Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Having An Early Last Laugh on Trump

Word has just come of the terrorist bombings in Brussels. We all mourn for the victims and the bereaved.

Well, maybe not all of us. I wouldn't be surprised if Donald Trump secretly welcomes this as wonderful fuel for the fires of hatred and fear he stokes. His dismal rousing of the worst in people is almost as depressing as the bombings. But there will be no escaping that strident voice. He's the media darling. They cluck in horror at him as they waddle laughing all the way to the bank, chuckling between cluckings over the money he has earned them in higher revenues from greater audiences.

What can we do to escape the the clucking, the chuckling, the mouth machine Trumpet?

How about some irony?

None of us are ever really know for sure what irony is but we know a good hah-hah-on-you when we see one. And a good laugh, even an ephemeral one is just what we need now.

Here's a laugh on Trump—at least in my dreams—and it is delicious.

But first a little scene-setting. You probably know Donald Trump has announced that, unlike ordinary mortals, he doesn't really need a majority of delegates to lay unassailable claim to the GOP nomination in Cleveland this summer. He sees himself as being maybe 20 votes short or maybe a 100 votes short of a majority. In which case, he also envisions someone else having "maybe 500 votes". In such case he insists that, no matter the rules requiring a majority, he must be given the nomination or "There will be riots."

So here's what I envision, smiling the whole while. Trump comes up only 3 votes short of nomination by the requisite majority. (Why three, you ask? I'll get to that in a moment.) The convention then becomes an "open convention" by its one implacable rule: thou canst not have the nomination automatically at the outset unless thou hast a majority of votes but must instead endure a free-wheeling process by which ANYBODY can  be chosen by those in attendance. As historians are fond of reminding us, that's how Abe Lincoln got the GOP nomination and became president. At the 1860 GOP convention none of the three high-power, famous contenders had a majority. The resulting deadlock led the convention to turn to the obscure, gangly woodsman from a raw frontier state, so gangly and unrefined that one of the thwarted party bigshots called him a "gorilla" because of his long arms and flat-footed shuffling gait.

Abe paid him back good though for that insult. He put him in his Cabinet, along with the two other arch-rivals who had failed at the convention. They became part of his highly effective "Team of Rivals", subject of Doris Kearns Goodwin's prize-winning book:  Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by ...   The gangly frontiersman was in fact a master of politics. He had predicted to his friends that the convention would deadlock in just the fashion it did, and he prepared them to push him as a compromise choice while he stayed home in Springfield.

Shades of Lincoln and his Illinois acumen! We now can see a reverse scenario evolving for Donald Trump. By one of those nifty bits of coincidence which irony loves, the axe which may fall on Donald Trump also rises in Illinois.  In an obscure spot in Illinois the hate which he has sown toward "outsiders, "foreigners" and all Muslims has risen up to potentially snatch the nomination from him. Remember these words forever in case you ever doubt there's justice in the world:
"There’s clear evidence that Trump supporters in Illinois gave fewer votes toTrump-                   pledged delegate candidates who have minority or foreign-sounding names like 'Sadiq,' 'Fakroddin' and 'Uribe,' potentially costing him three of the state’s 69 delegates."  Trump Voters’ Aversion To Foreign-Sounding Names Cost Him Delegates

Voila! Trump goes to Cleveland and comes up 3 delegates short this summer. He loses the nomination because he sowed hatred, never envisioning that some of the Americans he was directing hatred against would be his own potential delegates, that the ignorance and bigotry he encouraged in his followers would lead his followers to unwittingly betray him.

Irony or not, you gotta love it.

And now we have a vision of potential "ironic" joy to hold on to as Donald Trump continues his rampage, betraying his country and his fellow Americans, all those good decent "foreign-sounding" folks whose names seem a bit strange to our parochial ears just as those of our grandparents once did to the parochial folks of yesteryear. 

Just as a gangly, shuffling frontiersman once seem so foreign to the elite of his era that they called him a gorilla.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

And The Big Bad Trump Blew The House Down

"And the Big Bad Wolf huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down."

