Year in Review: Early 2016

2016-yirEarly 2016 saw the presidential race go into full swing.  It seems like a lifetime ago, but the year started with Presidential debates, the most interesting being those on the Republican side.  16 men and one woman began their campaigns in earnest. The stage literally was not big enough for all of them, so was created the undercard debate.  One candidate, Carly Fiorina, emerged as the only candidate to earn a spot on the big stage with the true contenders. Meanwhile on the Democrat side, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-avowed Socialist caught fire with connecting with of all groups, the far-left leaning youth.  Iran became a campaign issue when the extremely dubious nuclear agreement went into effect, coincidently, four American hostages that were held in Iran were freed.  Later it would become apparent that their freedom had been purchased in the dark of night with unmarked bills.

Farewell Antonio ScaliaThe Executive branch was not the only branch to undergo far-reaching change. In February, the country lost one of its greatest jurists, Antonin Scalia, a conservative justice on a split Supreme Court.  Before the end of March, three different Republicans had won primaries, including several won by Donald Trump, establishing him as a serious contender for the nomination.  Bernie Sanders became the hot ticket on the Democratic side, stringing together early primary victories, showing that there would be no early coronation for Hillary.  Meanwhile, terrorism was set to rear its ugly head again in Europe.  The attack in Brussels, the capital of the European Union exposed the dangers of letting in millions of lightly vetted migrants and refugees from countries with serious terrorism problems.  Further attacks were to come, peaking in the middle months of the year.

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The faulty rational of persistent #nevertrump’ers

Election 2016While the primaries were in full-swing, it made sense for movement conservatives to speak out against Donald Trump.  He made many a comment that would have ended the campaign of any other Republican.  His statements about Senator McCain immediately turned off many a patriotic conservative.  He made statement after controversial statement and yet his popularity with the working man only increased.  His has policies were all over the political map, some being conservative, some to the left of even Hillary, mostly all of them populist.  He was outmatched in knowledge about foreign affairs by nearly all of his opponents.  His near absolute ban on Muslims was completely unworkable, but since then has been refined away from populism to pragmatism.  He’s also made it a point to surround himself with foreign policy and military experts.  Still, there were preferable alternatives who showed greater aptitude for conservatism, and who had nearly mistake-free campaigns.

Marco Rubio had great foreign policy credentials. Carly Fiorina also proved herself equal to any of her rivals in that department and focused like a laser beam on Hillary from the beginning.  Senator Cruz has the support of the Constitutionalists and had by far the best ground game of any of the candidates, rivaled only possibly by the Clinton machine.   This was to finally be the year of the movement conservative.  What none of them realized, was that the white, non-college educated working man had abandoned the Republican party two elections ago. With no popular support for so-called ‘establishment’ Republicans (read Jeb Bush) and young, intelligent candidates who could speak the language of conservatism fluently, this election was to be the era of Regan reborn.  The problem was, the average American spoke the language of not conservatism, but populism.   Trump, like his followers, feels free to cherry-pick from any political school of thought, conservatism, nationalism, populism, and even liberalism.  In short, Trump followed former Republican constituency to where it wanted to go.

Everyone knows the result, Trump won the nomination.  the #nevertrump crowd now had (and still has) a decision to make, reluctantly follow the new GOP standard-bearer, for all his flaws, or stick with Republican and  conservative orthodoxy. As Trump filled in the gaps of his foreign affairs and military knowledge, and softened on some of his more problematic stances on immigration, the opposition of many Republicans against him softened.  Little by little, Republican diehards resigned themselves to the reality that it was Trump or bust.  Others though, convinced of the certainty of a Trump loss, and fearful of down-ballot losses stubbornly dug in their heels on the subject of never Trump, even to the point of actively undermining his candidacy.

Reluctant, even stoic support for Trump is to be expected and understandable.  He is not the second coming of Reagan, but the first coming of Trump.  Those who insist on ideological purity won’t find it in this GOP candidate.  Those who had fought hard to rehabilitate the Republican Party’s image after losing virtually all of the black and most of the Latino vote four years ago find themselves besides themselves with frustration in their candidate.  He is their candidate though, and for all his shortcomings with regards to many conservative principles and a maddening lack of political sense, is still better for America in many ways then his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The key is to show that while Trump says controversial things, Hillary has done, time and again, many things that were deeply dishonest, maybe even illegal.  While Trump’s thoughts get him into hot water, Hillary’s actual deeds (or occasional lack of) have gotten Americans killed or put in jeopardy.  While critics can theorize about Trump being bad, we have proof positive that Hillary would be worse.  Evidence of her corruption is well documented.  We don’t have to wonder how she would govern, she would turn America into her own personal fife, and we her serfs, existing only to provide her and her sycophants  with wealth.  On the subject of Supreme Court appointees alone, there is no real choice for the constitutionalist that wants a Scalia type justice on the Court.

