Welcome to Thunderdome

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Agreeing Loudly’s Empiricist-In-Chief correctly predicted the naming of a Special Prosecutor, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who was named just prior to this going to publication.

“Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and Girls. Dying Time is Here…” — Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

By Justin Norris

As we watch the slowing moving car crash that is the Trump administration, and as we watch the GOP in Congress react to said car crash, it is important to remember a few important points.

First, Trump was never popular with most of the GOP elite writ large. Not just in Congress, but across the nation.

Second, like much of the country, it is doubtful that the GOP political establishment believed Trump was going to win the 2016 election.

Third, The Republican civil war was, and is, real.

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When you take these things into account it goes a long way towards explaining the peculiar predicament we find ourselves in today. There was no real plan, and the political establishment for both parties are playing it by ear.

To lend some context here, we should discuss the nature of governance in the American political system. As any student of American politics can tell you, eliciting lasting change within the separation of powers system is difficult under the best of circumstances. Because of how our system is structured there are numerous choke points throughout the legislative process for which bills can die. Indeed, the most likely outcome for any given bill is an unceremonious death. If one has any hope of getting bills enacted into law it requires large enough political coalitions in both chambers of Congress to circumvent the many different choke points, and then it must get past presidential action. And things have only become more difficult as political polarization has increased in recent times.

Since the political parties have become increasingly ideologically homogenous, and because the political parties have moved farther apart both ideologically and politically unified government has become critical for the political parties if they have any hope of enacting their agendas. This is why the GOP elites have been willing thus far to seemingly ignore anything approaching principles. They know this may be their only real chance to push through their agenda for some time. So like any good political opportunists, and most of the denizens of Washington are political opportunists, they know they would be fools to not at least try to take advantage of the hand they’ve been dealt.

This is precisely why folks like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and much of the GOP rank and file in Congress have been willing to play along up to this point, and why most of them will continue to play along. They have their eyes on the prize.

Like all good cons, this includes a gamble. The GOP elite know that Trump is deeply unpopular. They also know that Trump is incompetent. They’re hoping that despite this they can get through much of their agenda before everything implodes. They hope that winning the legislative victories their political base so deeply craves will be sufficient to shore up enough political support as to withstand the likely backlash they will face in the 2018 midterm elections. And even if the majority does not survive the midterm, they will have at least moved the agenda forward and hopefully put some points on the board by making lasting policy changes.

As far as plans go in American politics this is not a bad one. Indeed, if these were normal times, and if this was a normal president, I’d say this plan would have better than fair odds of working.

But these aren’t normal times, and this isn’t a normal president.

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Some people will read the preceding statements as partisan or ideological. I want to be crystal clear on this point. They are not. Yes, I absolutely have my own political preferences, but I am not discussing those preferences here.

If these were normal political conditions we would not have a sitting president with record low approval ratings for this point in a presidency. We are only a little more than 100 days in, and to date the president has fired an attorney general, fired a national security advisor, fired the head of the FBI, given code word intelligence to the Russians (in the White House no less), and if reporting is to be believed, the president is likely going to fire more members of White House staff by the end of the week. And these are only but a handful of the things that have happened thus far.

Within a little more than 100 days we have had John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, state in a public forum that things are starting to look a lot like Watergate. Jason Chaffetz, the epitome of political opportunism, and chair of the House oversight committee has gotten the Speaker of the House to sign on to a letter formally demanding that the FBI hand over all materials related to communications between former director Comey and the president.

This is not normal. Not by a long shot.

As previously stated, the Republicans in Congress knew Trump was inept. To be fair, Trump is, by all accounts a complete and total political amateur, so some ineptitude would likely be inevitable, even he had good instincts for governance. However, Trump has shown a shocking level of ignorance as it relates to the separation of powers system in general, and the nature of governance for the executive branch in particular. In other words, the GOP had no idea just how incompetent Trump really is. Nor did they know how petty and vindictive he really is. And they are all together unprepared to deal with it.

Another wrinkle in the plan is the lack of a plan. Since the GOP didn’t think they were going to win, they did not have any cohesive policy initiatives ready at the starting gate. Paul Ryan has had a list of talking points and unscored, half-baked, initiatives he has been selling for years, but none of them were ready for them to pull the trigger. This has left the GOP scrambling to cobble things together as they have gone. And the results have been disastrous.

Part of the reason the GOP was left flat footed stems from the nature of the GOP caucus in the House, and to a lesser extent, the nature of the GOP conference in the Senate. The GOP, especially in the House, has been fighting its own intraparty war for years now. Though it is cliché to say, the different party factions really do believe they are fighting for the soul of the Republican Party. For outsiders, the differences between the GOP factions may seem trivial, but for insiders they are deeply important, and within the more extreme factions there is a rallying cry for purity at all costs. In other words, there is a lot more disagreement among Republicans than many realize.

This conflict was apparent in the fight waged between House Republicans to get the healthcare bill through the House. The party nearly ripped itself to shreds getting the bill through to the Senate, and the resulting bill is so unpopular the Senate GOP essentially declared it DOA. And repealing and replacing Obamacare was supposed to be the easy part of the agenda. It will only get harder from there.

Despite this, the Republicans in Congress are still largely standing by the president, at least publicly, because they know they may not have this kind of opportunity again for some time. Trump may be deeply flawed but he is still the only viable political option they have at this juncture. But as the scandals deepen, and the drip, drip, drip of news stories continue, the likelihood of political derailment increases. And the longer this goes on, the harder it will become.

Which begs the question, what now?

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As the public moves farther away from Trump, and as his unpopularity deepens, the likelihood that Trump will take the GOP down with him increases. The signs are already coming into place that the 2018 midterm elections could be disastrous for the GOP in Congress.

For example, despite flooding special elections with unheard of amounts of money Republicans have either narrowly held on to a seat that they normally carry by over 20 points, or the race has been forced into a runoff. The GOP will not be able to defend all of their districts this way in the midterm, and some analyses suggest that if the midterms were held today only between 100-150 ‘safe’ Republican seats could withstand the backlash.

Moreover, several credible polls have come out in the last two weeks suggesting that Democrats hold a double-digit lead in the so-called ‘generic ballot,’ a routine polling question asking respondents to either state their preference for who should run Congress or state which party they would vote for. One poll puts the gap at sixteen points. To put this in context, an eight to nine point gap often signals a defeat for the majority party.

However, the election is not being held tomorrow, and a week can be a lifetime in American politics, let alone almost two years. The Republicans have time, and unless things get worse, or even if they stay the same, the GOP in Congress will have little incentive to break away from the Trump administration for some time.

But what about Watergate? This is a question I’ve heard often in the last few days, and I readily admit that the comparison easily comes to mind. It is true that the Republicans in Congress turned against Nixon, and stood for the republic against their own president. However, it’s important to point out that the Republicans were the minority party at that time, and most Republicans did not turn against Nixon until the end, after two long years. Even still, some Republicans stood with Nixon to the bitter end. It is entirely possible that if Republicans controlled Congress the situation would have played out quite differently.

