Note—Since the birth of this blog over at LiveJournal ten years ago, it has been my custom to endorse candidates in bi-annual general elections. I used to do this a week or so before Election Day. But the growing popularity and importance of early voting have rendered that schedule stupid and ineffective. But I kept doing it out of habit. Well it turns out an old dog can learn new tricks. So a week into early voting in Illinois this gray muzzled, bloated, and half blind old hound is getting around to it. Throw me a MilkBone...but you probably have to soak it first, the teeth ain’t what they used to be either.
Of course being a highly partisan Democrat—I bleed blue—does not leave room for many surprises. I am not, however a Yellow Dog, or a Blue Dog and on rare occasion have strayed from the yard when the Dems have offered outright crooks, morons, or right wing shills.
The value of these essays, if they have any, is not so much in the list of approved candidates, but in the analysis of their strengths and the dynamics of the races. We will start today with Federal offices and work down ballot to the state and county levels over the next two days.
For President—Hillary Clinton
Ok, no surprise here. You knew it was coming. As many faithful readers know, I was an early and strong supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders in the primaries. The old Socialist better reflected my views and philosophy than any Presidential candidate in my life time, no contest. But, even though we disagreed on some issues—particularly her hawkish proclivities and way-too-cozy relationship a State of Israel that has lost its moral compass—I always personally admired Hillary and never for an instant doubted her readiness for the office, her personal decency, or her commitment—however shaped by pragmatism and incrementalism—to economic and social justice.
But as the long a brutal primary season dragged on, I became increasingly alarmed by the shrill hysteria of those who became known as Bernier-or-Busters who took every half-baked conspiracy theory thrown at Clinton over decades in public life by a relentless right wing smear campaign, amplified them, and created their own. Along the way they maligned and abused anyone who disagreed with them alienating traditional feminists and older women as well as her strong and wide support in the Black and Latino communities. When they felt a backlash for their attacks, the Busters reacted as if they were the blameless victims of a wide conspiracy.
When Clinton secured the nomination, despite the endorsement and pleas of Bernie Sanders, many of the Busters vowed never to vote for Clinton. They talked of writing in Sanders, jumping to Jill Stein and the Greens, Libertarian Gary Johnson, or picking up their toys and not voting at all.
Ironically, Hillary’s hardcore supporters made similar vows after she lost to Barack Obama in 2008. But despite the hopes and dreams of the Republicans and the McCain campaign, by Election Day almost all of them returned to the fold and contributed to Obama’s historic victory.
I had hoped for the same this year. And many Sanders supporters have come along, some reluctantly, and other like myself fully confident the Clinton could make a great President. But polling showed a lack of enthusiasm among Millennial voters many of whom had become convinced that there was no essential or moral difference between Clinton and Republican Donald Trump by the relentless negativity about Hillary that they heard from the left as well as the right. It began to look like Clinton, the first major party woman candidate, would not be able to raise the broad and enthusiastic coalition that made Obama the first Black President.
As a result, after a strong post-convention bump, Trump’s rabidly loyal following began to close the gap on Clinton’s lead in late August and into September. She slipped into second place in some polls in important battleground states like Ohio and Florida.
|Donald Trump is self-destructing.
Then the wheels flew off the Trump campaign stretch limo beginning with his disastrous performance and Clinton’s cool mastery in the first debate. Then in rapid succession came a string of bizarre Trump utterances and Tweets including sustained attacks on a former Miss Universe, critical reporters, attacks on Clinton for her marriage despite his own long history of infidelities and verbal abuse and harassment of women, and his sneering dismissal of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as weak. The press, meanwhile, unraveled new scandals involving his use of his charitable foundation as a private piggy bank and old tax returns revealed that the supposedly brilliant business man lost nearly a Billion Dollars in one year and as a result probably paid not income taxes at all for several years, probably down to this year.
Early in the primary campaigns as the press was scratching its head over a string of victories, Trump boasted that he could shoot someone in Times Square and not lose support. A lot of Americans have become so alienated and angry as their personal prospects and fortunes faded that they were willing to cheer on and stand by the swaggering bully who promised to stick it to those they blamed for their bleak lives—a snotty liberal elite, immigrants, noisy Blacks, entitled women, and, of course Muslim terrorists. None of the current revelations or displays of Trump’s pettiness, cruelty, and sociopathic behavior will probably make a dent in it.
But many Republicans, including traditional conservatives who were earlier willing to hold their noses and support the ticket are abandoning the sinking ship and scrambling to prevent contagious down ballot catastrophe. The dwindling number of true undecideds are shifting en masse to Clinton. And finally the sheer awfulness of the alternative has sunk in and reluctant Millennials and Busters are shifting to her as well. There is even evidence that Clinton has begun to overcome her sullied image with a more positive picture of her as woman and public servant.
|Jill Stein and the Greens--deeply flawed custodians of Bernie or Bust and social democratic hopes.
If there were ever a year when the Green Party should have broken through to a claim as THE party of the U.S. left, this should have been it. If you listened to all of those Bernie-or-Busters just after the Convention, you might have become convinced that it could happen—and that it could spell Ralph Nader type doom to Hillary’s electoral chances just as they once allegedly had sunk Al Gore in Florida. But it just isn’t happening. Jill Stein is struggling to keep a 1% sliver of the vote. Where ever they are going, the tsunami of Millennials to the Greens hasn’t risen above the ankles of a derelict beach bum.
