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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Pant Suit vs. Pant Load, Part III

(Note: this week there will be no Sunday Cartoon Blogging, since Wrongo will be visiting MA and PA through Sunday, returning on Monday.)

Wrongo and long-time blog reader Terry engaged in a short email dialog on how to “fix” the US political system. We were concerned that there is no individual Congressperson accountability. A backbencher can follow an agenda that can imperil our nation (and a few have done just that) without consequence.

But in America, accountability is managed by election district. Your only alternative is to round up enough votes to replace poor representation. So, if you wanted to reform the impact that money has in our politics, or the way the filibuster works in the Senate, you have to reform Congress.

Yet, under our Constitution, only Congress can reform Congress. And today, there are three parties vying for control of it, and since they rarely are willing to work with each other, not much gets done. So you can completely forget about Reform.

And the parties have not been willing to deal with the not-so hidden desperation in America that shows up in statistics like increasing opioid addiction and suicide rates. The political class ignores how lethal the US economy is for the less fortunate: The New York Times reported this week that US death rates have risen for the first time in a decade.

The increase in death rates among less educated whites since 2001 is roughly the size of the AIDS epidemic. One reason is the use of opioids. And, despite Mr. Obama’s speech in Elkhart, IN where he said our economy is doing well, there has been a spike in suicides to levels higher than during the 2008 financial crisis.

The little people know that the economic policies followed by both parties have brought income inequality to Gilded Age levels. They know that all of the post-crisis income gains have accrued to the top 1%. Unlike in China which continues to grow, our economic expansion has brought with it high unemployment and underemployment, particularly among the young.

As a result, people feel powerless. In fact, a RAND survey in January found that 86.5% of GOP voters who strongly identified with the statement “people like me don’t have any say about what the government does” were Trump supporters.

And, since so much of politics is about corralling money into the bank accounts of our politicians, your Congresspersons have no intention of listening to you unless you have given at least $10,000 to their campaign fund, or are the CEO of a major employer in their district or state. In US politics, money=speech. But, there is little meaning to free speech without free access to influence the political process.

Many of us feel nihilistic about our politics and our government. So the Pant Load’s support seems a lot like a form of public political vandalism where The Donald is the can of spray paint.

Most people can see that a large portion of Americans are poorer with each new election cycle. After all, the reason Trump (and Sanders) are doing well is because many, many workers are seeing their job security, income security, and retirement security all go up in smoke. That’s no mystery, just the natural outcome when the government fails to represent the people in favor of the rich who fund their campaigns. It’s no wonder the Pant Load is easily corralling the frustrated.

But can the Pant Suit reverse the Democratic Party’s abandonment of the working class in America?

We know that she needs to focus on drawing more potential working class and young supporters, but so far, Democrats are content to run only in their municipal strongholds, following a strategy of stitching together interest groups, largely in states with big urban populations.

Energizing people around the fact of our corrupt political system is both a way to get higher turnout, and a way to elect members of Congress and state legislatures to fix the corrupt system. That is Bernie’s message, what he calls a “political revolution.” But Sanders is not the person to bring this about. Consider Sanders just the messenger.

Strategically, the Pant Suit needs to figure out how to get folks energized enough to vote for her and against Trump for reasons that don’t so paralyze them with fear that they stay home. If she is successful, it could be the start of re-establishing the New Deal coalition, and a re-installation of the principles of the civil rights movement.

That’s a huge job that will not be completed in one election cycle.

This threat is the GOP’s worst nightmare. They have worked for 40 years to eliminate these ideas, so expect the GOP to unanimously support the Pant Load:

COW Never Hillary

The Bernie Dems will rally behind Hillary for similar reasons.

Trump/Arpaio 2016: Because immigrants are the greatest threat to the nation.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – Super Bowl Edition

Today’s Super Bowl marks the end of the football season, but still overshadows the political silly season, that will be with us for what will seem to be a long, long time.

Things to look for in Super Bowl 50:

COW Superbowl 50a
“And, when we score a touchdown, make sure you know your assignments for the end-zone celebration.”

