Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Yesterday I looked at a Fox News video of the prospective Dem candidates for president.  It was interesting mostly because it showed them in action, and that spawned some reflections.

There's Hillary, about whom we continue to read almost daily that she's "inevitable".  Not a single significant rival has announced and no votes have been cast, but these commentators have got it all figured out.  I continue to believe that there's going to be egg on a lot of faces.

You see her speaking and, I think, though you may not dislike her, you don't like her.  She sounds determined and authoritative without saying a lot.  Reportedly she has people ready to advise her on how to appear to care about everyday people.  But I don't foresee her sticking her neck out far enough to alarm her fat cat contributors.

To me she's the new version of the 1948 Thomas E. Dewey: the candidate the media couldn't be wrong about.

Her opponents' unified narrative will be that she's status quo, pro-war, and pro-Wall Street.  Can she answer that and be believable?

It's said now that she's going to emphasize the fact that she's a woman.  How much credit she'll be given for that, I don't know.  She'd be a first as president, except that she's so much like so many presidents: a pushy careerist who wants to profit from how things are in an exceedingly corrupt time rather than reform it.

My guess remains that she'll generate resentment rather than enthusiasm and won't last once she's in the race.

Joe Biden is saddled with the fact that he's coming across more and more as eccentric and clownish. It may be too late for him to emphasize that he's a serious and influential part of the administration with a longer career than Hillary's and not just a stage Irishman with an eye for pretty ladies. Whether he'll go for it is still up for grabs.  His prospects aren't looking good.

But if Mr. Obama's popularity should rise because of his new combativeness and his successes against the Republican Congress, Biden could still be the beneficiary of that.

You see a video of former Senator Jim Webb and he looks like an old duffer who should be on the golf course.  The dye job is obvious, his complexion is sallow, and he looks his age, which is seventyish.  He appears younger when he's wearing glasses, but then he doesn't appear as sturdy and bulldog-like as otherwise.

His narrative is that the Dems have blown it by alienating the white working class.  He could be said to represent the old Hubert Humphrey wing of the party as opposed to the George McGovern wing.
His emphasis would be on unifying national themes, less on cottoning to minorities.  That might put him to the right of the others, except that he has had income inequality as an issue since before talking about it was the thing to do.  That's THE lefty issue par excellence now, and he can claim it without being accused of having undergone a convenient conversion.  And it's an issue that concerns not a minority but the vast majority of us.

On the environment, another issue of massive importance, his record isn't good.  There he had BETTER undergo a conversion.  Since the party expects leadership on that issue from its nominee, and since our human responsibility for a deteriorating planetary situation is now harder than ever to deny, perhaps he will.

He's the military guy, the hard-nosed guy, with an understated charm, and he's ready to talk foreign policy.  There he has some credibility because he was outspokenly against our Middle Eastern adventures from the start.

Not long ago Webb was said to be calling around to see how he could do at raising campaign money. That's the wrong way to begin.  You have to do what Bernie Sanders is doing: travel the country and go before audiences.  If you catch on, the money spigot will turn automatically.

Depending on his political smarts, I think Webb might make it.  His is a good story - independent in his Republican days, independent as a Democrat, tough-minded, a realist who cares, and a new (to most) face who has been around and knows a lot.

Speaking of Bernie Sanders, let's speak of Bernie Sanders.  If you follow him on Facebook, you constantly get his pithy, quotable, dead-right pronouncements on our national state of reaction and our slide into oligarchy.  I don't know how you'd argue with him or who could say these things more pointedly or more persuasively than he does.

So his story is that he's a truth-teller.  And, to go with that, he's downright unfashionable: an elderly guy with uncombed white hair and glasses that are out of date.  He comes across as impassioned but not at all out of control.  All of this makes him easy to respect, whether or not you agree with him.
But is he going anywhere?

He spoke in Iowa the other day to a young audience - and the audience was with him.  His take on the state of the country is the same as that of these young adults and adolescents.  He and they hold to the same developing consensus, the open question being how fast and how far it will develop.

It's said that each generation turns its back on its parents and shakes hands with its grandparents. Sanders is Grandpa.  He represents the Harry Truman generation, when you could tell it like it is and not pull your punches, rather than the pandering, slick, blow-dried postwar generation of warmongering draft-dodgers and cynical bundlers of big bucks.  It could be that he's so out of style that he's coming into style.

