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Entries in elections (25)


Clinton v Bush (again!)

Story in NYT explores the obvious dynamics of the Dem Party that I hear from everyone in that camp:  it's Hillary and nobody else even close for 2016 election - at this time.

When I spoke at a GOP post-election gathering late last year, I heard the same about them:  it's Jeb Bush and nobody else even close for the 2016 election - at this time.

That'll make it 9 elections out of 10 that we've had either a Bush or Clinton or both running - since 1980.

Remember that when America complains about other countries not being able to come up with anybody but legacy types.

The elections:


  • 1980: George H.W. Bush runs for president and is on GOP national ticket as Veep.
  • 1984: Bush repeats as Veep
  • 1988: Bush wins as President
  • 1992: Bush loses to Bill Clinton 
  • 1996: Clinton repeats as President
  • 2000: George W. Bush wins as President (sort of)
  • 2004: Bush repeats as President
  • 2008: Hillary Clinton runs for President and almost wins Dem nomination
  • 2012: the weird election of no Bushes and no Clintons (I believe there was massive solar eclipse)
  • 2016: Jeb Bush runs for the GOP and Hillary runs for the Dems


An age of political dynasties.


4-5 in presidential elections


Lost to Reagan twice and HW once.

Won twice with Clinton.

Lost twice with Bush.

Won twice with Obama.

Voted once in WI, twice in MA, once in MD, once in VA, twice in RI and twice now in IN.

What always gets me in the end?  Supreme Court Justice picks. You don't think about it much on election day, but man, do you ever when somebody announces a retirement (or death).  I just keep thinking about all those 5-4 decisions, like the recent one on the healthcare law (which I support).

Also this time: the sense that the GOP is losing its grip.  Way too obstructionist over Obama's first term.  Now polling lower than Independents, which stuns me.  Losing women, which is a long-term issue of significance. Losing Hispanics, another long-term issue.  The GOP is not a healthy lot, and their talent seems thinner than ever.  it is becoming the party of scared white people in a multinational union experiencing unprecedented demographic change.  That's not a winning proposition.

The Dems, meanwhile, have much better long-term prospects.  Thus some genuine system utility in hopefully seeing the GOP realize how far they've drifted.

Yes, there will be many within the GOP that says "we lost because we nominated a moderate."  But a hardliner would have done far worse, in my opinion - just driving up the Dem advantages on minorities and gender and sexual orientation (not a small percentage to ignore by any means).  Simply put, that tent needs to be expanded because the GOP is running third right now.

And no, I don't think the GOP should draw much satisfaction from the popular vote.  It's simply amazing that Obama won with the recovery coming so late.  Six months from now he'd win by a much bigger margin.

Why do I worry about the GOP?  In the end, they are more likely to be the agent of triggering a new progressive era (remember TR) than the Dems.  I can see the Dems joining in with relish.  I just suspect they won't have enough panic within their ranks to initiate.

So I'm hoping the GOP eventually locates that panic.

The clear pattern:  states with borders largely go Dem and inland states overwhelmingly go Republican.  It's just like China's emerging split and that of risers everywhere.  States that face out versus states that face in.  In the U.S., it's who's more open on immigration and less China-bashing versus who's tougher on immigration and more China-bashing.  The GOP simply doesn't work as the party of fear.


How Romney (and the Republicans) are screwed by demographics

Pair of WSJ stories.

Front-pager lead from yesterday notes that "Election May Hinge On Latino Turnout."  Get used to that headline, and get used to it working against the immigration-unfriendly GOP.

Obama is currently polling at 70% (Romney 25%) among the fastest growing segment of the electorate.

The key to Obama's win, we are told, is getting out the vote.

Second story covers that in a way that will infuriate Republicans, but it's their own damn fault:

Thousands of illegal-immigrant youths are at the forefront of national efforts to get immigrant and Latino citizens to the polls next week, the latest demonstration of the increasingly organized and vocal group's power.

In swing states like Florida, Ohio and Colorado, the young people—often referred to as Dreamers after the failed Dream Act legislation that would have offered them a path to citizenship—are running phone banks, going door to door and approaching students on college campuses to encourage voting. They also are active in California, a Democratic stronghold, and Texas, where Republicans have the edge.

