Tuesday, February 2, 2016

After Iowa, the rest of the race to the White House is about demographics

Hillary Clinton became the first Clinton not to lose an Iowa caucus night and the first woman to “apparently” win it.  Whether it is a definite win and not a tie depends on the expectations of pundits and candidate supporters. By sheer numbers of delegate counts, a win is a win.
No doubt, Bernie Sanders exceeded expectations, but after New Hampshire, he will need to show he can cut into both the African American and Hispanic Democratic caucus or primary voters to continue his momentum. 

Depending upon who becomes the GOP winner in the primaries, the Hispanic vote in swing electoral college states will become critical in November.  It is not a given that Democrats will retain over 70% of that group as they did in 2012.  The more virulent anti-immigrant, anti “amnesty” the GOP nominee is, the more either Clinton or Sanders in the general election will succeed in attracting Hispanics.

Clinton will have one more demographic advantage in the primaries: the women of a “certain age” ,middle and older, who have been waiting a long time for the US to join the UK, Germany, and India, among other countries, who have been or are now led by women. 

Why Clinton cannot depend on the  under 30 year old women’s vote is because so many of the younger women have not yet dealt with the remaining parts of the  glass ceiling and pay inequality in advancing their careers. The generation to which students and young women belong is much more liberal and many are taken by Sander’s crusade against income inequality between economic classes.

There is also an element of women of that certain older age who have always been supportive of a single payer health care system.  Given the certainty that the House of Representatives will remain in GOP hands, and the probability that the Senate will continue to have a GOP majority, Medicare for all in the next four years is a hope without a prayer. 

In the general election, most of the young women’s vote is likely to stay with Democrats, regardless of the nominee, because of the extreme position of GOP candidates on the matter of choice and/or on other issues.  Per a poll taken  a year ago reported by  Politico,” Female voters who care about the top four issues — the economy,  healthcare, education and jobs — vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Most striking, Democrats hold a 35-point advantage with female voters who care about jobs.”

The greatest threat to women’s interests is the possibility of GOP control of Supreme Court appointments. Electability is an issue women cannot dismiss and Sanders’ self- identified socialist label could turn off enough swing vote moderates needed to win the general.  Control of the White House is critical to women who see choice and /or health care as being important to them. Most Court decisions important to women have been 5 to 4 or 4 to 5 splits.  If the GOP wins the Presidency, his court appointees would tilt the Court more their way.  A party will be in total control of a Congress and White House that could repeal Obamacare and replace it with either nothing or a more fiscally unsound system, unaffordable by many more.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Obama's team of rivals v Trump's bowling alone

A team of rivals v bowling alone

 My greatest concern about Donald Trump becoming president is not just his campaign based on fear  and loathing  of  certain religious and ethnic immigrants,  hostile reporters, and anyone who crosses him. It is his arrogance and unwillingness to respect and consider other opinions in decision making.  It is bowling alone when his measure of success is the opinion he has of himself and his ideas and who surrounds himself with yes men, valuing loyalty over anything else.

It is an ultimate contrast with the “team of rivals” style of the Obama administration. Barack Obama purposefully included those who had disagreed with him such as Hillary Clinton, to provide different judgement calls in the debates over shaping foreign policy. At last reports, Trump even  had no team of foreign policy experts advising him.

Trump may be a strong leader, but the dangers of having too much strength by someone who is autocratic and egocentric in control of the White House is not good for democracy or our national security.  We should be wary of a leader with that style of leadership in a democracy, particularly one that disdains or is ignorant  the rules of law , vows revenge on those who ‘disrespects him”,  tramples individual and human rights  protected by the Constitution and who has no respect for the innocents he would destroy in pursuit of a foreign policy that would “bomb the ___ out of them”.

 Trump’s  demanding respect and then taking  revenge when disrespected  sounds more  like something out of “The Godfather”. He is already been disrespected by the very allies, Arab and the United Kingdom, for his anti Muslim stance.  That is a formula for having to bowl alone in executing foreign policy, using our own blood and treasure with little help from our friends.

Respecting and including different views leads to looking all options and collateral, unanticipated consequences, but that is wisdom in decision making.  Say what you will about the decisions coming from of his administration, but Obama did deal with blunders of the prior Bush administration that upset the balance of power and kept us out of another  Mid East war, the bottom line of most Americans.  His international poll numbers show greater respect than his predecessors.

I am not one to call Donald Trump a fascist or a dictator, but he has the seeds within him when he makes proposals that ignore the Constitution such as putting American Muslims in monitoring devices, using religion as a test of who can and cannot enter the United States, and replacing general who do not agree with his preconceived notions or that “he knows ISIS better than they do”. Both former secretary of Defense and CIA director Robert Gates and  retired Army Chief General Raymond  Odierno  as well as  retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, who was  the Navy’s top lawyer, have not been shy in criticizing Trump’s attitudes as well.

 I have faith that our Constitutions’ checks and balances will kick in to constrain a leader like that but it will be a painful process. Worse, ignoring sound advice may lead to blunders that defeat him in the next election cycle. The stress and strain on the conflicts and power struggles will cause stress, chaos, distractions, that make the current Washington gridlock look like child’s play, accomplishing little, weakening our ability to form alliances in our fight against ISIS,   and disappointing many.



