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With Less Than a Month to Go in These Rainy and Dreary Election Days

We’d like to believe that the November 6 elections and the rest of that damnably cold month are still far off, but a chilly rain has been falling on both the just and unjust around here for the past few days, all the local lawns are sprouting yard signs for some candidate or another for some office or another, and that damnable calendar tells us that the reckoning is now less than a month away.
At this point we’ll not venture any predictions about how it all might turn out, except that it probably won’t turn out the way we’d prefer. Our best guess is that the Democrats will win a bunch of races and the Republicans will win a slightly smaller yet effectively similar amount, and that it will wind up with at least a two-year political stalemate, which is about the best we can hope for these days.
Given the undeniably rosy gains in the gross domestic product and unemployment and stock market and other economic indices the Republicans should be cruising to an electoral landslide by now, but given how very horrible the Republicans are about pretty much everything else in the news cycle the Democrats should be faring more than the mere single digit lead in the generic polling they’re clinging to these days. We don’t much trust President Donald Trump’s cocksureness that he’s going to sucker the rest of the world into the same sort of sweet deal that he won from talk show host Merv Griffiin to buy the now-razed Taj Mahal casino-and-strip-club, but we’re also pretty cocksure that the unabashed socialism of far too many Democrats these days would be even more catastrophic, so we’ll hold out hope that our remarkably resilient free market economy is left to continue moving up and down and yet generally upward.
As for the rest of it, the Democrats seem to enjoy the advantage at the moment. For now the big story is still the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice, which has the base of the Republican party enthused, but it’s also got the fairer sexes of the Democratic party thoroughly enraged, and we guess our many Democratic women friends’ rage will outlast our many male Republican friends’ exultation about a Supreme Court Justice whose name they’ll probably forget in less than a month’s time. The Republicans have reportedly resorted to a campaign theme that the Democrats represent “mob rule” that would ruin a good man’s reputation with one scarlet woman’s allegation of sexual misbehavior, but women account for about half the vote around here, and we’re pretty sure that there are more women among our friends who have have victims of sexual behavior than there are men of our acquaintance who have ben falsely accused of sexual misbehavior.
Even here in reliably Republican Kansas the Republicans seem to have their hands full. The rural First District and our own-urban-Wichita-and-surrounding country Fourth District seem safe enough for the Grand Old Party, but up in the Second and Third districts that bisect the Kansas City metropolitan area’s affluent white suburbs and hard-luck black ghettos the Democrats are polling so well that the Republicans are withdrawing national ad money. The Democratic candidate for governor is well within all the polling’s margin of error, too, for a variety of peculiarly Kansas reasons too complicated to explain here, and for a variety of other peculiarly complicated Kansas reasons we’d wager some small amount on her chances of ultimately winning.
It’s close enough that Trump himself flew into Kansas over the past weekend to headline another of is sold-out rallies on behalf of gubernatorial candidate and long-time political ally Kris Kobach and the rest of the loyal Republican ticket. He fired up the sell-out crowd with talk about how all the Senate Democrats had signed up with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s “Open Borders Bill,” which does not exist, and derided Democratic nominee Laura Kelly as a gun-grabbing “far-left” candidate, which she is not.
For whatever reason the Republicans seem to be having trouble winning both minority women voters and the better-educated sorts of white women voters around the country ever since Trump became president, and here in Kansas there are enough of them to maybe swing an election or two or three. All politics is local, though, so we have no idea how it will play out in your precincts, but around here and for right now the best ¬†we’re hoping for a political stalemate that allows the rest of the country and its attended free markets to thrive for the time being.

— Bud Norman

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To the Moon Township and Back

By now we should be inured to President Donald Trump’s unique brand of political rhetoric, but we can’t quite a shake a certain disquieting feeling about it. Even in a weekend chock full of serious stories, Trump’s speech at Moon Township, Pennsylvania, on Saturday was worrisome.
During a 75-minute stream-of-consciousness improvisation, Trump urged that America adopt the Chinese dictatorship’s draconian drug policies, called the National Broadcasting Company’s Chuck Todd a “sleeping son of a bitch” and griped that he hadn’t rewarded for his past hit reality show on the network with more favorable coverage, then once again predicted that all the “fake news” media would eventually help him win reelection for fear that people will stop watching the news if Trump isn’t on it. He defended his crazy steel tariffs and predicted a quick and decisive victory in the coming trade wars, described a congressional Democratic critic as a “very low-IQ person,” told a boastful and obviously untrue lie about winning the majority of the women’s vote in the past election, and blamed every American president back to Ronald Reagan for all his problems.
He also spent five minutes or so extolling the virtues of Rick Saccone, the Republican nominee in a special House of Representatives election to be held on Tuesday, which was the ostensible reason for the speech. The district has long been reliably Republican, and Trump won it easily, but all the polls are showing a tight race. They’re having a special election because the Republican who won office on a family values platform was forced to resign after it came out that he’d urged his mistress to get an abortion during a pregnancy scare, Republicans have been underperforming all the special elections since Trump’s electoral victory, and even lost an Alabama seat, so it’s a race the GOP can ill-afford to lose.
Trump’s crazy steel tariffs play well in the vicinity of Moon Township, where the once dominant steel industry has been decimated by competition from lower-wage and higher-tech factories, but naturally the Democratic nominee is just as enthusiastic about it as the Republican, and has the endorsement of the last remaining steelmaking unions, and so for that’s proving a wash. The Republican candidate is also by all accounts something of a bore, which is an unpardonable political sin in the age of Trump, and his Democratic opponent, Conor Lamb, is a former Marine with centrists positions and no apparent character defects, and even Trump noted in his rambling endorsement for Saccone that Lamb’s considered a rather handsome fellow.
Trump boasted that he’s better looking, which got a big laugh, and he dubbed the Democrat “Lamb the Sham,” which also got a big laugh, and then he mentioned the name of Democratic minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, which set off an even louder round of boos. Lamb has stressed throughout the campaign that he would not vote for Pelosi as the House Democrats’ leader, so that might also prove a wash, but it went over big at the rally. Trump was less effusive in his praise of Saccone, and when he tried he trailed off into a mock-voice impression of some boring “presidential” type of president endorsing some boring House candidate. At least he didn’t openly say he might have endorsed the wrong guy in the Republican primary, as he did when he went to rally support for that credibly accused child molester of a Republican nominee who wound up losing that once-safe Alabama Senate seat, but Saccone could have done better.
The crowd loved it, of course, laughing at all the familiar laugh lines and booing any mention of the familiar villains, but even in the Rust Belt regions of Pennsylvania the act seems to be wearing thin. To us it looks and sounds like the ramblings of a mean-spirited and insecure and foul-mouthed fellow who’s in far above his ill-coiffed head, and we worry that in all sorts of districts and the foreign bureaus in such places as London and Berlin and Beijing and Pyongyang many people have reached the same conclusion.