That being said, cracks are beginning to form. Some rank and file Republicans are openly discussing impeachment, and some GOP leaders are calling for more stringent investigations. But that’s all it is at this point, talk. If things remain as they are, and do not get worse, it is possible that the GOP will stick with Trump and take their chances in the midterm elections. But if things continue to get worse, which I think is likely, I fully expect more and more rank and file Republicans will break ranks and openly run against Trump because they want to try and save their seats. If things continue to get worse we will reach a point where congressional leadership will cut their losses and turn against Trump to try and salvage the party brand, if not the majorities themselves.

And this may not result in impeachment. At this juncture impeachment is a real possibility, which is not something I was willing to say two weeks ago, but I still don’t think it’s likely. At least not soon. I think it’s more likely that if things continue to deteriorate GOP leadership will cave and put together a bipartisan commission to investigate. If things get really bad they may move to appoint a special prosecutor. It is also possible that events will connive to take things out of their hands.

For example, the Justice Department could conceivably appoint a special prosecutor, or the different grand juries could deliver indictments. In which case the calculus for the GOP largely remains the same. Except now they have some additional cover, because they can point to the nonpartisan investigations and say, ‘we should not be hasty until the investigations conclude.’

However, I think it’s likely that most of the GOP’s legislative agenda is dead. Credible polling data consistently shows that a solid majority of likely voters are strongly opposed to Trump and the GOP legislative agenda. Solid majorities also favor thorough nonpartisan investigations. And as the media dedicates more time and resources to covering the cascading Trump scandals it will destroy any momentum behind legislative prerogatives, regardless of whether there is ultimately an independent investigation(s).

Given how egregiously the GOP in Congress broke from norms, protocol, and traditions during the Obama administration I don’t feel bad for them.

Unfortunately, as it was during the Obama administration, this is bad for the republic.

But if Republicans in Congress are indeed reaping what they have sewn then my response is this:

Welcome to Thunderdome.  

The Tragedy in Aleppo and the Assassination of the Russian Ambassador.

 

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The above map (sources indicated) and timeline speaks for itself. The situation in Syria, and especially in Aleppo is deep and complex, there are no good sides, no good or easy answers, and so far — nothing but tragic outcomes.

In the midst of the U.S. Presidential Election this year, nearly everyone in the media, and far too many Americans, have ignored the humanitarian catastrophe that is currently unfolding its latest tragic chapter in Syria. The city of Aleppo, which one or more candidates for the highest office in the land, were clueless about, at least in name (and probably many other areas as well). It has been unfolding for the last five years or so. Its roots go back even further.

We have ignored it, and this website, dedicated to cultural and political commentary, is no exception.

My first inklings of things going awfully wrong in Syria were during my deployment to the Middle East in 2011 and 2012. I, like most soldiers, was singularly focused on our specific mission or would-be missions at the time. However, throughout the ESNN (Enlisted Soldiers News Network) there were plenty of rumors about the situation exploding in Syria and worries over re-deployment there from where we were at in Kuwait (completely unfounded at the time of course). By the time I got back to the United States, and certainly after President Obama was re-elected, ISIS, or ISL, or the Islamic State, very much became a “thing” and a new “wedge” in American political discourse. Much of the discourse was hysterical and unfounded rhetoric, ill-informed and ignorant of the history in the region, let alone recent history. The Syrian civil war, is so complex, that I cannot even begin to explain it in this thousand word article. Instead–I’ll arrive at the timeless news of today. Thousands are dead in Aleppo, many of them innocent children. The complete and utter breakdown in humanity is staggering, and disappointing.

President Barack Obama is a great man, a great example to follow, but a good President. Not a great one.

There have only been three great Presidents — Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. President Obama, while historic, does not belong in the “great” category. He is Woodrow Wilson. Some great ideals, some of the right instincts, a professor-like image, certainly historical, but a lasting legacy that will be shaped more from what he is, rather than what he did or did not do. The Obama policy record on socio-cultural issues is comparatively strong, but very muddled and mixed on economic and foreign policy issues, which are issues the President has far more influence and control over. To be fair, he is still the best President of most of our lifetimes. To be fair to his overall foreign policy record: here are a few select areas where he did well:

  • He has removed over 3/4 the troop levels that he inherited from the Bush administration in Afghanistan and Iraq. While he incorrectly “surged” in Afghanistan in the beginning to do so, getting down to historically low levels of troops in the post-9/11 era is no small feat.
  • Despite lowering troop levels, through his use of special forces and our vast intelligence network, he oversaw the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.
  • He has overseen a policy that has removed roughly 3/4 of the numbers of the Islamic State and suffered very few American casualties while doing so.
  • He understands “smart power” and the limits of American power in the 21st century. He likes to do foreign policy quietly, and he understands that patience is very, very important sometimes to achieve goals that exclusive use of military force cannot achieve.
  • He understands that it is only through using every tool in the toolbox: economic, diplomatic, and the military, that the U.S. can achieve or get closer to achieving its foreign policy goals.

President Obama was and still is a good foreign policy President, I strongly suspect history will be relatively kind to him, but he is most certainly not a great foreign policy President. Very few are.

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Turning back to the humanitarian catastrophe and breakdown of systems and humanity in Syria — there is no longer any running away from the fact that regarding the Syrian Civil War, the international community, regional organizations and power-players, and yes, the United States of America — has failed. This failure of leadership, includes our current President, Barack Obama. No one is safe from it.

Certainly, we’re all human and we make mistakes. A situation like Syria however, where a lack of leadership on the international stage has transpired, will only get worse and more frequent under a Trump administration.

Make no mistake about it — Pax America, for all its warts and faults, is dead.

There is still, however, a great need for solid American leadership on the world stage. There is a need for smart, effective, proportional, and humble American leadership.

For the next four to eight years at least, we will not have that.

Earlier today our time, the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated in Ankara. A lone Turkish gunman stepped right out of a James Bond film, and shot and killed the Russian ambassador, shouting “don’t forget Aleppo!”

All acts of violence represent a failure in the human character and a failure of political systems to solve problems and disagreements. Russia and many others have failed humanity by propping up an Assad regime that is at least as terrible as the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq that the United States spent more than $2 trillion on, at the cost of thousands of American soldiers’ lives, and well over a hundred thousand civilian lives.

The assassination of the Russian ambassador today is similarly reprehensible. However, it does not represent what Franz Ferdinand represented in the lead-up to World War I.

