Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hey Bernie Supporters, Get A Grip

Dear Bernie supporters, I know this is going to sound strange coming from me, but, in the words of William Jefferson Clinton, I feel your pain. As a Mets' fan, I know what's it like to invest everything you have only to be disappointed. It's maddening to lose. That's why we cling to hope even when there is none. The term "it's not over till it's over" was invented just for us. You may think the song "Tomorrow" was about a little girl named Annie. Actually, it's really our national anthem.

But facts are facts, no matter how painful they might be. And no amount of wishful thinking or praying is going to change them. I know you believe with all your heart that Bernie Sanders is going to win the Democratic nomination and I know how passionate you feel about him. I can only imagine what that must be like. And I can appreciate how difficult it must be to hear Hillary supporters gloat. It's kind of like how we feel when Yankee fans rub our nose in it.

But as someone who has had his bubble burst on more than a few occasions, I feel it is my civic duty to break this grand delusion of yours. Why? Because the longer you hold onto it, the more painful it is going to be at the end. Trust me, I once thought a team that consisted of Steve Henderson, John Stearns and Craig Swan was good enough to contend for the pennant. By year's end, however, they were dead last in the league. As Mork would say, "Reality, what a concept."

So, with that in mind, let's begin the journey out of denial and into reality. I thought the best way to accomplish this was to compile a laundry list of things that all of you are clinging to and won't let go of.

1. Bernie is going to win the Democratic nomination. While technically that is still a possibility, much like a team in last place is still mathematically alive in August, the reality is that it almost never happens. The few times it does usually involve the first place team collapsing. And while I know Bernie supporters are insisting Hillary is going to do just that, the likelihood of that happening is quite remote. The fact is the bulk of Bernie's wins, while impressive, have come in caucuses, and there are only two of them left on the calendar. Hillary is heavily favored in the majority of the remaining primaries.

2. Obama didn't overtake Hillary in '08 until June. That's factually untrue. He overtook her in February. It was she that narrowed the gap with a late surge in June that fell 62 delegates short. Since she won the South Carolina primary this year, Clinton has been in the lead; a lead that at one point swelled to over 300 delegates. By comparison, Obama never came close to such a lead. Yet, he still won the nomination.

3. Bernie is more electable in the general, therefore he should be the nominee. The former point is debatable; the latter irrelevant.  While his supporters site polling that shows him way ahead of Clinton in head-to-head matches against Donald Trump, none of those polls mean all that much at this stage. In fact, it won't be until after the conventions that we see any meaningful polling for the general election. And as for the claim that Bernie should be awarded the Super Delegates because of his electability, Hillary tried that argument in '08 against Obama. It didn't work for her either.

4. There is a giant conspiracy by the media to deny Bernie the nomination. This is pure garbage and evidence of something almost pathological. The man has been drawing thousands of people to his rallies since last fall and the media has covered virtually all of them. The reason he's not ahead is that more people are voting for Clinton; in fact over two million more. They aren't part of this giant conspiracy anymore than the media. They just soberly looked at the issues and decided she was the better candidate. That's called voting, and it goes on all the time in Democracies.

5. Hillary is a Wall Street crony who has betrayed every liberal ideal. Really? Hillary has one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate and, unlike Sanders, who gives a lot of good speeches but hasn't done much in almost 30 years in Congress, she actually has a list of accomplishments. Yes, she has a Super Pac. So does most of Washington. I've got some bad news for all of you: Until Citizens United is reversed, Super Pacs are here to stay. If you have a problem with the few million dollars Clinton's Super Pac has raised, just wait until you get a load of the money the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson are going to throw at this election. Your heads will spin.

6. Hillary voted for the Iraq War, therefore she's disqualified. Actually, she voted for the authorization to use military force. Read the speech she made on the Senate floor. Like most Congressional leaders, Clinton thought the Bush Administration would use the authorization to coerce Saddam Hussein into letting the UN inspectors back into his country. Saddam, we were told, had weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Bush lied the country into a disastrous war that destabilized the entire Middle East. That wasn't her fault. But if it's votes you're interested in, how about the one Bernie made protecting gun manufacturers from criminal prosecution? Fair is fair.

7. Hillary's "we must bring them to heal" comments were truly offensive to African Americans and reveal a cold and uncaring nature about the plight of minorities. Yes, she's so in dutch with the black community that she's only getting 75 percent of their vote. If you'd bother to read the entire transcript, you'd know that she was referring to gangs that had connections to drug cartels. You can watch the video here if you like, assuming you can keep a relatively open mind. I'll admit, as Clinton has done, that her choice of words might've been inappropriate and that the crime bill in retrospect had profound consequences for the African American community, but taking a portion of a video out of context is equally inappropriate and deliberately misleading. Anybody remember the "you didn't build that" brouhaha? Same thing, different issue.

8. Hillary supported the TPP, then she flipped. Well, you've got me there. I thought it was a tactical error for her to backtrack on the treaty, especially since she was such a vocal supporter of it. But even here, your argument has no merit. It wasn't NAFTA that killed all those jobs in Ohio and Michigan, and it won't be the TPP that destroys future ones. Like it or not, the world has changed over the last several decades. America can't go it alone or impose restrictions or, as Trump suggests, tariffs on imports from countries we don't like. A lot of our economy is based on exports and it would be devastated if a trade war were to happen. This isn't just a conservative mantra, it's good old-fashioned horse sense and progressives like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren would do well to at least consider it.

9. Hillary and Trump are basically the same. Are you fucking out of your mind? The former supports a woman's right to choose, wants to eliminate voter suppression laws, will nominate Supreme Court justices that will protect civil and gay rights, and believes that global warming is real and will enact environmental regulations that will curb carbon emissions; the latter is Mussolini with a terrible hair piece. If you honestly believe there is no difference between these two candidates, or, even worse, think Trump might be a better choice, as actress Susan Sarandon recently did on MSNBC, you're not just delusional, you're psychotic.

10. Hillary has to give in to Bernie's demands in order for his supporters to back her. So now you're resorting to blackmail. You do realize that this is the same tactic Tea Partiers employed in an attempt to get President Obama to give up his healthcare law in '13 and they made fools of themselves doing it. It's kind of ironic that for all the contempt you have for Hillary, she never demanded a single thing from Obama in '08, nor did her supporters. And keep in mind, she lost by only 62 pledged delegates and got almost half a million more votes than he did.

11. If Bernie isn't the nominee, I might not vote, and if I do I'm going to write in his name or vote third party. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. Let me just be frank here. Any one who doesn't come out and vote for Clinton in November is by default voting for Trump. Period! There is no third choice in a two-person race. Staying home or voting for a candidate that has no chance of winning isn't a protest vote, it's the political equivalent of pissing in the wind. This is how children behave when they don't get everything they want under the Christmas tree. Well if Trump ends up becoming the next president, you can tell yourself all you want that you voted your conscious. We all know who and what you are and what you helped wrought. And you will have to live with your decision for the rest of your life.

It's time for all of you to get a grip. Bernie Sanders has had one hell of an impressive ride and he's contributed a great deal to the political discussion during this campaign. It's highly doubtful Clinton would've moved as far to the left as she has without him in the race. You should be proud of him; moreover you should be proud to be progressives, as I am. But pride and ego are two different things.

