Tag Archives: Debate

#68: Ridiculous Republicans

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #68, on the subject of Ridiculous Republicans.

In a previous post, mark Joseph “young” blog entry #67:  Dizzying Democrats we commented that both sides of the current presidential race are ludicrous.  We gave some consideration to the nonsense on the Democratic side, and promised to return to the Republicans.

So let’s look at the Republicans.

img0068Trump

If the Democrats have lost control of their primary process to someone who is not even a Democrat, the Republicans may have it worse:  they have lost control of their primary process to someone who is not even a politician.  He has been called a clown and a buffoon, and there are people who are literally frightened that he will become the next President of the United States.  He is not a buffoon; he is a professional businessman and an amateur actor:  Donald J. Trump.

Despite his seeming popularity, it should be noted that most Republicans have been voting against him–if we compare the tallies of votes for Trump against “all others” combined, he never has the majority.  The professional politicians have all been doing what politicians do in these processes:  sniping at each other in an effort to emerge as the best of the rest.  The field has been shrinking, but it’s still too large for a head-to-head between Trump and “Not Trump”.  It is agreed that were the Republicans to unite behind a single alternative candidate, that candidate could defeat the loud-mouthed juggernaut and take the nomination.  The problem is, neither the remaining candidates nor the Republican voters can agree on who that ought to be.  The splintering within the party has resulted in disagreement concerning who truly represents Republican values–the right wing for whom Cruz or possibly Rubio are the best choices, or the centrist moderates for whom Kasich and Romney are the best remaining choices.  (Romney is not actually running, but it has been suggested that he could take the nomination in a brokered convention, that is, one in which no candidate enters with a delegate majority so negotiations work toward the selection of a compromise candidate.)

Some argue that Trump is not even a Republican–but that’s a problematic argument.  Unlike Sanders, who has always declared himself not to be a party member, Trump has never run for office and so never had to declare his party affiliation before.  Republicans in their current state constantly argue that various prominent party members are “Republican In Name Only” (RINO), and although Trump does not stand clearly for everything the party believes, he does oppose at least some of what the Democrats promote, and no one fits any party platform exactly except the people who write it, and usually not even all of them.  He says he is a Republican, and has persuaded enough Republicans that he stands for what they want to support that claim.  Republicans are not flocking to support Bernie Sanders; they are supporting Donald Trump.

Besides, it is not unknown for politicians to change their views or their party affiliations.  One of the best Republican Presidents in my lifetime began his political life as a Democrat and union organizer; by the time he was Governor of California, Ronald Reagan was a Republican beloved by the party’s conservative wing.  He, too, was an actor, although he did have government experience before running for President, and in fact had run and lost in the primaries previously.  People are afraid of Donald Trump, and what he might do as President–but many were similarly afraid of Reagan, and he not only did not start World War III he ended the Cold War, and there is at least evidence to support the claim that his economic policies sped the recovery and stimulated job growth.  Trump is not Reagan, but often the good Presidents are the ones no one expects will be good, and the ones expected to be good crash and burn.  No one expects Trump would be a surprise good President–but then, that’s the point of “surprise”.  I don’t know that I agree with Trump about much, but I am less afraid of him than I am of the extremist socialist policies of Bernie Sanders, even while I agree with Sanders on at least a few ideas.

So the Republican party nomination is still in the air as much as the Democratic, and the party leadership is struggling for that place of the appearance of impartiality that still allows them to guide events to an outcome they believe represents the true values of the party, and we are looking toward a highly polarized election which at this point looks like the exit poll question will be, “Whom did you vote against?”

Other posts and articles on presidential politics include web log posts #10:  The Unimportance of Facts, #13:  Governor Christie’s Debate Jab, #41:  Ted Cruz and the Birther Issue, and #42:  Politicians and Statesmen, and site articles Coalition Government, Polarization, Christie’s Early Potential Presidential Aspirations, The Republican Dilemma, Re-election Incongruity, and Election Law.

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#67: Dizzying Democrats

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #67, on the subject of Dizzying Democrats.

With the Presidential election looming and the primaries in full swing, it might be expected that there would be plenty of serious material for a political column; yet although I’ve published several political pieces over the past month or so, the race has fallen off the radar.  The problem is not that nothing is happening; the problem is that the entire race, on both sides, seems completely ludicrous.