And what to look for in your living room:

COW Superbowl 50

But, even at the Super Bowl, the problem of football concussions isn’t going away:

COW CTE

So far, the Democratic race is between an idealist Grandpa and a wonk Grandma:

COW Grandpa Bern
In New Hampshire the political woods are full of free running saps:

COW NH Sap

Something not so super this week was this dickhead:

COW Shkreli

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Will Hillary’s Campaign Strategy Win?

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”Mike Tyson

The primary season clown show has moved on to New Hampshire. Republicans will see more mud wrestling between Cruz and Trump, while Rubio, Kasich and Christie try to elbow their way in to be one of the top two by next Wednesday.

Iowa showed that the Democrats will have a tough time choosing between the candidates, both of whom will struggle to refine the message(s) they need to take to South Carolina and beyond in order to win the nomination. Like that great philosopher Mike Tyson says, now the top two in each party need to present a plan that connects with voters nationally.

Think for a minute about the messages that Hillary and Bernie have been running with:

Bernie is saying we should have (and can get):

• A single-payer health care system
• Universal pre-K and free college tuition at our state universities
• Guaranteed sick leave and vacation for every employee
• A minimum wage of $15/hour
• The big banks broken up, and Glass-Steagall reconstituted
• Our campaign finance system is reformed
• The super-wealthy should pay for it all

Hillary is saying we can’t get all that:

• We must focus on what can be accomplished, not what Sanders is proposing
• Single-payer is a nice idea, but is too politically toxic to be viable
• She agrees with Sanders about sick and maternity leave
• College shouldn’t be free for all, some should pay, mostly because their parents can afford it
• Breaking up the big banks isn’t the best way to address financial market risk
• $15/hour is too high a minimum wage, $12/hour is realistic
• Since Republicans will control at least one house of Congress next year, they’ll never vote for what Sanders proposes

Hillary is in a difficult position. She’s telling people that they can’t have the things they want. Every parent understands this, but Clinton is also saying: “his policies can’t win”, all the while she is thinking: “I can get some of this through Congress.”

That may not be a winning message, particularly if Sanders is still running in a dead heat with Clinton in April. His charm is that he’s not willing to settle for campaigning on a platform that is calibrated to work in our gridlocked politics.

So, will Hillary change if she can’t shake Bernie? And what would her new message be?

She needs to start by finding a way to relate to an electorate that has limited interest in politicians like her who speak for the status quo.

Today’s voters say that the status quo is unacceptable. In fact, that’s the only thing everyone in America seems to agree about right now. And since 60% of the Democratic delegates actually get selected in March, Clinton needs a message better calibrated to meet today’s political realities, or she risks losing the nomination, or winning it only after a fight that weakens her party.

It is true that if elected, either Clinton or Sanders will be in virtually the same place regarding what they can actually achieve. The big difference today is in the vision they are laying out, and whether the voters will buy it. Will they buy a president who articulates unobtainable goals and blames the .01%, or do they want a president who articulates modest, but still unobtainable goals?

Would the electorate buy that her insider status would bring about some (or all) of her goals?

Candidate Clinton is running primarily on her resume. She presents us with a CV of job titles, not accomplishments, and if there is a campaign persona that she is embracing, it is the idea of being a lifelong fighter. But will that be enough? From the 2/2 NYT:

…she still faces an authenticity problem, even among Democrats. Some 47% of likely Democratic primary voters said that they felt Mrs. Clinton said what voters wanted to hear, rather than what she believed. 62% said they believed Mr. Sanders said what he thought…

Clinton’s liabilities as a campaigner could be lessened by treating the campaign more like a struggle between opposing parties instead of one between political celebrities. Overall, she performs well enough as a candidate. She debates well, she interviews well.

Her argument should be: if you want to see the incomes of the middle class grow, if you want to retain Constitutional freedoms that are under attack by a conservative Supreme Court, if you want to keep Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs like Obamacare, if you want less foreign adventurism, then you have to vote Democratic regardless of what you think of Hillary Clinton.

It’s sort of a vision.

