The Epiphany of Humility

June 11th, 2016

hqdefaultThere are exceptions to every rule, but virtually every candidate who ever runs for office at any level, arrives at a moment in the campaign when she/he realizes that the campaign is not about her/him, but about the people who support it, and those who need what it promises to do for them.

It is, put briefly, the epiphany of humility.

Some candidates begin their campaigns with that apprehension. Like Paul the Apostle, they are zealous advocates of their causes who often come across as angry and even a little bit crazy, and they almost always lose. Recent examples include Ralph Nader, Ron Paul and Howard Dean.

Some candidates don’t get it until the last minute. Think of Robert Redford’s character in the 1972 classic who turns to his consultant on a victorious election night and asks, “What do we do now?”

For most candidates, however, the moment arrives somewhere around mid-campaign, when momentum is gathering and whole groups of people never seen or heard from before start to attach themselves to the campaign – and the candidate.

Because a person cannot possibly run for office unless she/he has a well-developed ego, some candidates in that moment understandably develop rock-star syndrome, which often leads to disgrace or defeat – or both. Others are intimidated by it to the point of decompensation, with similar results.

Successful candidates embrace the epiphany, and the degree to which they succeed is proportionate. They work hard to achieve and sustain the balance between ego and humility, usually with encouragement and coaching, often from professionals. It is not easy to do that, but it is necessary for victory. And it enables them to admit mistakes and apologize for them so that they can move on.

As noted, there are exceptions to every rule, so there are a few candidates who never experience the epiphany of humility. Richard Nixon was one.

Donald Trump is another.

Shared Pain: Dems & The GOP

May 28th, 2016

IMG_withputney2As different as they are in terms of philosophy, platform and principles, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party share several things in common right now.

Both of them have been repudiated by a growing plurality of all voters, and a majority of Millennials.

Both of them are considered to be closed clubs by significant numbers of their own members.

Both of them have been hijacked by candidates who weren’t even party members until recently.

And both parties have just ignored the first two of those facts, which is largely what made the third one possible.

Volumes are being written about this mutual dilemma – now – but in some corners, including this one, it’s been a topic of discussion for some time.

Thanks in part to the whining and complaining by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders about the rules of the game, the open primaries movement is currently enjoying a burst of enlightened interest. For example, no less a loyal party pol than Bob Shrum, who’s worked on a whole bunch of presidential campaigns, recently appeared on “With All Due Respect” and actually said the words in an affirmative sentence.

But here’s the problem: every one of the 50 states has the power to make its own rules for elections. And we are a nation full of people who ferociously defend the ideal of “states’ rights,” whether the issue is gun control, education, same-sex marriage or abortion, and defend it all the way to the Supreme Court. So unless and until ballot access in primary elections becomes a national cause with broad general support, things will not change, except for the worse.

Are we there yet?

Paul Ryan & The Donald: Coming to Terms?

May 6th, 2016

So muchDumpRyan-2 is happening so fast in this extraordinary political year that millions of Americans are having trouble keeping up. That apparently includes some news media people, who clearly do not understand what is really going on at this point with GOP leaders like Paul Ryan, who have not (so far) committed to support The Presumptive GOP Nominee (a/k/a The Donald).

On Thursday, when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Mr. Ryan if he would support The PGN, Mr. Ryan said: “I’m just not ready to do that at this point,” and went on to suggest that he might, depending on how The PGN answers certain questions, such as “Does he share our values and our principles on limited government, the proper role of the executive, adherence to the Constitution?’

Those who accept that as Mr. Ryan’s reason for not hopping aboard the Trump Train either suffer from early dementia or were not paying attention to his Shermanesque declination of the Speakership of the House last fall.

The reality is that The PGN needs The Speaker a lot more than The Speaker needs The PGN. In fact, aligning himself with The PGN could have a significant downside — because The Speaker has a primary opponent who doubtlessly scares him.

His name is Paul Nehlen and he’s a wealthy, tattooed, Harley-riding, Tea Party-endorsed entrepreneur and inventor who holds several patents, and is currently Senior VP of a leading water filtration and disinfection technologies company.

Since announcing his candidacy at the end of March, Nehlen has gone after The Speaker with a flurry of attacks, accusing him of elitism, “beltway cronyism” and selling his vote for trade deals. Nehlen has also bought a bright yellow dump truck, which he has emblazoned with the slogan “Get the Dirt on Ryan,” and is driving around Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District instead of a campaign bus. He also has challenged the famously fit Speaker to an arm-wrestling match.

The Speaker does not suffer from memory loss, so he no doubt clearly recalls that a Tea Party upstart named Dave Brat defeated then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary in 2014. And he surely does not wish to meet the same fate.

