Election 2016

There Are Lessons Here, Part Two

Last time, I made the point that the Democratic platform is remarkably goal oriented and detail-focused. And the Republican message is negative and angry and very dour.

It’s something that people have noticed and commented on. And then, somehow, forgot.

Meanwhile, the internet and media wait anxiously for the daily barrage of tweets from Trump that just reinforce how totally unfiltered he is. And I understand that his lack of a filter is a big selling point to those who support him, but really, turn it around for a minute, people: do you really want people to express their opinions about you without a filter? No. The answer is simply no. So doing it to someone else is just rude. And stupid. Because regardless of whether the opinion is right or wrong, being insensitive and unfiltered on a scale like what is given to the President of the United States is reckless and puts the nation in more danger than it may or may not be.

Which brings me back to a central question: to those who have pushed so hard for the political outsiders (you hard-core Sanders supporters, and the Trump-supporting elements of the right), why have you given up on pragmatism? The Republicans have staked everything this cycle on one unstable man who clearly can’t stay on message, doesn’t understand the difference between respectful debate and name-calling, and who is as far removed from the middle class as just about anyone in this nation can be. They’ve opted for a platform that realistically only appeals to a very small group of people–a group, by the way, which is remarkably white, Christian, and quite probably male; and any female and racially diverse groups who happen to latch on are the extremely rare cases. In the end, this rush to the far right, to a stance that abhors cooperation and compromise, that insists on absolutes and a refusal to budge from a world view that is myopic at best, could prove deadly to the party and even extremely detrimental to their own cause. Why be willing to commit political suicide and risk everything to make a point?

(And there’s a valid point there, though the Sanders campaign expressed it much more intelligently than the right: politics have gone off the rails and are allowing small groups and the wealthy and an entrenched political elite to steer the nation. These groups have historically given up enough power to keep the masses happy while still holding on to their control. But over the last 4 years, the Republican congress demonstrated that the idealogues had wrested enough power to actually freeze the legislative branch in its tracks. I blame the Republican party for this inaction, because they couldn’t manage to forge any agreements in their own caucus to break the many impasses. So once the far right saw what power they could wield, of course they’re going to go for the brass ring.)

But it still raises the question: why play this as an all-or-nothing battle? Which is still a very real possibility–though the Democrats are being ham-handed about how they’re playing the local races across the country and aren’t focusing their message as strongly as the Republicans. Is the end goal not the influence to actually form our national policy, but instead to destroy the party system? If it’s the latter, then it’s a risky game, because it’s a tense time in the world to pull this kind of destabilizing bullshit.

But here’s an even deeper and almost more troubling thought: if your values and beliefs are unimportant enough that you’re willing to blow up your own party and give up any political influence you have, how is anyone to accept that you really believe in them? I’ve got to admit that this is the one that troubles me a lot. Because I understand the anger. And I understand the mistrust. And I appreciate the passion with which many of you argue your points. But if in the end, destroying the Republican party and removing RINOs from power (Republicans In Name Only–basically, people who aren’t conservative enough) is the ultimate goal, then your values and platform is merely a tool.

In short, you’re playing a game of politics, too. A very shrewd game that doesn’t respect the ordinary people who support some of the same things you do. A game that supposedly you’re fighting against.

Need more convincing? Take a look at Sanders supporters who are considering voting Libertarian. Or Socialist. I’m not going to say you’re throwing away your vote, because it’s important to participate and vote. But just think about the ramifications if the race were tied between Clinton and Trump. And let’s say that there are 10% of the voters undecided. You need to consider pragmatism here. If you’re a Sanders supporter, and Clinton and the Democratic platform reflects 75% of his platform (which it does), then voting for Clinton gives you a better chance at having 75% of what you want. Voting for Trump or any of the other candidates (or no one) is necessarily a vote against Clinton. And none of the other candidates represents that same 75% of Sanders’ platform. You can send the message to Clinton and the Democrats that you’re tired of their games and vote against them and hope they lose, but remember this one point: it’s extremely difficult to get into the political game as an independent or a third party from the outside than it is to work within the inside. If you help elect your party and continue to be engaged in the political process, you can force change within your party much more easily than trying to influence it from the outside.

So what’s important here? The politics? Or the platform? That’s what I’m anxious to see.

Election 2016

There Are Lessons Here, Part One

The conventions are over. And in spite of being very busy for the last few months and not having the time or inclination to post here, I did watch quite a bit of the conventions. With those in mind, here are some takeaways.

