Category Archives: Politics

AFTER THE MIDTERMS

In 2010, President Obama, surveying the wreckage of his Party in the midterm elections, deemed the results a “shellacking.” In November, President Biden may soon be appropriating the same term, or seeking a synonym. But Republicans will face an identity crisis in the wake of midterms victory, and that crisis could prove more dangerous to the GOP than defeat at the polls may prove to the Democrats.

Polls show Republicans poised to take control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. Granted, there are good reasons to view these polls with skepticism. But those reasons suggest that the polls, if inaccurate, are probably understating the Republicans’ prospects, not overstating them.  Andrew Prokop of Vox has analyzed 48 close (within 10 points) Senate elections from 2014 to 2020, and found 40 elections in which polling understated Republicans’ margins by an average of 5 percentage points. In contrast, he found only 8 elections in which polling understated Democratic candidates’ margins, and then by an average of only 1.8 percentage points.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times notes that only 0.4% of pollster dials result in a completed interview. That means that a pollster must spend two hours making calls to obtain a single response. Republican voters, already suspicious of pollsters, are more likely than Democrats to be among the huge majority ignoring such calls.

In addition, between now and November 8, the numbers, to the extent they move at all, are likely to move favorably for the GOP. In late September, the Real Clear Politics average of polls projected Republican gains in the House in the range of 5 to 38 seats. This week, the range has grown to 12 to 49 seats. If these trends continue, the range will almost certainly be higher on election day, meaning that a Republican net gain of 50 House seats is a real possibility.

Turning to the Senate, Republican candidates are moving up in all of the toss up races. As with the House, the current crop of polling results likely understates the dimensions of the coming Democratic disaster. The Real Clear Politics website projects a net gain of 3 seats, meaning a 53 – 47 Republican majority. (We may have to wait until December to see the final numbers because neither Party candidate is likely to surpass 50% in Georgia – necessitating a runoff the following month under that state’s peculiar rules.)

Again the RCP projection may understate GOP prospects. It assumes the Democrats will hold the New Hampshire and Washington senate seats occupied by incumbents Maggie Hassan and Patty Murray. But Hassan has seen her lead over Don Bolduc shrink from 7.6 points in September to 3.4 points, and Murray has seen her lead over Tiffany Smiley diminish from 13.7 points to 5.0. Republicans have a real shot at flipping one or both seats.

To sum up, on November 8 we may well see a Republican “wave” election, in which the GOP not only secures control of Congress, but does so decisively, gaining close to 50 seats in the House and 4 or 5 seats in the Senate.

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OUR FIRST LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENT?

For many ordinary Americans, politics has become an unpalatable pastime, too distasteful to digest or follow. It seems incredible that in a country of 330 million, the foremost political leaders are Joe Biden and Donald Trump, two men of low character and of lower, if any, principles.

That may explain why Troy Senik’s biography of Grover Cleveland, A Man of Iron, arrives as such an unalloyed joy. Turning from cable news to Senik’s work is like emerging from a fetid swamp to find oneself alongside a pristine brook.

Many see in Cleveland our first  and perhaps only outright libertarian president. He was a firm exponent of laissez faire economics, federalism, the gold standard, and anti-imperialism. Granted, to describe him as a libertarian runs the risk of over-simplification. His politics were more nuanced than that. For example, years before Teddy Roosevelt made conservation popular, Cleveland was setting aside forest land in Wyoming’s Grand Tetons, Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and South Dakota’s Black Hills.

Still, the libertarian label is more accurate than not.

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WHEN TEDDY ROOSEVELT HAD WINSTON CHURCHILL TO DINNER

The lives of Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill overlapped, but they met in person only once — at a dinner in the Governor’s Mansion in Albany, New York on December 10, 1900. The 42-year old Roosevelt was about to relocate to Washington DC to assume his duties as Vice President. The 26-year old Churchill, who was visiting America to shore up his finances by a lecture tour, was about to take his seat in Parliament.  