The group is targeting Latinos, the fastest-growing electorate in the U.S., whose turnout at the polls is traditionally lower than that of blacks and whites. Polls show an overwhelming advantage for President Barack Obama among Latino voters, but the Dreamers efforts also could boost Democratic support in state and congressional races, supporters and opponents agree.

The revenge of the denied citizens!

We shoot ourselves in the foot regarding Latin America, which, over the long term, is our greatest source of economic growth and ultimately power.

We shoot ourselves in the foot over immigration and drugs.

Immigration is what keeps this country "young."  We are mean age 36 right now, but that will rise to just under 40 at 2050, primarily because of immigration and the high fertility associated with that (for the first 2-3 generations).  By way of contrast, China, which is also 36 years old now, will reach almost 48 by 2050, which will constitute a huge drag on its economy.

But China's long-term advantage is this:  it's surrounded by younger regions poised for lengthy demographic dividends (high proportion of workers to dependents).  First there's SE Asia, which will enjoy a demographic dividend on par with China's of the last 4 decades, and then there's India, which will enjoy an even bigger one through mid-century.

Being surrounded by faster growing economies is a sure way to lift your own as growth tapers off due to modernity, advanced status, slowing demographics, etc.  So, long term, China gets a lot of help.

We could too via Latin America, if we didn't make the drug war the centerpiece of our foreign policy throughout the hemisphere.  Instead, we cede a lot of that growth to others (Europe, Asia) when we should be expanding southward as a center of gravity in free-trade zones and ultimately as a multinational union.

But that will all come with time.  We just don't have any political leaders with genuine vision.

But get us to 2050, when one of three US voters will have some Hispanic blood in them?  Hmm.  Much will change.

Republicans will lose more and more elections until they change their anti-growth tune.  They are swimming against the tide called the future.


The sad truth about a second Obama presidency

From David Brooks in the NYT yesterday:  the reality that a Romney presidency compromising with a Democratic Senate would lead to a decent amount of necessary reform (including dropping the Bush tax cuts), while an Obama presidency would lead to very little advance and continue the general political gridlock in DC.


Romney isn't much of a right-winger.  That's all a sales job that's been rather effectively ditched in recent days and weeks to emphasize he'd really rule center-right.  If he squeaks in, that's the mandate he'd have.  He'd be realistic, as he was in Massachusetts, with the Democratic Senate, and things would get done.  Plenty of compromises would follow, and Romney would largely be villified by the far-right - not the far-left.

In truth, Obama isn't much of a left-winger.  He'd continue ruling center-left, but the nutcases in the GOP-dominated House would continue doing their best to sabotage all progress, pushing him, in his second term, primarily into foreign affairs as a refuge.  For Obama to win, as he looks like he will (just barely), via a very negative campaign, he'll enter office with virtually no mandate.  Dems will be happy enough to forestall the GOP nutcases in the House, but we'd be looking at 4 more years of stasis (and no, the complete nonsense sales-job of America going whatever by 2016 under Obama doesn't register with me).  Frankly, I think Romney would likely do a far better job of finessing Obamacare (originally, Romneycare) into full existence.

I agree with Brooks' analysis completely.  As much as I dislike the vast majority of the Republican agenda, this is my primary reason for preferring Romney to a second Obama term:  I see the promise of advance under Romney; and I see virtually no chance of any under Obama.

And I prefer some progress to none - simple as that.

But, in truth, I have no individual say in the matter.  Indiana will go Romney by a wide margin, so my vote will be meaningless.


Squarespace holds on! Meanwhile, the latest from 538 on POTUS election

Always follow Nate Silver's site around election time.  


Brilliant pro-Obama bit by Simpsons' animators

Very slick.  I make a good portion of my living narrating visual explanations (PPT) of complex concepts, and I appreciate a good presentation.

The missing concept here:  the trickle-down argument can make sense, in my opinion, in a more closed economic enviroment, or in a national economy less dependent on trade and less subject to international competitive pressures.  In today's globalized economy, however, I think it's a distinct beggaring proposition that the supply-siders (and yes, even the Chicago School types) have never admitted - much less figured out.  We no longer live in a world where economic philosophies pitched at the nation-state level hold sway.  There is a new Washington Consensus to be found.

