Thursday, October 22, 2015

Way to Go, Republicans. You Just Elected Clinton as President.

The Republicans accomplished something very significant today in their Benghazi hearings (we listened to about 6 hours of it driving to Florida). By their shameful political treatment of Hillary Clinton and her amazing endurance and patience, they may well have guaranteed her nomination as the Democratic candidate and election as the next President.

As a Democrat who prefers that our nominee not be Clinton, all I can say is, way to go, Republicans. Way to go.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Donald Trump: Wild Card

Donald Trump keeps surprising us, just like a wild card should.  Just yesterday, he got everyone stirred up over his contretemps with Jeb Bush, concerning 9/11 and whether Jeb's brother 'kept us safe'.  In the news media (or at least those things I saw), Trump again got the better of his political opponent.

This has been Trump's pattern so far as a Presidential candidate.  When he counter-punches a competitor's comment, he either knocks them down or says something so outrageous and funny that it's entertaining and you almost don't take it seriously.  Either way he comes out on top.

This man is definitely sui generis, unlike any other politician that I can remember in my life.

When he declared back in June, like everyone else I didn't really take him very seriously.  My sense at the time was that there were three basic reactions to him:  you found him entertaining, you found him outrageous and offensive, or you really, really liked him.  I found him funny, while my wife found him outrageous.

Now, 4 months later and he's on top of the Republican polls, where he's been since the beginning.

Donald Trump is stirring the pot like no one else has in a long time.  Oh yes, there have been the 'flash in the pan' Republicans, starting back in 2012, who rose for a couple of days or weeks to the top of the pile and then shrunk back down out of sight.  Just off the top of my head, you had Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and probably others as well.  All the while this was going on, Mitt Romney was hovering at the number 2 spot just biding his time.

It looked like the same thing was going to happen this year, and to some extent it has.  Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and at the present moment, Ben Carson, have all their moments of glory and spotlight, when it looked like they might be capable of moving into the top spot.

But only Donald Trump has been number one and stayed number one, contrary to all the political pundits.  Trump is giving them, one and all, fits.  And just the other day, on FOX News Sunday, the host Chris Wallace made what was almost a confession when he said something like "I think this guy can win the nomination."  And that kind of remark and admission began to heard all other the TV and the internet.

So what to make of this Trump phenomenon?

While his critics love to make fun of him as a 'reality TV star' or as a 'clown' or a dozen other derogatory names, the reality is that Donald Trump has a lot of personal attributes that make him a formidable political candidate.  Let me list a few.

He's fabulously rich, first of all.  He doesn't need to beg and scrap for money, like the other candidates do. And so while the others are out doing fund raisers or calling rich donors on the phone, he's doing public rallies and forums, or relaxing at home (at one of his dozens of properties), tweeting out responses to various pundits or opponents.  All of which gets him far more media attention than any of the others.

Then he is both smart and fast on his feet.  He can spar verbally with anyone and usually comes out on top.  He is entertaining and funny, as I mentioned earlier.  He is, most definitely, high-energy!  In these things, he reminds me of the boxer Mohammad Ali.  All of which is a winning combination in this media and celebrity age.

Trump knows the business world and, surprisingly, he knows the political world pretty well too.  Perfect example of this, he boasts about being invited to the wedding of Bill and Hillary's daughter.  Or he talks about lobbying Jeb Bush down in Florida when he was governor.  In other words, he has run for decades in the elite circles of New York, the US, and the entire world really, and he knows how it all works.  And he doesn't hesitate to talk about it openly and honestly in interviews and debates.

Trump is candid and outspoken, willing to be both frank and plain-spoken in his comments.  People like that, and in general will give such a candidate a lot of latitude to say outrageous things.  Trump has made any number of statements that might have doomed the average candidate, such as his 'McCain not a hero' remark, or his early statements on immigration.  But he remains on top.

Donald Trump is basically a pragmatist, not an ideologue.  And that, in the Republican field of candidates, is a most refreshing thing.  I think that it makes him appealing to a certain niche of the party, plus also attracts independent voters.  Americans historically like pragmatists in general (which could well be Bernie Sanders' undoing, for example, in the Democratic Party).

Let me end this here, because this post is going on too long, and I'll have further opportunities to comment on Trump as this campaign season goes along.  Clearly Trump has his problems and drawbacks that he'll have to overcome.

But I have to say, Trump has been such a wild and winning card in this political season, that he's upsetting everyone's conventional wisdom as to what is going to happen.  This is going to be interesting!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bernie Sanders, Socialism, and Young People

Here are some possible reasons that younger voters don't seem to fear the term 'socialism' when uttered by Bernie Sanders (or, more likely, interviewers asking him questions, since Sanders really doesn't use the word himself)....

First, most young people are, well, young enough to not really have been traumatized by the Cold War between the US and the USSR.  In fact, most of them came of age after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and what little they do know about Communism must seem like ancient history to them.  'Socialism' is not really a dirty word to them and certainly doesn't seem to conjure up nightmare visions of gulags and secret police.

Second, what young people know of our vaunted capitalistic system hasn't exactly filled them with confidence in the glories of free enterprise.  To be more specific, they have lived through two rather difficult economic crises, the Internet bust in 2000 and the far more serious Financial Crash of 2008. The Great Recession of 2008 is still not over really and has left millions of folks struggling with unemployment, lower wages, inadequate retirement savings, and uncertain expectations for the future.  Europe has struggled as well, with the Eurozone struggling to hang together.  Meanwhile China (until very recently) has been economically growing like crazy, under a Communist Party, of all things!

Third, young people don't know what the future holds.  Climate change is something that most of them believe in, and it fills them with dread as they see it happening before their eyes.  And most of them (unless they work for government or have gotten rich in Silicon Valley) don't know how to both have a decent standard of living and save for their retirement.  Pensions such as my generation knew them are mostly a thing of the past (again, except in some government jobs), and figuring out how to replace them with 401-K accounts, etc. is definitely not easy.  So the safety net of Social Security, Medicare, and other 'socialist' type government programs begin to look a lot better for a providing a little security in their hoped-for old age.

Fourth, young people these days travel all around the world.  They've been to Europe, they've been to the 'Third World', they've been to Asia, and these experiences have taught them that, while the US is a good country, there are plenty of other good countries and good cultures that have different economic and political systems that can work just as good as ours.  Young people today don't fear differences or diversity, they seek it out.

So, for these reasons (and probably others as well), young people don't fear the idea of socialism.  Therefore, many of them are being drawn to the political egalitarian idealism, the conviction, and authenticity of Bernie Sanders.