Between Two Majorities: A Timeline

This is a compendium of posts I have made predicting the trajectory of American politics, culture, technology, and economics between 2014 and 2030. The years between 2014 and 2016 feature the Presidential victory of Scott Walker. At the time I wrote that, President Trump was not a candidate or reported to be a potential candidate. However, I have kept the articles untouched to demonstrate that the forces propelling Donald Trump exist outside his Presidency and are bigger than just the man.

Any edits will be grammar or minor edits to make the stories clearer. Articles will be uploaded here as time goes on. All articles are copyrighted to the author (C) “BetweenTwoMajorities.”

Please ignore the dates. The project was begun in December 2014 and completed around February 2017 but I altered the dates to make it chronological.  (Also I don’t want to have to do a WordPress Plugin and installation and all that). 

I have chosen to keep all mistakes, errors, and the like, to showcase my thinking at the time, and how they turned out right/wrong.

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The Third Wayers Versus Progressives

Original Published Date: December 3, 2014

Date: Winter 2014 to Summer 2015

(New York City, New York)  As Democrats geared up to defend the White House for a third consecutive term, an uncomfortable truth was emerging from the party’s rank-and-file. The economic times had made the party’s neoliberal wing increasingly unpopular. And in turn, it had created a rift between the party’s neoliberal leadership and its base. And last but not least, the neoliberals counted among their ranks one Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.

Populists began grumbling early on in the first term of the President. The appointments of Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and others to the economic team had stirred liberal discontent. That anger had, in fact, denied Summers the Federal Reserve Chairmanship, which had gone to Janet Yellen, a progressive. That anger further was stoked by the concessions the President made to Republicans for his $837 billion stimulus, which many derided as too little (although maybe argued after the fact). And by 2011, the President was being roundly bashed by the progressive base as insufficiently liberal on what happened.

Why was the President under so much attack, despite acting to the left of his most recent Democratic predecessor, President Bill Clinton on many fronts? The simple truth might lie in the fact that 90% of the economic recovery (in terms of income gain) had gone to the top 1%. Wall Street had boomed since the bottom was hit in 2009. Bankers, the liberals argued, were not being prosecuted, despite being responsible for the economic fallout in 2008. (Some bankers did actually go to court and were acquitted, went the Obama defenders’ rebuttal). The anger lay in the fact that, like in the anti-Wall Street Tea Party right, the economic recovery was among the weakest in decades. Years of the median household income stagnating was taking their political toll on a system that did not exactly see the indigent in Congress or in executive leadership.

Internally, progressives sought liberal champions to run against Secretary Hillary Clinton. The Democracy Alliance, a liberal donor organization established in 2005, declined to invite Hillary Clinton to their winter 2014 meeting. That same organization had favored Senator Barack Obama in 2008 and actively supported him, to the detriment of Secretary Clinton. The progressive base had quarreled with President Bill Clinton frequently in the 1990s – witness NAFTA, DADT, the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, welfare reform, to name a few – and were not eager to see the Clintons back in the White House. The thinking also followed another track. The nature of a Presidential third term in the White House for the Democratic Party might put the party on record for more moderate reforms than it had pushed for, which might be unacceptable to progressives.

Thus, it was with fervor that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) was being courted for President by a group of liberal donors, who wanted her to run for President. Democracy Alliance members urged her on, with prominent donors in the real estate and retail industries pushing her to compete. They were genuinely liberal and feared another neoliberal Democratic President. (Well, neoliberal to them). Despite repeated pressure, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a reluctant electoral warrior, declined to run for President of the United States in February 2015. This disappointed donors and they began looking elsewhere, like former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-Maryland) and former Senator James Webb (D-Virginia). The refrain was simple. They needed a genuine populist to take on Hillary Clinton and to run on a full throated economic liberalism. Hillary Clinton – by dint of association with Bill Clinton – was not the candidate they thought best to represent the party in this endeavor.

One problem is that the Democratic ranks had been decimated in 2010 and 2014. The party counted only 44 senators (with two independents caucusing with them) and 17 governors.

