A Boy from Pennsylvania Weighs In

Pennsylvania did it. It ruthlessly defied the odds and pushed Donald Trump into the White House. Everyone is still in shock. Both Republicans and Democrats. Something was afoot, and everyone (or nearly everyone) missed it.

I grew up in Butler County, western Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh. It has a series of small towns, rolling lush countryside and a lot of good people. Friendly, helpful, giving. They sit on front porches in the summer. They talk to their neighbors. They invite people in for dinner. They keep their lawns cut beautifully, drive an assortment of pick-up trucks, and have impeccable vegetable gardens out back. They go to church on Sunday, and tend, in many ways, to actually heed the precepts they hear. They are good people. I know. I grew up with them.

These are the people, hard-working folks from Butler County to central Ohio to western Wisconsin who won this election for Trump. The elite media may want to call them backward, uneducated, and dare I say it, slightly bigoted? But they are none of those.  And that’s what the media and Belt-Way pundits don’t get. These are not deplorables. They are hard-working, honest people.

And they have a voice. And they have spoken.

In a dramatic, historic way.

I hate to say it, but Obama was not the president of these people. They have felt marginalized by a series of decisions which eschewed their traditional ways, had eaten away at their way of living, and have watched their voices being drowned out by glib Hollywood actors and stuffy corporate Wall Streeters who have lobbied Washington for all kinds of perks and desires. Using Obama’s  own words, he wanted to “fundamentally change America” but he did so in a way that cast aside a large swath of voters.

But no more. We have an election for the record books, for the history books. We’ll be studying about this election for the next one hundred years and beyond.

What we learn from it remains unclear. But my hope is that President Trump (that still sounds strange saying that) will not cast aside a whole segment of the population as he begins to govern.

 

 

 

 

Happy Election Day!

New Hampshire’s Dixville Notch kicked off the 2016 US Presidential Election by casting their tiny vote for Clinton. Other small precincts in New Hampshire cast their votes for Trump as America settles in for what will likely be a long and interesting day and evening at the polls.

Here in Malaysia, our small school held its own mock election with the popular vote being distributed this way: Trump 43%, Johnson 32%, Clinton 23%

Johnson had a great showing here because the Johnson debate team did such a great job last week at our mock presidential debate.

In about 12 hours, I’ll be settling into a “field trip” with my class, as we will hunker down in front of a TV and watch the returns roll in. Lots of food being made. I whipped up some chili cheese dip. I told everyone we might want to be a in a sugar coma no matter who wins.

What a year it has been, and it’s finally coming to a close.

It looks like Clinton has an edge in the electoral college on the morning of the election, but it’s close. The latest Real Clear Politics averages has Clinton barely winning enough electoral votes with the ultimate swing state being New Hampshire.

What to look for? Of these 5 states, New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, if Clinton wins any two of these states, she will most likely win the presidency. If Trump wins all but PA, he will be in a good position for a win. If he also wins Pennsylvania, he will have a big night and a major upset.

No matter who wins, I hope there will be no ridicule for those who voted one way or another. We are a pluralistic society. Different points of view are encouraged, and even required for our democracy to thrive. We all have our reasons for doing what we do. Let’s respect them, let’s honor the winner no matter what, and let’s move on. It doesn’t mean the rigorous debate about the make-up of society should end. Of course, it won’t. Nor should it. But let’s hope the discourse turns more towards a respect for all types of diverse points of view.

Settle in and enjoy the day!

The Electoral College Over-Represents Wyoming. And That’s a Good Thing.

A recent social media video was describing how a state like New York or California is underrepresented in the electoral college, which proves that the electoral college system is not fair and should be discarded.

The video was correct in one aspect. Populated states like California are underrepresented in the electoral college, but, contrary to the wise conclusion they made in the video, it’s a good thing. A very good thing.

So what’s really going on?

The electoral college system is wrongly accused of not choosing the president by popular vote, and critics point to the 2000 election as proof that the system is flawed. However, the system is working just fine and for a good purpose. And, by the way, the results are based upon population, not nationally, but on the state level.

