An Unusual Election

30 Sep

After three essentially two-party candidate elections we are seeing something somewhat different this time around.  We still have the two dominate parties but this time we have four main candidates.  The obvious two are Clinton and Trump, the other main candidates are Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.  This is happening because of the unpopularity of the top two candidates.  I don’t think the third party candidates will make a significant difference on Election Day but it makes things more interesting.

As the race stands right now Hillary Clinton has a slight edge among the top two candidates.  Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is running a distant third while Jill Stein is in fourth.  Gary Johnson is benefiting from Trump and Clinton’s unpopularity by taking away votes from them.  Jill Stein is taking some votes away from Clinton but it won’t be enough to swing the election.  There are some Republicans who will be voting for Gary Johnson because they despise Donald Trump.  It could be enough to give the election to Hillary Clinton.

The 1912 presidential election Teddy Roosevelt, a former Republican ran third party.  The split in the Republican Party helped elect Woodrow Wilson.  In the 1948 election, Strom Thurmond a Dixiecrat took away votes from president Truman in the general election.  President Truman defeated his main opponent Thomas Dewey in an upset even with Thurmond siphoning votes from Truman.  In 1992 Ross Perot helped elect Bill Clinton.  In 2000, Ralph Nader took away enough votes that it cost Al Gore the election.  I’m not saying that a third party candidate guarantees that they will play the spoiler, but it definitely can be a factor.

The other unusual thing we will likely see this year are Republicans voting for Gary Johnson for president and voting for Republican candidates down ballot.  The U.S. Senate races are tight with the Democrats having a slight advantage.  If there ends up being a landslide for Hillary the House of Representatives might be in play for the Democrats.  At this point it is possible but not likely.  The Democrats need to gain four senate seats to win the majority, five if Hillary Clinton doesn’t win.  My next update will give a clearer picture of who will win the election.

Return of the Moderates?

28 Aug

Beginning with the 2010 primaries, some moderate Republicans lost to their Tea Party opponents.  Some Tea Party candidates won the general election that year but many in the U.S. Senate elections lost.  In 2012 Tea Party candidates again cost Republicans the chance to take back the Senate.  In 2014 the Republicans either marginalized their extremists, or had some of their candidates hide their previous views.  They won back the Senate that year.  This doesn’t mean the Tea Party is done for but they are still being marginalized and sometimes rejected from their own party.

The Republican Party has an identity crisis.  Part of the party still wants to pass immigration reform while the other part of the party wants to deport all immigrants.  Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President because of the anti-immigration part of the Republican Party.  Republican insiders are panicked because they know that pissing off the Hispanic population is a recipe for disaster in a national election.  (Just ask Mitt Romney and Sharon Angle)  If the Republicans lose in a landslide in November the party leaders will get the message but some in their party will continue to be opposed to immigration reform.

Utah Senator Mike Lee took a hit in the polls for supporting the 2013 government shutdown.  He has since joined with Democrats to fight for a Criminal justice reform bill.  Mike Lee’s change in tone was somewhat of a surprise, but some of the most surprising political news came in an election primary in the state of Kansas recently.  One of the most Conservative members of congress Tim Huelskamp lost his primary in Kansas by 16 points.  He clashed with John Boehner when Boehner was the Speaker.  Boehner removed him from the Agriculture Committee which is a crucial committee to be on when you represent a rural state like Kansas.  His inability to work with either party was his downfall.  One voter outlined why he voted against Huelskamp in the primary.  “Getting kicked off the Agricultural Committee is a crime that can’t be forgiven.  I don’t mind the independent voice, but you’ve got to figure out how to work with people.  (NY times “Tim Huelskanp, Anti-Establishment House Republican, Loses Primary in Kansas.”)

Congressman Tim Huelskamp lost in a wave election in Kansas that ousted conservatives across the state.  Kansas governor Sam Brownback has caused massive budget problems for his state, and has endangered some Kansas Republicans in the process.  Last election cycle, an independent came within striking distance of winning one of the two U.S. Senate seats.  Brownback was lucky to get re-elected in 2014.  Governor Brownback’s budget cuts could cause permanent damage to his party in Kansas.

Elections have consequences.  Kansas has already seen some of that.  I don’t know what will happen in the election this year but the Republicans are worried about Donald Trump’s impact on congressional senate races.  In a way they are in a lose-lose situation.  If Trump wins he could cause permanent damage to the party if he loses he could cost them control of the U.S. Senate.