There is no chance of Trump being replaced as GOP nominee, any talk to the contrary is pure fantasy. There is no realistic chance of someone not from the Republican or Democratic parties becoming our next president.  Even if the #nevertrump crowd could come up with a candidate with the financial means to do so, it’s too late to get him or her on the ballot in many states.  So why does anyone claiming to be a Republican seek not to simply withhold support, but actively act to undermine his campaign?  They are ideologues, but ones who fail to understand that under a Hillary presidency, none of their conservative initiatives will come to be.  Clinton will enact her liberal, even socialist policies.  If she can’t get her agenda done under a Republican Congress, the Democrats will appeal to the American sometimes pathological need to just “get things done” regardless what that actually means.  Republican control of Congress his hardly guaranteed.  Democrats are already counting on the fact that the Republicans were put into power on Capitol Hill for the express reason of stopping the liberal Obama agenda.  Whatever political victories Hillary can garner, she will lock in by appointing active judges and an ever-growing, compliant regulatory machine.

The never Trump crowd has fooled themselves that in four years, they will get a do-over if Trump loses and finally undo the Obama/Clinton agenda.  It won’t happen, what they dont’ realize is this election may be the last one for America as a true constitutional democracy.  The next election, should Clinton win, will be more like those in the democratic-socialist countries of Western Europe– mere referendums on how quickly or slowly to descend into the socio-economic oblivion, and who will go out on top. The fact is, regardless of how much the conservative true believer would rather not, there is no real choice when it comes to any meaningful governmental reform.  There is only one candidate that will appoint justices that will respect the letter and spirit of the Constitution.  There is only one candidate with a pro-growth agenda, only one candidate that will turn America away from an otherwise certain, yes certain, move toward a single-payer healthcare system.  Like it or not, the only viable choice, for all his shortcomings, is Donald Trump.

There I said it.

Quick Thoughts 5/3/16

Easy come, easy go- out west.

Election 2016For the last couple of weeks presidential candidates have lavished attention on the Northeast.  Now the so called “Acela Primary” is over, the Northeast won’t see much of the candidates until June.  One June 7th, NJ will be one of the last states to hold a primary and it will mean something.  Don’t expect a lot of visits from GOP candidates to the Garden State though, they are already campaigning in California where the mother load of remaining delegates resides.  The Democrats want to spend time in a blue state, so seeing Bernie is a good bet.

Cruz-Kasich alliance?

The Cruz-Kasich alliance is better termed a mutual non-aggression pact. It’s true that Kasich didn’t call for his supporters to vote for Cruz to stop Trump in Indiana, but he did pull his operation out of Indiana in favor of more fertile grounds in Washington and New Mexico.  Some in the media were quick to call it a failure, the truth is we won’t know until those states vote, starting on Tuesday.

Fiorina on the ticket

On Wednesday, fresh off of a string of defeats in the northeast, Cruz stole a page from Trumps playbook and took control of the news cycle by coming out with a major announcement. That announcement was that he was naming Carly Fiorina as his running-mate. Fiorina was possibly the best possible choice- as she was already vetted and solidly on the Cruz team.  The job of a running mate during the election is to go after the opposing candidate.  That’s something that Carly has been doing since day one.  What’s more, she’s pretty good at it and can go on attack against Hillary Clinton without fear of the ‘war on women’ line being used on her.  Carly also has an organization in the state of California, a state that Cruz must do good in.  It was in the end, Cruz’s only move to prevent non-stop coverage of his five losses the day before was to name Fiorina as his VP, but it was a good one.

 

The Northeast Enjoys the Primary Spotlight

PHILADELPHIA-  The Northeast finds itself in unfamiliar territory, in the presidential primary spotlight.  On Tuesday five states:  CT, DE, MD, PA, and RI will all hold meaningful primary elections.

Ted Cruz Philadelphia

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA attracted two GOP hopefuls and hundreds to two separate events in the span of a week.  On Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) made an appearance, holding a rally that also featured former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.

On Sunday, the National Constitution Center held another event– Fox New’s America’s Town Hall.  Several hundred people attended the event that attracted the likes of Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) and via satellite, Senator Cruz, who was campaigning in Indiana.  The candidates took questions ranging from matters of national security to college tuition assistance from audience members and from online followers.  Though mainly a GOP partisan crowd, the candidates did take questions from Democratic voters.

John Kasich
John Kasich, (R-OH), presidential candidate
America's Town Hall Phila
PHILADELPHIA- Hundreds gathered for a town hall meeting hosted by Fox News.

The presidential primaries are usually settled by the time many states in the Northeast vote.  This year is different, this year each of the United States will figure into the nomination of both GOP, and to a lesser extent, the Democratic candidates.  This means frequent visits from candidates from both the parties.  Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders along with current Republican front runner Donald Trump have all held events in the Northeast.

