Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Deep Breath Before the Plunge, February 2016 Edition (Updated)

Just keeping up with a few tidbits to tidy up and report on:

The long national nightmare folly of having goddamn wingnuts seize a federal wildlife refuge in the middle of winter has ended at long last. The four remaining occupiers - with the last one flipping his lid on a live feed going into the tall grass of conspiracy-mongering - surrendered themselves to federal agents during today.

These were the insurrectionist terrorist jokers who started a revolution and forgot to bring enough snacks and warm socks for the duration.

In hindsight, the way the FBI handled the situation turned out to be the correct one: rather than go in guns blazing, or set up a massive perimeter grid in a grand show of force, the feds allowed the would-be militia "heroes" set themselves up for glory and trip over their own ineptitude. Knowing these guys wanted to be turned into martyrs, the government agents went the other way and stood back to avoid direct conflicts.

In a way, it worked. The occupiers kept staging weird press conferences and went out of their way to bully/frighten the locals, eliminating any good-will and nationwide support for themselves. Meanwhile, the FBI kept close enough surveillance on them, and when the time and location was right - on a deserted mountain road - they moved in to arrest most of the leadership, leading to only one death of the insurrectionists. From then on it was a matter of time before the remaining wingnuts surrendered.

As a bonus, insurgent-daddy Cliven Bundy - he of the unpaid grazing bills and racist outrage - got pinched at the airport flying in to support his kids Ammon and Prince John Ryan. Now he has to answer for those millions in unpaid fees and for threatening to shoot people over his "god-given right" to be a jerk to his neighbors and the citizenry at large.

I was one of those shouting about the double-standard that law enforcement was setting: whenever it's Blacks or minorities protesting in the streets - even peacefully - the cops show up in force and make confrontations inevitable, leading to dozens wounded and communities broken. Here's the thing, law enforcement: you have a model example now of how to handle protests, through surveillance and arms-length distance to keep the peace while any potential anger fizzles out. It's a model that reduces violence and calms the public mood, and it should be used in the cities as much as it's been used in the remote mountains.

Speaking of law enforcement needing to learn better policing from this, this week the Department of Justice brought the hammer down on the city government of Ferguson MO filing civil rights charges in order to enforce policing reforms there.

There had been ongoing negotiations between the DoJ and the city council up until this week, when the council voted to get certain previously agreed provisions changed to the city's favor:

Ferguson’s city council members voted unanimously on Tuesday night to accept the Justice Department’s proposed reforms only if federal officials agreed to seven changes, which included: changing the deadlines in the agreement, not mandating any salary increases for police officers and altering certain fees.
The Justice Department quickly disparaged the city council’s actions as an unfair development after extensive negotiations. Gupta, who heads the department’s Civil Rights Division, vowed that the federal government “will take the necessary legal actions” to reform the city’s courts and policing practices.
I've written before about how damaging bad policing is on communities, and we as a nation are well overdue for law enforcement reforms that would practice Soft Power policing that they used in Oregon.

A place that might need Soft Power policing is within the ranks of the Democratic voters. The consequences of the New Hampshire primary have been a growing squabble between Hillary's backers and BernieBros over endorsements, which is making both sides look like inconsiderate jerks to those of us outside of the party. What the hell, kids, try to remember the real threat here is Rush Limbaugh Bill O'Reilly Sean Hannity the majority of Fox Not-News staffers the Koch brothers Donald Trump Ted Cruz Marco Rubio Jeb Bush John Kasich and/or All Of the Above. I'm with John Cole on this, people. Stay focused on what matters: keeping the Republicans out of the White House and with any luck kick them out of Congress.

In state news, the Florida Legislature is bringing out competing budgets from the Senate and House, with neither budget fulfilling Rick "No Ethics" Scott's desires for even more tax cuts and handouts to businesses, which is a nice touch but is bound to rub each chamber the wrong way. We may yet see another state government shutdown of embarrassment and uncounted costs.

And in other news, Marco Rubio reportedly broke a tooth when he bit into a frozen Twix bar.

...A frozen Twix bar.

Dammit, Rubio, even here in Florida, we put the candy bars in the FRIDGE part of the refrigerator and NOT the FREEZER part. Okay?! OKAY?!?! Jebus, you earned that broken tooth being a damn moran like that. You couldn't even tell how cold and frozen that Twix bar would be?

And he wants us to trust his judgment to serve as President?!?!

Okay, that's me ranting for the night. Good luck, America.

Update 2/12/2016: Just because I have nowhere else to put this and it'd be a waste of a new post, but Jim Gilmore just didn't want to be kicked around anymore. The number of other political commentators weeping in the passing of his campaign is around 2 and 3/5ths. I'm finding out from David A. Graham here that Gilmore did indeed get just 12 votes in all of Iowa (I just usually joke about that, who knew), wow that actually is impressive. Anyway, we're down to five official victims - Jeb, Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, Carson - of the Trump Will Kill Us All Tour, seeing how South Carolina will shred the likes of Kasich and Rubio...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What If: Bernie Wins The Democratic Nomination?

