Advertisements

Those Post-Labor Day Blues

One of the quadrennial cliches of presidential election years is that the American public doesn’t start paying attention to any of that political stuff until after Labor Day. We’ve always wondered if that were really so, given the usual ubiquity of politics, and in this crazy election year we can’t believe that anybody has been able to avert his gaze from the spectacle. If you are so lucky as to be just now tuning in the presidential race, though, suffice to say that it’s been dreadful.
Believe it or not, the two major party nominees are Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Donald J. Trump, the worst choices that America’s longstanding and once-venerable two-party system has ever puked up. We are slightly heartened that enough of the public has been paying attention that a vast majority regards both as dishonest and corrupt and utterly unfit for the office, but it looks as if one or the other will wind up president nonetheless. As we enter the supposedly crucial post-Labor Day stretch of the race Clinton is still clinging to a slight lead in the average of polls, but the unprecedented unpopularity of both candidates makes it daunting for even the most daring pundits to offer a prediction.
Those civic-minded sorts who take a post-Labor Day interest in the issues needn’t both boning up on the candidates’ stands, as they tend to shift from day to day. The Democrat can be counted on to take the typical Democratic positions, but not to an extent that would upset her Wall Street backers, which is why she had such trouble beating a full-blown nutcase and self-described socialist as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primaries. The Republican takes all sorts of un-Republican stands on issues ranging from free trade to the Iraq War to socialized medicine, which partially explains how his pluralities more easily defeated a large field of far more qualified challengers, and he’ll routinely switch sides and insist that he’d been on the same side all along.
Neither candidate seems at all concerned about the nation’s unaffordable debt, much less expressed a willingness to address the entitlement programs that is driving it, and both seem to have the disastrous belief they can expand the economy enough to solve that problem their own brilliant micro-management. The Democrat has a long foreign record in public that includes four years as Secretary of State, which were disastrous in countless ways, the Republican has no public service record at all but routinely lies about his past pronouncements and spouts all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories and has openly mused about not fulfilling America’s treaty obligations. Both are protectionist, although the Democrat was sort of forced into that by her full-blown nutcase of a self-describes socialist challenger and probably won’t go so far with it as to upset her Wall Street backers, while the Republican seems to have arrived at this very un-Republican position on his own and has consistently stuck with his belief that any trade deal in the history of the country he didn’t negotiate is a loser. The Democrat is more friendly to illegal immigration than the Republican, but by the time she gets done “triangulating” and he gets done “softening” that might prove a wash, and in any case it doesn’t seem the all-important issue it was back during the Republican primaries.
Our guess is that it comes down to which nominee the public finds more personally loathsome, and we can’t blame any pundit who declines to guess how that comes out. Which is basically where we find our country on this day after Labor Day, when the public supposedly starts paying serious attention to the such matters. There are also the Libertarian Gary Johnson and The Green Party’s Jill Stein in the mix, and although neither of them will be the next president they do make the race even tighter, and somehow even weirder, which is saying something, but that just makes a pundit’s job all the harder.
We’ll probably wind up writing in some pointless protest vote, and leaving it to the rest of you to decide which candidate is more loathsome, but at least you’re caught up to this point, more or less.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

A Cautious Look at the Polls

Unaccustomed as we are to being in the majority of opinion about almost anything, it gives us an almost giddy feeling of being in with the “in crowd” to read the latest polling numbers on Obamacare.
The law has been widely dislike since it was passed, but now a clear majority of the public shares our disdain of it, a substantial plurality hates it with something like our own red-hot passion, and the ill feelings seem to be growing. In two recent polls by well-regarded pollsters Obamacare has reached record levels of unpopularity, and both provided reasons to believe that the law’s numbers will worsen. A surprisingly large number of the respondents who still favor the law are frank enough to admit that they are blissfully ignorant of its effects on their lives, and when the news arrives in the form of a higher bill or a the loss of a long-held and well-regarded policy or a stiff penalty for remaining uninsured they will quickly join the disapproving bandwagon. Throw in the recent dissatisfaction of many of he law’s former champions in the labor movement, academia, and the “arts community,” as well as the fact that the declining numbers are in spite of a multi-million dollar propaganda campaign and a constant outpouring of the president’s supposedly irresistible rhetoric, and Obamacare’s opponents can be forgiven a cocky feeling about ultimately doing away with the damned thing.
That won’t happen until Obamacare’s eponymous president is out of office, even longer if another member of his party succeeds him, perhaps never if the government can get enough people signed up for the law’s generous subsidies and somehow keep them blissfully ignorant of its true costs, and in the meantime there’s plenty of opportunity for the opposition to blow it. Yet another budget-ceiling debate will soon dominate the national news conversation, and some daring Republicans in Congress are threatening to make funding for Obamacare the decisive issue of that already contentious debate even if it means a shutdown of the government for a prolonged period. They’ll be heartened by another recent poll which reports that an oh-so-slight majority of 51 percent wouldn’t mind doing without the federal government for even a prolonged period if it would rid them of Obamacare, and perhaps even beyond that, but we hope they’ll proceed cautiously.
The poll is by the Rasmussen organization, which is widely decried as a Republican outfit, even if their final numbers are usually close to the election results and any bias they have seems to be with the “establishment” Republicans who are cowering from a fight over Obamacare, but we expect it to be widely cited by those itching for an all-or-nothing fight over the law. We wish these daredevils well, of course, and would be pleased by a federal government shutdown for almost any old reason, but nonetheless there is a nagging worry that they should go about their business cautiously. Public opinion is fickle, as countless former pop sensations will testify, and there is depressing precedent for the notion that it will buy almost everything. Without weighing in definitively on the cut-Obamacare-or-fight debate currently being waged on the right, we’ll confess to a nagging worry that it might be best to let those blissfully ignorant folk find out just how bad it can be.

— Bud Norman