 

  1. New York Times, “Tim Huelskamp, Anti-Establishment House Republican, Loses Primary in Kansas.”http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/03/us/politics/tim-huelskamp-roger-marshall-kansas-primary.html?_r=0

Faux Patriots

31 Jul

The DNC and RNC conventions were the past two weeks.  We saw hope and optimism from the Democrats and more fear-mongering from Republicans.  How did we get to this?  We used to have two different but sensible political parties.  Shutdowns or threat of a government shutdown use to be almost non-existent.  Now they are the norm.  The Republican Party values use to be small government, limited to non- intervention in foreign wars, and prided itself on being a big tent party.  Those days are long gone.

I am a Democrat.  I have voted for Democratic candidates in pretty much every election.  I have never been a Republican but there used to be people in the Republican Party I respected.  Most of the Republicans I respected have either left the party or lost reelection.  The Republicans had people who stood for Civil Rights like Senators Everett Dirksen and Nelson Rockefeller.  Now they have politicians like Senator Jeff Sessions and congressman Steve King who………

Fear mongering and hate have taken over the Republican Party and this began before Donald Trump officially became their party’s nominee for president last week.  After the Civil Rights Act passed, the Republicans used the Southern Strategy (which is?) to take back the south.  Fear and hatred were used to rile up people when talking about immigration.  The RNC convention in particular last week seemed free of any facts.  Donald Trump wants to ban Muslims from entering the country and build a wall along the southern border.  Discouraging immigration is not patriotic, it is denying who we are as a country.

The Republicans have embraced Trump as their nominee and are denying what this country is made from.  The United States was founded to escape religious intolerance and we were built by immigrants.   We keep hearing Republicans refer to “real Americans” and say that they want to take their country back.  Oh, back to where or from whom?  The ideals of America don’t come from a small group of people; they come from everyone in the country and the Constitution from which it was designed. Fareed Zakaria referred to this on his show when he said about Conservatives,

 

They are misty-eyed in their devotion to a distant republic of myth and memory and yet they are passionate in their dislike of the messy, multiracial, capitalist-and-welfare-state democracy that America actually has been for half a century – a fifth of this country’s history. At some point, will they come to realize that you cannot love America in theory and hate it in fact?

 

I think it is time for Republicans to realize that American and Americans have changed.  If they are unable to realize this, then hopefully they will in November.

 

  1.  Zakaria: Can Conservatives love ‘real america’

http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2013/10/21/zakaria-can-conservatives-love-real-america/

Demagogues

30 Jun

During the 1900’s we saw the best and worst of America.  We had great leaders like FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy among others.  We also had dangerous people or people with dangerous ideas who ran for president or sought power.  People like father Coughlin, George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, and Huey Long.  As a country we have repeatedly rejected the extremists that attempt to gain power.

In the 1930’s people were afraid.  The Great Depression had ruined many people financially and threatened us as a country.  We elected a strong leader to get us through the crisis.  Father Coughlin rose to prominence shortly after FDR was elected.  While he was originally a supporter of FDR he became an opponent of him during FDR’s first term.  Father Coughlin later supported fascism and anti-Antisemitism.  He eventually lost support of the radio stations and was off the air before the end of WW2.  FDR helped end his career.

Huey Long was another supporter of FDR early on and he also turned against him.  Although he was a Democrat Long was never able to gain as much traction as FDR had.  Huey Long was an economic populist who planned on taking on FDR for his re-election in 1936.  Huey Long was shot and killed in 1935.  If he had lived it was unlikely he would have beaten FDR in the primary but he still would have made a major impact on American Politics.

In the 1960’s George Wallace was the governor of Alabama.  He was well-known for his staunch pro-segregationist stance.  Wallace had considerable support among Dixiecrats but he was unable to ever get the Democratic nomination for president.  President Lyndon Johnson stood against him by signing into law the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  This caused an eventual splinter in the Democratic Party with some Democrats becoming Republicans over the issue of Civil Rights.  The Democrats largely rejected and marginalized George Wallace.

