February 20, 2016
We went to different businesses and people and asked them what they thought of the Presidential election campaign and the different candidates. First we asked George at Bel Air Gutter & Siding what he thought of Trump. He rolled his eyes and said, “Trump is so bombastic that I didn’t think people would take him seriously. I have listened to him on some of the debates and was surprised that a lot of what he said made sense. But then he goes off in a crazy fashion from time to time. He also seems to be very thin skinned. I think a President needs to be a bit less volatile and thicker skinned. He could get us into World War III.”
November 28, 2015
Donald Trump has defied conventional wisdom. Most people expected him to crash and burn by now. But many small business people like him because they are fed up with government regulations. There are many small businesses out there that make up a base for him. Each town has many small businesses, such as in Bel Air, MD there is Alcore Corp, Arena Club, belairstairsrailings.com, Broadcreek Memorial Camp, Comer Construction, grillsensations.net, Harford Systems, Leidos Engineering, and many more. This is just one small town. Multiply it by all the small towns across America and it starts to make sense why he is doing well.
October 17, 2015
The next Republican Party debate is coming up October 28. It is always good for some interesting theater. Especially with so many candidates it is like a 3 ring circus. But the big deal of course will be election night for the general election. With both parties throwing parties, everything comes to a standstill in Washington. Getting a taxi or a limo is almost impossible.
March 8, 2016
This is one of the most unusual presidential campaigns in years. Newspaper and television reporters are giddy because they don’t know where to turn next. There are so many stories they have their pick of what they want to write about. As one said, it is like shooting fish in a barrel.
No one expected Donald Trump to last very long. They were thinking he might be popular for a short while and then fade like so many “fringe” candidates do. But people in the Republican Party seem to want a change and nothing is going like anyone thought it would. Ted Cruz was considered too extreme to get much of a following and yet he is in second place behind Donald Trump.
Mainstream Getting Hammered
The mainstream candidates have gotten hammered and many have dropped out. Jeb Bush never got a following even though he had lots of money that he raised and a good part of the establishment behind him. We think people didn’t wan’t a third Bush, two were enough. Chris Christie never caught on. People thought Marco Rubio would take the lead as one of the last mainstream candidates but he hasn’t garnered much enthusiasm. Finally, there is John Kasich who seems like the most down to earth of the bunch.
Kasich Feels His Time is Coming
Kasich has done fairly well in northern states and said because the southern states were front loaded in the primaries that they were trying to weather the first part and felt that they would gain strength from here on out. It will be interesting to see if he is right. He may get some help from a lot of other people who are teaming up to fight Trump.
Forces Rising Up to Stop Trump
What is really unusual is that a front runner, especially someone with as much momentum as Donald Trump gets the support of the party to try and build momentum to beat the Democrats. It is unheard of that the Republicans are in such disarray and there are so many people trying to bring Trump down.
You have Mitt Romney and John McCain calling him a liar and $10 million dollars raised to advertise against Trump in the upcoming primaries.
Trump Hitler References
Now you have people comparing Trump to Hitler and saying how dangerous he is. This is unheard of. But then again, when have you seen a candidate telling people to kick people out of their campaign events. Some of the people who have been to his events to protest have gotten roughed up by Trump supporters, seemingly with his blessing.
The current and former presidents of Mexico both made Hitler references when referring to Trump. Bill Maher used the term “Hitler-y” to describe the treatment of protesters at Trump rallies. Louis C.K. sent a letter to fans about his new show. No big deal, except at the end of it was included a 1,400 word put down of Trump, calling him and insane bigot and comparing him to Hitler.
Saturday Night Live had a fake ad for Trump funded by “Racists for Trump” which ended with the spokesperson raising his arm and showing a swastika arm band. In the intro to the show Darrell Hammond impersonating Trump says that people haven’t seen a campaign like this since the 1930s in Germany.
Will This Hurt Trump?
This is all unprecedented but will it hurt Trump or just drive people more strongly into his camp? It may help him win the Republican nomination but will this make it harder for him to win a general election? Is he just appealing to a small fervent group that don’t represent a majority of Americans or has he somehow tapped into something that many people just aren’t seeing?
There are a number of people who are hoping the other candidates get enough votes that Trump can’t get enough people to win outright before the convention. They want to then have a contested convention where Trump gets the most votes in the first ballot but not a majority and then they move forward with other votes and pick someone else.
Buckle up your seat belts, this is going to be a wild ride!
