Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
They Said It:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5, 19-28.
DOMESTIC POLITICS 2016: DOES THE MUTUAL HATE CONTINUE?
Last year was, without question, one of the most fascinating and frustrating political years in some time. It produced great spectacles and painful failures. This year will, we think, be more of the same: fascinating, frustrating, and ever so spectacular. Indeed, this year will finally deliver the culmination of a handful of trends that have been building over the course of the last seven years. By this time next year, voters will have decided whether to ratify or to reject the “change” Obama promised and amply delivered, which is another way of saying that they will have decided if theirs is still a government of, by, and for the people or if it is something else entirely.
Not quite six years ago when voters went off to cast their ballots in the first midterm election of the Obama presidency, we noted that the theme of the said presidency had become one of contempt for the people it purported to represent. In our final pre-election piece, titled “Election 2010: The Revenge of the Violent, Racist, Ignorant Hillbillies,” we discussed this theme as follows:
Given the probability of a “wave election,” in which the Republicans will pick up more seats in the House than either party has picked up in more than half-a-century, the Democratic leaders . . . spent this past week stumping furiously and desperately, hoping to hit upon a theme that just might have an impact on tomorrow’s vote. And, after much reflection, field-testing, and focus-grouping, they finally came up with an argument they seemed sure would carry the day. To wit:
“Hey, you! Voter! You’re stupid. Or Crazy. Now, vote for us!”
Sounds like a winner, eh?
Not that anyone should be surprised by this. After all, this has been the left’s go to argument for at least the last year-and-a-half. Americans are dumb. Tea Partiers are stupid. Voters are ungrateful. And anyone who opposes us or, worse yet, is having buyer’s remorse about giving us all of the levers of power in Washington is just plain cuckoonutso.
This theme is, we think, probably the most important and most overlooked factor in this election. A great deal of time and energy has been expended on the part of the press, the pundits, and various politicians attempting to explain the Democrats’ dramatic fall from grace and the Republicans’ equally dramatic resurrection. It’s all about taxes. Or spending. Or the economy. It’s all about the failed stimulus. Or the overreaching health care bill. Or the temporarily shelved, but never dead Cap’n Trade bill. It’s all about misreading the mandate and governing a center-right nation from the far left. Or about the obstruction and destruction practiced by the “party of NO.” It’s all about bailouts. Or TARP. Or the “takeover” of GM. It’s all about, well, policy.
Certainly, there are grains of truth in all of these analyses (except, perhaps, the one that blames Republicans for blocking as much of Obama’s agenda as they could). But none is a sufficient explanation in and of itself. All provide clues to the source of voter outrage, but it’s only when taken in their cumulative form that the true source of the problem can be understood.
This election is not about policy. It is not about any specific decision that the president took or did not take. It’s not about any policy proposition that was shepherded through the Congress by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and translated into law. It is not about any of the traditional factors that are generally suspected to motivate voters to punish the majority party.
No, this election is about all of those policies cumulatively, and, more important, about the single common factor that binds them all together. This election is, in short, about the will of the people and the ruling party’s contempt for that will. As the sub-head on the pollster Scott Rasmussen’s final pre-election analysis put it: “Voters don’t want to be governed from the left, right or center. They want Washington to recognize that Americans want to govern themselves.”
Take a look, if you will, at the policies noted above: TARP, the bank bailouts, the auto bailouts, Cap’n Trade, the stimulus, health care reform. Some of these are Bush-era policies continued by the Obama administration. Some are Obama initiatives. Some are longstanding leftist fantasies. All sprang from different sources with different purposes and different champions. Yet all are remarkably similar in that they were all overwhelmingly and vocally opposed by a majority of Americans. Each, in and of itself, might have been fine. Each might have had some semblance of justification as a stand-alone policy. But taken together, they are a disaster, a disaster born of contempt for the people. Taken together, they suggest a rampant and unrepentant belief that the voters are, by and large, irrelevant; a belief that voters, like children, should be seen and not heard and should do what their “betters” tell them to do.
