Monthly Archives: February 2016

Trump Has Captured the Blue Dog Vote

Blue DogIt’s no secret that both major American political parties have become substantially more extreme than they were 20 years ago. The media won’t let us forget that the Republicans have – they blast it on every horn. But often overlooked is how much the Democratic party has also shifted leftward. Some people I’ve discussed it with refuse even to see it. But the proof is in the political extinction of Blue Dog Democrats.

The term Blue Dog was always just a bit nebulous, as any coalition tends to be. The term itself comes from the Blue Dog Coalition, formed in 1994 as a response to the Republican Contract With America. But the coalition of voters that they represented goes back much further than that – and those voters haven’t gone away.

Voters who fit the “Blue Dog” profile tend to be, roughly:

  • Fiscally conservative. They believe government shouldn’t spend money it doesn’t have.
  • Pro union.
  • In favor of trade protectionism.
  • Moderately liberal on social issues. They’re definitely in favor of fair treatment, but their support for affirmative action or similar programs would generally be weak. Anything as extreme as reparations would be straight out.
  • Ranged from mildly pro-choice to mildly pro-life, but in either case not a single issue voter on the topic. Perhaps best summed up by Bill Clinton’s line, “safe, legal and rare” – but these voters would probably put the emphasis on rare.
  • Strong on national defense.
  • Pro second amendment.
  • Religious – specifically Christian – but not in your face about it
  • Southern

In a word, they’re basically center-left. Very center, mildly left. Any individual Blue Dog voter might miss one or two of these specific issues, but the coalition as a whole would look like that. These voters had a very strong tendency to vote Democrat – but for a very certain kind of “conservative” Democrat.

The Democratic Party under Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama has systematically purged these conservative Democrats. It began in the final years of the Bush Administration. If I had to pick a date, I’d say that the purge began with the primary challenge to the left that Joe Lieberman faced in 2006.

Moving forward from this point, the Democratic Party shifted on several issues in ways that alienated the voters who supported this ideal. The party stopped paying even lip service to fiscal responsibility. The party lost all interest in trade protectionism, adopting the Republican Party’s free trade stance. Pro-choice and gun control became litmus tests. And social issues went strong leftward. Whereas a Blue Dog would generally favor gay rights – including benefits and hiring – most would generally not favor gay marriage, or at best would be wishy-washy on it. Much of this shift came from the far left voter base pushing at the primary level, in the same general way that the Tea Party did for Republicans.

But simultaneously, the party engaged in purges at the top levels. Much of this came from President Obama himself, who throughout his term has appointed very few southerners to high positions. Southern voters were already leaving the Democratic party. But at this point, southern politicians began leaving it, too. And why shouldn’t they? The party wasn’t helping them.

In my own district, Congressman Bud Cramer – a founder of the Blue Dog Coalition – retired in 2009. Now, the man really was at a good retirement age. As my dad put it, he probably really did want to spend some time with his grandchildren. But given the voters in this area, he could have had that seat to this day if he’d wanted it. He was extremely popular locally. His seat was filled by his chosen successor, Democrat Parker Griffith. Before the year was out, Griffith switched parties. This story played out all over the south at about the same time.

The problem for these voters is that the Republican Party of today doesn’t really represent them, either. They’re not extreme pro-choice, but neither are they extreme pro-life. They’re still protectionist, and they still favor unions. The GOP isn’t exactly fiscally conservative these days, either – and all Republican voters are aware of it. And their simply more liberal than the GOP as a whole on race and other social issues. But today they’re nominally GOP voters or GOP-leaning “independents.”

Donald Trump has absolutely dominated with these voters, and no small part of it is because his politics actually represents them better than anyone else’s does. Build a wall? These guys are OK with that. Start a trade war with China? These guys are on board. Keep the unions strong? Good deal. Pro choice but not likely to shut down the government over it? They like it. Strongly pro second amendment? Nice!

Trump’s support stems from well outside this group, for sure. They’re not numerous enough to win him the Presidency on their own. But his absolute domination within it forms the solid core of his support.

All Politics is Power Politics

scaliaFor those of you living on a deserted island – or who somehow otherwise missed the news – Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia passed away over the weekend. Unsurprisingly, it seems that before his last breath even faded the political battle over his replacement ended.

The conservative base, unsurprisingly, wants the Republican controlled Senate to dig in and refuse to confirm any nominees that President Obama makes to the court before his term is up in January 2017. Despite the horrified shrieking of Democrats, there is indeed precedent for this – although the case is perhaps not as strong as Republican shills would like to make it appear. But the root fact of the matter is that the shouting of both sides is mere political yammering.

