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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Preparing for Trump

Yesterday was Super Tuesday. The results will tell us lots about the state of the Democratic Party, but despite the outcome on Tuesday, Democrats have a variety of issues worth thinking about heading into the general election this November. In this primary cycle, Democratic primary voters just aren’t showing up. Democrats in 2016 primaries are only voting at two-thirds of the rate that they did eight years ago. All told, about 1.18 million Democrats across those first four states went to the polls in 2008. Just under 870,000 showed up this time. That’s 26% fewer voters engaged.

But, you’d think that Sanders, who’s message is a political revolution, could energize the disaffected in great numbers, but it just hasn’t happened. Perhaps it is the right message, but the wrong messenger. And no evidence of a “political revolution.”

Yet Trump is doing just that. GOP turnout in primaries is up 24% over 2008. It is a safe bet that if The Donald is the GOP nominee, there will be a big Republican turnout in November.

There are other concerns: With the Sanders vs. Clinton contest, the Democratic Party is also at risk of imploding, right along with the GOP in its tussle with Trump.

Sanders is seen as unusually honest for someone who’s been a politician for much of his life, and he advocates a refreshingly anti-establishment view on core issues that matter to an increasing number of Americans. These include American militarism, Wall Street bailouts, a two-tiered justice system, the prohibitive cost of college education, healthcare insecurity and a “rigged economy.”

OTOH, Hillary is committed to a third Obama term and incremental change. She has been forced by Sanders to move left, and is paying lip service to some of his issues. Once the general election season begins, it is likely that Hillary will be the candidate for America’s political status quo, vs. the radical alternative of Donald Trump.

Bernie’s supporters understand this, and may or may not go compliantly into the voting booth to elect Hillary, despite the terrifying prospects of a Trump presidency.

Tea Party Republicans understand that the GOP Establishment offers them little. And more and more rank and file Republicans have come to the same conclusion, which is precisely why the GOP nomination is now Trump’s to lose.

Democrats are teetering on the same precipice. The Dem Establishment, this time represented by Hillary, offers weak tea. The Sanders wing could easily sit this one out, and by late summer, when polls show that Hillary is in a death struggle with a political novice, political pundits will be tripping over each other to write about the death of the Democratic Party.

Democrats are in a bind. They want progressive politics, but offered by an Establishment leader.

Dems are always looking for that. In 2008, they selected Obama because he represented change and empowerment for average people over Hillary, the Democratic Establishment candidate. People wanted something new and different. Obama’s presidency wasn’t a failure, unless Democrats accept nothing less than ideological purity from their presidents.

Or, look back at recent presidential elections. Oh the glee among Democrats in 2001 when GWB won the nomination. It was gonna be a cakewalk for Mr. Democratic Establishment Al Gore. Gore did win the popular vote, but lacked an influential brother in Florida. With Establishment candidate John Kerry in 2004, his vote for the Iraq war was his downfall. How do you run successfully against an incumbent when you agreed with the incumbent’s major disaster? Saying you were “for it before you were against it” was an epic fail. Kerry never figured that out, and lost.

The 2008 election was easy for not-quite Establishment Obama, since the GOP was badly wounded by the GWB administration and GOP Establishment McCain lacked the personal horsepower to defeat him.

If 2016 is an Establishment Clinton v. an anti-establishment Trump, some of the Establishment GOP may choose sit it out. There is a small possibility they could go full anti-McGovern, as Establishment Dems did in 1972. If anti-establishment Sanders is the nominee, the GOP Establishment will find a way to make a deal with Trump, and the Dem Establishment probably won’t do enough to prevent Sanders from losing.

If the US economy hits a rough patch before November (and there are several reasons to expect that), Clinton as the Establishment nominee could be dead meat. Sanders, OTOH, could end up a stronger candidate because of it. We also need to remember that Donald Trump is not an ideologue. He brings no core convictions to the table, other than ego, so he will continue to say whatever works with his fans.

Will a Trump win kill America? That depends on whether our country’s immune system, that body of informed citizens who are engaged, and who bother to vote, can effectively fight the infection.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 21, 2016

The preliminary results from the Nevada Caucus gives the win to Hillary Clinton, while the preliminary results from South Carolina say that Donald Trump has won, with second place too close to call at this point.