Before I get into the meat of the title, I just want to note for the Republican Dead Pool that Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie are now out of the race. This leaves the list of victims to:

Trump
Cruz
Rubio
Jeb?
Kasich
Carson
Gilmore

I never viewed Carly as a viable candidate - she was a failed Senate campaigner and her CEO history was a disaster as well - so I'm not surprised she parted after New Hampshire. Christie is a slight disappointment: after punching Rubio into submission - and likely tanking Rubio's chances - he still didn't have enough left to campaign on and was facing harder chances the rest of the primary. Christie's departure is welcome news for the Jeb and Kasich campaigns, as whatever slim numbers were backing the Joisey governor now need another candidate to follow among the "Establishment" names (I doubt Rubio could appeal to them).

Now, that said, let's look at the "What If" question I'm posing tonight. Bernie Sanders won big in New Hampshire, far better than the pundits were expecting and with polling numbers - he's cornering the college/young professional vote and doing better among women than expected - that trend towards positives that can't be ignored.

This is a legitimate question now: What if Bernie Sanders won the Democratic nomination?

If he does so, he becomes the most liberal, Left-leaning candidate put up by the party since Dukakis. In some respects - but not all - he skews far more Left as a self-proclaimed Socialist than Dukakis, Mondale, or McGovern... which are candidates for the Presidency you don't hear the Democratic leadership talk much about because they kinda flamed out (there's are reasons why centrist-leaning candidates like Carter, Clinton and even Obama - who was more pragmatic than progressive in 2008 - won since the New Deal Era).

It will happen because of something that's also happening to the Republican Party much to their chagrin: A level of anger among the voting base that stirs rebellion against "establishment" candidates. There's been a slew of articles about it, but I'll go with this one from Salon.com by Jack Mirkinson:

If you look at basically any other Western democracy, you shouldn’t be too surprised that Hillary Clinton and the unappetizing mush that is Kasich/Bush/Rubio are having such a rough ride. The world is reeling from tectonic demographic and technological changes, along with the rot of oligarchical rule and continual warfare, all of which have driven the politics of country after country into great upheaval. America is no different...
Clinton is hoping that she doesn’t meet the same fate, and she probably won’t, but the scale of her defeat in New Hampshire was quite a thing to behold. This is where the particulars of who is running begins to matter very much. She lost to Sanders in virtually every demographic category, including women—and the mix of voters who powered her 2008 victories deserted her as well. Young voters went for Sanders by a crushing 84-15 margin. Most damning, 91 percent of Democrats who told pollsters that their top concern was honesty and trustworthiness voted for Sanders. Those are bruising, brutal numbers.
Clinton’s biggest hurdle—beyond the specific hurdle that comes with being a woman and carrying around 25 years of toxic political baggage—is that the very world she occupies is suddenly a deep liability for her. The Clinton who casually took reams of money to shower Goldman Sachs with praise was a woman who likely never assumed that any candidate or voter would hold that against her so vehemently. But that’s what’s happening...
For all the strengths Hillary has - years of elected and administrative experience -she still has the weakness of having played too close to business and financial institutions that gave her money and access. Those deep-pocket forces may help her pay for campaigning, but those forces are hated among the Occupy Wall Street crowds that now make up the Democratic voting base.

Sanders may have some links to these deep-pockets as well, but he's not as recognized for it and so has more room to dodge the implications. It helps him that he's been more vocal about going after the big banks than Hillary has.

Despite her front-runner status... Hillary is still Hillary. She does have Unfavorable numbers that can hurt her during another long, bruising campaign. And she doesn't tolerate failure very well.

So... what if Bernie gets all the Enthusiasm?

First off, he'd have to keep campaigning well through a series of states that are more Moderate-Centrist (read: Deep South and Appalachin) than the Northeast states. As Harry Enten from FiveThirtyEight points out:

...Sanders has yet to demonstrate strength in a state whose electorate isn’t more than 90 percent white. Nevada and South Carolina, the next contests, don’t look anything like Iowa or New Hampshire. Only 65 percent of voters were white in the 2008 Democratic caucus in Nevada, and only 43 percent were in South Carolina.
Polling has indicated that Sanders trails among nonwhite voters by nearly 40 percentage points nationally. Although no reliable recent polling is available in Nevada, Clinton leads by 30 percentage points in both of our South Carolina forecasts. In the latest Marist College poll, she’s buoyed by a 74 percent to 17 percent lead among black voters. Sanders must cut into that margin if he wants to have any chance in South Carolina or anywhere in the South.
You could already see how Sanders might have problems in Nevada and South Carolina even as he was crushing Clinton in New Hampshire. Despite winning the state by more than 20 percentage points, the best Sanders could manage among registered Democrats was a tie. His large margin came from registered independents who voted in the Democratic primary. You must be a registered Democrat to vote in the Nevada caucuses, though you can register as one the day of the election. In 2008, 81 percent of Nevada caucus-goers self-identified as Democrats. Just 58 percent of New Hampshire voters on Tuesday thought of themselves as Democrats...