Here’s how it works in case you need a refresher course. Each state is allotted a certain number of electoral votes based upon their population. Those numbers can change every ten years after a census, but the total number of electoral votes always remains 538. Therefore, if a state loses a lot of people, they may lose one vote in the electoral college. The votes correspond to how many senators a state has (always 2) and how many representatives they have in the House of Representatives. Each state has one congressional district for every representative they have in the house. In the case of Wyoming, the least populous state in the union, that is exactly 1. So Wyoming, in the electoral college, has three votes – 1 for their rep, and 2 for their senator.

However, since Wyoming has so few people, they end up being over-represented. If it was truly based  on population, they would lose some of their representation in the electoral college and that vote would go to a more populous state such as California.

So yes, California should have more votes, but they don’t.

So why is that good?

Because the United States wasn’t founded as a unitary nation where all the power is concentrated in the central government. The united states was founded as a federal nation, where the thirteen original states voluntarily joined together, but in doing so, they worked hard to preserve the identity and powers which the states had to themselves. Founders such as Thomas Jefferson were adamant that the states hold onto much power, thus limiting the federal government which he viewed with suspicion. And with good reason. They had just fought a war against a government (King George) who wielded too much power and didn’t listen to the individual concerns of his colonies. The electoral  college ensured that each state would continue to have a voice, regardless of how many people lived there. The electoral college acknowledges how America was founded and designed. It hearkens to the 10th Amendment  in the Bill of Rights which says that whatever power is not delegated to the federal government is reserved for the states. The power of having a voice of who elects the president is one of those powers. It’s an important power.

In addition, the electoral college insures that more rural states still have an important and viable voice in American politics. Without the electoral college, the election would be decided by a handful of urbanized areas with little regard for the hard-working folks living in the hinterlands.

What happened in 2000 is meaningless. We are a nation of states. Therefore, the electoral college is the best system for preserving the individual states rights and giving a voice to everyone, not just the urban elites.

 

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.

 

Is the 2016 Election really about the Supreme Court?

There are currently 8 justices on the Supreme Court. The oldest ones are as follows:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg – age 83 (liberal)

Anthony Kennedy – age 80  (seen as a swing vote between the conservative and liberal wings of the Supreme Court)

Steven Beyer – age 78 (liberal)

Of course, the 9th seat, currently vacant, was held by Antonin Scalia who was a conservative.

Of the remaining five on the court, the conservatives include Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. Liberals include Sonya Sotomayer and Elena Kagan.

So this we know for sure, the new president will choose a replacement for conservative Scalia. We don’t know if there will be any other vacancies, but it is not unreasonable to surmise that there could be anywhere from 1-3 additional appointments which the next president will make. So that means, the next president could impact anywhere from 11% to 44% of the make-up of the Supreme Court.

The court has been so evenly divided in recent years that such a swing could help re-shape the court for the next generation. The current 4-3 liberal advantage (with Kennedy as a swing vote) could increase with a Clinton presidency. A Trump presidency would most likely keep the court in the conservative-leaning 5-4 range.

Now, of course, much of this also depends on the make-up of the Senate which has to approve the president’s appointments. The Republicans currently hold on to power, but it remains to be seen if the Democrats could grab control back from the G.O.P. this November. It might be a long shot, but not out of the question.

So regardless what a voter thinks of Clinton or Trump’s politics and deftness of handing the executive branch, the prospect of changes to the Supreme Court should be a powerful motivator for each side of the political spectrum. Long term societal changes typically come from Supreme Court decisions and the next generation of judges will greatly impact the nation.

I would suggest that voters need to strongly consider the future of the Supreme Court in the hands of the next president. The ideologies between Clinton and Trump in this regard are complete opposites. Trump has promised to choose conservative nominees. Clinton will choose liberal nominees. Depending on your personal political philosophy, this should weigh heavily on your mind as you decide who to vote for this November.

A Bump for Trump

The post-convention bump has lofted Trump into his first lead over Hillary Clinton for the race to the presidency according to Real Clear Politics poll averages compiled July 25.