Guess what? It turns out that this has been the theme of the entire Obama presidency so far. And the final year of that presidency will be no different. Over the course of the next ten months, the American government will repeatedly demonstrate its ever-increasing hatred for the American people. And at the end of those ten months, we will learn whether that hatred remains mutual, or if the American people have been beaten and broken down enough to acquiesce to their own enslavement.
All of which brings us to . . .
Forecast #1: In the final year of his presidency, Barack Obama will shake off the traditional “lame duck” label and proceed as if he still possesses a mandate for “change.” He will do as he pleases, when he pleases, how he pleases, and by any means necessary. And, as always, he will do so in contravention of the will of the people.
According to press reports, Barack Obama returned from his annual Hawaiian hiatus “energized,” which is to say that he plans to do “important” things in his final year in office. Never mind the fact that the American people soundly rejected his “important” things in the most recent midterm election by putting an overwhelmingly Republican CO-EQUAL branch of government in place, specifically for the purpose of limiting his ability to do those important things. Obama has plans, after all. And the American people don’t really factor into those plans. Indeed, it should surprise no one that most of these plans are designed to ignore the people and to circumvent their will.
Earlier this week, you may note, Obama unveiled plans for new regulatory efforts aimed at “reducing gun violence.” On the one hand, it’s worth noting that Obama’s actions are so minimal and so pointless as to render them highly unlikely to have any effect on gun violence whatsoever. On the other hand, gun rights enjoy the highest support in years, according to public opinion polls, while support for gun control plummets every time Obama opens his mouth on the subject. So why shouldn’t he implement new regulations, just because he can and just to stick his long, bony thumb in the American people’s eye? It’s what he does. And it’s what he will continue to do.
On December 17, the Wall Street Journal ran a story with the following headline, “Obama Plans to Push a Short Legislative Agenda in 2016.” A short agenda, you say? That sounds positive, right? Well, no. The key word here is “legislative.” Obama has a short legislative agenda, which is to say that almost everything he intends to do this year will be done without consent of the CO-EQUAL legislature. As Politico noted the same day as the Journal piece, short legislative agenda notwithstanding, Obama still has BIG plans:
They’re all walking around a little smugly in the West Wing these days, swatting away anyone who asks a question about what they’ll do in 2016 by pointing to how much they accomplished in 2015, despite all the people who were ready to write them off a year ago
They point to all the Republicans who attacked Obama for the climate deal in Tuesday night’s debate as proof they can continue defining the issues in the race. There will be more of that, they predict.
“There is a parallel universe going on of actual activity. And we intend to live in that universe,” the senior administration official said. “The 2016 campaign trail is spending a lot of time responding to us.”
And they haven’t given up on a big surprise yet.
“Our goal is to do some things that are unexpected,” [White House communications director Jen] Psaki said. “And the president is open to that.”
Ugh. A big surprise. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? And just how does the White House intend to accomplish these BIG things this year, given that both the Republican Congress and the American people oppose almost all of it? Silly question. He’ll do it the way he always does it, by bypassing the nation’s republican institutions and employing its bureaucratic apparatus. Again, to quote Politico:
Nearly 4,000 regulations are squirming their way through the federal bureaucracy in the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency — many costing industry more than $100 million — in a mad dash by the White House to push through government actions affecting everything from furnaces to gun sales to Guantánamo. . .
Much of this work will be carried out in the coming months by career bureaucrats working in the bowels of federal agencies, but the cumulative effect adds up to something larger: A final-year sprint by a president intent on using executive power to improve the lives of American workers and consumers — in many instances over loud objections from the businesses that will have to pay for it.
We’d correct Politico only by noting that neither “industry” nor “businesses” pay for anything. People pay for things. Industry and businesses serve merely as the conduit by which government exerts its will against and establishes its power over the people. And in 2016, government will do so extensively.
Fortunately, the opposition party is in control of Congress. Unfortunately, that opposition party is the Republican Party, which brings us to….
Forecast #2: In response to Barack Obama’s regulatory and executive agenda, the mighty Republican Congress will do . . . almost nothing.