Part of the blame goes to the Green Party itself, which is poorly organized in most states and hardly at all in others. It is also only reluctantly accepted the mantle of a social democratic party, but it lacks almost any ties to labor or minority voters without whom such a party cannot succeed. It is still largely a club of middle class white folks, aging hippies, tofu eaters, and Prius drivers. Even the Party’s efforts to extend its appeal to Black voters with the selection of Ajamu Baraka as Stein’s running mate has fallen short.
Baraka’s background, while impressive is almost entirely in international solidarity work with Latin America, Palestine, and the Middle East. He has no strong ties or relations with either the older Civil Rights establishment that backs Clinton or the younger generation of Black Lives Matter activists. But then, he hardly has an opportunity to build those bridges because the party is focused almost entirely on Stein as if a Black man might scare some Busters.
Stein, in her second spin as Green nominee, also must shoulder much of the blame. While it was refreshing to see her participate in civil disobedience during a Dakota Pipe Line protest with Standing Rock Sioux for which a warrant has been sworn out for her arrest, firebrand Dem loyalist Senator Elizabeth Warren has out shown her in denouncing the oligarchy and advocating specific reforms in banking law. And then there is the uncomfortable truth that despite being a doctor, Stein has gone out of her way to embrace the anti-vaccination fringe and make other questionable scientific claims.
|Gary Johnson--just another Ayn Rand fan boy and hopelessly ignorant about the world.
It is said that some of the missing Millennials will vote Libertarian—a very odd choice for enthusiasts of Bernie Sander’s democratic socialist agenda. The Libertarians, and Gary Johnson—a former wing-nut governor of New Mexico—represent the antithesis of progressive reform or revolution. They are steadfast for the extreme individualism and property worship of Ayn Rand’s brand of frat-boy sociopathy. But Libertarians are for legalizing pot and prostitution and sound cool. Some were earlier attracted to former Congressman Rand Paul’s opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Johnson has displayed complete ignorance of and interest in foreign affairs and sounds hawkish when he does spout off.
But Johnson has been successful in providing a safe haven for Republicans who can’t stomach Donald Trump and can’t bring themselves to vote for the despised and vilified Hillary Clinton. That would account for his 10% and growing standings in the polls. The Chicago Tribune and a handful of other traditional Republican newspapers have even endorsed him despite his manifest unfitness to serve and his crack-pot dismantle-the-government schemes.
The notoriously ideologically prickly Libertarians with an eye on the main chance handed them by Trump’s nomination, picked a decidedly non-libertarian mainstream Massachusetts ex-governor, William Weld for the Vice Presidential slot. Weld, who had hit a brick wall in his political career, was meant as a wink-and-a-nod to Republican regulars that in office, Johnson would govern pragmatically.
In the end Donald Trump is much more harmed by a third party insurgency eating away at his base on the right than Clinton is by the desertions on the left. Which is driving the already half-deranged Bernie-or-Busters completely over the edge.
Speaking of Vice Presidential nominees, we should note the major party Veep picks. Donald Trump sucks so much oxygen out of the room that Hillary Clinton struggles for attention that is not merely reactive to Trump antics and outrages, leaving little opportunity for either Vice Presidential candidate to attract much attention since their nominations. In fact, the bottom half of both tickets have been strangers to headlines and soundbites and been relegated to further in the back seat than any other running mates going back to Franklin Roosevelt’s rotating cast.
|Gov. Mike Pence carries water for the Religious Right while posing as a reasonable Republican who can calm Trump's hair-on-fire crazy excess.
Last night, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Indiana Governor Mike Pence emerged from the shadows for their one and only spotlight turn in the Vice Presidential Debate. Many argue that Pence, calm, controlled, and handsomely barbered won the debate by simply not being Donald Trump. He wore I-am-not-crazy like a neon suit, a living, breathing plea to off the reservation Republicans to come back home to Jesus.
By contrast the more casually disheveled and informal Kaine defied his nice guy persona to be the traditional vice-presidential attack dog, refusing to let Pence off the hook for Trump’s outrages and insults. That left Pence bobbing and weaving to keep from endorsing overt bigotry while being a loyal second banana. Trying to stick to indefensible policy, Pence’s defense was limited to a general so’s-yer-ol’-lady bleat about an insult campaign.
|Senator Tim Kaine brought an affable personality to the Clinton campaign in need of a lighter touch, but proved himself a punch and jab debater.
Kaine won on points, according to most score cards having landed more—and more effective—blows on Trump’s insults to women, tax dodging, and Putin ass-kissing. But more wringing hand pundits fretted that Kaine’s aggressive style and talking over his opponent and the moderator may have alienated voters who wanted the candidates to play nice. I understand the yearning for civility, but in the year of Trump, Kaine could not come off as a bully by comparison. As the even usually clueless Chuck Todd noted, it was just a lively political debate of the type that would have been expected in any previous campaign.
In the end, each candidate did what was needed for his ticket and refrained from inflicting any damage. With voters concentrating on the Presidential heavyweights, few, if any, minds were changed, but some jumpiness among marginal supporters of each may have been assuaged.
But all of the above is just horse race blather. The fact is that Hillary Clinton is not only the only qualified candidate in the race, her very often derided pragmatism has shored up her most progressive impulses on domestic social and economic policy issues.
I urge you to cast an enthusiastic vote for an accomplished woman. It’s about time.
Tomorrow—The Illinois Senate race and Congressional races in the Northwest boonies.