At some point this marvelous ride will come to an end and we will all have to come together to support the party's nominee. Eight years ago that nominee was Barack Obama. I seem to remember a lot of hurt feelings within the Clinton camp that year. They got over their hurt and voted for Obama, not because they thought he was the better candidate, but because they knew that the greater good was retaking the White House. Soon all of you will get the chance to do the same thing, only this time you'll be working to ensure the White House doesn't fall into the hands of a raging lunatic who makes George W. Bush look like a Rhodes scholar.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Weekend At Bernie's

So much for netting only 20 delegates. One week after having a "good" weekend, Bernie had the weekend of his political life. He swept all three state caucuses by convincing margins. The biggest haul was in Washington, where he took 73 percent of the state's 101 delegates.

This was the win Bernie has been looking for ever since he took Vermont, and it couldn't have come at a better time for him. With the upcoming schedule looking daunting, Sanders needed a strong showing not only to keep his supporters energized, but to keep his nomination hopes alive. Over the last week, he has shrunk Hillary Clinton's delegate lead from 306 to 230. That lead should shrink even more when the balance of the delegates from Washington get apportioned.

Wisconsin is up next and it is a state Sanders desperately needs to win. At present, he's still trailing by 6 points, but the demographics favor him. If he manages to win, even if only by a small margin, he will have some serious momentum going into New York. And he will need it. The RCP polling there shows Clinton with a very sizable lead. Indeed, the rest of the calendar heavily favors her.

Which makes the decision by Sanders to actively campaign in New York puzzling.  Why on Earth would he waste precious resources in a state he has no chance at winning when there are states he could actually turn, like Pennsylvania. Even though Clinton has a huge lead there, most of that is due to the support she's getting from the Philadelphia area. The rest of the state is open and contestable if Sanders puts up a fight.

If I were his campaign manager, immediately after the Wisconsin primary I would move him into the state and shuttle him back and forth between Scranton in the northeast, Harrisburg in the central and Pittsburg in the west. I also would schedule a rally at PennState. In fact, I wouldn't let him leave the state until the polling was within the margin of error. Of all the large states remaining, Pennsylvania is the one Sanders could most likely steal. If it's delegates he's looking for, the Keystone state is the best place to pick them up.

It's time to face facts. While Hillary has had a number of missteps in this campaign - chief among them was the ridiculous comments she made about Nancy Reagan leading the charge against AIDS - Sanders has suffered from a lack of strategic planning. Put simply, he's been all over the map. Instead of focusing his resources where they can be the most effective, he's spread himself a little too thin.

Case in point, after his stunning upset victory over Clinton in Michigan, Sanders, rather than build off of that momentum in Ohio, another important Rust Belt state, decided for some unknown reason to move down to Florida, a state he was trailing badly in and had no chance at winning. While he was doing that, Clinton went on the offensive and buried him in the Buckeye state. And Florida? Oh, yeah, she cleaned his clock there too.

Part of this is due to a lack of experience. Sanders has never been in a presidential race before, whereas Clinton has. Indeed, she's learned a lot from her '08 loss to Barack Obama. She's actually borrowing his play book and adapting it brilliantly. While Bernie continues to draw large crowds at his events, Hillary is piling up more votes, two million more in fact. And while he may have more cash on hand than her, he hasn't spent it as wisely. Buying ads in states where there is no reasonable chance of winning just isn't smart. If you've got that kind of financial advantage, you're best move is to saturate states that you can win. That would force Clinton to spend money she doesn't have defending those states.

Here's what I would do. I'd pick three or four states that I thought I had a chance at that I was trailing. Then I'd triple the ad buys in those states. The states I would choose besides Pennsylvania are Maryland, California and New Jersey. It still might not be enough but it would be significantly better than what Sanders is currently doing. If he persists in this present strategy, he's playing right into Hillary's hands.

With all due respect to Sanders and his supporters, Clinton is winning the states with the most diverse populations. She is winning with African Americans, Hispanics and women. All three demographics will be critical to the success of the Democratic Party come November, especially going up against Donald Trump. While Bernie's win in Washington was impressive, it only confirms what the pundits have been saying about him for months: that for all the enthusiasm his candidacy has generated, he still can't get break out of his comfort zone and attract the voters he needs to win the nomination; indeed the voters he needs to win a general election.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Better Ted Than Dead?

Last night on his New Rules' segment, Bill Maher addressed the nagging question that Republicans are trying to answer: which of the two viable candidates should they support, Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. After several entertaining and extremely funny comments, the choice was clear. Ted Cruz. The reason for Maher came down to this: "Ted Cruz will be our worst president, but Donald Trump might well be our last."

Well that's a comforting thought, having to choose between George W. Bush on steroids or Dr. Strangelove. I guess when you put it that way, yeah, I'd take Bush too. Shit, I'd take Moe, Larry and Curly over Trump. I may loathe everything Ted Cruz stands for, but at least I'll get the chance to see him become another one-term president. To Maher's point, with Trump in the White House, you never know.

Which got me to thinking, while the GOP is busy pissing its pants over the concept of Donald Trump being their nominee, how should Democrats be viewing this? More importantly, who would they rather run against in the general?

I know what you're thinking: There's been a lot of polling that shows Hillary Clinton beating Trump in November and most of it is due to his high negatives. Basically, he's pissed off and offended just about every voter bloc out there except for white males. Blacks and Hispanics can't stand him, women can't stand him and millennials can't stand him. Should be a slam dunk, right?

Wrong. I've been saying this now for months - since last August, in fact - and it bears repeating: Donald Trump can win. Let me say it again: Donald Trump can WIN! Not by a lot, mind you, but keep in mind Bush won the electoral college in 2000 despite losing the popular vote. Yes, he had some help from progressives who stayed home (more on that later) and the Supreme Court, but the point is a win is a win. To use a baseball analogy, they all look like line drives in the boxscore.

Presidential elections are decided, and have been for some time now, in the all-important swing states, which are: Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. I don't consider Pennsylvania to be a swing state, though the way things are going this year, you never know. For now, let's leave it blue.

Okay, so Hillary wins Florida, Nevada and New Mexico because of the Hispanic vote. I'll even be generous and give Colorado to her, though that isn't exactly etched in stone, either. That leaves the rest on the table. Trump'll win North Carolina, no sweat, and possibly Virginia, but, seriously, tell me you don't think he has a shot in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. Because he does and you know why? There are an awful lot of pissed off middle-class white people in those states and Trump is singing their tune. I would not be shocked if he swept the entire Rust Belt region.

To sum up, Hillary wins Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada; Trump takes North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. Add it up and he wins the electoral college 273 to 265. Yes, this could really happen. Welcome to the new Mason-Dixon line of politics, courtesy of Donald J. Trump. The angry white majority against the emerging, multi-cultural minority.

Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not suggesting that all white people feel this way. To be fair, there are a lot of white people I know who find Trump repulsive and are terrified at the prospect of him in the White House. But I've been seeing quite a few cars these days with American flags attached to them and I'm guessing they're not just gearing up for Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Some of those cars have Trump bumper stickers. I'll bet the ranch that each of you knows at least two or three people - maybe more, maybe a lot more - that will vote for Trump. And not all of them are racists or sexists. It would be a fatal error to simply classify his candidacy as some fascist uprising.

Don't kid yourself, while we may know that Trump is a con man with nothing up his sleeves, to the disenfranchised he has become almost God-like. Want proof? Go to a Bernie Sanders rally. Old Bernie is singing pretty much the same tune the Donald is, minus the misogyny and xenophobia. The message couldn't be simpler or more blunt: You've been fucked and it's time to do something about it.

Well, guess what? They're doing something about it, much to the chagrin of the Republican establishment. Frankly, even if they do manage to somehow take away the nomination from Trump, they're screwed. You don't really think that Trump supporters, after hanging on every syllable that has come out of his disgusting mouth, are suddenly going to fall in line and blindly support whoever the GOP picks as their nominee. Ignorant they are, stupid they ain't.

