I fully admit it: I don't understand the delegate selection process. I don't know who qualifies to be a delegate, and how. How many states have winner-take-all rules on primary elections, and how many have proportional delegate allotments?
I don't have a clue which states have open primaries and which don't; and what the states' rules are for delegate selection. What constitutes a "super-delegate" and how much power does that designation grant? I still haven't fully grasped the concept of caucuses as opposed to primary elections, but I've read that caucus participants tend to be party activists and hardliners -- i.e., not representative of the voting public. If memory serves, I believe my co-blogger pointed out that in 2008, Barack Obama got the Democrat nomination by winning plenty of caucuses, as opposed to primary elections. (Correct me if I am wrong, K.N. McBride). Did Hillary actually receive more popular votes? I dunno. Wikipedia, here I come!
In recent weeks, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has been whining incessantly about how the "system is rigged" and his chief opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz, is winning lots of delegates without receiving corresponding primary votes. The Cruz camp points out that the delegate selection rules have been in place for many decades, and Trump and his supporters were "late to the game" in brushing up on the rules and regulations, and thus have no one but themselves to blame.
It occurred to me that a lot of this is cacophony or window dressing. The 2016 election is far different and stranger than any of the so-called experts could have predicted less than a year ago. Indeed, the pollsters, pundits and consultants have been wrong so often, one wonders why they are not economists or meteorologists!
But back to the headline... the "Big Questions"... Here's what I think about often as I contemplate the upcoming November 2016 presidential election:
1) Will the bitter "sour grapes" mentality be a major factor for supporters of Bernie Sanders on the Democrat side, and Ted Cruz on the GOP side, if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are their parties' nominees? There seems to be a quite a bit of evidence that supporters of Sanders and Cruz dislike Hillary and Trump, respectively, so much that they would not bother to vote or might even vote for the opponent if their candidate doesn't get the nomination.
2) Which segment will represent a larger net loss of supporters for the nominees: Sanders supporters who despise Hillary for her mendacity and obsequious, greedy behavior toward Wall Street on the Democrat side? Or, on the GOP side, female voters who might have supported a GOP nominee but are appalled by Trump's offensive statements toward women such as his put-down of former presidential contender and Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina ("Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?")
3) How much support will Hillary get from African-Americans compared to her husband in 1992 and 1996? Methinks they are not as enamored of Hillary as they were of "America's first black president." Let's face it: Hillary has zero charisma, a horrendous track record for honesty and integrity, and a less-than-impressive record as a Senator and Secretary of State. It also appears that a significantly larger percentage of blacks will vote for Trump than did for any previous Republican nominee.
4) The Hispanic population is the largest minority in the United States (Sorry, Jesse & Al.) Talk show host Michael Savage made an astute comment recently: The hispanic culture is one of machismo. Men of Mexican and central American descent are likely to find Hillary's shrill, domineering personality to be grating and awful. They will probably be turned off by the prospect of a "Nurse Ratched" screaming in their ear for the next 4 years. That alone might persuade them to vote for The Donald, no?
5) Will the FBI's investiation of Hillary's egregious email transgressions drag on into the fall, well past the GOP & Democrat conventions? It appears so. What effect will the outcome have on Hillary's prospects in the election? If the FBI finds solid evidence of wrongdoing, and the partisan hacks at the Department of Justice decline to prosecute, this will cause an uproar. Many FBI officials, including perhaps the director, will resign in protest. They will spill the beans for whatever ink-stained wretches will give them the time of day. I can't help but getting in a little dig here: Hillary promises "transparency" at the Department of State RE: the email situation. I'd say the Islamofascists, Chinese & Russian hackers who have had a field day with her email server would attest that "transparency" is an apt description for her incompetent and reckless stewardship of State.
What goes around comes around...or something like that.
President Bill Clinton, despite his sordid personal life and disgraceful behavior while in office, was actually pretty successful as recent presidents go. The economy was roaring during his tenure, in large part because the newly launched World Wide Web and new technology were spurring rapid advances in innovation, productivity and quality. Clinton's policies, if not enhancing the healthy economy, certainly did not hinder it.
With prodding from the Republican Congress headed up by Speaker Newt Gingrich, Clinton signed a welfare reform bill after vetoing it twice, agreed to a capital gains tax cut that aided growth, and not only finished several fiscal years with balanced budgets; he actually had a surplus one year (the first in 30 years).
Yet now, 15 years after he left office, some of Bill Clinton’s most successful moves as president have come back to haunt him. Or, more precisely, to plague Hillary Clinton in her run for the presidency.
During his first term, Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, with strong support from many Republicans in Congress, passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which at the time was regarded as a tremendous achievement. Today, rightly or wrongly, NAFTA is the whipping boy for the loss of middle class manufacturing jobs.
In the realm of crime and helping urban areas battle a plague of violence related to the scourge of crack cocaine and other drugs, Clinton enacted the Violent Crime Control Act in 1994. The law included stricter sentences for offenders and less leniency with regard to parole and reduced sentences. These days, militant groups such as Black Lives Matter are complaining bitterly about how Clinton's policies resulted in far more African-American men being incarcerated, and for far longer than in the past.