Here’s the chart:

bumpfortrump

It must be a little jarring for the Clinton camp to see these numbers. I’m sure they’ll put a good spin on them, especially with the Democratic Convention this week. Will Clinton see her own bump in the polls come next Monday? With all the turmoil going on with the DNC chair resigning over the Wikileaks email release, it will be interesting to see how the Democrats stay on message and the attack mode. I’m sure Trump is bracing for it.

In the meantime, I don’t put much stock in July polls of a presidential election year. I believe you’ll start to see some stable and possibly more reliable numbers after the first debate in September. That’s when the American people will see them side-by-side and will be able to judge whether they are sure about their decisions.

But I do think that the above chart gives us some interesting insight. A year ago, nobody gave him a chance to emerge as a primary contender. Now he’s leading in the poll averages in the general election! Quite the accomplishment that NO ONE saw coming.

Secondly, Trumps numbers are trending upward. Many pundits showed how trump had trouble getting over the 40% range in the polls. Only one of the eight polls has him under forty percent. Four have him at 45% or higher and the Gravis poll was the high water mark of 51%.

It is beginning to seem that a Trump presidency is certainly likely. Of course, at this point, anything can happen, both good and bad for either candidate. But Trump has shown time and time again that he can put his foot in his mouth and it doesn’t affect his polling, except for possibly an upward trend. It’s remarkable, actually.

If you watched his acceptance speech, it was classic trump, but presented in a much more presidential way. He phased out the insults (which I’m sure will return shortly) and focused on what he intends to do as president. Of course, his speech was a broad road map which couldn’t ever be all accomplished. But it was the first time, to my knowledge, that the nation began to see how he would govern. So far, it seems like the American public has responded positively to his message. How will Clinton fair this week?

This is going to be an up and down election cycle, but Trump is certainly enjoying his early bump.

Are older people smarter?

Don’t you find it fascinating that Bernie Sanders’ core support is from the under 30 demographic?

Why is that?

I’ve thought a lot about this lately. Is it because they like his rhetoric? “We’ve been screwed by the large corporations!” “They’ve made the playing field unfair for this generation.”

Is it because they have had fewer life experiences? Will these same people buy into the Sanders’ philosophy after 20 more years?

Is it because they can’t get a job, so the prospect of paying exorbitant taxes seems remote or even alien to them?

What makes the older people in America cast aside Sanders’ message more readily?

I don’t really have any answers to this, but I do find it quite interesting. It could be that the label “socialist” has a completely different meaning to the older generation than the younger. Socialism for anyone over 40 brings back images of the Soviet Union, Tienanmen Square, Vietnam, and a host of other visuals which aren’t easily removed from one’s psyche.

For an unemployed college age kid, Sanders’ message certainly does resonate. Free college. Why should you have to pay such exorbitant fees while many get rich off the scheme? I’ve put one kid through college and have another one in college. I’m all too familiar with the ridiculous cost of higher education.

What about healthcare? Who doesn’t think the US healthcare system is broken? The fees are ridiculous, especially after comparing the coverage and care and price I receive in Malaysia. Great, fast service, high quality care, at a fraction of the cost. So when Sanders’ talks about giving everyone healthcare run by the government, it sound appealing. But really, when’s the last time the government ran a program that large efficiently and responsibly? And really, for 320 million people? Really? You actually think the government could pull this off? They can’t even give our vets proper care.

And what about the fat-cat Wall Street executives who seem to be Sanders’ scapegoat for everything? They are surely an easy target. They are living large and have enjoyed a cozy relationship with government and political entities for as long as … well … as long as there has been governments, I suppose. It’s easy to wave your finger and yell “$15 minimum wage” when you’ve never run a business. It’s easy to accuse the rich of rigging the system when you can’t find a job. I get it.

But here’s where I get off the circus ride. No one owes you anything. America was founded on the ideal of freedom and the pursuit of happiness. I don’t begrudge anyone of any millions of dollars that they have earned legally. (If, by chance, they’ve earned it illegally, by all means go after them.) But if they’ve stayed within the law, tip your cap to their ingenuity and move on. We have to create our own happiness. We have to live our lives for ourselves, and we can’t rely on any big brother to swoop in and prop us up. We have to embrace our freedom, cherish it, live for it, protect it, and never let any politician try to diminish it.

