Category Archives: Politics

Win Small

 

If there’s one thing the Trumpist GOP understands, it is the simple truth the size of a victory does not matter.  The only statistic on the political score card that counts is the number of wins.  I know, Donald Trump bristles at the fact he lost the popular vote by three million ballots, the victim of non-existent fraudulent votes.  Yet, he and his campaign strategists are more than willing to rely on a similar “inside straight” approach carrying the day again this November.  Betsy DeVos was the first cabinet member in U.S. history to be confirmed when a vice president (MIke Pence) had to cast the tie-breaking vote.  Do you think the advocates of federal funding for private and parochial schools care?  They got their gal; that is all that matters.

Fortunately, there is one other person who shares that perspective.  JOE BIDEN, as evidenced in an article by Jonathan Martin in Saturday’s edition of the New York Times.  “Georgia. Ohio. Texas. Democrats Tell Biden to Go Big (He’s Being Cautious).”  On paper, the rationale for a big win, as Martin reports, seems to make sense.

In a series of phone calls, Democratic lawmakers and party officials have lobbied Mr. Biden and his top aides to seize what they believe could be a singular opportunity not only to defeat Mr. Trump but to rout him and discredit what they believe is his dangerous style of racial demagogy.

According to Biden, this election is “a fight for the soul of America.” Consistent with that message, proponents of adding target states to the electoral college map argue this is the chance to send a clear message there are no geographic borders when it comes to rejecting Trump personally and Trumpism in general.  They are half right.  This may be a once in a generation opportunity to demonstrate it does make a difference which party best represents the interests of a majority of Americans.

However, the best indication of that outcome rests not with the number of electoral votes Biden accrues as long as it not less than 271.  A better measure of success is the size of the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate on January 3, 2021, especially if it includes new faces from formerly reliable red states.  To achieve that goal in November, the less time Biden spends in states like Georgia the better.  Consider the following polling averages in states Trump carried in 2016 when it comes to the Senate races.

  • Arizona/Democrat Mark Kelly leads incumbent Republican Martha McSally by 6.8 percentage points while Biden holds a 2.8 point lead over Trump
  • Georgia/Democrat Jon Ossoff is within five points of Republican David Perdue as Trump’s once insurmountable lead is down to 3.0 points.
  • Iowa/Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield holds a one point lead over incumbent Republican Joni Ernst.  Trump still has a slim 1.5 percent advantage over Biden.
  • Montana/Although there has been little public polling, internal polls suggest for Democratic governor Mike Bullock has an even chance of flipping a seat now held by Republican Steve Daines.
  • North Carolina/Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham holds a 3.7 point lead over Republican incumbent Tom Tillis slightly above Biden’s 3.3 point advantage over Trump

In addition to these five competitive Senate races, low approval ratings for South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell give Democratic challengers an outside chance of flipping these seats despite Trump’s being the odds-on favorite to handily win the states’ electoral votes.

Does anyone really believe the fate of any of the above Democrats will win the hearts and minds of 2016 Trump supporters because Joe Biden needs them to push through his legislative agenda?  A better winning argument is how the incumbents have put defense of Donald Trump above the interests of their own constituents.  And each challenger’s prospects are boosted by ads from anti-Trump Republican PACs such as the ones targeting Ernst and McSally by The Lincoln Project.  Biden’s hopes for an upset in any of these states may ultimately depend on the reverse coattails of popular Democratic candidates down the ballot.

The exception is Florida where the Real Clear Politics (RPC) polling average gives Biden a 5.2 point lead over Trump and neither Senate seat is up for grabs.  The FiveThirtyEight Florida polling average shows a 6.2 point edge for Biden due largely to increasing dissatisfaction with Trump among older voters due to his handling of the coronavirus, Cuban-Americans over his immigration policies and suburban women, all essential elements of Trump’s 1.2 percent win in 2016.  Equally important, if Biden carries Florida, he will need only one more of the five other battleground states–Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin–to reach the 271 magic number.  The RCP average shows Trump ahead in all five as of July 7.

Not that you need it, but if you want one more reason to support Joe Biden in November, unlike the incumbent, the challenger is demonstrating he understands the importance of studying history.  He is determined not to make the same mistake the Clinton campaign made in 2016, spending time and resources in search of a big win, while ignoring traditional supporters in the MidWest based on the false assumption they will always be there for you.