As noted above, in 2010, the voters elected a Republican House to keep tabs on their erstwhile out-of-control president. In 2014, they elected a Republican Senate as well, giving the GOP more power in Washington than it has had in some time. And the Republicans, for their part, have responded by doing almost nothing.
Now, we nearly wrote that the Republicans have done “nothing,” but settled instead on “almost nothing” for a reason. They did, in fact, block most of Obama’s legislative agenda, which is a good thing. Of course, when he went ahead and did everything he wanted to do administratively, the Republicans didn’t lift a finger to stop him. They huffed and they puffed and then they went away quietly. They let him get away with it. They funded his plans and his agencies. They acquiesced to his schemes. They did almost nothing. And they will do it again this year.
Press reports have noted that the White House is “gloating” over the recently signed budget agreement. Obama got everything he wanted. As White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted the day before the budget agreement was signed, “there were Republicans who walked into this session of Congress emboldened by their strong new majority in the Senate and their historically large majority in the House, but their opposition to many administration priorities melted away . . . ”
The problem, as regular readers well know, is that the Republican Party is still the Republican Party, which means that it is still both “the stupid party” and an inside-the-beltway party. Seven years of Tea Party opposition has changed the GOP somewhat, but not enough. The insiders still control the levers of power in Congress, even as many of the outsiders have become insiders themselves. That’s the way things go in the administrative state. Power and money are ample in Washington, and they have a way of altering the priorities of even the most-ardent “reformers.”
As our old friend Grover Norquist has noted, government must be reduced “to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Until that happens, the state will always prevail no matter how vociferous the opposition. Thus shall it be – again! – in 2016.
And that, of course, is the reason why we have. . .
Forecast #3: Donald Trump will continue his good work, lambasting Washington, attacking the political class, and, most notably, touching – and then grabbing, throttling, and stomping on – the ruling class’s untouchables.
Certainly, we have made no secret over the last several months of our dubiousness about Donald Trump’s ability to serve as an effective president. He’s not a real conservative, after all. And he’s always been something of a statist. And he’s unskilled in the niceties of both politics and policy. And he’s. . .well, Donald Trump. Nevertheless, the guy continues to kill it. Steve Sailer, the conservative journalist and blogger recently summed up the Trump Paradox quite nicely, writing, “I’m not that crazy about Trump’s personality, in fact I don’t think he has the presidential temperament. The problem for me is that I agree with almost everything he says.”
The catch here is that Trump says the things that no one else – or at least no one else who has a shot at winning the presidency – will say. He has no fear of the political class and even less fear of the media. He says and does what he wants. And that’s politically attractive. More to the point, it’s politically effective.
Now, we don’t think that he will win the Republican nomination. Nevertheless, his attacks on the establishment and on the establishment’s sacred cows have already changed American politics permanently and for the better.
Consider, for example, the case of the Bush family. For better or worse, the Republican Party has been the Bushs’ party for nearly three decades. George H.W. Bush won the presidency in 1988. His son George W. won it in 2000 and 2005. And his other son, Jeb, was supposed to win it in 2016. But Jeb won’t win it in 2016. Indeed, Jeb’s political career is as good as over – which is to say the Bush family dominance of Republican politics is as good as over. And a big part of the reason for this is Donald Trump.
Jeb was the odds-on favorite heading into last summer. His fundraising ability, his name, his family’s connections, all were supposed to make him unbeatable. And yet hardly anyone noticed when he officially announced his candidacy, largely because Trump overshadowed him almost immediately. Trump made the GOP establishment and its chosen-son-candidate his top priority. And he crushed them both. And in so doing, of course, Trump crushed the Bush family dominance of the party as well. Which is a good thing. The idea of a third President Bush was just too much for us to stomach. And as it turns out, thanks in large part to Donald Trump, it is also too much for the GOP voters to stomach.
Consider as well the case of Bill Clinton. For the last 15 years, Bill Clinton has been treated as a political hero of sorts, a senior “statesman” who left office very popular and who managed to stay popular, even as he also managed to stay involved in politics. Everyone, it seems, liked the guy and enjoyed having him around. For many, he was the sole benefit of Hillary’s ongoing political career. They all remembered the good and forgot the bad, or at least refused to acknowledge the bad.
