An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

Dear Senator Sanders,

Or should I say, Hey Bernie?  It really has been an amazing run for you and it is great that you are raising the consciousness of young voters, we really need that.  If younger voters came out for every election, rather than just the Presidential elections the country would not be so full of regressive state governments as we are now.  But that is not what I think needs to be said right at the moment.  So, here it is:  Bernie, no matter what you do, don’t pull a Marco Rubio.

No, I don’t mean lose your home state, you already more than took care of that, no I mean much more than that.

Marco let his ego get so much in his way that he killed his own political future and his party’s chances in November.  Here’s how I see it.

Early in the Republican process, it was pretty apparent that Rubio and Cruz were simply splitting the majority of the Republican primary allowing Mr. One Third to keep “winning” primaries.  And I will say that I and many others thought that Rubio was the candidate that people might go to, so for a while it was unclear that it was he, not Cruz who should drop out to unify the non-trumped vote.

Rubio was sticking around because he thought that winning Florida would derail Trump and put him on the road to the Whitehouse.  One problem, Rubio never lead the polls in Florida.  Not even close.  A politician who cannot count the votes is pretty useless.  It is possible that Rubio not only killed his chances by not being able to read the tea leaves, he may have killed his party’s chances in November.  I think Rubio’s career is dead.

But Bernie, consider what could have happened.  After Super Tuesday, reading his lousy Florida numbers, Rubio could have suspended his campaign and thrown his support behind Cruz.  No longer splitting the vote, Cruz starts winning primaries and things look very different now.  Cruz probably goes on to win the nomination and surprise, surprise, picks Rubio as his VP.  If the pair went on to lose the general election, Rubio works hard on Senate campaigns and emerges as the shoo-in Republican nominee in 2020.  Or ends up as VP for a term or two and then a sure thing nominee.  Not bad.  But instead he promised something he could not deliver and is now dead as a doornail.

Which brings us to you, Bernie.  Your candidacy is certainly not dead yet, but with every delegate that goes to Hilary it becomes much less likely.  Surely you can read the numbers.  Before it comes to late, heed the lesson of Rubio and look to the greater good.

You don’t have to suspend your campaign, but I do think the time has come to pivot from distinguishing yourself from Hilary to talking about the dangers that lie ahead.  It is time to start energizing your base to not just vote for you, but for more progressive politicians up and down the slate.

You could be at the forefront of a movement that gets younger voters energized about voting for senators, congressman, governors and even school board members that better reflect their values.  As you well know, a great President without legislative backing is useless.  We need a progressive congress much more than we need a progressive President.

And you are the guy right now who can really do that.  Stop running so hard for President.  Start emphasizing where you agree.  Keep talking about solutions and that it will be Congress that actually implements those solutions.  Work hard to get progressive Senators elected.

Now, none of this will make you President.  But it will do something much better.  It will help to bring about the world you are working for.  Much more effectively than if you were actually elected President.

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Finally Some Real Math

I fancy myself as a bit of a skeptic and try to keep a realistic view of the world.  I watched the Donald Trump “phenomenon” with quite a bit of bemusement.  I have blogged before about how I see nothing new here.

Nate Silver over at the 538 blog has re-analyzed the primary election results on the Republican side along with some exit polling data which asked who people would vote for in various head to head matchups.  What he found was not too surprising.

These figures estimate that Cruz would have won South Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana in addition to the states where he already beat Trump. He also would have won Minnesota and Puerto Rico, which originally went to Rubio. Several other states, such as Michigan, Georgia and Virginia, would have been close between Trump and Cruz. Trump would be fairly dominant in the Northeast, however, and would still have won Nevada easily.

Silver found that using some assumptions, that if Cruz were running head to head with Trump, he would have the 100 delegate lead, not Trump.   Now, of course we can’t do a rewind at this point, Rubio looked like the more viable candidate early on, but first impressions didn’t pan out.  But I will point out that had there been a single candidate that appealed to the Cruzio voters (a little religion, a bit of outsider, not a complete whack job) with a bit more experience and popularity so that vote was not split,  it is pretty clear Trump would not be the “front runner.” Actually, had the non-Trump vote not been split early on, Trump probably would have dropped out after Super Tuesday, he would have to get out before getting labeled as a complete loser.

Cruz and Rubio were sort of victims of kind of prisoner’s dilemma.  Unfortunately for the Republican party both of them refused to check his ego at the door and cooperate earlier.  Had they done that, one of them would be heading toward the nomination and possibly the other going on to be VP.  As in the dilemma, continuing to complete left them both worse off.

