Category Archives: 2016 US Presidential Election

Tim Kaine Will be Clinton’s VP

Making predictions helps one become better at making predictions if you meet four conditions: 1) Go public; 2) Delineate why you are predicting what you are predicting; 3) Understand why your prediction was right or wrong. 4) Reflect and repeat.

The last big prediction I made was regarding the presidential election. I thought that Secretary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee – that was easy and I was simply going with the grain. I thought Florida Senator Marco Rubio would be the Republican nominee – I was going with the grain here, too. I was 1/2. (I never wrote anything about “Brexit” but I definitely thought that Remain would win, so I would have been wrong here.)

I’m trying again.

I am 75% certain that Secretary of State, and presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton (HRC), will chose Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, from Virginia, as her vice president (VP) for a couple of simple reasons.

First, Tim Kaine is boring and right about now this is exactly what HRC is looking for. Kaine even admitted that he was boring in on one of the Sunday punditfests last week. “I am boring,” said the former Governor of Virginia. Translation: I am politically not a liability. My past is nearly without blemish and I won’t scare away any center-right people who might cross the aisle to vote for me since Trump is a disaster. Interesting strategy here; I’m not sure it is a smart one but it definitely is strategic at least. Boring doesn’t appeal to me but safe does, in some ways.

Second, and finally, this is all about demographics or identity politics. White working-class males are who the Democratic party has been reaching out to win for the past 25 years with little success. Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, according to election results and polls galore, will certainly vote for Hillary Clinton.

I know it’s only anecdotal but my brother who is a lifelong Midwestern Republican admitted that he won’t vote for a Republican ever again as he feels they have abandoned working people. As a union member, you can see why he now has come to this conclusion. He also dislikes Clinton. If Clinton’s VP pick is someone who looks like my brother (WASPY with no emphasis on the P), my brother will be more likely to hold his nose and vote for the Democratic ticket. A Clinton/Kaine pick is a safe pick. Is this the year for safe bets? Not exactly but I continue.

If Clinton chooses Elizabeth Warren – forget about it. Two female Northeastern elites on one ticket is too much for folks like my brother. I’m not saying this is morally right I’m saying it’s literally true. Thomas Perez? There is no need here to pick Perez, again due to demographics. Does all of this come down to cold political calculus? Yeah, I think so. (Go read or watch Game Change.) Corey Booker? Way too risky and this pick would certainly not gain any border-line votes like my brother.

“Insiders” (whatever that means) are now saying that Clinton has winnowed her list to 3 possible VPs (Kaine, Perez, Warren). I am fairly confident Kaine will be the choice.

So, I have went public  and I explained why.

Time will tell if I was correct or if I was wrong.

Gary Johnson Just Doesn’t Get It

*In the wake of The Wall Street Journal‘s unsigned opinion/endorsement of Libertarian candidate fraud Gary Johnson, I guess I should finally complete this blog post that has been burdening me.*

“I don’t get it,” remarked Gary Johnson multiple times on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, streamed live on May 17. That was one of the only truthful remarks he made the entire 150 minutes.

Being well-tuned to the delusions, distortions, and lies of libertarians (all who say “no no…I’m the other kind of libertarian, everyone else is wrong. Here, let me explain…”) let me say this: Johnson is no different. These guys (and it is mostly guys) are far-right reactionaries who are so out of touch; so overconfident that it’s hard to believe they are taken serious by adults.

Libertarians are far right ideologues masquerading as somehow more liberal than D’s and R’s and fiscally more conservative than R’s. Both of these are abjectly wrong. Their ideology is fascistic by practice replete with privatized courts, privatized militias and self-regulation by oligarchs. Anarchism for illiterate righties.

I’ll start with compliments. I applaud the candidate for going on a popular and controversial podcast (over 25 million downloads a month) with a broad audience and guest list. It is not easy to talk for 2 + hours about politics without making mistakes.