There are still opportunities for Hillary to rebound: the primary system still favors her over Sanders.

Second, there is still the fear among Democrats about going too far Left on the spectrum to where they could scare away the non-Party Moderate voters. I noted earlier that Left-leaning candidates got clobbered over the years, especially after the Civil Rights and Great Society years of LBJ. The DNC leadership has to be terrified of a Sanders campaign - already pushing for a universal health care platform with trillions of dollars tied into it - wrecking them much in the way Trump's anti-immigrant campaign is making the Republicans headdesk in frustration.

In Bernie's defense, the younger generation that is making up his greatest support are skewing that far Left in response to a Far Right domestic agenda that has alienated them. In another FiveThirtyEight article, the polling is showing greater numbers of 20-something and college-age voters having a favorable view of socialism. While they don't outright support socialism in practice - income redistribution isn't that popular among the young - they're not terrified of it.

I actually predicted this bit, years ago. That the Republican Insult of Choice for anyone Far Left - Socialism - was losing its effectiveness due to its abuse, and that history was making it obsolete as a new generation grew up:

We are getting, right now (2009) with this year's set of 18-year-olds, the first generation of college students and the first generation of voting age that DOES NOT KNOW THE COLD WAR on any personal level. When they were born, Gorbachev was on his way out. The United States was the sole superpower on the planet with any conceivable military, economic, political, and cultural mojo. Cuba was this island off of Florida with a constant supply of decent baseball players swimming over, with a graying old man in charge who could be viewed more as a run-of-the-mill dictator than a Communist propangandist. Okay? We're talking about the first generation ever who learned about Communism (and its cousin Socialism) IN THE PAST TENSE. Trust me, from my memories of high school history studies: Anything older than ten years in the history books is ANCIENT HISTORY. This is a generation of 18-year-olds who grew up learning how COMMUNISM FAILED. To them, it's not a threat. It's not even a joke. It just... is. Like feudalism, or mercantilism, it's just things to study. How can you terrify a generation with the boogeyman specter of "Socialism" when they've never even experienced it?

If Sanders wins the nom, it is going to be on the backing of a large group of young voters deciding as a bloc in a way few previous generations have. Even Boomers - a massive generational bump - were arguably more divided. This generation - Millennials - are coming of age with the bleakest future of low-paying jobs and massive college debts any young voting group have ever faced, with little sign that the leadership of either party - including the Democratic party that at least speaks to their social activism on gay rights and gender equality - is going to do anything about their key issues any time soon. They can't trust Hillary: her coziness to the financial leviathans that wiped out the economy in 2007-08 makes them wary.

But what would this all mean in the part of the election that matters: the General election where all voters of all ages come into play?

Whereas the Republicans are facing the great risk of alienating a vast majority of non-Party voters if Trump becomes their nominee, the Democrats are facing a lesser risk. As Peter Beinart noted in The Atlantic last month, the nation - despite all the Far Right noise screaming that claims otherwise - is noticeably shifting Left on the political spectrum. After 40-plus years of a Right shift - started by Goldwater, achieved by Reagan, destroyed by Dubya - the country is reacting to the failures of the Republican Far Right insisting on tax cuts that don't work and a foreign policy that pisses off our allies.

Where the Republicans risk the likelihood of Trump alienating half their own party with his reactionary Nihilism, the Democrats are facing the likelihood of Sanders making Far Left Progressivism - maybe not as far as Socialism in the purest sense - palatable. It helps that Sanders could position himself in ways the moderate non-Party voters would accept: as an experienced, competent leader in opposition to Trump's bullying celebrity persona.

As for the fears that a Sanders Presidency would fail to achieve any goals or promises, as John Cole points out at Balloon Juice if Congress remains under Republican control - the House remains likely - that's a moot argument:

A lot of people surprised by the youth vote for Bernie and then dismissing his policies as unattainable seem to be missing a few things. First is that with a Republican House and Senate, everything Clinton and Sanders propose is pie in the sky. Fer fuck’s sake, the House broke tradition this year and isn’t even going to pretend that Obama is offering a budget... 
So dismissing the Sanders proposals as uniquely optimistic or unattainable makes me think that the harsh realists uttering said statements don’t have as harsh a grip on reality as they think they do. They won’t work with Obama, so I have no idea why some of you think they’re going to work with “Hitlery”- you know, the person they have been savaging for what? Four decades? How could Sanders be worse?...
Basically, the Democratic voters are realizing that there won't be any real difference between Hillary in the White House or Bernie: the Republicans will still play a game of obstruction and ruin because that's how the Far Right rolls, son.

Bernie winning the nomination can only be a problem if - and only if - the Republicans are able to run a nominee who can truly appeal to Moderate-Centrist voters who matter in the General Election... or if the Republicans can repress voter turnout through cheating... or depress voter turnout through massive negative campaigning.

