This Election Cycle: A Gift from the Political gods to the Political Junkie

I mean, like, really? Oh, my. 2016.

“You mean I can’t directly quote the candidate?”

This was a question asked to me by my student who will be participating in our school-wide presidential debate. He asked me this question because I asked him to refrain on using certain anatomical references in the debate, even when quoting.

This is the first year I had to ask my students to self-censor. Trump happens.

And now, the return of Anthony Wiener?

And the October surprise that never actually happens but did this year?

Where to begin?

Let’s start with the October Surprise, which is the mythical event which shakes up the election mere weeks before the voting. It’s the unseen political jack-in-the-box of death which stabs a campaign with a nearly mortal wound. People talk about it ad nauseam every four years, and each campaign (especially the one who is trailing) is hoping that some skeleton in the closet will produce itself. It never happens.

Until this year. Everyone thought the off-camera remarks in 2005 about groping women would end up being the first October surprise that anyone can remember for a long time. This, assumed all, would put an end to Trump’s campaign, and indeed the poll numbers shifted sharply in Clinton’s favor as the Trump camp scrambled to minimize the damage.

But what happened last Friday, when FBI director Comey announced that the FBI had re-opened its investigation into Clinton’s emails after it discovered possibly relevant emails on a laptop used by infamous Anthony Wiener, who also shared the laptop with his wife, Huma Abedin–Clinton’s longtime personal assistant. What’s in the emails? Who knows? But the announcement sent shock-waves through the presidential campaign–Clinton claiming there’s nothing there and demanding Comey release the emails–Trump praising the FBI for backtracking and doing what he thought they should have done in the first place.

Trump’s poll numbers were already rebounding from the tape fiasco before the explosive October Surprise, but the early numbers indicate possible significant movement in Trump’s direction. The LA Times/USC tracking poll has Trump up by 7 points in a head-to-head match-up with Clinton for the time frame 10/26-11/1. Half of this poll was taken after the FBI’s news. The Real Clear Politics average for the 4-way race currently stands at 2.2 points in Clinton’s favor. On October 17, Clinton’s lead stood at 7.1 points. Her lead has evaporated. Further proof is if you look at the three RCP polls where half of the polling days have been on 10/29 or after. Those three tracking polls (Rasmussen, IBD, ABC/Washington Post) are all TIED. Dead heat. A draw. Clinton’s lead has disappeared.

Now, of course, how this plays out in the electoral college is a different matter. Clinton still has a substantial advantage and more paths to victory, but this October surprise has given the Trump team lift at a time when their numbers were already improving, likely due to continued attacks on Clinton from Wikileaks and other sources.

How this all plays out is a complete mystery. No one has ever seen anything like this campaign season, and I’m sure everyone just wants it to END, one way or the other.

But for the political junkie, this has been a dream come true. A Washington outsider prone to gaffes. A Washington insider tainted with scandals. An out of control media. An FBI investigation. An underage sex investigation (thanks to A. Wiener). A scandalous tape and a juvenile Twitter fiend. A network who has spoon fed a debate question to team Clinton. The release of emails from Wikileaks. Other emails which have gone missing. And now some that are found.

Catch your breath, America. It’s almost over.

This political junkie just might be a little sad about it.


Let’s Hope 2016 Does Not Become the New 1968

Martin Luther King Jr. said the following at the Washington National Cathedral in March of 1968:

“I don’t like to predict violence, but if nothing is done between now and June to raise ghetto hope, I feel this summer will not only be as bad but worse than last year.”

Unfortunately, he was right. The year 1968 turned out to be one of the years of greatest turmoil in modern US history. The assassination of King – the assassination of Democratic presidential candidate Robert Kennedy – the stifling heat of the inner-city ghettos, raising tension and diminishing hope on the many minorities who had seen the progress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but had yet to experience their promise. The country boiled to a breaking point as riots, protests, and violence dominated the summer.

In light of recent history (Ferguson, Baltimore) and the events of this past week (police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota and the murder of five policemen in Dallas), the summer of 2016 does not look promising. Further putting tension on alert is the contentious 2016 US presidential election cycle between Donald Trump (R) and Hillary Clinton (D).

People are angry. On both sides of the congressional aisle. People are angry. On both sides of the political spectrum.

With the Republican Convention right around the corner, one can only imagine the protests and confrontations which await Cleveland. Trump is certainly a polarizing figure, but that never justifies violence and law breaking.

Police departments around the country are on edge, and rightly so. It is difficult enough to be a policeman in this country, but the toxic environment in which we now live makes confrontation and misery to be the new norm. I’m sad to say, we probably haven’t seen the last loss of life this summer.

But in my estimation, what is ultimately more important for our democracy, is that we must not shrink away from robust political debate simply because someone might be offended and it might lead to violence. No. We need political debate more than ever in this country. We must stand absolutely against violence, intimidation, and the inflaming of the electorate. But we must also stand absolutely for our rights of freedom of speech, petition to address grievances, and the right to peacefully demonstrate.

We cannot allow the haters and inflamers – from both sides of the political spectrum – to hijack this election. We need calming, cooling heads of reason to win the day and push back against the violence. The calming voices are there, again on both sides.

I firmly believe that both political sides have more in common than everyone thinks. We all want an open society where we, all of us from every background, can live out our days in the pursuit of happiness. We all want police departments which function to protect all in society. We all want peace. We all want equality and a color-blind justice system. We all want the ability to rejoice in victory and mourn in defeat without having to worry about a violent push-back.

Let’s pray that in spite of the great many difficulties facing America this summer, that calmer heads and reasonable minds will emerge victorious, and the best of America will emerge out of the chaos.

I Want a Politician Who Stands Up for Everyone

The mayor of San Jose was quoted the other day as criticizing Donald Trump for running the type of campaign which riles up people and causes problems. This in response to the rough treatment that some Trump supporters received after leaving a Trump rally in San Jose. He said, in effect, that Trump has to be held accountable for people who show up outside his rallies and break the law.


Is it any wonder that people are upset with the system when politicians care more about hurt feelings from words than protecting the most basic of all American ideals: freedom of speech? People are sick and tired of lawbreakers who are given the benefit of the doubt while the law abiders – no matter how annoying they are — being called out.

Here’s what the mayor of any city should be doing: he should make sure the police are following the law to ensure anyone attending any political rally is not physically hurt or threatened in any way – regardless of who is speaking.

A mayor should chastise any movement – even if he agrees with its aims – if it crosses the line and becomes anything other than a peaceful protest.

A mayor should choose the side of free speech, and espouse everyone’s rights to proclaim their beliefs – even if they are unpopular.

A mayor should be able to tell the difference between free speech and a lump on the head. There is no justifiable correlation here. (in 99.9% of situations)

A mayor does not have to like the Donald Trumps of this world, but a mayor should defend Trump’s right to say what he likes. It’s the American way. It’s what sustains democracies.

The San Jose mayor has fallen to the more and more common political correct, non-American way by blaming those who speak unpopular sentiments, pandering to the political, and being a party-man in all that he does.

Is it any wonder that so many folks are sick of politicians?