First, take the governors. The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, was no favorite of progressives, and the governor of California was too old (at 77, he would be 78 at the time of his election). Former Governor Martin O’Malley was young but the Republican victory in Maryland severely marred his candidacy. Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania was in his first term, at 66. Governor John Hickenlooper barely survived re-election in Colorado with less than 50% of the vote. Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin had also barely survived a scare in 2014. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire had eked out re-election with her opponent winning 47% of the vote. Heartland Governors like Steve Besher (D-Kentucky) and Jay Nixon (D-Missouri) were not in an ideologically advantageous position to run. And so on and so on. Among the senators, the list was little better. Among the Senate roster, only New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and maybe Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) were plausible candidates. Among newcomers, the Castro brothers were not ready for prime time. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), at 73, was simply running to make a statement and was not a credible national candidate in any way.

Joe Biden? The vice president? The vice president wasn’t a bad idea, but he was 73 and would be 81 by the time he left the White House two terms later. Not only that, he would be heavily connected to the unpopular outgoing President. But Biden may have been the best alternative to Clinton that existed in the progressive universe. Even if he was unlikely.

In short, the Democratic Party did not have the bench to run a campaign against Hillary Clinton, which only added to progressive frustration. Their bench was as pitiful (sans Hillary Clinton) as the 2012 Republican Presidential bench. Possibly even more pitiful.

Nonetheless, the party’s neoliberal wing reacted with alarm. After the near unanimous opposition by progressive Senators to Antonio Weiss in his confirmation battle as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at Treasury, Wall Street Democrats felt even more uneasy than they had in 2012. They saw Hillary Clinton as the best bulwark against the rising populist tide, and urged her with even more fervor to run. Bankers at JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs (once a Democratic redoubt), and others from the investment world urged Hillary Clinton to run for President over the winter of 2014.

Angry progressives retorted that Democrats would not turn out in 2016 for a neoliberal nominee with heavy ties to New York’s Wall Street, and that Republicans would be far more eager to win the White House in 2016. They were the party out of the White House and had a golden once in a century opportunity to lock everything down under a 1920s esq Republican majority. Republicans, went the progressive thinking, would not eye the opportunity and give everything they had to guarantee the most conservative government in many decades. The progressives’ answer was a fiery “denounce the economic royalists” strategy to defend the White House. Not only that, they noted (accurately) that Secretary Clinton’s ratings were falling to the levels of generic Democrat, and that did not bode well for the party.

The backroom jockeying belied a grim truth. If Hillary Clinton could not connect with voters on pocketbook issues, the Party would be truly in the wilderness to a level not seen since the 1920s. Harding, Coolidge and later Hoover had shut out the Democratic Party at all levels in the 1920s, and conservative dominion had held sway. As a historian would later note, the Democratic Party rode into the 2016 election with fear as the common denominator. Fear and a grim hope that the Republicans would yet again give their Democratic foes a shot by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

It would be a year of reckoning, and a turning point in the identity and ideology of the Democratic Party.

(C) 2017 “BetweenTwoMajorities”

Economy Gains Steam in 2015

Original Published Date: December 6, 2014

Date: July – December 2015

(New York City) The country began moving past the Great Recession in 2015. The improving economy saw the unemployment rate go down, the median household income go up, gas prices remain low, and consumer confidence inching up. The good news however did not belie that the country had a long way to go before recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression itself.  Growth was at 3.5% for the year of 2015.

Unemployment had been at 5.7% in January 2015, and ended the year at 4.7% in December 2015. 2015 surpassed 2014 as the best year for job growth, the best year since 1999. The average gain was around 240,000 new jobs each month. Retail, accounting, and other white collar industries led the way. The blue collar manufacturing sector also gained significantly over the year, as factory orders rose throughout the year. Economists hailed this as a sign that the Great Recession was entering the rearview mirror.

GDP growth was also strong, logging in at 3.5%. The United States led the post-industrialized world in the year 2015, leapfrogging most of Europe. The GDP of the United States remained strong, equaling some $17.45 trillion for 2015. Economists hailed the strength of the American economy and the weakness of other areas as one reason it was doing better than the world.  The global economy grew at a weaker pace, at 2.0%.

Low average gas prices also helped consumer spending, which made up 70% of the economy. Gas prices in the United States averaged around $2.50, some of the lowest rates since 2001. The global market saw a continued glut that depressed oil prices. Consumers were translating these prices into greater consumer spending in other areas, which helped boost the economy.