To my way of thinking the country got a case of the DTs as a result of three simple factors:

  1. The mainstream media is most biased towards audience, not ideology.  More people tuned in to see Trump, so they kept him front and center.
  2. The Republican presidential field is extraordinarily weak.  Cruz and Rubio are freshman Senators with little appeal.  Most Republican politicians dislike Cruz personally and Rubio has shown himself to be a lightweight.  Kasich is pretty much your grandfather’s Republican.  Carson, Fiorina, Huckabee and Santorum were all from the delusional class.  Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Jeb!  looked more like they were running away from being president.  Frankly, Trump didn’t have much to contend with.
  3. Last factor, also no surprise, is that about one third of Republican voters care more about slogans and scapegoating rather than actual governance.  We have known this for years , the Tea Party “movement” was just a cynical exploitation of this fact.

So, now this question really is: What should the Republican party do now?  And the answer is actually pretty simple: Dump Trump.  trump-web

Some people freak out at the prospect of Republicans using convention rules to deny Trump the nomination.  Ben Carson, who endorsed the “more cerebral” version of Trump today said that going against Trump would be “thwarting the will of the people.”  Like most of what Carson has said outside the operating room, that is a crock of BS.

By a wide margin, Republican voters have voted against Trump.  I think the party would be well justified in listening to the two-thirds non-Trump majority of their voters.  Why should he get the nomination when he can’t get a majority of the party’s voters?  It’s only common sense.

And the idea that taking out Trump in some way at the convention will cause a revolt is an idea that only the ego of Trump sees as real.  Most Republicans don’t want him, getting rid of him will lead to greatly more cheers than jeers.

The party rules (which of course they made up and so can change) combined with unusual circumstances have conspired to make a loser look like a winner.   The Republican party has the right to nominate anyone they want.  If the Republicans really follow the will of their people, someone other than Trump will be their nominee this November.

Replacing Trump with a Cruz-Rubio ticket, or even better a Cruz-Kasich ticket (they probably can’t win the presidency without Ohio) would make both mathematical and logical sense.

The Faith Based Campaign of Trump

As a non-Republican, I have to love the delicious irony of this year’s Presidential primaries on that side, it really is a wonder to behold.  On the one hand, it really is not as crazy as it seems.  The mainstream media is just loving the Trump “phenomenon” so they keep reporting his “big wins” uncritically.  But, as usual, it is only the splitting of the more “mainstream” vote between Cruz and Rubio (Cruzio) that is keeping the Trumpster front and center.  If you look at Cruzio, they are actually winning the nomination.

In terms of delegates, Trump seems to be leading with 319, but Cruzio is actually ahead with 336.  If we adjust the Super Tuesday results to reflect Trump vs Cruzio, it looks like this:

Ala.

AK

Ark.

Ga.

Mass.

MN

OK

Tenn.

TX

VT

VA

Trump

43%

34%

33%

39%

49%

21%

28%

39%

27%

33%

35%

Cruzio

40%

51%

56%

48%

28%

66%

60%

46%

62%

29%

49%

Kasich

4%

4%

4%

6%

18%

6%

4%

5%

4%

30%

9%

Carson

10%

11%

6%

6%

3%

7%

6%

8%

4%

4%

6%

Suddenly our electoral standings look very different.  Instead of “sweeping” Super Tuesday, Trump would be scurrying back home with his tail between his legs.  Yes, he would have squeaked out a win in Alabama, and also won the irrelevant (for Republicans in the general election) states of Vermont and Massachusetts.   Not very impressive.  Now, it is not completely clear that Cruz and Rubio voters would automatically go to the other or would go over to Trump, but that is a fair assumption.

It really looks like the Trump “phenomenon” is really just the remaining rump of the Tea Party looking for one last pillage.  I mean, seriously, how far would a Trump/Christie ticket get in the general election?  It would be a wipe out.

What I find most interesting about Trump is his faith based campaign.  Trump is pretty clearly the least religious of any of the candidates.  And yet the way he talks is totally like a preacher, and his followers seem to eat it up.

Just watch any speech by the Trumpster and make a drinking game of it.  Take a shot every time he says “believe me” or “honestly.”  You’ll be in a coma if you manage to make it through the whole speech.  Most people will be on the floor in five minutes.  If you want to add to the pain, just add in the phrase, “I love you people.”