The first option is unlikely as a Browns Super Bowl appearance right about now. The "Moderate" candidates like Jeb (ha) or Rubio (HA!) or Kasich (meh) are failing with no sign of improvement. The odds are favoring either Trump (AUGH) or Cruz (AUGH) as the nominee. The second option is likely as the GOP has been pushing the excuse of voter fraud - that they can't prove - to shut down likely Democratic voters, and the third option of mudslinging has honestly alienated enough voters to shy away from elections to where turnout can barely break 50 percent of the population.

In that scenario, a Bernie Sanders nomination means the Democratic Party has to - HAS TO - push ever harder for Get-Out-The-Vote efforts. They kind of have to do that with Hillary as well - her burden is an Unfavorable polling number that could scare away potential voters - but in Bernie's case it is going to be a brutal necessity.

They'd also have to pray like hell that the Republican nominee is Trump or Cruz: the stark difference between the candidates would be a positive to the Democrats.

Personally, I'm still undecided between Hillary or Bernie. I am set on voting Democrat regardless of candidate, because my apostasy against the wingnut-mad Republican Party makes it impossible to back ANY of them - even Kasich, the one-eyed king among weak/insane Republicans - in the General Election.

I just want the Democrats to nominate their candidate for all the right reasons: practical, thoughtful, with an eye towards social justice and better wages with better jobs.

We'll see.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

New Hampshire 2016 Primary: Panic at the GOP Disco

So, the current situation in the primary vote with New Hampshire stands as thus:

Bernie Sanders is clearly winning the Democratic ballot. Kinda expected, as New Hampshire Democrats will share basic genes with progressive New Englanders. The question going ahead for the party is how the other states next on the list - Nevada and South Carolina - will stick with Hillary Clinton as the national media starts playing up the Bernie vs. Hillary trout-slapping.

The Republican ballot is a bit more troubling, because Trump is in well enough a lead to claim victory (barring outright shifts in the later precincts against him, which is unlikely) and able to do so with double the percentage of the Second Place guy Kasich.

Why is this troubling?

Because it pretty much syncs with the way the polls leading up to New Hampshire were playing out.

Based on the numbers tallied by RealClearPolitics.com within this month, Trump had been polling in the 30 to 34 percent range, which is where the results are putting him. Kasich has been polling about where he's ending up in the 14 to 15 percent. Jeb Rubio and Cruz, vying for Third at the moment, are in the 12 to 10 percent range as the polls predicted.

This is a sign that the Likely polls = Actual voters. New Hampshire is one of the early states that CAN mock the polling in one or two cases, but if they're matching up, the later states are likely to match their polls as well.

This is a problem with Republicans because of three things:


  1. There is still no clear Establishment candidate for the Party to back vs. Trump or Cruz. Rubio wasn't able to build on his Iowa Third Place Finish, and now Kasich has the Big Mo... for this week.
  2. Cruz is not going away. If Trump falters, there's every likelihood the Trump supporters go to Cruz (as he shares similar philosophies and anti-Establishment cred).
  3. Trump has a win now, and vindication, and every reason to believe the polls favoring him in other key states - South Carolina, Florida, Ohio - will match the results in New Hampshire.


If the Republican Party leadership isn't openly panicking by tomorrow morning's news cycle, they should be. Referring to Matthew Ygelsias at Vox now:

Their most recent bout of wishful thinking concerned the Iowa Caucuses, where they managed to convince themselves that Trump finishing second and Marco Rubio finishing third represented a huge triumph for the forces of the establishment. But after tonight's results in New Hampshire, the truth remains the same: Trump is winning.
I don't say that Trump will win. He might not! But for him to lose, someone actually has to beat him. There is no automatic process through which he deflates, and no winnowing magic through which he can be defeated without someone actually taking the trouble to defeat him...
...The establishment's consistent dream, ever since Trump rocketed into a national polling lead, has been that consolidation of the "establishment lane" candidates will lead eventually some someone from the Rubio/Bush/Christie/Kasich foursome taking a strong lead. The problem for the establishment is that New Hampshire is the only state where this would have actually worked. Had supporters of those four men all united behind a single candidate, he would have won.
But they didn't...

Without a clear opponent, without a clear opposing platform within the party that the Establishment candidates could rally, the Republicans are stuck with Trump in the lead... and a likely chance he does get the delegate counts to win outright.

This is a problem because of what Trump represents: the worst of political indulgences, willingness to pander to primal fear and anger, a lack of respect for anything outside of his interests, personal habits of bullying and insults, and all-out willful ignorance.

And Trump's followers love him for it.

Trump's followers are hard-core haters: against Mexicans and Hispanics, against Muslims, against government, against a lot of things. For them to have a candidate available for full support in a general election is a terrifying prospect. Terrifying for the nation if Trump is able to sell that rage and fear to enough Americans to tear the United States apart: Terrifying to the Republican Party if Trump fails and drives enough moderate and centrist voters into the arms of the Democratic Party for decades.