World War I was caused by many factors, the chief driving one, being nationalism and two power-blocs codifying that system of nationalism via treaties. In general terms — we can describe that as the world retreating to comfortable, but worn corners. That is also what is happening today. Be worried, but do not freak out and do not lose hope. Not only is the Russian ambassador not Franz Ferdinand–but Franz Ferdinand himself is not Franz Ferdinand. In 1914, only folks like Lord Grantham cared about Franz Ferdinand. Ferdinand represented the excuse to do what the powers that be wanted to do anyway. Remember this: large and powerful nation-states only go to war when they think they have something to gain. There is a country that looks like that today: Russia.

But it will not be now and it will not be here.

If you are now very concerned, you should have already been concerned. Russian aggression, combined with rising nationalism in Europe, and the world retreating to “comfortable, but worn corners”, has been going on for nearly a decade. Recent Russian aggressions in Ukraine, Georgia and the ones that will likely transpire in the future (next four to eight years), most likely in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania (all NATO  member-countries), should concern us all. I dearly hope I’m wrong about those last three predictions, but thus far, this website has a track record of being relatively right about political predictions, and ridiculously wrong about sports predictions.

Like the slow burn of the last decade or so, we will continue to see the rise of far right-wing, national front-type parties in Europe. And if that battle over the future of history is not fought now rhetorically at home, and abroad, I cannot promise anyone anything.

In Order to Win the Future — We Must Rediscover the Past

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The above photograph (courtesy of either Jacqueline Van Moer or myself…I don’t remember) is Alexander Hamilton’s “the Grange” homestead. Hamilton completed this home a few years before he was famously shot by Aaron Burr, another New Yorker, in the famous duel just across the Hudson River from where we live. Hamilton, although born elsewhere, is the quintessential first generation American. Hard-working, enterprising, ambitious, and brilliant. He served as Aide-de-camp to General Washington during the American Revolution and was our nation’s first Treasury Secretary. You may recognize him from the ten dollar bill, and now Lin Manuel Miranda’s famous musical.

Full disclosure, I’m an amateur historian. But I’ve always read and loved history. Much of my private, personal (not academic or campaign experience) political education has been learned and read through a historical lens. I’ll do my best, but I’m no pro.

Agreeing Loudly dot com introduces you to two new historical series; one that will be locally-based, at least my version of local (New York), and the other a national story intended to give the read perspective on our ongoing, beleaguered, but bizarrely nonexistent national conversation.

I invite you all to help me out on this journey, and point things out that I am overlooking or may have missed. Give your thoughts and feedback and contribute, especially *actual* historian Allan Branstiter of “The Margin of Error” and a frequent “Agreeing Loudly” guest and contributor. As well as Justin Norris, especially for the latter half (discussed below).

Also, especially for longtime residents of NYC and NYS — feel free to join in on the conversation. Come one, come all, and bring friends.

For anyone friends, family, acquaintances, or readers that will be visiting the area — I’ll also try to use this space to recommend really good walking tours or double-decker bus tours that are affordable and valuable.

In the spirit of “piercing bubbles” I’d also like to invite any other amateur or professional historians to contribute to this site and explore their states in a similar or unique manner.

I’ll be covering the New York-focused series in two places: right here at AL.com in the form of longer articles and in more photographic and anecdotal form on Instagram @nycwalkinghistory – which will no doubt be changed to @nywalkingonhistory or @nyswalkingonhistory as goals are accomplished. What goals? Read below:

Double-decker bus tour in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.

Goal — in the next three years (2017, 2018, and 2019) — my beautiful wife, Jacki, and I (and sometimes just me) will be doing a walking historical tour on the streets of every neighborhood in the five boroughs of New York City. We’ve already covered nearly every neighborhood in the Borough of Manhattan, and have been pretty decent progress in the Bronx and Brooklyn as well. In the years to come, we’ll be covering the rest of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, as well as venturing past CitiField (where the New York Mets, my National League loyalties lie there) in Queens and getting out to Staten Island.

Furthermore, and especially as we get closer to covering every neighborhood in New York City, we’ll be venturing Upstate via the Hudson Valley and into Long Island past JFK airport and be doing for the 62 Counties of New York State what we did for the neighborhoods of New York City.

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Unfortunately and unfairly, New York City hogs most of attention and spotlight in the public imagination (for understandable reasons). However, there is so much history in each and every county. A lot of it — I don’t even know yet, but I’m excited to find out. In addition to NYC, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley, you’ll find seven other main regions Upstate. I speculate (and we’ll see if I’m right) that the Finger Lakes area is not too different from the Lakes Area of Minnesota where I grew up. I’m also really excited to see Buffalo, NY — and see how similar it is to Duluth, MN, my only previous exposure to a Great Lakes city outside of Chicago, IL.

The second major historical running series that will begin relatively soon is the story of US History as told through Consequential Presidential Elections.

Ideally, I’ll get a bit of an assist from resident scholar Justin Norris, Carson Starkey, Allan Branstiter, etc. for this series. Once again, I’m an amateur historian. And I’ll do my best.

There will be no schedule and the new articles will be published as they are researched, completed, and edited. No time-table and no promises. But I promise this won’t become like Aaron Gleeman’s top 40 Twins of all time series.

A brief rundown of what elections and the time periods around them that I will be researching and writing on:

1800

(Jefferson v. Adams, and the first peaceful transfer of power)

1828

(Jackson v. Quincy Adams, and beginnings of the rural Democratic Party tradition)

1860

(Lincoln v. Douglass v. Breckenridge v. Bell, and the Civil War)

1896

(McKinley v. Jennings Bryan, and Populism on the Prairie)

1912

(Wilson v. Roosevelt v. Taft, the two party system holds, and the Grand Ole Party rejects progressivism for good)

1932

(FDR vs. Hoover, the New Deal, the new policy consensus, and the leader that history called for)

1960-1964-1968

(JFK v. Nixon, LBJ v. Goldwater, Humphrey v. Nixon, a New Generation, a second New Deal, the tumultuous year that was 1968, and the beginnings of the break-up of the New Deal coalition and the New Deal itself)

1980

(Reagan vs. Carter, American Optimism, the opening of an era of boomer short-sightedness, and the beginning of the end for the New Deal)

1992

(Clinton v. H.W. Bush v. Perot, the Democratic Party sells its soul to win back the White House, betrays working people and families, and the boomer Clinton Party triumphant)

2008

(Obama vs. McCain, History made, Opportunities Missed, and the first Information Age election)

 

In Our Post-Factual World, Kayfabe is King

by Carson Starkey

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“By Any Means Necessary”

At some point in the not-so-distant future, The Nation of Domination will “interrupt” a Donald Trump rally/speech. They will appear suddenly in a doorway, bathed in spotlights, wielding baseball bats, chains, and tire irons. They will begin marching towards the main stage, advancing on scattered groups of terrified, hysterical, elderly white Fox News viewers to the sounds of NWA’s “Fuck Tha’ Police.” Images of Barack Obama transforming into Malcolm X will adorn the venue’s Jumbotrons.