The conventions were what they always are: long-winded, hyper-patriotic babble-fests focused on besmirching the other side and making just a few mentions of their own platforms. But in the end, the presumptive nominees of each major party became the actual nominees, VP candidates were selected, and the campaigning, such as it is, has finally begun in earnest. And so has the complaining. On both sides.

First off, let’s begin with some givens:

  1. Both campaigns this year have made an art out of going out of their way to get in their own way.
  2. No, neither candidate is really that appealing as a candidate FOR the presidency, so voting against the other appears to be the only option.
  3. There were better candidates either with a stronger message or a better chance of being elected who aren’t in the final mix.

As with just about every other political junkie in this country, I came out of each convention with a bunch of questions, wondering how things have come to this point, and who let these things happen.

For instance: For a convention that borrowed Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, it was remarkably negative. Which made me wonder: is the whole of the Republican platform and viewpoint reflective of that negativism? The answer, it seems, is yes. To hear them tell it, God–at least the Christian God which, the right asserts, is the entire foundation of our nation–is being forced out of the nation, in favor of Islam. Or Godlessness. Because current leadership is anxious to import Muslims who’ve had their lives torn up by civil war in their home countries. The whole of the GLBT community is on a quest to destroy Christianity by forcing their morals into law through court cases, to the point that sometime soon, the entire Supreme Court roster will be forced to wear rainbow robes over garish underwear whilst singing our new national anthem, which will be any Judy Garland song.

Our freedoms, the Republicans asserted, are being taken away–though there was no actual mention of which liberties or how and when they’ve been taken away–and there was always the constant threat of having the 2nd Amendment repealed and the government coming to claim all the guns. Illegal immigration is a threat. Socialism is a threat. Obamacare is a threat. Crime is a threat. ISIS is a huge threat. The economy’s a disaster. And instead of substantive solutions, we were presented with a Chris Christie-led indictment of Hillary Clinton regarding her emails and Bengazi, and a rambling, run-on diatribe by Donald Trump who kept promising to tell us what he’d do as president, but never once actually mentioned an achievable policy (and don’t count the wall. Congress, regardless of who controls them, will never release the money needed to build the wall, even if getting paid for it by Mexico was an absolute lock).

It struck me by the time things finally wrapped up late that Thursday night that it was 4 solid days of depressing, anger-filled assurances that the world is a shit hole and likely won’t ever come back. And that made me wonder: how in the hell do you actually run a national campaign on that?

It isn’t a platform as much as it is a horror film. In the end, the Republicans have clung to basically 2 ideas for the campaign: Hillary deserves to be jailed and not put in the White House, and everything’s horrible because of Obama’s policies. What? Congress passes the laws, you say? And that’s been controlled by the Republicans for how long? And what’s shocking is that they’ve actually decided this is their whole national platform, to the point that if you’ve seen any local ads, the same theme is waved in some form or another. Here in Minnesota, Stewart Mills is running against the incumbant Rick Nolan (again), and released ads that are banging the same ISIS/Islamic/Syrian immigration drum that Trump is.

I’m to the point where I’m really wondering if these messages will actually reach and convert any more people. Because it’s tired, and mean spirited, and deep down, I believe that people in this nation are thankfully not predominantly of the “America First” viewpoint that Trump has been espousing. We’re smarter and more open-minded than that.

Which brings us to the Democratic side, where Hillary should have an easy time of it, except that she continues to be the smartest person in the room with the best ability to shoot herself in the foot.

She screwed up when it came to the email server. Period. End of story. So when the story came to light, the correct response was to immediately own up to it and issue a deep, broad, heart-felt apology, acknowledging it was wrong, and saying it will never happen again because she has learned her lesson. Because when you apologize in such a way that people empathize with you over the mistake, they’re likely to tune things out when the other side tries to keep the story in the headlines. But like every six-year-old caught doing something wrong, Clinton’s first response to every charge is some take of “What? No. Not me, not ever. Others made me do it. Others did it before, I was just copying them. I didn’t do anything wrong!” It’s disingenuous. It comes off as lying, even if it isn’t. And the problem is that through all scandals in her life since she’s been a public person, she’s always said the same things. So naturally, people have to wonder where the transparency is.

She has her brilliant moments, though. She is a practiced, genius politician. Bernie had a great chance of winning the nomination, except that when Clinton finally realized she was in real trouble, she modified her positions, moved further to the left, embraced large chunks of the Sanders platform, and made the arguments as if they were her own, and Sanders couldn’t recover from that. When her numbers began going back up, she proved to many that she could carry the banner and actually win the election.

