A business state of emergency

It’s amazing in a way to think that we’ve only gone a week and change since the NBA suspended its season in an effort to stifle the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. Since then we have endured a week of drastic bad news the likes of which we haven’t seen since 9/11 and perhaps longer. What was shaping up to be a pleasant spring routine has now been destroyed, along with the hopes and dreams of anyone who wanted to participate in the NCAA basketball tournament, their senior proms, and graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020, among countless other annual and special events.

On Tuesday night we resumed our bowling season under different rules, splitting the league squads into two shifts to keep the number in the bowling alley below 50. Unfortunately, that change was short-lived as Governor Carney expanded his previous State of Emergency order the next day to demand the closing of bowling alleys, among other businesses.

While I get the necessity of the closings to “flatten the curve” my problem is the open-endedness of such an order. While there is CDC guidance suggesting this will last about eight weeks, the reality is that many people and businesses can’t survive an eight-week shutdown, at least not without some sort of mitigation. I love how the private sector has moved into action in a lot of cases.

Now let me make a confession: I was sort of stuck as to how to continue this post, at least until I got a comment to Wednesday’s Patriot Post commentary that I shared by Mark Alexander. This response is from a person I’ve known for awhile who is well over on the other side of the political fence, and is quoted verbatim:

Jesus christ ppl are losing jobs, dying, mass hysteria, and hoarding of vital medical supplies. I am working as so many other low paid workers in constant contact with people of high and low risk of severe illness. This is not political. The facts are this we are not prepared and a clown is running the circus. I dont want people to lose their homes, jobs, lives. Or leader need to put their big girl panties on and do what’s right for the millions of Americans and not ask first what party or income bracket they belong in.

Reaction to social media post

This whole situation has been a balancing act I wouldn’t wish on anyone because you have two bad choices: go about normal life, leave the disease essentially unchecked, and overwhelm our health system, OR, shut down everything and place people out of work. President Trump has advised for the latter course but has left enforcement up to state and local officials. To me that’s the proper way to address this because they are more familiar with conditions on the ground, and besides: you can’t completely shut everything down because people have to eat.

And I have to ask: how do you prepare for something like this, a once-in-a-century disease? If we had somehow stocked up on respirators, medicine, and so forth ten years ago, say, as part of the stimulus, wouldn’t someone have complained that we were spending money to store supplies that might have deteriorated to the point of being useless by now anyway? It’s one thing to fill an oil reserve but quite another to stock up on testing kits for a disease that doesn’t exist at the time. Leaders can be prescient but I don’t think they’re often psychic.

So I will grant that we weren’t prepared, but then again that’s the nature of a crisis. We can only prepare ourselves so much for any particular risk so we go with what we know about risks we have experienced at the expense of other ones. (Cases in point: terrorist attacks begat the PATRIOT Act and Department of Homeland Security, both of which have survived nearly two decades now, and school shootings have necessitated upgrades to school buildings which do not necessarily improve the educational process.) After this Chinese virus has run its course we will probably go overboard with products and procedures that will be infringements on our wallets and liberty. (If it brings pharmaceutical manufacturing back from China, though, that would be a benefit.)

On the other hand, I don’t think we have a clown running the circus. A President Hillary Clinton would have dictated a more bureaucratic and more politically correct solution – in my opinion it would have paralleled Italy’s and sadly, that’s been a disaster for the Italian people who are sharing their misery with a huge Chinese national contingent within their nation. The experts have agreed that clamping down on travel from China when President Trump did may have saved thousands from getting the virus and overwhelming the American health care system. And, unfortunately, I don’t think slow Joe Biden would have fared any better than Hillary had this crisis occurred next year after his election. To a greater extent than we are already saddled with, the folks in a Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden administration would have seen this as a crisis they could have used to permanently secure more federal government power.

(That’s not to say those under Trump are immune – I’m somewhat leery of how we will address the financial end by setting a precedent of government payments. One can argue, however, that this direct payment would be compensation for the taking of one’s livelihood since many places of business were forced to close. Perhaps a complementary way to address this, though, would be to bolster state unemployment accounts.)

So thanks to my friend for giving me the inspiration to revise and extend these remarks – I started this on Wednesday but hadn’t felt the need to return to it until that response.

Putting the world on hold

They tell us it’s “flattening the curve.”

However, there are a huge number of economic impacts we will need to go through now that the Wuhan coronavirus escaped its Chinese captivity and has gone global. Let’s just look at one arena of economics for example. (And yes, the pun was intended.)

On Wednesday, just after I put up my previous post, it was announced that the NBA season was “suspended” until further notice. This quickly extended to the NHL and MLB, with the NCAA topping all of them and completely cancelling ALL winter and spring championship events. (In other words, it’s not just March Madness: the College World Series, normally held in late May into June, is off, too.)

I already feel horrible for those seniors who may have been going to The Dance for the first and only time in their college careers, but one also has to consider those people whose livelihood depends in part on these events. It’s two dates that the workers at the Mercedes-Benz arena in Atlanta will now be off, not to mention the host facilities of the other regionals that are held over two nights at various venues. (In the early rounds, this can be a full shift from noon to 9 or 10 at night.) Even worse is the fate of those who work at NBA or NHL host arenas, as their facilities are often used 5 nights a week or more thanks to sports, concerts, and other large gatherings. The same goes for spring training venues, which are used nearly every day during this time of year thanks to teams sharing fields and split-squad games. Now these facilities are closed to the public and these employees are out of work.

Generally these workers are the folks who were barely scraping by, so this pandemic is going to make it more difficult for them to pay their bills. (One exception: those who work for Ilitch Holdings, which owns Little Caesars along with the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, among other entertainment properties. They are going to compensate part-timers for games and events they miss thanks to the cancellations, which included the NCAA hockey Frozen Four.)

So there are a number of events which will be lost and never made up; lost opportunities for commerce. Granted, public health is important but my gut feeling is that we’ve overreacted to this epidemic insofar as governmental entities are concerned. It’s one thing for a privately-run league to suspend operations for several weeks, but government declaring a state of emergency and forcing the cancellation of events slated to hold more than a few dozen people may be a little beyond the pale. These things should be decided by organizers, not dictated. Believe it or not – and despite the hoarders who think they need two cases of toilet paper – we have a little common sense left in this world.

I also believe we needed an end date to this state of emergency, or at least a date certain to re-evaluate the situation. Declare a state of emergency through March 31, with an interim deadline of perhaps March 28 to determine further course of action. (The professional baseball world at least knows two weeks’ worth of games will be cancelled, so that alternate planning can take place.) Much of the reason the stock market and oil futures have tanked over the last month is the uncertainty of the situation. Now we can’t predict a virus, but I think we can at least give a firm date for attempting to return to normal.

As I see it, leaving stuff open-ended gives potential for additional mischief from the “never let a crisis go to waste” crowd. We’re already staring a recession dead in the face (unless pent-up demand rescues us in 2020 Q2) and, being an election year, we know what that means. As always, the government has to do something to insure its re-election as opposed to following the Constitution or adhering to limited-government principles that would suggest a more hands-off approach.

We’ve already seen what a media-enhanced panic looks like by checking out the store shelves, so it’s time for vigilance and, once this is over, preparation for the next time. Trust me, it WILL happen again.

Is it hype or reality?

If I were to categorize my state of health, I would argue that it’s relatively good. Yes, I weigh more than I should but the blood work always seems to come back fine. It’s a blessing that I’m glad to have considering how many others suffer.

In the last few weeks, we’ve been reminded what suffering is thanks to the spread of the coronavirus, or, more appropriately, Wuhan virus. It took a few weeks to learn what virulent effects it was having on the people around the Chinese city of Wuhan, but as it spreads around the world we hear fears of a pandemic on the scale of the Spanish flu a century ago, where millions in a war-ravaged global population perished. (Reports suggest its effects casualty-wise were worse than the First World War, which was coming to an end just as the influenza was beginning to spread.)

Because of that fear, we are treated to breathless accounts of rapidly dwindling supplies of surgical masks, disinfectant, and toilet paper. The Dow Jones and other markets have plunged, major events cancelled, entire countries are being placed into lockdown over the Wuhan virus, and even our church has played into this paranoia as shaking hands has been discouraged at the greeting time built into the service.