Consumer confidence was also going upwards, but at a slower rate. (1985=100). The rate was 98.1 at the end of 2015. It was a far cry from the significantly below 40 rating at the height of the economic crash of 2008. Consumers were slowly beginning to spend again and confidence reflected that.

Real wages were also growing. The median wage was $797 in November 2014; it was $807 a year later. The median household income rose to $55,481, matching the $55,589 level in 2008, and surpassing the $51,913 level in 2011. Wage growth for workers was 2.5%, at the highest levels in decades.

With all this, the Federal Reserve aimed for a moderate hike of .25 points in the interest rates, with an eye to inflation at 1.7% in 2014 (up from 1.5% in 2013). The Federal Reserve decided to not hamper the recovering economy and chose a moderate and even dovish path to making sure the recovery continued apace.

Under the headlines, though, a more nuanced picture emerged.

Unemployment was going down, but labor workforce participation remained at 63%, some of the lowest rates since the 1970s. Those who were not working were discouraged workers who had given up, those who were retired, and others. Still, with the low workforce participation, some economists were concerned. Unemployment had not dipped further because of these discouraged workers still being counted as part of the unemployment rate. And the important U-6 statistic suggested that unemployment had a long way to go before most Americans felt comfortable with the economy again. Part time workers still numbered over 6 million individuals – people who wanted full time work but had to settle for part time work. Those who wanted a job had dipped to roughly 5.5 million.

Wage inflation was quickening, given the tightening labor market, but after decades of stagnation, median household incomes were still nearly 10% below what they were in 1999. Median wages for the millennial generation also remained shaky, compared to those who were 25-34 between 1995 and 2005. While wage growth was finally taking off, the economy remained weak for many.

Analysts at the time estimated that the economy was in recovery, and would continue strengthening. However, it would be nothing like the economic recoveries of the 1980s, 1990s, and would be more in line with the tepid recovery of 2001-2003 (although at a worse level).

(C) 2017 betweentwomajorities.

Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rand Paul Take “Invisible Primaries”

Originally published December 9, 2014

Date: Autumn 2015

(Washington) The top candidates on the Republican side seems to be two governors and one senator. Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.), Governor Scott Walker (R-Wis.) and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) all emerged as the main draws in the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination. Among the “invisible primary” factors, donor support, campaign staff, and activist support were the main criteria to determine who would be the contenders going into Iowa and New Hampshire.

Senator Paul (R-Ky.) was first in this trio. With a massive activist base of libertarian Republicans, significant donor support, and somewhat solid campaign staffing, the Senator was positioned as the frontrunner for the Presidential nomination. The buzz about the Paul candidacy energizing young millennial voters to switch their support from the President’s party to the emergent libertarian Republican faction attracted a significant swath of donor support, including a handful of Romney money men. Hector Garcia,* Tom Ribalco,* and other major donors that had donated to Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid now gave freely to Rand Paul and his PAC’s. However, like his campaign infrastructure and base support, they were largely libertarian Republicans. There was no question Rand Paul could raise enough money to have a solid infrastructure in the early states, have a committed campaign staff battle tested by campaigns dating back to 2004, and have the committed support of libertarian activists. The big question was whether Rand Paul was limited to the libertarian Republicans plus a few others, or if he could forge a true libertarian-conservative majority to win the Party’s nomination.

The next candidate merited some interest. Governor Chris Christie was the highly successful RGA Chair of 2014. He had gone into the election with 29 governors and came out with 31. Despite Republican losses in Alaska and Pennsylvania, the party had picked up Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Arkansas. Combined with his mammoth re-election of 60-38% in 2013 in blue New Jersey, the Governor was a formidable Presidential candidate in his own right. Of the three, the Romney donors had gone to Christie the most. They had heavily courted him in 2012. And now, in 2016, they saw him as a candidate who would be able to flip blue states. With Jeb Bush out, Christie was the establishment candidate. His apostasies had been slightly smoothed out by the 2014 victories; and as he headed into 2015, he positioned himself as conservative enough to win the nomination while pragmatic enough to win the general election. A foreign policy hawk, he earned plaudits from those who wanted to see a more neoconservative direction, as opposed to Paul’s more dovish position. Christie emerged as the candidate of blue state Republicans who were interested in becoming relevant to the Party again, after a long hiatus.

Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin (and 2015 Marquette University graduate), was the third candidate who had emerged as a strong Republican candidate. He had been notable in Republican circles, since he had passed a right to work law in Wisconsin in 2011. His staring down of the recall in 2012 had earned him even more chits among the Right and Walker had a vast donor base, including the top donors to the conservative movement. Among the three, he had the largest draw among the various factions of the Republican base. Governing as a conservative in a Midwestern swing state, he straddled the divide between more moderate blue state Governor Christie and more libertarian Rand Paul. His donors were not of the Romney variety but they were conservative, and his activists and supporters were similarly branded.

Time would tell if a dark horse candidate would emerge or if these three would be the ones battling for the brass ring in February 2016. For the first time in decades, no one Republican would dominate these pre-primary jockeying and the domination would be headed by a trio. And so, for now, these Republicans would take the invisible primary.

*All non-public figures names are made up.

2015 Around the World

Originally published December 12, 2014

Date: December 2015

(Washington) World tensions continued to be higher in 2015, despite the Obama Administration’s best efforts. That said, the news were largely news that continued the status quo.

Global Economy Lagged Behind U.S. Economy

The world economy grew at a slower pace than the American economy. Global growth was at 2%, with deflation a serious concern for many countries around the world. China, Europe, and Japan all faced deflation concerns, as the price of goods and services fell across the board. In many parts of the world, deflation and the hangover from the 2008 recession hindered economic growth and continued to fuel populist anger.

Governments around the world continued to walk the fine line between angry voters and trying to ignite an economic recovery in their nations.

Middle East Remained a Hot Spot

The United States continued its bloody struggle against ISIS, with both sides warring back and forth. ISIS – the transformed al Qaeda group in Iraq – continued to hold much of the ground in Iraq and Syria that it had gained in prior years, while the Americans stopped ISIS from gaining more ground. The United States launched a slew of air strikes and had military advisors on the ground to push back ISIS, but ISIS employed guerilla warfare to push back at the American military operation.

The Iraqi government, in 2015, remained as chaotic and divided as ever. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi would turn out to be as ineffectual as Nouri al-Maliki in establishing a stable Iraq state. Forces pushing Iraq into turmoil would continue to accelerate.

Russia Continued to Chart Aggressive Path amid turmoil

(Moscow) With the global oil market in a glut, and with sanctions hitting Russia hard, the Putin government moved to try to shore up its popularity. With the ruble in ruins, Prime Minister Putin sought to continue his aggressive posture in 2015, with feints in Crimea. Despite his best efforts, however, Prime Minister Putin was pulled inwards, to deal with the crumbling Russian economy and shrinking global leverage it had.

Inflation rose 12% in 2015, adding the stress onto the Putin government. Roughly $80 billion has fled Russia since the sanctions by the West were imposed. The Putin government raised interest rates three more times in 2015, in an effort to stave off inflation and to keep the economy afloat.

Abroad, the Russian government found itself playing defense in Eastern Europe, where the gas lines that it had owned were no longer as strong a leverage as it used to be. Where Russian influence once dominated, German influence now held sway.

Cameron’s Government Falls in 2015

(London) In the year 2015, Labour and their allies garnered a 350 seat majority in the House of Commons, as the Tory Government fell. Cameron was unable to take a majority of at least 325, but once again, no party crossed 325 on its own.

The Tories took 28% of the popular vote, Labour 30%, Liberal Democrats 12%, UKIP a surprising 10%, and other parties took some of the vote. In seating, 271 Tories, 289 Labour Members, 34 Liberal Democrats, 19 UKIP Members, and 10 SNP members – along with other parties – would sit in the new House of Commons. For a governing majority, Labour had themselves, the Liberal Democrats, and most of the remainder of the small parties. Notably, Labour fell 2 votes short of a governing majority, even with Liberal Democrats.

With these results, Ed Milliband became the new Prime Minister of Great Britain. Many attributed the Labour victory to the slow European recovery and the deflationary trends facing Britain and Europe. The rise of UKIP in 2014 had signaled a populist backlash against the more conventional Cameron Tory government of 2010.

Hillary Clinton: The Making of a Presidential Campaign 2015

Originally published December 18, 2014

Date: January 2015-December 2015

(Westchester, New York) Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton became a candidate for President of the United States in April 2015. The former Secretary of State and New York Senator had planned the bid for months.