Sure, that’s pragmatism, but it’s how politics in this nation has operated for a couple of centuries, now. Those who aren’t pragmatic go the way of the Whigs. Remember them?

Part Two coming tomorrow.



The Truth May Be An Alien

We Americans seem to like to think we’re all independent thinkers, capable of rationally divining truth from fiction. We take this assumption from our own viewpoints, thinking that “because I can tell when someone is stating a non-truth, everyone should be able to do so as well.” Yet, as everyone should agree, opposing viewpoints can cloud what the truth really is.

Why do I bring this up? It’s because of the recent loud vilification of “the media” by Donald Trump, and the ensuing debate about “the media” as source of truth (ironically reported on extensively by “the media”), and moreover, the ongoing, centuries-long distrust of journalists and “the media” by people who believe they aren’t being reported on accurately.

My point here is that it isn’t the fault of any individual journalist that journalism isn’t trusted or perceived as accurate. It’s because we as consumers don’t do our jobs adequately in consuming multiple sources of journalism in order to get a more complete view of the truth. We’re allowing “the media” to spoon feed us one side of a story, and accept that as truth, when the truth is almost always much broader. I mean, when it comes to a horrible movie, or bad piece of music, we don’t declare all movies or music as bad, do we?

Let me explain. But first, why did I just refer to “the media” in quotes up there? It’s because the terms “journalism” (or “journalist”) and “the media” are used interchangeably, and that’s a huge inaccuracy that needs to be corrected. To be clear: “journalism” is the act of reporting the news. A “journalist” is someone who does that reporting. And “the media” is the means by which the reporting is done (i.e. writing (print, internet), video (TV, Internet), audio (radio, internet)). A media company owns the airwaves or websites or paper that the journalism is carried on, but those same airwaves, websites, and paper is used to carry other things, some of which can’t necessarily be considered factual truth (i.e. advertising, commentary, opinion, fictional stories, poetry, humor, and the like.) As a result, I’ll be referring to journalists as such in place of the Trumpian phrase “the media.”

I began with the assumption at the top because it’s true. Truth is subjective. If truth were purely objective, there wouldn’t be any need for court trials, arguments, disagreements, contract law, differing religions, racism, sexism, ageism, philosophy, economic theory, sociology, and huge blocks of creativity in the arts. Interpretation would be unnecessary because all would be truth. And education would be a breeze because all would be truth. The entire world would be binary because things are either a universal truth or they aren’t.

But we all know that what’s true to me is not necessarily truth to someone else. And the simple reason for that is that I, like all individuals, can interpret, process, and analyze information to determine what seems most plausible. But this can be a big problem in this debate over what makes accurate journalism.

We are all consumers of information. The simple act of purchasing one newspaper over another, or choosing one TV news program to watch over another, or clicking one news link online rather than another is an individual choice that will inherently decide what the consumer decides is truth when it comes to that particular news story. And that choice is already influenced by a person’s background and belief system.

Take this example: an alien spacecraft lands on a road equidistant from two farmhouses. Farmer Brown and Farmer White each see the landing from their respective houses, and go to investigate. They arrive to find a strange alien standing on the center line of the road. It has multiple limbs, multiple eyes and ears, and a strange glowing aura. Each only sees the alien from opposite sides, and the alien never turns to show any other side to them. It just leaves the scene and heads down the road in the dark, never to be seen again by the two farmers.

When the two journalists and one police officer arrive to investigate and interview the farmers, it is determined that the alien may be green, has two to four eyes, one to four noses, four to eight ears, and two to four arms. Why isn’t the reporting precise? Because of viewpoints. Farmer Brown saw a green alien with two eyes on the left side, one nose on the front, four ears on the left of its head, and two arms. Farmer White is color blind, so doesn’t know what color the alien was, but saw that it had one eye on the right side of its head, two visible noses, two ears, and one arm. And one of the journalists wasn’t able to interview the other farmer because of a deadline.

So what’s the truth? The truth is something that no one has seen yet. But neither of the farmers is wrong. They just don’t have all of the information.

Okay, how does this alien relate to the Trump story this week?

Journalists have one core duty: to ask questions and report what they learn about something. If they ask the exact same questions to the exact same people, all journalists should come up with the same story. But they don’t. That’s virtually impossible because they’re individuals who think differently from one another. Their questions may be fundamentally asking the same thing, but they’re phrased differently so that the responders give different answers. And while they may try to be impartial, they are human and have their own viewpoints as well.