Moments before The Nation can reach Trump’s podium to complete their attack on freedom and destroy America, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chuck Norris, and Hulk Hogan will emerge from behind a curtain on the stage. They will be armed with American flags and steel chairs emblazoned with “Made in America,” as well as the United Steelworkers logo. Their spotlights will be larger. They will be surrounded by pyrotechnics while Bruce Springsteen’s immortal “Born in the USA” seizes control of the sound system, drowning out the evil, morally deficient, food stamp-encouraging hippity hop jungle music of the savage, unpatriotic attackers. Michaels, Austin, Norris, and Hogan will dispatch every member of The Nation with a combination of their signature finishers, and blows leveled with their white nationalist accouterments.

After Hogan levels Farooq/Ron Simmons with a dose of freedom, “Barack Obama” (played by Jay Pharoah) and “Hillary Clinton” (played by Kate McKinnon) will descend from the rafters, screaming “DEATH TO AMERICA!” The Illegitimate Kenyan Pretender and the Chief Feminazi Conspirator of Benghazi will attempt to aid their subversive nonwhite comrades.

Before Obama Hussein and Jane Fonda Clinton can enslave Real America, “George W. Bush” (played by George W. Bush) and “Dick Cheney” (played by Dick Cheney) will emerge from a previously undetected space beneath the stage. Bush-Cheney will overwhelm Obama-Clinton with respect for traditional values, devotion to capitalism, and freedom. Bush and Cheney will incapacitate Obama with a double vertical suplex through a table. America’s greatest cowboy hat-bedecked duo will complete their triumph with a double powerbomb of Clinton from atop of the main stage, onto a conveniently placed stack of Rachel Maddow books.

America’s glorious heroes will embrace. The crowd will shriek “TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP!” Trump will raise his hands high in victory, humbled by the show of conservative solidarity, and ready to win a general election.

Get used to saying “President Trump,” an America without social insurance, and seeing a whole lot more of Vince McMahon for the next eight years.

Kleiner Mann Joe Blue Collar, Was Nun?: The Way Forward for Those Who Don’t Care About The Heritage Foundation’s Agenda

By Carson Starkey

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Darren McCollester | Getty Images

Hans Fallada’s “Little Man, What Now?” was first published in 1932. Johannes Pinneberg, the protagonist, faces constant economic anxieties, petty humiliations, and social disillusionment in post-World War One Germany. He travels through a broad range of emotions, but most of all, he feels disconnected and abandoned…abandoned by faceless, uncaring “leaders.” As he sees it, somebody should be looking out for him. He doesn’t hold grandiose, sophisticated ideas about public policy, history, economics, or politics. He wants a steady job, a place to live free from his repulsive mother-in-law, affordable healthcare for his wife Emma, and food for his son Horst. He’s not angry about socialism, trade unionism, or fascism. He’s angry that self-declared “serious” people in government can’t or won’t protect him from avoidable misery. A fair number of scholars assert that the book acts a broad explanation for the future political success of fascism in Germany. Johannes Blue Collar wasn’t obsessed with waging expensive, seemingly endless warfare or subjugating everyone that disagreed with him politically. He just wanted to pay his bills and maintain some measure of human dignity. Of course that was true in 1932. It has been true throughout the course of human history. It’s true today. Which brings us to Joe Blue Collar in contemporary America and his broad interest in, if not sympathy with, Donald Trump.

What has been most intriguing, in my view anyway, about the rise of Trumpism (broad, detail-free populist declarations about making America great) are the reactions among Establishment or respectable conservatives. “Establishment conservatives” has come to mean Republican Party voters that favor millionaire welfare checks, eternal warfare with Muslims, and racial segregation without the burden of supporting a politically inexperienced, orange-skinned, toupee-adorned grifter who plies shoddy products at Macy’s. Now that Trump is going to be the Republican presidential nominee, respectable conservatives are melting down in highly public, Mel Gibson-esque spectacles that reveal the ugly yet honest ideological foundations of American conservatism. Respectable, establishment conservatives claim to care about intellectually serious matters like Supreme Court nominees, small government, or fiscal restraint…although no evidence exists to support the contention that those same conservatives have ever worried about such matters in the past three quarters of a century, unless we mean preserving low tax rates for rich people or criminalizing the existence of non-white people. No, what rankles self-proclaimed grown-up conservatives about Trump is that he’s giving away the inside game by verifying an uncomfortable suspicion that Heritage Foundation “scholars” have always attempted to suppress during campaigns. That is, most self-proclaimed conservative voters don’t care about the Ayn Rand agenda. While abolishing taxation, dissolving social insurance, and building Pax Americana are important causes to people who work at The Wall Street Journal, all that Jane or Joe Blue Collar care about relates to making financial ends meet. Which makes conservative aristocrats angry bordering on hysterical.

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The United Center Casts a Long, Uncomfortable Shadow Over Garfield Park and Lawndale: On the Road with Springsteen in Chicago, and the Price We Pay for “Our Most American City”

By Carson Starkey

Little girl down on the strand

With that pretty little baby in your hands

Do you remember the story of the promised land

How he crossed the desert sands

And could not enter the chosen land

On the banks of the river he stayed

To face the price you pay

I saw Ta-Nehisi Coates speak at Roosevelt University (my wife Suzie’s graduate school alma mater) on October 9th, 2014. He was on a tour of America’s campuses, promoting his spectacularly important article “The Case for Reparations” that appeared in the June 2014 edition of The Atlantic. His appearance in Chicago was significant because his article focuses on the long-term imposition of economic misery on the overwhelmingly black neighborhoods of the city’s west and south sides. He spent the first thirty minutes or so of his time at the podium summarizing America’s history of political/economic choices that encourage white people taking from black people (Social Security, the GI Bill, housing ordinances). He pointed out reparations, at least the version he proposed in the article, are not meant to address historically distant outcomes, but rather present day injustices. He explained that we don’t have to talk about individual payments to/legislative spending aimed at descendants of slaves based on outcomes that are hundreds of years old (other arguments for other occasions) because the nonwhite people that have suffered under systematic, legalized cheating are very much alive in parts of America (the people that he interviewed during his research who live in Chicago to this day). After a question-and-answer session during which white liberals delivered statements about themselves that lacked relevance, discernible points, or punctuation, most of all question marks, and consumed substantial amounts of time, Mr. Coates described Chicago in a way that I will carry with me forever. “When my European friends ask me about which cities they should visit when they come to this country, I tell them, don’t go to New York or Los Angeles. Go to Chicago. I say that because Chicago is our most American city, for all that entails, both good and bad.” Amen to that.