If you know me well enough, you know I’m something of a born skeptic about certain things, and Wuhan virus is quickly falling into that category. There are just too many reasons to believe that there’s much more sizzle than steak when it comes to our seemingly biannual dread disease that’s going to wipe us all out. (If we survived SARS, which is more easily spread, we can handle Wuhan virus.)

Now the conspiracy buffs among us could speculate that the whole thing is a Chinese plot to try and crash our economy, paving the way for a President more to their liking than Donald Trump, who has been a difficult adversary when it comes to trade. It is interesting to note, though, how the federal reaction once thought to be too strict is now being portrayed as an albatross around Trump’s neck worse than Hurricane Katrina was for President George W. Bush. And as I noted above, the media has been complicit in stoking up fear.

After the topic came up for discussion at our small group tonight, I had another thought on the way home. Now it’s nothing completely out of the ordinary for schools to close because of the flu, as it happens from time to time when a school finds a significant percentage of its kids are sick. But the measures being taken such as cancelling in-person classes in favor of online lessons for the foreseeable future or keeping workers at home, as well as the talk of scrubbing pro sports games (as of about 30 minutes after I posted this, it’s no longer talk) or, more likely, holding them in closed stadiums – go beyond the pale into uncharted territory.

What this all reminds me of was the time period immediately after 9/11, and we have some eerie parallels. You may recall that both MLB and the NFL postponed an entire week’s worth of games (which, by the way, was how we got November baseball for the first time. I remember seeing the “Welcome to November Baseball” sign at old Yankee Stadium as the October 31 World Series Game 4 dragged past midnight into November.) But it’s also worth pointing out schools remained closed for several days after the terrorist attack, and life wasn’t really something close to normal for weeks – or months, in the case of the New York and D.C. regions. (Or so I presume since I was still in Ohio back then.)

And it could be much the same type of situation here, except the impacts are in different areas, such as the global supply chain, financial markets, and perhaps oil industry – has the sudden, unexpected drop in demand from a moribund China led to a schism in the market as Russia and Saudi Arabia could not agree to supply cuts to re-establish $60 a barrel oil? Tonight I even saw the “r” word being mentioned in the same story that noted the latest decline in the Dow Jones makes it official: the post-Great Recession bull market is officially over after 11 years. Stocks have fallen 20 percent off their peak of just a few weeks ago.

Long story short: Wuhan virus is a reality and chances are it will spread to a point where some areas are hard hit, just like any flu season. But there’s a lot more hype on this one because there’s a larger agenda being held by some people. Right now the news deserves a little larger grain of salt.

Splitting the opposition: the power couple

Editor’s note: Back in January I promised a multi-part series of posts based on a book I started on the Indivisible movement that, simply put, just wasn’t coming together as I would have liked. So I decided to serialize that beginning of a book draft – with a little more editing as I see fit – and add more writing to make this into a multi-part series of posts.

This is the second part, which will talk about the two primary leaders of Indivisible, the husband-and-wife team of Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg. To pick this series up from the beginning, go here.

It’s not just any out-of-town wedding that makes the New York Times, but among families of a certain social class and structure nuptials become part of all the news that’s fit to print regardless of their location. That station in life was where Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg fit in, thus their March 28, 2015 wedding was a short feature in the following day’s Gray Lady. As described at the time:

Greenberg works in Washington for Humanity United, a philanthropic foundation dedicated to peace and freedom. She manages grants and projects to combat human trafficking and slavery. She graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and received a master’s degree in law and diplomacy from Tufts.

Her father is the acting assistant secretary at the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, for which the bride’s mother, now retired, was a lawyer.

(…)

Mr. Levin, 29, is an associate director in Washington, specializing in the advocacy and research of tax and asset-building policies, for the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit organization that fights poverty. He also graduated from Carleton College and received a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton.

“Friends, First And Always”, New York Times, March 29, 2015.

Perhaps the only thing unusual about the event was the fact Levin was a Washington outsider by upbringing, as his parents were residents of Austin, Texas. Regardless, the wedding united two prototypical Beltway progressives and insiders in matrimony, and their future seemed bright in 2015: a Quinnipiac Poll earlier that month had Hillary Clinton with a vast lead for the Democratic nomination and, more importantly, an edge over leading GOP contenders former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. While it was a precarious 3-point edge over Jeb, Clinton led Walker by 9 points and all other prospective Republicans by 5 points or more.

Even as the Greenberg-Levin ceremony became a pleasant memory later that fall, there was still a feeling that the same formula which worked for the Left in 2008 and 2012 in electing and re-electing Barack Obama would be more than enough to defeat a Republican candidate who had either alienated enough of the moderate electorate to already be a loser (GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, who had announced his bid a few months earlier in June) or the rest of the field that would invariably place themselves at a disadvantage by not calling out the subtly-biased political commentary of a reporting establishment that would be in the Democratic nominee’s corner. And while the Democrats in Washington were still laboring under a TEA Party Republican-controlled Congress, there seemed to be a confidence among the Beltway insiders that, if he were able to remain the frontrunner through the nominating process, Donald Trump’s abrasive personality and tendency to spout off on Twitter could drag the GOP ticket down enough to perhaps allow Democrats to regain control of Congress after two to six years in the minority wilderness for the Senate and House, respectively.

On the Democrat side, since Vice-President Joe Biden eventually begged off the race because of the untimely illness and death of his son Beau from a brain tumor, the “next-in-line” mantle fell squarely on the 2008 runner-up Hillary Clinton. Hillary, who eight years earlier ran against eventual nominee Barack Obama as more or less of a continuation of her husband’s triangulated policies – which worked best when enacted hand-in-hand with a Republican-controlled Congress – was now the 2016 version who believed she was entitled to the opportunity to be the first woman to be president. In her quest to win a primary campaign where its skids were already being greased for her through the Democrats’ superdelegate process, Hillary had already “evolved” leftward on some issues, such as immigration, and was being pushed even farther that way by the skunk at the coronation garden party named Bernie Sanders. Yet behind the scenes as the 2016 campaign evolved and the Clinton election looked more and more likely, progressive groups of every stripe began plotting how they could get Hillary to enact their dreamed-about policies given the reputation and expectation (cemented by her husband) that she would govern as a new type of centrist Democrat.

For politicos like Levin and Greenberg, another four or more years of Democratic dominance would perhaps enable the couple to move up the food chain into quasi-government positions with more power and prestige, while a victory by Jeb! or some other establishment Republican not named Donald Trump would just place the lovebirds in a four- or eight-year holding pattern. Of course, we all know who beat the odds and defied the so-called experts.

Just as it did for millions of others in the progressive ranks, the ascent of Donald Trump to become our 45th President threw the couple for a loop. But instead of flailing around or complaining just as soon as it was apparent that Trump would prevail, Levin and Greenberg established a goal: disrupt the new administration by any means possible. It began with the Indivisible Guide, which melted its distribution channels upon its release, and turned into a full-fledged group just weeks later.

Yet while Levin and Greenberg got the credit for Indivisible’s birthing process, they were just the public face of a cadre of “about 30 staffers from Congress and non-profit groups” who participated in shaping the initial Indivisible Guide. Since its origin, though, the couple’s stewardship has evolved the group from a small protest to a left-wing juggernaut, and in doing so has provided Indivisible with something the TEA Party really never had: clearly identifiable leaders.

In that respect Indivisible was quite unlike the TEA Party, where two major national groups (Tea Party Express and Tea Party Patriots) traded on the TEA Party name and local groups splintered in a number of different directions: many fiercely guarded their independence while others morphed into subsets of already-existing organizations such as Americans for Prosperity or the Campaign for Liberty. Add in various state and national TEA Party umbrella groups with overlapping but different agendas and it was clear not all of them were pulling in the same direction. But that was the beauty of a grassroots group.

On the other hand, while there are local Indivisible chapters who may deal with local issues as a sideline, their job 1 is to encourage resistance to Donald Trump and his Congressional allies while promoting a far left wing agenda chock full of socialized medicine, unfettered immigration, steeply progressive taxation, promotion of gender-bending policy, and overall government control.

