Friday, March 4, 2016

Thoughts on the 2016 GOP Nomination Race

In my last post, I wrote about the Democratic Primary for President, and now I will focus on the Republicans. Where there was once 17 candidates for President, there are now four - Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. Weirdly enough, from my perspective, the leaders of the primary are Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. John Kasich, who is both extremely conservative, but presents himself moderately (and thus, terrifying to Democrats) is way, way behind.

For the past twenty years or so, Democrats have largely thrown around pejoratives towards Republican candidates like fascist, racist, xenophobe, ill-tempered, warmonger, etc. But with that said, it is actually strange to see a candidate actually be all of those things explicitly. Donald Trump is all of those things and more. He advocates committing warcrimes, building a wall around the Southern border (a bigger one than the one currently in place, I guess), requiring all Muslims to be registered by the federal government and/or expelling them, passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy, and eliminating Obamacare. In response, both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz argue that Trump doesn't actually mean what he says, that they are the ones who will actually commit the warcrimes, etc., and that Trump has small hands. Or something.

This last part is key - they don't attack Trump for any of his proposals, because they agree with them - but rather, they argue that Trump is lying about supporting such an agenda. Given that Trump decided to enter the stage because he's a birther, and that minority voters are violently expelled from Trump's rallies, I would say that a good portion of what he says, he believes. Still, it is weird to have a candidate for President explicitly talk about his penis on a debate stage. It's also weird that both Cruz and Rubio can call Trump a con artist, but will back him if he's the nominee.

Okay, its not all that weird. For the past 8 years, the Republican Party has played up the insanity factor. From Louie Gohmert to Michelle Bachmann to Steve King, to Mike Lee, there have been a fair number of Republican officeholders who have espoused crazed conspiracy theories. In fact, the sole reason Mitt Romney wanted Trump's endorsement in 2012 was due to Trump's support of birtherism - the belief that Obama wasn't born in the U.S.  And this is a GOP that mostly believes Obama is a secret Muslim, that he was born outside of the U.S., that he is trying to tear the country apart on racial grounds (not sure how), that Obamacare is unconstitutional and evil (ironic, since its the Heritage Foundation's plan), etc.  The Snopes.com page for Obama is filled with all sorts of craziness by the Right. Is it any wonder that the guy who espouses all the craziness is the frontrunner? Or that the guy in 2nd hits the frontrunner as someone who doesn't believe the craziness he espouses?

The result is pretty terrifying, since Trump has shown a willingness to exhort his crowds to violence, and he has shown a disregard for various institutions of government. If he doesn't get enough votes for the nomination, and the GOP screws him at the Convention (which is looking more and more possible), things may get uglier, fast. Let there be no mistake, 2016 is an ugly year for American politics. 

Further Thoughts on the 2016 Elections (Democratic Side)

For the past several weeks, I have been unemployed for the first time in nine years, and its been strange. Luckily, I have a new job lined up, and that means that I probably won't be blogging much in the future (not like I've been blogging all that much now. . .), but it also means that I've spent the last few weeks watching cable news, and following the election a bit closer than normal. And, I have a few thoughts:

On the Democratic side, the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is mostly over. Sanders will be able to fund his campaign until the Democratic National Convention, but he won't have the delegates to win. And, by and large, that isn't a terribly surprising result. One thing we've learned since 2004 is that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has money, and will fund candidates they like. In 2004, that was Howard Dean. In 2008, that was Barack Obama and John Edwards (before it was revealed he was a slimeball). So, its no surprise that Bernie Sanders is pulling in gobs and gobs of money. 