A senate majority and 271 electoral votes trumps (pun intended) 400+ electoral votes every time.  As Jean Luc Picard would say, “Make it so, Joe!”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

It’s Up to Us

In an era when voters across the political and ideological spectrum are questioning the integrity of our democratic process, we need professionals, not politicians, overseeing elections.

~Dr. ESP, Fernandina Beach News-Leader/July 8, 2020

Does quoting oneself make me a narcissist?  If so, I plead guilty.  I can always hope Bill Barr will drop the charges or Donald Trump will commute my sentence.

More surprising, the excerpt comes from a letter to the editor in which I endorsed a Republican for county supervisor of elections.  (Gasp!) Now one might argue, “Dr. ESP, big deal!  All three candidates are registered Republicans.”  True.  But that does not explain why I would try to influence a partisan primary of a party to which I do not belong.  Of the three candidates one is a real estate developer who currently serves as a county commissioner.  Another is our former state representative, who, upon being term-limited, immediately ran for superintendent of schools and was soundly defeated. As one political commentator put it, “A former Republic state legislator is trying, yet again, for her next political office.” (A.  G. Gancarski/June 13, 2020)  Given the choice, I will take a career public servant over a career campaigner/fundraiser every time.

The third, my preference, although born and raised in our county, has for the past 13 years served as director of information services in the elections office of our neighboring county.  Additionally, he has been honored by his peers on numerous occasions. (NOTE:  It remains a mystery to me why so many states, particularly Southern states, fill critical administration jobs through partisan elections.)

What was not surprising was a letter to the editor, two days later, by a member of the local Republican party steering committee in which she made two points which only proved my case.  First she identified me as “a Democrat who believes that a Duval County career bureaucrat has the answers for Nassau County.”  But then she goes on to describe her preferred candidate as “a real conservative and someone we can all trust.”

Reminiscent of the scene in Field of Dreams when Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones) contemplates writing another book titled Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa, this 2020 political saga might as well be called The Trump GOP Comes to Northeast Florida.  Consider the obvious parallels.

  • In my critic’s world, dedicated public servants are “career bureaucrats,” an oft-used Trump administration dog whistle warning the GOP base a deep state conspiracy is afoot.
  • Having not identified myself as a Democrat in the newspaper, she must have taken the time to look me up in the county voter registration records.  As is the modus operandi of Trump and his allies in D.C., the focus is always on the messenger, never on the message.
  • My opinions are invalid simply by virtue of being a member of the opposition party.
  • An outright admission that her candidate’s ideology is more important than her experience overseeing elections.
  • And finally, the tell-tale phrase “someone we can all trust.”  As Bill Clinton might say, “It depends on what the meaning of ‘all’ is.”  All is only those who believe “a true conservative” can do the job.

Many years ago, I attended a conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, at which a newly elected U.S. Senator warned the audience to be wary when they hear the mantra, “Power to the People.”  In most cases, he said, what they really mean is, “Power to MY People.”  The speaker was 30-year-old Joe Biden.  He may have aged, but his message has not.  Equally important, he suggested this inherent contradiction between the spoken word and the underlying objective is not the exclusive purview of one political party.

I offered my two-cents in this local election because it is up to each of us to establish whether we put the public interest above partisan allegiances or ideology.  If there had been an equally unqualified, untested Democratic candidate for elections supervisor, my endorsement would be the same.  To overcome the political distemper that taints civic dialogue and the inability to reconcile legitimate differences in policy, each of us needs to set an example, be a role-model.

Pin on Bucket ListI am not naive enough to think everyone will jump on this bandwagon immediately.  After all, Republican primary voters in Colorado recently ousted an incumbent congressman in favor of a restaurant owner (third from the left) from Rifle, Colorado (no kidding) who believes in the QAnon deep state conspiracy.  And based on the overwhelming Republican majority in the district, she is likely to be sworn in next January.

And still, many Americans wonder why the standing of the United States has diminished abroad.  Listen carefully to what the foreign onlookers say.  They may mention Donald Trump’s incompetence and ignorance.  But above all, they wonder how American voters ever ceded him the stage in the first place.  As Walt Kelly’s alter ego Pogo so eloquently said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

An Average Joe

 

Image result for Joe Biden PuppetNo, my leg doesn’t tingle when I hear Joe Biden address a crowd, as Chris Matthew once said after Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  And even if there wasn’t a pandemic, I wouldn’t ride the Metro to the Washington mall to join in the inaugural celebration as I did in 1988.  Admit it, he does resemble ventriloquist Jeff Dunham’s puppet Walter.  I’m not even sure he is the best person to govern the nation for the next four to eight years.