One aside that I was contemplating for inclusion within the book: from time to time on Facebook I have commented on what I call the “traveling roadshow:” a group of maybe 20 to 30 malcontents and cranks who make it their life’s work to troll the social media of Congressman Andy Harris – who used to be my Congressman before I moved to Delaware – and show up at one of his regular town hall meetings around the sprawling district that spans nearly half the length of the state of Maryland thanks to Democrat gerrymandering. If I wanted to be a Facebook stalker, I imagine that I would find most of these fine folks are members of some Indivisible group within the district or pretty close by: according to their group roster Maryland is home to 56 member or partner organizations.

Over on this side of the Transpeninsular Line here in Delaware I counted 16 Indivisible and affiliated groups; most of those are in New Castle County, which is the Wilmington area. Since all three of the federal representatives from Delaware are Democrats, the job of Indivisibles (at least on social media) seems to be that of an amen chorus, with the sidebar of dismissing any conservative who speaks up as a Putin-paid troll. Since my representatives don’t seem to have the mostly rural western part of Sussex County on their GPS I haven’t yet been to a townhall-style meeting to see them in action to know how our version of Indivisible receives them. (It’s telling, though, that Senator Chris Coons – most famous for having Christine O’Donnell lose to him – has a primary opponent taking him on from his left, which is already pretty far over.)

Returning to point: another key and important distinction between Indivisible and your average TEA Party is in the backgrounds of its leaders. Just take the few dozen initial leaders of the TEA Party and you’ll find only a handful with any sort of government experience – while they often were local political organizers, they did so from outside the system. Conversely, Levin and Greenberg, as the Times profile shows, made their living in the belly of the Beltway beast. As Congressional staffers for Democrats, they were often on the receiving end of TEA Party anger so they had a pretty good idea how the other side lived. Whether it was perceived to be revenge or whether they admired the success of the tactics, even before the Trump administration began Greenberg and Levin were plotting out strategy to thwart the GOP’s best-laid plans of building a border wall with Mexico, securing a significant tax cut, and repealing the atrocity of Obamacare. Hence, the Indivisible Guide.

And you have to admit, looking back at these events from our hindsight of three-plus years later, that Indivisible’s method of defense was very successful. While the border wall is slowly being erected, Americans (with the exception of many well-to-do folks living in Democrat strongholds) received their tax cut, and Obamacare is being deconstructed piece by piece, one can just imagine how much more could have been accomplished if not for the misguided resistance and constant investigation by the not-so-loyal opposition. Every bit of success Donald Trump has had was either through his own initiative or took so much political capital that it cost the GOP its federal trifecta – they lost the House in 2018 and, had the Senate not been so heavily stacked against the Democrats, who had to defend the majority of their seats (26 of 35 seats up in 2018 were held by Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents) they may have taken the Senate as well.

(Just as a means of comparison, the 2010 TEA Party wave was bigger in terms of net gain of seats by the GOP, but the Senate landscape was considerably different: they needed to add ten seats to gain a majority in an election cycle where the seats being contested were almost evenly split. Had a situation analogous to 2018, with Democrats defending a vast majority of seats, been present in 2010, the GOP may have pulled off the coup of winning both houses of Congress; conversely, in a landscape where seats up for election were about evenly split on a partisan basis as it was in 2010 the Democrats may well have prevailed in taking the Senate back in 2018.)

Leah Goldberg and Ezra Levin look the part of a personable young couple; one who you probably would love to have move in next door. Personally I hope they get all they want out of life, with the one exception of stopping what little progress we are making on rightsizing the federal government. There’s no denying that they have played the political game in a masterful way, and it indeed proves a point that motivated people can make a difference, even if it’s not the change you want to see.

But there is a legitimate question one must ask about just how organic this call for change was. Granted, there were nearly 3 million more votes for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump, but – based on overall voter registration and turnout – the true winner was “none of the above.” So was it really a groundswell of support for continuing the Obama agenda or did Indivisible get a little push along the way?

I have quite a bit of research to do for what will be the third part, so I’m thinking it will take me until the latter part of March or early April to finish. There I look at how Indivisible got so wealthy so fast and how its priorities on that front have changed over time.

The surprising developments

Two weeks ago I thought we would have four candidates after Super Tuesday, and it turns out I may have gotten that part correct. After that, though…

Had I known Mike Bloomberg was such a terrible debater, perhaps I would have discounted his chances to be the anti-Sanders. Instead, Joe Biden picked himself up off the mat and delivered a knockout blow to two of the four contenders I thought would survive beyond the 14-state extravaganza, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. (Not that I expected a whole lot out of them beyond tomorrow, but regardless…)

So, on this eve of Super Tuesday as I write this, we are down to five of the original 25. (I think after tomorrow I’ll be consolidating that sidebar so I can begin adding local races.) We have Tulsi Gabbard as the one person under 70 years of age remaining in the race, but she’s honestly running to be a protest candidate because she’s never cracked the top 5 in any of the initial contests. (It wouldn’t surprise me if she doesn’t tomorrow either despite the withdrawals of many of her opponents, who probably outpoll her with the early voting done before they split the scene.)

If you are an establishment Democrat, you are probably grateful Elizabeth Warren hasn’t gotten the hint yet. (Perhaps she will figure it out when she loses her home state to Bernie Sanders, but by then some of the damage will be done.) Since she inhabits the progressive lane along with Bernie, her supporters are siphoning votes away from him and that could knock Sanders down in a few places, costing him maybe 20 to 30 delegates out of the hundreds at stake tomorrow.

On the other hand, the establishment probably wishes Mike Bloomberg would just create a SuperPAC for his millions rather than take votes away from Joe Biden. Tomorrow will be the first time he’s on the ballot, and there are some places where he may well win a significant share of delegates, particularly if they aren’t attuned to what happened in a poorly-watched debate and only see the 30-second ads with which Bloomberg has carpet-bombed the airwaves. Having the other candidates drop out – despite their Biden endorsements – buries Bloomberg’s gaffes farther down the memory hole.

Speaking of gaffes, the obvious wild-card as we enter Super Tuesday tomorrow is what comes out of the mouth of Joe Biden. Yes, he strung together two passable debate performances, but he was also bailed out by how badly Bloomberg was twisting in the wind. You know, every time President Trump mis-speaks, it’s treated as a sure sign of dementia. but the same doesn’t hold true for Creepy Joe. Odd, isn’t it?

And then you have Bernie Sanders, who will probably win most of the Super Tuesday states. However, with the withdrawal of two main opposition candidates – a pair who may not have reached the 15% viability threshold but would have split the vote enough to create a plethora of results like Nevada’s – it becomes less likely that Sanders will get 50 percent of the delegates plus 1 out of everything. As long as this remains a three- or four-way race we could have a situation where everyone gets a share in each remaining state.

But to be honest, I think someone will get just enough delegates to win on the first ballot. Sooner or later the race gets down to two and one of the contenders will begin getting a majority of delegates in each state. It’s going to depend on who establishes the winning streak because once that happens the inevitability factor will kick in – no one wants to vote for a loser. I figure this happens about the end of March, which makes for interesting timing.

Once we get past the big three primaries on March 17 (Florida, Illinois, Ohio) there’s a slate that would seem to be Biden-friendly (Georgia, Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii, and Louisiana) but then the tide turns to a more Sanders-style docket in Wisconsin April 7 and the Acela primaries on April 28 (Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island.) Aside from Biden’s probable decisive win in Delaware, that could be the point where Bernie takes control, because he has to: the remaining slate has a lot of rural states in flyover country which would likely go for Biden (as well as Washington, DC.)

The arrangement of primaries and the factor of who remains in the race make for an interesting spring. Of course, President Trump has only the token opposition of William Weld to deal with so he’s free to make his comments about his prospective opponent. In two weeks when my birth state prepares to vote, the race may be changed once again, so maybe my speculation is worth what you paid for it. (There is still a tip jar up there, though.)

I’ll stay up a bit tomorrow, but I’m not waiting up for California results – for that, you’re on your own.

Splitting the opposition: the upset

Editor’s note: Back in January I promised a multi-part series of posts based on a book I started on the Indivisible movement that, simply put, just wasn’t coming together as I would have liked. So I decided to serialize that beginning of a book draft – with a little more editing as I see fit – and add more writing to make this into a multi-part series of posts.