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Old Candidates, Young Voters

From Stu Rothenberg at Roll Call:

While the decision makers at news organizations…scramble to appeal to younger viewers, [the] Republican and Democratic voters in Iowa and nationally have embraced a remarkably “mature” handful of top tier candidates.

How mature?

• Donald Trump will turn 70 next year
• Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will be 75
• Hillary Clinton will turn 69 a couple of weeks before the 2016 elections

There are younger Republican candidates: Ted Cruz is 45, and Marco Rubio is 44. The Democrat former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is 53.

According to a January 18-24 Quinnipiac University poll of likely Democratic voters, Sanders held a 78% to 21% lead among voters age 18 to 44 over Clinton. The younger O’Malley polls at just 2%.

On the GOP side, Trump and Cruz tied with voters age 18 to 44, each drawing 29%.

So, the networks are trying to attract the young voter demographic, while young voters overwhelmingly like a few of the older candidates. But, will younger voters actually vote? Their recent record isn’t reliable: Young voters turned out in big numbers in 2008 and then stayed home in record numbers in 2014. Did young Dems take a short nap in 2014 or have they turned their backs on democracy?

We don’t know for sure, but there is some bad news: Research by Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk shows growing disillusionment with democracy – not just with politics or campaigns, but with democracy itself: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

This growth is worldwide, but it is especially strong among young Americans. Fewer than 30% of Americans born since 1980 say that living in a democracy is essential. For those born since 1970, more than one in five describe our democratic system as “bad or very bad.” That’s almost twice the rate for people born between 1950 and 1970.

Foa and Mounk wrote in the NYT that political scientists are well aware that poll after poll shows citizens to be more dissatisfied than in the past. Yet they resist the most straightforward conclusion: that people may be less supportive of democracy than they once were. This raises a strange question: Could the political system in our seemingly stable democracy be heading for a fall?

Think about it. People say they like democracy less than they used to. While most Americans still have a deep emotional attachment to the Constitution, respect for the rules of our democracy are also eroding. The rise of politicians who are critical of key aspects of liberal democracy, like freedom of the press, or universal voting, or the rights of minorities, is even more disconcerting.

Citizens are aware of this disconnect. When asked by the World Values Survey to rate how democratically their country is being governed on a 10-point scale, a third of Americans now say: “not at all democratic.”

Let’s hope that this is a transient phenomenon. What explains the down-tick? It’s probably related to:

• Lack of optimism caused by stagnating incomes. This disproportionately effects the young.
• Rising income inequality, which effects all citizens.
• Attempts by the rich to game the political system, often through Super PAC donations.

In fact, the rich are now more likely to be critical of democracy than the poor. According to the World Values Survey, in 1995, less than 20% of wealthy Americans (those in the top income quintile) approved of having a “strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with Congress or elections”. Today, more than 40% support that view.

It’s not clear what young voters think is a better alternative to representative government, but who can blame them for not being enamored with their current political representation?

According to the US Census Bureau analysis of the voting population from 1964-2012 indicates a decrease in voting in all age groups, except for the 65 years and over group, who voted at nearly a 70% rate, while the 18-24 voted at 36% . But in 2008, 18-24 year olds did increase their numbers–the Obama factor.

Bottom line: If you want to make democracy work, you must get not only young people, but all the people who have given up on democracy involved again. But we cannot simply rely on charismatic individuals to help young voters awaken their political selves. We must restore their faith in democratic politics.

This is the very best argument for a Bernie-style political revolution.

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Can Democrats Win the White Working Class Vote?

Last week, Robert Reich asked a question: Why did the white working class abandon the Democrats?

Before we get to his answer, let’s look at a few electoral facts:

• In 1980, Ronald Reagan won 56% of all white voters and won in a 44-state landslide.
• In 2012, Mitt Romney carried 59% of all white voters, yet lost decisively.
• In both 2008 and 2012, Republicans’ best result was with white voters without college degrees. They carried them by 14% in 2008 and 26% in 2012.

