Tag: 2016 Election

Bernie in My Home Town

Monterey, California, seldom has seen a Presidential candidate from a major party visit in the last few decades. First, thanks to the way primaries are run in this country (aka chaos), California’s votes hardly ever count. Second, even those candidates who do come to California typically don’t do public events; they’re here for the rich veins of fund-raisers in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Hollywood. Finally, Monterey is well off the beaten path located as it is all the way on the coast.

But there was Bernie. My friend MaryAnn Boylan took this picture at the rally. She had a great spot near the candidate, as you can see.

Bernie Sanders Comes to Monterey May 31, 2016

Bernie Sanders Comes to Monterey May 31, 2016

Several of my friends — some of whom remain convinced of Bernie having a remaining long shot at the Democratic nomination — found the rally refreshing. “Most of the people up front near me,” MaryAnn said, “were millennials. It was really great to talk to them and get their take. Most of the ones I talked do said if Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, they won’t vote for Hillary.”

Almost 8,000 people attended the event, four times the campaign’s forecast to local authorities.

Putting Accusations of Trump as a Fascist in Context

Almost from the moment he entered the Republican Party nominating process, Donald Trump has been the target of accusations from the Right and Left that he is a fascist. Everyone from his primary opponents to the Democratic candidates, from rabid Facebook posters to such esteemed writers as Noam Chomsky, has leveled that loaded charge against him.

It’s understandable. In many ways, his “policies” reflect fascist thinking. But on closer examination, he is less a fascist than he is a right-wing nativist with populist overtones. But that’s a pretty big mouthful for a TV commentator, and far too complex and nuanced to fit on a bumper sticker or in a soundbite.

Peter Baker, in a New York Times op-Ed piece dated May 28, puts these charges into the broader context of the growing debate over global fascism taking place in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. He points out that if we begin by defining fascism as, “a governmental system that asserts complete power and emphasizes aggressive nationalism and often racism,” Trump falls short on the very first part of the definition. He is more a neoliberal favoring small, unintrusive government than a big-government fascist.

Read Baker’s article. I think you’ll find it enlightening, not only with respect to the 2016 Presidential election in the United States, but with respect to worldwide geopolitics.

You Go, Elizabeth! If Dems Are Looking for a Trump Attack Dog, They’ve Found Her

Elizabeth Warren: HRC's Attack Dog?

Elizabeth Warren: HRC’s Attack Dog?

Traditional political strategy suggests that each major party’s ticket must include in the number two spot a real “attack dog” capable of going after the other party’s presidential candidate. If that wisdom continues to hold, the Democrats have found their vice-presidential nominee: Elizabeth Warren.

In a series of Twitter exchanges with Republican nominee-to-be-for-sure Donald Trump over the weekend, Elizabeth decimated the dullard billionaire. You can read a particularly cogent account of the dialogue here to get some idea of why I am enthusiastic about this subject.

According to Ashley Parker’s report, at one point Trump tried to attach the label of “Goofy” to Ms. Warren. Demonstrating her understanding that the best way to go after Trump is to question his success and intelligence, Elizabeth countered with something like:

“Seriously? The man with “all the best words”? The best you can come up with is “Goofy”? Weak.”

She had me on the floor! Brilliant comeback. And exactly the formula for keeping Trump as far as possible from our nation’s corridors of power.

As you know if you follow this space, I’m a committed Green Party person. My support and my vote in 2016 go to Jill Stein. But if the Democrats were to nominate Hillary Clinton, and if she were to pick Elizabeth Warren has her VP candidate, it would be very tempting to realign with the my life-long party.

Somebody has got to keep Donald Trump out of Washington!

Please.

Why Voting Green Isn’t a Wasted Ballot

Green Party USA Logo

Green Party USA Logo

As you know if you are even a casual reader of this blog, I am committed to Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency as long as he remains in the race. If and when he drops out, I plan to work for, support and vote for whoever the Green Party nominates; I presume that will be Dr. Jill Stein, who was the 2012 nominee of the party, but whoever garners the nomination will get my vote in the event Sanders doesn’t make it.