As somebody who's paid a top-line tax rate for maybe 1/3-1/2 of my adult life, I have to say that I am deeply disturbed by what has happened to the middle class over the past decade, because, as a foreign policy expert, I know that the intolerance and inward-vision bred by flat incomes impacts our power projection capabilities immensely.

I honestly can't see the argument for keeping the Bush tax cuts.  Not in our fiscal situation, debt trajectory, and my deep understanding of the progressive-era tasks on our plate.  I'm just not that greedy.  I want to leave behind a better country for my kids.

I'm made a lot of money across my career and I am no stranger to hard times, so I don't write as someone who's only lived one type of existence.  When you make a lot, you should pay a lot - as in, a higher percentage.  The Bush tax cuts should go.  They are not in our country's best interests going foward.

I don't see it as a way to a strong defence.  I don't see it yielding a strong anything.


(WPR Feature) Skipping Out on the Bill: Obama's Cost-Free Drone Wars

Thanks to the Obama administration’s aggressive use of classified leaks to the press, we are encouraged to believe that President Barack Obama has engineered a revolutionary shift in both America’s geopolitical priorities and our military means of pursuing those ends. As re-election sales jobs go, it presses lukewarm-button issues, but it does so ably. But since foreign policy has never been the president’s focus, we should in turn recognize these maneuvers for what they truly are: an accommodation with inescapable domestic realities, one that at best postpones and at worst sabotages America’s needed geostrategic adjustment to a world co-managed with China and India.

Read the entire article at World Politics Review.


The political/generational impact of the Great Recession

Check out this bit from today's NYT:

In the four years since President Obama swept into office in large part with the support of a vast army of young people, a new corps of men and women have come of voting age with views shaped largely by the recession. And unlike their counterparts in the millennial generation who showed high levels of enthusiasm for Mr. Obama at this point in 2008, the nation’s first-time voters are less enthusiastic about him, are significantly more likely to identify as conservative and cite a growing lack of faith in government in general, according to interviews, experts and recent polls.

Polls show that Americans under 30 are still inclined to support Mr. Obama by a wide margin. But the president may face a particular challenge among voters ages 18 to 24. In that group, his lead over Mitt Romney — 12 points — is about half of what it is among 25- to 29-year-olds, according to an online survey this spring by the Harvard Institute of Politics.  And among whites in the younger group, Mr. Obama’s lead vanishes altogether.

Among all 18- to 29-year-olds, the poll found a high level of undecided voters; 30 percent indicated that they had not yet made up their mind. And turnout among this group is expected to be significantly lower than for older voters.

“The concern for Obama, and the opportunity for Romney, is in the 18- to 24-year-olds who don’t have the historical or direct connection to the campaign or the movement of four years ago,” said John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Institute of Politics. “We’re also seeing that these younger members of this generation are beginning to show some more conservative traits. It doesn’t mean they are Republican. It means Republicans have an opportunity.”

There is the strong evidence that a minority-white/majority non-white America favors the Dems long term, but history also says that an extended "tough time" favors the GOP, especially when you remember that the average voters behaves - over the course of his or her life - much like a car-buyer, meaning your first "purchase" typically creates a brand loyalty that is highly consistent over your life (meaning, it has an imprinting function that is profound).  Simple example:  If the first car you buy is a Ford, you will  - on average - buy more Fords over the rest of your life than any other car - hands down.  Same is true in voting for president.

Point being, while the demographic shift will still favor Dems (as currently defined) against Republicans (as currently configured), this long recession will have its own profound imprinting impact as well.  I see it in kids through the prism of my 20-year-old daughter (now in college).  They face a hostile labor market not unlike the one my generation faced in the early 1980s.  Between that point and 2008, college-age cohorts faced a fantastically (in historical terms) consistent positive labor environment. But my impression is that those days are gone - probably for good given the competitive landscape now created by a maturing globalization.

So, again, you have your demographic trends and you have your economic realities trend.  Both are profound influencers. I'm just saying nothing is carved in stone in terms of long-run trends, especially as I expect both parties to be significantly reshaped by these dueling trends over the next decade or so.