Reich offers two answers: First, that the Republicans skillfully played the race card from the 1960s through to today. Reich makes the point that in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, segregationists like Alabama Governor George C. Wallace led southern whites out of the Democratic Party. And later, Ronald Reagan charged Democrats with coddling black “welfare queens,“ while George HW Bush accused them of being soft on black crime (Willie Horton), and all Republicans say that Democrats use affirmative action to give jobs to less-qualified minorities over more-qualified whites.

Reich’s second point is that Democrats have occupied the White House for 16 of the last 24 years, and in that time they largely abandoned the white working class, doing little to prevent the wealthy and powerful from rigging the economy for the benefit of those at the top. On the other hand, at the time Bill Clinton ran for president, the Democratic Party had lost three straight presidential elections and won only two out of the previous six. That political reality certainly had an effect on policy.

During the Obama years, Democrats did produce some weak tea for the middle class and the poor – including the Affordable Care Act, an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Reich goes on to indict our most recent Democratic presidents:

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama ardently pushed for free trade agreements, for example, without providing the millions of blue-collar workers who thereby lost their jobs any means of getting new ones that paid at least as well. They also stood by as corporations hammered trade unions, the backbone of the white working class.

Reich says that partly as a result of NAFTA, union membership sunk from 22% of all workers when Bill Clinton was elected president to fewer than 12% today, and the working class lost bargaining leverage to get a share of the economy’s gains.

Finally, Dems turned their backs on campaign finance reform. After 2010’s Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the floodgates to big money in politics were opened. Reich again indicts Democrats: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

What happens when you combine freer trade, shrinking unions, Wall Street bailouts, growing corporate market power, and the abandonment of campaign finance reform? You shift political and economic power to the wealthy, and you shaft the working class.

Can the Democrats earn back the working class voter? Well, when the dogs won’t eat the dog food, it may be time to think about changing brands. Any competent politician knows that. When 45% of the electorate claim to be independents, something is wrong with both parties. The White Working Class is being ignored by the Democrats and is courted by the Republicans, although with less and less success, unless you happen to think that Donald Trump is a Republican.

What has the wage earning class gained from the Democrats? Social and economic betrayal. From the Republicans? War and economic betrayal. They watch jobs disappear to Asia, and see increased competition from immigrants. Many feel threatened by cultural liberalism, at least the type that sees white Middle Americans as Christian bigots and 2nd Amendment fanatics.

But they are also threatened by Republicans who would take away their Medicare, hand their Social Security earnings to fund-managers in Connecticut, and cut off their unemployment.

These are the reasons why Sanders and Trump are able to compete with the establishment elites of both parties. But nothing in politics is ever final. Democrats could still win back the white working class. They would need to:

• Have a vision that would create economic growth that was not based on trickle-down
• Build a coalition of the working class and poor, of whites, blacks, and Latinos, of everyone who has been or is currently being shafted by the shift in wealth and power to the investor class and the salaried class

Will Democrats stop obsessing over upper-income suburban voters, and end their financial dependence on big corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy?

Probably not.

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Why 2016 Won’t Be Like Any Other Election

If we add together the polling numbers of Trump, Sanders and Cruz, it’s clear that a majority of the electorate is ready for a president from well outside the political mainstream.

Start with the Trump slogan, “Make America Great Again“. It’s the first time in Wrongo’s memory that an explicit admission that America isn’t so great has been heard in an American presidential election. In a world where American Exceptionalism is settled dogma, how and why can a Republican say “we ain’t so great”, and be so successful?

Of course, that same dynamic also drives the willingness of voters to support the Democratic Socialist, Sanders. Bernie offers a different solution to the economic woes that the two parties have inflicted on us in the 35 years since we elected Ronald Reagan. Now, a substantial and very motivated part of the electorate on both the right and left, is telling pollsters that something different has to be on the table.

The old electioneering rules won’t work. We are in a time of anger and anxiety. Republicans go for the emotional jugular every day, while establishment Democrats are still trying to make points with a mix of policy, pragmatism and feel-good idealism. Democrats will have to decide whether they see the current political landscape as an opportunity to free themselves of these old terms of debate, or take full ownership of them moving forward.