The first hour mostly consisted of his views regarding prisons and the War on Drugs. He was strongest here regarding legalization and the truly terrible effects of the 50 year long assault on personal autonomy. Don’t drop the confetti yet. He supports private prisons; he even touted his policy of privatizing prisons during his two terms as Governor of New Mexico as successful.

In 1994, gubernatorial candidate Johnson vowed to privatize prisons as part of his platform. According to The Sentencing Project, “by the time he left office in 2003, 44.2% of the state’s prisoners were in privately run prisons.” Yay promise kept! Lives and results be damned! Results? The shrinking of the public workforce concomitant with the shrinking of wages for those that remained. The first state prison riots since the 1980s in New Mexico occurred under his reign. 290 prisoners engaged in a riot in a privately-run prison during his first term which prompted calls for the closure of private arrangements. Johnson did not mention this. He also didn’t mention that multiple human rights groups have severe criticisms regarding his tenure and transfer of prisons to other dubious ones in Virginia, for example.

I knew this was going to be a long listen after his misleading and incomplete telling of his privatization project.

What follows is a slight breakdown of some – and I stress some –  of his most egregious claims he made throughout the entire interview. For sake of (my own) sanity, I am not breaking down every misstatement otherwise this blog would be double the length.

~
CLAIM: The govt. should not provide phone cells to those on “welfare.” The government spends “multi billions of dollars a year” on cell phones. “Wouldn’t people be connected otherwise?”

Response: In reverse order: No dummy, they wouldn’t; job hunting almost requires having a cell phone. Snopes.com has a detailed breakdown of who pays for the phones and just which presidents began and strengthened these programs.

(Hint: There are multiple programs – none directly subsidized by taxpayers. And, not the Obama administration but your buddy ol pal Ronald Reagan; then Clinton then Bush 43).

Regarding “if you can work you should” comment: That’s exactly what President Clinton’s welfare reform did to welfare. Now there are strict lifetime limits (5 years) and job requirements. Our current welfare system does incentivize job searching and, in fact, has “increased employment rates,” according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

CLAIM: I privatized all prisons as Governor.

Truth: True enough. (Come on, we’re working with ideologues here.) Did this reduce prisoners in his prison? No, by the time Johnson left office there was 55% more prisoners in private cells – this amounted to an increase of 13% population-wise. Are privatized prisons more economically efficient (efficiency here strictly means “less costly”)? According to that same report by The Sentencing Project, the author Cody Mason referenced a meta-analysis by researchers from the University of Utah that concluded that “..cost savings from privatization are not guaranteed,” and continuing in that direction is “questionable.” Factoring in safety and what this foretells for democracy and what kind of laws and policies this direction incentivizes, only an ideologue who wants to shrink government based on ideology would forget to include such externalities. Johnson is unsavory here.

After the first hour is when he really went off the deep end; he waded into the international and national security realms and my blood started to boil. I rarely get mad so this felt good because it inspired me to write (Being happy can be a real bummer regarding….goals and desires. Ha.). Nothing brings out the polemic in me like libertarians.

CLAIM: The NSA is….wait…what is the NSA?

Johnson, two term Governor of New Mexico, admitted that he just learned last week that the NSA was created by an executive order (EO) during the Truman administration. If you just learned this last week you probably shouldn’t be commander in chief. I am not saying this facetiously – he is disqualified simply based on this remark, in my humble opinion.

(*For what its worth, I would be disqualified, too, as I learned of that fact only two years ago when I begun reading as much as I could about the NSA. I have controversial opinions about the Commander in Chief position – I almost think that the president should not have jurisdiction regarding the military but I also don’t think Congress should either. But do I want the military to run itself without civilian oversight? No. Welp*)

Johnson made many claims regarding surveillance and intelligence that clearly showed his lack of insight and understanding. At one point, he expressed confusion regarding Obama needing a bullet-proof limousine? For real?