Donald Trump has indeed done a lot of huffing and puffing. The result is he may not only defeat the GOP for the presidency by becoming their presidential nominee, but he may also blow the House of  Representatives right out of GOP hands and into the hands of the Democrats.

Already his emergence as a likely top of the GOP ticket in November has caused the much-respected Cook Political Report to change its assessment of ten GOP House seats to being more favorable in November for Democrats.  House Republicans Staring Into the Abyss: 10 Ratings Changes Favor Democrats

The Democrats have to win back 30 House seats now held by the GOP in order to regain majority control. That's a rather big order, but Big Bad Wolf is helping already and may do even more to alienate voters in squishy districts. ("Squishy" is a highly technical term for a district that isn't soft yet but maybe could be. I invented this use of the term.)

Alternatively, if Trump is denied the nomination, it's quite likely rafts of Trump-leaning Republicans  might say to hell with the election and stay home in November. That could allow Democrats to win even more GOP seats than the Cook Report is already giving them. With Trump as a possible nominee, the GOP is doomed if it does and doomed if it doesn't.

With this reality looming like a dark cloud on the GOP November horizon, it's surprising that the real head of the GOP and the second most powerful man in Washington, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, has done next to nothing to denounce or stop Trump.

I'm not alone in being puzzled by this. Here's a well-written, well-analyzed piece by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, a GOP supporter: Douthat: Profiles in Paralysis

When a rightist like Douthat and an old lefty/independent like me agree on something, maybe it has some merit, right?

What is so sad about the GOP's non-response in stopping Trump is that it means the so-called GOP leadership and officeholders have accepted that he will be the nominee. It reminds me of the Democratic office-holders' non-rush to help Al Gore get a fair count in Florida in 2000. The GOP stampeded into Florida to support George W's fight, but ol' Al was left hanging out to dry virtually all alone. By staying out, the Democrats gave the presidency to Bush and thereby gave us the Iraq war and a Great Recession, plus two really lousy Supreme Court appointments.

Now the GOP's been silent or just fumbling around and thus is prematurely yielding the field to Trump. Not only may this cost the party dearly, but it could cost all of us our country.  If Trump becomes president, there wouldn't be an America any more. It would be a facist country.

And that brings to mind the rise of the Nazis in Germany and what helped bring them to power. That such emergence of evil could happen was foreseen in the 1700s by the Irish politician Edmund Burke: "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

Confronting the threat of a Nazi Germany created in part by "the good Germans" who sat silent, Winston Churchill said, "One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!"

I'd like to send that message to Paul Ryan. Instead maybe I should send him this bumper sticker. And, yes, it actually is for sale on line for $5:  All that is necessary for the triumph of evil car bumper sticker.

Or there's a coffee mug for $18 with the same Burke saying. But I doubt Paul Ryan drinks coffee. If he did he might be alert to the danger of a Trump instead of dozing.

Meantime here's a real American from 1924, Senator Underwood from Alabama (yes! Alabama!) who sought the  Democratic nomination but dared defy the KuKlux Klan in its strongest period:

“When an issue arises involving the religious liberty of our people and proscribes American citizens because of the accident of race or birth, then that issue becomes the outstanding issue before the country, and it will remain the issue until settled.” He added, “The Klan got my scalp in several states which, but for the activities of this well organized and highly financed society of masked men, I would have carried. But that’s history now, and the big thing now is to meet the issue in a way worthy of the party.” A Tale of Two Underwoods

And in another 30 years the Democrats did. But the Republicans went backwards!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Superman Sanders To Catch Clinton in California!

It's the morning after the March 15 primaries. And it's "morning in America" for Bernie Sanders.

NOTE! It's not "mourning" for him!

Hillary Clinton barely scraped by him in Illinois and Missouri, two of the three states his followers thought he'd win. But he can still catch Hillary in pledged delegates. Remember that the Democrats allocate delegates proportionately. Where Bernie virtually tied Hillary, as in those three Midwestern states,  the Democratic party splits the number of delegates almost evenly. Hillary gets no cigar for being first by a percent or a fraction of a percent. You can't get half a delegate! For all the hootin' and hollerin' last night, she only increased her lead by 57 delegates out of the 792 at stake.