So young people, you absolutely have the right to believe what you want and support any political candidate of your choosing. That’s the American way. At least until it isn’t.

Trump has been good for everyone!

We really do need to thank Donald Trump. His campaign has singlehandedly increased the interest in 2016 politics to, perhaps, an all-time high. People are fascinated by what he says, how he says it, and how he responds to what other people say. People may scrunch up their nose and call him a jerk (or far worse) but they can’t take their eyes away from the shiny, loud, obnoxious beast that is dominating the news.

And that’s a good thing.

So who is enjoying this ride the most?

I would imagine the greatest benefactor of the Trump phenomenon has been political cartoonists. Wow! What amazing fodder? They’re brains must be exploding. And they are probably cursing because they can’t keep up with their ideas fast enough before new ideas come spewing forth from his mouth.

Trump is also good for Facebook. My goodness. The feeds dominated by Trump. It seems like 99% of them are negative, but it’s still good for Trump and good for Facebook.

Students. Actually, whenever I pull up the RealClearPolitics info about the election on my US History class, everyone is interested. Everyone is engaged. Really, would anyone care if it was Bush vs. Clinton. Trump has invigorated vast amounts of people to be engaged in the political process.

Republicans. Sure, there are plenty of pundits out their who say this is the end of the Republican party and that there’s going to be a major split and … I don’t buy it. If I’m the Democratic Party right now, I’d be shaking in my boots a little bit to see the juggernaut that Trump has created. The Republican turnout during these primary elections is through the roof. The engagement is high. This has expanded the reach of the Republican party, and if they can keep it all together through this toxic campaign season, there’s no reason they shouldn’t win in November against Clinton. Of course, anything can happen and you can’t predict anything accurately this time around.

But that’s why it’s been so much fun. This has been a political junkie’s dream presidential campaign, and we owe it all to Trump.

“Demagogue!” “Dangerous Egotist!” – No, This Isn’t About Trump

This person was called a “demagogue” and a “dangerous egotist.”

Let’s get out our Google dictionary to get a good definition of demagogue: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument. 

Does that sound like anyone in the US 2016 presidential race?

How about “dangerous egotist?” Do you think that term could be used to describe anyone in this year’s election?

Well, these terms were actually used to disparage a presidential candidate. And they were hurled at that candidate by his challenger.

But the year wasn’t 2016, it was 1912. And the recipient of the slurs wasn’t Donald Trump. No, the person called those two highly charged terms was none other than former president Theodore Roosevelt. Who called him those? President William Howard Taft.

If Donald Trump is being portrayed by in those terms by some people, he seems to be in good company.

Roosevelt hand-picked Taft and coddled him into the White House in 1908 after Teddy’s two terms were up. But during Taft’s presidency, Roosevelt became so angry at Taft’s policies and the perceived notion that Taft was rolling back much that TR had accomplished that he decided to jump back into the race in 1912. After he couldn’t wrestle the Republican nomination away from the incumbent, he opened a third party run for the White House, which famously split the votes and allowed the Democrat Woodrow Wilson to be elected.

The 1912 campaign was brutal. And while Taft made it known his thoughts about TR, Roosevelt also blasted Taft, calling him a “fathead” and a “puzzlewit.” Yeah, I know. Puzzlewit doesn’t really have a nasty ring to us today, but back in the day, it mean “stupid.”

The mud was slinging from both sides.

So when we think that the stupid, fatheaded, egotistic, dangerous, demagogues only came on the scene in 2016, we’d be foolishly mistaken.

We’ve seen all of those people before. And we happened to call them our presidents.

Bernie Sanders has a big problem with something. And so do I.

I’ve never met Bernie Sanders. He seems like a nice guy. He seems sincere and consistent in what he has believed in all of these years. I have a friend in Vermont who says nice things about him. I believe her.

But over the course of this presidential campaign season, as I listened closely to what he was saying, I realized that I could never vote for Bernie Sanders for president. The reason? I just flat-out disagree with him.

I’ll start with this video clip of one of his interviews. This, in a nutshell, illustrates one of the more poignant reasons why I could never be a Sanders supporter.