In addition, and perhaps more importantly, The Speaker is presently in power, while The PGN is not, and he is extremely popular with all kinds of people who could be of help to The PGN. The Speaker also is the chairman of the convention which presumably will turn The PGN into The Nominee in July. Under the classic rules of the game, in order to win The Speaker’s support, The PGN therefore must kiss The Speaker’s ring, so to speak.

It would be kind of like when Mitt Romney went to a certain billionaire to ask for his support back in 2012. As said billionaire, now The PGN, described the moment: “I could have said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees,’ and he would have.”

When The PGN and The Speaker meet, which is likely to be very soon, it will be interesting to see if The PGN genuflects.

Will the real The Donald please stand up?

April 23rd, 2016

9567688-Theatrical-mask-with-a-red-ribbon-Mesh--Stock-Vector-theater-masks-theatreThanks to the man who’s now in charge of The Donald’s campaign, we finally know the truth: the candidate is not really a bloviating, blustering bully with a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic agenda.

It’s just an act.

Here’s what Paul Manafort (the man who’s now in charge) told the RNC leadership in Hollywood (FL) on April 21st: “When he’s out on the stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose.”

And he promised that the candidate would soon shift his persona in order to appeal to women, minorities and others — i.e. the voters he will need to win the general election if he wins the nomination.

If you’re one of the millions of Trumpkins who’ve been whooping and hollering at The Donald’s rallies, you might be a bit confused by this news — and maybe even a little insulted. We can’t do anything about the insult, but we can try to clear up some of the confusion.

Candidates for public office are usually judged on their records – what offices they’ve held, what they accomplished in office, or how they voted on major issues. But The Donald has never held office, so he has no record in that regard.

On the other hand, the usual rules haven’t applied to him in any other way during this extraordinary campaign, so why start now? Instead, let’s use some metrics tailored specifically to him, and let’s do it in the way that he would: by asking personal questions, repeating rumors, and posing hypotheticals.

For example:

  • What was his GPA/graduating status at Wharton?
  • What were the terms of his divorce settlements with Ivana and Marla?
  • What does his pre-nup with Melania provide?
  • Who are the members of the boards of directors of his companies?
  • Is he really mobbed up? And is that why he’s being audited by the IRS?
  • How many active lawsuits are he and/or his companies currently engaged in as defendants?
  • Has he ever fathered a child out of wedlock?
  • Has he ever paid for an abortion?
  • What is his actual net worth?

It will take some digging to get the answers to these questions, and there’s likely to be so much data involved that each question will probably require its own blog post. So stay tuned. We’ll be back…

It’s not fair: so saith The Donald

April 10th, 2016

u-s-primaries-and-caucuses-explainerBelieve it or not, there is good news in this political season.

Thanks to the protracted primary/caucus process with its crazy quilt of 50 sets of rules in 50 states and now the wrangling over unbound delegates and super delegates, our two-party elections system has been exposed for what it actually is: an exclusionary, undemocratic scheme designed to protect the few, meaning the party bosses on both sides.

Had it not been for The Donald and his 16 brethren aspirants to the throne, the script might have run as usual this year, with a few debates, a bunch of editorials and endorsements, and a clear decision as to nominees before St. Patrick’s Day.

But with the bloviating billionaire bully leading the pack, the rest of the GOP hounds chasing and yapping after him, and the mainstream media playing along for the sake of content that writes itself, ratings and the billions of dollars that followed, only a deaf-and-blind cave-dwelling eremite could pretend to ignore what is now so obvious that even The Donald himself sees it.

Here’s part of his rant on the subject at a rally on Sunday (4/10) in Rochester: “We’ve got a corrupt system, it’s not right. We’re supposed to be a democracy. We’re supposed to be you vote and the vote means something … and we’ve got to do something about it.”

Like a broken clock, The Donald is right now and then, and this is one of those times. What has happened is that he has discovered – albeit eight or nine months after he announced his candidacy – that there’s a set of rules that very likely will prevent him from seizing power. And whether you support him or not, you may be among the millions of other people who are similarly surprised to learn that your vote in whatever state you live in might not have mattered so much after all. But if you’re registered in one of the so-called major parties, you’re better off than a lot of other folks.

To that point: Fully 40% of all registered voters in the United States are registered in neither so-called major party. Among millennials, the figure is 60%. By any calculus, that means that more people are denied the right to vote in most primary elections than are allowed to participate. And there is a word for that: it is disenfranchisement.

But because our political process is governed at the state level, each state – and each party — makes its own rules. As a result, the candidate with the most votes in the GOP Presidential Preference Primary in some states (e.g. Florida) wins all of the delegates, while the candidate with the most votes in the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary wins a proportional number of them, but in neither case does that necessarily translate to a corresponding number of votes by delegates at the nominating convention. And in some states, such as Colorado or Iowa, a bunch of people with nothing else to do for five or six hours go to a school auditorium for a caucus and decide who gets that states’ delegates. Then, at the conventions, everything can change depending on what the rules committee decides…

So The Donald is right: the primary system as it operates today denies millions of people the right to participate fully in the electoral process. (For details on every state, visit http://www.thegreenpapers.com)

Unfortunately, in a nation that worships states’ rights over the welfare of the nation as a whole, it is not likely that this will be fixed any time soon. But at least more of us are aware of the problem now.