That's why, if I'm Hillary, I'd be very careful about saying anything that might piss off the Bernie crowd. If he wants to stay in the race till June, let him. Give him his moment, or more to the point, don't take it away from him. Hell, if he wants to hold a telethon, make a pledge. She may have the nomination in hand, but she's going to need every one of his supporters to vote for her to have a chance in the general. She should remember what happened to the last Democratic nominee who didn't kiss the progressive movement's ass. Right, President Gore?

I'm telling you, if you're a God-fearing person you should get down on your hands and knees and pray that Ted Cruz gets enough delegates to either win the nomination outright or at least enough to beat out Trump on the second ballot. Because Cruz is the Democrats' ultimate wet dream of a presidential candidate. His base is small, much smaller even than Trump's, and he has zero chance of expanding it much beyond where it is. Cruz appeals to that demographic that is hopelessly lost in some 1950s or '60s sitcom where father knew best, everyone left it to Beaver. and Sheriff Andy Taylor kept the peace. And he may very well be the least liked member of the Senate. There are almost as many Republicans who can't stand him as there are Democrats. As Maher pointed out, "he's learned to live in a world where everyone, everywhere, has always hated him."

In a head to head matchup against Hillary, it would be a landslide, maybe not as impressive as Ronald Reagan's 1984 win, but still very impressive. Not only would Clinton sweep all the swing states, she could conceivably take states like Georgia, Indiana, Missouri and Arizona. And Texas would be close, damn close, especially if she chooses Julian Castro as her running mate. The Senate? Think 53, 54 seats when the dust settles. The GOP will still retain the House, but they will lose enough seats to make Paul Ryan look over his shoulder every time he steps out onto the floor.

If Trump takes the nod and he actually wins the presidency, the GOP will likely hold the Senate, if only by a single seat. Don't believe all the pundits who keep insisting that Trump will kill the down ticket Republicans running in swing states. Maybe one or two will fall, but enough will survive to give him a majority in both houses to work with.

That's what'll happen if Trump is the Republican nominee. Think I'm overreacting? Perhaps; at least I hope so. And to those who say that maybe the Republicans couldn't deal with Trump but the Democrats will surely find a way, I would remind you that this is a party that thought Walter Mondale had a shot against Reagan in '84. Never underestimate the Democrats' ability to strike out with the bases loaded. It's in their DNA.

That's why I'm going with Bill Maher: Better Ted than dead. Who knows, maybe if he wins we'll get lucky and he'll pick Michele Bachman as his running mate.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

April Is Make or Break Month for Bernie

No doubt about it, Bernie Sanders had himself a good weekend. While Hillary Clinton, as expected, won in Arizona, Sanders took both Utah and Idaho, and not just by a little. He crushed her. And for his efforts, he netted 18 delegates. By far it was his best showing since his huge win in New Hampshire. But the fact remains that, despite his impressive weekend, he still trails her by 294 delegates.

This Saturday three states will hold contests, the biggest of these is Washington state, which has 101 pledged delegates up for grabs. Most polls show Sanders with a lead, but, like most caucus states, it is difficult to predict. If I had to guess, and it's only a guess, Sanders will probably win; not by the margin he won in Utah and Idaho, but certainly enough to give his supporters something to crow about. In fact, the likelihood is that he will sweep all three contests and net himself maybe twenty delegates. Back to back impressive weekends for Bernie. Not a bad way to end the month of March.

But then comes April, where Sanders will face his toughest tests yet. There are four big states on the calendar: Wisconsin, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania. To have any chance of resting the nomination away from Clinton, Sanders must win all four, and do it impressively.  No Michigan-type wins; we're talking Vermont, New Hampshire style margins.

Unfortunately for Bernie, he's trailing in all four contests, three of them badly. Here are the current RCP poll numbers for each state. Wisconsin: Clinton by 6; New York: Clinton by 34; Maryland: Clinton by 31; and Pennsylvania: Clinton by 27. You'd expect Clinton to be leading big in the state that twice elected her to the Senate, but for her to command such impressive leads in Maryland and Pennsylvania, AND be ahead of him in Wisconsin, a state not known for its moderates, is very disconcerting to say the least. Put it this way: John Kasich, the so-called establishment Republican candidate, is dead last in the state polling.

Assuming these polls are accurate - and so far only Michigan has proven to be the outlier - it may be over for Sanders by the end of April. Oh, he will still be mathematically alive, but just barely. It wouldn't surprise me if Clinton headed into May with a 350 delegate lead. Even if he were to win 70 percent of the vote in California and New Jersey - and that's being VERY optimistic - Hillary would still win the nomination.

So what does Sanders have to do to avert total disaster? First, he MUST win Wisconsin by hook or crook. He has to appeal to every progressive in the state, and there are a ton of them. Then, if I were him, I'd skip New York altogether. He has no shot there. Ditto Maryland. Instead, I'd focus on Pennsylvania, particularly the western and central parts of the state. This is Bernie country: white, blue collar workers and college students. Lots of them. Just the kind of voter he seems to attract. He has to rack up huge margins in these areas, because Hillary is going to take Philly and the surrounding suburbs big time.

If he pulls out all the stops he might steal both states. It still won't be enough to prevail, but it at least keeps him alive and gives him a fighting chance going into May. Anything short of that and this thing is ostensibly over. The only question that will remain is when, not if, Hillary will clinch.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why Deep Benches Don't Work In Presidential Races

It's time to admit the obvious: the supposedly "deep" bench of presidential candidates the Republican Party put forth this year not only wasn't very effective, it was the primary reason why Donald Trump has been able to get off to such a good start and win the number of delegates he has. I mean, really, 17 candidates? Are you kidding me? And some of those candidates barely cracked 1 percent in the polling and hung on way too long.

Now, with almost half of the delegates awarded, the Republicans are desperately looking to prevent Trump from reaching the 1237 delegate mark before the convention. It's a little late in the game for them and even now, they still can't come up with a unified front. The fact is, while everyone agrees Trump would be a disaster, they can't coalesce around the one candidate that could take him out.

Last Tuesday's primary results underscore the quagmire the GOP has put itself in. Going in, there were four candidates "alive" and on the ballots in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich. Trump ended up winning all but one. Ohio went to Kasich. However, had Kasich and Rubio dropped out before Tuesday, the results would've been vastly different. Trump would've still won Florida, and he would've picked up Ohio, but Cruz would've won North Carolina, Missouri and Illinois.

These were the delegate totals from last Tuesday: Trump: 272, Cruz: 41, Kasich: 80, and Rubio: 6. Here's what the results likely would've looked like had Kasich and Rubio dropped out: Trump: 219, Cruz: 180. Of course these are hypothetical results based on the logical distribution of Kasich and Rubio voters. Obviously, there's no way to predict with certainty where they would've gone, but the point is that while Trump still would've had a good night, his margin of victory would've been considerably smaller. More significantly, the candidate best situated to beat him - Cruz - would've remained within striking distance.

Far from defeating Trump, the GOP is diluting its own pool of anti-Trump supporters, thus allowing him a much clearer path to the nomination.  They remind me of that commercial where the guy is choking on a piece of food stuck in his throat. Everyone at the table debates over which method to use to dislodge the food as the man suffocates right in front of them. In this analogy, the man represents the GOP, Donald Trump the food and the morons at the table all the Republican candidates who thought they had a shot at the nomination past and present.

Now that Rubio has finally taken the hint and bowed out - after getting humiliated in his home state, mind you - thus narrowing the field to a still overcrowded three, the sixty-four thousand dollar question is whether Kasich will follow suit. The answer appears to be no. The Ohio governor is staying in no matter the cost. The man actually thinks he will emerge from a brokered convention with the nomination. Dream on, John. I got a better shot at winning it.