— Bud Norman

The Maternal Mystery in a Crazy Election Year

You might not have noticed, but Republican nominee Donald J. Trump delivered a major policy address on Tuesday outlining his proposal for a federal paid maternity leave policy. It was given perfunctory coverage by all the respectable press, just in case you still visit there, but was easily overlooked in a news cycle still dominated by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” comments and health problems and slipping poll numbers. As loathe as we are to admit it, we can hardly blame neither the respectable press nor its readership for their priorities.
Trump’s speech was pre-written in more-or-less parseable English, and read from a teleprompter in a relatively relaxed tone, so it had none of the ad-libbed ad hominens that generated all those “oh no he didn’t” headlines which propelled his run to the Republican nomination. All that policy stuff is also rather boring, apparently even to Trump judging his by relatively relaxed tone, and by now a vast majority of the country has figured out that neither Trump nor Clinton really mean any of it anyway. Certainly no one believes that Trump had given much serious thought to a federal paid maternity leave policy until recently, and we note that he delivered his major policy address in a suburb of Philadelphia in the important swing state of Pennsylvania where all the polls still show him behind largely because college-educated white people in general and suburban white women in particular can’t stand him, so although we’re loathe to admit it we can’t blame The New York Times for headlining its perfunctory coverage with “Donald Trump Unveils Plan for Families in Bid for Women’s Votes.”
Our guess is that the ploy won’t do Trump much good, and that he should be grateful Clinton’s recent headline-grabbing travails have mitigated the harm it might have done.
The Trump plan calls for six weeks of paid mandatory leave and expanded tax credits for child care, which even The New York Times is obliged to concede “represents a different approach from the one taken by previous Republican nominees,” but of course that’s not nearly enough to satisfy the more unabashedly leftist outfits. The Huffington Post called the proposal Trump’s “Biggest Insult To Women Yet,” which is really saying something after all those hours he spent yukking it up on Howard Stern’s shock jock radio show, and gleefully reported that Trump’s private businesses haven’t always been so generous as he now insists the American public must be.
Even the more bottom-line minded business press acknowledged that Trump’s plan for the rest of us is parsimonious by international standards. Fortune Magazine’s headline admitted that “Donald Trump’s Maternity Leave Plan Keeps US in Last Place Among Peers,” while Business Insider could only muster the enthusiasm for “No cheers for Trump’s child care plan — one cheer for maternity leave,” and every objective source seemed to agree that there wasn’t enough of Trump’s targeted “waste and fraud” in the current programs to pay for even such a parsimonious entitlement expansion. Every objective source also acknowledged that Trump was once again lying when said that Clinton hadn’t offered maternity leave policy “and never will,” as Clinton had offered her policy more than year ago, but they further admitted that her proposals weren’t a whole lot closer to those international standards.
Over on the right, the reaction was mixed at best, with few Republican office-holders and no past Republican nominees hopping on board. Conservatism has long been against any big government entitlement policies but also very much pro-procreation, so even such a NeverTrump redoubt of the true faith as National Review was making a case that “Paid Maternity Leave Should Not be Ignored by the Right,” complete with data about female workforce participation and the fact that America is the only industrialized country in the world without a generous paid maternity leave policy, but such rock-ribbed sorts as ourselves found it unconvincing. We’re pro-procreation but in an old-fashioned family sense, and we’re not sure what incentives these maternity leave policies might provide given the current cultural trends, and we don’t buy into that all-the-other-industrialized-countries-are-doing-it nonsense. Such formerly rock-ribbed types as Rush Limbaugh are reluctantly concluding it’s good politics, but there’s still a few of us who aren’t willing to concede that big government entitlement ground.
Luckily for Trump, he and Clinton and her slightly-less-big-government proposals will likely be overshadowed by her “deplorables” comment and her health problems and her slipping poll numbers.

— Bud Norman