Why Bernie?

By James A. Kidney

The big knock against nominating Bernie Sanders for president is that he is “unelectable.”  “Do you want to repeat 1972 when George McGovern got creamed?” is the chant.  “Do you want a Scalia clone on the Supreme Court?” is another.  If Sanders is nominated, so this reasoning goes, the GOP will win, no matter who the Republicans nominate.  Nominating Hillary, these folks also contend, is a much surer lock on another four or eight years of the presidency.  The current numbers do not support this conclusion.

Bernie-Hillary policy differences chart

It is not surprising that Sanders is viewed by many as a weak candidate.  He is (1) in his mid-70s, (2) a self-proclaimed Social Democrat, (3) Jewish (though not very devout), (4) disheveled (though he has neatened up his appearance over time), (5) not supported by the Democratic Party Establishment and (6) lacks Clinton’s foreign policy credentials.

Now that Sanders has lost the Nevada caucuses, the (5) Establishment is roaring that Hillary Clinton has a lock on the nomination.  This is so although Sanders came within 5 percent of destroying what was once a 20 percent lead by Clinton in Nevada and beat Clinton by 20 percent in New Hampshire.  They tied in the Iowa caucuses.

Although the score is 1-1-1, Clinton’s coronation is assured, we are told.  Only the Republicans have a contest, these folks say, which Donald Trump is winning.

Read more of this post . . .Why Bernie?

Primary and Caucus Bits & Pieces

By James A. Kidney

Some miscellany on the current news ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

The bottom line, especially if you are tired of the nominating campaigns before the first votes are cast, is that there is a very good chance the whole thing will be decided in eight weeks or less.  (You can find a more pessimistic view here.)  Here are some fact-based observations below.

Here is a calendar of the primaries and caucuses in spreadsheet format for your use.

Why is Iowa Important to Republicans?  It Shouldn’t Be

It is a quadrennial surprise that Republicans give so much attention to the Iowa caucus.  The winner hardly ever becomes the party’s nominee.  Recent winners are Rick Santorum (2012), Mike Huckabee (2008), George W. Bush (2000 – there was no 2004 caucus since Bush was unopposed), Bob Dole (1996 and 1988 – there was no 1992 caucus since George H.W. Bush ran unopposed) and 1980 (George H.W. Bush).  So out of six GOP caucuses since 1980, Iowa voted for the winner only twice.  That’s only .333 percent – a good baseball average, but not a great prediction average.

By Barry Blitt
By Barry Blitt

The caucus is a better predictor of the Democratic nominee.  Obama won the 2008 caucus, amazing the political establishment that year and giving his candidacy instant credibility. Eventual nominees John Kerry and Al Gore won in 2004 and 2000, respectively.  But Tom Harkin ran away with the 1992 caucus (Clinton was fourth) and Dick Gephardt in 1988 (Dukakis was third).  Incumbent Jimmy Carter won in 1980, beating out Ted Kennedy by 28 percentage points.  So the caucus predicted the nominee in four out of six races.  That’s twice as steady as on the Republican side.

Candidates of both parties are inspired by Carter’s out-of-nowhere near-victory in 1976 (“uncommitted” beat him 37.2 to 27.6 per cent, but he doubled number three Birch Bayh’s vote).


These results demonstrate how Iowa is an infectious disease for Republicans, often voting for candidates with no national following, but doing better byt Democrats.  The reason is easy to explain:  Republicans in Iowa are rock-ribbed, with many of them also fundamentalist right wing.  Santorum and Huckabee, and perhaps Ted Cruz in 2016, are quite appealing to this base.  Jimmy Carter won much of the religious support in 1976, when the strongly religious and Republicans were not so closely identified with each other as they are today.  Democrats in Iowa, though nearly all white, align more closely with Democrats across the country, especially those residing in the state’s larger cities and towns.

The clear differences in party constituencies make Iowa a perennial purple or swing state in November.

Read more of this post . . .Primary and Caucus Bits & Pieces

Military Might: Who Will Pay For It? Who Will Serve?

By James A. Kidney

       Every GOP presidential candidate except Rand Paul and, possibly, John Kasich, claims he or she will order a more muscular U.S. military presence wherever there is a perceived threat anywhere in the world, as they boldly asserted during the third debate Tuesday night.  (The Bloviating Donald said he would stay out of Syria for now, but otherwise seems inclined to toughen our policies by yelling at everyone.)  If their propositions are to be taken seriously, then the military needs more money and more able bodies.  But the frivolousness of their stated positions is proved by the fact they will offer up neither cash for costs, which would require higher taxes or add to the deficit, or bodies, through conscription.

As the respected Washington Post columnist David Ignatius remarked in a recent piece, “President Obama’s foreign policy has been a regular punching bag for Republican presidential candidates, but many of their criticisms are facile.  The next president – from whichever party – will have to confront the same puzzle that Obama has faced about how to best use U.S. power in a world that resists military solutions.”

But, the candidates say, never mind the complexities.  “Bulk Up, America!”

The Cost of a More Muscular Military Is High

Conservatively, the cost of our wars since 2001 has been nearly $1.7 trillion.  This only includes the costs specifically assigned to those wars, not the many more trillions spent to support the war effort and national security throughout the government.  For example, separately, the costs for Homeland Security military2_bigare estimated at $653 billion.  The Pentagon budget and related national security spending for FY 2015 was $598 billion, or 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending.  The new spending bill signed by the President this week provides for a $607 billion Pentagon budget.  According to the National Priorities Project, which tracks federal budget expenditures, U.S. military expenditures are “roughly the size of the next seven largest military budgets around the world.”

Read more of this post . . .Military Might: Who Will Pay For It? Who Will Serve?

Shameful Response by U.S. to Syrian Refugee Crisis

By James A. Kidney

[This is a reposting to include a helpful reference to an On The Media excerpt.]

When the United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in retaliation for the horrific 9/11 attack, the Administration claimed we would be welcomed as liberators and be a beacon for freedom. It didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, we lit a fire in the Middle East that still burns with the intensity of a dry California forest.

Syrian-refugee-sea-travel-as-of-summer-2015One result, direct, indirect, or “collateral damage” – depending on your politics and sensitivity – is the human refugee flow from Syria and other war-torn countries of the Middle East to Europe. By now we are all familiar with the sad stories and heart wrenching photos from the area. Hopeful, scared refugees die every day in overturned rubber boats in the middle of the sea. If they reach shore, they are shoved into pens to await . . . . it’s not clear what. American editorialists moralistically cluck over the reactions of European countries to this human flow. But some of these nations, especially Hungary and Greece, face their own dismal economic prospects. Hungary’s government is falling back on Cold War habits with its own people.

Where is the United States and all of those politicians of both parties who constantly claim that this country should be that beacon of freedom? Mostly either silent, speaking in bland generalities, or are against doing much of anything.

Read more of this post . . .Shameful Response by U.S. to Syrian Refugee Crisis

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