But we as consumers of news and information have the luxury of immediate access to reporting on the same story by multiple journalists in a variety of media sources. Yet many people don’t pursue alternative reporting, because other sources don’t match our perceived truth established by our viewpoint (i.e. we don’t want to hear something that may go against our preconceptions of an issue–it’s okay, that’s a human trait, but fight it!).

So who is responsible for getting the complete story and assembling that story into truth? Here’s where Trump and I won’t see eye-to-eye. It isn’t the journalists or “the media.” It’s us as consumers. We need to not be so myopic and lazy in our quest for information. We need to accept that there are different viewpoints and that they aren’t necessarily wrong…They’re just different. And understanding other viewpoints is sometimes a chore, but it’s work that must be done in order to see the holistic view.

A journalist who you don’t trust isn’t “a sleaze.” In the case of the recent Trump story, journalists were doing their jobs: asking questions to find out if money donated for a purpose actually made it to their intended target. But it’s true that some journalists may be lazy, inaccurate, or bad at asking questions. The only way to prove it is to get the other reports on the same story to gather enough information to at least develop a sense of what the real truth may be.

By broadening our consumption of journalism, we can see the other side of the story–or the other side of the alien in my example above–and eventually perhaps see the whole truth.

Current Events Politics

Pardon Me, But I’ve Seen This Election Before

I hope that there are many of us in Minnesota who are watching the “Trump Train” and are shaking our heads. Except that we aren’t entirely shaking them in disgust–we’ve seen this show before, and we know how it reads from beginning to end.

We’ve seen this before because way back in 1998, we Minnesotans elected Jesse Ventura–political outsider and former pro wrestler using his stage name on the ballot–to be governor of Minnesota.

And in the interest of full disclosure and hoping for some absolution, I must admit that in hoping for something different, I too voted for Jesse Ventura.

Oh, I hear the chorus from you out there telling me that Trump is not the same as Ventura, that things are different nearly 18 years later. That Hillary is innovative and full of new ideas and can get things done. That the parties are in total disarray and unresponsive to the people they claim to serve. That there’s a discontent calling for a change. That there are threats that must be responded to. That we, the people, can fix our broken government by electing someone who clearly has opinions, some of which even mirror our own.

Nope. It was the same line. All the way along. Really.

You see, in addition to being a former pro wrestler, Ventura was a former mayor of a second-ring Minneapolis suburb. At any other time with any other personality, he would be easily overlooked and forgotten by politics. But then he became the host of a local radio talk show where he could offer opinions almost without fear because he was above the political fray. He could say what Joe Everyman was thinking and people loved it because it hit that chord that no one else dared hit, at least out loud.

And in 1998, after about eight years of a likable but somehow polarizing-to-everyone Republican governor in the person of Arne Carlson, the state was tired and weary and demanding a new direction. He wasn’t liberal, conservative, or centrist enough. To anyone. Go figure.

What new direction? Any new direction? Except those that we’ve already tried

The Republicans offered up Norm Coleman, the up-and-coming St. Paul mayor whose charm and political savvy somehow evoked JFK. He had the eastern accent and that strong look in a suit that made him the political “it” child. He had built a new arena, brought hockey back to St. Paul, breathed new life back to downtown, and indeed had started to bring the rest of the city back from being Minneapolis’ tired eastern suburb. He was the shiny new toy to the twin cities, but a complete unknown to the rest of the state.

The Democrats in this state were old and tired, and stuck on a one-note symphony. They opted for Skip Humphrey (Hubert the III, if you’re really wondering), a giant among Minnesota Democrats, taking what would turn out to be one final swing at the top office in the state and fulfill his family’s political legacy in spite of never having made it further in his political career than attorney general and state senator. He spoke like his father, held many of the same beliefs, and generally sounded like someone whose platform was pulled out of the 1968 election with his father. He appealed to the iron range (northern Minnesota), and to farmers because his father had appealed to them. But that was about it for him. In short, he was a safe choice.

And to say there was a degree of “ho hum” about the whole election would be an understatement.

Minnesotans are a politically wily bunch, make no mistake. In spite of our historically liberal leanings, we don’t like to go too far with things unless they really benefit everyone (think of the clean indoor air act prohibiting smoking in indoor public areas, which was passed in 1975 as one of the first acts of its kind). We like a certain degree of consistency in our government. But perhaps the constant drumbeat of a couple of parties who clearly no longer understood the entire state finally had triggered a revolution within the populace.

Jesse Ventura led the charge. First from his radio show, where he could say things and get away with it because he wasn’t running for anything. He held no political office. And the only real responsibility he had was to his show’s advertisers. And even then he frequently didn’t give a damn.