All politics is power politics.

If Obama were able to replace Scalia with a liberal  justice – even a moderately liberal justice – the court would mark a major leftward shift. This would be a huge win for liberals and Team Democrat – perhaps the biggest win in a generation, and that’s not an exaggeration. The effects of that victory would last at the very least until the next Supreme Court opening.

To be sure, the odds are strong that the next vacancy will be for one of the more liberal justices. With Scalia’s passing, the three oldest sitting justices are Ginsburg (82), Kennedy (79), and Breyer (77). However, as Scalia’s passing shows, anything can happen. If another four year presidential term passes without any vacancies – or with a conservative vacancy – then the court is fundamentally transformed, most likely for an entire generation.

The reverse, of course, is also true. If Senate Republicans successfully fend off a nomination until the election is over, there’s a strong chance of having Scalia’s replacement chosen by a Republican president. There is also, then, a strong chance of Ginsburg, Kennedy, and/or Breyer being replaced by the same president – especially if he wins a second term. Once more, the court would be fundamentally transformed, most likely for an entire generation. It would be a huge win for Team Republican.

Make no mistake about it: if the roles were reversed, the Democratic Senators who are currently complaining about Republican obstructionism would be vehemently opposing a Republican president making an appointment. Likewise, the Republicans would be labeling them obstructionists. The legal theories espoused by each side in this argument are strictly a matter of power politics. The players involved each want their own team to win.

And the further truth of the matter is that in this case the victory will go purely to the team with the political will to play. Obama absolutely will make a nomination. It remains to be seen if he’ll nominate a moderate in the hopes of breaking the resistance and winning a nomination or if he’ll nominate a strong liberal who will fire up his base. Either way, constitutionally, he has every right to make the nomination.

But by the same token, the Republicans in the Senate have every constitutional right to block it. The constitution gives no guidance on why the Senate should accept or reject a nominee. And if they choose to hold firm, they can absolutely prevent any nominee from being confirmed.

We conservative voters are currently very unhappy with the Republican establishment. A very large factor in our discontent is a feeling that Republicans in Congress are not fighting. We understand that control of Congress without control of the White House or the Supreme Court limits what can be accomplished. But we also see a Republican establishment that is refusing to fight the fights that it can – and should – actually win.

There is absolutely no reason that conservatives should lose this fight. It is pure power politics, plain and simple. The only way we can lose is if we lose the will to fight it. Unfortunately, that means that it’s extremely likely that Republicans will lose it.

Hugo Consideration for Dr. Pournelle

There Will Be War: Volume X
There Will Be War: Volume X

My editor on There Will Be War: Volume X, the esteemed Dr. Jerry Pournelle, is under consideration for a Hugo award for Best Editor (Short Form).

It is a serious indictment of the award system, bordering on the criminal, that the creator and editor of the best SF anthology series of the last 30 years – and arguably the most original and significant as well – has never been nominated for a Best Editor award.

I couldn’t agree more, which is why I’ve already left my vote nominating Dr. Pournelle for a Hugo this year. I heartily recommend you do the same, if you’ve got the appropriate WorldCon memberships that allow you to nominate.

Has the Anti-Hillary Preference Cascade Begun?

hillary_bitch_faceReuters and Quinnipac are both showing Hillary Clinton’s lead over Bernie Sanders in low single digits and – more importantly – within the polling margins of error. To be sure, the RCP average is still showing Clinton with a 13 point lead. Nevertheless, as the article linked above notes:

“If polls are to be believed, Hillary Clinton’s once commanding national lead over Bernie Sanders appears to have evaporated in a matter of days…”

Has the preference cascade begun? It’s too soon to be certain, but it does appear that way.

A Strange Blip in History

 

Make Death Proud to Take Us
Make Death Proud to Take Us

The future history of “The Fourth Fleet” (available in the anthologies Make Death Proud to Take Us and There Will Be War: Volume X) makes several assumptions about the course of historical development over the next century or so. However, they were intentionally left out of the story. They weren’t immediately relevant, and including them would have bogged the story down.

A big part of the setting of “The Fourth Fleet” is the course of history of the United States between now and the time of the story. The United States of America, at the time of the story (the specific year is intentionally left off in order to give me maximum story flexibility, but assume that it’s roughly 150 years from now) is no longer the nation that we think of today. It’s borders have changed but also – and more importantly – its government has changed. It is no longer a democratically representative republic. Unlike the government of today, which more often than not acts as an empire, the government of my future world is an empire. However, much like the Roman Empire of old, it strives hard to maintain all appearances of still being a constitutionally limited republic.