This first post begins with the introduction I had wrote, which covered “the biggest upset in U.S. history.”

For (Hillary) Clinton, the loss is especially brutal. She had meticulously planned her victory party at the Javits Center in Manhattan, symbolically under an enormous glass ceiling that she hoped to break through. Instead, it was the dreams and aspirations of her supporters that were shattered.

Trump pulls off biggest upset in U.S. history“, Shane Goldmacher and Ben Schreckinger, Politico, November 9, 2016

If you had done a “man on the street” interview in the days before the 2016 Presidential election and asked about its potential outcome, most respondents would likely have followed the conventional wisdom that the election was going to be, at long last, the second consecutive rectification of a long-standing wrong in American history: after electing (and re-electing) the first African-American president in Barack Obama, the fairer sex would get its first opportunity at the Oval Office by the election of a woman with a familiarity to the premises in Hillary Clinton, the long-suffering wife of our 42nd President, Bill Clinton.

That’s not to say, however, that the Clinton campaign didn’t endure some bumps in the road in the process: specifically, her coronation as the favored Democratic candidate was all but interrupted by the insurgent bid of Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders, who temporarily dropped his independent moniker in order to seek the Democratic nomination. Old-style machine politics coupled with rules that made the party anything but democratic, such as the significant roles played by the superdelegates and the thumb placed on the scale by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, made sure that a large slice of the left-wing electorate was going to have hard feelings regarding Clinton’s nomination. However, looking at the election from an early-November perspective, all that funny business with Sanders was going to become a mere footnote in the poorhouse-to-penthouse political success story that Hillary was putting the finishing touches on.

Yet believing the conventional wisdom may have been the mistake that unraveled Clinton’s campaign – a going-through of motions that ignored several Rust Belt states assumed to be in the Democratic column. Perhaps the Clinton camp felt safe in believing she would win because Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin had a heavy union influence and, with the exception of Ohio, had voted Democratic blue in every Presidential election since 1988 – a trend first made possible by Hillary’s husband. Moreover, placed against a divisive candidate who had alienated a large cross-section of the Republican Party – a group called the #NeverTrump Republicans – it was thought that GOP turnout could be depressed in swing states like Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia, further securing the Clinton victory. One week out, polling showed that Clinton was indeed winning in her “firewall” states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and within the margin of error in Florida. Ohio was not in as good of shape, but historians could assure Hillary’s backers that, while no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio, there have been a handful of GOP stalwarts who won the state but lost the overall race – the last being Richard Nixon in 1960.

The factor no one ever considered in handicapping the 2016 race, though, was the amount of pent-up frustration churning in the residents of America’s heartland. Going into Election Day, Hillary’s campaign probably knew she was in a bit of trouble in Florida and Ohio, but all that would do was temper her Electoral College victory to something below 300 votes. In assuming that Hillary would win Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, they believed she would have squeaked out a 278-260 Electoral College win even while losing Florida and Ohio. But for want of 77,747 votes combined in the three “firewall” states Hillary lost – far fewer than Green Party candidate Jill Stein received in the trio – Donald Trump won the Electoral College and the Presidential election despite drawing nearly 3 million fewer votes nationwide. No amount of cajoling or laying on of guilt by certain members of the public could convince members of the Electoral College to switch their Trump votes to Hillary, although a half-dozen changed their votes to others. On January 6, 2017 Congress counted the votes and it became official: January 20, 2017 would mark the beginning of the Trump administration.

It was an administration I didn’t vote for, but these events gave birth to a fascinating political movement and eventually inspired this series I’m writing as a way to document its unique history and effects and to present a proposal on how right-thinking Americans can split up this supposedly unbreakable entity.

You may ask, then: what piqued my interest in the Indivisible movement?

In 2019, a decade after it came into being as a protest against the billions of dollars being proposed as economic stimulus by then-President Obama, I released a book called The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party, a historical and analytical book that featured several of its early leaders. As I learned in researching that book, it turned out the ragtag irregular rear-guard regiments of the loosely-organized TEA Party were the ones who didn’t get polled (or couldn’t bring themselves to admit backing Donald Trump, or flat-out lied to the pollsters) but came out in droves in those aforementioned heartland states to cast their ballot against Hillary. They were a voter bloc left for dead in American politics, in large part because these initial supporters now viewed the national organizations claiming that TEA Party mantle as just another set of inside-the-Beltway interest groups. Combine that with the percentage of voters who “felt the Bern” and were disgruntled enough with the Democratic Party and their gaming of the system to push them into supporting someone like Jill Stein over Hillary, and you get the result we received: Donald Trump pulling the “biggest upset in U.S. history.”

However, once the shock of Hillary’s loss wore off, those who believed she was the better candidate decided not to get mad – they vowed to get even. In writing the Indivisible Guide – more formally known as Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, but I’ll just call it the Indivisible Guide or simply Guide – the authors made it clear their movement was borrowing heavily from the tactics and techniques of the TEA Party but doing so in order to oppose Donald Trump and advocate for the progressive agenda they believed would have been both an extension of Barack Obama’s policies and the starting point for a Hillary Clinton presidency. Quoting from its introduction:

Donald Trump is the biggest popular-vote loser in history to ever call himself President. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the Members of Congress (MoCs) who would do his bidding. Together, we have the power to resist – and we have the power to win.

We know this because we’ve seen it before. The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism – and they won.

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda – but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

Opening statement to Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.

Having the direct comparison available between Indivisible and the TEA Party may have led readers to believe this will be a short summary, but it’s made much more complex by the nature of the opposition. Unlike the TEA Party, which I found to be percolating beneath the political surface for over a year before it was galvanized by random early morning remarks by a TV pundit by the name of Rick Santelli in February, 2009, Indivisible was put together almost overnight – yet it gathered the momentum it needed in a few short weeks thanks to the backing of large organizations which make Indivisible much more of an Astroturf group than it may appear to be from the outside.

In the understatement of the decade, it’s fair to say that the prospect of a Trump presidency didn’t sit well with a lot of people, and their anger was intense. At the same time Indivisible was being planned out, social media organizers were putting together the Women’s March on Washington. Held the day after Trump was sworn in, their event outdrew the inauguration, according to news reports. Quoted in The Atlantic, an “expert on nonviolent protest” by the name of Erica Chenowith gushed that the Women’s March “has some of the hallmarks of the beginning of a successful movement. The ability to mobilize large numbers of people is often associated with the creation of an effective campaign.” Yet, charges of anti-Semitism against its leadership and its embrace of political values far outside the mainstream have led the March on a downward spiral, with the 2020 event drawing a mere fraction of the 2017 crowd. It’s even taken a back seat to the annual March for Life put on by abortion opponents, which continues to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital year after year and was buoyed this year with President Trump’s personal appearance – the first time a sitting President has addressed the gathering. (Let’s pray it’s the pro-life support that becomes the “effective campaign.”) Whether it was because the Women’s March had folded most of its support into other aspects of progressive politics, such as Indivisible, or if the anti-Semitism repelled prospective marchers, the Women’s March as an organized group doesn’t appear to have the staying power that Indivisible has maintained.

Given that Indivisible has presented itself as inspired by the TEA Party, having the experience of writing and researching on that particular political caprice provided me with a number of questions about Indivisible and its place in the progressive movement which needed to be looked at to provide a complete accounting. And, to borrow from the Rules for Radicals penned by progressive icon Saul Alinsky, it’s an effort to make Indivisible conform to the rules they themselves set by making such a comparison. By far, that aspect of this series will be the most fun to write because, frankly, the Indivisible narrative has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese.

Naturally, the comparison can’t be an exact one. Setting aside the difference in policy prescriptions the respective winners ran on in 2008 and 2016, the situation that gave birth to Indivisible was far different than the circumstance that led to the formation of the TEA Party. Unlike his predecessor, President Trump did not come in facing a nation amidst the direst economic circumstances since the Great Depression, one simultaneously troubled by ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. Instead, what Donald Trump inherited was a sense of unfinished business felt by the populace: as 2017 dawned, America was in a dawdling, “jobless” economic recovery while its foreign policy wrestled with the rise of the al-Qaeda successor Islamic State – Barack Obama’s idea of the “JV team.” Donald Trump’s blueprint for fundamental change, then, was the idea of reversing what he saw as the excesses of big government, such as eliminating Obamacare, providing tax relief, and securing the border with Mexico. Those three agenda items formed Trump’s appeal to the TEA Party’s political diaspora.