I was reminded of that moment, and its many layers of truth, when I made my first of three holy pilgrimages to The United Center on January 19th, 2016 to see Bruce Springsteen perform on the second night of “The River” tour. It was one of those moments, along with the time we spend surveying the demographics of Springsteen crowds, that makes/should make every Springsteen fan uncomfortable. Allow me to explain why that is the case. The United Center occupies its own patch of highly profitable real estate in the Near West Side, just slightly set apart from the West Loop, east of Garfield Park and Lawndale. While the United Center is one of America’s rare exceptions as sports stadiums go in that it owes its existence to private funding, the owners of the United Center (Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz and (Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf) fall firmly within the mainstream of the our nation’s mega-rich, as they derive astronomical financial benefits from property tax subsidies (“Nothing But Net Profit: Jerry Reinsdorf, Property Tax Relief, and Corporate School Reform on Chicago’s Near West Side,” January 2013).

If showering billionaires with welfare handouts doesn’t upset you, because that’s just the price of freedom or whatever the socially awkward, celibate, casually bigoted young National Review readers are claiming these days, you might choose to examine The United Center’s location in relation to the neighborhoods around it, specifically Garfield Park and Lawndale. Garfield Park and Lawndale, both overwhelmingly black, are often found among the top ten poorest, most violent neighborhoods in our nation. So of course their residents should be able to cast their gaze regularly upon an enormous monument to obscene, publicly subsidized excess, because they wouldn’t be able to put that same money to use in their neighborhoods, obviously. Because investing money in black people is always welfare fraud. Because white people need The United Center to be of top notch quality so that they can enjoy professional sports competitions and live music concerts…that most residents of Garfield Park and Lawndale can’t afford to attend. Because Chicago is “our most American city.”

As I mentioned two paragraphs ago, most Springsteen fans have to confront at least one other unsettling experience when they attend his live performances-the demographics of their fellow travelers. After we finished our meals in the West Loop, strong recommendation for Kaiser Tiger, we hiked to our gate and stood among the trembling faithful (trembling from a mixture of blistering wind and joyful anticipation). Nothing but smiling white people, as far as they eye could behold. Some were talking about how many Springsteen live performances they’ve seen, which one woman in her early sixties estimated to be around twenty-plus. Some were talking about the urgent need, as this was early in the current tour, for Springsteen to add more dates in Europe because, in the words of an Englishwoman, she wanted “more than anything in the world,” and would “pay any amount of money to hear ‘Born in the USA’ live in London.” Whatever they were talking about, everyone was talking about spending substantial amounts of money, and everyone was white. I won’t insult your intelligence by claiming that I refused to buy merchandise because my baseball hat, t-shirt, and poster (all made in America) are intensely cool. But the truth is that I was uneasy with the fact my musical hero, our most vocally left-wing rock n’roll star national treasure, draws a fan base of such minimal diversity. There is no pithy segue or smooth transition for this conclusion. Just discomfort.

We found our seats. I wasn’t entirely certain about how I would respond to “The River.” It’s never been my favorite album. Prior to this tour, I have always been loyal to “Born in the USA,” “Born to Run,” “The Seeger Sessions,” and “Wrecking Ball,” in that order. Although the more I read about this tour, the more I found that E Street Band members all say that “The River” is their favorite album because it replicates the live concert experience with the greatest authenticity (“Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’: Steve Van Zandt Looks Back,” Rolling Stone, February 11th, 2016, and “Max Weinberg on ‘River’ Tour: What He Learned From Bruce Springsteen,” Rolling Stone, February 9th, 2016).

Suzie and I shrieked along to the first five songs (“Meet Me In The City,” “The Ties That Bind,” “Sherry Darling,” “Jackson Cage,” and “Two Hearts,”), standing and dancing in place with total disregard for rhythm or talent. I won’t spend much time explaining Springsteen’s material that deals with fast cars, attractive women, and weekend road trips because there’s no need to do so. These are the songs that everyone can agree upon for any occasion. If you seek bipartisanship/the spirit of compromise anywhere in America, in any form, put members of different communities, or different political views in a sedan and play “Pink Cadillac.” You will have earned a genuine respite from the crushing sadness of ideological rancor that afflicts our society.

We sat down, as standard stadium rock concert etiquette dictates when ballads are playing, for “Independence Day,” which is the definitive father-son airing of grievances-irreconcilable differences among generations anthem of contemporary Western society. Bruce graced us with one of his famous monologues before he started the song, which captured the attention of every person in the building with the collectively somber reverence usually reserved for presidential speechmaking prior to a major war. The signature “Springsteen: Just the Stories” moment set me up for what followed, undoubtedly because I was swept away with overwhelming joy when he started speaking. Those that know me complain, frequently, that I rely on humor far too often to draw attention, deflect sadness, or derail conversation that I find less than compelling, but I swear on my devotion to collective bargaining, that after the first verse, I was sobbing hysterically. Not quiet sniffles followed by watery eyes that went unnoticed. Choking, gasping, uncontrolled spasms of weeping, chest heaving, cascading streams of tears, cheeks glistening, without a shred of self-awareness. Totally out of nowhere. Suzie didn’t know what to do. Nearby spectators must have thought that I was having a nervous breakdown. I would have assured them, no, not the case at all fellow Americana enthusiasts. Just a supernova of emotional clarity, human compassion, and self-reflection. Every petty, savage, low-stakes argument that I ever had with my father came flooding back…battles over car repairs, the 2000 presidential election, Paul Wellstone, my younger brother, my return from the Iraq War…I was vowing to do better, because I couldn’t imagine feeling this way ever again. I don’t remember when, or at what point in the song exactly, I stopped crying. Not terribly important. What I do remember is feeling exhausted…six songs into the show. That can be problematic if the specific performer you’re seeing is famous for consistently delivering three to four hour marathon concerts.

I pulled myself together, and was composed for most of the remaining songs. I strained muscles in my back, shoulders, ribs, neck, and stomach singing along to “Ramrod” and “Cadillac Ranch” because they are my favorite tracks from the album, and because I live under the comical delusion that my Springsteen impression gets magically better for those particular songs. I thought that I would be okay until at least the fan favorite portion of the show (greatest hits that he plays after he completes “The River” album in its entirety) until we reached “The Price You Pay.” Easy to pin down the reason for this meltdown in retrospect. Story of working class misery, same style as “The Promised Land,” he even uses the phrase in the song. Important note-I always cry while screaming along to “The Promised Land.” One of my top five favorite Springsteen songs. So…maybe I was consumed with sadness about America’s vast economic inequality. Maybe I was thinking about Chicago’s ugly contradictions. Maybe I had other, more subtle, below the surface, selfish reasons for that outburst of tears. All I know is that I “felt” everything, deeply, maximally, and with unbridled severity.

Bruce finished “The River,” and moved on to the fan favorite portion, which is synonymous with “Born to Run” and “Thunder Road,” those marquee climaxes of any Springsteen live performance. Before he reached those two most cherished icons, he threw in “The Rising.” All of the Millenials stood and wailed in unison, as we time traveled back to the heady, exuberant summer days of 2008, when we knocked doors for Senator Barry Obama, when The Boss traveled with Senator Barry, rallying stadiums full of liberals, when Senator Barry himself explained his reason for wanting to reside in the White House (“Because I can’t be Bruce Springsteen,” “Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel Form Supergroup for Obama in NYC,” Rolling Stone, October 17th, 2008), and we shook the pillars of American society with our illustrious optimism born from disgust with Iraq and overt Bush administration criminality. I had to stop smiling like a lunatic, and take stock of it all. Damn Bruce…why does everything have to be so “real” with you?