We don't know whether he wants it.  Maybe he'd be relieved and stand aside if a Jeff Merkley or a Sherrod Brown were to get into the race.  Or maybe he thinks that nobody but himself can be trusted to follow through.

Everybody writes him off as a Democratic nominee.  I'd be a tad cautious about doing that.  The times are extreme enough that someone improbable may not be ineligible if he can hit the nail squarely on its head.

God knows whether, if he became president, he could retain his popularity and his public influence. But his chances of that would seem to be as good as anybody's because of the sense that he means what he says.

Martin O'Malley, in his early fifties, is the "kid" in this race.  He appears youthful but not immature. He looks good in a T-shirt and maybe ought to campaign in one: he has a strong chest and big, muscular arms.  Maybe he should arm-wrestle critics.

How much credit he deserves for his progressive record in Maryland is debatable, considering that he has wanted to be president and that he would have had to bend over backward to avoid making that record because of his ambitious Democratic legislature.  There doesn't seem to be anything new and imaginative in it.

If this personable, predictable politician is to have a real opportunity to emerge as the nominee, short of rare luck, he's going to have to propose things the others aren't proposing and stand out from them. I think mostly we might like to see a display of guts, not just abs.

So far there's no indication that he has a clue how to proceed; but he isn't dumb and he won't roll over and play dead for Hillary or anybody else.  He's a competitor.

And I'm not convinced that that will be the final field of contenders.  Hillary is going nowhere, and all of those men have drawbacks.  Anyone should be able to see that.

The talk is going to have to be about jobs and a revived economy, as ever.  But my belief is that we're in a post-growth economy and the real, long-term issue is going to be how to deal with that.  The necessity is going to be for us to learn to look out for one another, not just for oneself.  That's the exact opposite of what the Republicans are going to be saying, which is one indicator that it's true.

The biggest question before us may be: Who can best tell us what we don't want to hear and permit us to build a viable future together?  I see no immediate answer to that.    

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Zombie Apocalypse

So we have a new Congress, dominated by a combination of stupid, ignorant, and insane not seen in the history of the Republic.

When I've said how bad it is, I'll tell you where I believe there may be some hope.

We face enormous problems - economic, environmental, health-related, terrorism-related - for which we aren't at all prepared.  And now we've selected as our representatives the office-seekers least able to deal with those problems.

Congress matters most, but unbelievably bad governors - Paul LePage in Maine, Sam Brownback whose policies wrecked the economy of Kansas, and the exceedingly divisive Scott Walker of Wisconsin may be the very worst of them - were given new mandates to wreak havoc.        

As long as we have a two-party system with one of the parties controlled by corporate interests and self-interested billionaires who want it to be irrational and short-sighted, that party will win when people are sore at the other party.  If Jon Huntsman wants to do something for this country - and to have a chance at the presidency - he can begin a new party that will draw out of the GOP all those who aren't raving loonies.  That would be an enormous patriotic service.

I've never understood Barack Obama.  I don't understand why someone who was inspiring of confidence on the stump should become self-defeatingly uncommunicative and opaque once in office.  This election was successfully nationalized by the Republicult into a referendum on him.

My favorite candidate this year was Shenna Bellows, running for the Senate from Maine.  If not brilliant, she was articulate, likable, and on the mark.  She got swamped by the incumbent Susan Collins, who's supposedly moderate but useless.  What does it take?

Looking around the country, I don't see, aside from Bellows, a single Democratic candidate who strikes me as compelling.  There's Cory Booker, but, while personable, he's a Wall Street Dem of the Hillary type who hasn't had much to offer on the issues, more a celebrity than a leader.   Mark Udall of Colorado put up a fight but only came across as untruthful and desperate.  Mostly you had wimps who tried to be inoffensive and to quibble.

Here's where things look a little better.  It has been pointed out that in two years 30% of the electorate will be minorities.  Given that, a Republican victory is against the odds.  And given that most Americans don't agree with the Republicans and have said so in poll after poll, rallying them should be possible once Mr. Obama is no longer the issue.

The Republicans could nominate Jeb Bush, who may seem competitive; but I don't think they're prepared to go with someone who comes across at least subliminally as rational.  Romney is their other conceivably electable possibility, I'd say, but he has great problems - such as his business record, his offshore money, and his two-faced persona - and would again make a great target.  Rand Paul intrigues some, but he seems a small-timer; for sure the neocons will bend every effort to take him down lest he stand in the way of their next war.