Her “listening tour” had been reprised, to great effect. The Clinton campaign had severed ties (formally) with outside groups and furnished them with a basic game plan to follow. The Clinton staff had been arranged, with former White House fixer and major Democratic operative Ron DeHall* chairing the Clinton campaign. The bevy of Democratic endorsements had been lined up. Democratic donors had been given the game plan and given their marching orders. The Clinton campaign had all the trappings of an incumbent President gearing up for re-election rather than an outsider planning a Presidential bid.

Despite the threat from former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-Maryland), the Clinton campaign was supremely assured. Polls showed that Clinton had an even larger lead in the primaries than former Vice President Al Gore (D-Tennessee) had over Sen. Bill Bradley (D-New Jersey). Secretary Clinton was the most guaranteed Democratic Presidential candidate who had not been the incumbent in history. The power behind the Clinton campaign was so immense that the nomination seemed a foregone conclusion, according to campaign observers.

The donors unfurled their banners and flooded the campaign and its orbiting PAC’s with money, more money than ever recorded. By the time of the Iowa caucuses, Secretary Clinton had amassed some $300 million. President George W. Bush had raised $367 million for his entire 2004 campaign; Secretary Clinton would raise 81% of that by January 2015.

Every leading Democratic strategist and technocrat was on the campaign. The major stars were all on it – veterans from the first Clinton Presidency, the Obama campaign, the Kerry and Gore campaigns – everyone. The technology operation was not merely preparing for a primary challenge; but a General election. They saw the primaries as a warm up to the General Election, and a measure of turning out voters and fine tuning the voter models.

Not only that, virtually every Democratic office holder was behind Secretary Clinton. Those who weren’t endorsing her were either quiet or a very select few low level functionaries endorsed her opponents. The reality was however that the vast majority of Democrats were behind the Clinton campaign. And that had to do with two reasons. One, the Clintons had quietly politically forced into retirement a number of Democratic officials, who had endorsed President Barack Obama. They had viciously gone after these candidates and rewarded their own supporters. The List of the Clinton enemies from 2008 was the stuff of legend. There was a reason Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) had rushed to endorse Secretary Clinton in June 2013, trying to position herself as the first among many endorsements. She was trying to get herself off the List, or to at least, avoid a hostile nominee from her own party. Clinton World certainly remembered her apostasies. Multiply this by many people over, and dissent was very much crushed. The other reason was that most Democrats saw Secretary Clinton as the only hope for the Party in 2016. If they weren’t motivated by fear, they were motivated by a desire to win. These two gravitational forces pulled the endorsements together in a way like no other.

But there were rumblings of discontent.

In the end, it was a lot of cooks in the kitchen. The power struggle was hidden from the outside world but was very real inside the Clinton campaign. This was fueled from the top – the Clinton’s paranoia and insular outlook, forged by twenty four years of internecine warfare, would dominate the outlook on the Clinton campaign. Ranging from their hostility to the press to their deep and lingering resentment to the Obama high command, the Clintons themselves were fueling the hostility towards the outsiders. The hostility was present, even as they took on these outsiders. A later aide said “You could feel it. It was “them versus us.” And the Clintons were very much pushing that attitude. The outsiders were taken on to prevent a primary challenge and to unify the Democratic Party. But it was very much a view of them taking a leak out of your tent rather than leaking into your tent.”

The Secretary herself held a tightly guarded circle of aides, with Marcy Wheeler seen as her closest aide. Hillaryland dated to the 1990s, and the longer the history of the Hillary loyalists, the stronger the control they exerted over the campaign. Unlike her husband, Secretary Clinton was far less willing to forgive what she perceived as disloyalty. In many ways, the Clinton inner circle refused to surrender precious control to those they saw as their enemies. To say the least, Secretary Clinton herself was guarded towards the emissaries of the Obama high command and other outsiders.

Decisions on when to announce, how to coordinate with the outside groups indirectly, and assorted other decisions were largely made by the inside command. The Secretary herself would decide March over January, to ease into the campaign instead of a quick announcement, to bless certain PACs, and to resist giving power to other groups to wage political warfare on her behalf. She would muzzle President Bill Clinton, as she hadn’t last time (the last time, she defended him as a wife, arguing that of all the advisors, he had won two Presidential elections, and had more authority than anyone else). But the campaign seemed more like a correction of mistakes made in 2008, not a full change over the 2008 operation.

