a grand slam homer in a seven-run fifth inning en route to a 13-0 blowout in an American Association playoff game against the Sioux City Explorers on a cloudless and slightly crisp evening Saturday evening over at the ballpark, and a fine sermon by the lay preacher who was filling in at the low church where we worship on Sunday morning, along with more of the recently perfect weather allowing for a long nap afterwards. We read that the weather was also quite pleasant in New York City over the weekend, yet somehow Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s already sputtering campaign seems to have seriously overheated there.
Clinton’s weekendus horribilis, to coin a Latinate phrase, began on Friday with another round of disappointing poll numbers. She’s still ahead in the supposedly definitive Real Clear Politics average, but her once-formidable lead has lately been narrowed to worrisome within-the-margin of error levels, and given that she’s mainly running against the widely reviled Republican nominee Donald J. Trump that was enough to have even The Washington Post admitting that “Democrats Worry: Why isn’t Clinton far ahead of Trump?” The obvious answer to that headlined question is that Clinton is by now as widely reviled as Trump, with at least equally good reason, and by now the even most stubbornly sanguine Democrats are starting to notice.
With her Republican opponent uncharacteristically not offering any headline material of his own for the past few days, except for all that plunder and pillage talk and the vaguely homoerotic Russophilia he was gushing in that “Commander in Chief Forum,” where she was also awful, Clinton desperately needed a weekend free of gaffes or troubling incidents. Despite the nice weather, though, it didn’t work out that way.
Clinton’s problems started Saturday evening when she engaged in some grossly general language about half of Trump’s supporters. Lest you think we’re being unkind in describing it as grossly general, what she actually said was, “You know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, right?” The crowd at a homosexual rights group’s fundraiser reportedly responded with laughter and applause, apparently not noticing the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard quality of that “generalistic” coinage nor that “deplorable” is an adjective that does not lend itself to pluralization, so Clinton elaborated about “The racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to have only 11,000 people — now have 11 million.”
The remark naturally outraged the pro-Trump media, such as they are, and even the more polite press was reminded of Mitt Romney’s disastrous “47 percent” remarks last time that they made so much of last time around. In case you’ve happily forgotten the details of the ’12 race, Republican nominee Romney was clinging to a worrisome within-the-margin-of-error lead when some electronic eavesdropper recorded his off-the-cuff and intended-to-be-off-the-record remarks to a couple of donors that the Republicans’ anti-government agenda would always have a hard time appealing to the estimated 47 percent of Americans whose receipt of government spending exceeds their tax contributions. Romney’s lead evaporated after that, never to reappear, and we can see why the analogy is troubling.
At the time our only complaint with Romney’s remark was that it was grossly general, as we could see how the military veterans and necessary civl servants and the severely handicapped and the hard-working poor among that number might resent the implication, but also thought there was an argument to be made that some smaller portion of the country does indeed have an entirely self-interested motivation for vote for an ever-expansive government. This time around intellectual honesty compels us to admit that there are indeed some very nasty characters among the Republican nominee’s supporters, and that the Republican nominee has widely “re-tweeted” some of the worst of them, and that his campaign’s “chief executive officer” previously ran a web site that he openly touted as a “platform for the alt-right,” but we retrain a right to complain about the gross generalizations. Trump has consistently polled around 40 percent, we will not concede that 20 percent of the country is sexist, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or you name it, and even if they’re not as feminist and white-guilt-ridden and pro-homosexuality and sanguine about Islam as the average attendee at a Clinton fundraiser we can see how they resent the implication. It’s never a good idea to be so grossly general.
Lest you think we’re unkind in saying so, we’ll note that the next day Clinton told the press, “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying half — that was wrong.” Continuing in damage control mode, she added that “many of Trump’s supporters are hard-working Americans who just don’t feel the economy or our political system has been working for them.” She didn’t cite what percentage of Trump’s supporters she still believed fit her generalization, although we would have been interesting to see how it compared to our estimate, and she also promised to continue “calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign.” Which is pretty much analogous to the response Romney had after that “47 percent” remark, but in Clinton’s case we expect the more polite organs of the press will be quicker to let the matter drop.
Unfortunately for Clinton, even the most polite press are now obliged to report on her apparent collapse and subsequent medical condition after a memorial service for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City. A couple of those ubiquitous cell phone cameras captured Clinton falling into the arms of her entourage as she started to board her black van after an early departure from the ceremony, and after a few hours of recovery at her daughter’s nearby apartment she came out to wave at the cameras looking somewhat hale and tell reporters “It’s a beautiful day in New York.” At the first the campaign blamed it on Clinton “overheating” in the reported 75 degree and 40 percent humidity weather, but later she admitted was also being treated for pneumonia. Given that Clinton’s health has already been a bubbling-below-the-surface issue for months, with even the most respectable press forced to concede her frequent coughing fits and less-than-rigorous campaign schedule, and the pro-Trump press, such as it is, speculating on everything from incontinence to Parkinson’s Disease to demonic possession, this cannot be helpful to Clinton’s candidacy.
The Trump campaign is already calling for further release of Clinton’s medical records, and the public is bound to have the same curiosity. She’s already released far more information than that hilarious doctor’s letter that Trump offered, but he seems all too hale for our tastes, given his Vladimir Putin-esque tendencies, and we doubt that many will have the same concerns about his health. Already even the most polite press are starting to look into what happens if a major party nominee is unable to campaign or hold office, and there’s a relatively reasonable friend of ours on Facebook who is already calling for a substitute, and in this crazy election such an awful weekend as Clinton has had could plausibly bring that about.
If Clinton were to decide that being a First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and First Woman Major Presidential Nominee were enough, along with the millions she’s raked in with those speaking engagements and family foundation contributions that would be shut off for at least four years, we expect that just about anyone the Democrats might come up with would immediately be so far ahead of Trump that it would allay all those Democratic worries. Anyone they might come up with would also be awful, of course, but the mere lack of name recognition would immediately ensure that he or she didn’t have anywhere near the dismal approval ratings of either Clinton or Trump. The more polite press could immediately come up with some hagiographic story, the pro-Trump press, such as it is, would be playing only to already pro-Trump voters, and the Republicans would be left regretting that Trump didn’t evince some disqualifying medical conditions like he did back in the Vietnam draft days.
Even in this crazy election year we’re hard-pressed to imagine Clinton taking one for the team, though, and we expect she’ll slog right on through this joyless campaign year no matter what sorts of tubes and transfusions are required, and we would be surprised if she pulls it off. We wish her a speedy recovery, because that’s what we’re taught to do at that low church of ours, and we’re not wishing another attack of bone spurs on Trump’s feet, because that’s also against the creed, but we will offer a prayer for some wise outcome to this election, as unlikely as that seems.