But Trump didn’t go as far as the initial TEA Party leaders would have. While they shared much of the platform of thwarting Obama’s initiatives, Trump wasn’t as keen during his campaign about returning the federal government to what TEA Party believers deemed a more proper, Constitutional role by limiting its size and scope. For example, early on Trump took entitlement reform off the table, believing a more robust economy would work the problem out for us.

Conversely, Indivisible was about one thing and one thing only: stopping Donald Trump. Yet the most important consideration when talking about Indivisible’s origins is knowing its organizers are products of a political culture. Instead of outsiders tilting at the windmills of the political field like most of the original TEA Party leaders were, Indivisible’s two key founders, the husband-and-wife team of Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, were already well-placed inside the castle because they were both Congressional staffers at some point during their careers and continually worked inside the Beltway swamp. Knowing all the inside baseball allowed them to dictate an anti-Trump agenda, pull the proper levers, and implement their agenda in the stealthiest manner possible, with minimum fingerprints thanks to a bureaucracy (the Swamp, or “deep state”) that also loathed Trump from the get-go.

Thus, at the time of its inception, Indivisible was only interested in what they termed “playing defense” and settling in for a waiting game until progressive reinforcements could arrive in the 2018 midterm elections. Once the changing of the House guard came, thanks to the 2018 midterms, Indivisible began advocating for a number of policy changes their supporters could originate in the House as its way of going on offense.

I’m relishing the chance to share my conclusions, but my next part will begin with a look at the couple that’s the public face of Indivisible.

A not-so-elite eight

We’re a few weeks away from basketball’s March Madness, but I’m returning one final time to the occasional series I began in the midst of that phenomenon last year on the then-swelling Democrat presidential field to reflect on how it all shook out – and what may well be yet to happen. If you go back to last March, here’s where I ranked the eight who remain in the field now, with updates as they occurred:

  • Joe Biden was #1, holding that spot in May and September.
  • Bernie Sanders was #2, holding that spot in May but slipping to #3 in September.
  • Elizabeth Warren was #4. She fell to #6 in May but jumped to #2 in September.
  • Amy Klobuchar was #6. She fell to #7 in May and stayed there in September.
  • Pete Buttigieg was #13. He jumped to #3 in May, but fell to #5 in September.
  • Tulsi Gabbard was #14. She fell to #21 in May but surged to #9 in September.
  • Tom Steyer was first ranked #8 in September.
  • Mike Bloomberg got into the race after my rankings.

So it’s interesting that most of my top choices have remained in the fray, with the only early surprises being Buttigieg and, to a much lesser extent, Gabbard.

(Numbers 3 and 5 early on were Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke, respectively. Harris was my highest-rated casualty, while Beto faded pretty quickly. Buttigieg initially pushed Amy Klobuchar out of the top 6, then Cory Booker kept her out as he reached the top 6 in September before he, too, exited the race.)

There’s also something to be said about Tulsi Gabbard hanging in there, as she has outlasted the initial turmoil in her campaign. She’s sort of like the Ron Paul of the 2020 Democrat race, but considering I had her initially in the bottom tier with a lot of folks who have long since departed the scene, it’s admirable that she’s found a support niche and said some things which needed to be said. She sure took care of Kamala Harris.

It’s also worth reviewing just how these candidates did in the first two races of the year: the Iowa caucus (assuming they are done counting) and the New Hampshire primary.

For the Iowa caucus I am using the initial alignment votes, as it’s their closest equivalent to a primary.

  • Bernie Sanders: 1st with 43,699 votes (24.7%)
  • Pete Buttigieg: 2nd with 37,596 votes (21.3%)
  • Elizabeth Warren: 3rd with 32,611 votes (18.5%)
  • Joe Biden: 4th with 26,322 votes (14.9%)
  • Amy Klobuchar: 5th with 22,474 votes (12.7%)
  • Tom Steyer: 7th with 3,054 votes (1.7%)
  • Tulsi Gabbard: 9th with 342 votes (0.2%)
  • Mike Bloomberg: 10th with 215 votes (0.1%)

Between the first and second rounds Buttigieg gained the most votes (although not enough to pass Sanders, who gained the fewest) while Warren was a distant second in that category. In terms of absolute numbers among these contenders, Biden dropped the most votes in districts where he fell short of 15% viability but Steyer lost a far greater proportion of his vote and nearly as many in raw numbers. In terms of delegates from Iowa, Buttigieg gets 13, Sanders gets 12, Warren 8, Biden 6, and Klobuchar 1, with one uncommitted.

Moving on to New Hampshire:

  • Bernie Sanders: 1st with 76,355 votes (25.6%)
  • Pete Buttigieg: 2nd with 72,445 votes (24.3%)
  • Amy Klobuchar: 3rd with 58,774 votes (19.7%)
  • Elizabeth Warren: 4th with 27,428 votes (9.2%)
  • Joe Biden: 5th with 24,911 votes (8.3%)
  • Tom Steyer: 6th with 10,694 votes (3.6%)
  • Tulsi Gabbard: 7th with 9,745 votes (3.3%)
  • Mike Bloomberg: 9th with 4,777 votes (1.6%)

For his part, Bloomberg was a write-in candidate in New Hampshire so it’s actually sort of astounding he did that well. Sanders and Buttigieg picked up 9 delegates apiece, while Klobuchar got the other 6 to move into fourth place ahead of Biden overall: Buttigieg has 22, Sanders 21, Warren 8, Klobuchar 7, Biden 6, and uncommitted 1.

The next state up is Nevada, which isn’t a treasure trove of delegates (just 36) but establishes the narrative for the week leading up to the South Carolina primary at month’s end and Super Tuesday on March 3 – which will probably eliminate half or more of this field. Because all of the initial focus was on Iowa and New Hampshire, there’s little polling to go on for Nevada but what polls there are suggest this may be a real fight for spots 2 through 6 and that four or five candidates could share in that delegate pool. This is particularly true as the race is a hybrid caucus with early voting, unlike Iowa.

Bernie Sanders is considered more or less a lock to make the 15% threshold; however the key question is whether Joe Biden – who led in Nevada through the polling done in early January – will crater enough to miss out on getting delegates. All others except Bloomberg – who is not participating – and Gabbard are flirting with that 15% viability number, as all except Warren have trended upward polling-wise in the last few weeks. That 2 through 6 order of finish is going to be the thing to watch as there could be five candidates in the 8-18% range.

As for South Carolina, that is considered to be the last stand for both Joe Biden and Tom Steyer. Biden once had a lead approaching 30 points in the state, but that has dwindled down to single-digits. If he continues to sink and gets passed by Bernie Sanders and even Steyer (who are currently 2 and 3) in late, post-Nevada polling I can’t see Joe surviving to Super Tuesday.

At some point, the field has to consolidate. It’s just my wild guess that among the eight contenders the one to go after Nevada will be Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden will finally figure out his time is past once he fades to third or fourth in South Carolina, perhaps not even getting delegates there. Gabbard won’t spend much money, but I think she will stay in the race on principle for a little while – at least long enough to outlast a couple others who are in. (But she’s not sniffing double digits in any caucus or primary this year unless she’s the last protest vote candidate left.) By the same token, many thought Tom Steyer would cash in his chips after New Hampshire but I don’t think he gets enough of a bounce after Nevada or South Carolina to be present in the race beyond Super Tuesday.