There quickly came a groundswell of voices calling for him to run for governor. And eventually, he heeded the voices and ran. His campaign practically invented the modern grassroots campaign, with catchy cheaply produced TV ads and internet fundraising. And he won in a three-way race as an independent candidate. He said he shocked the world, and he did, as most polls had him down 6-8 points going into election night behind Norm Coleman.

And the morning after the parties, most of us asked what the hell happened.

Here’s where it ties together. Jesse said what people thought, and he became a populist for it, which was fine. Trump says things that are popular, and often hard to argue. I mean, just listen to his speeches sometime, and you’ll hear him giving broad generalizations that lack any definition or plan “We’ll get America working again,” or that tax law will be made fairer, and jobs more plentiful, and government smaller, and the world safer.

But the ugly flip side to populism in politics is the truth that you need to work with a few other governing bodies in order to achieve your political goals. A governor or president can yell and scream and offer plan after plan as much as they want, but they’ll never become law unless the legislative branch acts on them. And with the exception of a few cases, the Minnesota legislature, still owned and operated by the Republicans and Democrats in 1999, only acted on those items that were truly popular with the people–the tax rebate being a prime example.

So Trump is this year’s Jesse Ventura, and Hillary Clinton is yet another Democratic retread with a family name attached to political legend. The 2016 presidential election is very much the same as Minnesota’s gubernatorial election in 1998.

The point is this: there can be populism with an individual candidate as long as there is an understanding that either the entire political process and system must be remade, or it must be made to work from within. In other words, blow up the two-party system, congress, and the election process, or make it all work together to achieve what everyone says they want to accomplish: serving the people. Otherwise, we’re guaranteed four years of the same from Washington: infighting between and within parties and bodies, and a total lack of action.

Just like there was for four years in Minnesota. Remember, we’ve seen this story before.


Digesting the First Republican Debate

For those of us who survived last week’s first Republican presidential debate, there’s been a good deal of reflection on our lives, just to figure out where exactly we went wrong in deliberately choosing to waste a couple of hours of our lives on something with no redeeming value. And the best answer I can come up with seems to be that I wanted to tune into what I knew would be a train wreck.

You had to wonder how effective a debate with 10 people could be, since there didn’t seem like enough time to actually hear any thoughtful discourse. So instead, I was just waiting on the talent and swimsuit competition portions of the evening’s festivities. But alas, those were not forthcoming. Instead, we got a non-contact lightweight wrestling match.

As a liberal, tuning into an event like this is just asking for trouble, because it really was a two hour deep dive into the conservative mindset, which can feel like having dental surgery without novacain.

But frankly, some takeaways were predictable: We learned (or had the knowledge reaffirmed) that Donald Trump is a self-absorbed asshole, Ted Cruz would be deeply terrifying as the leader of the nation because not only does he seem like a very mean person, but he also comes across as angry and malicious to boot; and any problems the nation is currently experiencing can be traced immediately and directly to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

There were some things that came out of the show that I didn’t quite expect: if one performance is indicative of the whole, Jeb Bush is a horrible debater. He frequently seemed over matched and unprepared, often stammering and searching for the right words.

Dr. Ben Carson loves to show off how smart he is, even when the moderators totally forget about him for 30 minutes at a time. But, as he was quick to remind everyone, he’s the only one on the stage to have separated siamese twins. If only he could have done the same to Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

Chris Christie and John Kasich somehow came off as the voice of reason in a field of radicals. Yet they still scare the hell out of me.

Marco Rubio must be a magician because he successfully faded away out of view and totally out of the consciousness of 24 million people on national television. And for the life of me, I can’t remember one meaningful thing that he said all night.

And Scott Walker obviously thinks he’s God’s gift to the Republican party and the nation because he clearly views his performance as Wisconsin’s governor entirely differently than the rest of the planet does. Which means that he either has surrounded himself with sycophants or is not able to correctly identify success.

Finally, while the basic content and tone wasn’t surprising, the lengths to which Donald Trump will go to piss off entire classes of people is stunning. And while I understand the sentiments of those who support him in saying that they find his candor refreshing, I wish these morons would wise up and realize that this kind of rhetoric on the international political scene would quickly make every single American on the planet a target for just about everyone who isn’t one. It’s terrifyingly apparent that he would quickly and easily alienate our allies and further antagonize our enemies. And that’s something that we really can’t do–not just for our own nation’s security, but for the peace and stability of the entire world.

So rest, relax, and take some time preparing for the next of these debates coming up next month. Be kind to yourself, you’ve been through a lot.