Dr. Carson and the Golden Rule of Debating

GOP DebatesDr. Carson had the funniest line in the Thursday night’s GOP debate.  After being largely ignored, and during a spirited exchange between his fellow candidates he begged, “Can somebody attack me please?” to an amused audience.  The levity provided a needed break from an otherwise intense debate.  His question also was symptomatic of a chronic problem of his, a lack of understanding of how presidential debates differ from the academic kind.  Academic debates are measured, well controlled affairs.  Presidential debates are media events. Even so, they have rules, some apparent and official, some less apparent and unofficial.  The same rules that work for Trump, Cruz, and Rubio work against the good doctor.

The debate rules are deceptively simple.  The candidates are asked a question, then have a certain length of time for their response.  Typically, if another candidate on the stage is mentioned in the answer, that person is allowed a response.  Naturally, a smart candidate loves it when one of his opponents mentions him or her because it gives them an additional opportunity to speak.  Ben Carson is no different, which explains his ironic protest at not being attacked.

Another irony is that the answer to Dr. Carson’s problem could be a basic Christian tenant, one that he knows well. He has yet to apply its application, albeit in a novel way perhaps, to his present situation.  That rule is:  “Do onto others as you would have done to you.”  It is understandably not an obvious connection for him to make, that for him to be attacked, and thus get an opportunity to respond, he must attack himself.  His attacks need not be gratuitous like Trump’s, or biting like Cruz’s but he does need to call out his opponents by name where he disagrees.  He can do it civilly or at least in a way that’s not off-putting, Rubio effectively walks that fine line using his sharp wit.  Fiorina did it by likening her opponent’s stance to one of Hillary’s or President Obama’s, then providing an alternative view.

Think of the premise of almost every question, the formula going something like this:  “Candidate X, candidate you said this about candidate Y last debate, do you stand by your remarks?”  Yes, it is often a transparent attempt to pit one candidate against another for the sake of drama.   It is a simple proposition—if you’re a candidate on the debate stage and want to speak, you want to be either candidate X or Y in that question. We are ten debates in, the eleventh is around the corner in Michigan.  Maybe he has yet to make the connection between calling out opponents on the stump and the reception of debate questions, maybe he thinks himself above such things.  If it is the former, he needs to figure it out in the course of a roughly a week.  If it is the latter, the old saying may unfortunately prove true yet again, that “good guys finish last.”

GOP Candidates Get a Second Chance to Debate Economic Policy

GOP DebatesLast time, the moderators from CNBC made themselves the story.  They succeeded in uniting the GOP field against them.  It was a good night for those who were quick on their feet, those who excel at the debate format.  For those who wanted an opportunity to get their message on policy out to the public, they were largely denied much of a chance.  As a vehicle for getting substantive discussion out, the third debate fell way short.  Tuesday the Republicans get a redo of sorts in front of a panel of FBN and Wall Street Journal questioners.  Many of the questions that existed before the last debate still remain, and a few new ones present themselves.

Some of those questions to keep in mind as we watch will be:

Will John Kasich get a chance to actually explain how he can put his vast experience to work fixing the economy?

Can flat tax plans be defended to moderators who know the numbers as well as the candidates?

Will Donald Trump show patience and wait for an opponent attack him?

Will Jeb finally land a blow against Marco Rubio?

How will Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee who have been in the prime time debates up until now, fare against unfamiliar opponents during the 7:00 PM debate?

Will Carly Fiorina be able to improve upon past strong debate performances?

Will Bobby Jindal do better against stronger opponents?

How will Cruz and Carson do without biased moderators as foils?

Tuesday’s debate promises to be a far cry from the last one on CNBC. The moderators can be expected to ask tough, but fair questions on the nation’s finances and the economy.  They won’t make themselves the centers of attention as did the previous group.  With this debate, as the last one being on domestic affairs, it will serve as something of a redo for the candidates.  Will they take advantage of this second chance?  The prime time debate will have feature fewer candidates, allowing for more time to respond to questions.  Who will that hurt and who will it help?   The ‘undercard’ debate will have a different mix of characters, it could provide for a fresh start for some of the participants.  As usual this election cycle, expect the unexpected– at least from the Republican field.  The headlines on Wednesday morning will be anybody’s guess.

Results: GOP Debate Predictions

GOP DebatesNow the third debate is over, how were my predictions?  Let’s see…

  • Marco Rubio will demonstrate a command of domestic policy. He did, and demonstrated that he’s better at this debate thing than Jeb Bush.
  • Trump attacks on Ben Carson will fall flat.  He’ll have better luck against Jeb. John Kasich drew fire away from Carson and Bush.
  • Carly Fiorina will attack Hillary like a pit-bull. We expect no less. Her performance was as advertised.
  • Cruz will split his time between attacking Hillary, Obama and the Supreme Court.  He might find time to take some shots at Mitch McConnell. Cruz had to cut short his attacks on the Court and McConnell to demolish the smarmy CNBC moderators.
  • John Kasich will actually be a factor because of Ford bringing back jobs to Ohio from Mexico.  He might even get a sound-bite.  (You heard it here first!) Kasich tried, but Trump did his usual “counter punch” thing to him.