Sunday, January 24, 2016

Why experience in both domestic and foreign affairs counts

More than once domestic and foreign crises have influenced  the final outcome of presidential  primaries and general elections. An ideal candidate has to be prepared to deal both domestic and foreign events and can make their case that their approach would work better, or they have the skills and experience  to avoid blunders that could make the situation worse. 

A few months before the 2008 campaign, the financial sector and our economy collapsed, boosting the election of Barack Obama.  With terrorist attacks on San Bernardino and Paris,  national security and foreign affairs became the most important and gave rise to  Donald Trump’s politics of fear and loathing of Muslims and immigrants.  

Domestic policy credentials are based more on ideology and appeal to their bases than reality.  However, foreign affairs is reality politics and more  like a chess game  than a WWE wrestling match, since fallout, collateral damage, and history of  past mistakes have to be considered. That takes knowledge, experience and skill to play at that level.

Bernie Sanders has some  potential weaknesses in his domestic platform and zero experience in foreign affairs. He made his gains in advocating a revolutionary single payer healthcare system and greater income equality. However, by his own admission, raising taxes even on the middle class would be necessary to pay for his health plan, and that it would take a change in the political makeup of Congress as well as campaign finance reform to happen first. That is pie in the sky in the next four years. They are impossible dreams guaranteed to give us more years of gridlock. The House, for sure,  and probably a Senate will be controlled  by the GOP  thanks to gerrymandering and that  most state houses are occupied by Republican majorities with their hands on the political machinery. Losing the White House, too, makes the electability argument critical to preserving Obama’s gains, and Sanders’ professed socialism will spook moderates needed to win a general election.

Clinton on the other hand is in a much stronger position on foreign affairs than she was in 2008. Since then she has served as Secretary of State and she has a reputation as being the hawkish vote in the Obama administration debates, which is more in tune with the mood of 2016 than is Sanders’.  On the domestic side she touts achievable goals as a protector of the Obama legacy on health care and giving more support to programs directly benefitting the middle class, while opposing tax increases.

If Jeb Bush is the GOP candidate, the foreign affairs baggage of the  President George W Bush administration would be a curse. The advisors he has now were the same responsible for the Iraq invasion/occupation blunders.  Trump’s way to make American strong again is sheer bully and bluster and likely blunder into war. He considers diplomacy and alliances a sign of weakness; his stated art of deal making techniques and lies may work in the private sector, but not where other countries’ own domestic pressures play a role. His hate speech has already made chances of military and diplomatic alliances remote.. His CEO authoritarian style is surrounding himself with yes men. He has already indicated he would replace generals who disagreed with him, claiming he knew more about ISIS than the generals did.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The presidential race will be decided more than ever by the middle

The way it appears in January 2016, the likely outcome of the presidential general election will be decided by the middle. A large number of Democrats, independents, and Republicans will have to choose between either extremes or settle for the least extreme.  The middle, while shrinking in the recent years, will be larger because both parties’ bases have swung to their farthest ideological corners and their disparate positions split the anger vote. The result is to give the advantage to a candidate who appeals to a majority of the swing middle.
The Iran deal and its initial success has highlighted the power of diplomatic and economic tools that required the building of alliances, even including the Russians and the Chinese.  The anti- Muslim rhetoric by the extremes in the Republican party have made that kind of diplomacy  nearly impossible by alienating or insulting  European and middle eastern allies needed to forge those diplomatic agreements. Left as a tool in the US quiver would be near solo military action a la Iraq. We know how Iraq turned out ,fueling the rise of ISIS, eliminating Iran’s chief enemy, Iraq,  and the cost in blood and billions in dollars.  The new blood would be contributed by this current generation of younger voters.
Adding to the GOP’s extremist problem is a sizeable chunk of GOP voters supporting either Donald  Trump or Ted Cruz. Both have alienated Hispanics who are swing votes in states crucial to winning the electoral college. It is still GOP litany that government control of health care is bad and  Obamacare should be repealed,  leaving 19 million without affordable coverage and no economically veto feasible way to provide  coverage of pre-existing conditions.
The Democratic debate last Sunday was between the more pragmatic Hillary Clinton and the idealism of Bernie Sanders about whether to improve on  Obamacare (Clinton) or support Sanders’ radically changing the entire health care system to a single payer government controlled program eliminating private health insurers. Sanders plans to pay for his single payer system completely government controlled with a variety of higher taxes on even the middle class in exchange for lower out of pocket and system costs. It is unclear if Sanders’ earlier proposal continues, that states would agree to chip in 14% of the cost.   Getting Obamacare’s nearly free Medicaid expansion has met with significant numbers of states not participating. Most state governments are controlled by the GOP.

 For the Democrats, a bird in the hand should be worth two in the bush. It has been nearly six  years since the Sanders’ approach and a “public option” giving consumers a choice of a government plan or a private insurance one, were debated and rejected.  Then both houses of Congress and the White House were in the hands of Democrats.  Chances of a Sanders’ proposal succeeding now is even dimmer .The House is and will be in the hands of the tea party protected by gerrymandered ‘safe seats” . The Senate control of either party is up for grabs. Opening the debate on health care again is a gamble.   Democrats could be divided.  A united GOP could succeed in altering or killing Obamacare, especially if their legislation is veto proof or signed by a GOP president 

A versiion of this was published in the www.skyhidailynews.com  January 22, 2016