And then came Trump, who was and is still remorseless in his attacks on the would-be First “Gentleman.”
Whereas the rest of the political class feared or revered Bill, Trump did neither. He took Hillary Clinton’s tiresome feminist shtick and turned it around on her, reminding the entire world that she is married to AND WOULD BRING BACK TO THE WHITE HOUSE a confirmed sexual predator. Think, just for a moment, about the enormity of what Trump has done here: he took Hillary’s principal strength – her connection to a more effective and happier Democratic presidency – and turned it around on her. He turned her greatest strength into a liability. He neutralized Bill Clinton, presumably the greatest political talent of his generation.
Please note that what Trump did here was not difficult. It did not require cunning or brilliance. It did not take political savvy or skill. All he needed was the guts to say what no one else would say. And a grateful nation now thanks him. Even when he has gone from the 2016 presidential race, his willingness to say or do anything will remain and will have an impact.
All of which will be beneficial to. . .
Forecast #4: Ted Cruz will win the GOP presidential nomination.
We know that Ted Cruz is, according to the smart set, nearly universally disliked by the insiders in the GOP. As we noted just a few weeks ago, the conventional wisdom has it that “nobody really likes Cruz anyway and most Republican insiders would prefer Trump to mean, nasty ol’ Ted.” To which we respond, so what? If you’re paying attention, you know that the loathing of the establishment is a badge of honor in this campaign. And Cruz wears it proudly.
More to the point, we suppose, Ted Cruz is the smartest politician in this campaign. He has established a considerable and formidable organization in important states. He has raised large sums of money. He has openly and aggressively attacked the things that GOP primary voters universally dislike, including and most especially the mainstream media. Moreover, Cruz has done the one thing that no other conventional candidate has done; he alone has courted Trump voters. Every time Trump says or does something that is supposed to end his campaign once and for all, the entire GOP field joins the press and the Democrats in condemning him, the entire GOP field, that is, save one, Ted Cruz.
Cruz will, we think, win Iowa. He’ll win South Carolina as well. He will then gain momentum and the money that said momentum will bring. He will win and he will win soundly. The dire predictions about a brokered convention will prove false. Cruz will be the GOP standard-bearer. And Donald Trump will support him.
Given this, you can expect that. . .
Forecast #5: The 2016 presidential campaign will be among the nastiest and most grotesquely dishonest in recent memory.
This prediction, we should note, is one that we stand by whether or not we are right about the Republican nominee. If Trump surprises us and wins, it won’t matter. The campaign will still be unprecedentedly brutal and ugly. Both Cruz and Trump represent existential threats to the political establishment – of BOTH parties – and thus whichever one wins the nomination must be destroyed.
We will confess here that this is not the first time we have made such a prediction. Back in 2012, we said almost the exact same thing. And the fact is that we were right. That campaign was indeed ugly and dishonest, with the IRS getting a BIG assist by keeping many conservative groups on the sideline. Nevertheless, this campaign will be worse. Much worse. The Democratic establishment will try to destroy the Republican nominee BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. And this time around, they will have help, from the GOP establishment. We presume that Ted Cruz’s closet is free of skeletons. Otherwise he’d be a fool even to want the nomination.
The party establishments will pull out every stop trying to destroy the GOP nominee and to preserve their hold on power. Unfortunately for them, they don’t understand the dynamic at work in this campaign and in American politics in general. In our intro, we noted that the theme of the year is the government’s hatred for the people. Well, that hatred is not unrequited. The people – or at least those on the Republican side of the aisle – have figured this out. And they hate the government right back. And they hate the mainstream media. And they hate just about everyone involved in preserving the political status quo. As we’ve noted countless times before, Donald Trump’s popularity is a response to the ruling class’s disinterest in the will of the people. The same is true of Ted Cruz.