Still, I see little in any of these reports that convinces me Obama will fall in the Fall.


Time's Battleland: NATIONAL SECURITY - What the Wisconsin Recall Says About the Future of the U.S. Military

Governor Scott Walker survives his nasty recall vote earlier this month, a dynamic triggered by his brutal reshaping of Wisconsin’s public sector unions.  Pundits are interpreting all this in terms of November and what it means for President Obama’s chances in that crucial swing state, but I see a bellwether for the future of U.S. national security.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.


Romney's fundamental opportunity

Peggy Noonan interview in the WSJ today:

Before rallies and town meetings, Mr. Romeny always tries to have private, off-the-record meetings with voters.  "I sit down with five or six couples or individuals and just go around the table, and I ask them to tell me abou their life.  And the stories I hear suggest a degree of anxiety which is not reflected in the statistics."

More than anything else right now, what I sense when I travel the country giving speeches (Dallas two days ago) is that people don't think their kids will have better lives than they have had, and that is a fundamental shift in US thinking.

Subjective, yes?  But subjective matters in elections.


The race card cannot work on Obama, or really any national candidate going forward

WAPO story on Romney rightfully steering clear of those within GOP who, in their desperation, consider racially motivated election attacks against Obama.

The problem with this approach is that it is magnificently self-defeating - that's how America has evolved in its racial make-up.

Obama is carrying Blacks, Hispanics and Asians - plus the "minority-majority" that are women (historically far less welcoming of racially tinged messages than men, to include white women versus white men).

All three of those major minority groups tilt decisively toward Dems, and racially-tinged political messages simply reinforce that reality and perhaps lock it in for the longer term.  Simply put, as a polity, America is past all that nonsense.

And the fact that the Republicans are considering it - even among just their fringe hardcore elements - signals just how bereft of ideas and leadership and vision they really are.

And that is a very sad day for this republic, because, quite frankly, Obama does not deserve a second term and it won't be any better than the first.

But I do take comfort in this reality, being the father of one Asian female and two future African-American women.


Wikistrat post @ CNN/GPS: Nine roads to November

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

Upsetting both conventional wisdom and the party establishment’s preferred narrative, New Gingrich’s big win in South Carolina’s Republican primary last weekend has dramatically energized the GOP race. While it suddenly feels like a two-man fight between Gingrich and the previously presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, in truth, the party’s three main wings (country-club moderates, Reaganites,  and the farthest-right social conservatives and libertarians) remain deeply divided, suggesting a lengthy and drawn-out battle across the remaining GOP primaries. Taking that as our starting-point assumption, Wikistrat polled its global network of strategists for scenarios as to how this might unfold and what it could mean for the November general election.

Read the entire post at CNN's GPS blog.


In honor of Newt's SC victory . . . remembering a 2006 dinner with him

The post from back then, reposted in full. The dominant impression: wide-ranging knowledge, reflecting a huge memory.

Speaking with the Speaker, and a great reporter

Referenced from:

THURSDAY, MARCH 23, 2006 AT 5:35PM

Last night was pretty good. Sat at the head table with the hosting general of the Joint Flag Officer Warfighting Course and Newt Gingrich, who seemed to know a lot about me (saying things like, "this is a book I know you'd find interesting" and stuff like that, and asking a lot of questions that revealed some knowledge).

Gingrich is a pretty easy guy to talk with. Inquisitive as hell, he asks question after question and then he spits out theories every so often at high speed, often linking them to American history. His favorite point of comparison to today was the tougher years of the Civil War.

I countered more with the settling of the West, and we went back and forth some on the subject, which was fun.

Also, covered Iraq, where the consensus of the table (us and five or so 3-stars) was that we toppled the regime but that we should have kept the government (mostly because we were prepared to topple a regime but not to replace a government). Gingrich really liked that enunciation, and wrote it down on his Delta flight coupon sleeve, upon which he took notes throughout the night (not a napkin note-taker, he).

Gingrich asked me about Indiana (why I was there), said he loved the zoo there (I told him we had just visited and were members; he countered that he was a zoo freak who visited them every town he traveled to), and compared his Wisconsin experiences to mine (his wife is from a town not that far from my hometown).

