Friday, February 19, 2016

Crushing the Competition: How Clinton Can Win the Nomination

Senator Bernie Sanders has become far more than a thorn in the paw of the Clinton political machine. He's a full on stick in the spokes threatening to send Clinton end over end. But, it hasn't happened yet and the tumble can still be avoided. How? Great question!


Clinton is poised to win the South Carolina primary, by a huge margin. Real Clear Politics polling averages show Clinton leading Sanders 58% to 37%. That's a sizable lead, but for contrast we can go to just 90 days ago and see Clinton has slowly and steadily been on the decline having peaked on November 15, 2015 at 70%; meanwhile Sanders has been creeping upward with an undeniable positive momentum. Sander's 60% showing in New Hampshire (and 22% win, which is more than Clinton's current South Carolina lead) was more than anyone predicted and has tilted the scales further away from Clinton. Nevada is a statistical tie at this point with both candidates hovering around 46%.

Both contests have more delegates than New Hampshire, so naturally both are more important. If Clinton wins both Nevada and South Carolina it will almost certainly signal the slow inevitable ending to the Sander's campaign. The next votes after these two races come on Super Tuesday which includes a large slate of southern states where Clinton is already polling a mile ahead. Wins in Nevada and South Carolina will push that polling advantage higher and create a very steep hill for Sanders to climb.


Even with this nearly certain outcome, things are still in flux and Sanders maintains a realistic chance. As luck would have it, Nevada's Democratic caucus is this Saturday, February 20th, while the South Carolina Primary is next Saturday, February 27th... and that timing is very important. 

That's because success breeds success. Sander's Iowa finish was so much better than expected it helped increase his margin of victory in New Hampshire. Since then Sander's number in South Carolina have improved by a statistically significant margin. Right now the two candidates are tied in Nevada. Clinton is supposed to win Nevada, handily. Heavy emphasis on supposed to win. If Sanders pulls out a tie or even a possible victory (it's very possible) in Nevada that leaves an entire week for the papers, internet, and television news cycles to explain why the sky is falling over the Clinton campaign. A week during primary season is a very long time, especially when the press is piling it on.


If Sanders takes Nevada, or if it is a tie, then South Carolina becomes yet another in a series of litmus tests for Clinton's viability. Clinton is expected to win in South Carolina by 20%, just like Sanders did in New Hampshire. A big victory is the signal to the voters that the weight of inevitability is too great. But...what if she wins by 10%? Or, 5%? Will that be enough? 

It's a lot like college football rankings. When a huge powerhouse program like Alabama (Clinton) goes up against a no-name program that just popped into the Top 25 for the first time in a great long while, like maybe Kansas (which ironically will represent Sanders) we expect Alabama, the big powerhouse, to win by three or four touchdowns. If they don't blow out their opponent, they might win but still lose ground in the rankings. 

That could happen in this race. Clinton doesn't need to defeat Sanders in South Carolina, she needs to destroy him. What happens in Vegas will not be staying in Vegas, it will impact the next week and ultimately the South Carolina primary vote. Clinton's campaign has been trumpeting their lead in South Carolina as the sign of things to come, but it looks like they may have "misunderestimated" (to borrow a term from our old pal W) what was happening in Nevada. 

The numbers still suggest a Clinton victory but at this point the polls look more like an unknowing shoulder shrug than a predictive model. The only certainty at this point: The next 8 days will be extremely important. 

-Adam Sommer

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Antiestablishmentarianism: Jefferson's Generational Revolution of 2016

Thomas Jefferson said, wrote, and did a lot of noteworthy things. He is also famous for a level of hypocrisy that is (almost) unmatched in our founders by penning the words “All men are created equal” while continuing to own people even to his death. He was an idealist, and while his policy decisions and personal choices didn't always reflect the lofty rhetoric (as the slave owning contradiction points out), he did have one particular ideological statement that seems to have come to fruition in our political system.

Jefferson said that in order to keep democracy functioning there needed to be a government overthrow and revolution with each generation. Given his participation in a true military revolutionary war, it's likely he meant something along those lines, but I think he would have been pleased to see that his generational revolution is happening. Every twenty-five to thirty years (sometimes a bit longer but close) we have a sort of political re-birth in the United States, which the 20th Century illustrates particularly well.


1901. Theodore Roosevelt takes office after the death of President McKinley. Teddy pushes, pulls, and prods the United States into the new century. He brings with him a new tide of progressive ideals and politics and ushers in a new political era. Teddy gives us the bully-pulpit, the reinvention and expansion of the Monroe Doctrine, and a great mustache. His administration is a generational birth followed by a gaggle of unremarkable Presidents like Taft, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. Wilson is the lone stand out, but even so, without a major world war it's hard to imagine Wilson as transformative. Plus, without Teddy's run on the Progressive “BullMoose” ticket, Wilson may never have become President.

1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt takes command of the sputtering country, and like his cousin injects a new feeling into the office and the American people. He brings us the New Deal, the fireside chat, and reinvents the leadership of the President into a sort of father figure to trust and admire in bad times. He leads us out of The Great Depression, through one of history's greatest wars, and ushers in an era of unprecedented prosperity. The next 16 years bring us Truman and Eisenhower, good solid Presidents but not transformative figures. They were stewards of the office. Eisenhower lead during a time of great change and Truman dropped the bomb. Both had noteworthy accomplishments during their time in power, but noteworthy accomplishments are not the same as changing the way the office and the government itself is viewed. Neither was a transformative leader.

