Thursday, February 6, 2020

A Trump vs Sanders contest may be needed

A general election contest may be necessary between President Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders in 2020.    The United States is going through a tumultuous rejection and realignment of its political culture that may well climax with the 2020 presidential election.   Pitting the two non-party populist candidates with opposing political philosophies in a head-to-head contest will break the two major political parties and determine if the political center of American culture will be reset much further left or remain a conservative right majority.  The fight is a necessary one to conclude a rejection of two parties that are more similar than not in creating division and failing to address the interests of the American people.

The body politic is in a state of tension and stress.   The level of conflict, division, and discord is felt physically by many as stress levels increase watching, listening to, or reading about politics.  Political strategies of identity and division have infused hate in many toward those with whom they disagree politically but whom they otherwise have much in common.   Hate casts a long shadow of poor judgement and error.   This tension must break and the 2020 election may be the zenith after which a reformation of parties occurs - the calm after the storm of disruption.

The result of the 2020 election, if accompanied by Congressional control, will discern the country's direction.  A judgement will have been made by the people on just how far left the body politic has moved after decades of progressive efforts to move political culture leftward through courts and dominance in education, the news media, and entertainment.   Gallup polls over nearly 30 years show that 35% of the country consistently identifies as conservative.  Those who declare themselves liberal has increased in the same time from 17 to 26%, drawing down moderates from 43% to 25%.   Has the center changed from middle right to middle left?  The 2020 election will tell us if a clear choice is presented.

Senator Bernie Sanders (alternatively Elizabeth Warren) is the most suited among the current Democratic candidates to bring the underlying conflict to a head.   Sanders is not the antithesis to Trump’s disruption.  He is the amplification of it.   Trump sought conservative populist disruption in 2016.  Sanders seeks progressive populist revolution.   Both view the two parties as “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.”  Both never believed in a million years they could become president.  One now is president and the other now believes he is at the cusp of power. 

These two flawed and improbable presidential candidates result from a divisive two-party system that is long overdue for major change.  There have been other periods of such change and there are similarities from the 1800's. 

The Democratic and Republican Parties have dominated the political process of the United States for over 160 years.  Two-party dominance over such a long period has resulted in a political system unresponsive to the needs, concerns, or desires of most citizens.  Despite the warnings of George Washington and others to avoid factions, the success of the Democratic and Republican Parties is now largely dependent upon the creation of factions and the exploitation of division.

The Democratic and Republican duopoly is not mandated by the Constitution.  These two parties can be replaced by two others – or three, or four.  They can keep their names and be completely remolded.  If both do not wake up and begin to focus on solving the problems of citizens of the United States in a manner acceptable to a broad consensus majority - they will be replaced.

The republic has seen changes in parties over its history.  We began with no parties.  As the new republic matured there became two dominant points of view.  One called for a strong federal government and the dominance of an elite class.  Alexander Hamilton and his Federalist Party held that view.  Thomas Jefferson’s anti-federalists (later Democratic-Republicans) looked more to an agrarian economy, the wisdom of the common voter, and state (as opposed to federal) dominance.

We have not changed all that much from that time.  The elitist centralized power of Hamilton’s Federalists and Jefferson’s common man Democratic-Republicans ring a little to the present-day Sanders/Socialist and Trump/Capitalist debate.

The rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders began in the presidential election of 2016. Both parties and the press were surprised by their rise.  Two unlikely outsiders at seemingly opposite ends of the political spectrum were ascendant and drew more enthusiasm by far than any of the other candidates. 
Trump and Sanders tapped into public sentiment that rejects the economic and political status quo.  Populists, they garnered the support of a large portion of the electorate that is willing to look for answers far outside the political class of both parties.  Sanders was thwarted by the Democratic Party and may well get his chance this year in a battle delayed.

The current tumultuous times have many historical similarities.  For example, the 1828 election of Andrew Jackson over John Quincy Adams was a populist revolt that some authors have compared to the 2016 election.  Many have compared Trump to Jackson in his fearless defense of those who support him and his aggressive attacks upon his opponents.  Geographically it was also similar in that it was the northeast vs the rest of the states (add the West Coast in the present).  There was even a dynastic similarity with the rejection of the New England Adams family harking to the rejection of Bush/Clinton dynasties in 2016. 

The failure of the Democratic and Republican Parties to recognize the undercurrent of populist revolt is also reminiscent of the period 1852-1856 when establishment elites, unable to see beyond their personal interests and ideological bents were unable or unwilling to resolve the dominant issue of concern to the population - slavery.  They were blind to the desire of the nation to deal with and conclude the issue.  The present discontent is not focused on a single issue as grave as slavery, nor is the tumult likely to be as apocalyptic as the Civil War, but political and cultural conflict rise and fall with time as a natural part of our political process.   It is part of our political DNA and we need to understand it rather than fear it.