What this means, we think, is that the ruling class’s efforts to destroy Cruz – or Trump – will backfire. The more the establishment hates him and tries to bury him, the more the people will like him and flock to his cause, understanding full well that he is a stand-in for them. All of the fury, rage, and irrationality unleashed against the GOP nominee will serve simply to remind voters of the fury, rage, and irrationality unleashed against them over the last decade. They will see themselves in him. And they will vote accordingly.
Which means that…
Forecast #6: Ted Cruz will be elected the 45th President of the United States.
Part of this prediction is based on the idea that Cruz will capture the dynamic in this country quite well. He was an insurgent candidate when he ran for Senate in Texas, and he has been an insurgent pain-in-backside to the establishment since he was elected. And he will remain an insurgent in an election year in which insurgency matters greatly.
That said, a bigger part of this prediction is based on the fact that the Democrats will nominate one of the weakest major party candidates since Bob Dole. As we have noted before in these pages – going back more than a quarter century – Hillary Clinton is not a likable person. She is not a likable politician. She is not a likable candidate. She is terrible on the stump. She is cold, calculating, and exceptionally insincere. If her last name weren’t Clinton, no one would give her a second thought, much less nominate her to run for president.
All of this, we should note, is IN ADDITION to her corruption problems, her manifest dishonesty, her foreign policy record, and her husband, who, as we noted, is suddenly fair game. When all is said and done, Hillary will, we think, make Democrats long for the good old days of Michael Dukakis. Anyone who is pretending to be excited for Hillary is lying.
Of course, the problem is that she’s all the Democrats have. For a variety of reasons, the Democratic Party has no bench whatsoever. It’s Hillary or bust. And we think it will be bust.
One final factor to consider in evaluating Hillary Clinton as a candidate is the fact that she is currently under federal investigation, which brings us to . . .
Forecast #7: “Out of Left Field” Prediction: Hillary Clinton or someone very close to her will be indicted.
Now, we know what you’re thinking: Steve and Mark have lost their minds. They’ve predicted legal troubles for the Clintons countless times before, only to be wrong. Why would they want to humiliate themselves again?
Our response to that is twofold. First, this is an “out-of-left-field” prediction, which means that it is not something that we believe is necessarily likely, but which is nevertheless possible. Think of it as something like a “black swan,” a low-probability, high-impact event.
Second, and more to the point, if nothing else, the 2016 campaign is a battle for control of the future of the Democratic Party. Right now, the party is in limbo. For the last eight years, Barack Obama has governed, but the presumption has always been that he will not having a lasting impact on the party, since he is a mere stand-in, someone to keep the seat warm between the Clinton presidencies. We don’t think that Obama much cares for that presumption. And we don’t think that he much cares for the Clintons either. All of which means that he is a wild card in this campaign.
The conventional wisdom has it that Barack Obama wants a Democratic successor, that he wants to help get a Democrat elected in November. Or, as Politico put it, Obama will use the power of the presidency “to subtly, then not so subtly, make the case for the Democratic nominee, whom Obama and everyone else in the White House assume (but won’t yet say out loud) will be Clinton.” We’re not sure we agree. Indeed, presuming Clinton is the nominee, we wonder if Obama might not rather his successor be a Republican.
For years now, most observers have been waiting patiently for the Republican Party to crack-up. And they have done so with good cause. The Tea Party movement and now the Trump movement have hinted at the serious weaknesses in the party.
But the Republicans are not alone in cracking-up. The Democratic Party is also deeply divided. Bernie Sanders’ candidacy is an obvious sign of this division. The question with the Democrats is which side will gain the upper-hand, the centrist, corporatist faction or the leftist, socialist faction. Or, to put it slightly differently, who will control the party going forward, the Clintons or Obama? Contrary to conventional wisdom, we suspect that Obama has a preference that is not necessarily in keeping with seeing Hillary Clinton elected.
With this in mind, we return to the ongoing FBI investigation into allegations of illegalities surrounding Hillary’s use of a private email server. If the FBI decides that charges are warranted, then the Obama administration – specifically Attorney General Loretta Lynch – will have to make its own decision: indict and cost the Democrats the election, or skip the indictment and risk a rebellion in the FBI. Frankly, we see this as an easy choice.
And we suspect that Obama will too.
Happy New Year!