The third major Bill Clinton policy that's now causing his wife heartburn took place near the end of his second term: His signing of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (aka the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999). This law repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 and essentially tore down the barriers between conventional banks that take deposits and issue loans, on the one hand; and companies dealing in securities and insurance on the other.
This new paradigm went a long way toward creating incestuous, conflict-of-interest situations among financial services professionals. For example, a firm's analysts would be talking up a stock to potential investors, while in another division, brokers raked in commissions for selling that very same stock. In conjunction with the push to qualify millions of unqualified people for home mortgages in the interest of "fairness," a toxic stew was created, and the house of cards came crashing down in September 2008.
Hillary's Democrat rival for the presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders, frequently mentions repeal of Glass-Steagall as a watershed that helped wreck the economy. Not all Sanders supporters are young, naive airheads. Some of them are actually intelligent and well-informed, and these are the ones who understand the implications of certain policy decision and could probably converse articulately about them. (Unlike large numbers of today's typical voter -- just check out "Watters World" sometime.)
But beyond Bill's actions while President, Hillary has a few things to answer for, too. She voted for the Iraq War resolution in 2002. Let's face it: Invading Iraq was a catastrophic mistake. It matters little whether it was due to inaccurate intelligence (my belief) or bald-faced lies by the Bush administration (a fervent belief of leftists everywhere). Thousands of Americans lost their lives; thousands were maimed and/or psychologically scarred; we spent hundreds of billions of dollars; scores of innocent Iraqis lost their lives. We laid waste to the country. And what do we have now? A dysfunctional, corrupt Iraq that is under the thumb of Iran and infested with ISIS scum.
Yes, President Obama's abrupt pull-out of Iraq worsened what might have proved to be a stable situation in the long run. (Two wrongs don't make a right!) But even if we had committed to keep troops there for decades, a la Japan and South Korea, it still would have meant spending many billions of dollars more and probably more lives lost.
Would it have been worth it? Perhaps not, when one realizes that large swaths of the United States feature crumbling infrastructure, dying towns, closed factories and massive unemployment. Suicides, drug abuse, alcoholism and hopelessness are, sadly, a huge part of the American landscape in 2016. But you don't hear that much about it, since this would force the corrupt media to paint President Obama in an unfavorable light, and they are loath to do that.
It is a bitter irony for Bill and Hillary that the landscape has changed so drastically, and what, a few years ago, were regarded as assets or bragging points are, today, nettlesome sore points that will continue to poke and prod them for the remainder of the campaign.
I've said it before but sometimes it bears repeating: Pope Francis is his own man and does not easily fight into the left/right or liberal/conservative mold.
Yes, he's Argentinian so he has a congenital blind spot regarding economics. At the same time, he's also seen grinding poverty and despair that would make most "compassionate liberals" crap themselves before retreating into their hip, affluent, monochromatic enclaves.
Unlike most commentators on matters religions, I like to actually read the documents in question. Amoris Laetitia is long, chatty and not particularly focused. It has a very conversational flow, which enhances its readability but can cause some confusion. If you want a short version, this is pretty good summary.
The current Big News That Isn't News is that the Pope allegedly discussed ways for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist. Except that he didn't. He did however do three things that the New York Times and its readers will find woefully retrograde and disappointing:
1. He reaffirmed that marriage is between a man and a woman,
2. He reaffirmed that abortion is evil, and
3. He said that people should learn to be comfortable in their bodies as God made them, not try to mutilate themselves.
The left has long been obsessed with crushing dissent but one of the interesting features of liberal psychology is the underlying demand for acceptance and even endorsement from its cultural and ideological enemies. The left inhabits a Manichean world and is constantly issuing calls to arms against the alleged evils that surround it. Whether dealing with racism, sexism or whatever else they come up with, the left is always in an uproar about something. This is because (as Hayek noted more than 70 years ago) socialism can't function without an enemy.
It is against human nature to sacrifice one's own interest out of pure altruism; the only way this happens is for a great cause. This is why the left is perpetually declaring war on abstractions.
At this point I'm sure those readers who haven't quit are nodding irritably because they know all this, but it is worth pointing out because in the midst of this imaginary warfare there is a secret desire for the left to be accepted.
Consider 'gay marriage.' Marriage is of course an ancient and venerable institution and not that long ago it was a form of bondage no right-thinking liberal would ever participate in. There were songs about how marriage was a cage, and one didn't need to "own" someone to have a lifelong loving relationship.
Indeed, while "domestic partnership" benefits may have been concocted to appeal to homosexuals, the only people I ever knew who took advantage of them were straight couples with an aversion to marriage as an institution.
Cohabitation was the norm and marriage was old-fashioned and patriarchal. Consider the number of Hollywood types that never tied the knot - or did so only after years of living together.
Then, all at once, marriage was Important, a Vital Civil Right. Was it? Or was it about acceptance?