Why they don’t diss The Donald

February 27th, 2016

imagesRBF3WNCSSo with a little encouragement from Mitt, Marco and Ted finally stood up to The Donald in Houston – eight months after he launched his campaign. While others debate the question of whether it’s too little too late, let us speculate here on the reasons why almost no one – including but especially his opponents – dared to step into the ring with the bloviating billionaire bully until now.

They flat out under-estimated him until it was too late to do much about it.

In a political campaign, under-estimating your opponent is the only mistake worse than over-estimating him. Nobody in the pundit class or the political professional sector really took his candidacy seriously until Iowa – even though he has a campaign manager who cut his teeth with the RNC and the Koch Brothers’ machine, and a coterie of second-tier wise guys with decades of experience going back to Lee Atwater and Richard Nixon.

He has something on them.

Maybe it’s an embarrassing photo, or a scandalous video, or just the personal knowledge of such a damning piece of evidence. More than a few people have been silenced or coerced into dropping their candidacy or their opposition to a candidate because of their own indiscretions. Because he’s both shameless and brutish, Trump would not hesitate to expose that kind of information, no matter who it hurts, and they know it.

They owe him.

They’re beholden to him because of the money he has poured into their campaign coffers over the years.

This applies both to candidates and to donors: the candidates because they have benefitted directly, and the donors because they were collaborators and profited indirectly. In addition, there’s a weird kind of honor code at work here, and once again, it gives Trump an advantage.

They’re cowards.

They saw what happened to Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina and others who tried to take him on, including some media types, and they’re afraid it could happen to them. People in elected office are afraid for obvious reasons, but the donors who shrink from the challenge are probably responding more to peer pressure and fear of losing face.

They don’t want to deal themselves out of the game if he ends up with the nomination.

Most people in this business just want (or need) to be in it – one way or another, whatever it takes, no matter who they have to sleep with. Because Trump is so vicious, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t allow them to kiss and make up afterward if they go against him. And because he’s so volatile, there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t turn on them afterward if he did.

Whatever the reasons, as Edmund Burke might remind then, the powers that be in the GOP have no one but themselves to blame for Trump’s ascendancy.

(Note: This was written before Chris Christie endorsed Trump. At least two of these are possibilities where he’s concerned – and for those who are about to follow him.)

Pop Goes the Evil (of Racism)

February 13th, 2016

images0CUC8ROK

 

Of all of the ridiculous, unfounded charges leveled at President Obama across the past seven years, the most baseless and inane is that he has made racism in America worse.

Like a pimple, racism has lurked under the skin of our national face for decades: an irritating presence that seemed to rise and fall with fluctuations in temperature, humidity and diet.

Now and then, we put cold (or warm) compresses on it. For example, expropriating tax dollars from public schools to subsidize the operation of private/charter schools, and pretending that we were really doing it so that minority children could get a better education.

Sometimes we covered it up with concealers — like the pretense of “colorblindness” — or distracted attention from it with bellicose calls for yet another war in yet another foreign land where the majority of young lives lost would be those of young men of color — again.

For a while, we even abstained from the consumption of racist hate-speech. Today, we call that abstention political correctness — a linguistic restriction eschewed with equal enthusiasm by both supporters of a leading Republican fascist candidate and numerous militant rap and hip-hop artists.

The election and presidency of Barack Obama have exposed all of those pathetic, meaningless gestures for what they are.

More significantly, the election and presidency of Barack Obama has revealed the comedo of racism for what it is: a thick, infectious, debris-filled obstruction that forms a nasty blemish on our national face

What has happened during Barack Obama’s tenure as POTUS is that the head of America’s big zit is now above the skin.

Red, swollen and pus-filled, it is finally ready to be treated. But heed the words of WebMD: “Don’t poke too early. Wait until your pimple has a firm white head.”

Complete instructions are available here: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/teen-acne-13/pop-a-zit?page=2 And they involve alcohol!

Let’s follow them.

How to spot a failing campaign

February 4th, 2016

imagesOBQKHDPVAnyone who has ever done combat duty in politics knows what a campaign heading south looks like.

Senior managers and staff disagree on strategy and direction. Funding for essentials is denied or canceled while money is spent on swag and frippery. And the candidate makes wild, unfounded accusations about the opposition.

All of this is happening within the world of The Donald.