But neither am I in the category of those described in an article on NewsMax.com this morning titled, “Some Hate Trump So Much That They May Tolerate Biden.”  In fact, the more I think about it, Joe Biden is the perfect candidate to take on Trump in November.  Why?  For all intents and purposes, from Super Tuesday on, once Biden became preemptive nominee, the election was settled.

Dr. ESP, are you really that confident in the outcome?  First of all, being Dr. ESP, I knew you were going to ask that question (a little Nostradamus humor).  But seriously, yes I am.  In normal times, relatively unknown candidates have to spend significant resources on boosting name recognition and introducing themselves to the electorate.  This year, when the campaign is increasingly likely to be a non-campaign, a Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar or Cory Booker would have been at a major disadvantage.  To get that kind of attention you need to be unveiling new policies and programs day after day.  The danger being, you are just as likely to say something that will turn off undecided voters as bring them on board your bandwagon.  For any of the Democratic contenders except Biden, it would have been a steeper uphill climb.

We know Joe.  We know his strengths and his flaws.  How many times has the Trump campaign missed the mark trying to take him down?  Ukraine?  How well did that work out?  Can you say, “Impeachment?”  Tara Reade?  The only thing that came out of that was to remind voters of the sexual assault and character defamation suits waiting for Trump after he leaves the Oval Office.

And it’s not just about what hasn’t worked, but what won’t work in the future.  Pick any scandal du jour.  The arrest of Jeffrey Epstein’s accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell.  A lot of big names are sweating this one including you-know-who.  Biden?  Not among the nervous.  Well connected politicians getting preferential treatment when it comes to federal COVID-19 relief funds?  Again, Biden, missed out on the action (a good thing).  Or the number of tell-all books by family members or former associates?  Don’t hold your breath waiting for “What Happens on Amtrak, Stays on Amtrak” by the conductor of the DC to Wilmington express.

Not that the Trump team will stop throwing spaghetti against the wall.  They will certainly accuse him of saying things he never said.  They may even reach deep down into the old pack of cigarettes to remind voters of Biden’s votes on the crime bill and the Iraq war resolution.  But it will be old news, baked into voting decisions months, if not years, ago.

Their last gasp may be to draw on Trump’s endless efforts to project his own flaws onto others, charging Biden with the well documented indiscretions which have plagued the administration this year.  Consider the following.

  • Trump suggests Biden is lying when the former vice-president claims he was not briefed on the fact Seth McFarlane was no longer going to use white actors to voice non-white characters on Family Guy.  “Which is worse?  Knowing white actors were taking roles away from black actors and not bringing it to McFarlane’s attention?  Or claiming ignorance?”
  • Don, Jr. calls Biden a hypocrite for naming his son “Hunter” after criticizing both him and brother Eric for shooting endangered species.
  • Ivanka questions the double standard when the mainstream media keep reminding voters how she and Jared have profited while working in the White House.  “The FAKE NEWS outlets never covered Ashley Biden selling Girl Scout Cookies in the Russell Office Building when her dad was a Senator.”
  • In a rare MSNBC interview, Melania will remind Mika Brzezinski Jill Biden had a brief stint as a model while attending the University of Delaware (true). “Mika, don’t you think if Joe Biden had his own magazine, he would have had sexy pictures of Jill on the cover, just like my Donald did with me?”
  • Accusing Biden of being unpatriotic.  “What real American would study the Bible in Latin?”

I know, this was supposed to be a serious post.  And it started out that way.  But, as they say, “The road to hell…”  Hopefully, the jocularity further proves the point.  When your candidate is a lying, race-baiting, xenophobic narcissist, it is going to take a lot of imagination to make a case against the other guy, especially when he is just your average Joe, especially one with a sense of humanity, decency and humility which is just what the founding fathers ordered.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

Precedent of the United States

 

Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.

~Fiddler on the Roof/Act 1, Scene 1

The originally adopted U.S. Constitution consisted of 4,543 words.  Since ratification in 1789, only 3,048 words have been added through the amendment process.  In contrast, the average state constitution contains approximately 39,000 words.  Alabama leads the pack with 398,000+ words, largely the result of just short of 950 amendments.  (Source:  ballotpedia.com)  The ability of the federal government to operate with such a dearth of codified guidance demands a certain deference to tradition or what is more commonly referred to as precedent.