Regardless of the GOP candidate, emotion will dominate their argument for the White House. John Michael Greer had an insightful piece last week about ways to look at voter motivations in America:

The notion [is] that the only divisions in American society that matter are those that have some basis in biology. Skin color, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability—these are the lines of division in society that Americans like to talk about, whatever their attitudes to the people who fall on one side or another of those lines.

The axiom in politics is that voters in these “divisions” tend to vote as blocs, and campaigns are designed to bring the bloc to the candidate. That’s less true today. Greer takes a deep dive into today’s politics, suggesting the largest differentiator:

It so happens that you can determine a huge amount about the economic and social prospects of people in America today by asking one remarkably simple question: how do they [earn] most of their income?

He posits that it’s usually from one of four sources: returns from investments, a monthly salary, an hourly wage, or a government welfare check. People who get most of their income in one of those four ways have political interests in common, so much so that it’s meaningful to speak of the American people as divided into an investor class, a salaried class, a wage class, and a welfare class.

The old divisions, women, gay people, people of color, are found in all four income classes. Finally JMG has a killer thought: The political wave that Trump and Sanders are riding has roots in the answer to another simple question: Over the last half century, how have the four classes fared? The answer is that three of the four have remained roughly where they were. The wage class in particular has been destroyed. And the beneficiaries were the investor and salaried classes. They drove down wages, offshored production, and destroyed our manufacturing base. More from JMG:

I see the Trump candidacy as a major watershed in American political life, the point at which the wage class—the largest class of American voters…has begun to wake up to its potential power and begin pushing back against the ascendancy of the salary class.

That pushback could become a defining force in American politics. The problem with that viewpoint is that their desired change is anti-business and anti-middle-class. And THAT change is not acceptable to those who control our politics, most of whom are squarely in the investor and salaried classes.

And a Trump candidacy is not the worst form it could take. If Trump is sidelined by another establishment type, a future leader who takes up the cause of the wage class could very well be fond of armbands or, of roadside bombs. Like the Bundy Brigade on steroids.

Once the politics of resentment becomes a viable strategy, anything can happen.

Read Greer’s analysis. Think about how the salaried class attack on Bernie as “socialist” might actually play out for Sanders, assuming he could analyze and communicate what is really going on here.

Think about how Hillary Clinton might stumble over the problems of the wage class, given her fervid support from the investor and salaried classes.

The usual fight for independent voters using conventional wisdom will not succeed in this political cycle.

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Millennial Women Back Bernie

Today we continue our focus on the demographics of the 2016 presidential elections. We covered American millennials in December, and return to them again because a new USA Today/Ipsos poll finds that a third say they’re likely to vote in the Republican primaries, while 40% say they’re likely to vote in the Democratic primaries; 60% said they are likely to vote in November.

That means that 70% overall say they will vote in the primaries, but 10% fewer say they will vote in the general election. But that may be good news, since only about 50% voted in 2012, the same as in 2008.

The poll was taken just prior to the SOTU. From USA Today:

The top issue by far for millennials is the economy, including concerns about jobs, the minimum wage and paid leave. On that, millennials have the same pocketbook focus as baby boomers and Gen Xers.

An interesting finding was that voters age 18-35 are most likely to support outsider candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump:

Donald Trump easily leads the field among younger Republicans and independents, at 26%, but that is a lower level of support than the billionaire businessman now holds in the overall electorate. He is backed by 34% of GOP voters in the RealClearPolitics average of recent national surveys.

But among Democrats, there’s something of a surprise: (editing and brackets by the Wrongologist)

On the Democratic side, among the overall electorate in national polls, Clinton now leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by close to 20 percentage points. But Sanders [in our poll]…has captured the allegiance of younger voters. [He]…is leading Clinton, 46%-35%, among millennial Democrats and independents.

Taking a closer look at the Democratic millennial voter preferences, Sanders’s support breaks young: Among the 18 to 25 year-olds, Sanders has a big lead. Among those 26 to 34, Clinton has a small edge.

There are gender gaps. We know from other polls that Clinton leads among baby boomer women. In this poll, men under 35 support Sanders by 4 percentage points. But, millennial women back Sanders by almost 20 points. The possibility of electing the first female president apparently has less persuasive power among younger women than their mothers’ generation.