I have elsewhere explained my reasons for making this choice. These include, in brief:

  1. I do not like or trust Hillary Clinton. She is a defense hawk at a time when world peace needs to be near the top of the agenda. Her late conversion to opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline tells me all I need to know about her sensibilities on global climate change. None of her ideas are fresh.
  2. While I am loath to vote for a candidate from either major party (more below), Sanders is only a Democrat in name for the purposes of this campaign. His policy positions go well beyond the present and recent Democratic Party platforms and align somewhat closely (though not as closely as I’d like) with the Greens, whose platform meets with 90% approval.
  3. The Green Party is the only global political party worth the title. In a world where problems transcend national and cultural borders, that approach to politics must be the future if the planet is to survive, let alone thrive.

Many of my friends, when they find out my voting plans, are aghast. “A vote for a third party candidate is a vote for the Republican!” they say incredulously. “Why would you want to waste your vote like that plus taking a chance you’ll help elect a Cruz or a Trump?”

Fellow political blogger John Uebersax has done an excellent job of explaining the rationale behind a decision to vote for a third-party candidate. I encourage you to take time to read at least the summary of his thinking that occupies the first part of that post. Briefly, here are my primary points.

  1. The two major political parties are Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum in their broadest policy positions. With Sanders out of the equation, the Democrats differ from the Republicans basically only in degree on the major issue of the day: global climate change, the economy, income inequality. The differences seem huge because of the way they are painted by media dedicated to upholding the Establishment power structures on which they feed. While it is certainly the case that the Democrats have a better record on civil and human rights, those issues are not existential in the same way global climate change, e.g., is.
  2. Voting for the lesser of two evils still results in an evil outcome. (I don’t really believe in evil, but I use the terminology because it is commonly understood.)
  3. While it may be true that in 2016 voting a third party ticket isn’t going to result in a win, it can hasten the day — which I expect will come within 20-30 years — when the United States becomes a multi-party nation in which all parties are dedicated to governing rather than destroying.
  4. If ever there was a year when voting outside the two major parties was likely to make sense, it’s 2016. Whether the GOP nominates Trump (which I suspect they will) or Cruz (a worse alternative in my view), Hillary will bury them. Not only will the Democrats hold the White House, they’ll probably regain control of the Senate and significantly weaken the Republican majority in the House. Down ticket races will also go heavily Democratic as conservatives are tarnished by the outrageous positions and behaviors of the GOP slate. The chances that a couple of million people voting for what they’d really like to see instead of what they’ll settle for will throw the election one way or another is patently absurd. In a close election year, that view might not hold water but it certainly does in 2016.
  5. If the Greens and/or other third parties gain sufficient numbers of voters, the mainstream parties will be forced to shift their policy positions in order to increase their competitiveness. The net result will be a government that comes closer to modeling my views instead of one where the differences on the issues that matter most to me are all but negligible.
  6. By voting Green, I may contribute to the party receiving enough support in 2016 that it will qualify for ballot access in all 50 states and matching FEC funds in 2020, both important steps to the establishment of a viable third party.

I’m not unrealistic. I know the Green candidate won’t win in 2016. I have predicted that the GOP will nominate Trump, which will fracture them badly and open the doors wide for a massive victory by HRC in November as well as significant gains in Congress. But in much the way that Bernie has caused Clinton to shift to the left and to discuss important issues she’d rather not focus on, a significant showing by the Greens in 2016 can begin to shift the major parties in directions that I will find more palatable and more likely to avoid the catastrophic future that awaits my beautiful children and grandchildren if either of the mainstream parties’ platforms hold sway for another 4-8 years.

Isn’t it better — more moral, more in integrity — to vote for what you really want rather than waste a vote on someone with whom you will never be truly satisfied as your leader?

Don’t Stop Trump, Stop the Far More Dangerous Cruz! Better Yet, Stop Them Both

The Republican Party’s presidential nominating circus is about at its midway point and so far the only clear things are that a plurality (30-40%) of the “base” who vote in primaries and caucuses prefer Donald Trump and that everyone else can’t stand the guy. The GOP Establishment — whoever that is these days — is stumbling into line behind Ted Cruz, who’s such a terrible person that even his fellow Congress Critters hate him.