Chatting through a dinner with him is pretty much what you'd expect, having seen him on TV so many times: accessible, very fast, likes to hear himself talk but listens very intently as well (asking you to repeat stuff he likes, or typically following up everything you say with a question). Serious Republican, no doubt, and he wears his credentials openly on every point, but not hard to converse with or conduct a reasonable argument. It's not hard to see why the military likes to have him around so much. He's a fascinating guy, and who doesn't like all the Civil War references?!

When I got up to talk, I was a bit nervous, or rather, a bit too tired, as I often am when I talk late after talking early (I am not the young man I once was), so I stumbled a bit on the first couple of slides, in part because the mike started feeding back and in part because my clicker did not work whatsoever, which was baffling, because we tested it all out earlier in the afternoon.

I had one of the hosting personnel swap out the batteries and it did little good: instead of clicking the keypad, I could use it but basically only if I held it almost over the laptop. Very weird. Worked fine back in my room. Really wonder about the RF quality of that room, which is a none-too-rare experience for me in venues.

Anyway, once I got warmed up, it flowed. But I was surprisingly more stark and forceful than usual, which I didn't credit to Gingrich being there so much as my sense from the room: about three dozen 3-stars from all services. Basically tough faces to work: thinking hard, agreeing or disagreeing hard, and working it all out very seriously in their skulls.

You can just sense that with certain rooms: this is not entertainment to them but something far more serious. So you just go with the feeling, and the delivery adjusts.

Still, I was a bit surprised. Just didn't expect such a strong flow.

Went about 60 (norm is 30) and then did about 30 Q&A, which was exceptionally good, and tougher than usual. Seems like everyone had either read or was reading PNM.

Signed about 25 copies of BFA afterwards, and Gingrich came up and said how much he liked the talk. What was especially cool during the signings was hearing what I heard several times during the earlier one that afternoon: senior officers saying this was one of the rare times in their lives when they ever bothered to get an author to sign their copies, which is kind of a weird compliment but one I get in its meaning--namely, people saying they don't usually get touched by a book but that this one did it for them. You get that sort of feedback from a 3-star and you feel pretty good about your decision to put it into print.

Then the real treat for me: a long chat over beers with Greg Jaffe of the Wall Street Journal. He showed up at the reception because he heard I was talking (Gingrich flew in as well for the talk). Both he and Newt would have come anyway that night or early the next morning for their own stints with the JFOWC, but it was a real honor to have them both attend the dinner because of me.

I hadn't spoken F2F with Greg for a while, so a great discussion on what good reporting is over the reception before dinner, and then just a nice long private conversation (no flags) on the porch outside our rooms after the dinner and talk, a conversation that ran until midnight.

That meant I got little sleep before my flights home to close on the house this afternoon, but it was worth it. I respect Greg so much, and like him personnaly as well, that it was really great to have that time together, jawing our way through a host of defense and mil topics. Greg's been on the Pentagon beat for so long, and he's so on top of his game. Still, I'll be interested to see what the paper has in store for him next. He's simply too good a reporter just to keep doing the same thing forever. Frankly, I don't think he can get much better at what he covers now than he already is, and that's a recipe for stagnation if you're not careful.

Weird fact about Greg: his first newspaper job was in Montgomery, which is why he's easily talked into this course.


Addendum #2 to Saturday's unburdening

First, understand that I am hurting from last Sunday big time. This whole week was depression personified. Until the SB is over, I live in a sad, limbo-like existence, dreaming of Cullen Jenkins' return because the Eagles got too many old-man high-price free agents to re-sign.  It's pathetic, but there I am - Jerome stewing beside me.

David Emergy asks for a "hell yes!" on the presidential field versus an my admittedly weak endorsement for Romney and my I-can't-have-her lust for Hillary.

Emblematic of America, I don't have that candidate in hand - which is why I'm still window shopping when it comes to passion.

Yes, the right "wrong" person could warm me up again on Obama.  Santorum would do it, as would Paul, as would Gingrich in the end - as much as I admire his imagination. I wouldn't cross the aisle for any of those three.