I was fine during “Born to Run.” No tsunami of emotions. Again, I can’t explain it. I know that it’s supposed to be every Springsteen fan’s favorite song according to the standard music critic/journalist narrative. Sang every word, loved it, but nothing compares to “Thunder Road.” I stood, sang, cried, swayed, hugged, and felt my knees buckle numerous times. There is no drug, prescription or illicit, no artificial substance in the universe that can replicate how I feel when I’m singing that Springsteen song.

After three hours and twenty minutes of crowd surfing, mad dashes between stages, and ZERO set breaks because anything less than one hundred percent effort is for America-hating subversives, it was over. Bruce and the E Street Band stepped away from their instruments, bowed, and walked backstage. We had just “seen the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making, legendary E STREET BAND!” That’s Springsteen’s bit at the end of every performance…basically an homage to James Brown, although most reasonably informed fans know that a majority of Springsteen’s live act is an homage to James Brown. Another examination for another day, valued readers, no doubt.

I was disappointed that he didn’t play “Glory Days” or “Born in The USA,” (bucket list goals) but such is the reality of “The River” tour. Too many songs, not enough time in an evening to hit everything before municipal police forces shut down operations, although I would argue that all Springsteen concerts should be legally required to run five hours, minimum. The more complicated problem, as far as seeing those two particular songs, is that The Boss tends to reserve them for his European shows, where the audiences sing with evangelical fervor when they have opportunities to appropriate American cultural experiences. To paraphrase the colonel from “Full Metal Jacket,” inside every European, there is a Bruce Springsteen fan trying to claim American citizenship. I’m not exaggerating when I say that contemporary industrialized society sometimes can’t handle the length and ferocity of live Springsteen performances (“Bruce Springsteen’s Microphone Switched Off at Hyde Park Gig,” The Guardian, July 14th, 2012).

We left The United Center, fatigued, satisfied with our artistic sensibilities, pleased with our intellectual superiority, and filled with security in our status as comfortable white people.Many thanks to Allan Branstiter for allowing public use of that copyrighted term.

We still had to face a world in which a war with Iran (2018, ask Troy Olson) looks inevitable, where The United Center mocks the poverty of Garfield Park and Lawndale with total impunity, and where millionaire welfare checks constitute wise investments but social insurance for working people means big government waste in the language of “respectable” (code for always wrong about outcomes) political/policy discourse. Bruce Springsteen’s concert didn’t and couldn’t solve our problems, and as he would be quick to point out, only we could do that by voting, fundraising, and persuading our fellow citizens. We didn’t have comforting answers, but we had the power of rock n’roll. That would have to suffice as we navigated the perils of “our most American city” in the New Gilded Age.

Let’s hope that Bruce Springsteen and Ta-Nehisi Coates hold a joint event together at some point. The combined fan bases interacting with each other would be worth any price of admission. All proceeds would go to worthy liberal charities. #LeftyLifeGoals #GreatestLiveEventEver

2016: Challengers, Incumbents, and Successors.

by Troy M. Olson

It's the economy, stupid
Screen cap courtesy of the 1993 documentary The War Room, popularized by James Carville, top strategist for Bill Clinton on the 1992 Presidential campaign.

One of the most fascinating aspects to the 2016 Presidential campaign thus far is the shakeup in the traditional breakdown of Presidential campaign politics.

Historically, Presidential runs have fallen into three types of campaigns: the “challenger” campaign, the “incumbent” campaign, and the “successor” campaign. The differences are fairly self explanatory.

Challengers are from the political party that has not held the White House the last four years. Recent examples of this would be Barack Obama in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012, or any Republican candidate for President this year.

Incumbents are one-term Presidents running for re-election. Recent examples of this would be Barack Obama in 2012 and George W. Bush in 2004.

Successors are candidates from the same political party as the President exiting the White House (or theoretically, stepping down after one full term for various reasons like LBJ did in 1968) and are running to try and keep their party in the White House. Recent examples of this are Al Gore in 2000, John McCain in 2008, and now Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Each type of Presidential campaign has different challenges and obstacles to overcome. Generally speaking, challenger candidates have the easiest path to the Presidency, incumbents have a tougher path, and successors have the most challenges and obstacles to the Presidency.

I don’t mean to minimize the path to the Presidency for challenger candidates, since every path to the Presidency is a long and arduous one. Any successful campaign requires not only not only solid planning and organizational abilities, but also name ID, a compelling narrative, money, and loyal followers. Any good candidate also needs to be resilient, flexible and—most important of all—needs a campaign that compliments their unique personality and public image. One of the main reasons the heavily-favored Hillary Clinton lost to Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic Primary was that she ran more like an incumbent rather than the challenger candidate that she truly was (or at least should have positioned herself to be). By running like an incumbent she created unnecessary hurdles for herself.

This brings us to 2016: a successor campaign (the Democrat seeking to succeed Obama in the White House) vs. a challenger campaign (all the Republican candidates).

As mentioned in the “Case for Losing in 2016” article last week, history says it’s unlikely that the same party holds the White House for more than three consecutive terms, and it is actually quite hard to even win it for the third term, let alone a fourth time. That is because “successor” campaigns have the most obstacles and hurdles to clear. While the argument for re-electing a President is “stay the course, don’t change horses in mid-steam, etc.” the successor campaign has to make the case that “while we are changing horses now, let’s have the new horse going in the same direction.” If you have a relatively popular two-term President about to leave office, this would seem like a benefit, but the historical reality is always much more difficult.

In modern Presidential campaigns, sitting and former Vice Presidents have had trouble parlaying their position into the Presidency. Richard Nixon in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, George H.W. Bush in 1988, and Al Gore in 2000 all struggled to grasp what “type” of campaign they need to be running. Only Bush the Elder was able to capture the Presidency and succeed as a successor candidate.

Members of the same party but outside of the administration (Senate, Governor, or another official) have not fared much better, which I think explains Hillary’s troubles a great deal. Not only is she tied to the faults of the previous Democratic administration (Obama), she also is tied to the faults of Bill Clinton’s administration, while also receiving very little credit for the positive roles played. Historically, the successor candidacy is the toughest campaign to win, even if you have the institutional advantages of being the incumbent Vice President.