Time would reveal that the fissures and worldviews of the warring factions in the Clinton campaign would color the 2016 election – and in enormous and profound ways.

Martin O’Malley Becomes Leading Democratic Alternative to Clinton

Originally published December 10, 2014

Date: Winter 2015

(Annapolis) Among committed progressives in 2015, a Mid-Atlantic ex-Governor became their last resort hope. With almost every major progressive star taking a pass on the 2016 race, progressive hopes fell (relatively) on a young ex-Democratic Governor from Maryland. At age 52, Martin O’Malley (D-Maryland) was considered an attractive alternative to Hillary Clinton.

Written off for dead after Governor Larry Hogan (R-Maryland) took the Governor’s mansion, Mr. O’Malley fell back on his 2014 campaign foray and liberal record amassed in Maryland to appeal to the Democratic base. The Democratic bench was so thin that progressive activists seeking an alternative to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-New York) actively entertained Mr. O’Malley. The Democracy Alliance group largely split their endorsements between Ms. Clinton and Mr. O’Malley, while Mr. O’Malley garnered support in the early states.

Mr. O’Malley’s campaign did not lack for staff, but it was a rag tag staff. Unlike the juggernaut Clinton campaign, the O’Malley campaign was a barebones operation throughout much of 2015. Polling had been sparse, with everyone assuming Ms. Clinton would be the overwhelming favorite. Donors who donated to Mr. O’Malley were overshadowed by the large bulk of pro-Clinton donors. In many ways, in hindsight, Mr. O’Malley was the “Anyone But Hillary” candidate. His support garnered was largely from the Left, which was burned after two terms of President Barack Obama (D-Illinois) and who hungered for a true populist.

Mr. O’Malley also had an edge over Ms. Clinton. He had spent far more time and energy organizing and campaigning in the early states than she had. He also had a far more sharp populist message, being freer to campaign on these issues than Ms. Clinton. Ms. Clinton had to contend with the disparate wings of the Democratic Party and had to please the several competing factions, which hobbled her in 2015. Mr. O’Malley had no such constraints and focused his energies on the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

The Clinton campaign did not start focusing firing on Mr. O’Malley until November 2015. attacking him on his failure to hold Maryland for the Democrats, and his regressive taxes. Top Clinton aides later admitted that Mr. O’Malley’s highly liberal persona and past made it hard to attack Mr. O’Malley ideologically. But in turn, Mr. O’Malley had the more effective message. Internal polls and messaging inside the O’Malley campaign showed that in Iowa, New Hampshire, and elsewhere, people who heard the O’Malley message were far more likely to vote for him than the Clinton message. They also showed that the attacks weren’t having their desired impact; nobody cared that Maryland had flipped Republican except the donors and the Clinton neoliberal record was the weak underbelly of the Clinton candidacy among Democratic activist voters.

History would ultimately record that Marty O’Malley was a far more formidable candidate than imagined.

O’Malley Comes Close to Clinton in Iowa Caucuses

Originally published December 19, 2017

Date: January 2016

(Des Moines, Iowa) Former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.) came within two points of Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the Iowa caucuses. The caucuses had been a sleepy affair until the last few weeks, when polling began showing a much closer race than expected. Mr. O’Malley secured 46.4% of the delegate vote, while Mrs. Clinton secured 48.7% of the same vote. Other candidates secured 4.9% of the delegate votes. Around 100,000 Iowans voted in the Democratic caucuses.

Mr. O’Malley had campaigned frenetically across Iowa for months. Analysts had expected an easy path to victory in Iowa for Mrs. Clinton, but Mr. O’Malley upset predictions. He secured 58% of the very liberal vote, 45% of the somewhat liberal vote, while Mrs. Clinton swept moderate caucus goers with 58% of the vote, and conservative caucus goers with 64%. The so called “wine and beer tracks” of the Democratic electorate played out, with Mr. O’Malley securing upscale areas, urban areas, and younger voters. Consequently, Mrs. Clinton won more blue collar areas, downscale areas, and older voters.

In her victory speech, Mrs. Clinton alluded to her loss eight years ago, good naturedly. She also ushered in a populist call for reform that she had begun honing in the run up to the Iowa caucuses. She sought to portray her candidacy – as she has been doing in the last several months – as the candidacy of a mother and a grandmother. For his part, Mr. O’Malley called for even more stridently populist and liberal rhetoric, talking up measures to raise the minimum wage, taking on Wall Street, and other liberal economic causes.

The media has portrayed this as largely a victory for Mr. O’Malley. Mr. O’Malley was widely expected to lose by a significant margin, but did not. His candidacy has been given a new lease on life, and the media has begun to descend on the O’Malley campaign seeking new answers about the two term governor. Analysts remembered the 1984 Democratic nomination race, with former Vice President Walter Mondale (D-Minn.) winning in Iowa against Senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.) by a smaller than expected margin, which in turn led to a protracted nomination battle.

Both candidates now go onto the New Hampshire primary.

Walker Wins Iowa; Christie Second

Originally published December 20, 2014

Date: January 2016

(Des Moines, Iowa) Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisc.) won the Iowa caucuses today with 27.48% of the caucus vote, totaling 37,027 votes. Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.) came in second with 23.84% and 32,122 votes. Sen Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took a close third place, with 22.13% and 29,818 while Gov. Bobby Jindal took a distant fourth place with 11.49% and 15,482 votes. Other candidates took the remainder. Turnout was up from 2012, with roughly 135,000 caucus goers casting votes.

Mr. Walker hailed from neighboring Wisconsin, but that was not his only appeal. Conservative audiences appreciated his litany of anti-union efforts, tax cuts, and other legislative items he had achieved in Wisconsin. Indeed, the Governor appeared as a consensus conservative candidate, winning both very conservative and conservative caucus goers (36% of very conservative caucus goers backed him while 28% of the conservative voters backed him). These two groups were key to his victory, totaling some 81% of the Republican electorate in Iowa. Mr. Walker also checked off socially conservative priorities, like the 20 week abortion ban that was debated in the U.S. Senate last year. Gay marriage was opposed by Mr. Walker, but many social conservatives did not press that point among the major candidates, choosing to focus their criteria on abortion, religious freedom, and prayer.

Mr. Christie, for his part, was warmly greeted, but his apostasies hung over him and may have denied him victory in Iowa. Activists remembered his embrace of the President one week before the 2012 General election, his expansion of Medicare, and even the fact he failed to appoint a strong Republican candidate to the U.S. Senate in New Jersey, who could have held the seat. Mr. Christie attempted to portray himself as an aggressive go getter who had played the loyal Republican foot soldier in 2014, but many in Iowa felt that the New Jersey Governor was still too much of a party of one. Naturally, Mr. Christie protested this. He pointed to his work in New Jersey with pension reform, reminded audiences that he was elected as a pro-life governor twice in a blue state, and had vetoed same-sex marriage legalization. Mr. Christie took a surprisingly strong 39% among moderates and 44% among the scant few liberal Republican caucus goers.

Mr. Paul came in third, and surprised election watchers with his relatively poor performance. Despite his vaunted organization, Mr. Paul had made a number of gaffes that had undercut his candidacy. His derogatory references to the war on drugs, his embrace of some of the rhetoric of his father, and other assorted minor gaffes had made him seem not a serious candidate, despite his policy stances. Ultimately, Mr. Paul could not expand his reach beyond libertarian and libertarian-leaning Republicans. Many conservative activists expressed concern about a Paul presidency, in terms of the direction of where he would steer the party. Despite all this, Mr. Paul pounded the nostrums of smaller government, deficit reduction, and a commitment to pro-life leanings on the stump, in his attempt to woo Iowa voters.

The big surprise was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. The two term governor had emerged as a candidate on fire in the last weeks of the campaign, breaking out into double digits. He indeed received 11.49% of the vote. His candidacy won the second most votes from the most conservative voters, but failed to catch with other demographics. Promoting tax reform and health care reform, the conservative governor won fourth place.

Of these four, it remains to be seen what New Hampshire brings.

Republican Congress Passes Abortion Restriction Bill, President Vetoes

Originally published December 20, 2014

Tone: Historical
Notes: We’re going back a little, to fill in 2015 a bit more. There’s a few more 2015 articles then back to 2016. Sorry for jumping around.