For the Democrats, the mainstream candidate now looks quite likely to take the nomination, while on the Republican side, the insurgent appears to be the one who will be the nominee. The Sanders Democrats will fall in line behind Clinton for the general election, because they know that no issue in this election trumps judicial philosophy, and the nation can’t survive another Scalia.

Here’s why: Federal judges have great power over our democracy. We could review many of Scalia’s decisions, but let’s just focus on three:

• The five Supreme Court judges (including Scalia) who decided the 2000 election by awarding the White House to George W. Bush.
• Or, the five judges (including Scalia) who decided Citizens United, saying that big corporate money was speech.
• Or the five judges (including Scalia) who gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The judiciary controls many, many aspects of our lives; therefore, the importance of having federal judges who reject far right-wing ideology cannot be overstated.

On to cartoons. Who will walk in Scalia’s shoes?

COW Scalia 2

Obama has about as much chance of getting a Supreme Court nominee approved by Senate Republicans as he does of convincing the average GOP voter that his Hawaiian birth certificate is genuine:

COW Scalia 3

GOP dilemma: Let’s honor Scalia by ignoring the Constitution:

COW Ignore the Constitution

Obama gets a lesson in the Senate’s Advise & Consent process:

COW Clarence Votes twice

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine’s Day. The news of Week That Was included the New Hampshire primary, another power grab by the Supreme Court, the Zika virus, and proof of the existence of gravitational waves.

Some people have an embarrassment of riches on Valentine’s Day:

COW Valentines Day

NH reminds Hillary about kids in a different way than before:

COW Comeback Kid

Sanders met with Sharpton before heading to South Carolina:

COW Sharpton Sanders

When the history of early 21st Century US is written, the villains will already be wearing black:

COW EPA Court

Zika virus is all over the news:

COW Zika

 

Proving Einstein right about gravitational waves took 100 years. Hope we do better with market panic:

COW Gravity Waves

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Is Bernie Electable?

Nobody knows. Maybe. The “a miracle can happen” argument was made by Bob Lefsetz, who all of you should bookmark and read:

…in 1964, Elvis was king. And then the Beatles wiped him off the map. We had a decade of rock and roll. It had been whittled down to a formula…And then…A band with roots who didn’t believe in convention, who’d honed their sound off the radar, delivered an honest wallop that was undeniable. And overnight the youth switched allegiance.

Could happen again. Probably will if Bernie Sanders is any indicator.

First, he has to get the nomination. Even after winning 60% of the NH vote, Bernie has barely dented Clinton’s lead, which thanks to super delegates, currently stands at 394-42. The super delegates are lining up for Clinton, and what happens if Sanders can’t beat a massively powerful political machine? It proves his fundamental point about establishment hegemony. And if Clinton can’t beat an old leftie from Vermont on his first national run? It disproves her arguments about electability, experience and competence.

But it takes 2,382 delegates to win the Democratic nomination for president. Check out Bernie’s difficult path in the upcoming primaries:

538 Primary Polling

It won’t be easy for Bernie to win the nomination. And he has built-in disadvantages: He angers the big donors. He has limited support in the Democratic Congress. There are no governors supporting him. Add that a lot of Democrats are skittish about Sanders’ embrace of “democratic socialism,” and add his Dovish positions on foreign policy, and you’re not likely to see a stampede of Democratic insiders rallying to his cause.

OTOH, Hillary had all the insider support imaginable and couldn’t win in NH. And if she can’t beat a grumpy old socialist Jew without super delegates putting their collective thumbs on the scale, how the hell is she going to beat the Republican Media Complex fighting uphill against the Benghazi and E-mail scandals?

But, Sanders has a long, long way to go to maybe get within striking distance of the nomination. Even then, he will continue to be reviled by forces on the right that will pull no punches in order to defeat him. The Conventional Wisdom will always say that Sanders isn’t viable, electable, (a “socialist” can never win), is too old, can’t raise enough money, won’t get the votes of women, African American’s, Latino’s, etc.

And if he smashes any one “barrier,” the remaining “barriers” will be elevated in importance.

