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Essays and opinion pieces from our hosts and listeners involving American politics touching on current events, politics, history, and the like.

Sanders’ Electoral Math

Let’s talk electoral college math for a moment. Here’s why I’m so concerned about a Bernie Sanders candidacy. This is the electoral map as I see it. And I gave Bernie the benefit of the doubt in several states that I think might be tough for him (NJ, CA, WI). But looking at that map, I don’t see him getting to 270 from here, for these reasons:

IOWA – Sure, he had a great caucus showing. But let’s not forget that in a record turnout year, GOP turnout was still 15,415 higher than Dem turnout. And that’s with all the independents who crossed over to caucus for him, and with record under-30 turnout. So his “I’ll increased Democratic turnout” argument is already baked into the numbers. Plus in a general election, Bernie would bleed some moderate Iowa Dems who find him too liberal.

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Sanders Supporters’ Short-term Memory

Did you see all those “young people” caucusing for Bernie Sanders in Iowa yesterday? Most looked to be around 18-23, right? Very enthusiastic. Trying to convert other voters to come with the Sanders group, talking about how Bernie wants to give everyone free healthcare and free college. Inspiring, huh?

But you know what? They have no memory of the last eight years.

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The Sanders Earthquake

Yesterday I wrote a post about my concerns that Bernie Sanders would be taken apart by the rightwing attack machine should he win the Democratic nomination. While the response was mostly positive, many Sanders supporters dismissed my concerns as either the hysterical rants of a Hillary Clinton shill, or at odds with current inter-party polling match-ups that suggest Sanders would defeat GOP frontrunner Donald Trump handily in a national election. Still others argued that Sanders is leading a new political earthquake that will destroy all in his path.

So today I want to speak to that reaction. I base my concern about Sanders viability on my experience of having lived through the presidential elections of 1972, 1984, 1988, and 2004, when liberal candidates got defined by their opponents and ultimately trounced by their GOP opponents. (I don’t count 2000 because Al Gore won the popular vote.) I’ve seen people on Facebook dismiss those examples as being out of step for this year. Their arguments range from “no one could’ve beaten Ronald Reagan in 1984” to “Michael Dukakis was a weak candidate” to “young voters are being energized by Sanders and will turn out in record numbers.” Let’s look at each of those claims.

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Democrats Need to Consider Worst-Case Scenarios

Regardless of what party you’re in or which candidate you support, it seems to me the presidential election comes down to one question: Which Democratic candidate can best withstand the GOP attack machine?

Regardless of whether Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or John Kasich win the GOP nod, demographics and electoral college math suggest that Democrats are positioned to win in 2016 if their nominee can withstand the harshly negative general election campaign to come. There are two competing and somewhat equally plausible theories about that. In choosing a nominee, Democrats should envision each theory’s worst-case scenario and carefully game it out.

So let’s look at the two very precarious “nightmare” scenarios out there – be it Hillary Clinton’s negatives overwhelming her or Bernie Sanders being caricatured by the opposition.
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Supercharging the Hillary Playbook

It’s amazing that in a nation of around 247 million adults, there’s 400 million opinions on the Clinton-Sanders campaign. (Maybe the extras are just fake Facebook profiles.)

So let me make it 400,000,001.

Since October, Hillary Clinton has been slipping. That doesn’t mean a death knell for her candidacy; far from it. But what Clinton has to do is look at what is working for other candidates this year and try to duplicate a little of that magic recipe. Here’s a few thoughts on how to update her playbook:

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Clinton vs. Sanders on Healthcare: Who’s Right?

After hearing the Clinton campaign’s criticisms of Sanders’ single payer proposal, I wanted to get real the facts. This WaPo factcheck article suggests that the Clinton claim is true and that Sanders’ claim is “mostly false.”
 
And this blurb from Sanders’ own website puts it in very clear English (emphasis added):
“Bernie introduced The American Health Security Act of 2013, which provides every American with affordable and comprehensive healthcare services through the establishment of a national American Health Security Program that requires each participating state to set up and administer a state single-payer health program.”
 
So, yes, Sanders’ proposal would send Medicare-for-All to the states to administer. And as we’ve seen to date, Republican governors very well may refuse to play along.
 
You may like Sanders’ overall proposal or you may be concerned about its viability. But it’s clear that the Clinton criticism of it is true and valid.

Enjoying the Political Super Bowl

I’m watching the movie “Anomalisa” yesterday (save your money). And you know how your mind wanders during a bad movie? So my thoughts start wandering to politics and the primary campaigns and all the angst and vitriol people are spewing over it all. “Hillary is corrupt!”… “Trump is a fascist!”… “Bernie’s a socialist!”… “Rubio wears high heels!”… “If my candidate doesn’t get the nomination, I’m voting third party and moving to Switzerland!”