Ahead are such big states as California with a whopping 546 delegates, New York with 291, Pennsylvania with 210, Washington with 118, Oregon with 74 and so forth.

A major hurdle for Sanders has been Donald Trump. The latter has sucked all the air out of the room as far as media goes. Unusually lazy this season, the media has chosen to heap all the attention on Trump for months. By this colossal failure of journalism they have played a major role in turning a two-bit huckster into the biggest thing since their last phoney "celebrity".  The sad result is that they virtually denied the American public a chance to know Bernie Sanders or a decent GOP candidate like John Kasich of Ohio.

Trump also hurt Sanders in another way. In order to deny Trump getting a majority of delegates in Ohio's winner-take-all GOP contest, many independents voted for Kasich in the GOP open primary. Exit polls: Democrats, independents flood into Ohio Republican primary (An open primary is one not restricted to voters registered in that party. Opened and closed primaries vary state to state.)  Ordinarily many of those same independents would have been voting for Sanders in the Ohio Democratic primary. It was, in fact, independents who created Sanders' upset win in Michigan a couple of weeks ago. Michigan shows that the Sanders political coalition is alive ...

Ohio's new voter ID law also worked against Sanders. It is highly restrictive toward college students  much moreso than it is to blacks. Happily the young generation is increasing so rapidly that they will soon take over state governments like Ohio's and repeal such onerous laws.

But for now, let us celebrate that we are witnessing an amazing spectacle in American politics, what could actually be a major episode in its history, i.e. the beginning of a political revolution beyond whether Sanders wins or loses. The Party Crashers - The New Yorker.  Bernie Sanders is still a Cinderella story, still in its early chapters.  A little balding guy from a little state is scaring the beejeebers out of the biggest political machine in America, one that has been 25 years in the making. And he did it in less than a year, with the internet as his main tool — a young people's tool being used by a 74-year-old! — and he did all this with $5 widow's mites like mine. He's called into action millions of young people from the normal self-absorption of youth.

He has done all this with a campaign manager who owns a comic book store. Meet the Comic Book King Running Bernie Sanders ...   But get this! Nothing in those comic books about fantasy super-heroes can match the super-hero story of The Man From Vermont!

Faster than a speeding bullet! Leaps tall buildings at a bound! Catches Hillary Clinton in California!

Ya gotta love it!
The photo above is of rural Oregon Bernie supporters parading last fall. Oregon too is waiting to give Bernie a boost, and this group has grown and grown since last fall.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Hillary's Big Mistakes In Michigan Say A Lot

For supposedly being an old-hand at politics and the arrow-tip of America's biggest political machine, Hillary Clinton is very bad at politics. And the manner of her ineptitude speaks badly for the future presidency she aspires to. She is stupid in her political moves and blind to the reality of people who aren't Hillary Clinton. These are horrific shortcomings in a president.

Let's look at her conduct in Michigan. It isn't just that Bernie Sanders beat her but that she crippled herself with some dumb moves while he played things very smart. But more on his Michigan strategy another time. Let's stay with Hillary.

First of all, Hillary Clinton marched into Michigan and attempted to smear Sanders by distorting his record on the auto industry bailout. Tactically, it is stupid of Hillary to distort anything. It's bound to boomerang on her since she already has a high score on "not honest" and ''not trustworthy".  In reality Sanders voted for the auto bailout in its original form but not when it was wrapped into a bailout of the same banks which had caused the 2008 crash. Since his chief targets in this world are those banks, he had to vote against helping them. He wouldn't be Bernie Sanders if he hadn't. (He'd be Hillary Clinton, a changeling.)

Not only did she make this misguided charge during a heated debate, she also did it in her ads when, one would think, she'd had time to reflect on it as a possible mistake. And why is it such a mistake, beyond being a distortion?

Because it was a colossal slap in the face to the United Auto Workers, the big — and still quite influential — union in Michigan. She as good as said to the UAW leadership, "You know-nothings! I'm the smart one in the room and I'm gonna wise you up about Bernie Sanders' voting record on the most important issue your union ever faced."