I personally believe Cruz is more dangerous than Trump could ever be. Trump is an opportunist with no political chops or interest who changes positions — to the extent that he even has any — at the drop of a PR advisor’s hat. Cruz is a dangerous fanatical idealogue who truly believes the racist, ignorant crap he spews forth as his stump[ed] speech. Trump’s ignorance is, at least theoretically, fixable. Cruz’ demagoguery isn’t. He actually believes that stuff! And he’s annoyingly smug and self-righteous about those indefensible beliefs.

As a progressive and long-time political kibitzer, I’m convinced it doesn’t ultimately matter who gets the GOP nod this year, he (or she?) is going to get creamed. But I’m also a firm believer in a multi-party system and I don’t want to see the Republican Party fall into ignominy and irrelevance. One-party rule, even if it’s a party I can agree with much of the time, isn’t a good plan for running a democracy’s political side.

So I’m rooting for a contested convention which nominates someone who isn’t sullied by the current filth the GOP has put on as a presidential selection process. I have no idea who that might be but I’m sure it will be someone with conservative cred, which is enough to sink them in the General without destroying the party in its entirety.

 

Why the Kerfuffle Over Hillary’s Speeches is Mostly Fluff. Probably.

The media and the Bernie Sanders campaign are going bat-crap crazy because she won’t release transcripts of the 92 speeches she’s given since leaving her post as Secretary of State for which she bagged $21.7 million.

I think this is a non-issue. This despite the fact that I’m one of the majority of voters who don’t trust HRC any farther than I could throw a nunlearn missile.

First, all recent former Secretaries of State have almost certainly earned millions in speaking fees. It’s one of the perks of the position. Probably other former Cabinet-level officers have also become highly paid speakers after leaving office.

Second, the whole issue of the content of these talks is naive. Companies don’t hire Clinton — or any other name speaker at her level — for their special knowledge or for what advice they might offer. They do it for the prestige and sometimes for the “draw” value of their name. Let’s face it, Hillary is unlikely to have such deep, unique insights into a subject of business value that these same companies couldn’t hire in the form of multiple consultants with real cred.

In this case, the allegations seem to pertain to pay-for-access, but since she’d already left her post, it’s hard to imagine any intelligently run company would see a direct link between paying her for access she no longer officially had. Of course, she remains a colleague and, by some accounts, friend of the President. I suppose there might be some perceived tit-for-tat play there somewhere. But hundreds of thousands of dollars worth? Seems doubtful to me.

Finally, the fact is that her clients almost certainly demanded confidentiality and intellectual property rights to her speeches as a matter of ordinary course of business. This would give them the ability to share recordings and transcripts of her talks with other audiences within their circle for whatever value they might provide.

All this said, I still don’t trust the woman. If it turns out there is a scandal lurking here, I won’t be too astonished. On the face of it, though, I just don’t see this as a substantial issue.

It’s Been a Great Run, Bernie, But It’s Time to Go Green

As regular readers of this space know, I’ve given up on the Democratic Party in recent elections. Independent Bernie Sanders, running as a Democratic “outsider”, got my attention and I’ve been a rabid supporter since he announced. I absolutely prefer him as my next President.

But from the perspective of the issues, the Democratic Party no longer closely embodies my values. Hillary Clinton is not acceptable to me. The reasons are myriad and this column isn’t about that subject. I will stay with Bernie all the way to the convention if he stays in.

But, Bernie, please do this favor: seek and accept the nomination of the Green Party while still fighting for the Democratic nomination. There is precedent for a candidate to appear on more than one party’s ballot. As an Independent, you don’t owe fealty to the Democratic Party. The Green Party platform aligns right down the line with your policy positions. Equally or more important, your backers are as disaffected by the Democrats and HRC as anyone. They don’t feel any loyalty to the Democrats either.