Who have the Dems got?   Let's look again.

~Hillary and her charming hubby proved useless as Dem surrogates this year.  There's no indication that she can transfer support - if she even has it - to other candidates.  I continue to think that after a few attack ads she's gone - and good riddance.

~Joe Biden has this administration around his neck like a millstone.

~Bernie Sanders talks perfect sense.  Whether he can get somewhere, I don't know.  He may be trusted because he's a straight-shooter and an independent.  But the word "socialist" scares people, and I don't know if he has the personality to get us with him and keep us there. I'm not writing him off, but I'm not too hopeful.  In historical terms he resembles the great truth tellers and progressive champions who never made it to the White House, such as "Fighting Bob" LaFolette and George W. Norris.  They were perhaps too right - as opposed to too far right - to be president.

~Governor Martin O'Malley of very Democratic Maryland just got smacked in the mouth.  The speculation will be that he lost his teeth, but I don't think he did.  His chosen candidate to succeed himself - his attractive, youngish black lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown - got swamped by a run-of-the-mill Republican.  But since Dems lost everywhere because of public upset at the Obama administration, O'Malley (who has already been trading pot-shots with the White House) has the option of saying that what happened in his state was a referendum on the president's record and not on his own.  O'Malley could be the likeliest kind of person to emerge as the Dem nominee, as he's nice-looking, smooth, accomplished, and an obvious compromise choice.  I'm not impressed with him, but I'd by no means say he's out of it.

~Jim Webb may or may not go for it.  If he does, he could be a bland, aging dud.  Or he could be the type of fighting Scots-Irishman that he has celebrated in his writings.  I don't know what to anticipate from him.  I'd say that if he were to run to the left of Hillary on income redistribution and the environment, he could run to the right of her on everything else and possibly be in a position to form a national consensus.

 When we've been confronted with enormous national tasks, we've also been blessed with leaders of such magnitude that with their guidance and assurance we were able to meet them:

~George Washington, with his stature and his practical sound sense, saved the new republic from dissolving because of the Jeffersonian hysteria over our having a strong central government.  He made everything that followed possible.

~Abraham Lincoln proved himself up to the challenge of disunion.

~World War I, while I think it could and should have been avoided, required superior leadership of us once we were in it, and Woodrow Wilson gave that.  Prior to the war, his progressive reforms were in sum a big achievement.  He failed to convince Europe to put aside vengefulness and greed for the sake of a viable future, though perhaps no one could have done that.   Today he's thought of mostly as rigid and thwarted, but he was one of our larger presidents and he navigated a tough period.

~Franklin Roosevelt may have been the greatest democratic leader in all of history to date.  His achievements are so staggering that people today won't even look at them because we've taken it into our heads that government is a curse.

What's coming at us now may be harder to lick than any of those problems was.  And we can't always know in advance what we're getting in a national leader.  The usually discerning columnist Walter Lippmann met Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York and thought him a pleasant fellow who always agreed with the last person he had talked with.  Who might we be underestimating now?

Perhaps no one.  Or perhaps one of those I've named.  Or perhaps someone we haven't even spotted yet on our horizon.

Don't give up.   The chances are good that a society with so much to offer will yet offer it if only when worse comes to worst.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


The '16 scene goes on taking shape as time passes.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney continues to campaign for the nomination while denying that that's what he's doing.  His chances of landing it are, I'd say, fair to good.  He's expert at straddling the reactionary nastiness that appeals to the base and the apparent moderation that makes for mass appeal.  About all I can say for him is that he might have sense enough to realize that wealth inequality is killing the economy and that climate change is a bigger threat than Hitler was. In office, as a sure one-term president, he might be independent enough of his party to address these things. But I wouldn't want to bet money either way.

Chris Christie doesn't come across as extremist enough for the tea partiers, and he has the George Washington Bridge tied to his shoes. He's likelier to sink than to swim.

Rand Paul is exposing himself as a featherweight.  His unacknowledged plagiarism scandal and his unacknowledged changes of position will make him vulnerable in a campaign.  I don't believe he has the resources of personality or even of intellect to surmount them.

Dr. Ben Carson was all for his fellow blacks till he got rich and decided that being rich was a lot better than being black. He has the political amateur's tendency to say what he thinks, and what he thinks is crackpot and heedless of what most people think.  This is undoubtedly understood by the party regulars and Chamber of Commerce types who have been taking on tea party candidates in primaries; they don't object to reaction, only to the flagrant quirks that lose winnable elections.  Carson has those.