Some examples: President Covington is currently serving his fifth four year term in office. Before that, he finished out the term of his predecessor. It’s an open secret that he had his predecessor assassinated, but nobody very much minds because the man was a Nero-like lunatic. He was “elected” by the people in sham contests that garnered him vast majorities of the votes. He will never lose an election in the system as it exists in the books.

Simultaneously, the geopolitical landscape around the USA has changed. In the early twenty-first century, the powder keg we call the Middle East exploded (hmm…). After a time of constant warfare, much of the region was finally forcibly united under a single ruling warlord calling himself the Caliph, and the new Caliphate was born. World War between the US, Japan and Europe on the one hand and the Caliphate on the other left Europe mostly a smoldering husk, including a few literally nuked cities. It is no longer a hub of civilization.

China rose – but not as fast as many feared. Despite the calamity facing the rest of the world, China had its own issues – including economic issues that are unfurling now in the real world and massive wars for Asian dominance against India, Russia, and Japan.

Thus in the story you have a sort of triumvirate of global (and extra-global, as it is a space story) powers: the US, China and India. The severely weakened but not destroyed Caliphate tries to play in this power game as well, but is most often lagging behind.

I would’ve liked to have worked more of this directly into the story. But the reality is that it would’ve bogged it down quite a bit. Even here in this form it took 460 words to very briefly summarize. The entire tale of “The Fourth Fleet” is a mere 8,017 words. Expanding the story by literally 6% (probably more after working it into the story cleanly) just to add this backstory would have ended up being cumbersome, and the reader would have bogged down in details that were only loosely relevant.

Instead, the story provides quite a bit of clues to give the reader just enough of a framework to figure out the major balance of power. It then leaves the rest to the reader’s imagination.

There’s another part of the backstory that I don’t particularly mind didn’t make it into the tale, because it really was irrelevant to this particular story. I am also strongly of the opinion that the Protestant Reformation is an aberration (albeit it one triggered with good justification) and that eventually (perhaps much sooner than many would think) the majority of Protestants will find themselves rejoining the fold in the mother Church. The Church will eventually come to regard this as “that weird little heresy that lasted for a short blip there.” The church thinks on different timescales than you and I. To a two thousand year old church, five hundred years just isn’t the same thing as it is to us mortals.

There Will Be War: Volume X
There Will Be War: Volume X

I also believe that the Church will find itself mending the Great Schism and reconciling with the Orthodox churches, although that will likely be more complicated. The Great Schism wasn’t primarily over issues of doctrine; it’s proximate cause was political conflict with Rome. Egos will have to be soothed and face maintained. But I believe that will eventually happen.

Within the context of the world of “The Fourth Fleet,” the churches largely reunite when a future pope calls for a new Crusade to respond to the potentially world-ending threat of a nuclear armed new Caliphate.

Interesting as it may be, all of this is just the speculation of a sci-fi author, right? Maybe.

Then again, maybe not.

Trump Should Buy the Farm

Well that was certainly interesting.

Results are in from last night’s Iowa caucuses, and the media is in full spin mode. The general analysis looks ludicrous to me, so here’s my own take.

Democratic Primary

We’ll start with the Democratic Party because it’s simpler over there.

Hillary Clinton: She eked out the narrowest of wins last night, but this result is terrible for her. It’s nearly as bad as an actual loss, and maybe even worse. Somebody on Twitter last night posited that the good news for Hillary was that the news from the Republican side dominated the airwaves. That’s only last night. On the Democratic side, all anyone will be talking about is that Bernie very nearly pulled it off. It’s the big talk on the airwaves for the next week, and it doesn’t help Hillary. It’s claimed that she let out a sigh of relief last night. She shouldn’t have. Last night is just the start. This is going to be a long primary season for her.

Bernie Sanders: The only thing better for Bernie than last night would’ve been a huge victory. This is just as good for him as a narrow win would’ve been. Bernie is a serious candidate, and he just proved it. He’s guaranteed that it will be a long fight for the nomination, and he very well might be snatching it from Hillary’s harpy hands. He battled the machine down to an effective draw in the first battle, and will likely crush it in the rematch in New Hampshire. That’s a powerful narrative.

Republican Primary

Ted Cruz: As the winner, this is clearly good for him. But how good is it? I’m not one to dwell on how many times Iowa has “gotten it wrong.” It doesn’t matter – every race is different, and that’s a correlation-doesn’t-equal-causation effect. But up until the last week or so, he was the odds on favorite to win Iowa. It’s is ideal terrain for the fight, and yet he still only squeezed out the win by 3%. The RCP average still has him down by 22 points in New Hampshire and 17 in South Carolina. That’s a lot of ground for an Iowa bump to cover.  Final verdict? A good night for Cruz, but don’t get cocky.