By adding the Green Party to your cred, you might pick up some votes. But importantly, you’d be broadening your reach and appeal and taking your message global.

Besides, you’d give me a nice out!  I could keep my promise to back you until you drop out and then switch to the Green candidate.

Go Green, Bernie!! Please?

Gotta Love Bernie’s Positive Thinking!

Bernie Sanders is drafting is inauguration speech.

Not his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination, mind you, His inauguration speech.

I love that.

One of my core beliefs is that we co-create our own experience of reality. I practice affirmative prayer. I even wrote a book about it. So when I read today that Sanders is writing his inauguration speech, I gave him a virtual standing ovation. “Acting as if” is one of the most powerful spiritual practices, though it is often misunderstood.

Get that talk polished, Bernie. You may need it yet!

Feel the Bern!!

Enough With the Freaking Polls Already!

My favorite news commentator, it will come as no surprise to learn, is MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. While there are some things about her show and her delivery (enough with the frigging 39 teases to get us to stay tuned, Rachel! We’re watching already!) that I find annoying, she is, for the most part, a really bright, articulate, insightful journalist. She has a clear viewpoint and she doesn’t make any bones about it. I don’t view her show so much as news as sharing with us her views about what the news means.

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC Commentator

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC Commentator

But she has been part of — perhaps even leading — the parade of otherwise competent journalists who insist on spending hours and hours of air time analyzing absolutely meaningless polls. She has a “hair on fire” approach to anything that shows the Republican Party in general and conservative Republicans specifically in a bad light. So she reports on the presidential preferential polls taking place more than a year before the election and months before any actual voting in primaries, treating them as if they were the Ultimate Truth, the Perfect Prognosticators of what the election results will look like.

She knows better and once in a while she admits as much. But still she cranks up the polling siren every night. “Donald Trump very well could be the Republican Party’s nominee” is red meat for her core followers but it’s (as she likes to say) bullpuckey and she damn well knows it. These polls are meaningless and their results, if correctly interpreted, don’t really tells us what she (and so many others) keep telling us they mean.

Just look at the latest numbers.

CBS News/New York Times GOP Poll Dec 10, 2015

CBS News/New York Times GOP Poll Dec 10, 2015

The most recent CBS News/New York Times poll data has Trump at 35%, which is more than double his nearest competitor, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who came in at 16%. This means, according to Rachel, that Trump’s numbers are “through the roof.”

No, it doesn’t.

Let’s take a calm, sensible look at this data.

First, notice who is being polled here. It’s “Republican Primary Voters” (see the label across the top?). Actually, digging a bit deeper you’ll find that all of these early polls focus on likely GOP primary voters. This means that the pollsters filter out anyone who won’t say they’re even likely to vote in the primary. But there’s no indication of how many such voters are being discounted, many (perhaps even most) of whom may well vote when their turn comes. So this is a smallish sample of a smallish sample.

Second, notice who’s not represented. There is no slot for “I don’t know” or “None of the above.” Which leads to the conclusion that it’s likely that option isn’t on the surveys and/or is being removed from consideration because, after all, what this poll wants to do is to test these candidates against one another.

Third, even if you ignore those two points, if 35% of all GOP voters can be said to be pro-Trump, that means 65% are not. Now, tally up the totals of the remainder of the field. The other 14 GOP candidates have a combined total of just over 55%. This means two obvious things.

First, the “not Trump” portion of the field has a clear majority even when it’s broken down in this overly simplistic and largely meaningless way.

Second, Something around 10% of the “GOP Primary Voters” aren’t represented here at all since the sum total of all the candidates is around 90%. With a margin of error of 6 points, we may be looking at an even smaller actual percentage.

So how can Rachel — or any other thoughtful observer — conclude that Trump’s candidacy is real and serious when this fairly simple digging reveals those kinds of insights? I contend that one cannot; that Rachel is simply engaging in the other half of her job (besides intelligent commentator), which is ratings flogger. If she did The Right Thing, she’d either ignore these polls or she’d present them in a broader and more appropriate context and give them much less air time.