I think it interesting that 'gay marriage' didn't really get going until mainline churches started performing ceremonies. The progressive wings of the Methodists, Anglicans and Presbyterians were right out front, offering religious legitimacy (and completely disregarding their own teachings to do so).
And then it became the issue of the moment, and anxious eyes all over the world looked at the new, inclusive Pope to get with the program and endorse it as well.
My four decades on this earth have convinced me that a great many of our current cultural and political issues stem from unresolved psychological problems the Baby Boomers had with their parents. Despite the fact that their parents have largely died off, they are still rebelling and yet at the same time seeking their approval.
By virtue of their numbers the liberal Boomers gained control of the culture and much of the country, but it is the parts they don't have that obsesses them. They wanted no-fault divorce and they got it; they wanted open relationships without marriage and they got, that, too. They wanted marriage pretty much trashed so that anyone could do it and now they have that as well, and yet there's the Church still frowning at them in disapproval, reminding them that they weren't raised to be that way and know better.
This is a big part of why so many liberals who otherwise wouldn't be caught dead at mass want the Catholic Church to embrace the progressive agenda and become like the Anglicans. As we've noted here many times, the Anglicans themselves are voting with their hearts (and feet) against the decision of their leadership to abandon church traditions, but no matter. Despite the fact that every denomination that has gone all-in on progressive theology has watched its membership collapse and its finances disintegrate, still the well-wishers keep reciting the mantra that Catholic participation will exponentially increase if they do likewise.
This isn't about the health of the Church, though, it's about liberals wanting the Church to endorse their behavior.
Remember, the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. Liberals hate the Church only because they want to be accepted by it and can't so long as it stays true to its mission.
Who could forget that rising, nasal voice of presidential candidate Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential election warning that adoption of the NAFTA trade agreement would result in a "giant sucking sound" (about 1:56 in the video) as low-wage/non-union/no benefits Mexico would steadily siphon jobs away from the United States.
Fast forward a quarter century, and Perot was right. Well, at least partially correct. Millions of decent-paying manufacturing jobs -- formerly a godsend for middle class and lower class Americans without a college education -- have gone offshore. But look closely. Other factors also contribute to jobs being sucked into the Third World vacuum beyond the ones most commonly cited -- allowing China into the World Trade Organization and adopting trade deals such as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).
For starters, the United States has one of the world's highest corporate tax rates. While it is true some corporations have opted to put their headquarters offshore and maintain manufacturing stateside, some have taken the whole kit-n-caboodle elsewhere. Others, doubtless, have decided not to expand manufacturing in the U.S., opting for countries where real estate, taxes and labor are cheaper. Until our spineless politicians get a clue and address this reality, job losses will continue.
Second, technology has replaced humans in many manufacturing plants. Robots and automated production lines have been a huge part of the job losses in industrial America. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; greater quality results, and prices paid by consumers are often reduced with lower manufacturing costs. Moreover, new jobs are created through increasing automation, but often these are jobs that require greater training and education than many of today's workers have. (So who knows, maybe the giant sucking sound is a boon to vocational-technical schools. How's their job creation doing these days?)
And a third major contributor is heavy-handed regulations foisted on America by the massive federal bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. Liberals love to scoff at this as if it were just another meaningless, cliched right-wing talking point. But it is a fact -- just ask any Fortune 500 CEO.
Obamacare has made companies more likely to hire part-time and temp workers to skirt its onerous provisions, and it also has factored into decisions to construct new plants overseas. Beyond that, the administration's love affair with far-left green weenies and global warming fantasies has caused it to sabotage the fossil fuel industry -- especially coal, but oil, too, with restrictions and regulations.
Remember President Obama's startling admission that "Under my plan, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket"? The media is too inept and partisan to call out the Democrats on this, but for supposedly being the party of the people and going to bat for the little guy, the Democrats have a horrendous track record. They would much rather suck up to the wind and solar industry, lining their wealthy contributors' pockets, and stick Joe Sixpack with higher and higher electric and fuel bills. The Democrats care about the poor and middle class workers about as much as a pastry chef cares about making low-fat, low cholesterol desserts.
If we want to keep manufacturing jobs in the country, we also need to be honest with ourselves: Are we willing to pay higher prices to ensure that inexpensive shirt or screwdriver was made in the U.S.A., and not Sri Lanka? The dirt-cheap prices we pay for products such as clothing and consumer goods is a benefit of our manufacturing job losses, whether we admit it or not. Cheap labor is Wal-Mart's bread-n-butter, no?
There is no doubt that tens of millions of Americans are hurting badly, but unless our so-called leaders can put aside partisanship and paranoia about political fallout and have honest, forthright discussions and negotiations, we won't see any improvements. Oh, and it also would help if the federal government stopped promoting the bald-faced lie that the unemployment rate is about 5 percent. It is really at least twice that when one considers the 93 million Americans not even in the labor force. These are tall orders for our compromised politicians. But I suppose one can always dream.