A big question is whether or not Democratic millennials will show up to vote for the party’s nominee in the general election, if Hillary Clinton is the nominee.

Other findings:

• By 80%-10%, those surveyed say the US should transition to mostly clean or renewable energy by 2030.
• By 82%-12%, millennials support background checks for all gun purchasers, and there was no partisan divide on the issue: 89% of millennial Democrats and 83% of millennial Republicans support gun background checks.
• By 66%-33%, millennials see police violence against African Americans as a problem, and 75% say the government should require police officers to wear body cameras.
• 47% say the US should commit ground troops to combat ISIS, while 37% disagree. But there is a partisan divide: 69% of Republicans support deploying ground forces; while a plurality of Democrats (45%) oppose the idea.
• 57% say they are optimistic about the future of the US; 34% are pessimistic.

The U.S. Census Bureau says millennials surpassed baby boomers as the largest group in the US voting-age population. Millennials do not peak in the US population until 2036, so they are going to be in charge of our politics for the next 25 years, assuming they turn out to vote.

As the Wrongologist noted in December:

In 2012, young voters were decisive in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio…Obama won at least 61% of the youth vote in those four states, and if Romney had achieved a 50-50 split, he could have flipped those states…

And been elected president.

(The survey was conducted online by Ipsos in conjunction with Rock the Vote last Monday through Thursday, of 1,141 adults between the ages 18 through 34. The credibility interval, akin to a margin of error, is plus or minus 3.5 %.)

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Who Has the Answer For 2016?

We have entered the presidential election year, but we, the people, really do not see any candidate as the answer to our problems. Voters on both sides of the aisle think the country needs to turn a page. We are frightened and angry, and increasingly feel that the two parties have no answers to our questions about tomorrow.

The Democrats say the choice is Hillary or Bernie.

The Republicans say we should choose between Trump, Marco, Ted or Jeb!

Consider what Tom Friedman said in Wednesday’s NYT: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The agenda that could actually make America great again would combine the best ideas of the extreme left and the extreme right. This year is probably too soon for such a radical platform, but by 2020 — after more extreme weather, after machines replace more middle-class jobs, after more mass shootings and after much more global disorder — voters will realize that our stale left-right parties can’t produce the needed answers for our postindustrial era.

Ok, agreed! Friedman argues that it’s time for an extremist, a nonpartisan, whose platform draws ideas from both sides. To give Friedman his due, he outlines a fairly radical agenda that includes universal health care, a form of income guarantee for low wage earners, increased military spending along with some unintelligible tax reform:

Slash all corporate taxes, income taxes, personal deductions and corporate subsidies and replace them with a carbon tax, a value-added consumption tax (except on groceries and other necessities), a tax on bullets and a tax on all sugary drinks — with offsets for the lowest-income earners.

A Value-added Tax? Instead of a progressive income tax? That’s the icing on Tom’s pro-business cake.

So he has some good ideas, and some that won’t work. That makes him the same as our two political parties. Much of the problem can be traced to the Democratic Party walking away from its intellectual base in the New Deal and the Great Society, and failing to offer better choices. As Sam Smith says:

It’s [the Democrats] failure to come up with alternatives, [while following] an agenda that appealed to comfortable and more upscale liberals rather than to ordinary Americans.

Bernie Sanders is a New Deal Democrat in “democratic socialist” clothing. He is the first democrat in decades to look outside the box for solutions to the problems our current economy visits on average people. It is unlikely that he will beat the Clinton political machine in 2016.

Hillary Clinton leads in the primary polls, but is she electable in the general election? No one should enter the 2016 general election thinking that HRC isn’t a vulnerable candidate. Democrats seem to forget that in 2008, she lost to a little known black guy with a minimal political record.

If voters are looking for a political savior, Hillary is more of the same middle of the road economics with a slight tinge of social liberalism that Mr. Obama offered.

The question is, has the country moved past that kind of “political triangulation” that Bill Clinton perfected in the 1990s? In 2008, Mr. Obama won as a new breed of politician. By 2012, with staunch legislative opposition from the GOP, he was triangulating to win a 2nd term. Can triangulation work again for Hillary?