Ted Cruz would have trouble gaining traction because he doesn't make any sense and because his fellow Repubs in the Senate hate him because he embarrasses them to advance himself.  And the fact that he was born in Canada wouldn't help him a bit.

There are more Republicans eyeing it, but right now it's looking like Romney again.

On the Dem side, of course there's Hillary.  But a party that has to appeal to the young isn't likely to go for someone whose persona and attitudes are pure yesterday.  She wouldn't be convincing as a foe of income inequality - not when she gets $200,000 for a speech as well as the most extravagantly luxurious travel and lodging accomodations.  She's believably for upper middle class women like her earlier self as regards abortion, equal pay, healthcare, etc. But the poor aren't convincingly on her radar, while Wall Street is. Today, when no other Dem aspirant is very visible, she's the prohibitive favorite.  But after a few attack ads, I think she'd go down like a balloon with a leak in it.

I sometimes wonder if it's possible that Bill and she know that she wouldn't be viable and are up to something that nobody has figured out?  What we're seeing is a big, broad, very well financed and publicized movement to draft her for the nomination.  So the campaign infrastructure already exists.  Suppose she were to say at some point, "Darn, folks!  I can't run.  I have an infected hangnail," and then Bill and she were to exert themselves mightily to shift that movement behind a dark horse candidate whose election would make them kingmakers and prime movers in the new administration, able to deliver wealth and influence to their many friends?  Who would that candidate be?  I don't know, but if the person were also highly regarded by Mr. Obama, that would be an asset. Senator Mike Bennet of Colorado could be it.  He's youngish, attractive, moderate, clean, relatively new to politics.  Has he charisma enough?  Is he a talented enough campaigner?  Does he have the fire in his belly?  Hard to guess as of now.

Martin O'Malley increasingly looks to me like another Jimmy Carter: smart, decent, maybe electable, but not up to accomplishing things in the current climate and staying popular.  

Bernie Sanders is now declaring that he may run as a Democrat. We for sure don't need another Ralph Nader draining away liberal votes. He's a steadfast 100% progressive who says exactly the truest and most relevant things and says them in the most pointed and quotable way.  And that might be his undoing.  I suspect that what the people want is someone who embodies some ambiguity, so they can fill in the gaps to suit themselves.  Like a porn actress, Sanders leaves nothing to the imagination.  A more nuanced and elusive personality might fare better.  If he can get the popular backing to win and keep it throughout his presidency, he'll be outstanding. But I have my doubts.

Jim Webb, war hero, former moderate Republican, and former senator from Virginia, might, as things presently look, be the contender who could most readily be nominated and elected.  He has begun to run, not just talk about it.  Whether his speaking ability and his personality can win him enough interest remains unknown, but he has time to improve his campaign techniques.  It's important, I think, that the wealth gap was an issue for him before others cared to talk about it.  He can probably run as a liberal and yet get moderates and some conservatives with him.  As both a warrior and a critic of elective wars, he personifies the ambiguity and you-fill-in-the-blanks quality that Bernie Sanders lacks. 

As for other candidates, all I can say is, stay tuned.  You never know!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


So far I've received four mailings from an outfit called "Ready For Hillary!"  (As far as I'm concerned it might as well have been called "Ready For Herpes!")  It also advertises on political websites I frequent.  There's for sure a load of money behind it, and I'm wondering whose?

I also wonder what these people will do if Hillary bags it.  Who's their fallback candidate?  There has to be one. I'd bet this is about the ambitions of a self-interested clique and not about those of one person.

Just remind yourself that nobody will challenge Hillary.  Except may Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, and a few others.

Sanders is acting like a candidate, by the way.  He spoke in New Hampshire and got a good reception.   His Facebook page is said to be more interacted with than that of any other member of Congress.  What he says is clear and brief and pungent and hard to argue with.

There's one big question regarding him, I believe.  It's: Can he get the youth vote? If he does, it'll be because he isn't just an oldster but an elder: someone who has fought for something and can offer conviction and wisdom.  If the younger voters dig him, that might be his ticket to the nomination.  But I don't know what to expect.  They could see him as a bold truth-teller or as a socialist dinosaur.

Well, today we have a news story of '16 interest.  Former Virginia senator James Webb, who's 68, said in an interview that he's considering running.