Here's how stupid - and delusional - Kasich is. Arizona's primary this Tuesday has 58 delegates up for grabs. It is a winner take all state and, as of now, Real Clear Politics shows Trump at 34 percent, Cruz at 21 percent, Kasich at 12.5 percent and the rest uncommitted. Again, I'm not suggesting all of Kasich's voters would go for Cruz; no doubt some would flock to Trump. But it's far more likely they'd prefer the former over the latter. And with that many undecideds to consider, the odds of a Cruz win would be very good.

The other state voting Tuesday is Utah, where Cruz is leading Trump by 24 points according to RCP. If Cruz were to reach 50.1 percent of the popular vote, he would receive all 40 of that state's delegates. Coupled with a win in Arizona, that would mean a 98 to nothing landslide for him. The race would change dramatically and Trump's path to 1237 delegates would be in severe jeopardy. But with Kasich playing the role of spoiler, Trump will likely win Arizona and pick up at least some some of the delegates from Utah, since Cruz would be denied a majority. More importantly, Trump will be on track to reach 1237. And that's called sticking it to your party.

Look, there's no doubt that Kasich would make a far better general election candidate than either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, but the fact remains he has zero chance of becoming it. According to Rule 40, which was adopted at the last GOP convention, a candidate must win the majority of delegates in at least eight states to even be considered for the party nomination. As of right now, only Trump and Cruz qualify.

Funny isn't it. Ted Cruz is now the GOP establishment's best and only shot at stopping Donald Trump. I bet you didn't see that coming. The moral of the story for the GOP couldn't be simpler: Going forward, less is more, more or less.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Math's Just Not There for Bernie

I've been doing some number crunching and I've got some bad news for Bernie Sanders. While he is still technically alive in this race, things are not looking particularly good. Put simply, the math is just not there for him. I'll explain.

At present, Sanders trails Hillary Clinton by 309 pledged delegates (1127 to 818). His supporters insist he can catch and surpass Clinton, but when you look at the remaining contests, it's tough finding a path for him. While he does have a clear advantage in many of the remaining states, most of those states don't have enough delegates to make much of a difference, and the ones that do are ones that have diverse populations that typically give him problems. Let's break it down, and to show I'm being as objective as possible, I'll give Sanders as much of an advantage as I can, perhaps even more than he deserves.

Sanders will clearly do well in the following states: Arizona, Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico and South Dakota. I'll be generous and give him a margin of victory of 20 points in every one, including Wisconsin and Pennsylania, where if he wins it's far more likely he'll end up eking out Michigan-type wins than blowouts.

The total number of delegates up for grabs in these states is 890. Assuming Sanders wins 60 percent of the vote, he ends up with 534 delegates to 356 for Clinton. That's pretty damn good, if you ask me. That would shave Clinton's lead down to 131 delegates. But unfortunately, that's where the good news for him ends. The majority of the remaining 1130 delegates come from states with diverse populations that are more likely to lean towards Clinton, some of them by wide margins.

The three biggest of these states are New York, New Jersey and California, which collectively have 848 delegates. New York has 247 of them, and Clinton presently holds a 20 point lead there over Sanders. If that holds, it would give her 148 delegates to Sanders 99. Next up is New Jersey, which has 126 delegates. Polls show Clinton up by as much as 15 points, but let's be fair and make it 10 points. In that event Clinton would end up with 69 delegates to Sanders 56.

Last, but not least, is California with a whopping 475 delegates. This is perhaps the most diverse state in the country and perhaps the most difficult to predict. There's no doubt Sanders will clean up in the areas with large college populations and the mostly white, northern region, but Clinton has a clear edge in the Bay area and the southern part of the state. I make this a tossup, meaning both candidates split the delegates evenly. That's 237.5 delegates a piece.

All totaled, Sanders would gain 392.5 delegates to Clinton's 455.5, meaning her lead would swell to 194 delegates. If you're the Sanders' camp, this would be a devastating outcome. Even if Sanders manages to win the balance of the remaining contests' 282 delegates by, say, 6 percent, he would net only 16 delegates. And keep in mind some of those contests are in states like Connecticut and Maryland, as well as Puerto Rico, where Hillary is leading in the polls. Again, I'm being generous here.

When all is said and done Clinton's margin of victory should be 178 pledged delegates, and that's assuming she loses both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by 20 points, which is highly unlikely. If you think that's insignificant, consider Barack Obama wound up with a margin of 62 pledged delegates in '08, which, when coupled with the majority of Super Delegates, was enough to win the nomination. In fact, Obama's path to victory that year proved to be far tougher than Clinton's is turning out to be this year.

There's no way around it; Bernie Sanders is fighting a war of attrition, and it's a war he appears destined to lose. He will put up the good fight and, no doubt, he will hang on as long as he can, just like Clinton did in '08. But, barring a miracle, he will come up short in the end.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Contested Conventions Are Nothing New

There seems to be a sentiment among a good many people that contested conventions are, by their nature, undemocratic. That the candidate who gets to the convention with the most delegates and votes, even if it isn't enough for a majority, should win his or her party's nomination. That to deny the nomination to such a candidate is simply wrong and unAmerican.

Tell that to William Seward. Who is William Seward? Well, he was the frontrunner for the 1860 Republican nomination. Going into the convention, he had the most delegates, but lacked the necessary majority to win the nomination.

On the first ballot, Seward had 173.5 delegates, well short of the 233 needed for a majority. Abraham Lincoln was second with 102 delegates. It took four ballots and a lot of arm twisting, not to mention a little bribery on the part of his campaign, before Lincoln finally secured the necessary delegates to win the Republican nomination. Lincoln would go on to defeat Stephen Douglas in the general election to become the nation's 16th president.

In 1968, Eugene McCarthy had the Democratic nomination taken from him at the convention and handed over to then Vice President Hubert Humphrey, despite receiving 38 percent of the popular vote to Humphrey's 2 percent. Humphrey, who hadn't even entered a single primary, would end up losing the general election to Richard Nixon in a landslide that year.

In 1976, then President Gerald Ford was challenged by former California Governor Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination. Ford went into the convention just short of the required delegates, but was able to cobble together enough delegates to put him over the top by the first ballot, thus avoiding a long, protracted convention. Ford wound up losing the presidency to Jimmy Carter in November, and four years later, Reagan would win the GOP nomination and defeat Carter in the general.

My point is that contested or "brokered" conventions are nothing new, nor are they undemocratic. The fact is both parties have relied on a delegate system of nomination for more than a century; the Republican Party has had it in its rules since its beginning in 1856. Each party requires all of its candidates to reach that number in order to win its nomination. If the leading candidate falls short, even if only by a small amount, the rules require that a second ballot be taken. If no candidate reaches the majority by then, a third ballot is called for. This goes on and on until someone finally wins.

When Donald Trump decided to run for the Republican nomination, he agreed to abide by the party's rules, ALL of them. He can threaten the party with violence all he wants, but what he and some are forgetting is that, while Trump may have won the most states, he still hasn't won the majority of the popular vote. The fact is more people have voted against Trump than for him. What does the GOP say to those voters? A brokered convention, while risky, is the only way to honor the will of all the people and uphold the rules at the same time.

All this may prove academic. At the rate Trump is winning, he may end up with more than enough delegates to lock up the nomination, especially with so many winner take all states still left to vote. And with John Kasich deciding to stay in the race, the ability of Ted Cruz to catch Trump has been severely hampered, if not completely crippled.