Sam Smith points us to the age issue:

Nobody’s talking about this, in part because Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would each be the oldest presidents except for Ronald Reagan. But what if Clinton at 68 faces Rubio or Cruz, both in the mid-forties? It makes the image of a new future considerably harder to project.

He might add that Bernie Sanders is 74 now. Ronald Reagan was 78 at the end of his 2nd term.

So what’s the alternative? It is too late for 2016. Partly due to the strength of Hillary’s resume, the Democrats have no viable alternatives. If Ms. Clinton stumbles, the Democrats would be trying to win with Bernie Sanders, who might do well, but who could also make the George McGovern 1972 shellacking seem like a win. This is indicative of a huge problem for Democrats: It has no viable bench.

Assuming that Clinton is the Democrats’ choice, her liabilities could be lessened by treating the campaign more like a struggle between opposing parties instead of one between political celebrities. The argument becomes: if you want to retain Constitutional freedoms that are under attack by a conservative Supreme Court, if you want to keep Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other social programs, if you want less foreign adventurism, then you have to vote Democratic regardless of what you think of Hillary Clinton.

Despite the fact that many of us are desperate for something shiny and new, this contest is not a “Survivor” or “American Idol” TV series.

It’s the 2016 presidential election.

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Shouldn’t Democrats Be Doing Better?

Wrongo watched the first half hour of the Republican Debate. If you feel you must, a transcript of the whole debate is here. The focus was supposedly on the economy. Perhaps the funniest thing was that the media password for WiFi was “stophillary”.

You will be inundated with expert opinion about what was said and who the “winners” were, but none of that is important. All you need are the Wrongologist’s observations: First, the moderators couldn’t be trusted to offer a reality-based picture of the world, any more than the candidates. Maria Bartiromo asked Jeb about unemployment, saying that almost 40% of Americans are without a job and are not even looking. Really? Media Matters checked, and her number included children, retirees, college students, and stay-at-home parents.

Yep, Republican policies will get those kids and retirees into the workforce.

Regarding the candidates:

• There was oratory, little of which sounded informed
• Most denied basic facts about economic and jobs growth
• Most candidates agreed that nobody needs a minimum wage, much less a higher minimum wage
• They agreed we need a small government, but one that still can dominate the world

When a Republican says “small government,” they really mean making the government’s legal and regulatory arm ineffective enough to allow businesses to do whatever the Hades they want until something bad happens. Then Congress can say: “who could have imagined” like the morons they are, and ask the taxpayers to clean up the mess.

You would think that the debate performance by Republicans, and their relative lack of political experience, opens up a window for Democrats in 2016. It should, but Democrats may not be in a position to take advantage. Since the Reagan era, they have deserted the world view and policies that gave them an upper hand politically. They have left the New Deal and Great Society behind, and failed to replace them with anything that anyone thinks is worth getting excited about.

They have morphed into “Republican Lite.” Republicans don’t like Democrats because they won’t agree to the GOP’s fringe ideas on guns, climate change and gutting the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts.

Most of the rest of the country just doesn’t care about these new Dems. Some detest their support of abortion and gay and transgender rights. Democrats aren’t doing better because it is obvious that they have become what we used to call moderate Republicans, and why should right-of-center voters settle for the imitation flavor?

A pundit said last week that Barack Obama is only slightly to the left of Richard Nixon. Judge for yourself: Nixon instituted national price controls, ended convertibility of the dollar into gold, signed legislation that started the EPA, and endorsed the failed Equal Rights Amendment. Would Obama we know today have done all of those things?

Since 2008, Democrats have lost the electoral argument in the states. Republicans now control both houses in 31 state legislatures, and have gained 900 seats in those state legislatures on Obama’s watch.

That doesn’t sound like Democrats are following a winning strategy.

Bernie Sanders is attempting to help the Democratic Party rediscover who they once were. However, that re-discovery is not widespread, and may be occurring too late to be of service in this election cycle. If the re-awakening does not occur in this cycle, there is reason to believe that the oligarchs will have all the votes they need both in Congress and on the Supreme Court to ensure a semi-permanent reign.