And new “barrier” constructs will be created.

Returning to the Lefsetz meme, what narrative could resurrect Hillary’s appeal to the young? “Experience” reinforces her establishment brand. “Pragmatism” runs counter to every progressive aspiration of the Sanders campaign. “Fights for people like you” invites an examination of Bill Clinton’s deregulation of Wall Street, and his welfare reforms, or his legal reforms which imprisoned many minorities.

Those who say “Hillary can work within the system and get things done where Bernie can’t” have to realize that is a double edged sword. Millennials are the largest single voting bloc this time. They think unemployment and jobs are the biggest issues. They think the system has screwed them. They want the system to be rebuilt from the ground up.

And it’s not too hard to figure out why.

They are saddled with debt, their economic opportunities are far more limited than that of any recent generation. They are told they are being selfish by the Boomer generation − the generation that while achieving many great things, has left a huge economic and geopolitical mess to deal with.

When they look at Sanders, they see someone thinking outside the box. When they see Hillary, they see the establishment. And, you can’t say Hillary is not the establishment when she has the majority of the Super Delegates and all the endorsements from, well, establishment Democrats.

So, can Bernie win? Who knows?

A hard-fought primary battle served the Democratic presidential candidate well in 2008; it’s very likely that a similar primary battle will serve the winning candidate well again in 2016.

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What NH Should Teach Us

The popular vote in NH was about 521,000. Of that number, 278k went to Republican candidates, and 243k went to Democrats. Bernie led all candidates with 145,700 votes, with Trump second at 97,300 votes. Hillary was third at 92,530.

For the record, the 2008 turnout was: 287,342 for the Democrats and 238,979 for the Republicans.

The media is all over the demographics of the NH primary, and how Bernie won all segments except for people over 65 years old, and those who make more than $200k, both of which went to Hillary.

But one headline from NH ought to be that the Dems performed 15% worse than eight years ago, while the GOP performed 14% better than they did when a NH resident (Romney) was on the ballot!

In Hillary’s post-primary speech, she said that there isn’t a huge difference between the two Democratic candidates. Bernie talked about how the party had to come together down the road to prevent a White House take-over by the GOP.

But are these candidates that similar?

Let’s hear from Benjamin Studebaker, who says that Sanders and Clinton represent two very different ideologies, a neo-liberal view represented by Ms. Clinton and an FDR big government program viewpoint represented by Mr. Sanders:

Each of these ideologies wants control of the Democratic Party so that its resources can be used to advance a different conception of what a good society looks like…This is not a matter of taste and these are not flavors of popcorn.

Studebaker thinks that Hillary is ideologically similar to Barack Obama, describing that in 2008: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The most prominent difference between them was the vote on the Iraq War. On economic policy, there never was a substantive difference. The major economic legislation passed under Obama (Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act) did not address the structural inequality problem that the Democratic Party of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s…existed to confront.

In fact, while inequality decreased under FDR, Truman, JFK, and LBJ, it has increased under 3 Democrats: Carter, Clinton, and Obama. It also increased under 3 Republicans: Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II.

Now comes the Hill & Bernie show. Sanders is not running to try to implement a set of idealistic policies that a Republican-controlled Congress will block; he is running to take the Democratic Party away from its current leadership that is unwilling to deal with the systemic economic problems that have led to wage stagnation and the shrinking of the middle class in America.

But can he be successful? David Brooks said in the NYT:

Bernie Sanders…has been so blinded by his values that the reality of the situation does not seem to penetrate his mind.

OK, that must mean that Sanders has no shot. The conventional wisdom is that the Democratic Party cannot be reclaimed by the FDR/LBJ types, or that if it is reclaimed, it will lose in 2016.

But, in the 1968 and 1976 Republican primaries, a guy named Ronald Reagan ran to take the Republican Party back from the Richard Nixon types who went along with the Democrats on welfare and regulation. He was bidding to return the Republicans to their 1920’s Conservative roots. Everyone in the 60’s and 70’s knew that Reagan couldn’t pull that off. But he did.

How? Yesterday, we spoke of Movement Conservatism, where Republicans built a conceptual base, a popular base, a business base, and an institutional infrastructure of think tanks, and by the 2000s, Conservatives again controlled the Republican Party.