CLAIM: Iran is the number one sponsor of terrorism in the world.
Truth: Maybe. However, that first place spot is a contentious badge since Saudi Arabia and Pakistan exist. These 3 countries are in a battle with, Russia, for being the most norm and rule breaking countries in the world. (Israel, you too, pretty much, get to do whatever you want but shhhhh.) He didn’t mention Saudi Arabia once during this section.

CLAIM: Maybe Iran sponsored the Paris attackers.
Truth: A remarkable claim that would go against everything we know about the Paris attacks since they claimed to be acting in the name of ISIS, a sunni wahabbi jihad group completely ideologically opposed and counter to Iran. Iran, in fact, supports one of their enemies which is the Assad regime. Iran sponsors and supports Shia terrorist and rebel groups such as Hezbollah. Iran does support Sunni groups that undermine the U.S. or Arab nations, too; however, ISIS is not group that they have ever supported. When pressed for examples, Johnson gave the Brussels example which is embarrassing and also disqualifying. It shows he knows nothing about the Middle East, the Sunni/Shia divide. This was a Trumpian answer; worthless.

CLAIM: North Korea has “zero exports to China.”
Truth: What? This is an impossible claim. NK exports military intel and weapons systems to Egypt, Iran, Maynmar, and Syria. They are a massive player in illicit trafficking whether it’s weapons, ore, clothing, etc. North Korea totally has exports. In fact, they exported $3.1 billion worth of goods, legally, in 2014 (which is the last consistent numbers we have easily available). China is North Korean’s biggest market making up approximately 90% of North Korea’s export trade.

Johnson – you’re a doofus.

In an excellent take down published four years ago  regarding the Libertarian Party candidates 2012 run by Mark Ames on NSFWCORP.com, the author remarks that “once you get past the PR branded version of Gary Johnson and just see him for the conventional hard-right Republican he really is, you’re no longer so surprised to learn that the people running Johnson’s presidential campaign were themselves big-name GOP political operatives — the darkest and the dirtiest operatives in the GOP cellar.”

This is what I always find to be true regarding libertarians. They tend to be the most ideological of the right; the most theoretical; the most ignorant of evidence and economics; etc, etc, etc. A campaign funded by Charles Koch – the oil billionaire who denies climate change – would of course yield such fruitless results.

Shall I continue? OK.

CLAIM: “China has this…what do they have?…this island they built 40 miles off their coast of whatever it is. What’s the big deal?” – Johnson on Joe Rogan Experience at 147:52 mark. [Keep playing until the end to hear more and more nonsense.]

Gary Johnson was incoherently referring to the Spratly Islands, a chain of a dozen or so islands, and the Paracels (a group of coral atolls which Vietnam, Taiwan and China have claims) that China has recently started to develop on and militarize. There are dozens of other rocky and coral-based areas that China is trying to claim as completely their own. What’s the big deal? Just ask South Korea, the Philippines, and Japan. Just ask all of us who believe in the global commons and the right to navigate the oceans. What is transpiring in the East and South China seas is a massive deal.

Gary Johnson just doesn’t get it. Clearly. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that he isn’t included in the mainstream debates – I think he should be included; along with the Green Party candidate as well. Probably. What I am arguing is that’s it’s a fantastic thing that Johnson won’t become president.

Trump and Identity Politics

I argue that you can explain Trump’s rise through the lens of white identity politics, for one. It’s not what he is saying or even the individual himself; it’s that his base – white suburban disaffected ‘victims’ of globalization who are struggling – see themselves in him. It is projection against what they see as an elite harvard-educated political class who is waaaay too literate for their own good and who says things with nuance that they don’t understand. They want someone who is an outsider (like them) who isn’t P.C. (like them) and who thinks in black and white categories of good and evil; of up and down; of right and wrong (like they do.)