As the officially announced candidate field on the Republican side threatens to top four figures and one mop of hair this week, I was struck by some interesting points: the Republican party believes in gang warfare.

Now, I understand the whole concept of playing to your base in the primary campaign, and let’s face it, with Iowa still a full eight months away, getting on the ground as much as possible will probably help an individual’s cause. But the whole tenor of the campaigns, with the exception of two people–Rand Paul and Donald Trump–has a strong common thread: they aren’t running against each other, they’re running against the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton.

I get that for the last five-plus years, that’s been the constant drum beat of the right, and frankly, the arguments are tired and worn out, because if the same things they’ve been complaining about five years are still happening by now, then there either would have been a revolt or the nation would have collapsed by now. Which means that while the Obama administration certainly hasn’t been as good as it should have been, they’ve still managed to provide enough direction and leadership to get the nation back on track economically, and have mostly managed to navigate the foreign relations obstacles without catastrophic results. And let’s face it, there hasn’t ever been an administration that could say they were entirely successful, right?

And let’s also acknowledge that the last eight years have pretty much been a disaster for the GOP: they’ve had infighting from all major factions (the Tea Party, religious far right, and the centrists), and even though they control congress, still haven’t been able to pass any meaningful legislation on anything that will impact anyone.

So everyone in the presidential campaign in the Republican party seems to be reading from the same script and using the same talking points: socialism, small business, taxes, middle class, Benghazi, Obamacare, Obamacare, Obamacare, tired policies of failed leadership, blah, blah, blah.

This all leads to a thought: the Republican campaign is going to be performed by committee. Except for the rogues among them (Paul and Trump, among a few others), it’s clear that the idea here is to not just lob attacks at Hillary Clinton from one white male, but instead to open up with both barrels and attack with all the white males they can muster, plus a couple of black guys, a hispanic or two and, oh yeah, the token woman.

As long as the message is all the same, the debate with the top 10 candidates will be just a friendly discussion of how horrible the last six years have been and how we don’t want to do that again. And, I think, the party hopes it will galvanize the party and not fragment it, as the Tea Party has been doing for a while now with the rank and file of the party. The ultimate goal, of course, is regardless of who is nominated, the faithful will see that through the primaries and debates, the message was the same: Jeb Bush supports the exact same things as Marco Rubio, for instance.

But there’s a danger here. What happens when, say, Marco Rubio needs to perform well because he’s had a couple of bad showings in the primaries, and he’ll run out of money unless he can strengthen his base? Will his campaign just roll over and tell their core supporters that they need to throw their support to Jeb? Or will he go out swinging and attack with something that an opposing campaign really doesn’t want out there, like Rick Perry’s inability to successfully state his views on anything? Or Lindsay Graham’s statement that he’ll have a rotating First Lady?

You wonder what backroom deals have been done by the party and many of the candidates. It’s obvious that Carly Fiorina was encouraged to run solely to offer a woman’s voice in the attack on Clinton. And Graham himself is a perennial also-ran who helps suck in the southerners with his folksy BS. But did they all get pulled into a room somewhere and told that this is the plan, and we’re sticking to it, damn it, or else the convention is going to be one nasty place.

Which means it would be very bad form for, say, a Democratic supporter to go into a primary and vote for a fringe candidate like, oh I don’t know, Ted Cruz or Rand Paul or Donald Trump. Bad form, maybe, but it would be pretty fun to watch come July next year.

So here’s the prediction that will prove that this is the plan: Sometime before Super Tuesday, the field will be substantially whittled down–from 10 or 12 major candidates to five or six, tops. Paul and Trump will probably still be in it, as they continue to speak to the fringe that hasn’t yet fallen in with the rest of the crowd. But you’ll be left with a couple of centrists and some of the center-right candidates: Bush, Rubio, maybe Paul Walker if he’s running, Perry, possibly Fiorina (if she’s still getting attention at all). And one of them (not Paul or Trump or Fiorina, though) will sweep Super Tuesday and “prove” to the party faithful that he is the one who can deliver the White House to the Republicans.

And then the party anxiously watches to see if everyone does actually fall in line and the party becomes unified behind Bush or Perry.

Coming up in a later post: the Democratic strategy.


2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Mike Huckabee

As the never-ending parade of Republican candidates continues its inexorable march toward futility, we drop in to check on Mike Huckabee, who this week is discovering that when you’re running for president, your past can come back to haunt you, even if your name is not Hillary Clinton.

We speak, of course, of Huckabee’s stupid comment about transgendered people, brought back into the limelight during a week that has seen its most high-profile moment with Caitlyn Jenner introducing herself to the world.