February 15, 2016
It didn’t take long for the shit to hit the proverbial fan. Presidential candidates from both parties are weighing in as well as many Republican Senators. It should make for an interesting year. And it could have surprising impacts and influences on not only the Presidential race but also the race for many Senate seats and possible Congress as well.
Will Obama Nominate a Liberal or Moderate?
Thoughts had been that President Obama would nominate Sri Srinivasan who was born in India but grew up in Kansas. He is viewed as extremely intelligent and even tempered and is fairly conservative. The logic of course was that he would get enough votes from Republicans to clear the Senate. He was confirmed unanimously to the US Court of Appeals three years ago and was praised by Ted Cruz of all people who was a law clerk at the Supreme Court at the same time as Srinivasan.
This was the probable choice if it had been earlier in Obama’s term, but with Mitch McConnell and other Republicans saying they will block absolutely anyone that President Obama nominates, he may change direction and go for someone more liberal.
A Black Nominee?
Some people think that President Obama will want to nominate an African American candidate for the position to counter balance the extremely conservative Clarence Thomas. Paul Watford of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was suggested as a possibility. At one point he was a law clerk for Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she was in the 9th Circuit.
There are several other black judges who will be considered as well, including Judge Robert Wilkins, cabinet member Jeh Johnson or Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Another possibility is Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.
President Obama’s prior picks have been fairly moderate. Elena Kagan was pushed for by both liberals and conservatives on the Harvard Law School faculty where she was dean. In fact, Justice Scalia had suggested Kagan even though she was seen as liberal.
Will Republicans Follow McConnell like Lemmings over a Cliff?
Assuming that President Obama picks someone fairly moderate, it will be difficult for Republicans to block them just because they are nominated by President Obama. Mitch McConnell the Republican leader of the Senate said after Scalia died that he didn’t care who Obama nominates, he would oppose that person. People in the US are tired of the bickering in Congress.
The Republicans want to hold on to their majority in the Senate and voting against a moderate nominee or failing to hold hearings altogether could anger voters and make it much more difficult for Republicans to win in swing states.
On top of that, if the nominee is black, it could really energize African Americans to get out and vote which could make a difference in a close election.
It will all be interesting since Scalia’s death puts all three arms of the government in play in one election cycle: the Supreme Court, the Presidency, and the Senate. (The House not so much).
Supreme Court Votes
Scalia’s death also changes the dynamics in an interesting way. Before Anthony Kennedy was conservative but often a swing vote that could change the outcome in a 5-4 vote. But now there are only 3 reliable conservatives, so just to tie, they need Kennedy. The liberals have 4, so they can tie and with Kennedy as a swing vote, they get the 5 needed.
February 14, 2016
Justice Scalia was in Texas at a luxury resort doing some hunting. At least he died of natural causes and wasn’t shot by Dick Cheney. It is a 30,000 acre ranch. He attended a private party with about 40 people and went to bed. When he didn’t show up for breakfast, someone from from the ranch went to check on him and found him dead in bed. It is assumed that he died of natural causes.
Changed Supreme Court Dynamics
This will definitely change the Supreme Court even before someone is nominated and approved. If there is a 4-4 tie, the lower court ruling stands. There are a number of cases before the Supreme Court where this could make a difference. Although, it won’t have an impact for a while since most of the cases early in the term tend to be less controversial and are less likely to be close votes from what the close followers of the Supreme Court say.
Scalia’s Conservative Viewpoint
Scalia felt that all Supreme Court decisions should be made from the viewpoint of the founders and writers of the Constitution and not interpret in a way that makes sense in today’s world. He was also strongly against abortion, gay marriage, and affirmative action. Although he had a quick wit, it was a very sharp acerbic wit. But his views were so strong and unrelenting that he often alienated other justices instead of creating a coalition to get the results he wanted.
He changed the Supreme Court in oral arguments. He was much more assertive and asked many more questions than had been asked in the past. He would sometimes verbally attack lawyers presenting one side of a case.
But, wow, it didn’t take long for his death to start the political jockeying. The Republicans and conservatives of any stripe even if they aren’t Republican are hoping to hold off the nomination of a new justice until a new president is sworn in. The Democrats are expecting the nomination process to happen immediately.
President Obama has said that he will nominate someone to the Supreme Court to take Scalia’s place. He expects the Senate to do its job and confirm that person in a timely manner.
However, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader had a completely different view. He said that no decision should be made until a new president takes office. He said that the American people should be able to make that decision. That is one of the more blatantly partisan, political things we have heard in a while. He obviously is hoping for a Republican to win in November and appoint a conservative justice to replace Scalia. But to wait a year to fill a Supreme Court post seems a bit incredible, unless of course you are Mitch McConnell or a number of other Republicans who have jumped on the band wagon.