What happened at their dinner is unknown. But to the extent historians have noticed the dinner (which isn’t a large extent[i]), they have accepted the view, first attributed to Roosevelt’s daughter Alice, that the two men did not get along because they were so much alike.[ii] As Robert Pilpel, in his Churchill in America 1895 – 1961, put it: “It was a case of likes repelling.”[iii]

But was it?

We will never know for certain because the witnesses are not available for deposition. But based on the evidence, the “likes repelling” theory is unpersuasive. Something else, something deeper, was afoot.

Let’s review the record, starting with Winston Churchill’s reaction to the dinner.

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SEPTEMBER 11, 2021 IS COMING

For the past 19 anniversaries of 9/11, we have commemorated that national tragedy with a certain sense of relief and vindication.  On the first anniversary, even as we mourned the 2,977 victims, we could derive some measure of comfort from the fact that we had hunted down their killers, smashed their hideouts, and ousted the 7th century Taliban fanatics who had sheltered and nurtured them.  

By the 10th anniversary, we could mark the death of Osama Bin Laden.

What emotions will we experience on the 20th anniversary?

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THE REPUBLICANS’ DANGER — AND OPPORTUNITY

John F. Kennedy famously (and incorrectly) observed that the Chinese word for “crisis” consists of two brushstrokes: one signifying “danger” and the other “opportunity.”  As the dust and debris of the desecration of the Capitol subsides, the Republican Party confronts just such a two-faceted moment.

Since 2016, when he accepted the Republican nomination for the presidency, Donald Trump has been the Party leader. And not just in a titular or ceremonial sense. He has demanded and received almost complete loyalty from Party members. He effectively engineered the early retirements of critics and of supporters whose support was merely tepid, including, to name just a few, Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and Luther Strange of Alabama.

Now, as the nation reacts in shock and revulsion at the mob violence, the Republican Party faces a grave danger due to its association with Trump.

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DON’T CRY FOR HIM, GRAND OLD PARTY

The Republican Party had a good 2020 election. And prospects are bright for an even better 2022. But as Donald Trump files suit after suit challenging the election results, an impediment to Republican hopes is taking shape.

The impediment might be labelled the myth of the “Lost Cause.”

In American history, the “Lost Cause” refers to the myth that emerged in the wake of the Civil War. According to this lore, the South’s attempt to secede from the Union was a great, heroic epic fought, not to preserve slavery, but to protect a higher, gentler civilization. Outnumbered and outgunned, the South relied on skillful, chivalrous commanders who waged a noble, but ultimately doomed, struggle against an enemy with far greater economic and military resources.

Today a different Lost Cause myth may be arising from the ashes of Donald Trump’s defeat.

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THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN THE YEAR ONE A.D. (After Donald)

The era of Donald Trump will be ending soon.  It may end this week, if, as nearly all polls indicate, he loses the election. Of course, the 2016 presidential election, and many other elections here and abroad, teach us to be wary of polls. A Trump defeat is not certain. But even if Trump pulls off another surprising win, he will become a lameduck President as soon as he takes his second oath. Maneuvering within the Republican Party for succession in 2024 will begin immediately. One way or another, Donald Trump will soon be history.

Now is as good a time as any to speculate on the state of the Republican Party in the Year One A.D. (After Donald).

Fifty years ago, in a book entitled The Emerging Republican Majority, a nerdy 28-year old White House staffer named Kevin Phillips expounded the proposition that American politics progresses in 32 or 36-year stages, during which one party dominates the other. Thus, 1896 – 1932 saw the Republican Party in control, with the single exception of the Wilson administration.  The period of 1932 – 1968 saw the Democratic Party ascendant, with the single exception of the Eisenhower years.

Phillips argued that 1968 would usher in a new era of Republican dominance. His book was dedicated to President Richard Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell, the two supposed “architects” of the emerging Republican Majority. Unfortunately for his thesis, Watergate occurred. Five years after the Republican majority was supposed to emerge, one “architect” had resigned in disgrace and the other was headed for prison following his conviction for obstruction of justice and perjury.