But, and this is the key point, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is not as big as it thinks it is. Because of the perceived/real racism of the Republican Party, most minority voters - African Americans, Latino/Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans - vote Democrat. Now, as anyone who's been around these voters can tell you, not all of them are liberal. In fact, many African Americans and Latinos are fairly conservative. George W. Bush and Karl Rove recognized this, and tried to woo them over to the GOP, only to be undermined by the large number of racists in the Party. That leaves a fair number of minority voters in a pickle - vote for the candidate who's views are more liberal than their own, or vote for the candidate who seems a bit too comfortable with racists. Add to that the fact that Republicans are actively seeking to prevent minority voters from voting, and the fact that a fair number of minority-majority districts aren't all that competitive, and you get crappy voter turnout. What made Obama so initially successful was his ability to mobilize the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, and also mobilize minority voters.

But outside of Obama, minority voters represent the Democratic Party's "Peoria Test." If you think back to the old days of Hollywood, studio execs would ask, "but will it play in Peoria" as a way to determine if a movie would be successful or not. Since minority voters aren't necessarily liberal (though many are), being able to play to those voters is key.

The one thing that we've seen over the past several primaries and caucuses is that Bernie Sanders isn't playing well in Peoria. He has a strong pull with the Party's liberal wing, but outside of that, he just isn't getting the kind of traction with minority voters to beat Clinton. Keep in mind that when Obama ran in 2008, he generated record turnout. Sanders just isn't cutting it.

And from my perspective, that's not terribly surprising since Sanders has never been a star on the national stage. He's been in Congress for over 25 years, and outside of him being a Socialist, and being from Vermont, there hasn't been much to say about him. 

But with that said, Sanders has managed to do one thing very well - he's pulled Hillary Clinton to the left. For the past thirty years, the Clintons have been moderates and have pulled the Party to the right. By and large, they've done that because that's where the votes are (more on that below). In fact, when the Clintons tried to go with a big government plan, they were annihilated - Hillary especially. And much of their other conservative legislation - DOMA, Don't Ask/Don't Tell, the Crime Bill - was largely created to head off a much worse conservative bill. And this legislation existed in an era of swing voters. Those days are over, and now both Parties know that to turnout is key to winning elections. Moving to the left helps Clinton, and Sanders is pushing her leftward every day. 

Lastly, for those of you who are upset that the Democratic Party can't put forward any better candidates, I have a quick word for you - if you don't vote, candidates who share your preferences don't get elected. Liberals and moderates got killed in the elections of 2010 and 2014 because people didn't turn out to vote. So, we're stuck with a Congress that refuses to do anything. That's on us.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Quick Post on the Iowa Caucuses And Bernie Sanders

While I haven't posted much, if anything about the 2016 election, I have been following the race somewhat, and I have a few thoughts regarding the state of 2016 Primaries.

1) Bernie Sanders Isn't Barack Obama

In 2008, Barack Obama won the Iowa Caucus despite heavy competition from both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards (back before we knew he was a creep). Now, this was a big deal because the one question going into the election was whether or not Obama would be able to appeal to white voters as much as he could appeal to nonwhite voters. With the win in Iowa, he proved that he could win over whites.

And this is key because the Democratic Party is made up of college-educated white voters, blue collar union voters, women, and nonwhite* voters (this group grows each and every day because of the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Republican primary). What made Obama so formidable, and he was formidable in 2008, was his strong support from college-educated white voters and nonwhite voters. Hillary Clinton dominated union voters and women. Ultimately, Obama's coalition was just slightly larger than Hillary Clinton's, and that's why he won.

Sanders, in contrast, doesn't have the pull with nonwhite voters that Obama has/had. In part, that's due to Sanders being a white guy from Vermont, and in part that's due to his flat-footed reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement. Clinton, meanwhile, is getting a lot of support from Obama, and that's helping her with nonwhite voters. As the primary progresses, Clinton's connection with nonwhite voters will help her.

2) Hillary Clinton Has Her Act Together

One of the key takeaways from the 2008 campaign wasn't just Obama's formidability, but it was also how much smarter of a campaigner he was compared to Clinton. Clinton hired poorly (*cough*Mark Penn*cough) and was caught unaware by Obama's caucus strategy. By Super Tuesday, he had the nomination all but wrapped up. This go around, Clinton seems to have her act together. There aren't any stories about staff insurrections, and for what it's worth, she did win Iowa.