When the UAW leadership got through laughing, they probably were pretty damned angry. She had insulted them! How could she think they — of all people — wouldn't know exactly what Bernie Sanders had done vis-a-vis the auto industry?

It's THEIR BUSINESS to know this kind of thing!

They know Bernie supported saving their jobs. And they also know that Sanders opposed, and still does, the trade deals that took away a lot of the American auto industry jobs. And they aso know that it was Bill Clinton, with a smile from Hillary, who screwed the auto industry with his trade agreements. Now here comes Hillary, blundering into Michigan and adding an insult to the injury Bill had already dealt the union leaders. By now, compared to Hillary, Bernie's probably looking pretty good to the UAW. I'm sure the word went quietly through the ranks from the top UAW guys, "Go with Sanders."

Will the UAW eventually endorse Sanders publicly? Who knows. But notice that they have NOT endorsed Hillary. Golly willikers, that's pretty strange. After all, lots of Democratic party bigwigs and officeholders jumped on the Hillary train in the early days. Why wouldn't a union?

Because a union has to be really sure they can trust the person they are endorsing. After this person gets elected, the union is going to need things, such as fair labor laws, and they need to know that the person they endorsed will not only talk the talk but walk the walk.  Hillary is not really trustworthy.

They also need to know that the person being endorsed has a good chance of being the nominee. Going with a tree-legged horse is not a good bet and makes the leadership look as lame as the defective horse. But at the same time as being cautious, the union would want to endorse early enough to be able to say later to the successful nominee,"Hey, kiddo, we were with you early on when it really counted."

I'll bet you have a question, haven't you? Why didn't the UAW endorse Hillary Clinton before she bumbled into Michigan? She must have seemed, on the basis of polls, to be a sure bet. And when would the  UAW endorsement ever mean as much as it could before the Michigan primary? After all Detroit is the birthplace of the UAW.

As a matter of fact, why have the major unions all been so slow in endorsing in the Democratic primary? The UAW, the Teamsters, the AFL-CIO — all are sitting quietly on the sidelines.

Two possible reason. Early on, perhaps the reason was Joe Biden. The unions may have been waiting to see if Joe was going to be a candidate. He is beloved of the unions. Then, when Joe stayed out, along came Bernie Sanders. The unions probably—though quietly—love Bernie. He's all about the working guy and social justice. The union leadership, of course, is generally very liberal.The term "social democrat" is to them an endearment.

But what's best about Bernie for the unions is just that he is there. He's their card to play against Hillary, she who smiled while her husband sent union jobs to Mexico and China.  As things tighten for her in the primary, and the signs are that they will, heaven knows what she will be willing to promise to get the unions' support. Already Bernie's presence in the race and his stand on issues has forced her to try to match him on promises of job creation and ameliorating the harm done America's workers by NAFTA, Bill Clinton's infamous trade pact.

Never forget this. Many of the smartest players in politics are union leaders. They had to play a political game to get their position. They have to play a political game against the employers. They have to play one against the politicians. The smartest and best of the union players care deeply about their members and about this country. They have to be alert to the moves and knowledgeable about the whole scene....all day long, day after day, year after year.

Hillary coming into Michigan and trying to con them about Bernie Sander's record shows how unreal other people are to her. She doesn't respect them. She doesn't get them.  She doesn't see them. That's why people say she doesn't care about them. Because she doesn't. They aren't real. It's all about Hillary. To go into Michigan and not care about the UAW means you ought to go home to your own planet and stop annoying the rest of us.

And that's a consummation devoutly to be wished!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Michigan Miracle Births The Political Revolution !

This is a picture of how Bernie Sanders' people are taking back America from the rich and powerful. It's a picture of the Michigan Miracle in the making back in fall, 2015.  I'll give you the who, what, and where of this photo in a few moments, but for now it represents "we the people."

The big meaning of Michigan is that Bernie Sanders and his supporters last night won the whole shebang. Bernie not only won a big, diverse state but he has achieved his main goal:  the "political revolution" has indeed been born and is thriving! Old, corrupt politics died in Michigan last night.