Donald TrumpMake no mistake, a win would’ve been better – a lot better. But this is still a good result for Donald Trump. For the last month the talking heads have spun the theory that Trump’s support in the polls somehow “isn’t real.” Last night he finished within the margin of error of the polls, which proves that it’s definitely real. It also proves that if winning Iowa had been his main goal, he should’ve invested in a better ground game. He didn’t, and we all know it. If he had? There’s a good chance he could’ve won this. We now know that his 22 point lead in New Hampshire is big enough that he’ll still win in a landslide even if his voters are at the low end of the polling error margins again. But this time around that’s less likely. The New Hampshire primary is not a Caucus. The ground game still matters, but much less so. Forget the spin: last night was good but not great for The Donald.

Final verdict? He should buy the farm in Iowa. It’s all anybody would talk about for a week or more if he did it, guaranteeing him the airwaves again. And he could almost certainly sell it at a profit after the election merely by marketing it as “the farm that Trump bought.”

Marco Rubio: The best night that he could’ve hoped for. There’s no way he was going to win this, but his very strong third place finish is a huge help for him, no doubt. Is it enough? Like many, I predicted months ago that by the end of February this would be a three man race between Trump, Cruz and Rubio. That winnowing is already happening. Will Rubio emerge victorious from that battle? The problem is, you can only ride third place for so long. Eventually you have to break out. And Rubio’s not even polling third in New Hampshire – he’s currently fifth there. South Carolina has him at third again. Eventually you have to start racking up actual wins. Unless he gets a bigger bump from Iowa than is typical, I see Rubio continuing to sit in third place as the front runners rack up more and more support. The truth is, everyone loves a winner. And as candidates exit the field, voters will flock to the front-runner. All signs right now say it won’t be Rubio.

Ben Carson: He does better than expected and his campaign gets one last major gasp of breath. But it’s unlikely that he’ll even place in New Hampshire (the RCP average currently has him in eighth place there with a mere 3.2%), and things aren’t looking much better in South Caroline where he’s in 5th place. This campaign is in “done but won’t admit it yet” status, but it could stay there for a good while.

Rand Paul: Better than expected, but nowhere near good enough. Instead of uniting his father’s coalition with the mainstream, he’s only managed to alienate his father’s supporters. Go home and defend your senate seat, Rand, before it’s too late.

Jeb Bush: Another better than expected showing. Unfortunately for Jeb, the story out of Iowa last night is that Rubio is the establishment candidate. Another “done but won’t admit it yet” candidate who will take a long time to admit it. But at this point I’m not crying because it’s actually kind of fun to watch him get kicked around. So stick around a bit, Jeb. There’s plenty of time to go crying to mommy later.

Carly Fiorina: An “also-ran” who’s not polling any better anywhere else. Expect her to be out of the race very soon.

John Kasich: An “also-ran” who’s going to stick in for a few more races because somehow he’s polling well in New Hampshire. He’ll either live up to his polls and claw out a second or third place showing in New Hampshire before dying over the next few contests or his supporters jump to the Rubio “strong horse” and his hopes and dreams are crushed. Either way, he’s out by the end of the month.

Mike Huckabee: His entire candidacy centered around repeating his 2008 performance in Iowa. That clearly didn’t happen, and he dropped out last night. If he’d dropped out last week and endorsed Trump, he might have started 2017 as the new Vice President. Consolation prize: his stock as a talking head keeps its value and he cries all the way to the bank.

Chris Christie: Poor showing in Iowa and only polling sixth in New Hampshire – and he hasn’t even hit the southern states yet. People here loved him for his attitude five years ago. Now they hate him even more for hugging Obama. If he can’t win the northeast he’s got no prayer. He should be dropping out, but his ego probably won’t let him.

Rick Santorum: Another candidate who was banking on repeating an Iowa performance. It was a fluke in 2012, Rick, and literally anybody could’ve told you that you wouldn’t repeat it this year. I don’t even know why you tried. At least you had the sense to get out after your poor showing last night.

Takeaway

Sanders is going to give Clinton a long, hard fight. I still think he’s going to prevail in the end, but he is fighting a formidable political machine.

By the end of this month we’re looking at a three man race on the GOP side – Trump, Cruz, and Rubio. My expectation is still that they’ll finish up the primary in about that order. The others are dead men walking. And Trump should buy the farm.

Get your popcorn, kids. The show is just starting.