Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bring On The Bambino: Why The GOP Needs To Embrace Christie

This article blends my two favorite American past times with baseball and politics. I'm focusing heavily on the GOP ticket in 2016 for two reasons. First, the Democrats are almost for sure going to pick Clinton, so they're just boring. Second, it's like a train wreck and I just can't look away.

Riddle me this: What do Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, a handful of politicians from Texas, and Ronald Reagan all have in common? It's not their policies on immigration. No, not their views on the future of the Affordable Care Act. Give up? Ok, I'll tell you. None of them, not one, can beat Hillary Clinton in 2016. Even more interesting, none of them could beat Obama in 2012, and if you add McCain, subtract Rubio, change Rand to Ron, and replace the Texas group with Palin you've got 2008 too. Different names (some of them) but the same brand, and still bland.

The Boys of Summer

The current lineup for the GOP (I'm going baseball heavy for this comparison, so stay with me) suffers from the same deficiencies as the 2000 and 2004 Democratic lineup. Remember Kerry's Presidential campaign? Yeesh. Gore may have actually won the popular vote, but win or lose that election it's hard to find a sentence to use the words “Al Gore” and “inspiring” that isn't negative. The early 2000's Democrats and the current slate of Republicans that have the name, money, and will to reach toward our Presidency are all what a baseball manager would call utility players. These folks can do a lot, and can play different positions, but none of them have that little something extra. These candidates are just that, candidates. 

What they are is vanilla, safe, and reliable. What they aren't is exciting, inspiring, capable of greatness. None of them can hit over .300. None of them will steal 40 bases, hit 40 home runs (which is a big number again now that the PED craze has been phased out...ish), and none of them will strike out 200 batters in a season. If they were offensive players they'd be .255, 12 HR, 63 RBI, 3 SB type of players. Or a 12-11 pitcher. Not “bad” but probably not making an all-star team anytime soon. Solid utility players are important to round out a team, but all-stars sell tickets.

Still 270 To Win

These utility player politicians are good enough to run a campaign. They can attract good donors. They can win the red states. 225-250 electoral votes? No problem, well... sort of. The problem is that 225-250 electoral votes is still a losing effort. Anything less than 270 may as well be 0 because the result is the same. (Back to baseball now...) The Republicans need an ace, a defensive Wizard, a long ball hitter. They need the political equivalent of the Bambino. Enter Chris Christie.

Christie is exactly that. He sits in the dug out cracking jokes, smoking a stogie, and eating hotdogs. He finishes his last sip of beer just before grabbing his unnecessarily oversized bat, then saunters to the batters box. He is confident, if nothing else.

That's why I love the baseball analogy here. Imagine Chris Christie in a loose fitting pin-stripe uniform with that simple “3” on the back. Can you see him? Standing in the box? He's pointing to the stands. Waiting for the pitch.

With Great Power...

In the story of Babe Ruth's famous home run the Bambino stepped to the plate, rested his bat on his shoulder, pointed to the stands and stood defiantly. He dared the pitcher. The story ends with the big man rounding the bases, and the other team watching dumb founded. Right now Christie is standing in the box, the bat is on his shoulder, and his finger is pointing. The pitcher in this situation is the GOP. They have the choice to pitch to him, or not. Until Christie gets the pitch we don't really know what he'll do. He could rip the cover off the ball, figuratively speaking. He may hit a long fly ball that is caught just in front of the wall for nothing more than an out. Or, he could strike out. Either way you can bet he'll swing the bat. Hard as hell.

That's the real difference between Christie and the rest of the GOP field. None of them are “that guy” with the ability to talk the talk, walk the walk, and tell you about it while doing it. Sure, they can get on base. There's lots of slap hitting guys in that lineup that can get to first, and maybe even second. (Romney, naturally, takes a walk. He has a good eye and great patience at the plate.) But the U.S. Presidency isn't a base hit. It's not a walk, and it's not a stolen base. It's a home run.

Yes, Christie will say stupid things. He will create outstanding material for the late night hosts, the Daily Show, and may even extend Bobby Moynihan's SNL career by at least 4 years. (Not that I'd complain about that last one. The more Drunk Uncle we get the better.) It'll be entertaining. Some of it will be unintentional, but hey, it worked for W. Christie will be brash, bold, bombastic, and even bodacious. There is a 100% chance he will make you wish he would just wipe the corners of his damn mouth already, how does he not know he looks like that! But, even with all of that, he will do the one thing a President needs to do above all. He will lead.

We Have A Need, A Need To Lead

The American voters are hungry for a charismatic leader. A leader that says it like it is, and doesn't back down. Think about Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. Are they that type of leader? Are either of them inspiring? What about Rubio, Huckabee, Paul...Ted Cruz? Collectively they're about as inspiring as a 1995 Ford Taurus. Trust me. I drove a maroon 1995 Ford Taurus. Next please.