I would get jacked for Giuliani, and have said that often.  My dream ticket remains Rudy and Michael Bloomberg. I like Giuliani's leadership capacity and I love Bloomberg's adventurous technocratic personality. I think he's the most exciting tinkerer out there, and a huge global influence in that role (vastly underappreciated, but most people don't get the coastal mega-city network vibe that's out there, making things happen on globalization). The two of them would be my version of a progressive ticket: fixers with no serious ideological bent. I had hopes for Obama on that score, but the smartest-guy-in-the-room thing got in the way. Rudy's and Mike's egos are accomplishment based, not loved based, and I really love that in leaders.

Frustrated with the field?  Let me count the ways.  I do agree with Newt: this is an historic and crucial election, and the idea that Obama just glides in with mega-buck spending stikes me as very bad for the country. I think he can win, but only with great negativity, and then I think we have four years of an embattled president whose main outlet of foreign policy is already spoiled with the strategic "pivot" choice. I don't want America to play four more years of the waiting game.  I want better.  I want progressive movement that regains the only lead worth capturing vis-a-vis the two great risers of the age - China and India: I want America once again being the best provider of sharp new answers that move the ball with purpose. Obama accomplish the basic realignment from Bush that I advocated in "Great Powers," but after that, I've seen litte-to-no strategic purpose or momentum, with the big choice on China being stunningly unimaginative in nature (i.e., he either wants to cover his defense "ass" on spending, which is silly given his vigorous killing program, or he can't stand up to the Pentagon, or he's actually dumb enough to believe this sort of empty posturing is worthwhile - I like none of my choices here).

If my only choices are Mitt and Barack, I choose the former as being more likely to achieve some momentum, but I am unhappy with this choice. Mitt feels too much like Mondale or Dole or McCain - the my-turn candidate, which to me just guarantees a second term to somebody who will do very little of value with the opportunity.


Chart of the Day: Perot sold that story too

Now let me first say that I hunger for serious competition to Obama.  If he gets back in, I want it to be a tough fight because, otherwise, his first-term arrogance will return unabated.

Let me also say that, as a rule, I think second terms are disasters. I have always favored a single six versus 2x4=8.  I haven't lived through a second term yet that I wouldn't have traded in for the 2nd election competition. I just see scandals and drift and lots of lesser talent creeping in for no good effect.

So I want Perry to be real, because Romney ain't doing it for anybody except Peggy Noonan.  And while I respect her considerable political instincts, I remain unsold (even though his campaign book cited me very favorably), primarily because I'm unsure he can win and - again - I want a real election and not some disappointing recrowning for a weak first term. If Obama is to win, I want him to earn it this time rather than have it somewhat handed to him by a weak opponent.

And so far, Perry is looking like an un-self-aware Romney.  Romney may flip a bit to win the nomination, but he at least knows who he is. Perry is for HPV vaccination so long as his friend says so, but then the religious right get on him and he flips like a pancake for no more reason, it seems, than his initial decision.

Now, he's selling the Texas miracle like H. Ross Perot sold his buffalo-tinged, I-made-my-own-fortune story, except Perot and EDS got fat mostly through gov contracts and Perry's jobs miracle seems similarly fueled:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has leapfrogged to the top tier of Republican presidential candidates largely on the strength of one compelling fact: During more than a decade as governor, his state created more than 1 million jobs, while the nation as a whole lost 1.4 million jobs.

Perry says the “Texas miracle” rests on conservative pillars that he would bring to the White House: minimal regulation and government, low taxes and a determination to limit the reach of Uncle Sam.

What he does not say is that much of that job growth has come because of government, not in spite of it.

With a young and fast-growing population, a large and expanding military presence and an influx of federal stimulus money, the number of government jobs in Texas has grown at more than double the rate of private-sector employment during Perry’s tenure.

This guy needs to figure out if he's real or just enough of a snow job to sell in Texas.  If he is real (the other numbers are undeniably un-shabby), then he needs to start acting real, meaning acknowledging truths and acknowledging that what goes on in Texas is indicative of just about nothing in this country (Anybody else getting a one-fifth increase in gov jobs? Because those can go away too.).