He didn't say whether he'd do it as a Democrat or as an independent, but he's both.

Webb is a moderate who has supported both parties and has taken some liberal stands without seeming like a liberal.  He's one of the few Dems around who would be at home and popular in a VFW hall.

As an independent candidate, he'd have to get between the two main contenders and be more appealing to most voters than either of them.  Could he?  I don't know. But bear in mind that there have been five centrist independents elected governors of states in recent years: two from Maine and one each from Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Minnesota.  So it doesn't look inherently impossible.

James Henry Webb is from Missouri originally.  He went to Annapolis and is a much-decorated Marine
veteran of Vietnam.  My first memory of him is as a young, curly-haired secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration.  I watched him on TV and thought he could have a political future.   He quit that post because he wanted to expand the Navy while Reagan wanted to shrink it.  And he wasn't a good match for the GOP.

He has made his living as a writer, and one of his books, about the Scotch-Irish to whom this country owes so much, is titled Born Fighting.  That describes him, too.  His instincts may be middle-of-the-road but he isn't afraid of contention.

In '06 he entered the race for the U.S. Senate from Virginia as a Dem and won.  As a senator he had an impact if he concentrated on something, and he proved to be an adept in-fighter, impressing onlookers.  He's obviously smart and energetic.  But he's unpredictable and he seems to be allergic to bullshit.  Hankering for private life, he declined to run again.

During his Senate race he wore his son Jimmy's combat boots every day of the campaign.  Jimmy was serving in Iraq, where Webb thought we shouldn't be.

He defends our mission in Vietnam, and he once wrote an article arguing that "women can't fight"; but even on those topics his thinking was probably driven by data rather than by anything ideological.  And, as mentioned, he was strongly against our invasion of Iraq, which he sees as a disaster.  He's inner-directed and very inclined to realism.

If he ran, he said, one big reason would be because he thinks we have no over-all national security policy, which worries him.  National security hasn't been a sexy issue, but he'd have others as well. At least as early as the start of his Senate term he was concerned about our concentration of wealth, which wasn't much talked about then.   For that he prescribes some leadership, a commodity hard to find in today's Washington.

I have mixed feelings about a Webb candidacy.  But I feel some liking and admiration for him.  And, while he isn't particularly charismatic, I think most Americans would.

The Democrats have run military guys.  But Carter seemed more like a technocrat and Kerry more like an aristocrat.  Webb seems military.

And I'll tell you something else.  If he chose to run as a Democrat and I were a Republican strategist looking to '16, I'd take notice. If I saw Hillary struggling up to the starting line with her five tons of baggage, I'd be chortling and giving my buddies high-fives.  But if I saw Jim Web coming, I'd be crapping my drawers.

Nobody is going to make him out to be a wimp or a novice or a cynical pol in hock to unpopular minorities. If he gets in it, it's a new race as of then.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Things have been rough lately for Hillary Rodham Clinton, as you may have noticed.

There was Monica Lewinsky's bitter but accurate complaint that Hillary's reaction to her husband's adultery was to "blame the woman".  Then there was an article in Politico Magazine for May/June, 2014 in which journalists Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman knowledgeably claimed that Hillary hates the press and fears the attacks that will come if she runs for president.  Then Thrush followed up on that for Politico with a description of Hillary's '08 campaign, which he covered for Newsday.  According to him, the campaign's culture was one of finger-pointing anger and deep suspicion directed against reporters and outsiders, while Hillary creatively relieved this self-induced stress with activities like throwing an aide's cell phone down a flight of stairs.

Ah, but then came a bright moment!  Veteran political operative Robert Shrum wrote a column in which he declared that Hillary will be "unchallenged" for the Democratic nomination and will be our next president.

But no sooner was Shrum's prognostication offered up than a speech by Joe Biden was reported in which he stated that the American middle class's woes began not under George W. Bush but earlier under Bill Clinton. It couldn't be more obvious that Hillary is being challenged.  And Biden is good at projecting that I'm-really-a-populist-at-heart thing, while what Hillary projects is more like I'm-well-connected-and-you-better-watch-your-back-if-you-get-in-my-way.

A Hillary nomination, were it possible, would make the '16 campaign be about Boko Haram, Benghazi, Hillarycare, Whitewater, women who bake cookies, Vince Foster, and of course the charming Monica.
All that's necessary to avoid this is to choose a new face as a candidate.