For those who missed it, let’s quickly recap before moving on: Huckabee, in a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters’ Convention in February, he said, basically, that there was a time he wished he could be transgendered so he could shower with the girls in the girls’ locker room. This came during a portion in his speech where he echoed the oft-repeated thinking of the religious right that transgendered people are doing it simply because of sex.

Which is clearly stupid, short-sighted, ignorant, and shows where their entire line of thinking goes whenever considering the gay, bi-, and trans communities.

But let’s break down another disturbing aspect of his stupid statement: he was speaking to a clearly friendly crowd, and he obviously was very comfortable with his speech, because he spends much of the 20+ minutes walking back and forth near the podium and doesn’t spend much time actually behind it. So what makes this statement worse is that while he is clearly illustrating the depth of the belief that being transgendered is only just about sex, he’s also showing the level of sexism that exists there to make him think this is actually a funny joke, in a room of religious broadcasters, no less! (Sure, a joke about being a high school boy in a girls’ locker room would be a great joke for this room!)

It’s all illustrative of the fact that the religious right agenda, aside from lashing out against the world for supposedly putting christianity under attack, is actually about making sure that everyone stays in line, within the societal box that has been intended for them, and does not stray from it in the least, lest the world have to accept differences among us. There is no room, regardless of what these people say, for non-conformity, individualism, or–heaven forbid–freedom.

Yes, freedom. That word they toss around all the time saying in claiming that their freedoms are being taken away. Sure, I’ll agree with the argument that any business that doesn’t want to serve a customer is certainly within their right. But when you make it about who they are or who they love or how they live their lives, then it’s blatant discrimination, and as a free society, we cannot allow that.

But by claiming that their religious freedoms are being taken away because they don’t want to allow gay marriage is insane: you can still hold your beliefs and celebrate your religion in your church. No one’s stopping you from doing that. But by telling a group of people that they cannot get married in your church because of who they love, that’s wrong. Why? Because marriage is not an inherent sanctioning of sexual activity. The marriage license or certificate doesn’t say that you’re now legally allowed to go have sex with the person you love. So why would gay marriage a specific sanction for two people in love to have sex with each other? People have gotten married for reasons besides love, and somehow that was okay, simply because they were a traditional union–getting married for immigration reasons, tax reasons, arranged marriages, and the like. Under the thinking against same sex marriage, these unions should also be disallowed, because they clearly don’t fulfill the true purpose of marriage.

To break it down to its simplest concept: marriage is solely about sex. Period. Man-Woman, procreative sex. Not about love, or a partnership, or trust, or respect, or equality, or friendship, or family, or togetherness.

Somehow, love, sex, sexuality, and gender have become one all-encompassing concept to the religious right. And they’re going to have one hell of a time extricating themselves from that because by relating it all in such simplistic terms, they’ve woven a web that they can’t easily take apart.

Oh yeah. What does Huckabee stand for? Frankly, the same crap that just about every other far right conservative does. Read up on the others and you’ll get a feel for it. In the meantime, realize that he, and most like him believe that marriage is only about sex.


2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Lincoln Chafee

Finally, we’ve got a one-time Republican to counter the looks and general tone of Bernie Sanders (who I’m actually falling in love with, by the way). I mean, just look at that hairdo!

Enjoy this one, folks. Everything about this run is funny, so we’ll give it the tone it deserves.

Presented for your consideration, we have LIncoln Chafee, former governor of Rhode Island, a state that probably 75 percent of the public couldn’t locate even if they were told what states it’s next to. Thankfully, as governor of a mostly overlooked state, Chafee is also mostly overlooked, which apparently means that he needs to say some fairly crazy stuff to get attention.

And he did, which I guess proves the point.

First off, he announced that he’s running as a Democrat. Which is probably a shrewd move since he was at one time a liberal Republican (stop laughing!) and since he’d only have to debate a handful of other people instead of the twenty or so currently in the logjam that is the Republican list of hopefuls.

Meanwhile,in his campaign launch announcement earlier this week, Chafee told the world and the assembled collection of probably six or so reporters that he wanted to offer “bold” ideas. The top of which appears to be his desire for the United States to fully adopt the metric standard. And what’s even better was his reasoning given at the launch event: the rest of the world has done it, so why shouldn’t we? Oh, and it would be a gesture of goodwill to the world.

Because ISIS would tone things down considerably if we started measuring everything in centimeters, I guess.

Apparently, being governor of Rhode Island doesn’t involve a whole lot of heavy lifting and leads to a lot of crazy, outside-the-box thinking.