In winning Michigan he has shown that small donors and self-organizers can take on the biggest political machine in America and beat it! In so doing he and his supporters have doomed the fat cats and professional political operatives. In beating all predictions they have also made a collective monkey of the puffed-up media. No one can say this often enough: A new day has dawned in America. Government of the people, by the people and for the people has been rescued from the trash heap of the oligarchy corruption.

March 8 is even more than the day fat cat money in politics lost its stranglehold. Sanders didn't just raise incredible amounts from small donors—over $40 million in just February. His campaign in Michigan also has proved that a grassroots populist campaign can spend such money wisely.

For example, look at his advertising. Well, we can't literally see it because it was shown only in Michigan (though it may be somewhere on YouTube). In any case, we know it worked very well. The proof is that in one week Sanders went from being mostly a nobody, trailing Hillary Clinton by 25 points, to beating one of the best known figures in America. Although some of this was accomplished by his barnstorming all over the state, he had only a week to do that. Therefore his advertising must have been damn good.

Second, let's next look at his campaign strategy in Michigan. The strategy? He went EVERYWHERE! Little towns and crossings all over the mainly rural state. Michigan voters were stunned and delighted. No presidential candidate had ever come near them. And so he beat Hillary Clinton with his big margins in the Michigan that lies beyond Detroit.

Third, let's look at his campaign ground game. The few reporters who have paid any attention are full of admiration for the Sanders' campaigns well-organized effort. I for one am eager to learn more about the people "running things", although we keep hearing the campaign is being "self-organized". (The only write-up I have found with anything about the campaign organization is The momentum story: How the Bernie Sanders crowd can still win. (See also my earlier posting The Bernie Crowd Is Here To Stay).

I love this aspect, that the Sanders effort is truly one "by the people". I love people and love seeing them join in the community of a political campaign. So earlier in this piece, I gave you the photo of our little rural Oregon group parading for Bernie Sanders last fall. These folks have since been doing phoning into primary states, and we all send our little checks. At age 80 I can't walk with them except in spirit. From such little groups all across America a new day is being born.

Here they are again.

I am so proud of them and of all of you who care about politics and government. Good for you! You are the ones who will give us a future to rejoice in. Therefore I borrow from Martin Luther King: I have seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, being 80 years old now, but I know we as a people will get there.
(Coming soon: Who is voting for which candidate and why.)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How the GOP Easily Denies Trump the Nomination at the Convention

Get this straight.

Donald Trump is not winning a majority of the GOP primary/caucus votes. He's getting only about one-third of the vote. Therefore the GOP convention can readily deny him the nomination for the solid reason he lacks a majority of support among the party's voters.

If the present GOP rule says the nomination must go to the one with even just a plurality of delegates, the convention can simply change the rule to require a majority of votes. That's quite democratic (pardon the small-letter "d" word, you GOP friends). After all, why should about one-third of the Republicans who voted in the primaries and caucuses determine the party nominee when twice as many GOP voters rejected him?

As for the winner-take-all rule that kicks in soon for GOP primaries, even if this gives Trump 100% of the delegates in a state, the convention can change them post facto to be proportional to the vote results in the states.

Can a convention do these sorts of things, change rules in mid-stream or even at the last moment?

Of course it can. Conventions can make their own rules and at any time they want to.

I witnessed such in 1980 as a Kennedy delegate to the Democratic National convention. Jimmy Carter was seeking re-relection but struggling with just getting the nomination. Why? Because he was at 22% popularity by the time the convention opened. The delegates who had been chosen in primaries as his supporters were willing to switch from the sure-loser Carter. So the Carter establishment Democrats bulldozed through a new rule forbidding delegates from changing to another choice. They did it by extortion, promising the "Carter" delegates to make their lives miserable for the rest of the convention and after they got home. They also attempted to bushwhack Kennedy instigators like Dolores Huerta, cofounder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, and me. She and I together narrowly eluded some rough stuff while organizing the attempt to switch delegates away from Carter. (When President Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Honor 30 years later, he couldn't have known about her involvement in that strange moment in 1980. Ah, Dolo, those were the days my friend!)

So everyone should calm down. It ain't going to be Trump.

Oh, oh! I got that wrong! Don't calm down, everybody! If it ain't gonna be Trump, it's gonna be Ted Cruz!