Let’s look at the Democrats.

img0067Hillary

Before there really was a race, one candidate entered the ring and was expected to emerge with the Democratic nomination.  She was, of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady, former United States Senator from New York, former Secretary of State.  The Democratic Party machine wanted her.  Indeed, throughout the primary race there have been charges that party chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was attempting to rig the system so that no one could seriously challenge the Chosen One they hoped they could claim was the first woman President of the United States–limiting debate opportunities to keep competition from getting exposure, scheduling the few debates for times when few would watch.  It was supposed to be a royal promenade to the nomination.

It has been anything but that.  Bernie Sanders entered the race.  He might not be winning, and there are still pundits claiming that he can’t win, but he has surprised and outperformed her repeatedly in this race.

What makes this the more ridiculous is that Sanders is not a Democrat, and the Democrats are not really supporting him.  He has always claimed to be a Socialist, who votes with the Democrats because they (at least theoretically) stand between his extreme leftist views and the right wing views of the Republican party; he is, as it were, allied with the Democrats, but not one of them.  Analysis of the primaries shows that he tends to attract independents to the Democratic primary–people who do not call themselves “Democrat” are signing up to vote for Sanders, and tipping the balance against the majority of regular registered Democrats who mostly support Clinton.  Sanders is in essence stealing the party by flooding it with ringers.

And it seems that the Democratic machine, devoted as it is to its “everyone gets to vote” philosophy, is helpless against this onslaught.

Worse, at least from the perspective of the old school Democrats, is that their candidate is in trouble quite apart from the race.  People want to write it off as a minor indiscretion, but it appears that the lax treatment of the security of top secret information in Secretary of State Clinton’s e-mails is, under the law, treason.  The investigation is ongoing, but it seems more likely than not that the government is going to have to indict her and put her on trial, and before she can become President.  It’s got to be a damper on a political campaign to have to conduct it while defending against federal charges, and that’s only assuming that she’s not convicted.  Clinton has this looming over her, and a lot of people are skittish about voting for her because of that threat, and because of the implications of the investigation.

It could go away.  The Democrats could in fact make it go away:  the President of the United States could issue a pardon.  Gerald Ford demonstrated that it was possible to pardon someone for any and all crimes they might have committed, without them ever having been charged.  Obama could simply decree that Clinton has been pardoned, and the charges vanish.  So, given how much trouble this has been, why doesn’t he?

It would be a bad move politically, because of the Nixon stigma:  as soon as the President says that she has been pardoned for any involvement in any kind of illegal activity while serving as Secretary of State, a huge number of people will conclude that he knows she is guilty and needs to be pardoned.  She already has a trustworthiness issue:  most Americans, and even a substantial number of Democrats, believe she lies constantly and will say whatever is politically expedient.  A presidential pardon will only confirm those suspicions, increasing the level of distrust.

Yet the machine is still trying to put her in front, and it might succeed.

So really, the Democratic party is in shambles at the moment.  Anything could happen, but probably the party leadership will not like it, whatever it is.

We’ll look at the Republicans later.

Other posts and articles on presidential politics include web log posts #10:  The Unimportance of Facts, #13:  Governor Christie’s Debate Jab, #41:  Ted Cruz and the Birther Issue, and #42:  Politicians and Statesmen, and site articles Coalition Government, Polarization, Christie’s Early Potential Presidential Aspirations, The Republican Dilemma, Re-election Incongruity, and Election Law.

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#13: Governor Chris Christie’s Debate Jab

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #13, on the subject of Governor Chris Christie’s Debate Jab.

I do not presently have television access (if you want to help fix that, start with the Patreon campaign, whose first priorities are to keep this website hosted, pay for my Internet access, and otherwise keep me online, but beyond that will hopefully cover things like new movies and television access).  I did not see the third Republican debate–but I have made a point of reading quite a bit about it from several sides.  One moment that stands out in the coverage comes from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and I consider it worth covering here in part because I was, after all, assigned to a New Jersey political news beat, but also because I think it has ramifications for the national election.  The moment was mentioned in several articles, but the best report of it that I saw came from Yahoo! Politics reporter Michael Walsh, who in a collection of six Best one-liners of the third GOP presidential debate listed it second.  To lay the foundation, let me quote a large part of his article:

Debate moderator John Harwood asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie what we should do to deal with anthropogenic climate change.

Christie’s response began with a criticism of what he sees as the proposed solution from Democrats–namely more taxes and government involvement–to which Harwood reiterated his question.