So yeah, make your sale on your record, but make it honestly and show me some realistic translation to the real world known as the US outside of Texas. Indiana, for example, has a serious governor with a serious record and a serious capacity for telling the truth - Mitch Daniels.  I don't like everything he does, but at least our finances aren't a disaster amidst all the ongoing difficulty, and that counts plenty.

Perry is coming off, so far, too slick and too political.  I am not sensing the "real deal" dynamics in his presentation to date.  Some of that may be how the press is working him over, the usual rumor mills from enemies, etc., but the guy needs to get a grip before he gets himself defined down dramatically.  Maybe that's inevitable and there ain't no there there (all hat,no cattle, in TX terms), but mebbe it ain't.

It just doesn't feel like it's working so far, because I smell a Perot, and I don't want any cartoon character running for POTUS.


A deep discrediting of the political process in Washington

Economist story on party affiliation and op-ed from the NYT comparing now to the Gilded Age--a favorite theme of mine.

As I've long argued, the Boomers have been a terrible generation of political leaders.  As in the case of most revolutionary generations in history, once the initial stab at change in their youth fell to the wayside, the real talent went into business and technology and changed the world--dramatically--for the better. The dregs went into politics and, in the process, have managed to thoroughly discredit it as a career and force for good in our society.

Last time it was this bad in America was those latter decades of the 19th century.  The "revolution" then was the U.S. Civil War, and the crew that came out of that crucible was dramatically altered in character and vision and--most importantly--in personal connections.  The bonds forged by war led to a lot of follow-on business development during a great and lengthy boom time.  But it was an era much like today:  frontier integration thanks to a rapidly expanding continental economy, the knitting together of a sectional economy into world-class "rising China" of its age, huge flows of people and FDI into the country--a miniature version of today's globalization.  

And during that age of booms and busts and the early populism that accompanied it, politics became a very dirty profession, so much so that when progressive icon TR decided to step into the fray, his wealthy NYC family begged him not to do so--it was considered such a huge step down from respectable obscurity. Few of us came name any politicians from that era (distant relation Grant being my favorite), but we all remember the industrial-financial titans, whose very names equal wealth: Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, etc.

We live in very much the same age now, poised to move into a progressive era.  I know that word is a favorite target of Glen Beck with his whacked-out history lessons, but it's clear to me we need a cleaning-up period much like back then.  Politics needs to be re-credentialized, but it can't happen so long as the current cast of small minds (I'm with Michael Bloomberg on this one) are on the stage.  The downshifting in talent and vision over the past three decades has been supremely depressing.  I grew up with WWII-era giants in politics, and I miss the class and the intelligence and professionalism and--most of all--the ability to forge deals.  Now we suffer such unbearable fools.

And so we get "change" after "change" election, a good corollary to the Gilded Age.  I think we'll need a few more before the next generation of leadership starts making itself known.  Obama was an avatar of this movement; he just turned out to be too much like Jimmy Carter when he got into office.

The Economist piece demonstrates the popular disaffection with politics: we are more and more a one-third, one-third, one-third electorate--as in, one-third Dem, one-third GOP and one-third Independent.  I would count myself in the Independent crowd, as I have a hard time imagining myself in either party.

When does the big change come?  A peer-to-peer generation is already remaking a good chunk of our society/economy. Eventually the Millennials move into the political realm and have their impact.  

Like so much of what I track, then, this is another thing that registers more in the 2020s/2030s, signifying the 2010s as a transition decade to be finessed--and survived.  

We navigate an age where we should setting up the big deals that shape our future, like transitioning from old alliances to new.


The evangelical bloc . . . in Brazil!

WSJ story.

Lula does the always impressive and wins himself an additional proxy term through a hand-picked successor. Great men tend to do this, like Andrew Jackson with Martin Van Buren or TR with Taft or Reagan with George H.W. Bush.  So less a win for women (although Rousseff seems more than qualified) than a vindication of Lula's highly successful tenure.

What the article highlighted, though, was the important role played by the rising Protestant/Pentecostal voting bloc, now powered by about 1 out of every 5 Brazilians.   They won 50% more votes in the congressional election than last time, and now claim 71 of 600 seats there. Yes, they do tend to the right on social issues, and make themselves known when they unite as a bloc within the congress. 