Trump winning does not mean the nation is winning. And more people need to realize that.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Playing With the Electoral College Map: February 2016 Edition

There's an interactive map site called 270towin.com that tracks the key element of the Presidential elections: the Electoral College.

The thing about Presidential elections was that to give states more input into the voting process, the Founders designed the election to matter by how many states you won rather than the whole overall popular. That way, the candidates wouldn't have to pander to just a handful of big-population states, they'd have to pander to a few of the smaller states to cross the finish line.

This can still cause some problems. Say for example, one candidate goes and wins over every voter in California at 38 million voters while the opponent gets most of the remaining states but at slim leads, leading to the first candidate getting 62 million total voters to the second candidate losing the popular vote at 54 million... yet winning all 49 states gives that second candidate ALL those Electoral votes for a decisive win. It's been a problem due for major reforms for a long time, even before the debacle of 2000 that showed the College's flaws.

Nonetheless, it's the system we have, so the parties play to the states.

Which is why the candidates tend to behave the way they do. First and foremost, they need to confirm the states that are already in their pockets.

The Democrats are going to ensure that the states who voted for Obama in 2012 remain to their side in 2016: as long as they secure those states they already win. Getting more states to turn Blue would be a bonus (and generate stronger argument about a Mandate). As a result you're likely going to see a more cautious, pragmatic, moderate-toned campaign.

Republicans have to be more aggressive: they have to turn about three or five major Blue states to their side to secure a win, which means they need the likes of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia to turn. But at the same time they can't lose ANY states already Red, which is possible in places like Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina and Texas where the demographics are inching further Left. That aggressive campaigning is going to involve a lot of Dem-bashing, because negative campaigning to reduce voter interest is a sadly effective means of getting states on or near Toss-Up standings to tilt your way.

Here's what 270towin has as their Toss-Up map right now, where the colored states are "confirmed safe" for the appropriate Party:


I am a bit surprised that the likes of Colorado and Pennsylvania would be toss-ups: there's a sizable Democratic contingent in those states with more urban, Left-leaning voting blocs. I'd have Georgia more of a Toss-Up state due to the demographics (state is skewing younger and more professional as Atlanta grows as a major urban market).

I'm not surprised Florida is a Toss-Up: God knows which way the voters will act this year.

In my humble opinion, right now the states Obama won in 2012 are about as safe for Democrats as could be. There is a risk that the wrong candidate (Hillary in certain cases, Sanders in others) could depress Dem voter turnout. However, the way the Republicans are acting right now in the Primaries, I can't see that many moderate/independent voters switching to Red. I just can't.

And if it's Trump as the main candidate for the Republicans - with his anti-immigrant, Mexican-bashing platform - I honestly see states like Florida and Colorado staying firmly Blue, with the likelihood of places like Arizona and Texas switching parties (if the Republicans lose Texas, they lose the whole match because the only other big state to balance is California... and the Hispanics there still haven't forgotten what the Republicans did in the 90s).

So if the election in 2016 ends up being, oh, Hillary vs. Trump, the map is gonna look like this:


Granted, I'm not polling people or a full-bore political pundit expert living this stuff 24/7, but I'm setting this as a complete rejection of the Republican Party if Trump's anti-Hispanic campaign plays all the way into November. As many Mexicans and Hispanics in states like Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Texas, Florida and Georgia are going to go full Dem much like Black voters have done since 2008. I've got UTAH switching Blue because the Mormons are doing a lot of outreach and community-building among Latinos, and even they can turn against the Republicans on this issue despite being very social-conservative on other issues. I don't see any 2012 Blue state turning Red because of Trump.

I have Kansas, North Carolina, and Louisiana turning Blue because of intrastate controversies revolving around corrupt or inept state Republicans mismanaging those states.

In my prediction, Hillary wins against Trump with 432 Electoral votes to his 106 (!), with 34 states backing her. It'd be one of the biggest Democratic wins since LBJ pummeled Goldwater in 1964.

Against any other Republican, as long as that Republican candidate pulls back from a harsh anti-immgrant stance, Hillary might have a harder fight. Say for example, it's Hillary vs. Ted Cruz:


Cruz's outreach to the Evangelicals will net him Virginia and Iowa back (there's a sizable Christianist population in those places) but that's about it.

And if it's Sanders as the Democratic candidate? Against Trump, it'd be the same map as Hillary's: Trump's anti-immigrant stance is that destructive. Against Cruz, it'd look a bit like this:


Sanders' Far-Left stance - his push for universal health-care especially - isn't going to win over a lot of Red states where "socialism" is still a four-letter word. More conservative-leaning Blue states might switch. Florida becomes a battleground state again: it could go either way (I have it barely staying Blue thanks to enough emigre voters from the North making it more Purple than Red).

Once a clearer picture of the Republican race is made, and an obvious candidate in the forefront, we'll have a better idea how the Electoral race is going to turn out.

Of course, the key thing for Democrats is GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT. Elections matter.

What Happened At Last Night's GOP Debate

With the New Hampshire primary vote coming up this Tuesday February 9th, we're about to get more crazy results from an increasingly disturbing Presidential campaign cycle.