And lo! the Anti-Hillary has appeared.  Unfortunately, he has appeared not in the United States but in Canada.

The Liberals - Canada's equivalent of the Democrats - were hurting not long ago.  In the last national election they came in third - something unprecedented - behind the governing Conservatives and the lefty New Democrats.  And third place is where the Liberals remained in the polls, till they did something smart.

They chose as their new leader Justin Trudeau, the 41-year-old teacher son of their greatest prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.  And immediately they shot to first place in the polls, and they've stayed there.  That was over a year ago.

Trudeau has a young family and was at first unwilling to head the party.  But he finally agreed to.  And he's one of the most attractive people I've seen in politics anywhere.  He isn't intellectual and witty and arrogant like his father but rather warm, good-natured, and unflappable.  You get the feeling that he isn't mean but can be as tough as he has to be.  The last time Canada saw charisma like his was in his old man. The last time we saw it here was when JFK walked among us.

To watch a brief, cynical, and funny but revealing treatment of Trudeau's impact, go to YouTube and type in "Justin Trudeau Song".  You can see for yourself how he comes across.

Trudeau immediately put through party reforms, involving the Liberal electorate in formulating the platform and allowing it rather than insiders to choose the candidates; he let non-Liberals register as "friends" of the party and also participate in this.  It has gone over well and produced some enthusiasm.

The Conservatives had succeeded in preemptively taking down Trudeau's two predecessors as Liberal leader, using attack ads. They tried to do the same to him.  They did things like show pictures of him being a good sport and performing a partial striptease for charity, then declared that he's in over his head.  And the ads backfired horribly!  Polls show that seeing them has made voters more likely to vote Liberal.

Underestimating Trudeau isn't safe.  Another thing he did for charity was to have a boxing match with a young Conservative senator named Patrick Brazeau.  Brazeau is big and a real bruiser.  Trudeau is muscular but lean and doesn't have Brazeau's body mass.  Brazeau boasted about what he was going to do to the pretty-boy.  Trudeau's wife was worried, but he took her to the gym and had her watch while he sparred with men of Brazeau's type, which he had been doing for years.  And when the two politicians fought, Trudeau surprised many by winning.

Like Hillary Clinton, Justin Trudeau is seen to possess inevitability.  But his doesn't come from political schemers and journalists.  It's just there.

I find it hard to believe that in a country of 300 million people we can't find a leader with qualities comparable to his. We seem for some reason to be sunk in defeatism.  All I can say is, we'd best get out of it and start expecting more of ourselves.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Pennsylvania's first-term Republican Tom Corbett has consistently been rated the nation's most vulnerable incumbent governor.  According to the polls, the people don't like or trust him; and certainly women, environmentalists, and the poor have no reason to.  So for quite a while he has been derided as "One-Term Tom".

Like his fellow reactionary governors John Kasich of Ohio and Rick Scott of Florida, Corbett has made a shift to the center in hopes of becoming viable - a shift not on all issues but on one.  Corbett's issue is transportation, which has broad appeal.  This gov, who could get little through his very Republican legislature, did finally manage lately to get through a big transportation bill that was sorely overdue.

But in doing that he either did or didn't break his promise and raise taxes, depending on how you interpret this and that.  The tea partiers say he did, and they're livid.  In trying to make himself acceptable to most Pennsylvanians, he has alienated his right flank.

Tom has a tea party primary opponent, a businessman named Bob Guzzardi who looks like a chipmunk with gray hair and rimless glasses.  While Guzzardi insists that he can win the nomination - he has to say that in order to motivate his voters - he clearly can't.  And I think he knows he can't.  While tea party challengers in other races probably start out believing they can  overcome the incumbent, my surmise is that Guzzardi always knew better.  And this is where it gets interesting.

I'll say more about him and why he's a significant figure further down the page.  Meanwhile, let's take a snapshot of the Republicans' over-all situation.

Around the country tea partiers are going up against what they take to be Republican-In-Name-Only candidates.  But also in some cases especially crazy tea party incumbents are being taken on by Republican regulars who are also reactionary while appearing more plausible.  It's looking like a civil war, one so far limited but potentially all-out.

While business interests funded the tea partiers and deployed them as a weapon, the corporations and the big money people are increasingly viewing them as a pain - as too amateurish, too populist, too unpredictable, too apt to say idiotic things that get Democrats elected, too suspicious of the interface between big gov and big biz that the rich and the corporate leaders want at all hazards to keep intact.