1961. John F. Kennedy brings Camelot to D.C., creating the first true celebrity President as we know it now and wields power much differently than his predecessors. He pushes progressive ideals, convinces the American people that a Catholic (or non-protestant for that matter) can be President, and forces the country to look inward. Kennedy's full impact is truly unknown. Would a full second term have yielded great success? Maybe. Lyndon Johnson carried the torch for civil rights, but even so he wasn't Kennedy. Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter follow. All of them have something worth adding, Nixon's opening of China probably the most important of the three, but none of them reach that transformative level. (It's worth noting here that Nixon's impact could be seen as transformative but for the wrong reasons. The public “trust” in government began its great erosion in large part due to Water Gate, but that's another topic.)

1981. Ronald Reagan takes America by storm. He defeats a sitting president. He creates the phrase “compassionate conservative” and restores a level of trust in the office, for a time, engendering great respect in the process. The Reagan administration ended with a solid economy and an end to the Cold War. He is followed by George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Again, these are all noteworthy Presidents for plenty of reasons but let's not let recent bias make them more than what they really were. None of them truly changed the game. I complete this group with Barack Obama. His campaign was revolutionary, but his time in office seems to be closer to the stewards group than the transformative group. The revolution is long overdue.


Bernie is old, often appears frazzled, and has very little celebrity grace. He is, in many ways, a sort of blue-collar Senator. The phrase is oxymoronic, I know, but it fits. Sanders has been grinding it out for 30 years while beating the same drum of political revolution the whole time. The drum has become worn with time and use, but when he speaks, you can see the yearning and belief in the ideals he professes. He is a gritty public servant and a dedicated elected official. He has no history of corruption and the worst thing people can say about him is that he is a socialist. (Run for the hills!)

Sanders is striking a nerve that has been slowly exposed over time in the form of campaign finance and big money in Washington. His campaign has an average donation of $27.00 (in case you hadn't heard that by now) while his main opponent, Hilary Clinton, blows his fundraising out of the water with huge business donations from places like Goldman Sachs. There is a loud undercurrent of voters that are tired of the SuperPAC commercials already. The same people are tired of the unlimited 'soft money' allowed under the current laws. Tired of watching the top 1% of the top 1% rule from their oligarchical ivory tower. If that current is powerful enough it could easily pull the election along with it and buck every 'establishment' candidate.

Trump is the businessperson/celebrity version of the same thing. He's the yin to Bernie's yang. Almost totally self-funded and openly bucking the financial sector. If you take out the openly racist and xenophobic calls from Trump his message isn't that much different from Bernie's message. Put in it's simplest form, both candidates want to throw the bums out. 


Robert Reich summarized this when talking about why people find both Trump and Sanders appealing in this article. His description sparked my brain to think of Jefferson's generational revolution and I realized we are due. 2016 is the year.

Essentially, Reich says that Trump and Sanders are two sides to the same coin. I agree. Both represent Jefferson's revolutionary movement of this generation. Each has their own flavor, but both promise the same basic ideal: It won't be politics as usual. The media in general is picking up on this narrative, but they haven't quite put their finger on the source. We keep hearing about how impressive Sanders and Trump are as unlikely candidates now doing well and while that's true it seems to have much less to do with the candidates themselves than the voters attitude and predisposition to the message.

The revolution is happening. While reports of the assault of Black, Hispanic, and Asian persons at Trump rallies are popping up, it is (mostly) non-violent, and we the people aren't getting ready to literally burn D.C. to the ground.

The revolution will be televised. You can even view the version that pleases you most by watching on one of the stylized cable “news” channels. The revolution will happen at caucuses, in primaries, and ultimately on a cool November morning as voters (the ones that haven't been suppressed by I.D. laws) make their way to peacefully cast their ballot. The revolution will include a ceremony filled with pomp and circumstance but the exiting power will not be there to fight. No shots will need to be fired. No blood will need to be spilled. The Country will wake up in early February of 2017 after the first week of the new regime and make coffee, talk about the Super Bowl, talk about the weather, and go about their day. One way or another, things will change as Jefferson's revolution manifests again and our Government is reinvigorated. Hopefully this one is of the people, by the people, and for the people. It could be Yuge. 


Ok, ok, ok. I'm off the Christie narrative. I picked Clinton and Christie a long time ago. I was wrong. I still think Christie would be the best GOP candidate to try and win the general election, but clearly the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire disagree.

Just like seemingly every political analyst and pundit (yes, I just self-applied those terms) I totally whiffed. Making picks for nominations is tough, but this year is proving to be nearly impossible. I still don't think Trump will get the GOP nomination or that Sanders will get the Democratic nomination. The GOP race is like that carnival game where everyone shoots the water gun at a target to make the horse move left to right, and I don't think Trump's current momentum can sustain once the anti-Trump vote unites. As for the Democrats I'd call the whole thing a coin flip. Those have gone well for Clinton so far.

-Adam Sommer

With editing by Drew Hooper