Whereas the Iowa Caucus can get discounted, the New Hampshire vote is a more serious affair: the mechanics of a primary is more streamlined compared to a caucus and so the results are more clear, and New Hampshire's voting bloc - more libertarian than religious conservative - counters the results Iowa gives towards social wingnuts.

That said, the two parties hosted one more debate round this past week. With the Democrats now whittled down to two - Hillary and Bernie - it made their debate last Thursday easier to follow, and despite the attacks between the two over policy differences there was at least a sense of comity.

About the Republicans' debate this Saturday night?

Ye Gods.

Never mind the confusion that happened during the introductory walk-out, the debate itself was a disaster.

On the bright side, the debate opened with Marco Rubio - the anointed Savior of the Establishment who "won" Third Place in Iowa - getting his prepped spiel shoved back down his throat by an alert Chris Christie. Rubio's habit of reading off and repeating the same line "Let's dispel this notion..." over and over - a nice trick for campaign rallies but foolish for a live debate - got called on by Christie who noted such platitudes don't resolve specific issues, and that leadership involves showing up and making decisions (an open attack on Rubio's poor attendance at the Senate). When Rubio's reply was the exact same line he keeps giving, Christie interrupted with glee: "There it is! There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody."

Twitter is an unforgiving and cold reality. #RubioGlitch and #RoboRubio hashtags spread like wildfire.

You have to give props to Christie, who needed to punch his way upward this debate to find any traction to build his flailing campaign back from the brink. He's still stuck somewhere in fifth or sixth place, but if he can impress the state GOP voters that he's got the leadership skills - the advantage a governor-candidate has running for President - he could move up to OH BOY the coveted THIRD PLACE every pundit likes.

Either him or fellow governor-candidates Jeb Bush or John Kasich. Jeb! apparently convinced the pundit class that he was still sober, and Kasich didn't say anything offensive which convinced the same pundit class that he was still sane.

But the entirety of the debate revealed serious psychological and intellectual flaws for the entire Republican Party. As Will Saletan notes at Slate:

The disaster, the blame game, and the establishment’s surprise at what’s happening are related. Since President Obama’s election, the GOP has abandoned its role as a national governing party. It has seized Congress not by pursuing an alternative agenda but by campaigning and staging votes against anything Obama says or does. The party’s so-called leaders have become followers, chasing the pet issues of right-wing radio audiences. Now the mob to whom these elders have surrendered—angry white voters who are determined to “take back their country” from immigrants and liberals—is ready to install its own presidential nominee. The Trump-Cruz takeover is the culmination of the Grand Old Party’s moral collapse...
...Republicans no longer have a policy agenda. They have a scapegoating, base-stoking agenda. Their economic plan is to blame legal immigrants for the demise of upward mobility. Their social policy is to defund the nation’s leading birth-control provider and promote disobedience of court orders. Their foreign policy is to carpet-bomb Syria, insult the faith of our anti-ISIS partners, and void Iran’s pledge to abstain from nuclear weapons production...

I've mentioned it before on this blog: for all the talk about how the Republicans were "fielding strong candidates" this election cycle we're getting a lot of wounded ducks instead. Every potential candidate has serious flaws that would - not could - cripple the GOP's chances in the general election.

There are several reasons Trump is polling in the lead - STILL even after finishing Second in Iowa - and one of them is the fact the entire Republican field is terrible.


  • The Designated Front-Runner in Jeb! turned out to be terrible at campaigning, period (and wasting PAC money to boot). 
  • Pundit favorite (from 2012) Christie turned into a bully with unresolved and REAL scandals trailing him. 
  • The latest Pundit favorite Rubio has no legislative record he can run on (even mentioning his own failed efforts at immigration reform hurts him). 
  • The crowd favorite Carson has no elective or political experience at all, and his lack of knowledge involving the issues can underwhelm.
  • The candidate performing best this early phase of the primary cycle is Cruz, who panders best to the evangelical base but has alienated his own party's leadership to the point open rebellion could happen if Cruz wins. Cruz's scheming and abrasiveness has made him DC's Guy That Nobody Likes.
  • Token female candidate Carly Fiorina came in with huge baggage as a failed CEO of HP and made it worse by lying so much about Planned Parenthood even fellow anti-abortionists ignore her.
  • The Only Sane Candidate Kasich has a track record that looks great on paper for a general election, but has made enough moderating moves such as backing Obamacare that the Far Right base of the GOP won't vote for him in the Primary.
  • Gilmore? Gilmore hasn't dropped out yet?
  • All topped off by TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP, a massive blowhard with no elective experience whose policy positions are scatterbrained except for the one he's keyed on: a hard-right anti-immigration agenda that would drive 99 percent of the Hispanic vote out of the GOP with no guarantee of picking up any other voting bloc to compensate.


And remember, these are the ones who haven't dropped out yet. That's a field including the likes of Perry, Walker, Jindal, Huckabee, Pataki, Graham, and Paul. Some of them with impressive resumes but bigger flaws that drove them out early.