Christie continued his answer by saying that “we” should invest in all types of energy.  Again, before Christie finished speaking, Harwood asked another question:  “You mean government?”

“No, John.  John, do you want me to answer or do you want to answer?”  Christie said to laughter.  “How are we going to do this?  Because, I’ve got to tell you the truth–even in New Jersey what you’re doing is called rude.”

After that rejoinder, Christie proceeded to outline his energy plan, uninterrupted, of working with the private sector to make solar and wind energy affordable for businesses and individuals–repeating that government intervention and more taxes are not the answer.

(The article is worth reading in its entirety.  The other moments were from Donald Trump reacting to John Kasich, Marco Rubio responding to Jeb Bush’s attack on him, Mike Huckabee refusing to attack Donald Trump, Ted Cruz complaining about differences in media handling between the Democratic and Republican debates, and Carly Fiorina on being accused of not having smiled enough in the previous debate.)

Although it is much too early in the process to exclude the possibility of anyone becoming the next President, let alone the next Republican nominee (the reason George Pataki has not withdrawn), Christie is certainly a dark horse in this race, a long shot (the British PaddyPower Sport betting site as of October 29 lists him at 20/1 to be the Republican nominee, six candidates with better odds led by Marco Rubio at 11/8 and Donald Trump at 4/1; he lists as in a four-way tie for eighth with 40/1 to be President, with Hillary Clinton at 5/6 and Marco Rubio at 4/1 leading the pack).  He is probably not going to be the next President of the United States.

img0013Debate

However, he might be the next Vice President.

The position of Vice President on the ticket is an interesting one.  Voters are not voting for you, and you are not really asking them to vote for you.  They will ask themselves the question of whether they would trust you to run the country should, God forbid, something happen to the President–the reason Thomas Eagleton’s mental health record was a disaster for the George McGovern candidacy in 1972–but Christie has run a state, and done that well enough that he was endorsed for re-election by many of the state’s Democratic elected officials.  What would keep a man from being President (such as possibly the “Bridgegate” scandal) is ignored when you are running for the second seat–witness current Vice President Joe Biden, who was knocked out of the Democratic Presidential primary race in 1988 on allegations of plagiarism (both in his speeches and in his Law School essays) but who was not considered a liability as Obama’s running mate.  It was even joked in the early days of Obama’s presidency that Biden was his insurance policy–no one would assassinate the President because that would make him responsible for advancing “Smokin’ Joe” to Commander in Chief.  Beyond the simple question of whether the Vice President could do the job if it became necessary, no one considers his qualifications and few consider his politics.

What does matter in a Vice Presidential running mate is what we might call his “attack chops”.  Presidential candidates, and to some degree Presidents, have the problem of needing to look strong without looking nasty.  Vice Presidential candidates, and Vice Presidents, are thus called upon to be the vocal defenders of the ticket, the one who will tackle opponents directly.  We excuse the second man on the ticket, because we are not voting for him, and that gives him a lot of freedom to speak his mind and defend the ticket, to say things that the Presidential candidate (or the President) could not say without staining his own reputation and losing “political capital”.  We dislike Presidents who have a nasty bark, but the same trait in a Vice President is seen as protective, because he is not defending himself but his President.

Christie has once again proved that he has that bark.  He has the necessary aggressiveness to be the Vice President and the Vice Presidential candidate.

He is also viewed as more moderate–a Republican governor who managed to make progress in what is regarded a Democratic state with Democratically-controlled legislative houses, because he was able to compromise and work across the aisle.  Conservatives are going to regard him a RINO, but he is going to appeal to the independent middle.

I can see a number of possible scenarios in which some other candidate might be a better choice.

  • If Trump wins, he would do better with Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio in the second seat.  That’s partly because a Trump ticket probably needs a stabilizing “insider” anchor, someone who is viewed as understanding politics.  It’s also because Trump is already closely tied to New Jersey.  As I understand it, Trump is officially a New Yorker–and that matters, because the Constitution specifies that the candidates for President and Vice President must come from different states–but even so, the connection of Trump to Atlantic City suggests that the ticket would need to spread its appeal by choosing someone not from the northeast corridor.  A Bush/Rubio (or Rubio/Bush) ticket would suffer from similar problems.
  • There is a viable argument to the effect that any white male political insider who became the nominee ought to choose a running mate that was not a white male political insider–thus Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson rise to the top of the list as good Vice Presidential options.  They have neither the political experience nor the obvious fighter instincts of Christie, but they have an appeal to voters who are otherwise considered strong Democratic demographics.  Marco Rubio would be a good compromise here, Bobby Jindal or Ted Cruz less so.  Of course, the Vice Presidential candidate does not have to be chosen from among the Presidential hopefuls, but there is some sense in choosing someone who has already become a recognized figure in the race.
  • If the nominee is seen as more moderate, the party might be best served by having a more conservative running mate to appeal to its conservative wing.  Most of the “establishment” candidates in the race are more conservative, and this is rather unlikely overall.