So Democrats, the choice is yours: You can endorse centrist, middle-of-the-road issues, or you can represent the issues that the American people actually care about. If you go middle of the road, know that you’re putting the millennial vote in play, since they are a generation that, for the most part, remains politically independent.

This strategy may lead to Hillary taking the White House, but it will make taking back the Senate harder, and it will not reduce the Republican majority in the H0use.

Democrats need to do better.

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Waiting for the Great Trumpkin

Today, we focus on this from the WaPo’s Marc Fisher who profiles the kind of people who support Donald Trump and finds they are mostly older white men and women:

The way Joe McCoy sees it, the last time America was great was when Ronald Reagan was president, when people played by the rules. No, it was in the ’70s, Holly Martin says, when you could depend on Americans to work hard. No, to find true American greatness, Steve Trivett contends, you need to go back to before the Vietnam War, ‘when you could still own a home and have a good job even if you didn’t have a college education.’

Fisher says this demographic resonates with the Donald’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”. And even if they don’t agree on exactly why, they do accept Trump’s contention that the US has become “an economic wasteland” and that it is “committing cultural suicide.”

The premise behind “Make America Great Again” is that while the country is no longer great, it can be great again, and Trump is the can-do billionaire who can make that happen.

This can be difficult to watch, like a slowly-developing accident on the freeway. People seem so easily misled, and they say such unsophisticated things about immigration, about Putin and Syria, about our economy, about the threat from Muslims who live in America.

But do we have good Party establishment choices in the 2016 election? No, voters don’t have good, clear choices, despite the unprecedented number of candidates.

Republicans made their voters a bunch of promises over the past 10 years, some of which they had no hope of keeping, and others which they had no intention of actually delivering. It’s also clear that the Republican “Establishment” is frustrated with the Republican candidates, and their supporters who actually expected the Party to be more effective. That’s why so many Republican voters have no interest in Jeb Bush or Scott Walker, and it’s clear that the GOP Establishment misunderstands their own base.

So, Donald Trump appeals to many Republicans as someone who’s pretty effective at holding the media’s attention and driving the national conversation. Someone who looks to be a better bet to actually shake things up and make possible a few things that currently look impossible.

It might be a GOP Hail Mary pass, but what’s the alternative?

For Democrats, Hillary Clinton looks like the candidate who’s “turn” has finally come. She is a product of their “establishment” as much as Jeb Bush is of the GOP’s.

And is it really all that different that the progressive left looks to Bernie Sanders to create a “revolution” in the political climate, making a progressive America possible? Sanders may be more of a Hail Mary pass than Trump.

Since both parties suck and won’t work together, many on both sides are looking for an anti-establishment Messiah to lead them to the political Promised Land. What makes this risk seem worth it is that, while folks understand they’re inviting chaos, they feel our politics are already chaotic. So, people think “What’s the difference?”

And it’s hard to argue with them. American politics feels like a metaphor of Easter Island: Some of us spend our lives trying to get new trees to grow, while the majority are happy to keep chopping down the old ones as fast as they can.

Trump is saying if we vote for him, he’ll make it all better. And if you read Senator Sander’s stump speech, you’d know he is saying he can’t do it alone, that people have to get together and organize to effect change.

That is “a substantive difference” between these two “insurgents”.

That’s why Bernie Sanders’ use of the Democratic Socialist label is disorienting. It shakes people out of their normal process enough to wonder how he thinks he could possibly win. He can’t.

And the mainstream media and both party establishments say: “things really aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be.” They hope that in the end, most voters will agree with their sentiment, and vote for their establishment candidates.

But voters have spent decades lowering their expectations (in Wrongo’s case, except for a short-lived upswing in 2008). Screw that. People need to raise their expectations. Because lower expectations and the “what did you expect” attitude is essentially giving permission for poor results.

We need to expect MORE, demand more.

Because it’s better to have high expectations with the risk of disappointment, than it is to have low expectations that guarantee more of the same old stuff.

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