Now, with that said, Clinton is going to have a tough race. She is inherently a technocrat - a better office-holder than office-seeker - and that's going to cost her. What's more, Sanders is attacking her on her left flank (which is what he should be doing) and doing some damage. When she wins the nomination, and she will almost certainly win the nomination, Clinton will almost certainly have to pick a VP from the left wing of the Democratic Party. We want this.

3) The GOP is a Mess

Trump may have come in second in Iowa (which, all things considered, isn't surprising that Trump didn't play well in Iowa), but his stamp on the 2016 Primary is clear. Rubio and Bush tried to moderate on immigration, and had to change their tune. If Trump falters in New Hampshire, maybe he'll drop out, but who steps in his place as the nominee? Cruz is too much of an asshole, Rubio is damaged on immigration, Kascich and Christie aren't going anywhere and Jeb! is pathetic.

That said, I suspect that we'll have a good idea who the nominee will be once we get through the South Carolina primary. Until then, there are simply too many variables.

*By nonwhite voters, I am referring to African Americans, Latinos, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and every other ethnic group outside of Europe. While each ethnic group has different issues and concerns, they all vote Democratic by large margins. Given the explicitly racist tone of the Trump campaign, I don't see this changing in 2016.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Few Truths About the GOP Presidential Race

In the 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections, I've written extensively about the various candidates for President, and my thoughts about each of them. This time around, I haven't written much of anything - in large part due to me not writing much in the past year or so. With that said, I should mention a few really basic truths about this election that we should all keep in mind.

Not All Candidates Are Running For President to Become President

There are lots and lots of reasons to run for President, and only one of those reasons is to actually become President. Think of it, for an eight or nine month period of time, you're activities are followed by the National media. SNL, hopefully, gets a comedian to parody you, and just you, for the entire election season. So, if you're a politician, and you want to be known on a national level, running for President is a fantastic idea. Sure, it's more work, and you will probably lose the race, but winning is beside the point the first time around.

The king of running for President for reasons other than being President is the one and only, Dennis Kucinich, who's campaigns in 2004 and 2008 were laughable until we all realized he was running to meet women. And, it worked. Other candidates run for President in hopes of getting on the short list for positions with the next Administration, or run to get their issues front and center. Still others are running to become a nationally known politician.

Now, this point is key because when a politician is running for President for reasons other than becoming President, he/she will still run for President even when it's pretty clear that he/she has no shot whatsoever. This race is interesting because most of the candidates, including the frontrunners in the GOP race, aren't running for President to become President (at least this go around), they almost all have other reasons to run. So, if they have enough money to keep campaigning, few have any incentive to drop out.

On the other side of the equation, there are candidates who run for President with the sole goal of becoming President. These are candidates who have reached a level of national prestige that they don't need to run for President for people to know who they are. In this race, that was Hillary Clinton, Jeb! Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Joe Biden. As soon as it became clear that Walker and Perry weren't going to be the nominee, they dropped out. Biden never entered the race because he wasn't going to be the nominee with Clinton in the race.

Jeb! Bush is Toast

When Jeb first stepped into the race, he had all the advantages - he had a pretty extensive name id, a $100 million SuperPAC warchest, and the backing of the GOP establishment. Those advantages gave him frontrunner status, which means that before GOP primary voters considered anyone else, they spent at least moment looking at Jeb! So, the fact that Jeb! is currently polling in the single digits (between 6-7%) is really, really, really bad. Now, in some cases, such as Kerry's 2004 run, the former frontrunner can make a comeback after the insurgent candidates flameout (think Dean scream), but only if there isn't another alternative. And here, GOP voters have both Kasich and Rubio to fall back on when Carson and Trump flameout.