However, if the nomination goes to Carson, Fiorina, or Rubio, or maybe Bush, Christie has been positioned as the ideal running mate.  He might well become the next Vice President of the United States.

In addition to blog posts in the Politics and Elections categories, the reader is referred to previous articles, the several linked within the blog post plus The Early 2016 Presidential Race, The Republican Dilemma, and other articles in the Law and Politics section of the main site.

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#10: The Unimportance of Facts

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #10, on the subject of The Unimportance of Facts.

img0010Debate

In connection with the recent Presidential debates, one columnist bemoaned the issue that candidates often would make statements which in the aftermath of the debate political junkies who read sites such as Politifact would learn were inaccurate, misleading, or simply untrue.  He speculated that voters did not care about facts “because they don’t encounter enough of them.”  I considered that, but immediately thought that there might be another reason.

Of course, we have all heard the quip, “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts,” and while no one ever says that of himself (and many attribute it to those with whom they disagree), it is a true description of the attitude some people have.  I prefer, however, to think a bit more highly of people.  It is a failing of those of us who are intelligent that we tend to assume others are also intelligent, and sometimes become frustrated when they demonstrate otherwise, yet I find that if you treat others as if they were reasonably intelligent, and if you assume they have some intellectual integrity, they frequently rise to your expectations.  That is to say, most people base opinions on what they believe to be the truth.  I think the problem lies elsewhere.

In discussing freedom of expression we mentioned the popular axiom History is written by the winners.  We noted then that it was not outside the realm of possibility that Holocaust deniers could so shift public belief that the Holocaust itself might become one of those bits of history no one believes ever really happened.  That attitude, though, has come to permeate all of culture, all of education.  We are on some level taught that there are no facts, or at least no reliable facts.  One cannot know anything with certainty.  Eyewitness testimony is unreliable.  Media is biased.  People who want to tell you something have an agenda, an objective they wish to achieve by the telling, and scientists are not above this.  Evolution might be an atheistic deception, global warming might be an environmentalist scare tactic, intelligent design might be an effort to infect pure science with religious nonsense, the Bible might have been written by the church centuries after the time it purports to report, or edited to tell the version of events the priesthood wanted told, and the list is endless.  When I was young the world still had facts, and still respected them, and even when you did not know what the facts were you knew that facts existed and believed that they were ultimately discoverable.  It was said, The Truth Will Out, meaning that facts could not be kept secret forever.  Now we have conspiracies and conspiracy theories, spin doctors and media manipulators, textbook editors and politically correct speech enforcers–thought police of all types working to ensure that what you believe to be the truth fits their agenda.  Further, we are fully aware of this aspect of our reality.  As a result, we do not really believe what we believe, not in the sense that we think it might be true.  We believe it because it is useful and connects us to people who believe as we believe.  We are taught to believe concepts that have no basis in facts, and to be suspicious of any data claiming to be factual that is contrary to those concepts.  Whether it is the lie that there is no correlation between the number of guns in an area and the amount of gun violence, or the lie that gun free zones are safer places that would never be targeted by mass murderers, we accept the statements that fit our conceptions and reject the facts that are awkward, and never worry about whether any supposed fact is true, because facts are not about being true but about supporting already established convictions.

Voters are not interested in the facts because the facts are irrelevant, and whether any alleged fact will be regarded true depends on who you ask.  It not being possible to know the truth of such matters, seeking the truth on them becomes foolish.  For the voter, what matters is whether the candidate believes what the voter believes, not whether any of it is factually true.  The only truth that matters in today’s world is the subjective truth, the opinion of the one who believes it.  Reality is irrelevant.  We, as a society, have been taught and have embraced the lie that there is no truth, or if there is, it is completely undiscoverable.

That, sadly, is why facts are not important in the debates.

Many of the issues brushed in this discussion are discussed in more detail on pages in the law and politics section of this website; see Articles on Law and Politics for a list.

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