Now, just for grins, let’s take the whole issue of polling in its broader electoral context. Even assuming that all of my observations above — and several I didn’t take time for — are wrong and that these poll results are accurate and have real meaning in some context, what is that context?

If you’re a political junkie (and I can only assume you are since you’ve already read almost 750 words of this piece), you can remember the 2012 race. During the course of that race, even once actual voters had cast actual ballots producing actual delegates, the lead for the GOP nomination changed hands a dozen or more times. And sometimes, the leaders’ margins were as high or nearly so as Trump’s are currently. The polls in 2012 were historically wrong. Over and over.

Take a look at this excellent graph over at RealClearPolitics.com. It’s interactive; drag your mouse along the graph and you can look at any point in time from February 2011 through to the concluding point in April 2012 when Mitt Romney sewed up the nomination. Notice the incredible jumble of lines that occupies the vast majority of that time until — wait for it! — late February 2012. By then, several state primaries had been held including Super Tuesday, and the chart finally sorted itself out.

Slice this another way. Assume Trump carries the Iowa caucuses in a landslide as the fake numbers so far suggest. (The caucuses aren’t held until Feb. 1, with New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary eight days later.) Care to take a guess when was the last time the winner of the GOP caucuses in Iowa went on to get the party nomination? If we consider only years in which the party had multiple nominees, it was 2000 when George W. Bush carried the state with 41% of the vote. The last two rounds went to Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, neither of whom survived to the conventions.

So if Trump is indeed somehow deemed a “prohibitive favorite” to win Iowa, maybe that should be a cause for relief and rejoicing since it likely means he won’t be the party’s nominee.

Then if you’ll indulge me just one final observation, there is the two-headed question of who these likely primary voters are and what their level of political awareness is at the moment.

How many people do you know who are not political junkies like us who are even paying attention to the presidential races at the moment? I thought as much. And of those, how many are thoughtful, considerate semi-partisan observers as opposed to committed progressives and conservatives whose personal party platform is pretty well set and whose preference you could predict with near certainty? Yep. Given that we are almost 90 days out from the first actual voting (if you can call Iowa straw polls and caucuses an actual vote), the upcoming holidays, the hundreds of distracting events in the news and the completely disastrous economy facing almost everyone you and I know, it’s not surprising that most of our friends — even those who are politically motivated in season — are just not focused on the 2016 election.

Within that context, thinking only about the GOP field, who has the best name recognition by far? Donald trumps them all. (Sorry, had to get one of those in before I was done.) And he’s an absolute master of the arts of propaganda and public relations (which are often difficult to distinguish). So the real shock would be if, in these specific circumstances, anyone but Trump were leading the polls.

Now, take a deep breath, brew up a nice cup of chamomile tea, put on some of your favorite relaxation music, and chill. The real pursuit of the nomination will come soon enough.

And, Rachel, please consider giving us less meaningless polling and more discussion of the actual issues your audience worries about now and for the foreseeable future? You’re not adding much light to the discussion these days.

Thanks everyone. You can go back to putting out your hair now.

Presidential Candidates Graded on Climate Change: Only 4 Get Passing Grades, One on GOP Side

The Associated Press did an interesting fact check on the accuracy of statements made by the Presidential candidates of both parties. The result, shown in this graph, was high marks for Democrats and only one GOP candidate (Jeb Bush) getting a (barely) passing grade.

Graphic shows results of survey of scientists on candidates’ statements on climate change; 2c x 5 inches; 96.3 mm x 127 mm;

Graphic shows results of survey of scientists on candidates’ statements on climate change; 2c x 5 inches; 96.3 mm x 127 mm;

The study was done as objectively as possible. Eight climate scientists were shown candidate comments without identifying the candidates in any detectable way. Thus their findings are hardly subject to the charge that they were even incidentally partisan.

Interestingly, the top tier of GOP candidates are all near the bottom of the truth scale, with the recently trending Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas coming in at a dismal 6% accuracy. That result let one of the scientists evaluating the responses to say, “”This individual understands less about science (and climate change) than the average kindergartner. That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president.”

See, even scientists have a sense of humor!