And this is where it all sounds faith based to me.  All you have to do is believe and good things will come your way.  The guy at the top “really loves you.”  This kind of rhetoric could only be effective among those who are used to leaving their critical thinking at the door and just believing what they hear.  That is the mark of Trumps campaign even more than the racism and xenophobia.  Believe me!  I am your savior!  Who needs evidence when you have faith!

Now, to some extent all political campaigns are faith based.  We want to believe politicians are really out to help us, which turns out rarely to be true.  Followers of Bernie Sanders are also imbued with belief.   But at least he has a long consistent career to base those beliefs on.

For example of a faith based  statement, here is the first political endorsement Trump received, from New York Congressman Chris Collins: “Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that he has both the guts and the fortitude to return our nation’s jobs stolen by China, take on our enemies like ISIS, Iran, North Korea and Russia, and most importantly, reestablish the opportunity for our children and grandchildren to attain the American Dream.”

Really?  Trumps builds hotels and golf courses:  how does that “clearly demonstrate” that he is ready to take on ISIS?  Would you really trust some guy in your community to fix the roads and balance the school budget just because he puts out a good buffet at his restaurant?  Collins clearly believes in something, but it is not the real Donald Trump.

In reality, Trump is just another mediocre business man who lets his ego run rampant.  Yes, he has apparently piled up some money, but so could you if you started with $300 million like he did.  Other than filing bankruptcy, Trump is best known for being a reality TV star where he played a parody of a real business person.

Wikipedia has this to say about the “success” of the show:  “Although the series was one of the most-watched programs on NBC in the advertiser-friendly 18–49 age demographic, the franchise’s total audience gradually dissolved, starting in late 2004, when it aired its second season that culminated in, what most Apprentice fans deem, an “overextended”[19] 3-hour season finale on December 16, 2004.”

I am not sure how growling “You’re fired” to people who were deemed lacking in setting up a celebrity car wash gave Trump the “guts and fortitude” to do anything really.  Somehow Collins and others shape the Trump smokescreen into something solid and real.

It certainly takes a lot of faith to do that.

Update March 8:

Over the last seven days, Cruzio has picked up momentum, they have picked up 110 delegates to Trump’s 54.  Cruzio now has 451 delegates to Trump’s 384.  Now, I don’t know how many of the remaining primaries are winner take all, but the only way Trump gets the nomination is to get 1189 delegates in the primaries.  If he falls short of that number Cruz and Rubio make a deal and we probably get a Cruz/Rubio ticket, which maybe the Tea Party types would not fully support and maybe Trump makes good on his threat to run third party.  Either way, good for the Democrats.

Will Support for Christianity Collapse?

There was a post on Twitter relating to this article which said that maybe the evangelical voting bloc might not be so monolithic as we think, which almost goes without saying, voting blocs are rarely monolithic.   But the article goes onto a very interesting, though somewhat unstated conclusion.

The article is talking about why “evangelicals” are voting for Trump, rather than say, Ted Cruz as Trump is “not an evangelical Christian, and neither his personal background nor his policy proposals seem like a very good fit for religious conservatives.”  Which I, like many others have noticed and wondered about.  But that is not the fishy part.

First,  the author puts out what I would call the “standard math.”

The term “evangelical” is an excellent case in point. In the very broadest sense, this refers to anyone with a personal relationship to Jesus. The Pew Research Center says 30 percent of Americans identify as evangelicals or as born again, which is about 96 million people. (For comparison, 127 million people voted in the last presidential election.)

 

Now, I do have some quibbles with those numbers, the 30 percent is pretty high compared to the latest Pew survey and extrapolates the numbers to the entire US population rather than the adult population, overestimating (at first) the number of “Evangelicals.”

But then he does cite a Barna survey which asks about specific beliefs which finds that only about 10% of the population qualifies as “true” Evangelicals.  He himself apparently interviewed a large number of people who identified as Bible Believing Christians who “believe the Bible to be literally true, and virtually none of them ever read it.”  Which is something any atheist can already tell you about most “Christians.”

He then goes on to say (basically) that it is those “fake” Christians who are now flocking to Trump.  Which is, of course the root of the “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy.  I actually plan to deal with this in a later post.  But I draw another conclusion from all of this.

I actually agree with the author (not about who votes for Trump) but rather the depth of support for Christianity.

For example, Gallup asks people what they think of the bible and there are three responses: Literally the word of god;  the word of god, but not every word true; and a bunch of fables.  Currently about half of the respondents go the middle route, with about 30% going the literalist route.