Face it, it's looking more and more like Donald Trump is going to win the GOP nomination, but in the event he doesn't, it won't be because it was stolen from him. It'll be because he wasn't able to meet the requirements the party set in place. Is it fair? Probably not. Is it wrong? No.

Rules are rules and they apply to everyone. Just ask William Seward.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Your Move, Mitch

Okay, so Merrick Garland isn't Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Who is? One thing he isn't, though, is another Antonin Scalia. And that's good enough for me.

Barack Obama's decision to nominate Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court came as something of a surprise; most believed he would pick Sri Srinivasan, who is fourteen years younger and somewhat more left of center. But this choice wasn't based on age or ideology, anymore than it was based on qualifications. For the record, Garland is more than qualified. It was a strategic move on the part of the President to ostensibly back Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans into a corner. By picking a moderate, Obama takes away any leverage they may have to paint him as an ideologue bent on taking advantage of the death of a conservative icon.

It's really a win, win for Obama. If Mitch McConnell follows through on his promise not to allow Garland an up or down vote, Democrats will have a wedge issue to run on in November. If he relents and allows the Senate to vote and Garland gets approved, he's finished as Majority Leader. Sort of like heads I win, tails you lose.

Of course, the decision may be out of his hands. Already there are rumblings within the rank and file from senators in swing states up for reelection who are under tremendous pressure to allow a vote. It'll be hard enough getting reelected with Donald Trump as the party's presidential nominee, the last thing they need is to be perceived as obstructionists, especially when two thirds of the country would be against them.

Normally, I would poo-poo this pick as a sellout, but frankly, I don't see any other play here. In fact, given the politics of it, it's a damn good move on Obama's part. He takes the high road while the Republican Party continues to implode. It's enough to bring a tear to your eye. Wink, wink.

It's your move, Mitch. We're waiting.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

No Bull Moose Moment for GOP

David Frum has a piece in The Atlantic about the bind that conservatives (e.g., Republicans) are in. He has all but conceded that Donald Trump will win the GOP nomination and that this will mean a Republican defeat in November, not just for Trump but for other Republicans down ticket, particularly those senators in states like Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. His fear is that the anti-Trump backlash from Republican voters may result in some of them staying home.

Frum posits a scenario in which a third party candidate - Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse or Mitt Romney - could "offer anti-Trump Republicans a reason to show up to vote, and thus save the Senate." But Frum acknowledges that such a scenario "has risks, too, bigger risks than anyone calculating right now."

His point is that "when people bolt their party, the party changes behind them." He then goes on to list several examples of parties that changed after a third party run, the most notable was Teddy Roosevelt, who ran as an independent against incumbent Republican president Howard Taft. Roosevelt not only lost, he brought down Taft with him. But more importantly, according to Frum, his candidacy provided the opportunity for progressive Republicans to bolt to the Democratic Party. "The young people who'd looked to Teddy Roosevelt for change in 1912 would in many cases end up as followers of his cousin Franklin in 1932."

There may be something to Frum's argument. Third-party candidacies do often have unintended consequences, particularly for the party from which they're hatched. From Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 to George Wallace in 1968 to Ross Perot in 1992, there was a splinter group within the incumbent party that was ripe for peeling off. Indeed the parallels between Roosevelt and Wallace are striking in that both serve as both political and societal bookends. The transformation that Roosevelt unwittingly began in 1912 reached completion with Wallace in 1968. In essence both parties switched positions. Prior to Roosevelt's insurrection, the Republican Party was mostly a progressive party; after 1968, that title went completely over to the Democratic Party. The Southern Strategy that Richard Nixon successfully employed was proof that Lyndon Johnson, after he signed the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, was right when he said the South would be lost for a generation. Sadly, it's been gone ever since.

There is of course one significant flaw in Frum's argument. In today's Republican Party, there is no splinter group large enough to peel off. The liberals have been gone - purged if you will - for some time. Jacob Javits is but a memory for some, a convention center for the rest. Nixon, perhaps the party's last moderate president, resigned in disgrace; George H.W. Bush, the last establishment president of the party, would serve only one term in office. For most of the last thirty years, the GOP has gone from very conservative to extremely conservative to full bore whacko.

Want evidence? Ted Cruz is now seen as a viable option to Donald Trump. Really? Ted Cruz? The man who thinks he's anointed by God to run for president? The man who Mark Levin fawns over ever chance he gets? The man who is despised by his own party almost as much as he is by the opposition party? This is the Republican alternative to Trump? It reminds me of the saying, with friends like this, who needs enemies?

Well what about John Kasich? You mean the John Kasich who rose to power during the Tea Party wave of 2010 and who just recently defunded Planned Parenthood? That John Kasich? Or how about Marco Rubio? You mean the Marco Rubio who for a brief shining moment supported immigration reform, then when he decided to run for president, all of sudden never heard of it? The same Marco Rubio who wants to increase defense spending by more than a trillion dollars over the next decade, because apparently having the largest peace-time military in the history of the country isn't enough for him? That Marco Rubio? Or perhaps Jeb Bush? The Jeb Bush who thinks his brother kept us safe and who'd double down on his doctrine if given the chance? That Jeb Bush?

Face it, there are no moderate alternatives to Donald Trump, only less crazed ones. On a scale of 1 to 10, if Trump is a 10, the rest of the potential Republican field is anywhere from a 9 to maybe a 7.5. In fact, if you examine Trump's events very closely they are nothing more than blown-up versions of what we've seen all too frequently at Tea Party rallies; and his rhetoric is slightly more inflammatory than that of many Republicans today. In fact, I find it strangely ironic that the same Republicans who sat by and said nothing when Trump was questioning President Obama's citizenship are now going apeshit because he has turned his sights on them. Well, that's what happens when you create a Frankenstein monster; he tends to burn down the WHOLE damn village, not just one or two cottages.

Donald Trump may be redefining politics before our very eyes, but he is also exposing the GOP for what it is: a political party that has become home to an awful lot of racist xenophobes who are fearful of the future and contemptuous of anybody that doesn't think or look like them. Make America Great Again is code for making America white again. As if it's ever been anything else.

People like David Frum - and, yes, David Brooks, too - can rationalize all they want about what's going on here, but they need to come to the realization that the party they think exists - and once did - does so only in their imaginations. There isn't going to be a Bull Moose moment for the Republican Party this time around, regardless of whether or not a third-party candidate runs. That's because there aren't enough lucid or moderate Republicans left to make a difference. Most of them jumped ship or were pushed overboard a long time ago.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Axelrod v. Clinton

Looks like there's some bad blood brewing between David Axelrod and the Clinton campaign. During Wednesday night's Democratic debate between Hillary and Bernie Sanders, Axelrod tweeted, "She did it again and I'll say it again. It's misleading to imply that TARP II was an auto bailout."

What Axelrod is referring to was the charge Clinton made in the Michigan debate and then repeated Wednesday night that Bernie Sanders voted against the auto bailout in January 2009. While that is factually true, Axelrod has issues with Clinton calling it an auto bailout. It was, he maintains and as I have stated, the second part of TARP, which as it so happens contained the funding for G.M. and Chrysler.

I have no qualms with Axelrod pointing out that the bill in question was, ostensibly, a bailout of Wall Street, and to be fair to Sanders and others like him, there were a lot of people who had problems with TARP on principle, even though without it, the banking industry would've collapsed and we would've had another Great Depression.

But Axelrod leaves out two very important points: one, Hillary did in fact mention that the bill was for Wall Street in the first debate (see my piece on it); and two, unlike the earlier auto bailout that was defeated in December - a bill that Clinton admitted Sanders voted for - there was not going to be a separate auto bill this time around. Like it or not, TARP II was it. If it got defeated, the auto industry was a goner.