Constitutionally VP’s do very little, but throughout the last 70 years they have taken on more and more pet projects and policy responsibilities inside the White House. The degree to which the VP gets to actually do things depends greatly on their relationship with the President, but overall the office has come a long way from 1945 when Harry Truman came into office after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

When Truman assumed the office, he had met Roosevelt in person only a few times. The new President had not been briefed at all on the post-War situation or the upcoming Potsdam conference. Perhaps most galling was the fact that he was completely unaware of the Manhattan Project and the looming atomic age. Through no fault of his own, Truman arguably inherited the worst possible situation in American history in terms of how prepared he was to take over the highest office in the land. Thankfully Presidential transitions, whether within the same party or the other major party, have improved a great deal since.

**********

In the 2016 Republican Primary, every candidate can credibly lay claim to the mantle of “challenger” candidate, except perhaps Jeb Bush, who (like Hillary Clinton) has characteristics of both incumbency and successor, which have hampered both of their campaigns from the start. In 2008, Clinton’s status as a former First Lady and a Senator who voted in favor of the Iraq War hindered her ability to position herself as a “challenger” candidate. In a “change” campaign, she looked more and more like a deposed Monarch, seeking to return to the throne. Jeb Bush has fared far worse on the Republican side in 2016. While Hillary has learned from several of her 2008 mistakes, while proving to be quite agile and resilient in 2016, she has not learned from all of them. Her team and organization, while better, still leaves a lot to be desired.

While Hillary is positioned well enough to be the first successful “successor” campaign since George H.W. Bush’s 1988 win over “challenger” Michael Dukakis, a more fresh-faced and upstart “challenger” candidate like Marco Rubio or a complete outsider-“challenger” candidate like Donald Trump would be a poor match in the early going. Many members of the Democratic establishment and voting base do not understand how perilous this election cycle is because of it. While Sanders has successfully positioned himself as the “challenger” candidate that he is, nominating him has its own downsides to it.

This is why early last year on the “Agreeing Loudly” podcast, I argued for who I thought was “the safe horse in midstream,” Vice President Joe Biden, who was torn between his private anguish and grief, and his sense of public duty. To me, Biden represented the most sure-fire candidate in 2016 because he had the support and record as VP to earn at least a term as President. A Biden presidency would have allowed the party a four year window to rebuild and create a deeper bench at every level all the way up to potential 2020 Presidential candidates. Instead, Democrats are left with a hotly contested primary and an extremely shallow pool of future candidates.

Understandably, Biden chose not to run in 2016. While I predicted at the end of the year that Hillary Clinton would win narrowly in the fall, I also explained this would weaken the future of the Democratic Party. This is not necessarily an argument to nominate Sanders, who I think would also lose in 2020 even if he managed to win in 2016. For Democrats, what is most important right now is to continue to have a substantive debate on the issues—like the very one Clinton and Sanders are currently having.

I cannot say the same, however, about Clinton and Sanders supporters. Divided generationally more than anything else, Democratic primary voters are throwing increasingly ridiculous accusations at each other.

We are in the beginning of a political age where all of the cynicism toward politics that began in the 1960’s and 1970’s has crescendoed into a rejection of our two-party system from within the two-party system, just as it has typically occurred throughout history. The rise of Sanders on left running on a plank of true egalitarianism, and the rise of Trump’s amateur big government paleo-conservativism on the right, is evidence of this fact.

Whether this leads to a slight shake-up of the sixth party system, or the eventual creation of a seventh party system, it will be sorted out in the next decade and a half. While the art of Presidential campaigning is somewhat in flux, a few things will never change. Presidential elections will often be about, “it’s the economy, stupid.” And Presidential campaign teams need to know who they are to the electorate—challengers, incumbents, or successors—and prepare the campaign’s messaging around that reality.

For Further Reading/Study on This Topic and Related Topics, Check Out:

Plouffe, David. The Audacity To Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory. New York: Viking-Penguin, 2009. Print.

Popkin, Samuel L. The Candidate: What It Takes to Win-And Hold-The White House. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.

The War Room. Dir. Chris Hegedu and DA Pennebaker. Feat. James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. Universal/Focus Features, 1993. Film.

The Law Bends Towards White Supremacy

The standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ended yesterday. Many people asked why it was allowed to go on so long. The reasons have less to do with racist police, and more to do with how our laws use land to reinforce white supremacy.

by Allan Branstiter

Cowboy Dwane Ehmer, of Irrigon, Ore., a supporter of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, walks his horse Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, near Burns, Ore. The group has said repeatedly that local people should control federal lands, but critics say the lands are already managed to help everyone from ranchers to recreationalists. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Cowboy Dwane Ehmer, of Irrigon, Ore., a supporter of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, walks his horse Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, near Burns, Ore. The group has said repeatedly that local people should control federal lands, but critics say the lands are already managed to help everyone from ranchers to recreationalists. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

David Fry, the final holdout occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon, surrendered to federal authorities yesterday. Before he did so, negotiators asked him what he thought Jesus would do in his situation. With the creativity and political acumen of an Ayn Rand novel, he responded with a demand for pizza and marijuana, something about U.F.O.s, and criticism for a government condones both abortions and drone strikes. Finally, after weeks of pointless bluster, artifact-fingering, and laying down weird sumo wrestling challenges to Chris Christie, Fry ate one last cookie, muttered “Alrighty then,” and exited his tent. Ammon and Randy Bundy’s dumb revolution ended with an Ace Ventura quote.

It’s easy to make light of these sagebrush constitutional scholars because their understanding of the American legal code and its history inaccurate. The fact that the likes of Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly embraced, then rejected, then embraced, then rejected (maybe?) their cause also enhances its comedic value. As dumb as these protester lookwith their livefeeds, shipments of junk food, and Gadsden flags—as futile and pointless as LaVoy Finicum’s death for this cause appears—it has a very serious history.

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Are We Overlooking Generation X?

Forget the Boomers and Millennials, this is the Gen-X Election Cycle

by Allan Branstiter

blacklistedandlovingit

During Marco Rubio’s triumphal bronze medal speech in Iowa he used the word “generation” seven times in less than a minute. I couldn’t help but wonder what generation he was trying to speak to. Rubio’s speech was more or less the rehearsed “New American Century” schtick he’s been polishing since last year, but last night speech was notable to me because it was an odd Frankenstein of Boomer sanctimony, Millennial idealism, and (more importantly) Gen X cynicism.

Boomer v. Millennial gets a ton of airtime these days (see: Weber, Meacham, Nentl, et al.), but this leads me to wonder if we are overlooking Generation X’s more silent influence over the 2016 Republican primary campaign? Let’s make the (wholly unscientific) case:

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Iowa Results: What They Mean

by Troy M. Olson

Generations Pol. Cartoon

(Part One of Two)

2016 Iowa caucus results: 

Hillary Clinton won by a coin toss (figuratively speaking, but potentially literally depending on who you ask) last night, Bernie Sanders outperformed his poll numbers to gain a delegate and statistical tie, Ted Cruz becomes the evangelical candidate of this cycle, and Marco Rubio is the “comeback kid” of the night. The real story though? Two things: one, I am right about the 2016 Presidential Election, so far. Two, the Bernie Sanders candidacy represents the beginning of the “Millennial Consensus.”