Once the smoke clears after March 3, I think the field is down to 4. Seeded from worst to first, we will have:

  • Pete Buttigieg. When you look at the field, he’s trying to straddle the moderate lane. But Pete’s support is lacking among black voters, and while he’s a fresh face, he’s struggled to handle the scrutiny as the field has dwindled. America tried the inexperienced guy with the funny name and distinction of first ____ president route once already this century, so I’m not sure they’re quite ready for another, especially with his particular first.
  • Amy Klobuchar. She has hung around in this race quite nicely, lurking just outside the top tier and watching as various flavors of the month (Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, etc.) have had their fifteen minutes of fame before fading away once Americans got to know them. By default she’s moving into the top tier but the question is whether she can consolidate any sort of base, female or otherwise, in time to establish her presence before the primaries are too far gone to get enough delegates; thus, she might now be running for vice-president. Would a Sanders-Klobuchar ticket be the unity ticket the Democrats need as their best hope to oust Donald Trump? More importantly, would you like to be a fly on the wall for those interactions?
  • Bernie Sanders. He has plenty of money and a passionate support base. But some guy just as smart as me pointed out that the ceiling for a Socialist vote seems to be 45%, and that’s before you know who the candidates are. Yet the two initial factors, combined with a desire to keep Milwaukee from feeling the burn – literally – could well be good enough to push Bernie over the top. If so, and if the aforementioned Sanders-Klobuchar package doesn’t sound good enough, look for an effort by the #NeverTrumpers and mainline Democrats to find a stalking horse candidate who can snatch away just enough support from Trump to steal the election, or even win outright. Maybe it will be…
  • Mike Bloomberg. This man is doing more to advance the narrative that politics is a commodity than anyone in our nation’s history. Donald Trump parlayed years of television fame into $5 billion in free media to win the White House, but Mike Bloomberg is eschewing even that step (unless you count his news service.) By nationalizing his campaign with an unprecedented advertising blitz in the opening months and just skipping ahead to campaigning for Super Tuesday, he made spending a whole summer, fall, and holidays trying to gain name recognition in some backwater Iowa county or New Hampshire hamlet absolutely unnecessary. (The same goes for a ground game – why beg and cajole when you can just buy oodles of staffers?) Of course, only billionaires or extremely adept fundraisers could afford to run that way.

By this time three weeks hence, we should pretty well have an idea whether the Democrats will have a nominee in hand before their convention or will have to endure multiple ballots for the first time in decades. If the latter comes into play, I don’t think there will be a white knight entering the race (so have a seat, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry) but they may try and figure out who can best fool us into believing they’ll have a pro-American agenda.

All of their top-tier candidates have flaws, and there’s no guarantee that the disparate elements of the Democrat party are going to come together for a particular candidate, let alone nominate one who appeals to independents or can bring older, more traditional Democrat voters back home – you know, the ones who voted for Trump because they couldn’t stand Hillary. This is especially true when your top two contenders are northeastern liberals (like Hillary), your third-place one is female (like Hillary), and the fourth-place contender is openly gay, with his own “first husband.” (Sort of like what was often rumored about Hillary.) There’s a generation of voters who won’t flinch at that last aspect, but I believe there’s a larger generation who is better at turning out on Election Day and isn’t down with having a gay man in the Oval Office, okay Boomer? Maybe next time he runs in 2024 Pete has a better shot.

Assuming the Trump train has enough momentum to make it to a second term in the 2020 election, look out. If you thought this cycle was bad, wait until the Democrats begin their 2024 campaign this November 4.

A rush to condemn, part 2

A recent post on Twitter by a Delaware state senator made local news, and it’s just another example of what I meant in my last post.

State Senator Bryan Townsend is, of course, a Democrat who owns a measly 11 lifetime rating (out of a possible 100) on the Delaware edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project. But his retweet of a cartoon obviously depicting Limbaugh of a member of the KKK is yet another example of what I described yesterday.

Of course many who replied to the Tweet let him have it. But in looking down his overall Twitter feed (which intersperses between mainly political-related items with a few family observations tossed in) it’s apparent that he’s not going to care one iota regardless of the remarks, or the facts: like his longtime call screener Bo Snerdley (a black man) we’re still waiting for all the racist remarks Rush has made. But to Townsend (a politician) perception is reality.

It also goes without saying that there’s a double standard at work here, since two different local GOP party officials were recently drummed out of their party roles thanks to insensitive remarks on their part. But I doubt Townsend is going anywhere and he has the luxury of his seat not being up until 2022, as he was re-elected in 2018 with the largest margin of victory among the eight Senators who faced opposition, with just under 76%. He represents the leafy suburbia of New Castle County – his district runs along I-95 just west of the Christiana Mall – so Bryan obviously has his constituents fooled into believing he’s worthy of support. I just feel sorry for his small children, being raised by parents with such beliefs.

I’m also glad he’s not my state senator. Ironically, I found out my state senator is a newspaper owner so you can imagine how much scrutiny his editions receive. Maybe that’s the most prudent approach?

On the duopoly

One facet of the early TEA Party which fascinated me was the debate on whether to try to form a political TEA Party or work through the existing two-party system, or, as I call it, the duopoly. In Rise and Fall I devoted a significant part of the early chapters to the TEA Party’s impact on two political campaigns: the 2009 Doug Hoffman Congressional race in New York’s 23rd Congressional District and the Scott Brown Senate race for the “Kennedy seat” in Massachusetts in 2009-10.

In the Hoffman case, you may recall that the Republican nominee was selected by local party officials rather than the electorate at large, resulting in a candidate, state Assembly member Dede Scozzafava, who was deemed most electable as a moderate as opposed to necessarily espousing Republican principles. Hoffman, who had also interviewed for the seat and had originally pledged his support for Scozzafava, eventually prevailed upon New York’s Conservative Party to give him his own ballot line.

Although Hoffman was in a close second place by the time late October rolled around – thanks to the sudden interest of the TEA Party in a rather obscure, backwater Congressional district special election race – the eventual withdrawal by the Republican and her endorsement of Democrat Bill Owens, along with a disadvantageous ballot position, pulled defeat from the jaws of victory. (Owens had the advantage of two ballot lines as well, as a far-left party endorsed him rather than run a candidate on their own.)

Stung by that loss, the TEA Party tried things the other way. Fast-forward about six weeks and once Scott Brown made it official by winning the Republican nomination for the Massachusetts special election it was (practically) all hands on deck – never mind he was arguably to the left of Scozzafava overall and there was an independent libertarian candidate in the race (ironically by the name of Joseph Kennedy, but no relation to the Camelot clan) who may have been more suitable philosophically. Aside from the small percentage who argued the Kennedy case on TEA Party principles, the national focus was on Brown winning, and as we now know, he did – and was soon rather disappointing for two reasons: one, his moderate stances, and secondly, he’s the one who gave us Elizabeth Warren because he got his doors blown off in the 2012 general, when his wasn’t the only race of national concern.

In short, this brief few months sealed a key decision (and perhaps error) by those who were the leaders of the TEA Party: they chose to try and reform the Republican Party from within. Convinced that someplace within the GOP were candidates and officeholders receptive to the conservative message of the TEA Party, the effort in the first half of last decade was to take over the GOP from within, through gaining seats in local precincts and working their way up the ranks. By now you would think this policy of percolating through from the grassroots would be bearing sizable fruit – but it doesn’t seem to be working that way.

This long prelude has finally brought me to my main point and inspiration. One of those who I made acquaintance with in promoting my book over the summer was Andy Hooser, whose radio show “The Voice of Reason” was the seventh stop on my radio tour. (I remember doing his show pacing around my backyard on what I called “Triple Dip Friday” – three shows in one day!)

Since then I’ve signed up for updates and the other day Andy introduced the current two-party system as a topic of discussion, noting in part:

We have been the ones, as members of the parties, that have allowed the parties to get out of hand. Our nation was built on strong, hard individuals who were leaders, not followers. The founding fathers that did promote a two party system, did so with the idea that the informed, active member of society could listen to an argument, contribute to the cause, and help the party accomplish it’s goals. Now…the party creates fear in the hearts of ill-informed followers to create an agenda. With our lack of involvement in politics…with our lack of engagement in the system…and our lack of understanding of issues as a society, the parties are no longer run by us…but for for self preservation with us as the follower to keep the lifeline going. 

So how do we fix this? A third party? HA. Third parties are no more relevant than Vermin Supreme running for President. The only thing third parties do, is potentially swing an election to the side lest in line with your views. 