This isn't simply a matter of semantics or cherry picking. Bernie Sanders has stated repeatedly that he was in favor of bailing out the auto industry, but he knew full well that the only way to do that was for the larger bill to pass. Sanders wants a mulligan for an earlier vote he cast that proved to be meaningless without taking the heat for the latter one that was anything but. Quite frankly, I'm somewhat shocked that a person as savvy as Axelrod didn't know that.

Then again, maybe he did. It's long been established that Axelrod and the Clintons have had a strained relationship ever since he decided to back Barack Obama in '08. And even though both sides have supposedly patched things up, one can't help but wonder if there isn't a little residual animosity between both camps.

To Axelrod's credit, he later clarified his tweet in a piece he wrote for CNN, in which he concluded: "Hillary was on the right side of history with her vote, even if she crossed the line in her retelling of it. Bernie was wronged in the debate, but his vote raises questions about how a political 'revolutionary' would deal with the realities of governing." Hmm, I seem to recall saying just that.

Curiously, if it was a bone Axelrod was looking to pick with Hillary, his one legitimate shot came during one of her exchanges with Sanders in which she said he "voted in the House with hard-lined Republicans for indefinite detention for undocumented immigrants, and then he sided with those Republicans to stand with vigilantes known as Minutemen who were taking up outposts along the border to hunt down immigrants."

Clinton is referring to two separate instances. The first is the Community Protection Act of 2006, which died in the Senate. It would've allowed aliens to be detained "without limitation" until they received a "final order of removal." Yes, Sanders did vote for it; so did then House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. The bill dealt with those aliens that were deemed dangerous and already facing deportation and had absolutely nothing to do with the vast majority of the 11 million undocumented people currently living in the country. Clinton knows this or at least should've.

As for the Minutemen part, that referred to an amendment to a Homeland Security appropriations bill that would've barred the department from "providing a foreign government information relating to the activities of an organized volunteer civilian action group" such as, unfortunately, the Minutemen, which operated out of states that bordered Mexico.  No matter how abhorrent we may think they are, the greater threat here was our government handing over intel to another government with the express purpose of spying on U.S. citizens. Yes, Sanders voted for it. But it is disengeous at best to make the leap, as she did, that he was standing with vigilantes. The argument could easily be made that all he was doing was ensuring the government didn't overreach in its authority, something many progressives and most libertarians agree on.

This was a truly bad moment for Clinton and one she didn't need going into this Tuesday. This is the real problem with her. When she is challenged or she feels threatened, as she no doubt felt after the Michigan loss, she overreacts and commits these unforced errors. They, more than any policy stance she has taken, have proven to be her undoing in the past. Unlike her husband who turned adversity into opportunity, Hillary tends to go the other way. She takes it personally and puts her foot in her mouth. As a result, she looks small and petty.

As I said in my last piece, Clinton does not need to disrespect Sanders in order to beat him. She is ahead in the delegate count; the nomination is hers to lose. There is no reason to go gutter like she did with him last Wednesday and like she did with Obama in '08. If she truly wants to pivot to the presidential election, it would behoove her to act, well, presidential. One she starts doing that, the David Axelrods of the world will have nothing of consequence to say.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hold the Coronation

The good news for Hillary Clinton is that, despite losing Michigan Tuesday, she actually netted more delegates than Bernie Sanders. That's because she won big in Mississippi while Sanders eked out a nail-biter in Michigan. The final delegate count for the night: 87 for Clinton and 69 for Sanders.

Another piece of good news is that, because of the way delegates are awarded proportionally in the Democratic Party, Sanders is going to have a very tough time catching Clinton. Not counting Super Delegates, which I don't and no one should until the Convention, Hillary leads him 760 to 546. Looking ahead to next Tuesday, it's conceivable that Sanders could have a repeat performance in Ohio and Missouri, lose big in North Carolina, keep it close yet still lose in Illinois and Florida, and still lose ground in the delegate count.

According to Nate Cohn, of the pledged delegates already awarded - roughly one third, so far - Clinton has won 60 percent of them. What that means is that Sanders, if he hopes to catch her, would have to win the remaining contests by eight points or more. How likely is he to do that? Not very. That's because each time Hillary wins a state, the margin by which he has to win goes up. The simple truth is that if you take away his big wins in Vermont and New Hampshire - both relatively small states - he hasn't routed her in a single meaningful state. Sadly, Sanders is discovering what every trailing basketball team knows all too well: that you can't come back and win the game if you're trading baskets.

And now the bad news. Hillary lost a big state, and not just any big state, mind you, a Rust Belt state. The kind of state Democrats are going to need come November. Worse than merely losing it was how she lost it. She got killed, once again, by the youth vote. It wasn't even close. She also lost the blue-collar and independent vote by a wide margin. This is of key importance because if Donald Trump ends up becoming the Republican nominee - now almost a foregone conclusion - he will target and, yes, probably pick up many of those voters in the general.

But perhaps even more disturbing are the returns that came out of Wayne county where Detroit is. She managed to get only 59 percent of that vote. Considering that the majority of the population is African American, she needed to do much better here. So far she has taken roughly 80 percent of the black vote in virtually every state. If it turns out that Sanders is starting to make inroads into that demographic, he could make life a living hell for her the rest of the way. Worse, he could seriously wound her for the general. It is well established by virtually every pundit that in order to keep the White House the Democratic nominee is going to have to pick up the overwhelming majority of the black and Hispanic vote. If either of those two voting blocks begin to have doubts about Hillary this fall, it's game, set and match. Hello, President Trump.

So, now that we know what happened, what does Clinton do to mitigate any further damage during the balance of the campaign? First off, it's not at all certain that this loss wasn't an outlier. By that I mean the polls going into this primary all showed Clinton ahead of Sanders, some by as much as 15 points. Nate Silver, who's wrong about as many times as there are solar eclipses, put her chances at winning the state at 99 percent. How could all of them be so wrong?

The answer may lie in the fact that this primary, like a number of them, was open. In other words, everyone could vote, not just registered Democrats. While we do not know to what extent this has impacted the Democratic primaries, on the GOP side, it has had a profound affect. Indeed, the only contests that Donald Trump has lost have been closed ones, and he's lost them to Ted Cruz. Ask the Republican base what they think about open primaries and you'll get quite an earful, I'm sure.

But let's assume that it wasn't an outlier; that everyone got it wrong. What happens next? Well, for starters, I wouldn't panic. If memory serves, Barack Obama lost a couple of tough primaries on the way to securing the nomination. These things happen. But there are some things that I think Hillary could do that might go a long way towards making sure Michigan doesn't repeat itself next week.

One, stop hiding from TPP. She endorsed it when she was in the Obama Administration; it makes her look silly backtracking. There's an argument to be made that protectionism simply doesn't work. She has to make it, even if it might mean losing Ohio. Throw the ball in Bernie's court by saying, "Okay, Senator, so you're against NAFTA and TPP. Fine, how do you propose we transition into a 21st century economy? You do know that trade is an important part of our economy and that companies like Toyota produce millions of cars each year employing thousands of American workers. If you slap countries with trade penalties, they'll only retaliate and that'll hurt our workers." By the way, she should memorize her attack; she'll need it against Trump.

Don't let Sanders skate by with giving grand gestures and bold proclamations. Make him explain how he proposes to do what he says he's going to do. Details, details. Remind him he's had almost three decades of being in Washington and in all that time he's barely accomplished anything of significance. Standing up for something is great; getting things done is better. Without getting disrespectful, she needs to put Sanders on the defensive. So far, he has been allowed to portray himself as George Washington and her as Benedict Arnold. It's time Clinton realized what her husband learned two decades ago: there is no virtue in being right if no one knows about it. It's the old "if a tree falls in the forest" meme.

