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The Eight-Year Itch

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Obama’s had a great couple of weeks politically, but he’s still gone as of January 20, 2017. That leaves a vacuum that the political arm of Mother Nature must find a way to fill. It’s one reason why more Republicans than you could stuff into a stretch limo are running.

But it doesn’t explain why the choices are so mediocre. Or why more mediocre candidates are declaring every day. Three who have no chance to win their party’s nomination joined the fray last week: Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and Jim Webb (a former Republican, more recently a former Democratic Senator from Virginia).

The only folks left from most initial possible candidate lists are Scott Walker (who might actually have a shot) and Ohio Governor John Kasich (who does not).

So many critics came out of the woodwork when Christie declared that I’m saving his roast until next time. Yum! Meanwhile…

Fun Facts

This is the Survivor episode where they take time to show you some backstory about the contestants. Gail Collins wrote an entertaining quiz in the New York Times that offers some insight into the candidates:

  • Bobby Jindal claims to have participated in an exorcism. Really!
  • Bernie Sanders wrote an essay about rape and bondage when he was a youth, which he now likes to compare to “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
  • In college, Mike Huckabee had fun cooking squirrels in a popcorn popper.
  • Rand Paul once compared government support for low-flush toilets to abortion rights.
  • When a child asked him about global warming, Scott Walker answered that as a Boy Scout he “always thought campsites should be cleaner.”
  • Rick Santorum was initially certain that the mass murder of nine blacks in a church represented prejudice against Christianity. Quote: “What else could it be?” Golly, Rick. I just don’t know.

Santorum’s brand of willful ignorance has been in full flower for decades, demonstrated by the continued display of the Confederate flag—and in national tolerance of the terrorism that it has come to represent. This story never left the news cycle, nor should it. Many stories now appearing quote the reasons for secession from the Union from documents published by the states themselves. The reasons I’ve read cite the right to practice slavery and little else.

For example, the Texas document lists contempt for several New England states, for asserting their states’ rights. They refused to honor the Fugitive Slave Act, a national law. So neither side can argue for or against “state’s rights.”

It may be hard to admit that an ancestor fucked up. But you have to do it. Because you don’t want to be that ancestor.

The present-day use of the Stars and Bars, which began at the height of the 1960s Civil Rights movement, was as an obvious symbol of defiance. A vote for Jim Crow and white supremacy. If you find yourself objecting to that characterization, then it’s time you read some history—from both the Civil War and Civil Rights eras.

The choice that the South offered itself: acknowledge an ancestor’s wrong or perpetuate it. And white America has been tolerating the wrong choice for 150 years, in the form of a myth that no politician was brace enough to debunk. But the South’s dominant role in presidential politics has begun to decline. The possibility for this to be an evolutionary point in this issue is huge. That we follow it through to actual completion is essential.

OK, enough preaching.

Why is Donald Trump, blustering and foolish as business deals fall apart in the wake of his public racism, in second place in polling New Hampshire? Because campaigns are about showmanship.Trump understands showmanship.

JFK won the presidency because he looked good on TV, and Richard Nixon didn’t. Ronald Reagan elbowed his way to the front in the polls with a video of his stern father persona: “I paid for this microphone!” Michael Dukakis doomed his campaign with a photo op atop a tank that turned into his losing campaign’s icon. Do you recall how Michelle Bachmann first came to prominence? She described liberal members of the government as anti-American.

With Trump, all that bluster is as fake as his hair. Even Rick Perry disagrees. I guessed right about Trump’s super-secret foolproof plan to defeat ISIS: separate them from their oil. It *is* a good plan, if one could actually execute it.

That would be no easier than getting Russia’s gas customers in Europe to stop buying from the Evil Empire. Oh and incidentally, also stop heating their homes and cooking their meals. Not impossible, mind you, but requiring diplomacy that is clearly beyond The Donald’s capabilities.