Remember my theme:  the 21st century will be the most religious ever in terms of great awakenings.  Why?  So many people shifted from substenance to abundance, so much industrialization/urbanization uprooting lives, so much connectivity afforded by globalization, and some pretty big human milestones coming (peaking of human population around 2050, serious life-extension technologies, etc.).  

The evangelicals were considered crucial for Dilma Rousseff's second-round win over her opponent.  When it came down to the binary choice, she scored better with Pentecostals (mostly on economics and the other guy was more anti-abortion) and her campaign actively sought to mobilize them.  

Much like the rising Hispanic quotient here in the U.S., this election in Brazil signals a tipping point, after which no one will run for, or likely win as, president without going hard after this vote.


Esquire's Politics Blog: 5 Ways the New Congress Changes the Future of War

What with all the Washington pundits swashbuckling before Tuesday's election about why President Obama should and shouldn't rush back to the battlefront, you'd think national security might have been a bigger campaign issue. There is that little matter of the economy, of course, but then there's that wrinkle called the Tea Party — and the Republican instinct to placate the underlying political anger by way of conspiratorial notions concerning war and peace. Well, we're not quite back to Bush/Cheney territory, but a conservative majority means a lot for America's global outlook. (And that doesn't mean the left leans left, Bill Kristol.) Assuming our old new enemies in Yemen don't hit the terror jackpot any time soon, here are the issues to track after the stunning repudiation of our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president by the American voter. We're not even going to get started on Don't Ask Don't Tell...

Read the entire post at Esquire's The Politics Blog.



Buying time on defense spending

WSJ story from 22 October.  It was the chart that caught my eye.

Per a post I should have out later today at Esquire, most experts don't see the GOP takeover of the House impacting defense spending all that much, even though it's the biggest (now at just under 20% of the Feb budget) discretionary item at over $700B in 2010.  

The Tea Partiers, most notably the new senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, say there's plenty of waste to be cut.  But with Gates already earnestly trying to clip $100B over five years, it's hard to see the House coming after the Pentagon while Iraq is winding down and Afghanistan remains hot.

The longer-term problem:  what drives a lot of defense growth is the same thing driving Medicare's similar trajectory:  higher medical costs.

Tony Cordesman at CSIS says Gates' efficiency drive only buys time in the face of these twin internal and external pressures. In my mind, that reality makes Obama's efforts to reform healthcare look less "out there."

I am one who thinks Europe's current struggles with budgets, pensions, defense cuts, etc. are a harbinger of what we eventually end up doing.  Our engagement with the world will be deemed "excessive" (Barney Frank's term) in light of all this fiscal tightness.

And then how China inevitably steps into that void, and how we interpret that trend, will determine much.  

That's why the sad state of Sino-American mil-mil cooperation could turn out to be a decisive non-enabler of what should have logically followed.


The GOP's "young guns"

Economist piece by Lexington highlighting the "young guns" Eric Cantor of VA, Paul Ryan from WI and Kevin McCarthy from CA.  All decent picks, but not a word about NJ's Chris Christie, who, to me, is the most interesting of the lot--despite being probably not experienced enough for 2012.

I read the piece less because I'm interested in the field than because I find myself running into such a strong consensus, wherever I travel, of Obama's profound weakness with the electorate.  I've read the analysis that says, all he has to do is win the same percentages with Hispanics (easy due to GOP stance on immigration) and African-Americans (hard to see how he's disappointed them) and get himself not more than a third of whites and he wins all over again.

And yet, you keep running into signals that say the GOP base is fired up and the Dems' is not.  We see Obama getting rougher--and rightly so--in his speeches, but you don't know how that's going to go over--as in, which side gets more fired up.

And so you have to consider these early profiles with all due seriousness.  I see somebody either young or a clear outsider--just like Obama presented himself, enjoying all the same we-pour-into-this-empty-vessel-all-our-hopes-and-dreams-and-fears dynamic that our man from IL did three years ago.

All pretty near idle fancy at this point, but the mind does wander. Where is the technocrat who feels--more?