Secondly, she must do a better job of connecting with younger voters. Okay, she's not their darling, I get it; Sanders clearly has the advantage. But no political candidate can ever lose 80 percent of any demographic, let alone the second fastest growing one in the country. Would it kill her to visit a university once? Maybe, say, Ohio State by Monday? And while she's at it, it'd be a nice idea to go to a middle-class white neighborhood and have lunch with some of the locals. Again, she doesn't have to get a majority of their vote, but she can't continue to get blown away like she did in Michigan. She can't go into a general election that far behind in polling in both groups. Trump will eat her alive.

Look, she's never going to win the "most trusted" person in America award, so she should stop trying. Know what? Bill wasn't all that trustworthy either and he still got elected twice. The last paragon of virtue on this planet got nailed to a cross two thousand years ago. The people are electing a president, not a Pope. George Bush was the guy everyone wanted to have a beer with and all he did was waste three trillion dollars fighting an unjust war that lead to the destabilization of an entire region. But he was a real standup guy.

The math favors her and, for now, the electoral map favors her. She doesn't need an overhaul, just a few tweaks. She should dust herself off, put Michigan behind her and focus on next Tuesday. This is going to be a long race, as I said earlier. Bumps and grinds are just a necessary part of the journey; one that Hillary Clinton has been preparing for all her life.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Will the Auto Bailout Vote Prove To Be Bernie's Waterloo?

There aren't many moments in a debate that you can point to and say, "Wow, that was huge." Bernie Sanders had such a moment in Sunday night's debate with Hillary Clinton, and it's a moment he may end up wishing he didn't have. I'm not talking about his alleged dismissive "excuse me, I'm talking" exchange with Hillary, or his "ghetto" gaffe. [He does after all live in the whitest state in the free world, so cut him some slack.] Besides, compared to the nonsense going on in the GOP debates, Sanders has behaved like Mr. Rogers throughout this campaign.

No, the moment I'm referring to, and perhaps the defining one in the whole primary season, concerned the auto bailout that Bernie voted against. When Hillary brought it up, Bernie countered by saying he was against the Wall Street bailout that was, unfortunately, included in the bill to rescue the auto industry.

For those not familiar with what happened in early 2009, the second part of TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) was up for a vote. Attached to it was the auto bailout. Though Clinton was no longer a senator at the time, she supported the bill. Sanders, on principle, voted against it because of his opposition to using tax payer money to bail out Wall Street. The vote, though laudable, has been a bone of contention with many people who live in Michigan and Ohio, and it underscores the real problem with Sanders; a problem Clinton pounced on.
"As we all know, there are bills in Congress that have bad stuff, there are bills in Congress that have good stuff. Good stuff and bad stuff in the same bill."
What Clinton is saying is pretty much what a lot of Sanders's critics have been saying for a while. You don't get to choose which bill comes to your desk. Most bills are going to contain some kind of compromise that may rub you the wrong way, but on the whole, they are still good bills worthy of voting for or, as in the case of a president, signing into law.

Bernie Sanders simply doesn't get this basic fact and, so far as his Congressional record is concerned, never has. He's, dare I say it, the progressive equivalent of Ted Cruz. In fact, it's remarkable how very similar in nature both men are. I'm not talking about policy here or even likability. Bernie may not be beloved by his colleagues in the Senate, but at least he isn't despised by them the way Cruz is. I can just picture Mitch McConnell being asked which candidate he'd prefer to be the Republican nominee, Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, and sticking a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger. And, as far as policy goes, Cruz's vision of what this country would look like makes my skin crawl.

It's also quite apparent that both men appeal to the purist nature of their respective bases. I do a lot of listening to conservative talk radio shows - call it my penance for being such a precocious asshole when I was younger - and it's amazing how popular Cruz is with this crowd. He's one part Ronald Reagan, one part Warren Burger. The man who would restore Constitutional principles to America, whatever the hell that means. I don't know, it's a religion to these people.

Sanders, likewise, has been like a rock star to the progressive movement in a way not seen since the days of Bobby Kennedy. Feel the Bern is all about rekindling that great movement that LBJ murdered when he escalated the Vietnam War. His supporters are relentless in their defense of him, as anyone with a Twitter or Facebook account knows all too well. And in his defense, he's the true populist candidate in this election. Cruz couldn't even spell the word, much less know what it means.

But getting back to the pertinent issue at hand. Michael Tomasky wrote yet another revealing piece about the difference between Hillary and Bernie that strikes at the heart of how both would govern.
"There are two kinds of political people in this world. First, there are those who see injustice and who hunger chiefly to see the malefactors punished. And second, there are those who hunger mainly to see the injustice corrected. . . Sanders is a punish the malefactors type, and Clinton is a fix-the-problem type."
I would submit that these two types of people exist in the business world, as well. In fact, the most successful people in business are problem solvers; conversely, the least successful are the ones who complain about and are befuddled by them. The former searches for what works; the latter is consumed with what's wrong.

While it may seem unfair to his supporters to characterize him that simply, facts don't lie. For much of his campaign, Bernie Sanders has been all too willing to scream about the growing inequity within the country - and, to be fair, he's right about that - yet he has offered little in the way of tangible solutions, aside from breaking up the banks, taxing the one percent and raising the minimum wage.

When push comes to shove, he is light on details and unbending to a fault. He's isn't just simply a one-issue candidate, he's all cause and no effect. His "no" vote on the auto bailout was inexcusable and revealing of how he would govern as president, and that fact is slowly starting to creep into the Democratic electorate.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Catch 22 for Republicans

Lindsey Graham, of all people, summed up the Republican Party's dilemma perfectly when he said of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, "Whether it's death by being shot or poisoning doesn't really matter. I don't think the outcome will be substantially different." Who knew Goober was so insightful?

The fact is neither man is all that beloved by their party and both would have incredibly high negatives going into a general election. Cruz would lock up the conservative vote in a way no Republican nominee has done since Ronald Reagan, but would not expand the electorate much beyond that; Trump, because he is far less ideological, might snatch some of those blue-collar Democrats that Hillary would be counting on, but because of his extreme views on immigrants and the way in which many African Americans have been treated at his rallies, would not fare well with minorities.

And neither would have coattails in November, meaning Republican senators running for reelection in swing states would be very vulnerable. Most political pundits last year thought the prospects of a Democratic takeover of the Senate a tossup at best. Now those odds have improved considerably. To be honest, it wouldn't surprise me if the Dems ended up with 52 seats, more if the GOP follows through with its threat to obstruct President Obama's Supreme Court justice nominee.

As for the House, while I don't subscribe to the ridiculous notion by some progressives that the Republicans are in danger of losing their majority, I do believe that a Trump or Cruz nomination - and possible ticket - would mean a Democratic net gain of 15 or more seats, just enough to make Paul Ryan's life a living hell in 2017.

So which will it be, the shooting or the poisoning? Well, right now things are looking pretty good for the shooting. Barring a miracle, Trump is going to be the GOP nominee. The other Republican candidates seem more concerned with who finishes second rather than knocking off the frontrunner. Cruz, from a delegate standpoint, has the best shot. He's only trailing the Donald 391 to 304. Marco Rubio - the "establishment" candidate - has a paltry 125. Even if he wins his home state of Florida - and the polls show him trailing by almost 20 points - he still won't have enough to make a run at the nomination. That's because beginning March 15 almost all the contests are winner take all. Seriously, somebody needs to take Marco aside and explain to him that it's over. I mean REALLY over.