Date: June 2015

(Washington) The Republican led Congress passed landmark anti-abortion legislation that made abortions illegal at the 20-week mark, in 2015. The G.O.P. Senate proved the more difficult chamber to pass the legislation, but both houses ultimately passed it. The President vetoed it in June 2015, and with Democrats united in the House, the veto override failed. Yet, it would be a symbolic vote that would suggest how far the anti-abortion movement had come since 1973.

The legislation originated in the U.S. House of Representatives, sponsored by conservative Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), a noted anti-abortion legislator. Anti-abortion activists had been encouraged by their success around the states to pass laws to shutter abortion clinics, and saw an opportunity to road test passage of a national anti-abortion law. The legislative attempt was the first serious attempt since the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Propelled by activists who had succeeded in passing abortion restrictions in Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, and elsewhere, the legislation was the first that capped legal abortions at 20 weeks. The public supported it by a wide 63-35% margin, and conservatives saw it as a way to divide Democrats. The strategy was seen as replicating the successful push to make illegal late term abortions in the early 2000s.

In the House, Republicans held a 247 seat majority. Of the 247 Republicans to vote for the law, only 5 dissented. Of the 188 Democrats, only 8 Democrats voted for the law. The law cleared the House 250 to 184, with one Member not voting. The conservative House had made abortions illegal in every circumstance except the mother’s life at stake. Republicans who voted for the law generally represented a Romney district, while Democrats who voted against it represented an Obama district. Ms. Gwen Graham (D-Fla. 2nd) and Mr. Brad Ashford (D-Neb. 2nd) voted for the law, while Mr. Bruce Poliquin (R-Me. 2nd), Mr. Rod Blum (R-Iowa 1), Mr. Crescent Hardy (R-Nev. 04) all voted against the law. Others joined in for and against the law, bucking their parties, as well. Analysts said that the lean of their districts predicted how they would vote.

In the Republican-led U.S. Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) scheduled debate. After a tumultuous debate that saw a successful amendment that expanded the exceptions to rape, incest, and when a minor had gained a judge’s approval was added, the Majority Leader scheduled a cloture vote. Every Republican in the Senate voted for cloture, with Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Jon Tester (D-Montana), Robert P. Casey (D-Pa.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). Observers were surprised at some of the names, but political spectators thought the red state Democrats were voting for cloture to avoid being hurt by socially conservative forces back home. Messrs. Donnelly, Manchin, and Ms. Heitkamp all represented deeply conservative states with strong pro-life forces that were bringing their weight to bear on the matter. Mr. Tester faced a 2018 midterm electorate and had eked by his second term with less than 50% of the vote. Ms. McCaskill, at the time, was openly eyeing the governorship of deeply conservative Missouri, and did not want a controversial vote to doom her chances at home in a 2016 race. Mr. Casey (D-Pa.) was the lone surprise, but his father had been the pro-life governor of Pennsylvania in the 1990s. Analysts also said the high popularity of the 20 week ban in polling had motivated red state Democrats to not cross the socially conservative groups that dominated their home state politics.

With 60 votes secured and debate ended, the Majority Leader scheduled a final roll call vote to pass the law. This time, it was a much closer vote. Ms. Collins (R-Me.) and Mr. Tester voted no, and the law went to Conference Committee. With Republican majorities in Conference, the law was hashed out, and the Senate version adopted. The Republican House passed it by a virtually identical margin to the original vote, and the G.O.P Senate passed it 58-42, with the same vote breakdown as before.

The President vetoed it, and denounced the law in ringing tones. The veto override was a mere formality, and analysts said it was a harbinger of times to come, if Republicans gained the Presidency. A similar gambit had played out in the 1990s, over the banning of partial birth abortions, until President George W. Bush (R-Tex.) had signed it into law. Analysts said the G.O.P had been road testing passage of this law, and would almost certainly attempt it in 2017, if they were to control the government.

More broadly, the anti-abortion movement celebrated it’s legislative victories, while pro-choice forces worried. Since the Republican takeover of 2010, abortion rights had been sharply curtailed in many newly Republican – governed states. Gallup itself had recorded a 64% support for banning abortions after 20 weeks, in 2012 (OOC: Actual poll). Conservatives had been stymied on other social issues, but on abortion, they had been more successful. Analysts detected (rightly) a strategy to undo Roe without actually overturning the decision itself or returning to the laws of the 1960s, which banned birth control and abortion rights.