Here is what I think is happening and will happen.  Right now the “word of god” response is the “right answer.”  The bible is the “greatest book ever written” and all that.  But just about nobody actually reads it.  As time goes on the felt social stigma for not believing will decrease, it is already.  It will get easier and easier for people to say (to pollsters), “The bible, meh, not so much.”  And I think this will happen pretty fast so that we go from “Three in Four in U.S. Still See the Bible as Word of God” to something like “Sixty percent no longer see bible as relevant.”

Mostly because they will just be saying what they really believe, they just aren’t ready to say it yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backward Headlines

My political punditry might be a little off the mark, but I continue to be amazed at the coverage surrounding the candidacy of Donald Trump.  Here is some fairly typical rhetoric from CNN (not exactly a rightwing outlet):

Donald Trump did more than win his second easy victory in consecutive presidential primaries in South Carolina on Saturday.

He advanced his takeover of the Republican Party. He proved that he can dominate a race in the Deep South. He vanquished the dynasty that ruled the GOP establishment for decades as Jeb Bush dropped his White House bid.

And in the process, Trump left no doubt that he is the GOP’s national front-runner and has the most credible path to capture the party’s nomination.

Wow, Trump is taking over the Republican party!  Just one problem, it seems to me, the numbers just don’t add up.  So far, in three contests, Trump has not cracked more than one third of the Republican vote.  And while an earlier CNN headline touted Trump’s “momentum,” the numbers don’t show that either.

In Iowa, Trump got 24% of the vote, he improved to almost 36% of the vote in New Hampshire, then fell back to 32% in South Carolina.  Not what I would call progress.

In South Carolina the combined Rubio/Cruz vote (Cruzio) was 10 points more than Trump.  And it seems that they are splitting pretty similar voters.  It is very unclear who voters will move to as candidates drop out, but I think it is pretty clear that those who voted for Jeb Bush will not be voting for Trump any time soon.  The feeling over at the 538 blog is that if the primaries continue with 3 or more candidates, Trump cruises to the nomination.

Which would be great for Democrats.  Imagine a nominee that only appeals to one third of Republicans.  NPR says that Trump is the one bringing record turnout to the primaries.  If so, he must be bringing out as many people to vote against him as to vote for him.  Logic would tell you that if he were bringing significant numbers of new Republican voters that he would break or at least come close to the 50% mark.  He has not even been close.

Personally, I will not be at all impressed with Trump’s electoral strength until he breaks 50%.  And I don’t see that happening any time soon.

The Revolution is On! Or Not so Much…

So, the news out of New Hampshire shot my political punditry right out of the water (another theory slain by ugly facts), but here I am at it again.  The narrative in the mainstream media after the New Hampshire primary is that with Sanders and Trump winning, the revolution in both parties is on.  Politics as usual is over in this election cycle.  Which makes a great story, but let’s slow down just a bit.

First Bernie Sanders.  There is a bit of genuine revolution here.  A senator who has, in fact fought against politics as usual, first by calling himself an independent, then a socialist, he is a non-religious Jew swimming upstream against the millennialist Christian types currently running amok in the Republican party.  His message has, in fact, resonated among progressive voters.

But after a near win in Iowa, where they they like to embrace underdogs (like Barack Obama in 2008) and a clear win in New Hampshire, which is his backyard, I don’t think we can declare the revolution on yet.  South Carolina and Super Tuesday loom large and are much more in Hilary’s wheelhouse.  If Bernie can get some victories there, I will start to believe.

Ironically, the non-religious Republican front-runner is running what amounts to a revival campaign where he doesn’t so much appeal to Jesus as appearing to be channeling the Republican Jesus directly.  In his victory speech his meme seemed to be: “Believe in me, I love you!”

I will say that Trump has laid bare the “religious” roots of the Tea Party movement, that is to say, there are none.  Trump is the naked nativism, violence and racism of the movement shorn of any fig leaf of biblical “values.”  But is it a revolution?

Maybe not.  Although Trump may have had a 20 percentage point lead over his nearest rival, he still only got a third of the Republican vote.  Kasich, Rubio/Cruz/Bush combined got 49% of the vote.  Some of the Cruz voters might be crazy enough to support Trump, but most of the voters for the others would never vote for Trump in a primary.  If the Republicans could put forth decent candidate, he would beat Trump easily.