It is going to make the Presidential election process even more interesting.
November 16, 2015
With so many Republicans running for President, the ones at the back of the field are struggling to figure out new strategies to get more visibility and traction. With Trump and Carson sucking the energy from everyone else, what to do? The New York Times had an interesting article about this, summarized below.
Will the Leaders Falter?
O’Malley, the long shot on the Democratic side has said that the front runners at the beginning usually aren’t the ones who are ahead at the end. The Democrats would probably love it if Donald Trump or Ben Carson ended up breaking that rule and being the Republican Presidential candidate. They may appeal to Republicans, but the chances of them taking enough independents to win seems doubtful.
Is New Hampshire the Promised Land?
Jeb Bush , who has not done well in the debates to a lot of people’s surprise. He is trying to set a fire break in New Hampshire. He is giving up Iowa figuring that his chances with the religious conservatives there are slim, so he is concentrating all his effort in New Hampshire. He figures if he can do well there, that can propel him forward in the states that follow.
Chris Christie spent some time with students at Dartmouth and Governor John Kasich was in Portsmouth at a driving range and then talking with Rotary Club members. Some topics were climate change and amazingly, the Republicans are still flogging the horse of voting fraud and whether dead people were voting in different states. People in New Hampshire take their role seriously and Gov. Kasich feels that running ads alone won’t cut it in New Hampshire. You need to be there, on the ground, talking to people.
Is New Hampshire Losing its Cachet?
But times are changing and many people wonder whether New Hampshire can be a game changer any more. The problems include the large number of candidates running and the number of nationally televised debates. Then there is the increasing influence of social media.
Republican leaders in New Hampshire feel that the nationally televised debates is not the right way of going about picking a candidate. They feel that the more personal method that takes place in New Hampshire is better. The people there are very diligent and take their role very seriously.
Christie and Bush’s Thoughts on New Hampshire, Debates and Digital Campaigns
Chris Christie is putting a lot of emphasis on New Hampshire and has been to 41 events since August. He feels that the debates only have temporary impacts. That may be because he is not polling well enough to make the top tier of debates. He used Carly Fiorina as an example saying that she got a pop from the second debate but has fallen back since.
Mr. Bush who is low key hasn’t done as well in the debates which have rewarded people who are more confrontational. But as Bush has pointed out that digital campaigning doesn’t allow for nuance and irony that is more a strength of Bush.
McCain and Romney got a boost in New Hampshire that they rode all the way to the Republican Presidential candidacy. Can that still be done? We will find out.
If New Hampshire becomes less important it will have a big economic impact on New Hampshire. The state gets a lot of income because of all the candidates spending every four years. Without that, they would be in a more precarious financial position. So New Hampshire definitely hopes that the TV debates and online coverage doesn’t decrease their importance.
November 6, 2015
In 2011, there were 87 new Republicans elected to the House. Many were elected in the wave of Tea Party sentiment that wanted to shake things up in Washington. Many wondered whether they would temper their views over time in Washington or whether they would move Washington more to their point of view.
Bending Washington to Their Will
They don’t seem to have changed their views at all, if anything have hardened their opinions and are less willing to compromise if they ever were. The Republican majority has been helped by the increasing influence of conservative media as well as gerrymandered districts. (Although gerrymandering has helped Democrats in other states. It is unfortunate because it makes states redder or bluer and less purple which might cause people to move to the middle instead of going to the edges of the spectrum.)
Their original target was discretionary government spending but they have had a number of major impacts:
- Discretionary spending has dropped to 6.5% from 9.1% of the economy in just 5 years, 2010 to 2015.
- Social issue fights have been resurrected and are in full swing
- Gridlock – It is much harder to get things done.
- The government shutdown in 2013
- They almost closed Homeland Security
- They forced John Boehner to resign
Out of the group, there are about 40 who are part of the Freedom Caucus. They originally found common cause in reducing the size of the federal government. Now they are targeting all sorts of Obama policies. They have really honed in on funding for Planned Parenthood.
More than these other things though, they seem to want power. They don’t seem to realize or care that they are a distinct minority within the Republican Party much less the United States. They want a greater say in how the House of Representatives is run and in how legislation is written and the process that it makes its way through the House. They figure that by changing the rules by which the House operates that they can get more power and influence.