Oh, and one other thing - since Jeb! is a Bush, and a national figure, every floundering moment of his dying campaign will be covered instead of ignored (which is what happened to McCain in 2008 and Kerry in 2004). That, in turn, will create more and more narratives of failure, and well, it's just bad. Jeb! is dead. He just doesn't know it yet.

Trump and Carson Will Flameout

The two frontrunners on the GOP side, Trump and Carson, are interesting fellows. Both jumped into the race without ever holding any political job, and both are doing fairly well in the polls - each are polling around 20%, a trend which has held steady for quite a few polling cycles. Now, everyone knows that these two will flameout, but everyone seems to think its because of something crazy one of them will say that becomes their undoing. It won't be, but it doesn't matter.

What does matter is organization. Presidential campaigns are huge undertakings that collect data from voters, processes that data, and then reaches out to those voters across multiple states. Now, a good organization won't help you if you are a crap candidate (sorry Jeb!), but if you are within striking distance, a great organization will propel you to the White House, which is exactly what happened in the 2008 Democratic Primaries, where Obama beat Hillary mostly due to his campaign's superior organization (more on Hillary later). This kind of an organization takes months to set up properly, but is absolutely essential, particularly in caucus states like Iowa.

But neither Trump nor Carson have much of an organization. Carson has raised a lot of money, but most of what he makes is spent on raising more money. Trump doesn't really raise money, but he isn't setting up very many campaign offices either. Neither man has put himself into a position to translate popularity into votes, and that's why, ultimately, they will flame out.

Cruz Has Put Himself in an Interesting Position

Ted Cruz is an odious Senator from Texas, and is so obnoxious that his fellow GOP Senators openly express their disgust for him. With that said, he is a clever politician, and he's placed himself in an interesting position. Right now, the GOP race is made up of outsider/insurgent candidates (Trump, Carson, Fiorina), and insider/politician candidates (Rubio/Kasich/Bush). But the insurgents are polling over 40%, collectively, and have been doing so since July. So, the GOP electorate is pretty sick of the establishment guys, but at the same time, the outsiders don't have the requisite campaign organizations to translate popularity into votes. 

But Ted Cruz, smartly, has been putting together his organization, and he is positioning himself as the fallback guy when Trump and Carson flameout. He may not be the nominee, but Cruz will be a player.

Clinton Has the Nomination in the Bag

Now, I know there are a lot of Bernie Sanders' supporters out there, but guys, he's not going to win. I don't say that because of any particular failing of Sanders, but rather, because Clinton has responded to his candidacy the way that a frontrunner should - she's moved to the left. Now, call that shift to the left whatever you want, but as a frontrunner she has one very big advantage - every Democratic voter will look at her as a candidate first, and then if they don't like what they see, they will look at other candidates. 

Also, Clinton has shown both in this campaign and in 2008, a resiliency that most candidates lack. When it looked like all was lost in 2008 after Iowa, and she teared up on the campaign trail, her campaign rebounded. This time around, she sat before a Congressional committee for 11 hours of testimony, and the Republicans couldn't lay a glove on her. 

What's more, her campaign, particularly her social media staff, has been good this time around. Really good. I don't know if she'll win the Presidency, but she won't lose the nomination. And really, that's been the case for quite some time. If anything, having Sanders in the race has helped her by forcing Clinton to reach out to progressives and liberals. This is a good thing going forward.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Don't Call it a Comeback! But Do Call It a Short Post on Donald Trump

Wow, first blog post in months. Who knew that becoming a partner at a law firm and having a kid would suck up so much time? Okay, everyone, but that's beside the point. Since I used to write a blog where I would rate the contenders for the Presidential nomination, I thought I would take a moment to write about the Donald Trump.