And yet—he’s in second place, behind the only candidate with better name recognition: Jeb Bush. Trump operates in large, black-and-white CAPITAL LETTERS; at this stage of the Republican Survivor game, it’s the perfect strategy.

Ted Cruz’s Simpson Audition ends (at time mark 56 seconds) with him twirling in what seems certain to become his personal Dukakis-on-a-tank animated GIF. This before his campaign even got going. I’m reminded of Fred Thompson in 2008: the first thing that this actor from Law and Order did at his campaign announcement was tell the audience to give him a round of applause. It was nearly the last thing as well.

You may be asking me why I’m listing the ways that candidates shoot themselves in the foot, when Trump’s feet are full of bullet holes and yet he appears to be well-positioned in New Hampshire.

I do have a theory. He’s that dangerous boy that girls without experience find irresistible. He’s that drunken college prank that got you thrown into jail for the night. I think: people will tell pollsters that they like Trump, but when they actually get into the voting booth, they’ll bail.

Rick Perry Says Something Smart, and Risky…

The former Texas governor gave a remarkable speech last week, and I want to give him full credit. A highlight:

“For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote, because we found we didn’t need it to win. But, when we gave up trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln, as the party of equal opportunity for all. It’s time for us, once again, to reclaim our heritage as the only party in our country founded on the principle of freedom for African-Americans.”

This is admirable, like all the recent talk from Southerners about ditching the Confederate flag. Now they need to act on that. As of this writing, South Carolina’s Senate voted overwhelmingly to take down the flag. Step One! LATE ADDITION: Step Two and Step Three also happened, after some debate and resistance. At 10a.m. Friday July 10, South Carolina lowered the Confederate battle flag from state property. May it rest in peace, and stay down.

Why Vote?

I’ll finish with the topic I intended to begin this edition: the Supreme Court. They are 1/3 of the government but off everyone’s radar until they drop a landmark decision. We had a few lately and it has begun to look like the opposite of the so-called Reagan Revolution. This movement has a way to go of course, but it would not have even begun without the justices nominated by Obama.

How important is the President? I can answer that question with three terrifying words: Scalia, Thomas, Alito. And more often than not, Roberts. The first three were dinosaurs two generations ago. The next president will likely to replace at least two, maybe three, justices. If the next president is a Republican, those three are who we’ll get more of.

Consider this idiocy: “Slaves did not lose their dignity, any more than they lost their humanity, because the government allowed them to be enslaved.” So said Justice Clarence Thomas.

I’m speechless, but George Takei offered an appropriate response, from his personal experience. And I can easily imagine Thurgood Marshall spinning in his grave.

Consider the old-man goofiness that lies in the recent written opinions from Justice Scalia. (He’s always been bombastic, but now he sounds like he’s shouting at a cloud.) Justices are appointed for life and only one (out of 112) was ever impeached. He was acquitted.

Consider that aging liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer could leave soon. There’s more: Scalia and current swing voter Arthur Kennedy both hit 80 next year.

Consider what a dramatic and long-term effect certain landmark decisions can have: Plessy v. FergusonDred Scott v. SandfordBrown v. Board of EducationRoe v. WadeCitizens United v. FEC.

Consider, finally, who appoints justices. They have to travel the gauntlet of Senate approval and failure is rare (but please do read about Robert Bork). No surprise that conservative presidents do not pick liberal judges (see Alito and Scalia). On the other hand, some judges presumed to be shoe-in conservatives actually turn out to be more balanced (see Kennedy and Souter and Brennan).

I don’t know if there is an example of a liberal justice who got conservative during his term.

It boils down to this: the president appoints Supreme Court justices. If you think the two parties so much alike, check out the justices that each appointed. For that reason alone, you should go out and vote.

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Written by

Steve Schlich writes fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want”—lies like that—for the mortgage money. For his soul, he writes fiction and music. Hobbies include webmaster for www.RodSerling.com. In 2004, he created www.NakedWashington.com, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco, where he’s been a technical writer of in-house software manuals since 1982.

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