The reason I bring these examples up are because the Republican Party has failed to do what the Democratic Party has done in the past which is marginalize dangerous or extremist presidential candidates in their party.  The Republican Party might not like Ted Cruz or Donald Trump but they did very little to stop them from becoming front-runners.  The Republicans didn’t take Trump seriously until it was too late.  The only thing the Republicans can do now is that Trump gets defeated in a landslide in November.  If that were to happen then they can go to the extremists in their party and tell them that you can’t win an election with a candidate like Donald Trump.

The Roosevelts

31 May

I recently finished the Ken Burns documentary about the Roosevelt’s.  It goes into detail about the family that forever changed and shaped our country.  Some of them overcame obstacles from their health to become stronger.  Eleanor Roosevelt overcame a tough childhood to become a central figure in the country and one of the most active first ladies in our countries history.  The Roosevelt’s with their wealth could have stayed in the shadows and lived a private life but they choose to live a life of purpose.

He overcame asthma as a kid and became a fan of the outdoors.  It was through his work with nature that he learned to relate to the rest of the country.  He became president after William McKinley was assassinated.  Although Teddy Roosevelt came for much, he sought to give to those who had few.  He was responsible for child labor laws, helped end a coal miners’ strike and did more to protect the environment than almost any other president.

Teddy Roosevelt would be considered a liberal Democrat today by most standards.  Although he was liberal domestically he was very much a hawk on international issues.  He was the youngest person to become president but he still chose to end his career in public service earlier than he had to.  After getting elected president to a full term, he announced that he would not run for re-election.  His decision ultimately led to a split within his party which also led his cousin towards the path of the presidency.

The 1912 presidential election was a race between Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt.  The split within the Republican Party lead to Woodrow Wilson getting elected president.  Franklin D. Roosevelt served in the new administration as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  Shortly after Woodrow Wilson left the White House, FDR contracted polio.  Like his relative Teddy, Franklin had to overcome health problems to become a public figure.  In many ways FDR’s polio strengthened him and helped him become the leader we know him as today.

FDR was elected president in 1932 in a landslide.  Although FDR never faced a competitive presidential election, he faced greater challenges in his presidency than anyone except Abraham Lincoln.  The economy was in a tailspin before FDR took office.  He acted swiftly by signing much of his New Deal legislation into law.  When our nation’s economy was struggling we did massive infrastructure building.  We built skyscrapers and the interstate highway system was conceived of.  Some of the jobs were temporary but it put Americans back to work and lifted the country’s spirits.

While the economy was still recovering a new threat was growing overseas.  Japan and Germany were invading surrounding territories.  Many Americans were not ready to go to war partly because the threat seemed to evade us.  That changed when the U.S. cut off fuel supplies from Japan in response to Japan’s aggression towards its neighbors.  Public opinion was unchanged until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  The United States declared war on Japan and Germany declared war on us.  The war united the country and finally ended the Great Depression.  Unfortunately, FDR didn’t live to see the end of the war.

During her husband’s administration Eleanor became one of the most active and important first ladies.  After FDR’s death she became one of the most important people in the Democratic Party.  In many ways she was a better person than her husband.  She continued championing Progressive causes until her death in 1962.  Eleanor Roosevelt overcame a troubled childhood and became a giant in American politics.

Contested Convention?

30 Apr

The presidential primary season is winding down with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton getting close to clinching the nomination in each party.  The only chance the Republicans have of stopping Trump from winning the nomination is to deny him the amount of delegates he needs heading to the convention.  Hillary Clinton is well on her way to winning the nomination and will likely clinch before the convention.  If Cruz and Kasich prevent Trump from getting the delegates he needs to clinch the nomination we will see something we haven’t seen since 1976, a contested convention.

In the old days the presidential nominations were decided at the conventions.  There are pros and cons with the two systems.  The old system produced better candidates but it was less democratic.  We use to have better presidential matchups like Dewey vs. Truman or Stevenson vs. Eisenhower.  In 2000 and 2004 we had Bush v. Gore and Bush v. Kerry.  In some ways I prefer the old system, but the primary process also gives an outsider a better chance.

We are left with an interesting situation now that the primaries are almost over.  The two candidates leading their party’s nomination have very high unfavorable ratings.  Donald Trumps’ unfavorable ratings are higher than Hillary Clintons’.  The Republican Party establishment sees this and are understandable worried.  Donald Trump is blowing an otherwise winnable election for the Republicans.