Donald Trump is not the cause of our political divide.  He and Bernie Sanders are symptoms reflecting the maturation of rumbling conflict that began in the 1960's with the rejection of institutions of government and culture.  The tension has been building and it has now come to a head. 

Regardless of a Trump or Sanders victory the Republican and Democratic Parties are in for a rough ride.  The parties may be realigned, restructured, or even replaced such as was seen at several points in our history. 

If Sanders were to win, particularly if his election has coat tails to bring the Senate and House under Democratic control, the party will move leftward - expect Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.  The Democratic Party will be recast quickly by the far left of the party as it takes control.  Moderates within the party will move leftward or leave to form a new party.   The Republican Party will splinter in its failure.

If President Trump is reelected it will indicate the nation at its core has not changed much in its leanings.   The Republican Party will no longer be a “progressive just slower” brother to the Democratic Party.   President Trump’s agenda will move full force in an America first direction.   The Democratic Party will explode with the loss.  A splintering with the ascendance of a Democratic-Socialist opposition party may occur.

Regardless of who wins the election nearly half of the population will be disappointed because the Democratic and Republican Parties have successfully divided the electorate into factions. Violence may well occur.  Even the supporters of the winner will be discontent because the rancor will continue for a time.  But the worst may be over between 2020-2024 and there may be a more stable and harmonious outcome after the 2024 and 2030 elections.

Let’s hope so.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Let’s rethink nuclear power

Nuclear power will play an essential role in the energy future of the United States and the world.  There is an increasing recognition by scientists, entrepreneurs, and policy makers that it offers unique characteristics that can provide an abundant, safe, and clean energy source indefinitely.  Despite a decline in the existing nuclear power industry, a renaissance is underway in new safe nuclear reactor designs and technologies to fuel the next century, while rapid advances in fusion power research portend a revolution to begin within the next two or three decades in the nuclear industry.  Now is a pivotal time for leadership, a national focus, the allocation of resources, and a revamping of federal and state regulatory models to accelerate development that will transform the energy portfolio of the U.S. and the world.

Many people in the United States reject nuclear power based on fear.  It is time to face that fear and reconsider nuclear power as a primary contributor to the nation’s energy portfolio.  Now is the time to reassess because there is both vulnerability and opportunity looming.   The vulnerability - existing nuclear power infrastructure is old and presently unprofitable – causing decline in a major component of our nation’s energy portfolio.  The opportunity - there is a tremendous amount of innovation taking place around modern, safe, and small fission nuclear power design that is very promising.  In addition, progress in fusion research is real and substantial, and accelerating.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Syria - deja vu all over again

Almost one year ago I posted "Goodbye Syria and good riddance" on this blog.  President Donald Trump had ordered a withdrawal from Syria in what seemed to many to be a non-consultative rash and reactionary move.  His then Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis disagreed and ultimately resigned in large part because of the decision.  

At that time I agreed with the President's decision and continue to support his efforts to withdraw from these interminable military deployments.  Last year I was critical of the way in which the decision was made.  It reportedly lacked consultation with allies and even within the President's own Administration.   Trump eventually relented to across the board pressure to remain though there was a decrease in the number of forces by half.

The same arguments are being made that the decision this time was made hastily without adequate preparation and consultation.  A lot of the criticism is simply the knee jerk reaction of the President's haters.  No matter what he does it is wrong and they seek political advantage.   But as in December of last year, there is significant opposition from two other sectors - Republican leaders and the defense bureaucracy. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote an Op-Ed this past weekend in the Washington Post titled: Withdrawing from Syria is a Grave Mistake. McConnell says, "It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances."  I am familiar with these arguments from advocates such as McConnell, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham.  They are hawks of the traditional "America as the indispensable leader" believers.  I understand their arguments, but I ask: "At what cost?"  

The election in 2016 was decided in no small part by people who have had it with the endless wars that expend blood and treasure for questionable objectives and results.  In fact, the one sure way for Donald Trump to loose reelection is to engage in another such adventure.  The Iranians are trying to provoke him to do just that.  The defense bureaucracy would have reacted as would normally be expected but for the President saying no in reaction to the shoot down of an unarmed drone by the Iranians.  Though the President has approved further deployments to Saudi Arabia as a deterrent in response to attacks on Saudi oil facilities he has not taken the bait to engage in yet another military adventure.

Below is the post from December of last year.  It remains relevant.  Everything below this line was written in December, 2018.  Note it sounds just like this past week one year later.  I have made some additions in bold.  The original post with comments is linked here

Sunday, October 20, 2019

2020 Prognostication – Trump wins – for now

If pressed to predict the winner of the 2020 presidential election today I would predict that President Donald J. Trump will be reelected.   The prediction is based on Professor Allen J. Lichtman’s “Keys to the White House” model.   The model is a proven predictor that uses measures that are more objective than polls and pundits.  The model predicted the Trump victory in 2016 while all other methods failed.  But the prediction is only a marker in time - the present - and a lot could change.