Breaking down the results, there has been a lot of digital ink spilled alright, and as usual, 90 percent of it has been hyperbole. To the best of my abilities and as objective as I can be, here is what I think the 2016 Iowa Presidential Caucus results mean, and what they don’t mean.

What The Results Mean:

Bernie Sanders, as a candidate, but more importantly, his message, issues, and voter coalition – represent the beginning of the “Millennial Consensus”

There was a clear generational divide last night within the Democratic Party. Over-40 Democrats went easily for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders won under-40 Democrats, and especially under-30 Democrats by a landslide. Only time will tell for certain, but it has already been argued that Sanders changed the Democratic Party last night. I agree.

The Democratic Party has been hemorrhaging older voters and been solidly winning younger voters for quite awhile now. Yet, the leadership of the Democratic Party, both politically and in public office is far older and considerably less diverse than the coalition that has supported them. This is a problem. And it will continue to manifest itself if not corrected. However, the politics and policies of Bernie Sanders, like Barack Obama before him, have had a lasting pull on young people, especially a generation who is constantly derided in the media by the generations in power.

This does not mean I think Bernie Sanders will win. I predicted at the end of last year that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for President. I predict she will also be the next President, and I further predict that the Democratic Party will sink to its lowest lows in over 100 years within the next half-decade. While they do not have the voter coalition to match, Democrats would be wise to follow what they GOP has done the last few cycles – recruit and encourage younger candidates en masse to run for office.

Hillary Clinton’s voting coalition and the establishment that backs it proves that the ruling Baby Boomer Generation is still very much in charge of the Democratic Party. While Baby Boomers also still run the Grand Ole Party, the establishment’s grasp on power is slipping further by the day and unlike the last few cycles, the GOP has many younger Generation X candidates that will help their party get a bit younger while the Democrats trot out the same faces we have seen for years.

Bernie Sanders has injected important issues into the race, but at 74 years old he is a poor vessel to accomplish and implement these changes. Rather, Bernie may just end up being the Barry Goldwater of the left. When Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980, mere years after he was considered too conservative and too radical by the DC Beltway and political establishment, many movement conservatives credited the failed Goldwater ’64 candidacy as being historically necessary to wrestle the mainstream of the Republican Party away from the Northeast, moderate-to-liberal, Rockefeller wing of the party.

If the Democratic Party is to ever again reach the heights of FDR’s New Deal, Truman’s Fair Deal, Kennedy’s New Frontier, Johnson’s Great Society, and the large congressional majorities that accompanied those years, they need to first decide what type of party they are going to be. They need to go through that intra-party, soul-searching battle like the Republicans did in 1964.

I don’t think Bernie Sanders can win (the reasons why to be explained in Part Two of this article), but he can be the prophetic candidate that makes winning possible down the road.

On the GOP side, Marco Rubio, by peaking at the right time and surpassing expectations, is now the front-runner. People on the Street, defense contractors, and “chicken-hawk” advocates for the Iran War from 2017 to 2029 (or 2021 to 2033) can rest easy. The GOP establishment has a viable candidate that is actually winning some votes.

Yes, it’s true Ted Cruz won the Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus. This means he is likely to be the Rick Santorum (2012) and Mike Huckabee (2008) of this cycle. Cruz will finish with either the 2nd or 3rd most delegates when it is all said and done. Even a solid victory in South Carolina will not make Ted Cruz the GOP favorite. He faces a fundamental problem. No one likes him. He inspires no love. And only in the days of the smoke-filled rooms at the convention where a dozen or so people chose the nominee of their party can someone so fundamentally unloved and widely disliked become a major party nominee for President.

If you want a more empirical basis for how hard of a road it will be Cruz, consider the fact that the blue, delegate-rich states are that way in both parties. There are more delegates to net in Florida, California, Texas, New York, etc. than Iowa, South Carolina, and SEC primary states that Cruz is likely to do well in. Evangelicals may make up a sizable part of the Republican Primary electorate if they show up, but they are only influence makers that are part of a strategy, they cannot be the strategy to winning the nomination. Outside of his home state of Texas, does anyone think Cruz beats Rubio or Trump, who has the highest name recognition in a large state?

I’m not saying Cruz has no chance, I’m saying his “slight” upset win over the Donald, does not make him the front-runner, and he has a long road to the nomination still.

One factor that plays in Cruz’s favor, is the stubbornness of the Duke of Bullingdon. Jeb Bush received less than 3 percent of the vote last night. He should probably drop out now, but he won’t because he can’t. His stubbornness will cost the GOP greatly if it drags on past a 5th place or worse NH primary finish.

Really, if he doesn’t finish ahead of Rubio in NH, or even Kasich, he needs to drop out. A surprise finish in NH can keep John Kasich’s campaign going, because he is largely undefined to the electorate, but Bush needs a huge “comeback kid” moment. His performance all year has been lackluster and confusing. It would be a shame and deeply unpatriotic of Jeb to keep dragging this out in an “outlast everyone because I’m a Duke” strategy, especially in a year where there is fundamentally more energy on the GOP side. Their chances, if they nominate someone like Rubio or Kasich, are pretty much a 50-50 proposition historically.

Last night, over 187,000 turned out to caucus on the GOP side, while about 140,000 turned out on the Democratic side. Granted, the GOP has a million candidates and the Democrats had three, but the possibility for an enthusiasm gap looms large for November.

The Field Matters Most (for the 100th time).

Donald Trump reportedly spent as much on those “Make America Great Again” hats as he did on his field organization. In close races, and especially close races at the Iowa Caucus, organization matters. While the polling could have been off, Trump under-performed his polling by 8 points. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders outperformed his poll numbers, that is what a good organization is able to do. Hillary’s field effort was also reportedly far better than it was in 2007-08.

A good field and turnout effort can make all the difference in a close race. One of the reasons Obama beat Clinton eight years ago was because his organization was better. The strategy was better. Chalk this up to the fact that Trump knows less about American politics than a sophomore political science major. I’ve worked with candidates who spent lots of money and time on stuff that does not matter. Do yard signs, hats, swag help with name recognition? Yes, a little bit. Especially if you don’t have it. However, nearly everyone in the country, especially people who never think about politics, knows who Donald Trump is. He is a celebrity candidate in an age where the distinction between entertainment and politics is growing thin. He did not need to invest half a million dollars on hats. But I digress.

Tomorrow I will post my thoughts on “What The Results Do Not Mean.” Here is a preview:

 

  1. That Bernie Sanders should be considered the favorite (he is still very much the underdog)
  2. That Hillary Clinton is in trouble (she’s not)
  3. That Donald Trump is done (as long as he wins the NH Primary, he is still very much in the race because of near-universal name recognition)
  4. That the establishment of both parties, and therefore the Washington D.C. to Wall Street nexus is in trouble (they’re not, it’s not)