In this new climate, Mitt Romney, plainly once again a presidential contender, has just made what I suspect to be a fatal mistake by criticizing the tea partiers.  This after he sickeningly pandered to them throughout his '12 campaign.  Apparently he sees that his rich friends and fellow biz execs and some of the regulars are putting down the tea partiers and has concluded that it's now safe to do that and be free of them.  UH-uh.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, till now a tea party favorite, the other day suggested that abortion shouldn't be outlawed at this point because public opinion is too divided on it.  That sounds suicidally sane.  What ails Paul?  Maybe the praise he has gotten from liberals on the government privacy issue and his winning several straw polls among conservatives have convinced him that he's invulnerable and can now be candid and sensible.  UH-uh.

(Why is Paul popular, by the way?  I'm not sure.  It may be because he's a new face, because he seems younger than he is, and because he comes across as idealistic rather than negative and cynical.  Or there may be an actual market among right-wingers for his Libertarian Lite positions, including his neo-isolationist foreign policy views.  The latter will be sure to bring relentless attacks from the Repubs' dominant neoconservatives.  A big deal for them is the alleged weakness of the U.S. under Mr. Obama; under Paul it would be even "weaker".  Paul appears to me to be a flake with neo-Confederate sympathies.  We'll see what he's made of, because he's going to be under terrific fire. And with his abortion statement, he may have just made himself look unreliable to his tea party base, not at all an advisable thing to do when he didn't have to.)

And then there's John Ellis "Jeb" Bush.  The tea partiers don't like Bushes, as the latter are the insiders' insiders and the tea partiers the outsiders' outsiders.  Jeb speaks fluent Spanish, is married to a Latina, is a Catholic, and should be in a good position to convince Hispanic voters that a Republican party headed by himself isn't their enemy.  He's for "amnesty", but of course he doesn't phrase it like that.  He has now said that those who risk everything to cross our border from Mexico should be viewed not as criminals but as acting from love of their impoverished families.  The tea partiers thought he was a lefty anyway; this was just rubbing it in.

Romney, Paul, and Bush seem to me to be, as of now, the most favored GOP choices for '16.  All of them may have a tea party problem.

Well,  back to Bob Guzzardi.  How is he unlike other tea party challengers?  I've suggested that he doesn't believe he can win.  I doubt he even wants to.  And there's something else that's distinctive about him.  Bob the Guz has a history of donating money to Democrats who are running against Republicans whom he considers to be RINOs.  From what I'm seeing, he's after vengeance: a pseudo-candidate who would rather elect a Dem than a Repub who has disappointed the tea partiers.  In other words, he wants to make certain that Corbett gets beaten, not in May but in November.

The tea partiers now taking on John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and other regulars are going to lose.
And there's a good chance that they'll also fail to get someone agreeable to themselves nominated for president in '16.  There are Republicans who could satisfy both the tea partiers and the regulars.
Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker and Kansas's Governor and former senator Sam Brownback are two of them, though they could fall in this year's re-election bids.  But the odds are that the regulars will want one of their own to be the nominee, which will allow them some wiggle-room on a few issues, such as a path to citizenship and gay marriage, where flexibility may be necessary to survival.  They can probably defeat tea party presidential candidates rather than appease them - and they probably will want to.

But what happens then?  Does anyone seriously believe that the tea partiers will be good sports and line up behind someone like Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney or perhaps Rand Paul - someone they regard as their enemy?

Like the Confederates, the tea partiers are die-hards with a Lost Cause.  Their Lost Cause is the vanished country that they believe in: a country wholly owned by greedy, intolerant Christian white men.  They require of Republicans complete support for the impossible restoration of that kind of country.  And because the regulars would rather survive than blindly go along with them on that, they feel that they've been betrayed and that the regulars aren't really Republicans but termites crawling in from the larger, moderate culture.

Tea partiers are all-or-nothing people with an acute sense of betrayal.  And if Bob Guzzardi is a harbinger, they may decide that making their betrayers lose, and trying thereby to discredit them and reclaim control of the GOP, takes precedence over every other consideration.