Our job is to fix the parties from within. We cannot destroy them (unless they destroy themselves…Hello socialist Democrats?), we cannot leave them. At the end of the day, the money, they power, and the influence is within the parties. Our chance to change things…is the fix the party internally. Run for office locally. Set a standard of what you will tolerate as a platform for the party and the candidates. Hold you local, statewide, and national elected officials accountable. Don’t let them say one thing, yet vote another way. Work within your party. And bring it back to the platform it says it promotes. That’s the reason you joined it in the first place. 

“To be a two party system…or not to be!” – Voice of Reason website, January 29, 2020.

A common definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and it seems to me we in the TEA Party tried this approach a decade ago. Nor would it surprise me if the Moral Majority crowd didn’t try it in the early 1980s, to name another somewhat failed attempt to mold and shape politics to their will. Everything old is new again.

This assertion also begs the question: are the two parties really that popular? Since I was a Maryland resident at the time, this is where the party registration totals stood the day after the initial set of TEA Parties, February 28, 2009:

  • Democrat: 1,953,650 (56.9%)
  • Republican: 919,500 (26.8%)
  • unaffiliated: 482,806 (14.1%)
  • all others: 76,486 (2.2%)

It was a D+30 state. Now let’s see where we are at as of the end of 2019:

  • Democrat: 2,204,017 (54.7%)
  • Republican: 1,009,635 (25.0%)
  • unaffiliated: 757,953 (18.8%)
  • all others: 60,536 (1.5%)

Of the four major groups, the only one which is growing in rate are the unaffiliated. But it is still a D+30 state.

Turning to my adopted home state of Delaware, the online numbers only go back to 2010. In Delaware at that time (January 2010) there were 25 (!) registered parties but only four had ballot access: Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and the Independent Party of Delaware (or IPOD).

  • Democrat: 287,821 (47.1%)
  • Republican: 180,479 (29.5%)
  • unaffiliated: 137,072 (22.4%)
  • all others: 6,095 (1.0%)

That would make it a D+18 state, which was a little more promising for conservatives. So where do we stand now, a decade later? Well, we are down to 17 parties listed but the top dogs are still on top:

  • Democrat: 338,586 (47.4%)
  • Republican: 198,018 (27.7%)
  • unaffiliated: 163,150 (22.8%)
  • all others: 14,365 (2.0%)

The Delaware GOP has seen their previous support splinter in every direction: their 1.8% loss has gone slightly to the Democrats (0.4%) and unaffiliated groups (also 0.4%) but mainly to minor parties, which doubled to 2% of the electorate. Now it’s a D+20 state.

What does this all mean? Well, at least in this small area of the country, it means that if the TEA Party took over the Republican Party, it didn’t do a very good job of making it thrive. (Given the Delaware GOP’s treatment of their Senate primary winner Christine O’Donnell in 2010, it wouldn’t surprise me if a significant part of their registration loss came from that incident.) Of course, there are other areas of the nation where the GOP is probably growing but I suspect these types of declining numbers are prevalent in many areas.

So why not a third party? Well, if you look at our history as a whole our political system went through a number of party upheavals in its first century, but the last major shift came in the 1850s as the Republican Party ascended over the ruins of the old Whig Party. I tend to believe that as time went on the two dominant parties entered into a gentleman’s agreement to divvy the political spoils among themselves, making it more difficult for competing parties to grow and prosper.

Imagine the time and effort wasted by the Libertarians, Green Party, Constitution Party, Reform Party, and others in having to gain ballot access again and again in some states, such as Maryland – a state that required parties secure 1% of the vote in certain races or go through a process of collecting thousands of signatures just to qualify for another cycle. Of course, the Republicans and Democrats don’t have to do this, and they are the ones who prefer the duopoly because it cuts off competition.

On the other hand, the reason Delaware has so many parties is fairly lax rules on party formation. Their biggest hurdle is getting and maintaining 1% of registered voters for ballot access, but it’s been done by the Libertarians, Green Party, and IPOD, so there are possibly five choices all across the political spectrum. (They are very close to six, if the American Delta Party can pick up a handful of voters.) Granted, none of these parties fill a ballot all the way down to state representative, but I believe the reason is a self-fulfilling prophecy (created by the duopoly, echoed by the media) that only a D or R can win.

Over the years, there has become a “lesser of two evils” approach to voting: people voted for Donald Trump not because they were enamored with him but because they were really afraid of what Hillary Clinton would do to us. We were all told that “a vote for Gary Johnson, Evan McMullin, etc. is a vote for Hillary.” So they were scared into voting for Trump. (On the other hand, having disgruntled Bernie Sanders backers and conventional wisdom that Hillary would easily win may have freed those on the Left to vote for who they really wanted, to Hillary’s detriment.)

That was the approach by enough people in enough states (including her so-called “firewall” across the Midwest) to give Donald Trump the upset victory despite the fact more Republicans voted against him than in his favor during the primary season, although Trump had the plurality by the time it was over. (As Democrats did against Barack Obama in 2008 – Hillary Clinton won that popular vote, too.)

But what if people had something to vote for? If you’re on the far left, maybe you like the Green Party or Socialist Workers Party, while those on the conservative side may prefer my political home, the Constitution Party. There’s nothing hurt by giving the electorate more choices, but the key is getting states to loosen up balloting requirements.

And if we want a real TEA Party, it would become possible and easier to build one from the bottom up. Why take over a party which is set in its ways when you can build to suit? Let’s make that easier to do.

The state of the TEA Party: winter 2020

This update is going to be a little bit different than the first ones from last summer and fall. Most of the immediate loose ends left untied by the publication of my book have now been tied up so it’s time to shift focus.

I got to thinking the other day about where the TEA Party was during the 2012 Presidential campaign, which was the first one it faced as a political entity. At this point in the 2012 campaign the TEA Party – which, in real time, was just before Christmas of 2011 because the Iowa caucuses were held on January 3 of that year – was still weighing its choices between a slew of TEA Party-approved contenders like Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum or holding their nose to get behind the favored and more centrist and establishment Mitt Romney, who eventually won the GOP nomination – much to the chagrin of many TEA Party believers. (One of those who also flirted with the idea of running during the 2012 campaign before bowing out just weeks later: Donald Trump. It would be four years later that his campaign ignited a second firestorm among TEA Party adherents.)

Fast forward to 2020 and flip the coin over to the other side of the political spectrum and you see the dilemma of the far left Democrats: do they stick with the infighting between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, switch over to the unproven Pete Buttigieg, or hold their nose for the known commodity of Joe Biden as the best chance to defeat Donald Trump? In short, at what point do you abandon principle for practicality and work for an election in the hope that maybe you won’t lose any more political ground with a more moderate candidate? That seemed to be the fate of TEA Party people in 2012, and perhaps they learned pragmatism from their first two major elections: the Doug Hoffman New York Congressional race in 2009 and Scott Brown’s first Senate run in the winter of 2009-10.

I’m thinking that may be a question I will ask later this summer, but here’s the idea for this feature going forward.

If it’s not apparent to you after all these years of writing, the TEA Party as envisioned was a political movement right up my alley; hence, I’m pretty passionate about it. Why else would I spent over 2 1/2 years writing a book to help document its history and effects? (Hint: it ain’t the money.)

After a decade-plus of existence, we can now see what impact the TEA Party has had on the political scene, but there’s a portion of me that feels it needs continued study on how to maintain and increase its relevance and make it more effective in implementing its principles. The question arises, though: what are its principles, and how have they changed over time?

So, every three months, my hope is to distill what those who are most involved in the TEA Party as its Founding Fathers (and Mothers) and other longtime leaders have to say about the topics I’m introducing here – not just as a blog post but in more of a newsletter style. (My model in this is a familiar one to me: The Patriot Post, for whom I write weekly.) Not only would it promote academic-style study, but it would also be a legacy project for those involved – we have lost several of the early leaders already, and it’s a movement we need more than ever.

To that end I’ve already determined a number of topic questions that will carry us through the remainder of 2020.

April: The TEA Party got its start as a movement claiming we were “Taxed Enough Already.” We have found that the tax cuts we received from President Trump in 2017 have indeed bolstered the economy and put more money in our pockets, and that’s great – but we still run trillion-dollar deficits just as we did in the heart of the Great Recession. How can we sell a message of spending reduction to the masses like we pressed for tax cuts? And, corollary to that, how do we defend ourselves from the charge of hypocrisy given we got the tax cuts we wanted but still find ourselves deep in red ink?