Imagine if you are a former factory worker employed during a time of rising incomes; pensions; good health care; and seeming security. Now imagine that this in fact was reality for millions upon millions of workers. Starting in the 1980s and continuing through the present day, tens of thousands of factories have been closed. In fact, over 42,000 factories have been closed JUST since 2001. Look at Trump through the lends of globalization.

If you are a laid off employee who is being pushed further and further down the income and skills ladder, who do you blame?
Everyone.
Everything.

The political class (Yep; and they would be correct here).
Corporations and their need for maximizing profits (Yep).
Minorities and immigrants (Yep; well, ‘yep’ as in many Americans do blame these fellow under-served people; they would be wrong here however and are blaming the symptom and not the cause).

[Now there is truth to the claim that corporations are benefiting from illegal and even legal immigration by capitalizing on unskilled and/or people without franchise or much legal reprieve; this does hurt working class Americans of all color; however, the fault of this goes to the government.]

The perceived and real impacts of globalization are at work here. Basically anyone with ANY government experience at all is considered an “insider” to Trump’ supporters. Any candidate with prestigious degrees from schools they have only tangentially heard of? Too qualified and self-interested and disconnected from the needs of the working class and the shrinking middle class. This is why occasionally war hungry conservatives do in fact accept anti-war arguments. Why? Because it doesn’t matter what the person says; what matters is the answer to the internal question people are asking themselves: is this person like me? Do I see myself in this person? If the answer is yes, then we are open to their opinion even if it is not one we are, theoretically, likely to support. If we consider them the Other; then it doesn’t matter what they say.

Politics are identity politics. I am of the mind that identity politics of all types are disastrous for any future left movement because, to generalize, they are built on a foundation of separateness and focus heavily on the individual. But I can unpack that later. [I want to write a short book on that actually.]

However, the most dangerous type of identity politics is white identity politics. Why? Because white Americans had an investment in this system that, for a long time, worked for them. People who never had wealth or prosperity can sometimes not have that impetus of hope to fight for change. They don’t see a world that works for them because it largely never has. People who had a middle class life but now see it slipping away? Oh, man. These people are dangerous and angry and look for demagogues that border on fascism. They know what its like to have abundant leisure; income and wealth; and self-actualization.

This phenomenon is not going away anytime soon because it is a product of worsening economic inequality. Political Scientist Inglehart, in the recently released Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Foreign Affairs makes this point while discussing the lack of support for redistribution:

Globalization and deindustrialization undermined the strength of unions. And the information revolution helped establish a winner-take-all economy. Together these eroded the political base for redistributive policies.” [Link]

What will the Trump of 2020 or 2024 look like if whoever wins the 2016 election doesn’t address worsening inequality?

#GOPDebate – The Second Night at the Clown House

I will be very brief here. I watched both of the 2016 U.S. Republican primary debates on CNN on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.

The first debate, featuring Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Jon Gilmore, and George Pataki, was more substantive and more revealing, in some ways. What did it reveal? Graham knows the demographic challenges of the GOP and he knows the chances of the GOP winning in 2016 are low if young people, single women, and people of color come out in the same numbers that they did in 2008. Graham’s responses were the most rooted in reality. This is scary because his comments were only loosely rooted in reality. It’s all relative when your talking about the GOP. However, No one candidate from the first debate has any real chance of becoming president. Also: Bobby Jindal said he was more angry at his party then the Democratic party. It’s become a truism that the left is divided and this is why it loses. However, ever since we saw the rise of the Tea Party wing of the GOP, we are totally seeing a deep fracture opening up full of infighting. Jindal embodies this divide in everything he says. Speaking of divide? Trump.

The second debate featured eleven candidates; too many to name them all right here because I promised myself – and you the reader – that this will be very brief. After a couple days of reflecting, here is who I think did the best and who did the worst.

I posted this on Facebook even before the debate was over:

“Who will gain in the polls? Fiorina, Christie, Kasich, Trump annnnnd maybe Rubio.