So, one lesson from the NH primary is that the contest for the 2016 presidential nomination is not just a contest to see who will lead the Democrats, it’s a contest to see what kind of party the Democrats are going to be in the coming decades, what ideology and what interests, causes, and issues the Democratic Party will prioritize.

The Republican Party faces exactly the same problem in 2016.

And these facts make the 2016 primaries far more important than in any other recent election.

This is about whether the Democratic Party is going to care about inequality for the next decade. We are making a historical decision between two distinct ideological paradigms, not a choice between flavors of popcorn.

Choose carefully.

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We Are Victims of Political Misrule

Yesterday we said that 2016 may be the last election we ever need if political division keeps us from getting anything meaningful done for another four years. We also said that none of the current candidates from either party appear to have the ability to lead us towards being a better country.

Despite that, partisans on both sides say their worst candidate would be a fine president, and would certainly do a better job than the best candidate on the other side. Maybe we have a failure to define exactly what our next president needs to accomplish.

We talk as if a president were all-powerful, able to simply wave his/her magic wand, and all will be well. The past 16 years of presidential and congressional misrule has taught us to know better, but candidates still campaign as if we didn’t know better.

If a president can’t solve our problems, what can he/she do? If all they will do is to continue doing what hasn’t worked in the past, why do we bother to elect them, or have elections at all?

If all we can expect is to maintain a defective status quo, what’s the point?

We need America to grow up. We need a president who can enunciate a humane, adult, reasonable worldview, and vigorously promote it at home and abroad. Perhaps over time, that message will resonate with enough people, young Americans in particular, so the next generation can take the first political baby steps towards building a better world.

Either we fix our politics, or resign ourselves to the fact that our democracy is going to continue to give us substandard results.

To succeed at changing the country’s world view, the people would have to insist upon a politics that requires a humane, adult, reasonable, sane worldview from our elected representatives. At best, we would see some compromise, and take a few steps forward. At worst, idealism fails, and we continue the tyranny of a Congress that while elected, is not accountable for the success or failure of the nation.

Donald Trump has broken the GOP, possibly fatally. The party’s recent history seems to have assigned him that task, and he has discharged it well. Thanks to Trump, “lesser evilism” has lost its power to control our politics, making it possible for genuinely progressive politicians to put non-incrementalist policy back onto the mainstream agenda.

That has been Bernie Sanders’s goal. He too has discharged his task well. He, like Trump, has become the polestar for people who are outraged at the status quo, and who want to change it fundamentally for the better. But if the Democrats nominate Sanders, they risk making the same mistake the Republicans would make if they nominate Trump. That is, not recognizing that the very rhetoric that their side likes best will be seen as inherently disqualifying in the eyes of many.

It is the error of the echo chamber–believing that your side is so obviously right that all you have to do is state your beliefs with conviction and honesty and then surely win.

Unfortunately for Hillary, she seems to be on the wrong side of the zeitgeist for a second time. In 2008, she was no match for an aspirational black man who allowed progressives to project their values on him. This time, it’s an actual progressive who may become the road block to her coronation. In different times, HRC would have the perfect resume for the Oval office, and yes, she could yet win the nomination and the big job. Her biggest problem is poor vision. Here is the NYT’s Charles Blow: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

But possibly the most damaging of Clinton’s attributes is, ironically, her practicality. As one person commented to me on social media: Clinton is running an I-Have-Half-A-Dream campaign. That simply doesn’t inspire young people brimming with the biggest of dreams. Clinton’s message says: Aim lower, think smaller, move slower. It says, I have more modest ambitions, but they are more realistic.

How long has it been since a President has campaigned on a specific platform and also urged the people to vote for his Party in Congress so that he could accomplish that platform. Reagan maybe?

No president has ever changed things alone, and none ever will. If Bernie wins, it’s because he inspires us to join a movement for change. Just like Reagan and Movement Conservatism, where Republicans built a conceptual base, a popular base, a business base, and an institutional infrastructure of think tanks. By the 2000s, movement conservatives controlled the Republican Party.

It took them 40 years, but they succeeded.

And it can happen again.

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