And all of these candidates are touting a Republican platform of massive tax cuts for the rich and the corporations, defunding a popular health program in Planned Parenthood, pushing an unrealistic foreign policy of "bomb everybody", and a deregulatory agenda across the board that would privatize our schools, public utilities, and social aid programs that we've seen will collapse into chaos without said regulations. There's honestly very little distinction between each candidate's positions on those issues: all that's left to decide on are the personalities, and that's no way to choose effective leadership.

It's a choice between flawed people. From a political party promising another Big Reagan, all they are offering the electorate this 2016 are a bunch of Little Nixons.

There are no grand leaders of bold vision - no Roosevelt, no Rockefeller, no Goldwater, no Kemp, not even Bob Dole - among the Republicans anymore. The party is made up of hollow men (and women) who follow right-wing media talking points rather than carve out and create solutions. Because creating solutions would take initiative and daring (and bipartisan effort), and nobody wants to risk alienating their voting bloc.

Even the real Richard Nixon was able to lead on issues, taking surprising action on various matters (Nixon To China) and working with his political opponents in Congress. His political descendants, his lesser children - the ones who follow his footsteps in the wake of his personal implosion over Watergate - can't even comprehend how to do that.

This is a serious question:


  • Can you picture what it would be like in 2017 if our President was Jeb? We'd have a rehash of his brother's administration, the same players who caused our woes of 2001-2008.
  • Can you picture a Trump presidency? An internal war of mass roundups and deportations among a ton of civil rights violations as he pushes the anti-immigration policy he campaigned for.
  • Can you picture a Cruz presidency? Having campaigned on an evangelical agenda, Cruz will likely shred the First Amendment and the Constitution's No Religious Test rules, and go about carving a Fundamentialist Christianist "utopia" that will put blind faith as policy over all.
  • Can you picture a Rubio presidency? How can you: he hasn't done anything of merit to go by. He's been so robotic and empty-suit a candidate that if he does get into the White House he'll likely disconnect from setting policy or any activity, leaving it all to others while he enjoys the perks of the office and none of the accountability.
  • Can you picture a Christie presidency? Just take the worst elements of the Nixon administration - the backroom bullying - and turn it public.
  • The only candidate who even looks like he could form an administration with bipartisan and forward-thinking policies - based on his track record - would be Kasich... and even he will get hamstrung by a party platform that will dictate no deviation from massive tax cuts.


Not to mention what our foreign policy will look like regardless which Republican goes into the White House. Our stance of "bomb bomb bomb" in the Middle East will alienate even our staunchest allies - UK, France, Germany, India, Japan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia - and the entire world could conceivably come up with plans to sanction and isolate the United States. They've openly debated in the British Parliament about banning Trump from traveling to their nation due to his racist Mexican-bashing.

The scary thing is that the way our electoral system is geared, two major political parties will have to offer up a candidate for the White House this 2016.

And one party - the Republicans - are doomed to offer up a Tyrant-In-The-Making, someone obsessed with a harsh Far Right domestic agenda at odds with an increasingly Left-leaning and progressive nation.

This is getting serious, people.

I dread how this is all going to play out in my home state of Florida. We're due to get the ad push any day now, with our Primary just one month away...

Blogroll Amnesty This Weekend

You might notice that this blog gets occasional traffic from other blog sites.

Every so often, Crooks and Liars will link an article I wrote to their Mike's Blog Round-Up, for which I am thankful.

I've recently noticed that Infidel753 has added links to his weekly roundups on his site.

There's also this annual Blogroll Amnesty, and this year Batocchio at his Vagabond Scholar site added me to his list.

So I need to point out, as this is the Internet, LINKS are everything around here. They link to me, I link to them, people can follow through those links to new and exciting places that offer up drink recipes and NSFW comments about crazy Republicans.

I try to keep up with the Links column I keep over to the right --> of my blog site, and I encourage you to click through and see what the thoughts of the day are at those places.

If you know of any decent blogs I should add to my site - something of shared interests - please post a Comment reply below or else Twitter me @PaulWartenberg with a link. Please and thank ye.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Honest Bumper Stickers 2016: Plan 9 from Utter Waste

While we've lost a few targets to these Honest Bumper Stickers this campaign season - Did I ever do a bumper sticker for Santorum? WAIT, I did, so I'm good - there's still a healthy pack of victims for satire, mockery and disdain that I can aim at this weekend.

Consider this my lead-in to watching the New Hampshire primary in utter horror (link to Driftglass who may cover the debate again because he's that much of a masochist).









 



Wednesday, February 03, 2016

There's Now Leg Room In the GOP 2016 Clown Car

When last we left our intrepid wingnuts, Iowa happened and with it being the First Round of GTFO for anyone polling lower than rock fungus, we were due for a few of the underwhelming performers to bolt for the nearest exit with their hopes dashed and their flowing tears lapped up by social media taunters who enjoy the fresh taste of schadenfreude in the morning.