Now, of course, a lot has been said about the Donald, and we all know who Trump is. But in the past week or so, an interesting dynamic is emerging in this race. Namely, the division between the conservative media and the conservative elites. The conservative elites know that Donald Trump is absolute poison for the GOP - not only does he make himself look bad, but he makes the other GOP candidates bad as well. After all, if Jeb Bush can't beat Donald Trump, who calls Mexican immigrants rapists, and who says that the reason Megyn Kelly was harsh to him was due to her menstrual cycle, then how in the hell can he beat Hillary Clinton?

But at the same time, over 24 million viewers watched the GOP Presidential Debate on Fox. Not only was this the highest rated Presidential primary debate on Fox, it was the highest rated program on Fox News in its entire history. And in the world of media, ratings = advertising = money. Oh, and then Trump, the very next day, makes his comments about Kelly, and then a bunch of people watched her show to see what her reaction would be. So, even if he's a dangerous baffoon, Trump is literally ratings gold.

And that's where things get interesting. In the first debate, it was pretty clear that the Fox News moderators were going hard after Trump. They attacked him over his bankruptcies, his comments towards women, and his willingness to run as a 3rd Party Candidate. But now, Roger Ailes calls up Trump, and offers him the whole store. Why? Because holy fucking shit, Fox News got 24 million viewers to watch a primary debate, and we all know that all those viewers didn't show up to see Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

So while Fox News is the communications wing of the Republican Party for all intents and purposes, it is still a business that is dependent on advertisers. Oh, and these advertisers, who might stay away from Hannity or Kelly, or whomever, would LOVE to advertise during the debates because it looks patriotic, not craven.

It is this dynamic that is going to be worth watching over then next few months - Trump is going to be Trump, and he's going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. And as long as he brings big ratings to Fox, they're not going to go after him the way that they did last Thursday. That will drive the GOP establishment crazy.

Oh, and by the way, as a Democrat, I'm LOVING THIS. Remember that Clinton's biggest political strength is her ability to turn outrage into votes. Can you imagine a Trump v. Clinton general election debate? He'll say something outrageous, and she will turn it into millions of votes. And even if Trump ultimately loses, the eventual nominee will come into the General Election looking like the 2nd choice.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Few More Thoughts on the Chargers Stadium Situation

A month ago or so, I posted a relatively short post about my general thoughts regarding the stadium situation with the Chargers. Since then, I've been thinking and reading more and more about this situation, and am coming to believe that the Chargers' threat to move to Carson is either (a) empty, (b) desperate, or (c) incredibly stupid. Now, no one has ever accused the Chargers organization of being geniuses, but rarely do they do something categorically stupid. Here, though, moving to Carson would be a phenomenally bad idea. 

That's primarily because, in contrast to staying in San Diego, a move to Carson will take years, and result in a ton of lawsuits against the Chargers by angry fans, angry cities, and angry former business partners. In 1998, the City of San Diego passed Prop. C, which got Petco Park built. The campaign to build Petco was all-emcompassing, and probably one of the better political campaigns run. Per the terms of Prop. C, Petco was supposed to be built by 2002. It wasn't. Thanks to a lot of litigation, the Padres didn't open Petco until 2004. But it did open, thanks to favorable rulings by local judges who may or may not have been swayed by local sentiments. By the end, most of the plaintiffs in the cases against the Padres were denigrated.

But if the Chargers move, the local judiciary, along with the local jury pool, won't be so inclined to give the Chargers a break. What's more, the proposed Carson stadium is being built in direct competition with a sports complex that's already in Carson. So, not only will you have a lot of sour grapes from San Diegans, but there will be at least one lawsuit from people in LA with fairly deep pockets. Maybe the NFL convinces them otherwise, but maybe these deep pocket interests side with Stan Kronke's Inglewood stadium. Either way, the Chargers will be tied up in lawsuits for years.