The top two candidates in the Republican primary are literally the last two candidates that they wanted as their nominee.  Senator Ted Cruz can probably count the amount of friends he has in the Senate on one hand and Trump has seen very few if any endorsements from anyone in congress.  Both Cruz and Trump would lose the election to either of the Democratic candidates if the election were held today.  It is possible but I don’t see that changing much in the next several months.

Donald Trump is doing the opposite of what he should be doing if he wants to win in November.  In 2012 Mitt Romney lost the Hispanic vote by a large margin.  Trump is on track to do even worse.  Donald Trump’s approval rating among women are among the lowest of any candidate in history.  There will be a likely revolt within the party if he wins the nomination which would lead to many voting third party over Trump.  Only one of the factors I mentioned above could cost him the election.

The Republican Party is faced with a problem heading into the Convention no matter what.  If they try to take away the nomination away from Trump than his voters could stay at home, if Trump wins the nomination he could cost them the Senate.  There has been talk that Trump could cause the Republicans to lose complete control of congress.  The only way that could happen is if the Republicans have another election like 2006 or 2008.  That is a possibility but I am skeptical that could happen at the moment.  The Republicans don’t want to take that chance but they are running out of options fast.

Dirty Campaigning

31 Mar

There have been few if any clean election campaigns. Thomas Jefferson once called John Adams a hermaphrodite (look it up).  Many people remember President Lyndon Johnson’s infamous daisy ad or George W. Bush’s Swiftboat ads against Senator Kerry.  Dirty or negative campaigning has been going on for some time.  Recently though, we have been digging further to the bottom.

This year’s presidential race is now down to 5 candidates. All of the candidates have been attacking each other but one feud has gotten particularly ugly and that is between Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.  It started before the Iowa caucuses when Trump went after Cruz to try to close the gap between them in the caucuses.  Recently it has escalated over each other’s wives.  I think that as long as the candidates significant others don’t make overwhelmingly controversial statements, they should be off-limits.

I understand why Ted Cruz is upset but he is certainly the wrong person giving the message. Senator Cruz hasn’t done much in the Senate besides obstruct and be a demagogue.  He accused former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel of getting money from North Korea without providing the slightest bit of evidence.  Before the Iowa Caucuses’ Senator Cruz spread rumors that Ben Carson had dropped out.  He also sent out a borderline illegal letter to voters in Iowa impersonating the Secretary of State’s office in Iowa.  The Republican primary race has devolved further since then.

Donald Trump’s supporters and rallies are worse than Trump himself has acted. People are being kicked out of rallies for doing nothing other than being different.  Trump’s rallies have become even worse over time.  Some of his recent rallies include people getting kicked out for protesting.  There have been outbreaks of violence by his supporters and even his campaign manager.  That is not how campaign rallies are suppose to happen.

Donald Trump is doing next to nothing to quell the violence in his rallies. He is even encouraging violence at his rallies.  Trump’s opponents have been calling him out on this.  I don’t blame a candidate for all of their supporters but it is the candidates’ job to tone down the rhetoric.  On the Democratic side there have been disagreements on approach and policy, but nothing compared to the rhetoric on the Republican side.

I mentioned in my previous blog post that Donald Trump has been able to get this far partially because of the racism that exists in the Republican Party. In some ways it goes beyond that.  In 2008 we saw the birth of the Tea Party (yes, you read that correctly).  At Sarah Palin’s rallies, she would say, “What do we know about the real Barack Obama?”  People in the crowd shouted, “Terrorist, kill him!”  Sarah Palin stood there and smiled.  Senator McCain quelled some of the anger at their rallies.  It was from those rallies that the Tea Party were born.

Right now there are three candidates running for president on the Republican side. Two out of the three have most of the Tea Party support.  Donald Trump’s rhetoric matches what the Tea Party have said in the past.  In the last presidential election the Tea Party candidates lost.  They are making a comeback in the Republican primaries with a disastrous effect on their party.  The Tea Party cost the Republicans control of congress in 2010 and 2012.  This time it could cost them the presidency and control of the Senate.  Donald Trump is the current front runner for the Republican nomination for president.  As bad as he is for the Republican Party he is worse for the country.  I have no confidence in Donald Trump’s temperament as a candidate, because judging by the way Trump runs his campaign rallies; he’s not fit to run our country.