On the eve of the Iowa Caucus itself, we had Huckabee slinking away to see about getting his job at Fox Not-News back, with Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley just not even getting the media attention of his departure. Meh.

Today, we opened up with Rand Paul suspending his operation and just a few hours ago Rick "Don't GOOGLE ME" Santorum packing it in as well.

This means we need to update the GOP Dead Pool at this very moment, which may change tomorrow if more candidates drop out:

Perry (September 11)
Walker (September 21)
Gilmore
Santorum (February 3)
Pataki
Paul (February 3)
Graham (December 21)
Christie
Fiorina
Jindal (November 17)
Carson
Huckabee (February 1)
Cruz
Kasich
Rubio
Trump
Bush (note: technically still alive)

So far, I would have lost the bet with Jindal leaving way earlier than expected with Graham also departing before the likes of Santorum (who had been polling for ages well below any threshold of recognition this cycle).

It's interesting to note that Fiorina has fallen into minuscule numbers and had even committed the sin of not even showing up for her own Iowa party. If I had to redraw the Dead Pool list I'd move her to the top alongside Gilmore, who apparently hasn't gotten the memo that people still don't know who he is. Dammit Jim, you're skewing the spin!

On the other hand, the clown car candidate list has shrunk itself down to nine names, which could allow for the upcoming debates to invite all of the candidates on-stage. However, the party - and the cable channels - are likely to shrink the major all-star lineups from their current 7-8 debaters down to a more manageable 6, forcing the lesser three - currently Gilmore, Fiorina and Christie/Kasich - into the kids'-table debate. They wanna drop a hint or twelve to the lesser mortals to clear out and let Rubio secure Third Place behind Cruz and Trump.

Who you got fleeing for the greener pastures of the Sunday talk show circuit?

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Surviving Iowa 2016

So this is a thing that happened, and tends to every four years.

Everybody gets hyped up about Iowa, skews the results of the caucusing to fit their narratives, and quickly march onto New Hampshire to skew the results of THAT ever further.

The only things we should note from these early caucuses and primaries are who drops out of the races when it becomes obvious they don't stand a chance to even show up at the summer conventions as a cover band playing outside the arenas. In this case, the Democrats lose Martin O'Malley - who clearly wasn't going to steal anything away from Hillary and Bernie - and the Republicans lose Mike Huckabee - who lost the evangelical support to the likes of Trump (?) and Cruz (!).

I am surprised in Huckabee's failure in particular: in an election cycle in which the uber-religious voters have more sway than ever before, Huck had lost their interest to fresher Bible-thumpers like Cruz. It could be that the anti-gay, Culture-War message that was Huck's patented formula didn't contain enough bile towards immigrants, or towards the Establishment that Huckabee became a part of during his interim as a Fox Channel show host. This was a guy who in 2012 polled best among GOP candidates versus Obama, yet refused to run: either knowing Obama really wasn't that weak the way the Far Right kept painting him as, or else he got complacent about being that Fox Not-News host. Hindsight hurts a lot (for him, as an Obama acolyte I couldn't be happier)...

On the bright side, this can be the last time I mention this fraud of a preacher/politician who threatened the Separation of Church and State and whose hypocrisy about Christianity became insulting.

As for the Democratic race, it's pared down to the bare essential: a campaign between the Centrist forces that have led the Democrats to the White House in 1992 and 2008 - Hillary - and the Progressive, socialist forces that have been rising up against the outrages of Wall Street and income inequality - Bernie. O'Malley may have been an impressive candidate on paper, but so were Hillary and Bernie, and we've seen before that Democratic voters prefer transformative figures like Obama over "traditional" political figures like Biden in 2008. And despite the heated rhetoric on Twitter and social media between Bernie Bros and I'mWithHill forces, the two sides are amicable at least (knowing who the real enemy will be after summer) regarding who can win their primaries.

In terms of the "big" winners last night: There was always a possibility Ted Cruz could win in Iowa because he speaks the language of the Social conservatives who dominate that state, but there's no guarantee he'll win over the more Economic conservative base that holds sway in New Hampshire. Trump will remain Trump, as he still holds impressive polling leads everywhere else: the argument was going to be if the polling numbers matched the reality at the ballot boxes, to which the answer is "Mostly accurate." Rubio is being hailed as a winner in the coveted Third Place, placing better - at 23 percent - than the polling suggested and positioning himself as the Establishment standard bearer - for now - that the anti-Trump anti-Cruz forces can rally to.

I still can't see Rubio lasting the race: his flaws will get more notice now, New Hampshire may be a stumbling block as Kasich has been polling well there.

The interesting thing for me is turnout: in 2012 barely anybody showed, but 2016 Iowa had near-record attendance. The enthusiasm of the party base is higher than expected, and bodes ill for the Republican Establishment as the ANTI-Establishment candidates (Trump/Cruz) are the ones likely driving that uptick.

Also, I watched a great episode of the X-Files last night. I might link my review of it here later.

Just remember kids: For the LOVE OF GOD don't vote Republican.