— Bud Norman

The Cultural Contradictions of Liberalism

There was another mass shooting in another “gun free zone” last week, so of course there is the usual clamoring for more restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. This time around the President of the United States has gone so far as to praise the gun laws of Australia and Great Britain, where the right to keep and bear arms has essentially been revoked altogether, and we were once again reminded of the strangely contradictory logic of modern liberalism.
The smart fellows over at Powerlineblog.com smartly observed that the same president who sneers it would be absurd to even contemplate rounding up and deporting an estimated 11 million or so illegal immigrants is now suggesting the country emulate laws that would involve rounding up and confiscating an estimated 350 million presently legal firearms. We are told by open borders advocates that rounding up and deporting so many illegal aliens would require not only a police state but a society of snitches and would foment open rebellion, and we take their argument seriously even as we insist on some level of enforcement of the immigration laws, yet they offer only a condescending chuckle in rebuttal to the argument that rounding up a far greater number of weapons from law-abiding citizens long accustomed to exercising their constitutional and God-given rights to self-defense might raise similar concerns. We’ve known enough gun-owners during our long life on the plains to understand that all that talk about prying guns out of cold, dead hands isn’t just bumper sticker braggadocio, and in the circles we run in we’ve also met enough anti-gun zealots to know they’d happily cooperate with whatever police state was required to satisfy their bien pensant souls, and on the whole we think it would be a far messier project than enforcing a border, but somehow the more liberal eye sees it otherwise.
Similar contradictions occur elsewhere in the immigration debate. We’re always struck that the same people who decry the incurable racism and xenophobia of American society are the ones assuring us that the introduction of tens of millions of foreigners into a rotten-to-the-core country, at an unprecedented rate that currently exceeds the number of jobs being created by a debt-laden economy, will prove no problem at all. Although we don’t share the same low regard for our fellow countrymen, most of whom seem to be enjoying all the excellent authentic Mexican and Asian restaurants that are suddenly flourishing in our town, and otherwise getting along with everyone reasonably well, we do understand human nature well enough to worry about how two separate cultures might co-exist within the same space. In our extensive reading of history we haven’t encountered any previous occasions when this occurred, but we’re aware that modern liberals tend to get their history from other books.
The immigration debate has lately been enlivened about what to do with the mass of reggaes fleeing the outbreaks of war in the Middle East, where the president is boasting about the peace he has wrought, and the same people who decry the incurable sexism and homophobia of American society are insisting that our allegedly Judeo-Christian culture can bring in tens of thousands of people from cultures that don’t allow women to feel sunlight on their faces and toss and homosexuals off tall buildings without any ensuing cultural conflicts. This is also with precedent, of course, and will strike anyone other than a doctrinaire liberal as unlikely.
All the rest of that blather about about the racist and sexist and homophobic nature and the moral equivalence of societies that condone slavery and forced genital mutilation of women and toss homosexuals off tall buildings seems rather contradictory, too. We can think of other examples of the mutually exclusive arguments offered by modern liberalism, but the hour is growing is late and at this point we’ll be satisfied if the latest gun-grabbing proposals are easily repelled as the more modest proposals that were put forth after the last mass shooting. The latest mass-shooting was by a mixed-race nutcase with an apparent animus toward Christians, so there’s little chance we’ll be having one of those “national conversations” about anything else.

— Bud Norman