And buried somewhere in that lede is his plan to make the US “wage peace” internationally and strengthen the United Nations so it could better handle international conflict on its own.

Can someone please tell me just how the hell this dude got into the Republican party in the first place? Wait, I’ve just been handed this bulletin: he started out as a Republican and has drifted left until he finally passed entirely into the Democratic party just a couple of years ago. I’m sure the pitchforks and torches probably helped move him along.

So while we wish him the best of luck, I don’t think that anyone will be teaching our kids about centimeters and kilograms anytime soon.


2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina is the quintessential Republican presidential candidate in all but one respect: she’s white, a business leader, fiscal and social conservative, and a woman. There are questions as to whether her candidacy is purely to allow a cleaner attack on Hillary Clinton without the appearance of gender bias, an overall attempt to show diversity by a party widely viewed as being out of touch with woman’s issues, or whether she actually believes she has a chance of winning the nomination.

I’ll admit that the first theory seems the most legitimate since her campaign website is thin on position statements and seems mostly to be a fundraising vehicle, and also since her campaign funds and runs a site dedicated purely to running a negative campaign against Hillary Clinton ( Her twitter feed offers extremely little in the way of political positions as well and mostly highlight television appearances and fundraising and speaking engagements.

Fiorina, to her credit, was the first woman to lead one of the top twenty corporations in the country when she took the CEO job at HP. Prior to that, she was an executive at AT&T and its spin off Lucent. But under her leadership at HP, she orchestrated one of the largest tech mergers in history, acquiring Compaq, and then promptly laying off 30,000 workers. While there is debate over the effectiveness of the merger, HP did gain market share in the PC market, but by killing off the Compaq brand lost a great deal of business contract traction. She was eventually asked to resign by the board of HP who believed her direction for the company was the wrong one.

Left with nothing to do apparently, Fiorina moved on to politics, first as a fundraiser for the RNC, then taking an advisory role in the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain. This role got her in trouble when she was quoted as saying that VP candidate Sarah Palin was qualified to be VP but not to lead a company and when questioned about the statement followed that up by saying the same thing about McCain.

Undeterred, she then received the Republican nomination for US Senate in 2010, running and losing to incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. That loss ended her political career until she announced her candidacy for President earlier this year.

She graduated from Stanford with degrees in philosophy and medieval history, and like everyone else who gets undergrad degrees in virtually useless fields and doesn’t get a job as a professor, she pursued her MBA, kickstarting her career as a business executive.

As I mentioned, her website offers few position statements, but the few statements she has made recently and in the past show that she opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, and believes global warming is a serious issue, but that the science needs to be examined. She supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants if the finish college or serve in the military, and has opposed the federal stimulus and supports cutting federal worker pay.

She does deserve credit for helping forward a couple of causes due to her personal circumstances: her daughter died as the result of drug addiction, causing her to support the decriminalization of drug addiction and abuse. In addition she helped raise awareness of breast cancer as a result of her own fight against the disease during her 2010 Senate campaign.


2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Marco Rubio

We continue our tour of the wingnut side of the Republican party with a stop to take a look at Marco Rubio.

Rubio is a freshman senator from Miami, proving yet again that apparently every argument against Barack Obama as a candidate (his lack of experience) was total disingenuous crap. Rubio the second candidate with Cuban roots and is brought forth to us by one of the wackiest political states in the nation and home of the infamous hanging chads.

He’s a fan of smaller government, having supported a bill that would have left 10% of government positions unfilled through attrition. And yet, his argument against the sequestration bill was that defense spending should not have been linked to such a plan.

Representing the far right of the party, he’s obviously anti-abortion, against gay marriage, opposed to gun control, and voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act primarily based on the grounds that the money would be taken from other domestic violence and state-operated crime-fighting funding.

He’s pro-flat tax, opposes the capital gains tax (saying it’s taxing the same dollars twice), and opposes an increased minimum wage in favor of a kind of convoluted plan to offer tax breaks to certain low-wage earners working in qualifying low-wage jobs…Because he doesn’t seem to understand that you can’t live on $18,000 any more, let alone support a family.

Rubio is not the rabble-rouser that Ted Cruz or Rand Paul are, but that probably doesn’t make him much more palatable to the power-controlling centrists of the party leadership. But what is interesting is that his views are fairly similar to both Cruz and Paul, which will make for some interesting debates between the Republican candidates, and curious decisions to be made by the primary voters. Because if nothing else, we’ve seen that the Republicans have proven themselves to be particularly adept at ripping their party apart lately.