Throughout the past decade, several precedents which were once considered sacrosanct by the executive and legislative branches of government have fallen by the wayside.  I remember a time when it was customary for an incoming president to honor international treaties negotiated and ratified during previous administrations.   And Supreme Court nominations required the consent of 60 Senators to protect the right of the minority party to influence life-time appointments which could impact the nation for decades.

This should come as no surprise.  The branches of government established in Articles I and II of the Constitution are political by nature.  Washington, D.C. has been forever embroiled in a tug-of-war between the White House and Congress and between the major political parties.  However, precedent has a different connotation when it comes to the judiciary.  The Latin term is stare decisis, to stand by a decision. According to LAW.COM,  it refers to “the doctrine that a trial court is bound by appellate court decisions (precedents) on a legal question which is raised in the lower court.”

Stare Decisis for Me, but Not for Thee - Public DiscourseIt is sometimes referred to as the principle of settled law, an reference which has taken front and center during the confirmation hearings of several current justices, most recently Brett Kavanaugh.  In her statement on the Senate floor to ameliorate concerns Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade,  Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) told her colleagues, “He said that he agreed what Justice Roberts said at his nomination hearing, in which he said it was settled law.”

As we now know, Senator Collins was half right.  In a 5-4 decision to strike down a Louisiana statute which would have significantly limited access to abortion, Chief Justice Roberts kept his promise to pay allegiance to precedent and joined the majority.  His vote and his opinion on behalf of the majority make it clear he has not changed his own view since voting in favor of upholding a similar Texas statute.  He specifically states he still believes the Texas ruling was incorrect and would have preferred to uphold the Louisiana law.  But stare decisis, the Texas decision stands.  In contrast, Justice Kavanaugh reneged on his promise to Senator Collins.

The remaining question is what other political tools in use by the executive and legislative branches will become part of judicial deliberations.  The answer may come sooner rather than later.  One wonders if several recent decisions portend “logrolling” among members of the Supreme Court.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, the term is defined as follows.

The practice of exchanging favors, especially in politics by reciprocal voting for each other’s proposed legislation.

The evidence?  Somewhat against type, Gorsuch and Roberts join four liberal justices in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia applying the workplace non-discrimination clause in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to the LGBTQ community.  Likewise, as previously mentioned, Roberts joins the majority in June Medical Services v. Russo overturning Louisiana abortion restrictions based not on content but the principle of stare decisis.

As other recent decisions prove, logrolling is a two-way street.  Just yesterday all four liberal judges joined in a unanimous decision to uphold a state’s right to punish presidential electors who defy the will of the voters.  [The impact of this decision on efforts to abolish the electoral college is a topic for another day.]

Do these decisions represent future Supreme Court deliberations turning into a closed-door version of “Let’s Make a Deal?”  Probably not based on the history of the practice in Congress.  Senators and representatives can only safely swap their vote on issues of less than primary interest to their own constituents.  For example, representatives from farm states can potentially support any piece of legislation they might normally oppose except matters related to agriculture price supports.  In the judicial context, it explains how Roberts could go along with DACA extension and LGBTQ employment protections as long as he made the difference in the 5-4 decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a victory for proponents of public support for parochial schools.

My theory will be tested the next time there is a challenge to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, by virtue of state or federal legislation which somehow restricts campaign finance.  Two procedural issues could be in play.  Will Justice Roberts demand liberal justices follow his example in the Louisiana case and join the majority to uphold Citizens United on the basis of stare decisis, the matter has been decided?  Or will Roberts trade his vote supporting some modification of the “money equals speech” doctrine, e.g. state requirements for real-time reporting of all political donations, as long as the right to unlimited contributions is affirmed?

Or will liberal justices exchange their votes in Trump v Mazars which requires the Court to address the issue of checks and balances for conservative justices’ support in Trump v. Vance in which the New York City attorney’s office is demanding access to Donald Trump’s personal tax returns in a criminal investigation?  Are the liberal judges willing to wait to fight another day on the constitutional issue of congressional oversight if their colleagues will join them to force release of the tax information, invoking stare decisis on the basis of United States v. Nixon in which the Court granted access to the White House tapes.

Fasten your seat belts.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.  And no one can predict whether the fiddler on the roof of the Supreme Court will be anchored enough to weather the storm.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP