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By Tom Cushing

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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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Primaries and Pivots

Uploaded: Jul 29, 2015

With the general election only fifteen months away, there's barely time to spend the estimated $5 Billion the 2016 Presidential election will cost (with thanks to Justice Roberts, and sponsored by those with more dollars than sense). Mindful of that, the candidates on both sides are madly scurrying, and currying favor among their respective Party bases.

The press, in its preoccupation with balance ('convey the controversy, but never exercise independent judgment ? after all, controversy sells') has recently concluded that the candidacies of Messrs. Sanders and Trump are cut from the same cloth in their appeal to the voters' avid longing for "genuineness." That's yet another false equivalence ? simplistic and badly overdone.

The two currently intriguing aspirants clearly are their own men, but that's where the similarities end. Sanders is a true believer ? a fervent populist who is sounding the same substantive themes he's espoused since the 1970s. He energizes the liberal Democratic wing that sees injustice in the entrenched power of institutions as diverse as Wall Street, Big Pharma and big city police departments. He wears the pejorative label "socialist" as a badge of honor.

Trump, by contrast, is Triumph the insult-comic dog, or maybe a latter day Don Rickles. If he truly believes in anything, it's in the power of his personal brand of maniacal bombast. There's not a public figure he won't savage, or an issue immune to his demagoguery.* As such, he's a both a logical extension of the recent, excessive rhetoric of The Right (see Tim Egan's always insightful column), and a media creation. Any appeal beyond the buffoonery is to the part of the GOP base that time forgot, or has passed-by. The bully-boy persona seems to resonate with angry individuals who long for simple times and simpler answers. This genuineness is all about the ego.

These two candidates are generating most of the excitement in the pre-debates, pre-primary phase.

Their rivals have responded, but in very different ways. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton has treated Sanders as something of a buzzing gadfly; she attempts to wave away the annoyance and stay above the fray. She has leaned left, however, in her policy pronouncements, especially regarding the financial sector.

The GOP field has demonstrated their leadership chops by responding inanely -- bringing down the level of discourse to Trump's nadir. They have been slow to denounce his more profoundly preposterous antics -- a few (Cruz) even dignifying them as mild overstatements of real problems (they're neither). JEB! managed a tepid clucking in between policy misstatements. And they have flattered him by imitation ? looking desperately unPresidential as they theatrically destroyed cellphones (Graham) and tax code copies (Paul, the younger), and coarsened the oratory -- as in former man-of-the-cloth Huckabee's repugnant proclamation that the sensible Iran deal is "marching the Israelis to the gates of the oven." **

I must say that the exception here is Ohio Governor Kasich, who is quickly claiming the adult table as his own. He alone has refused to take the bait. He has also generally compiled the best governance resume of the bunch. I intend to learn more about him, although the reasons I might be attracted are the same ones that would disqualify him as a serious Republican (Cf. Huntsman, 2012).

This race to the bottom is part-and-parcel of the primary system, as only the most ardent voters bother to register-present in those preliminaries. To emerge from those early rounds, the candidates feel forced to pander to the extreme elements of their Parties. This is especially true for the GOP, where ideological purity exerts a stronger influence among "values-based" voters. Dems, I believe, are more accustomed to these alliances of convenience.

The successful candidates are then supposed to move back toward the center in the general election, to vie for most reasonable and/or less fervent folks who populate the middle (and are numerous). They thus count on their faithful bases to have short memories, or at least consider their person preferable to the now-obvious alternative. There's even a cynical lexicon for it: campaigns "retool" for the general election ? they "pivot" toward the center, and they may even "walk back" some of their position on issues. The free use of those terms by consultants and other cognoscenti suggests that they consider this phenomenon to be business-as-usual.

But isn't The Pivot a problem ? the flip side of "The Genuineness" that accounts for the current appeal of un-bought candidates? Wasn't "The Pivot" the essential defect in Mitt Romney's campaigns? He had built a reasonable record as a moderate (at least) governor of a blue state, but he had to pivot in both directions during his runs for the White House ? to the point where too many voters distrusted where he 'really' stood. And isn't "walking back" just a current, hip euphemism for having been caught in a lie?***

I think Hillary has this problem, as well. Do I really trust her tough-ish rhetoric toward Wall Street, or do I chalk it up to a professional politician's pirouette? I'd like to believe the former, but I suspect the latter ? and if her high "unfavorables" are an indication, I am not alone. She's had 25 very public years to study political ballet, and I fear she's learned the moves too well.

Of course, we do get the politics we deserve, because these tactics have demonstrably worked in the past. But I wonder if the crowd wisdom of this election might demonstrate an electorate that is fed-up with focus groups, and too-precious, precise turns-of-phrase ? and Pivots. Candidates, you've had many years to decide what you think ? just tell us.

* In a book I'm reading on Scottish history, author Neil Oliver states that the difference between Kings and everybody else is that Kings will do absolutely Whatever Is Necessary to exert and retain power. The specific reference was to a monarch who had a rival's infant murdered horribly in the public square, but I think the same claim might be made about many contemporary candidates for high office, including Mr. Trump. (And no, I didn't just call him a baby-killer.)

** There's an internet rule called Godwin's Law, to the effect that if you invoke Hitler and his Nazis in a flamewar, it's over and you lose. The same rule really ought to apply to candidacies like Huckabee's.

*** Lord, how I hate political euphemisms, and buzzwords in general. You "reached-out" to me? Gaah. No you didn't -- you just Finally returned my call.
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Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Jul 29, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

I also believe Governor is the exception.
I currently favor him over all others.
I hope he is in that top ten number to be eligible for the debates.

Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Jul 29, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

Governor Kasich!

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Jul 29, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Trump re: Kasich

Web Link

It seems to me that Trump will stop at nothing to trash other candidates.

I don't believe that he has a long political life.

I believe that he RAPED his first wife. Too much for me to deal with. Poor woman. Nobody deserves to be raped.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Jul 29, 2015 at 5:53 pm

I love animals and do not respect the Trump family practice of killing wild animals: Web Link

Killing animals is more than I can bear. What kind of father doesn't attempt to stop his children from killing? Trump would not do much of anything to protect any animals species.

Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 11:39 am

While we are all entitled to our opinions, I think Trump's comments on Senator McCain were so outrageous and appalling that he is not fit to be President. Hillary Clinton, as the national polls have shown, is also the least honest and least trustworthy candidate. Unfortunately, I think it is likely these two will get their parties nomination and square off against each other. This may be the year that a third party independent candidate has a chance, as many voters, like myself, literally could not vote for either of these people.

What about Bill Gates as a third party independent for President? He does so much good charity work with his foundation, and is not mean spirited, but yet has the business experience and obvious intelligence to run our country. Unlike Trump, he is a billionaire with a heart and compassion for others.

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 11:55 am

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

I've become disillusioned with Rand Paul. He's moving further to the social right, or maybe I'm just noticing it more now. I'll look into Kasich, but I doubt he stands a chance in the primary, but I always vote in the Primaries.

I'm also sick of the political antagonism. Politics is too much like a football game now, with each side cheering for their side and beating up anyone cheering for the other side. Words like "Liberal," have become epithets. "Conservative," doesn't have as much negative connotation, but "Right Wingnut," obviously does.

We are often reminded that President Reagan and Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neil were old Irish drinking buddies. And they got a lot done. The Conservatives, who idolize Reagan, don't appear to give O'Neil much credit, but it took this partnership for Reagan to get the approval of Congress. Together they saved Social Security so I could get it. I hope the next President and Congress can work together to save it for the next generation.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of another community,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Am: I am comforted by the opinion of John Cassidy, who writes great stuff -- not all of it political (a lot of its business/economics) -- in The New Yorker. He's watched Trump for 25 years, and his take is that "the closer you look at Trump, the less there is to see," and also that the one-trick act becomes tiresome. I think that's why Cruz has been so gentle in his critique -- he hopes to inherit those unhappy souls when Trump implodes.

Personally, I think the organized, streamlined world of business and the chaos of politics are poles apart. Military folk do well in corporations, and some business types have done well at the Pentagon, but if commerce is science, then politics is art. The avg CEO has better authority in some ways than the Prez. Glad to see, though, that you might look outside the friendly confines!

I'm beginning to think that ol' Handsome Joe Biden might be an interesting late comer for Dems who don't trust Hillary and can't quite move all the way to Sanders, but maybe that's just my Delaware roots coming out.

Roz -- I'm tired of the acrimony, too -- but I think it's a mistake to ascribe equal blame. I do not think there has ever been such an intractable (Grand) Opposition Party, with so few alternatives beyond 'hell no.' Remarkable to me that Obama has kept his cool -- and made progress despite the worst they have thrown at him.

Posted by ed, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 1:44 pm

I like Trump - he's making the election exciting for the first time in many years. He's got nothing to lose so he says what he wants and won't take large contributions so he won't feel beholden to anyone - i like that too.
I like the bombast, at least he's taking a strong stand while all the others are like Casper Milquetoast, so meek and mild.

We have dangerous enemies in the world who are obsessed with creating another 9/11 here, and we have an immigration system that is completely broken. He's speaking out about those issues like no one else.

Micheal Savage has called Trump the Winston Churchill of our time, I wouldn't go that far, but at least he's stirring the pot like no one else.

Posted by Westerner, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 2:27 pm

I don't trust Trump because he is a former Democrat and has supported the wealth tax, a tax on your net worth rather than on income. Governor Kasich is a good candidate for the Republicans and Webb is a good candidate for the Democrats because both are more centered and reasonable.

Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 4:13 pm

"Ed": You "like" Trump? I understand why his call to crack down on illegal immigration is popular, even though his choice of words was sloppy and not articulate. But beyond that, what is there to like?

Do you like him cheating on his wife(Ivana) and the mother of his kids with Marla Maples, who he later married and divorced for a younger "model"?(no pun intended)...Do you like him claiming a "medical hardship" due to his alleged "ankle problems" to get out of serving our country during Viet Nam, but yet more than 40 years later his "ankles" seem up to playing over 100 holes of golf a week?

Do you like him hiring an attorney who claims "it is impossible to rape your wife"?.

Do you like him having the gall to attack hero John McCain for being captured and tortured as a POW?

About the only thing good about him is that we could save some money in letting the Presidential Barber go.

Posted by Tom Cushing , a resident of another community,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Am -- why do Republicans (including you) soft-pedal the critique on Trump's immigration conflagration? Have they given up entirely on the Latino vote? That tactic has been fatal in the past.

Moreover, maybe this doesn't play well with The Basest elements of the The Base, but "what border crisis?" is a fair question to ask. Note that there has been No net in-migration from Mexico for the past Five years. Web Link "Issue," maybe -- especially as regards undocs now here (but you don't need a wall for that) -- but "crisis??" .

Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 6:19 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

I believe there is such a desperation to put a republican in the white house. That, no matter who it is. The electorate will vote for that candidate.

Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Tom: The " crisis" is numerous cities, including San Francisco, claiming " amnesty" and refusing to follow federal law in turning over illegal aliens to the authorities. Obama goes crazy when states do not follow federal laws on issues he supports, but he threatens to veto The GOP bill to stop federal funding to cities who refuse to follow the law. The tragic murder of the Pleasanton lady in San Francisco never would have occurred if the violent illegal alien was properly turned over to the authorities.

We need a President who enforces the federal laws on immigration, and cracks down on " amnesty" cities. That I think is the only reason The Donald is jumping so far ahead in the polls. But anyone who could be so disrectful to John McCain & all those poor POW's will never get my vote.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 8:36 pm

Trump was deferred because of spurs in both heels of his feet.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 9:19 pm

Heel bone spur: Web Link

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Jul 30, 2015 at 9:30 pm

Everybody lies, even candidates for Presidency of the USA.

If a candidate tells a lie, and believes what she/he is saying, is it still a lie?

It could be that the candidates who want to be President will all tell lies during the debates.

In my opinion, those that believe what they say are not truly lying. Even if other folks perceive that they are lying.

i rest my case...

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of another community,
on Aug 1, 2015 at 1:40 pm

You heard it here first: Web Link

And for free!

Posted by Voter, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 2, 2015 at 11:43 pm

My current perspective says Ohio Governor John Kasich is the only serious, straight talker, and very experienced in past successful congressional budgeting days of old. Now, swing state of Ohio has RE-elected him Governor by greater margin than when they first elected him Governor...both sides like him. He keeps his nose clean and to the grindstone, and is serious about doing a good job for all the people. Mix his current Governor experience along with his past Congressional experience, back when Congress worked, makes him all around best for the job over anybody on the scene today.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Aug 3, 2015 at 10:03 am

Given the current field, I will seriously consider voting for Kasich. He is a serious individual with a proven record of governing reasonably. Still, it's waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too early to decide for this one.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Aug 3, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Mr. Biden's son died recently. I believe that Vice President Biden is too vulnerable internally to welcome any additional stress. I'm hopeful that he will take the time to allow his spirit to heal. He deserves the time to care for himself and his family.

May your son Rest In Peace Mr. Vice President.

Posted by Bernie Sanders!!!, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 4, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Trump- will only work for the rich.
Hilary- a liar

Bernie Sanders for president!! Web Link

Web Link

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