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.

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.

Is Rubio the One to Watch?

A number of pundits and journalists have declared Marco Rubio the official winner in the Iowa Caucus – not because he came in first, but because he came in third, only one point off of Trump.

I tend to agree with this analysis. This was a major step forward for the Rubio campaign and he is, in my estimation, in a good position to do well moving forward.

Here are the facts so far. Cruz obviously won Iowa and pulled in 8 delegates compared to 7 each for Trump and Rubio according to RealClearPolitics. Iowa is not, however, about winning delegates. It’s about momentum.

Rubio’s best news of the night was that he won 30% of the undecided voters, according to a Fox News report, compared with 25% for Cruz with Trump far behind that. It means that Rubio’s message is resonating in a state he didn’t expect to do so well in. The Iowan Republican Caucus is known for their Christian conservative bent. This can easily be seen in 2008 when Mike Huckabee won Iowa and in 2012 when Rick Santorum won it. Cruz’s large ground game and conservative message ultimately won in Iowa, which completely makes sense.

New Hampshire and beyond will be a different story. Rubio’s articulate, more moderate message might just be his calling card to reach large numbers of voters who could sour on Trump or at least see in Rubio an alternative which could be a formidable challenger to whoever receives the Democratic nomination.

Cruz, of course, has strong momentum and not to mention bragging rights, but it will be interesting to see how his message will play out in less conservative strongholds.

I’m very curious to see where Rubio will end up in New Hampshire. Trump currently commands a huge 22 point lead in the polls in the Granite State, but will Cruz rise from his Iowan victory or will Rubio make an impression? ¬†Fun times lay ahead. From here on out, it looks to be a three man race.

On the Democratic side, Sanders did well in Iowa and figures to win New Hampshire easily. However, that could end his run as the southern states and the Super Tuesday primary coming early next month will see Clinton’s base in full form and, barring any unseen circumstances, will likely overrun Sander’s camp by that time.

But stranger things have happened.

Trump, Sanders, Carson all Signify the Same Thing (sort of)

I love talking politics. Rarely do so on this blog because the last thing I want is for this blog to devolve into some sort of political debate forum. We’ve all seen the vicious comments which are endemic. I really hate that kind of discourse. It’s both unproductive and uncivilized, yet fully protected by the first amendment. (I support that part of rowdy forums!)

But I will, from time to time, offer a little analysis of what I see going on, and this U.S. election cycle is setting itself up to be some kind of interesting! Both sides of the aisle are bracing themselves for epic mudslinging. We all know the dirty nature of politics, but this is on a collision course for a new level of nasty. Should be really fun!

What I have found fascinating are the people who don’t understand why Trump is getting so much traction. Really? It’s not so hard to understand.

And Bernie Sanders, cranking in the early buzz on the Democratic side is also not surprising. Does anyone actually think that Hillary Clinton has put any real effort into her campaign so far? I mean, really. Lackluster is perhaps too nice. And as she is now being dogged by email server questions with the FBI getting involved, Sanders just keeps on climbing.

Even renowned John Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson seems to be hitting his stride after the first Republican debate. He’s been having to upgrade the speaking venues as his crowds are continually growing.

So why are these three making their marks on early in the presidential race? Simple. They all have an anti-Washington, outsider message that is resonating. The electorate (at least at this time) is clearly sick of the standard political rhetoric.

Of course, outside voices are nothing new in politics. Americans have elected a wide variety of individuals who spoke differently than the entrenched politicians. That’s how Ross Perot garnered nineteen million votes in 1992. Jessie Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger rode their name recognition and thin political resumes to victory in gubernatorial races in Minnesota and California respectively. Even established politicians who have fashioned themselves as Washington outsiders used their fresh-sounding voices to presidential victory. Governors Carter, Reagan, and Clinton all come to mind.

With Congressional approval ratings at perennially low levels, and a country which seems even more divided during the Obama era, many people are just fed-up.

And so when Trump spouts off his mouth in a decidedly unpolitical way and a most politically-incorrect way, many people applaud. Trump is also unique because he’s like a circus show all to himself. He sucks the air out of the room, and people can’t seem to take their eyes off of him (whether they think he’s loathsome or not). It’s difficult to say whether the Trump phenomenon will have lasting power. Conventional political wisdom would say not.

Sanders is in a different category than Trump. Sanders, of course, has been the long serving independent Senator from Vermont. As a self-described democratic socialist, his message would seem out of place in almost all American political cycles except this one. His agenda is large and stark: take on the big banks, drastically raise taxes on the rich, slash corporate profits. It’s a type of populist socialism that appeals to the folks who think they’ve had a raw deal in the face of a large class of wealthy executives who seem disconnected and uncaring. His is a promise of big government (massive, really) and what we might call equity of outcome. It’s classic western European, big-state socialism. It’s the kind of message which seems counter to the rugged individualism which America has long been known for. But his message is resonating, and it will be interesting to see if he can pick up steam. (He certainly may if Clinton continues to stumble.) Conventional political wisdom says that Sanders has no chance to become the president of the United States. Anyway you slice it, the word “socialism” doesn’t play well in the American heartland. But one never knows.

Carson is fast becoming a folk hero for the conservative wing of the Republican party. His logical, faith-based rhetoric is a refreshing break for many people from the political speak typically coming out of Washington. Him being a brilliant surgeon doesn’t hurt on the respect scale, either. He has a legitimate outsider claim that few in the race can match, and he’ll be able to ride that for quite sometime. How far and how long remains to be seen.

Looking at the race at this early date, it’s difficult for me to see a run of the mill Clinton-Bush battle. It seems that America is ready for a new voice, and this race certainly has its share of them. Clinton has been the presumptive nominee for the Democratic party for so long that I think many people have trouble seeing what may lie beyond her. She may indeed prevail, or we could have a Democratic surprise. The Republican side may too, at some point, gravitate back to its core political base and choose a more established politician. But I must say, wouldn’t a Trump – Sanders battle be entertaining?

Whatever happens, it’s clear that the electorate is ornery, and the billion dollar campaign season has hardly even begun.