Considering the GOP’s problems, it is tempting to predict that the Year One A.D. will witness the advent of an Emerging Republican Minority. If Trump loses, he will likely take down a number of Republican candidates with him, and the GOP will almost certainly lose the Senate. With Democratic control of the House already assured, that means that the Party will have the White House and both Houses of Congress for the first time since Barack Obama’s election.

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CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

The Democratic Convention is over and the delegates have gone home. The Republican Convention is about to commence, as the delegates pack their bags.

Well, metaphorically anyway. In fact, few people are going anywhere in this time of Covid.

The Democrats can look back at their pioneering event with some pride and a lot of relief. This was the nation’s first virtual convention. Aside from some cringe-worthy moments (a “comic” routine by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Andrew Yang about mispronouncing Mike Pence’s name; an appearance by Bill Clinton on the same day that photos were published showing him receiving a neck massage from a 22-year old Jeffrey Epstein entourage member; a speech by Michael Bloomberg that featured a fly landing on his face), their convention went well.

Joe Biden gave a very good speech. It helped that the bar was set very low — any performance which did not result in him blabbering incoherently would have been scored as a success. But he did more than clear that bar. He gave what may have been the best speech of his career. He spoke more effectively than his running mate Kamala Harris; he spoke as well as Barack Obama, and almost as well as Michelle Obama.

BIDEN convention

So far, it appears that the Democratic Convention has not produced a bounce. In fact, Biden’s numbers are slightly down in the battleground states. That should concern the Party because it suggests that their ticket has reached its ceiling. And it has done so amid a staggeringly poor economy and a horrific pandemic. The situation between now and November is unlikely to get any worse. It may get better. Better would be bad news for the Democrats.

But the Democrats may face a graver threat than the lack of a bounce. With all the talk expended over the four days of the convention, the Democrats may come to rue their silence on certain issues.

They spent four days blaming Donald Trump for Covid but they were silent about another epidemic gripping the nation. They said nothing about the rising murder rate in most of our major cities. They were likewise silent about the campaign to defund the police, an issue directly related to that rising rate.

These are serious issues and the Democrats ignored them at their peril. Now the Republicans have the podium, and with it, the opportunity to present and define those issues. Continue reading

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A CAPITAL OFFENSE

The latest trend in woke journalism is the use of the capital letter “B” to refer to black people. This is in contrast to “white”, “brown”, “yellow”, and “red” – occasional descriptors of other racial groups. They all remain in lower case. The trend has been embraced by the New York Times, the Associated Press, USA Today, and several other pillars of American journalism. It is safe to say that it will soon become the norm – if it is not so already.

The mainly white-owned and operated organizations behind this trend believe that by doing so, they are showing respect to black America. They are wrong. Capitalizing “Black” does not show respect. It patronizes.

New York Times

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WINSTON CHURCHILL’S LIFE MATTERED

In the wake of the George Floyd killing, protests have erupted around the world. Now Winston Churchill has been caught up in the maelstrom.

His monument in London’s Parliament Square has been boarded up after protesters daubed “was a racist” in red paint on it. His granddaughter Emma Soames told the BBC that the statue may have to be placed in a museum for its own protection.

The Churchill monument is by no means alone in attracting controversy. Confederate statues have been removed or covered with graffiti all over the South. Statues of Columbus have been toppled or vandalized in Miami, Richmond, and St. Paul. Those actions, whatever one might believe about their propriety, are at least understandable. It is hard to make sense of some of the other statue protests. In Boston, a memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first black volunteer infantry unit in the Civil War, was defaced, and a petition to take down a statue of Abraham Lincoln has attracted 7,000 signatures. In Leicester, England,  a petition to remove a statue of Churchill’s erstwhile foe Mahatma Gandhi has received nearly 5,000 signatures.

One can only say, with Mark Antony: “Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt.”

But is the assault on Churchill’s monument mere mischief? Or was he in fact a racist?

In these times of upheaval and uncertainty, an answer of absolute conviction is due. So the only proper response to that question is an adamant: “Yes, but.”

Churchill Monument

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