They are being supported by their constituents at home. At least they think they are. Of course, the constituents who really like what they are doing are giving them positive feedback. Even though these people are a minority just as these Congressmen are in the minority. But it creates an echo chamber of self reinforcement and congratulations.
They tend to come from rural areas in the south and the west.
October 23, 2015
Paul Ryan said that he had no interest in being Speaker of the House. Although he is very conservative, he may not be conservative for the Freedom Caucus and other extreme right wing Republicans in the House of Representatives.
When it appeared no one was going to satisfy everyone, a number of people suggested Ryan. He still said no, probably smartly because right now it looks like it would be hard for anyone to keep the House in order. It is almost like there are two Republican Parties and they are at war with each other. However, with pressure mounting, Ryan said he might do it if everyone was in agreement and willing to work together. (Sorry Paul, but fat chance.)
Ryan Has the Votes?
This Wednesday it looks as if Ryan now has enough votes to lock up the election. He would get some but not all of the votes from the Freedom Caucus. He had been looking for a unanimous vote. Now apparently he is thinking that this might be good enough.
Interestingly, this is almost back where we were with Boehner. The exception is that Boehner could have been elected but because the Freedom Caucus wouldn’t vote for him, he would have needed Democratic votes to get in. Something he didn’t want. Besides other problems and gaffes, this was Kevin McCarthy’s problem as well. It appears that Ryan can now get elected with just Republican votes.
A Split or More Intransigence?
Interestingly, all of this may have caused a split within the Freedom Caucus and made it a little bit less coherent and a bit less to be feared? Yet at the same time, outside conservative groups are starting to push back against Ryan. Republican voters are in a feisty mood as well. A recent poll showed a desire for a new Speaker who is not quick to compromise. They don’t even care if it leads to a government shut down. (We thought politics was about the art of the compromise. Not, I will go home if I don’t get my way.)
The Freedom Caucus wants some changes that decreases the power of the Speaker. Ryan may be willing to go along with some but wants something in return. He wants to make it harder to have a procedural vote to oust the Speaker. This is what happened to Boehner and the conservatives consider it one of their most potent weapons. Ryan has told some of his compatriots that he doesn’t mind getting shot from the front but he doesn’t want to get shot from the back. Still an interesting circus.
October 10, 2015
Well, things just got stranger. First John Boehner and now Kevin McCarthy. It seems like no one wants to be Speaker of the House. Just minutes before the Republicans were supposed to vote for their nominee to be Speaker of the House, McCarthy pulled out. The Huffington Post had a good article about the event.
No one doubted that he would win the nomination. And since the Republicans are in the majority, that means he would have won over whatever Democratic candidate was selected and become the Speaker.
Apparently he needed 218 votes to beat the Democrats and felt that he couldn’t get that many because of the hard conservatives in the Republican Party. This doesn’t make a lot of sense because they weren’t likely to vote in favor of a Democrat.
He actually ceded the point while talking to reporters afterwards. He knew he could win, but he felt that it would be stronger if the Republican Party had a candidate that could get a unanimous vote from the Republicans. Get a vote for all 247 of them. He felt that maybe a new face was needed that everyone could unite behind.
There are 25 conservative members who have blocked legislation or altered legislation that Boehner wanted. Because of House rule changes and the fact that there are no longer earmarks, the Speaker and leaders of the ruling party no longer have as much influence. One of the conservative block felt that McCarthy’s decision was seat of the pants and was typical of the way the old guard was running things, with no long term planning.
In Europe, the parliaments cobble together coalitions. If a right party and a far right party can’t work together, then the right party might work with another party that was in the center. This is happening somewhat in Congress. The only reason that the government didn’t shut down recently was that Boehner got votes from Democrats. He couldn’t get enough from his own party to keep the government operating.
Moderate Republicans see that it is likely that they will need to make more alliances with the Democrats. This may even include electing the next Speaker of the House.
Does that mean that the conservatives shot themselves in the foot and they might end up with a more liberal Leader than McCarthy? McCarthy is pretty conservative and helped get a lot of these renegades elected. So it is a very odd situation.
McCarthy will continue as House Leader which is the number two position in Congress. He also gave as an influencing factor in his decision, his comments about the Benghazi investigating committee and Hillary Clinton. He commended them for hurting Clinton politically and later said he could have said it much better. However, he has been getting heat for the comments.
The conservatives feel this is a great things an opens things up. They also feel that because their candidate, Daniel Webster, had played spoiler that this made him now the front runner. This despite the fact that this hard conservative group makes up a small percentage of all the Republicans in Congress. We shall see.