The Democratic Party has avenues to change indicator status and the outcome in the remaining year.  However, barring a major collapse of the economy, they may only be able to change the indicators on the margins.  In that case they will need to provide a very strong candidate as an alternative to President Trump.   Can the leading Democratic Presidential candidates provide that alternative?  Read on.   
Will these be the the two candidates in 2020

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Electric Autonomous Advertisement Pods - I mean cars

Automobiles have played a major role in American economics, history, transportation, and culture.  The industry is in transition as it moves full force to create electric autonomous advertisement pods.  Yes, you read that right – ELECTRIC AUTONOMOUS ADVERTISEMENT PODS. 

Automobiles in their early days were a statement of wealth but were quickly available to the common man with the advent of Henry Ford’s assembly lines.  John Paul Getty’s Standard Oil ensured the combustion engine would monopolize the industry over Thomas Edison’s electric vehicles.   President Dwight Eisenhower created a massive network of highways that would ensure the dominance of the automobile over all other forms of transportation and underpin suburban sprawl.

The heyday of the automobile was the 1950's and 1960's when creativity and art dominated.   The major manufacturers would introduce new model years with great fanfare.  Television reached the masses and it could be used to promote sales in many ways that created an emotional attachment to brands.  Creativity also rested with individuals that could take older cars from the 1930's and 1940's and convert them into unique artistic statements as hot rods and later muscle cars.

At a recent 4th of July parade, as the antique cars passed by, my brother-in-law and I would say as they approached, “1968 Chevy Camaro, 1934 Ford Pickup, 1957 Thunderbird, etc.”  A nephew of about 35 years of age watching the parade with his own young children said, “how do you guys know all of these old cars so well?”   I said, “in our time cars were a work of art.  When the new model year was rolled out there were themes like the introduction of two-tone paint, or push button transmissions, or rocket lights reflecting the space age.   They were things of beauty and innovation that we all wanted.  Cars today for your generation, like so much else today, are consumable items. They all look the same.  You lease them and turn them in.  Do you foresee anyone coming to a parade like this when you are our age saying, “Oh, wow, there goes a 2015 Nissan Rogue or a 2007 Toyota Corolla?”

Cars were a common shared experience for the Baby Boom generation.  Teens were bursting to obtain their license.  It was a means and a symbol of independence.  They almost immediately purchased a car for as little as $50 (my first was that price - a 1961 Dodge Dart).  They paid for the car, the insurance, and the gas.  They did everything in their cars.  On weekend nights they rode up and down Main Street, stopping for an ice cream and to talk with friends.  Boys did much of the maintenance themselves.  Girlfriends and boyfriends went “parking” at the reservoir or some other place for romantic encounters at the end of a date.  Cars were an integral part of their culture.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Meet the first female President of the United States

Former South Carolina Governor and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley will likely be elected the first female President of the United States.  Whether that happens in 2020, 2024, 2028, or 2032 is the question.  At 47, she will be a relatively young 60 year old candidate as far out as 2032.

Haley has six years of experience as a governor.   As Ambassador to the UN she was a standout on the international stage.  She is young.  She has solid experience.  She is a mother.  She has center-right conservative bona fides.  She is a woman of color.  She is attractive.  She is an excellent speaker and unflappable debater.  Her husband is a Major in the Army National Guard who has deployed to Afghanistan.

Last October Haley announced in the Oval Office, seated beside President Donald Trump, that she would leave her post as UN Ambassador. NPR reported at the time of her resignation, “She did not say what she will do next, except that it will be in the private sector.”  Since Haley’s departure she has not taken a position with any private firm, but instead has positioned herself for a presidential run.  Her finances are improving as she commands $200,000 for speaking engagements.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Free College and Student Loan Forgiveness

A presidential election approaches and the giveaway bidding keeps rising.   The two big ticket bids are “free college education” and “forgiveness of student loan debt.”   These two issues are symptoms of a problem.  They are not the problem.  Too often in our culture we focus on symptoms and politicians pander with supposed solutions.  That is why many problems are never solved.  The real problem is a higher education system that is far too costly and ineffective in delivering quality outcomes efficiently.

Students and their parents sense that something is out of joint.   Increasingly they are questioning the value proposition of the four-year college.  (Actually, only 39% of students graduate in 4 years and only about 60% by year six.)  The cost is too high.  The rigor of the experience is questionable as everything outside of academics seems a priority on campus with socialization atop the list.   The enhanced economic promise associated with the degree are diminishing.  And the debt burden incurred can be stifling.

Higher education costs have skyrocketed.  The quality of education has not improved in any way proportionate to the rise in cost.   Government programs to make higher education affordable have in fact had the opposite effect – fueling rising costs.   Much of the burden of that cost is placed on the shoulders of those ill prepared to complete college and ill prepared to pay back the debt burden.