I doubt a Repub can win in '16 unless the party is united, with both regulars and tea partiers satisfied.  That unity is looking less and less probable.  The tea partiers could start a rival party or could just stay home or vote for the Democrats.  What's least believable is that they'll put aside their bitterness and accept the inevitable.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


For the first time we're reading that some persons close to Hillary Rodham Clinton don't think she should run for president.  Apparently they see through the hype and recognize that she could take big hits from pols in her own party.  I suspect, though there's no evidence for it, that the main thing propelling her forward is her hubby's itch to take back the White House and get his hands on some levers again.

It has also been suggested now that her seemingly unrivaled status has only amounted to the fact that persons who will eventually run have been avoiding early scrutiny by letting her have all of it, "using her as a human shield", as someone put it.  Who might these aspirants be?  I've nothing to base my answer on except who looks to me to be attractive, ambitious, and progressive.  Try Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.  Try Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island (surely a name from Providence!).  And Maryland's Governor O'Malley isn't working as hard as he is to get known nationally because he hopes to be Hillary's running-mate.

One illusion that was meant to be a self-fulfilling prophecy has just bit the dust.  That is that her prospective candidacy would clear the field of Dem contenders.  It's been made explicit now that she stands a real chance of being challenged for the nomination by a candidate who can't be ignored although he isn't even a Democrat.  The media don't seem quite sure what to make of him.

Senator Bernie Sanders is 72, outspoken, and seemingly healthy.  His popularity in Vermont hovers around the 70% mark.  An independent, he caucuses with the Dems, who support him when he runs for re-election.

He calls himself a democratic socialist and makes it clear that his socialism is that not of North Korea but of Scandinavia: that of a mixed economic system that works better than ours does.

He started out working for civil rights and peace.  He moved to Vermont, organizing politically, running unsuccessfully several times for statewide offices, then becoming mayor of Burlington, the state's largest city, and running it cleanly and well and for everybody.  He got elected to the U.S. House, then to the Senate and is his state's one towering political figure.  

His position is that, while he has nothing against Hillary personally, somebody has to take progressive stands. He hints that he might stand aside for someone who did.

He has indicated that if he runs it will be as a Dem.  Is he viable?  I don't know.  It could be a plus for him that he stands for what the Democratic party stands for without being caught up in its pandering and sellouts and influence peddling and pathological timidity.

A friend (who's Jewish) says Sanders is too Jewish, too Brooklyn, too old, and too radical to win.  Maybe at first blush.  But I'm not convinced that anyone would oppose him who wouldn't also oppose Hillary or O'Malley or Whitehouse, Merkley, etc.

Everybody knows that his forebears weren't New Englanders, weren't sea captains, and weren't Congregationalists or Unitarians.  But as you look at his halo of white hair and his weathered face, he seems to come across subliminally as one of those old-time flinty New England independents who are incorruptible and who stick around long enough to become institutions.

Why did he show his hand this early?  Maybe because he wants to spike the Hillary bubble.  Maybe to spur other progressives to get in motion and not be fatalistic..  Or maybe he likes the idea of being the Dem nominee and is putting some fear into other progressive candidates.  His being in the race could split their vote.  So it may have been a preemptive move, to get in first and make them think twice about competing with him.

Sanders' age could actually work for him, I'd think.  It's said that each generation parts company with its parents and shakes hands with its grandparents.  The young - and they're the soul of the Democratic party - always hope to find wisdom in elderly people.  They sure as hell aren't finding it in middle aged ones. Sanders has acted with consistent integrity and vision throughout a long public career.  It's possible that the newest political generation will respond to that.

Youthful voters may seem complacent so far.  If they feel resigned to Hillary and four more years of agony, that can't be what they want.  And we recall that the young, rallying to Gene McCarthy's insurgent candidacy in 1968, made Lyndon Johnson retire.  If somebody inspires "the kids" and gives them hope, things may change.

And this is about not only idealism but realism.  We're facing major, major crises including a broken economy, climate change, and an oligarchic situation that's strangling democracy.  The only way we're going to have an effective administration is if we elect a candidate with a mandate to do specific and difficult things, who will tell the whorish members of Congress: "You'll do right or, by God, I'll put the hurt on you.  Every bill of yours that comes to me will get vetoed if you won't listen to the people and take real action."  

Hillary's strength is also her weakness: that she doesn't really stand for anything and has never really done anything, however hard she has worked.  Once somebody starts pointing out that she's a bullshit candidate who represents a corrupt and unsustainable status quo, I think young Americans will realize, if they haven't already, that it's so.

We now have a promise that an uncompromised progressivism will play a role in 2016.  That's a huge advance over where we were only a few weeks ago.