So let's play this out. Rubio and John Kasich - the other fifth wheel in this bunch that can't take a hint - both lose their respective home states, and Cruz doesn't win any more states by the 15th. What you have is a runaway train headed all the way to Cleveland. You can forget about a brokered convention. Trump should reach the required 1237 delegates well before then. And even if he doesn't, say he falls just a few delegates short. Does anybody seriously believe that the Republican Party can deprive him of the nomination? If they do, Trump will take his supporters and run third party. That means Clinton wins in a landslide come November.

Now that's a Catch 22 if ever I heard of one. And, to be honest, I don't feel sorry for the Republican Party. Not one bit. They brought this on themselves.  Paul Krugman may have written the best piece about Trump and the GOP. It should be required reading for all.
Establishment Republicans denounce Mr. Trump as a fraud, which he is. But is he more fraudulent than the establishment trying to stop him? Not really. Actually, when you look at the people making those denunciations, you have to wonder: Can they really be that lacking in self-awareness?
Krugman goes on to point out the hypocrisy of people like Marco Rubio for calling Trump a "con artist" all while promising to "enact giant tax cuts, undertake a huge military buildup and balance the budget without any cuts in benefits to Americans over 55," and Speaker Paul Ryan, who accuses Trump of "evasion" and playing games, but "whose much-hyped budgets are completely reliant on 'mystery meat,' that is, it claims trillions of dollars in revenue can be collected by closing unspecified tax loopholes and trillions more saved through unspecified spending cuts."

He rips the GOP for, on the one hand calling for a rejection of intolerance and bigotry, while on the other benefiting greatly from it. He cites Richard Nixon's Southern strategy, Ronald Reagan's use of the term "welfare queens" and the Willie Horton ads as proof that the Party of Lincoln has drifted far from its roots. "Put it this way, " he adds, "There's a reason why whites in the Deep South vote something like 90 percent Republican, and it's not their philosophical attachment to libertarian principles."

The point is that Donald Trump may be a con man, perhaps the best we've seen in quite some time, but what he's really doing is exposing the Republicans establishment as the real frauds in this election cycle. He's shone a spot light on positions that the Party has held for decades and would prefer to stay hidden. His candidacy, if nothing else, has performed at least one public service to the nation.

And now he has the GOP - perhaps the whole country - by the balls. If it weren't so tragic, it would be amusing. Maybe it's a bit of both.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Enough Already!

Okay, this is now getting stupid. This 2016 campaign has now passed from the sublime to the ridiculous. Mud throwing, name calling, character assassination. My God, John Belushi didn't behave this way in Animal House. This is not the way grownups are supposed to act.

Now you probably think I'm referring to the asshats currently vying for the Republican nomination. Well, I'm not. That isn't to say they're not an embarrassment to their party and their voters; they are. But the group I'm referring to are the throng of Bernie Sanders supporters, many of whom have taken over social media sites and declared war not only on Hillary Clinton but on just about anybody who doesn't feel the bern like they do.

I've heard of movements going bonkers, but this one takes the cake. I mean you have to see it to believe it. To read some of their comments you'd think Hillary Clinton is the second coming of Gordon Gekko. Gordon Gekko? Wasn't Mitt Romney supposed to be the second coming of old Gordo? Same difference, they'd say. Yeah, Hillary Clinton is Mitt Romney, or, better still, Donald Trump. Right, and I'm Mitch McConnell. In one posting I actually saw a picture of kid holding a knife and about to insert it into a wall outlet. It read "Trump or Hillary? Top socket or bottom socket?"

Sadly, this is the mindset of a good many of Sanders supporters. Not only have they convinced themselves that Bernie is the only way, they've ginned themselves up to such a fever pitch over Hillary that even the mention of her name makes them apoplectic. I have written several pieces on why I think Hillary would make a better president and, more to the point, why Bernie wouldn't, and even though my puny little blog barely gets a sniff of attention, I was taken to task for, how shall I put it, being a "quitter" and a "defeatist." Yes, because obviously believing that just getting to the Super Bowl isn't good enough means I'm a defeatist. Ask the Buffalo Bills what it means to just get to the Super Bowl. They lost in all four of their appearances. Winning the big game counts in politics as well as in sports.

But when you bring that up to many of Sanders supporters it falls on deaf ears. For them, it's about principle, or rather, Hillary's lack thereof. I can certainly grant their point that when it comes to authenticity and principles, Mrs. Clinton could probably use a little of both. What I can't quite grasp is this image that his supporters have of him that Bernie is an outsider. Outsider to what? The man has been in politics almost as long as I've been an adult. If that's what an outsider is, I think we just invented a new definition for the word. Someone should call Webster's.

Not content, however, with attacking Hillary and her supporters, the Bern squad, as I call them, are now focusing their attention on Elizabeth Warren. It appears that some of them are quite taken aback because the Massachusetts senator did not come out and publicly endorse their guy for the nomination.  Like it was Warren's responsibility to carry Bernie across the goal line. You should read some of the things these zipper heads are saying about the woman who, let's be honest, rejuvenated a movement that was moribund for well over a decade. Without Warren, Dodd-Frank would most likely have failed and the Democratic Party would belong to Claire McCaskill and Joe Manchin. That anyone calling themselves a progressive would attack Elizabeth Warren is sheer idiocy, period.

Frankly I think Warren's decision not to endorse anyone in this race is good politics on her part. I know Bernie supporters think that word is terrible, but the simple truth is that whether they like it or not, politics plays a vital role in how the world is run, and not just in Washington. Think about it, if Warren had come out and endorsed someone it would've split the Party wide open. If you think tensions are high now between both camps, it would've been World War III had she thrown down with one side over another. By staying neutral, Warren allows herself to get behind whoever the eventual nominee is, thus giving Democrats a much better chance to unite and win in the fall. But there's that three-letter word again: win. Who cares about winning when you're right? Ah, the '80s. How dead was my valley?

Now for those of you who might be saying, hey wait a minute there, buddy, what about all those personal attacks on Bernie from the Hillary supporters? Well, first of all, while there have been "attacks" on Bernie, the overwhelming majority of them have not been personal, but rather substantive; that is to say they have questioned, like me, whether Sanders would be able to win a national election and, if he did, how effective he would be in office. If his congressional record is any indicator, I'm guessing not very. The simple truth is he can't answer the sixty-four thousand dollar question. How would he be able to get his agenda through Congress with only a slight majority in the Senate and a hostile Republican majority in the House? The answer is he can't and deep down he knows it. Unfortunately his followers don't seem to care about that. They want their revolution. Well, I want a Villa in the south of France. I'm not getting that either.

I don't give a rat's ass whether Bernie is a nice guy or whether he marched with MLK in Selma, anymore than I care whether Hillary stumped for Goldwater in '64. Hey, I voted for Reagan in '80. We all make mistakes. At any rate, that's more than fifty years ago, or, put another way, some twenty years before many of Sanders' supporters were even born. What I do care about is keeping the White House out of the hands of Donald Trump and it annoys and frightens me to no end that some people are contemplating sitting out this election rather than show up and vote for Hillary.

In a couple of months, maybe less, this primary season will be over and we will finally have a nominee. In all likelihood that nominee will not be Bernie Sanders. His supporters need to accept that reality when it comes. Because if they think there are no consequences for casting either a protest vote or staying home, I have two words for them: George Bush. By staying home or voting for Ralph Nader in 2000, progressives gave the presidency to Bush, albeit with a little help from the Supreme Court.

Believe me, compared to Donald Trump, Bush is practically Albert Einstein.