Sanders Video

Now, if you didn’t watch the video, that’s okay. Let me briefly explain. Hillary Clinton has been receiving some flack lately because of the millions of dollars she’s pulled in over the past couple of years in speaking fees — hundreds of thousands of dollars for a one hour speech. Her defense for accepting such an outrageous amount was, “They offered that much.” Sanders, in the video, says how he has a real problem with someone accepting $200,000 (or more) from an hours worth of work.

That is why I couldn’t ever vote for Sanders.

Still not clear?

Let me explain by using a situation that came up in my American Government class quite a few years ago. I had one student give a speech based on an article that she had read, and her basic premise is that sports stars should not receive such high salaries because “It’s only a game”, “It’s not ultimately important”, and “There are other people in the world who could use that money more than them.”

At the end of the speech, I opened it up for questions, and I was eager to ask one of my own. I asked:

“So who should get it?”

“What?”

“Who should get the money? You said that sports stars shouldn’t be paid that much. So if they don’t get the money, who should?”

She wasn’t sure how to respond or, perhaps, what I was getting at.

I told her to take a sport, any sport. I chose baseball because that’s what I do. I asked her to think about the revenue streams in baseball. You have ticket sales, concessions, media contracts, multi-media rights, memorabilia, and a host of other ways for any particular club to earn money. When all of that money is added together, it becomes a staggering amount of cash – billions of dollars created by fans who want to see the entertainment of baseball. It’s the same in every other professional sport. So there are some 800 players who generate billions of dollars worth of entertainment. All of it is taxed by the government, so they get their share, but what to do with the rest. If, as my student contended, the athletes themselves shouldn’t get the money, then who should? The owners? I’m sure the owners would be very happy to follow through on this student’s premise that the players are overpaid. They’d be happy to take the excess and pocket it because that’s the only other option: there’s the players and the owners. They create all of that revenue. They offer a product that the public wants. Then they use the revenue to live very well – yes – extremely well – well above the average Joe who works nine to five. They earned the money. The public paid for it. The government got their tax revenue. The people were entertained. Everyone is happy.

Is it fair? That’s not the right question to ask. It has nothing to do with fairness. Or maybe it does. Wouldn’t it be unfair for the owners and players not to get the money that they’ve created? In fact, there is only one other option in this scenario: Government intervention.

What does all of this have to do with Sanders? Plenty. What Sanders is saying is that there should be a limit on success. It’s possible to have too much success (though what is too much success in Sander’s mind is unclear. Is 100,000 per speech too much? 50,000? 10,000?). And even those who earned their success should be forced by the government to give up some of their success. He’s saying it’s a shame that private corporations use their privately earned money to lure top speakers to their events.

The only way you could stop a sports star from earning millions is for the government to stick their neck into a privately funded organization and tax them to death.

Likewise, the only way you could stop a corporation from paying six figures for a one-hour speech is for the government to step in and regulate how much a private corporation can spend at a private function.

These are dangerous economic thoughts.

So much has been said lately about the gentleness of Democratic Socialism compared to the Socialism we’ve seen in China or Vietnam. But when presidential candidates are spouting the exact same line of criticisms toward capitalistic endeavors that you would have heard during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution, the real desires of Democratic Socialism are finally unmasked. The philosophical underpinnings of his positions are very clear.

I don’t want a president who wants to put a limit on success. I want a president who wants success for everyone, from the poor to the billionaire. And I certainly don’t want a president who tells private corporations how much success they can achieve because if they don’t find fertile business grounds under their own two feet, they’ll look for the greener grass overseas. And that’s not going to help anyone.

Let me get back to Hillary for one final thought. When Hillary was asked why she accepted so much for giving a speech, she responded: “That’s what they offered.” Good for her.

The company sees value in having her speak.

The company earned that money legally, so they can do what they want with it.

She could have accepted less, but why? If she didn’t receive it, the company would have spent it elsewhere to try to build value into their corporate vision, just like that of an owner of a sports team.

So Bernie and I see things differently. I do not have a problem with someone receiving $200,000 for a speech. I’d even probably give one myself if asked.