So go ahead with sweating it, you GOP friends. With Ted Cruz as your nominee you are still waist-deep in the Big Muddy.

Unless Hillary Clinton is the nominee. She's currently losing to Cruz in head to-head matchups.

So it's still a wild year.

Can we be saved from the perdition of a Cruz presidency  by a 74-year-old socialist Jew who looks like an unmade bed?

As the United Farm Workers' motto says, "Si, se puede!" Yes, we can!
P.S. Dolores Huerta is now supporting Hillary Clinton. Dolores got old. I never did. But I still love her. You can't work side by side with someone doing campaign mailings until two a.m. in a county supervisors race and also brave the bad guys at a national convention and not still be friends no matter how mistaken that other person has become. I forgive you, Dolo. Vaya con Dios!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Bernie Crowd Is Here To Stay

(Thanks to daughter-in-law Laura for the photos and article by Paul Hilder.)

Not only is the Bernie crowd here to stay but it's enormous! And there's more going on than a presidential campaign, as is described in the remarkable article I quote below by Paul Hilder.

Hilder is a Britsh writer and organiser who dropped in to see what the American cousins are up to and spent time exploring the Bernie Sanders campaign in its startling reach and scale. His resulting article is very well written and his conclusions are ones I agree with wholeheartedly. In his article he first describes the amazing self-starting organization that has sprung up everywhere for Sanders, and he notes "it's not just about one old Jewish guy from New York".  The energized young people he encountered are now looking beyond the Democratic primary to future state legislative and Congressional racees. For them it's not just this election. For them there are no boundaries. As Hilder says:

"Volunteers are coordinating in realtime through web tools, social media and Slack chatrooms, contributing their unique skills to the campaign as well as making calls and converting neighbours and friends. They are making millions of calls, sending hundreds of thousands of text messages and knocking on tens of thousands of doors every day. They are organising barnstorming meetings to get others involved, holding benefit concerts and having a whole lot of fun. They are designing their own empowerment, revising their own scripts."

He then goes on with even more glowing praise and astonishment and finally confronts the issue of whether all this can capture the nomination for Sanders or whether it's too late. What he concludes is profound and, I believe, is absolutely right:

        "But it’s not all about one old Jewish guy from New York. Can Bernie win? Hell, yes. But it's not inevitable. Not by a long shot. But citizens getting involved is what will decide the outcome, not media talking heads, Washington suits or billionaires’ cash.
        "And what if, having overcome extraordinary odds to become a real contender, Bernie falls just short of the nomination? What if his campaign doesn’t grow fast enough to beat the machine the Clintons built for decades?
       "In the most important sense, he has already won. The Bernie crowd is here to stay......Spread the word: now it gets interesting."

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"The Political Revolution Has Begun." Truly!


So don't snivel, you Bernie supporters! It's a grown-up game we are in, and we have to have the confidence to ignore the media's blatherings and look at real facts. Super Tuesday wasn't the big event. Bernie Sanders raising $10 million the day after South Carolina — now that was a big deal! Unprecedented! 

Then a day later — yesterday — he wins virtually everywhere that was a possibility and even won Oklahoma, a state that shouldn't have been his. 

The one place he didn't win where theoretically he could have was Massachusetts. My Irish pol cousins in Boston put the fix in for Clinton. I'm a Chicago Daley. I don't play politics dirty, but I sure can recognize the fingerprints of my Boston Irish cousins. (More on this Boston thing in my upcoming blog.) 

So chins up! Even the media admits Bernie is getting enough money to go on with this fight all the way. And it's all from our $5s and $10s! And he is winning states and even gets delegates where he comes in second to Clinton.

Though 80, I'm going on with him. As you can see, writing about his campaign these couple of months has persuaded me he's the way to go. (I've been secretly sending him $5 now and then.) I'm marching with Bernie, even beyond the campaign, until we have saved this country and democracy from the greedy, callous rich who are destroying our planet and robbing us day and night. 

As Bernie's first sentence emailed this morning says, "The political revolution has begun". 

Thank God, they didn't start the revolution without me!  Hey, Bernie, wait for me!