But lawsuits aren't the only problem - all projects have to undergo an environmental review under California law. These EIRs generally take 18 months if there's no problem. The only way out of such a study is if the California Legislature specifically exempts the project from an EIR. Now, if the City and the Chargers figure out a stadium deal, then, most likely, the Legislature would pass such an exemption. But if the Chargers move to Carson, then such a deal is unlikely because the current Speaker of the State Assembly represents the City of San Diego. Oh, and unlike the Qualcomm site (where the Chargers currently play), the Carson site is rumored to be highly polluted (the Qualcomm site has undergone a major clean-up), so the EIR would not go smoothly. 

All this means is that the Chargers' proposed move to LA would take years. Where in those years would the Chargers play? It can't be in San Diego, their popularity would be almost nonexistent. Could the Chargers afford to play in a terrible nonfootball stadium in LA for five years? What if in year three of the move the stadium plans fall through, the way that so many other stadium plans have fallen through in LA over the years? Where do they go then?

So, I guess my point is that the Carson isn't the escape hatch the Chargers make it out to be. Leaving San Diego and ending up in limbo in LA is the likely scenario for such a move. And with that being the case, the City and County shouldn't feel pressured because of the threat.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rethinking the Standards for the Crime of Sexual Assault

Over the past year or so, we've seen dozens, if not hundreds of stories about sexual assault and/or rape perpetrated either on college campuses, or sadly, by beloved celebrities. The most recent Pro Publica article about Darren Sharper (a NFL player and a William & Mary alumnus, unfortunately) highlights that when sexual assault occurs, it is often not reported, and even when it is reported, the police don't investigate, and prosecutors don't prosecute the crime enough. On college campuses, the failures of administrators to adequately deal with sexual assault has the Department of Education to actually threaten to pull federal funding from these universities.

So what is going on? While we can debate the patriarchy and the prevalence of rape culture until we're blue in the face (and which are all valid points), doing so won't fix the problem people raping without fear of either prosecution or convictions. And here's why: the fundamental problem with rape is that it is defined in most criminal statutes as knowingly having sexual intercourse with someone without their consent.

Based on that definition, the prosecution has to prove that there was: 1) sexual intercourse; 2) no consent by the victim to have sexual intercourse; and 3) the Defendant knew that the victim did not consent or could not give consent. And the prosecution has to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning that the jury is supposed to look at the facts, and if its possible that to find consent, even if its unlikely, they're supposed to vote for acquittal. Now, when it comes to a stranger rape - random guy breaks into a woman's home and rapes her, or, grabs her off the street and rapes her - consent is easy to disprove because the man's actions indicate his intent to rape. But, in the case of date rape, where there will be two separate stories of what happened, with one party saying it was rape, and the other party claiming it was consensual, the waters are muddied, and it comes down to whether or not the jury believes the rape victim or the perpetrator. In that context, a conviction for acquaintance rape is almost impossible.

So, for police and prosecutors, rape cases are difficult, emotionally draining, and rarely result in the "bad guy" going to jail. Even if they were inclined to take date rape seriously (and sadly, many don't), tilting at windmills ultimately takes it toll. Little wonder then that, as with the Darren Sharper case (who raped at least nine women), police and prosecutors are reticent to get involved.

But the one thing about laws is that they can change. And here, I think legislatures could change the law slightly. Rather than make consent an element of the crime of rape (and thus, has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt), make consent an affirmative defense to the crime of rape. That is, once the prosecution has proven the basic elements of rape, and has a complaining witness* (the victim, and only the victim), make the accused prove that consent was given - not beyond a reasonable doubt, but by a preponderance of evidence (a/k/a "more likely than not").

*The reason for needing a complaining witness is basically this - if rape is defined as sex without consent, then not having to prove consent means all sex could be deemed rape. Having a complaining witness might fix that problem.

Obviously, this isn't a panacea. And it may be something that college campuses should implement first (some have already), and then for the legal system to catch up. That said, if convictions are more likely, then prosecutions are more likely, and that may or may not be a good thing. But it would or could be a start.