And it suddenly occurs to me, I don’t really care that much who wins anymore. That’s right. I have officially stopped caring. And the universe is suddenly looking a whole lot brighter.  😃

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The Heart Attack Moment

Imagine it’s mid-February. Hillary Clinton eked out a win in Iowa, lost to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, but still looks like the Democrat’s odds-on favorite going into South Carolina and Nevada. Meanwhile, Donald Trump came in a close second to Ted Cruz in Iowa and won New Hampshire, and is polling stronger than ever nationally as Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul and others drop out of the GOP race. Plausible scenario, right?

Now imagine waking up to a new national poll. It shows, for the first time, Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton if the election were held today. By a wide margin.

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Hillary and the Politics of Hate

In my last year of college, we heard a rumor that our school was going to land ex-president Richard Nixon as our commencement speaker. This would have been quite a coup as it would come just a year after the Nixon-Frost interviews and would have been Nixon’s first public speaking engagement since his resignation. But activist students on campus protested the architect of Watergate speaking at their alma matter, and the university was forced to withdraw the invitation. My graduating class ended up with TV actor Harold Gould as our commencement speaker. Gould, an alumnus of our school who was best known as the dad on “Rhoda,” gave a nice commencement address. But he wasn’t Richard Nixon.

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Longing for the magic fix

bush-fix-it-AP

by Kevin Kelton

One of the reasons I think I have pretty good political sensibilities is that I actually listen and pay attention to details. So when Jeb Bush comes out with a new campaign slogan, “Jeb can fix it,” I take some time to consider why his campaign team would hinge it’s entire reboot — indeed, his entire campaign — on the words “fix it.”

It’s obvious they must have focus tested it to heaven and back. So what does that tell us? It tells us that their research indicates that voters are yearning for someone to “fix” what they perceive as a broken system…with lots of broken components. Whereas in 2000 voters were looking for decency and respectability (after the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal) and in 2008 they were looking for hope and change (after being disappointed with decency and respectability), now they are looking for an easy fix… one that can be embodied in one man. Just vote for him and your problems will begin to get fixed.

I think that explains the psychology of both parties’  races this year. Fifty-five percent of GOP voters are leaning toward an “outsider” whom they hope can make the magic fix (Trump, Carson or Fiorina), and 25-30% of the Democratic voters are looking for the same thing in Bernie Sanders. On the flip side, people who support Clinton, Rubio, O’Malley, Kasich, Bush, and a few of the other GOPers are looking for competency. They don’t expect a president to “fix” the system; they just want someone who can effectively manage an imperfect system and maybe get it back on course.

I think the general election will come down to this clash: voters that are wishing for a magic fix, and those that are content with a steady hand to manage the unwieldy ship of state. I fall into the latter category. I think we will prevail.

But I feel bad for the fix-it group. They will forever be longing for something that probably doesn’t exist, and hence forever bitter about their inability to make it real.

The Debate Bernie Sanders Already Won

by Kevin Kelton

Next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Democrats will hold their first debate of the 2016 presidential primary season. But it’s already clear that the winner will be Bernie Sanders. Before a word is even spoken.

Though all five candidates on stage (or six if Joe Biden jumps in the race) will acquit themselves well and present fairly similar liberal positions, it is inevitable that the post-debate media spin will crown Sanders the victor.

Yup, Bernie won. Take it to the bank. If you’re in Las Vegas, put all your chips on the socialist. How can I state that with such certainty a week before the debate happens? Here’s how: Read More

How Many Debates Do Primary Voters Need?

by Kevin Kelton

As the date of first Democratic primary debate approaches, a lot of the party faithful are up in arms because DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is holding firm to the previously approved plan to hold only six debates during the 2016 primary season. Minor candidates and their minions are screaming that six is not enough when the Republicans will have 11, starting sooner and ending later in the primary season. But while the Martin O’Malleys of the world cry foul, most rational people realize that six face-offs is in fact the Goldilocks sweet spot: not too few, not too many… and probably just right.

The DNC chose six because of what they learned the hard way in 2004 and 2008, when 15 and 25 debates respectively almost bored voters to tears. This time around, with the primaries starting later (again not to bore voters) and fewer candidates, the DNC wisely concluded that saturating the airwaves with Clinton and Company for nine months would’ve been overkill. Here’s four reasons why the current debate schedule was a smart choice. Read More