But none of the candidates who have stepped forward have anything going for them.  Christie isn’t even liked in New Jersey any more, Cruz is too busy running for pastor-in-chief, Rubio is just a naked opportunist, and Jeb!, well, even though Bushes served three terms as president, nobody likes them.  Kasich is the one they should get behind, at least maybe he could deliver Ohio and they would have a chance.  Unfortunately, Kasich is blandly competent, which no longer sells in the Republican party, ask Mitt Romney.

The ragged remnants of the Tea Party would rather see Trump go down in glorious flames in the general election rather than have a chance with a “compromiser” like Kasich.

And that could well be what happens.

 

Iowa Just Doesn’t Matter

We are just a month away from the most meaningful election ever known to mankind, the Iowa caucuses.  These early caucuses make or break presidential candidates, as everyone knows.  Here is a typical quote from “The American Thinker” who bills himself as a former Republican insider:

Here’s a news flash.  The Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary will not matter this year, at least not in the way they’ve mattered every four years for as long as I can remember.  You can take that to the bank.

Except that the Iowa caucuses have ALWAYS mostly never mattered, especially on the Republican side.  Let’s take a look at the list of winners and losers from Wikipedia, we will start with the Republicans, with some side notes from me, for historical perspective.  My notes will be in bold.

Republican Iowa Caucus Results

This was viewed as a big win for the upstart Reagan, but Ford went on to win the nomination, but lose the general election.

Wait, Reagan didn’t win Iowa?  That’s right he didn’t, but went on to win the nomination anyway.

Finally, Reagan wins Iowa.

Wait, the sitting Vice President of supposedly the most popular president ever didn’t even win Iowa?  But he did go on to win the nomination, of course.  Note the strong showing of Pat Robertson, the first to run for National Pastor.

Bush wins!  And then loses the general election.

His strong showing in Iowa was going to propel Buchanan to the nomination, except that it didn’t.  Notice the beginnings of the Republican clown car.

Iowa finally votes for an eventual nominee in a contested year.  But Bush was pretty much an establishment candidate.

No surprise here.

The  Republican clown car keeps growing. Iowa missed by a mile by voting for the guy running for National Pastor.

The next instance of the clown car, once again Iowa goes for a guy who wants to be National Pastor, but at least they get it half right.

Now let’s see how the Democrats do.

Muskie pulls out a big win by tying “Uncommitted” but goes unnominated.

The Iowa mythmaker!  Unknown Jimmy Carter pulls out a second place finish and uses the new found fame to go on to the nomination and the Presidency.  

Kennedy’s strong showing foreshadows Carter’s electoral weakness, but everyone already knew that without Iowa.

As a former Vice President, Mondale was no surprise here.  Gary Hart later self destructed anway.

A bit of a surprise win for Iowa neighbor Gephardt, who also went unnominated.  Neighbor Paul Simon rode his strong showing to an appearance on Saturday Night Live, but not the nomination either.

Bill Clinton’s big break out win — NOT.  Harkin was governor of Iowa at the time.

Big surprise!

Another big suprise.

Kerry was the establishment candidate.  Edwards rode his strong showing to the Vice Presidential nomination.  Howard Dean screamed himself out of the race after this.

This also fits the Jimmy Carter narrative.  Political newcomer defeats establishment candidates and goes on to the nomination and wins the Presidency.

No surprise here.

Only twice in 10 elections, on the Republican side, did Iowa provide early victories for candidates looking to break out, but both were establishment candidates, Bob Dole and George W. Bush.  After W, Iowa Republicans have gone looney tunes and tend to vote for people running for National Pastor rather than president.  Their choices are not only out of step with the electorate as a whole, they aren’t even mainstream for Republicans.

On the Democratic side, there have been two genuine breakout candidates after winning in Iowa, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.  Democratic voters in Iowa are closer the national electorate, but the predictive value of a win there is not very strong.

The reason for the low predictive value for Iowa is twofold.  First the caucuses are “closed” in that they are only open to registered members of each of the parties.  A majority of Iowans register as independents, so they can’t participate.  Even among the registered party members, participation in the caucuses is only about 20%, so the caucuses are an unrepresentative sample of an unrepresentative sample.

So, here is what I think we should look for in Iowa.

There could possibly be a meaningful result on the Democratic side if Sanders were to win.  A big win there could give him a  pretty good chance he could follow Carter’s and Obama’s footsteps all the way to the White House.  More likely though, is a significant win for Hilary Clinton.

On the Republican side, a win in Iowa could very well be political suicide.  Turns out there really isn’t any future in running for National Pastor.  Are you listening, Ted Cruz?