In just the past few days, Politico has reported:

“,,, there is tension inside the Trump campaign about the robustness of its field and data operations. One person familiar with the disagreements said Trump’s state directors have been denied funding for their field and data requests.” http://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/trump-resists-staff-calls-to-change-course-218711

“Trump’s reports show that his self-funded campaign has spent relatively little on voter data or outreach. They showed $200,000 in list rental payments to the conservative Newsmax Media, and $47,000 to Targeted Victory, a leading GOP digital firm, as well as $700,000 on field staff and consultants.

By contrast, the campaign has spent at least $1.2 million on hats…” http://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/donald-trump-iowa-caucus-loser-218604#ixzz3zD5PbAeH

And finally:

“The billionaire businessman, still licking his wounds after a decisive loss in Iowa on Monday, is now crying foul, accusing Ted Cruz of stealing the election and calling for a do-over.” http://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/trump-cruz-stole-iowa-tweet-deleted-218674

He has even threatened to sue, although he didn’t specify whether the defendant would be Ted Cruz, the Iowa Republican Party, or the entire State of Iowa.

Maybe it’s an omen, but on top of everything else, The Donald’s 757 had engine trouble over Tennessee yesterday and had to make an emergency landing, after which Himself was forced to continue his journey in a “small charter aircraft,” according to Reuters.

Oh, the horror of it all: a small charter aircraft!

With a “YUUGE” lead in New Hampshire — now at 20 points according to Real Clear Politics — Trump must deliver a corresponding big win in next Tuesday’s primary.

If he doesn’t, it will be interesting to see who he blames – and who hears him say “You’re Fired!”

Fear & Greed: The Great Motivators

December 8th, 2015

The-Donald (WinCE)Whatever else may be said about him – and there is more than plenty to be said – Donald J. Trump is, above all else, a master of the art of marketing.

He therefore understands that the two Great Motivators of human behavior are Fear and Greed.

Like his idol, Richard Nixon, and other American demagogues before him, including Huey P. Long, George Wallace and Joseph McCarthy, he knows how to push the fear button, and wails away on it with regularity and frequency.

But unlike his predecessor fascists, The Donald also knows the location of the greed button, and has the sleazy bona fides to trigger that response, having built empires in real estate and on TV on the theory that more is more, and no amount is ever enough.

In his campaign, he tickles both nerves, although fear is clearly his favorite “G-spot,” and recent events have served his agenda well in that regard.

However, he apparently does not understand that for every person who comes to his stage-shows and cheers him on, there are several who find the spectacle he has created every bit as frightening.

Some of those people are black; some are Hispanic. Others are female; and still others belong to demographic groups he has not managed to insult or demonize – yet. And a very special group belongs to the GOP, which will need years to recover from the damage Trump has done to its brand.

So rage on, Mr. Trump.

Your strategy of fear-mongering is working. It is working against YOU.

The Fixer?

November 3rd, 2015

GOP 2016 Bush FloridaMerriam-Webster defines a “fixer” as “a person who intervenes to enable someone to circumvent  the law or obtain a political favor.”

Floridians know Jeb in this capacity all too well.

Here’s a look at some of his greatest hits.

Jeb “fixed” Florida’s public schools by pushing for an education commissioner appointed by the governor instead of an elected (read: accountable) one; diverting tax dollars from public schools to private, often religious-affiliated schools; and then leading the parade for assessment tests, including tests administered by a company owned by his brother, Neil (“Silverado Savings & Loan”) Bush.

Jeb “fixed” the system designed to take care of Florida’s dependent and at-risk children by shifting responsibility (and tax dollars) for their care from state employees to private “non-profit” companies — many of which were formed expressly for that purpose when the law was passed, and were headed up by campaign donors and close friends.

Jeb “fixed” the mishegas created by the controversial 2000 Presidential Election that gave that office to his brother with the assistance of then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris and others in his administration. See the CNN special “The Endless Election” for clips of smug Bush operatives smirking for the camera.

Jeb “fixed” the problem for Terry Schiavo, a woman in an irreversible persistent vegetative state whose husband and parents had fought over her fate for several years, by personally intervening in the case, which was dragged all the way first to his brother’s White House and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was decided in the husband’s favor, and the woman’s suffering was finally, mercifully ended.

Jeb “fixed” Florida’s economy by cajoling legislators into spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to entice high-tech businesses to locate in the Sunshine State and create high-paying jobs. To date, it’s been a colossal boondoggle, but the current administration has doubled down. To see prime examples of the results, Google “Digital Domain” and “VGTI Florida.”

Jeb also likes to brag on the stump that he fixed Florida’s finances with “eight years of balanced budgets” during his two terms as Governor of Florida — but he fails to mention that the Florida Constitution requires a balanced budget, and it’s the Legislature that does the balancing, not the Governor.

Let Florida’s experience be a lesson to the rest of America. This is NOT the kind of Mr. Fix-It our nation needs.