Category Archives: Electoral Politics

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.

Trumpism is Global

In a previous blog post, I laid down some thoughts regarding the phenomenon of Trump and how I feel like you can look at it through the lens of identity politics. Well, today I was reading an excellent interview by Foreign Affairs with the French ambassador Gérard Araud and he expressed a similar understanding regarding Europe when he was asked about the far-right party in France known as Front National:

It’s the same thing as Trump. Of course, Trump has his personal genius, but it’s basically the same crisis. The lower middle class feels frightened by globalization, frightened for the future of its children, frightened for its moral and social values. They have the impression that the elite are cut off from them. So they want to try something new. So it’s the Front National in France, or the extreme right in the Netherlands, or Mr. Trump. It’s the same solution: building walls, closing borders. And it’s the same scapegoat: the immigrant. It’s sad.”

Identity politics needs a scapegoat; an Other. As countries become more and more unequal as the share of income gains and wealth goes to a smaller and smaller slither of people you will see un-channeled rage that, demagogues like Trump, exploit for their own good to the continued detriment of almost everyone.

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?

on the First Republican Primary Debate of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

I watched the Fox News-hosted first Republican primary debate of the 2016 season and it was….alright. It was about what I expected only the candidates dialed down the crazy; at least rhetorically that is. And remember this is relative to past Republican primaries. Before I give my complete rundown, I’m gonna go over what some prominent thinkers and publications had to say, too.

The senior editor of the New Republic Jeet Heer tweeted: 

Heer also thought that the big losers were Bush and Walker. The editors of The Atlantic wrote that Rubio “gave one of the best performances of the night,” but they also thought that Jeb Bush made a strong impression. I have to agree with Chris Hayes, however, who tweeted: 

The impression I got from Bush was that of a stiff who literally was terrified of saying the wrong thing. He looked nervous and does not do well in the spotlight.

D.D. Guttenplan, for The Nation, opined that “…unless Trump self-destructs, the rich seam of anger opened by his campaign might well bring him back here next year as the GOP nominee. Because on the basis of their performance tonight no one on that stage is capable of stopping him.”

Chris Cillizza, on his “The Fix” column on The Washington Post online, trumpeted Marco Rubio and Donald Trump as the winners. His losers? Rand Paul and Scott Walker. The takeaway from his piece is that he never mentioned the words ‘Jeb’ or ‘Bush’. This brings me to my thoughts regarding last nights first Republican primary debate.

Winners

Donald Trump. The id and the base of the GOP loves him because he sounds just like them. Simply put, this is why I think he won because his xenophobic, misogynistic and hateful remarks are appealing to Republican primary voters. Moreover, he has to be a winner because many questions were based on responding to remarks that Trump made earlier. When your name is mentioned in as many questions as the Democratic frontrunner, you are doing well.

Chris Christie. He throws out numbers that are ostensibly true and he is viewed as a straight-shooter who at least has plans, policies, and is not afraid to get dirty. Looks like he is going for the 9/11 vote constituency which I didn’t realize was a thing anymore. I could have just wrote: see Trump above. I think this guy is one to worry about.

Marco Rubio. He scares me. I don’t wanna overstate this because it looks like people are but this guy can talk. Rubio is quick on his feet; he gives details; and he comes across as serious. He is probably one gaffe away from all of this following down but as of right now, he definitely comes across as someone who knows what’s going on. This is a true plus.

Losers

Jeb Bush. I think Jeb Bush lost because, in my opinion, any debate where he doesn’t steal the show and really reflect a serious candidate who can lead the country, is a loss for Bush. Bush said that we could grow our economy by “lift[ing] our spirits and hav[ing] high, lofty expectations for this great country of ours.” You think this type of performance against Hillary Clinton will amount to a win? Not a chance. Bush also comes across as one tough question away from basically throwing up his hands and saying: well, that’s all I got, folks. Take it or leave it. On a serious note: Bush proudly claiming that he defunded Planned Parenthood while Governor of Florida is going to seriously hurt him in the general election. Hillary will not let this slip. Also, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Florida ranks among the very bottom of all 50 states regarding women’s health.

Ben Carson. Carson knows his audience and he literally seemed like he memorized cultural warrior and right wing talking points and relied on the fact that this would be enough. Again, it might be what his audience wants to here (a co-worker FBed that she was voting for that guy and that she didn’t care what anyone thought) but he came across to the rest of us as someone stuck in a weird delusional twilight zone. Speaking of delusional:

Rand Paul. I don’t take most of these candidates seriously; I think they have no chance of winning a national election. Paul who, while still in those aforementioned camps, is someone who palpably makes my blood boil. He is dumb; proud of it; and is everyone’s libertarian uncle while simultaneously wanting to be the cool kid at the table so badly. He’s a charlatan and I’m glad that he did so poorly.

The United States of America. Need I say more? OK, I will. All of these candidates except for a few exceptions sound. the. exact. same. and. what. they. are. saying. is. horrifying.

Better luck next time

Mike Huckabee (who delivered the most gross line of the night: “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.”).
John Kasich.
Scott Walker.
Ted Cruz (I think Cruz might be a sociopath.).

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.

What to Read on Greece: A Primer; update: From “No” to “Oh” to “WTF?”.

Here is a list of quality books, articles, essays, etc. regarding Greece, the debt referendum, and the future of the European Union. *updated Aug. 9, 2015*
___

1. Greece: What is to Be Done? (2013) by Karl Heinz Roth, published be Zero Books.

2. “Greece Referendum,” by Timothy B. Lee, Vox.com

3. “What Comes After Oxi?,” by Nantina Vgontzas, Jacobinmag.com.

4. “End Greece’s Bleeding,” by Paul Krugman, The New York Times.

5. “What Would Happen to Greece If it Leaves the Euro?,” by Jordan Weissman, Slate.com

6. “Greece,” by Steve Randy Waldman, on the blog interfluidity.

The following were written after Greece accepted bailout terms that double down on austerity.

7. “From the Absurd to the Tragic,” by Stathis Kouvelakis, Jacobin.com, July 10, 2015.

8. ” ‘Tsipras Has Just Destroyed Greece,'” by Yves Smith, nakedcapitalism.com, July 10, 2015

Things are not looking good for democracy and the EU:

9. “Killing the European Project,” by Paul Krugman, The New York Times, July 13, 2015

10. “The EU’s Democracy Problem,” by Joshua Keating, Slate.com, July 13, 2015

11. “Greece: The Struggle Continues,” an interview between Stathis Kouvelakis, a member of Syriza, and an editor from Verso books, July 14, 2015. This is substantive, learned, and deeply informative.

People often blame the government; it’s – as always – not that simple:

12. “The Myth of the Bloated Greek State,” by Deborah Boucoyannis, Foreign Affairs, Aug 6, 2015