July: As noted earlier, the primary elections don’t always give us the candidate we want. For many of us, Donald Trump was an example; however, the way he has governed has been a pleasant surprise. What are some of the “red line” issues that are non-negotiable to you, or, put another way, are there instances where you can’t abide by the rule made popular by Ronald Reagan, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” Or is just moving the ball enough after primary voters have spoken?

October: For good or bad, Donald Trump has been our President for the last three=plus years. On the off chance that he is defeated in November, however, where does the TEA Party begin with its resistance to the far-left agenda sure to be enacted by the Democrats’ nominee? Or, if Trump wins – and doesn’t have to worry about re-election ever again – what issues do you want him to exhaust his political capital on in his second term?

I believe these are compelling questions worth asking, and hopefully I will have a plethora of answers from those most passionate about the TEA Party movement.

As far as a timeline, ideally April would be the last State of the TEA Party blog post exclusively at this venue. I would love to have a functional site for this proposed digest (as well as a nice little mailing list) by this summer, but that is going to depend on how much assistance I receive. At this point the help is more in the area of expertise than finance, since the goal is simply to promote this information in a venue that is inherently not looking to support or oppose particular candidates but to be a clearinghouse to discuss ideas and correctly write the TEA Party’s history and overarching goals.

By its very nature, 2020 should be a year of vision. Let’s bring the state of the TEA Party into a much clearer and more broadly understood focus.

The new direction

Back in the last decade (a few days ago) I alluded to the fact I would talk about a new direction for this site, which actually extends to other aspects of my writing career. So here goes.

Last summer I did my famous (or infamous, depending on perspective) reading of The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party at Pemberton Coffeehouse. As the last part of that reading I read a tease from the next project I was working on, a book about the Indivisible movement. Its basic premise was to use the statement that it was using the rules of the road laid out by the TEA Party as their own. I figured that I was a pretty good expert on how the TEA Party operates so who better to write a book grading the upstarts on their efforts?

Unfortunately, this is where I ran into a problem. I really have no passion for Indivisible; in fact, I still get their stuff and read it, alternately wanting to laugh hysterically and shake my head in disbelief that supposedly intelligent people believe some of this crap. Their being stuck on “orange man bad” makes them rather dull to consider, and there’s nowhere near the tension and conflict when the media has its back – or, really, more or less ignores them by comparison to the TEA Party. In short, there just wasn’t the desire to write 200 pages on the subject.

And then we have the whole book marketing thing. To be honest, as I noted in my latest edition of radio days, I really need a long format radio gig to feel comfortable and those are hard to come across. And even with all that, the books haven’t exactly been flying off the shelves – not for a lack of trying. I did sixteen different radio shows but what I didn’t tell you is that I contacted somewhere close to 200 in order to make that happen. There were probably eight to ten more gigs which fell through for various reasons, and by this point the book is far enough in the rearview mirror that its relevance has diminished somewhat. (For example, it’s silent on the whole impeachment saga that’s consumed political news during the latter half of 2019.) There’s a point where you can’t market old news.

I love the act of writing, but I don’t get nearly as much thrill from the acts of selling even though that’s what creates the market for the writing. It seems to me that finding someone to market books properly yet affordably is almost as unlikely as finding the winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk. I know I have people who believe in and enjoy my work, but I can’t make them give me reviews or market my book for me. I can say that I’ve written two books but I can’t say I was significantly better at marketing the second effort – which involved a lot more work than the first one – than I was with the first one seven years ago.

However, having said that, I think there is a market for my writing – it may be a small niche, but it exists nonetheless. Moreover, I’m very partial to short-form writing (such as blog posts, but also my contributions to The Patriot Post and before that PJ Media, Examiner.com, and my days as a struggling syndicated columnist) so why not bring those strengths into play? Plus I retain this venue as a good base of operations. (Eventually the Rise and Fall site will go away. I would like to have a writer site to market my writing, although there’s nothing which says I couldn’t just do it here. Something for me to think and pray about.)

Thus, I have a few writing goals in mind for this year. Some are relatively easy to achieve while others are more ambitious. There is also a longer-term political goal which will hopefully be kicked off by actions I take this year, but I won’t get into that just yet.

I begin with the fate of the Indivisible book. To date I have put about 4,000 words to paper, most of which went into the introduction while I also covered a little bit about the personalities and finance. Making this an 80,000 word book would definitely be a stretch, particularly since I had intended to complete it for this November – and, like I said, my heart wasn’t in it.

However, I also have a saying – don’t let good writing go to waste. I think what can be done with this beginning of a draft would be to serialize it into a four- or five-part series after I round it out a little bit, maybe adding a couple thousand words to make the points. It may be a good thing to start up around the time of Super Tuesday since Indivisible will be actively trying to manipulate the Democrats’ nomination process, similarly to how the TEA Party tried to influence the 2012 GOP nomination.

In the interim, I want to continue a series I’ve done on a quarterly basis since last summer: the State of the TEA Party. My next installment will come later this month, but by the summer I really want to take the concept in a new, exciting direction.

My vision for the State of the TEA Party is to eventually create a quarterly journal from it – whether print, online, or both – one which creates an academic-style look at the movement for a limited, Constitutional government that the TEA Party supposedly espoused at its creation. Obviously this entails more input from other people, and that’s where some of the contacts I had in the writing of Rise and Fall as well as the gravitas of writing a strongly-researched book could help bring that to a reality. I’d love to bring more perspective from those who directly assisted me with Rise and Fall as well as others in the TEA Party who have guided it over the last decade-plus. This could also help me with a non-writing goal I spoke about in the final chapter of Rise and Fall. (Go buy the book and you’ll see what I mean.)

Long story short: I may be done as a book author – although the Lord may have other plans, and some have suggested I write a book on the Shorebirds – but I’m a long way from throwing in the towel as a writer. It’s just that, given some of the various side hustles I have – not to mention my “real” full-time job – writing a little at a time and not trying to rush through a book I’m not passionate about is the move I think is best for me and my overarching agenda.

Radio days volume 27

This turned out to be the conclusion of my Rise and Fall radio tour, with two stops in November. However, the less said about the first one, the better. I have to apologize to the fine folks of Burlington, Iowa and KCPS-AM 1150 because I was just not on my game for various reasons. Had I known the situation in advance I would have rescheduled. But what’s done is done, and life goes on. At least it was just a short segment.

Four weeks later, I had a whole hour thanks to my long-standing effort to get on a program called Southern Sense Radio. I first contacted host Annie Ubelis back in July, figuring I would probably not be on until after my August hiatus, and I was right. But that gave Annie time to read through the book and made it a much better conversation. I even had an interesting lead-in, she being President Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White.

So if you go to the 63-minute mark here, you’ll hear Annie and I have a wide-ranging discussion of where the TEA Party went. We really covered a lot of topics, but the bigger discussion wasn’t necessarily so much a blow-by-blow review of the book as it was a conference call about the differing philosophies required in using the TEA Party to create change in radically different states: it’s far easier in ruby-red South Carolina where she’s from than it is in our deep-blue bastions of Delaware and Maryland. Certainly the book gave me standing to discuss these issues, and she had a couple legitimate disagreements with me on various topics.

But as I listened to the replay in writing this, I noticed I really began getting cranked up about 10 minutes in. One thing I have to realize in doing radio is that it’s not quite like casual conversation – I’m very good at stepping on her lines because I start thinking I need to say something to her point. Maybe that makes for better radio, though. I have to admit, however, that even after doing all these stops on the phone I have a hard time getting to a comfort level with talking like this, regardless of host, so the longer segment I have, the better I seem to do. I would say my best three stops on this tour (in no particular order) were Annie’s, the hour I did for The Ross Report back in July, and the hour I spent doing Political Vibe later that month.

So I suppose this may be the last Radio Days episode I do for awhile, as I have stopped seeking new radio gigs to support my book. And as a bit of foreshadowing, after the new year dawns I’m going to share a little about the direction I’m thinking of taking in the realm of political writing. Stay tuned.