Potential For Success

I don't want anyone to think I'm arguing that Christie will be a good President. I really don't know. That's what makes 2016 so interesting. Christie could be a total bust as a President (though I think he won't be, but he certainly could be) which may completely handcuff the GOP in 2020. Or maybe, just maybe, he'll do ok. Maybe he'll continue our current positive trend of economic recovery and transition into the 21st century. Our country could use a push to the future, and I don't think Chris Christie minds pushing any one around. 

-A. Sommer

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Breaking News: President Obama might actually be the progressive President he said he would be. Maybe.

President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, an event that is always a great night in American political theater, started with a clear and concise statement. He called 2014 a “breakthrough year.” He wasn't wrong. It’s been fifteen years since we've experienced an economy like this. We’ve been fighting wars for nearly as long that are finally winding down. He followed up with “the shadow of crisis has passed” and declared victory over the great recession of the housing bubble. Then he said something he hasn't said in years, “the state of the Union is strong.”

The President wasted very little time getting into the message so many had been waiting for, and so many remain afraid of. It’s time to take a step, or two for that matter, forward. Keep progressing. Continue working toward a just and fair society and keep from allowing our Union, the same one that’s so strong right now, from sailing into the drift of oligarchy and theological zealotry, while rebuilding the middle class to resemble its glory days. 

The Times, They Are NOT Changing Back

Interestingly, the people that seem so interested in taking our social policies back to the 1950’s don’t seem very interested in taking our economy back there as well.
The President used the story of a family that bounced back from the housing bubble. He talked about a tight nit family that can bounce back from everything, and came back there to close things out. It was a well crafted and completely obvious (on purpose) effort to call to the two sides to work together. He followed up by reminding the very people he wants to work with him of just how well his administration’s policies have worked and that attempts to reverse them will be vetoed out of hand.

That was a strong statement indeed, and a good start. Then he turned on the afterburners.
“It’s… it’s 2015. It’s time.” He said referring to the gender pay gap. Then he called out the entire congress on the minimum wage telling them to try and live on $15,000.00 a year, and appealing to the government’s role not to give people money, but to give people a fair shot. That was the stride of what can easily be called the most progressive 15 minutes of the Obama Administration, so far.

I Sort Of Remember This Guy...

I remember 2008 Obama, or “candidate Obama” as the news media likes to say. That Obama was progressive. And by progressive I mean like, could have been confused for being a car insurance commercial because he was so progressive. Then he was elected, and immediately applied the emergency break. Then he put a boot on the tires, a club on the wheel, and took out the battery. Nearly 7 years later he turned the ignition, and the car roared back to life. The question now: Where is the car going?

Checking The Boxes

The foreign policy section was milk toast1, expected, and fairly uneventful. Obama wanted authority to do things we’re already doing. He did remind us that Russia could be a problem, briefly any way. He also made good use of the new Cuban policy. None of this is really that controversial. From there the speech dropped into simple topics with blunted language designed to make the whole room clap. It was totally different from the first half which was a sharpened scalpel slashing at the GOP’s entrenched policies of “the good old days.” That is, until he got to climate change. Obama, like the climate, turned it up. He called out the people that won’t simply accept the evidence and continue to bury their heads in the sand. 

And then there were drones…and free speech…and then a Peter, Paul, and Mary song. It felt a little like the end of a test question at that point. The time was running out and the writers wanted to get in as much as they can. GTMO? Check. Drones? Check. LGBT? Check. The ending though, that was top notch speech writing, and the kind of delivery Obama is built for. Whether you liked the message or not, the product was high quality.

A Call To Arms

The 2015 State of the Union was the single most progressive, forward thinking and well thought hour of the entire Obama administration. For liberals it was exciting. It was a President they were ready to get behind and willing to stick with. For conservatives it was as annoying as everything else Obama does.  Hopefully the message isn't lost because of a predisposed hatred for his policies. It would be a shame if the GOP’s only goal for the next two years is to prove that they’re right and Obama is wrong. The state of our Union is strong. 

Hopefully we can keep it that way for a while, and just focus on electing the best leaders. As the President said we can “look to the Future, instead of our past.” Or we can keep worrying about gay marriage and pretending we didn't just have one of the warmest years on record. "Imagine if we broke out of our patterns, and did something different."

1 The proper spelling of milk toast is actually an interesting story. In the dictionary, it's "milquetoast," which was the name of an old comic book character. The character was named for "milk toast." No kidding. I like the milk toast version. Either way, it was bland.