Who will lose? Jeb, Jeb, Jeb, Jeb, Carson

Who? Huckabee, Rand, Cruz, Walker.”

It looks like the consensus is that Fiorina won the debate and Jeb, Walker, and Huckabee did the worst. The latest polls show Carson gaining; Trump holding steady; and basically everyone else staying right where they were including Bush. In my opinion, Jeb Bush is the ultimate loser because, like I wrote regarding the first debate, Bush needs to crush it and he was embarrassing to watch.

My 2016 prediction that I have been saying to friends is a Rubio/Kasich ticket – I still think Rubio will be on the ticket, either as the presidential candidate or the vice president. Kasich? Eh. Probably not. I saw a couple of people mention a Rubio/Fiorina ticket which is horrifying because that might be their best chance. Ultimately, I don’t think any of these candidates can win a general election against any of the Democratic field. 2016 will we determined by who goes to the polls.

On Bernie – and Trump- as Third Party Candidates

People who want Bernie Sanders to run as an Independent do not understand political dynamics and even the fundamental and intrinsic qualities of our first-past-the-post electoral system. If Bernie ran as an Independent he would certainly take votes away from the Democrat – Hillary Clinton, let’s be honest – and this would increase the chances that a Republican would win. For this same reason, I certainly hope Donald Trump runs as an Independent because he would strictly take votes away from the Republican – Scott Walker/Jeb Bush, let’s be frank. Chris Hedges, who I read and who I admire, is one prominent voice calling for Sanders to run as an independent. Hedges says to vote for the Green party candidate, Jill Stein. This is why the left loses. Jill Stein literally has no chance of winning as a third party candidate and “protest votes” are basically votes for the candidate that ends up winning the election.

You aren’t “pure” or staying above the mud when you vote for a third party; you are throwing away your vote and allowing everyone else to play politics for you. We are all complicit in the laws and elected officials we get. Even if you do not believe in voting, since voting happens, neglecting this responsibility is a bad move. In Sanders’ own words: “I won’t be a spoiler.” Sanders is running to win and he also is running because we “need a political revolution;” again his words. Before I go, a brief paragraph or two about the last time a third party candidate had a shot

In 1992, Ross Perot received 19% of the vote (by the way: only 55% of registered voters came to the polls) and many blamed him for the George H. W. Bush loss. Perot definitely took more votes from the Republican than the Democrat. This scared the two major parties. What happened afterwards? The Federal Election Commission (F.E.C.), created in 1975 (as a response to Watergate) to formalize campaign procedures, and staffed by Democrats and Republicans “raised ballot access requirements” which effectively shut third party candidates out of debates. The current chair commissioner, Ann M. Ravel, has even called the F.E.C. “worse than dysfunctional,” in an recent interview. She came to the F.E.C. with hopes of reform; she has now publicly given that up for 2016.

I voted for Jill Stein in 2012 because I live in Missouri and I knew that Mitt Romney was going to win. At that time I told myself that I couldn’t vote for someone who uses drones to kill people halfway across the world. I don’t feel good for that vote because symbolic gestures are simply that; ephemeral, and basically impotent. If Missouri would have been a swing state I would have voted for Barack Obama, regardless. Practicing purity politics has never been and will never be good politics. Those willing to get dirty win; the Right has built their entire apparatus on mud-slinging. The Tea Party decided to run candidates – not as a third party mind you – and Occupiers decided to…well…use the people’s mic and form consensus-circles. We see how that worked out.

Changing the Democratic party from within might be fruitless; changing the party from outside will be an abject failure. Politics don’t work as many think they should; they work as they always have. A third party effort will never succeed unless our political system is completely transformed. That is not happening any time soon.

Bernie Sanders should remain a Democratic candidate and lets all hope that Trump does run as an independent and acts as a spoiler to the Republican  party – because we cannot afford another Republican president. There is a difference and lives are literally at stake.