Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Richie Rich, Baby Boomers and, Look Out, 2018 Looming

The baby boom generation has suffered a number of ignominies, especially in the fellow boomer presidents who have been elected as the cohort has grown and matured. The first of the generation to take office, Bill Clinton, ended the meritocracy those born post-1945 had enjoyed. After his total lack of common sense, given the settings of his interactions with Monica Lewinsky (the Oval Office), he was impeached, which prevented the other baby boomer, Al Gore, from advancing, handing over the election, barely, to George W. Bush. Clinton’s legacy is the Bush II administration and all the calamities it wrought, most of which are still on-going in 2017.

The Bubba cost his wife the recent election because even Democrats were tired of both Clintons in 2008 and Clinton fatigue had barely dissipated by 2016. The less said about George W the better, as he wiles away his late years doing old-age-home arts and crafts. But, one presumes, the greatest affront to boomers is Donald Trump, currently president of the United States. We have gone from the smartest guy in the room – Bill Clinton – to the incarnation of baby-boom- era comic character Richie Rich, minus Rich’s purported kindness and impulse to charity. This final insult is hard for the generation to absorb.

Presidential elections have been swinging the last couple of decades from the boot-strap candidates, Clinton and Barack Obama, to the entitled, George W. Bush and now, The Donald. Seemingly, the American public is riding on a pendulum, favoring the self-made office-seeker and then the rich. Political success in the country now seem to be the real estate of the very wealthy, those who buy their offices outright.

The next national election of consequence is the one where the presidency is not involved. 2018 rises in importance, given the chaos of the Trump administration and the GOP’s lock on governing the party now holds. Here in Indiana, Sen. Joe Donnelly’s prospects for reelection in 2018 are seen by many political observers as a test case of the strength of the Democratic Party. 2018 will reveal whether or not the Democrats are actually the basket-case they seem.

Donnelly may have profited in the 2012 Senate race in Indiana from two things: An astoundingly inept Republican opponent (Richard Mourdock of the “gift from God” fertilization by a rapist) and a presidential election year that helped boost turnout. Donnelly had chosen not to run for his Congressional seat, given the state’s GOP gerrymandering of the 2nd district. Donnelly, unfortunately, left us with the elusive Jackie Walorski, a state-level politician, one of the many Republicans who finds open town halls toxic. Donnelly opted for the high-risk-high-reward Senate contest and it paid off.

Donnelly is one of the most vulnerable Democratic Senators of a red state. Indiana went for Donald Trump by 17 points, showing more Hoosier pride – Mike! Pence! – than enthusiasm for Trump, helped by a by a woeful overall turnout – Indiana ranked 40th out of 50 states. Hillary Clinton won St. Joseph county, a Democratic stronghold, by less than a point.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like our wunderkind South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will be a candidate for Congress in 2018. Given his sterling performance running for chair of the Democratic National Committee, the fund-raising window for him would be wide-open and, certainly, he would have helped improve turnout in the 2nd district, thereby aiding Donnelly state-wide.

Walorski is ripe for defeat. The all-male leadership of the D.C. Republicans have kept her on a very tight leash. They may have improved her visual presentation since 2013, restricted her to a few sentences to say, over and over, and put her in any number of photo-ops, even with Donald Trump, since there are so few GOP women (62 Dems, 21 GOP), but she continues to be the same old lovable “Wackie Jackie” of yore, applauding the president’s one-page-joke tax plan and swooning over the Senate and the House’s reverse-Robin-Hood decimation of Obamacare, and whatever other craziness Donald Trump indulges in.

Donnelly has been, and will be, attacked by both the right and the left. Various purity tests have been engaged by some Democrats, including Donnelly’s vote for Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch. The three non-Republican votes for Gorsuch came from red-state Democrats. Their re-election contests will be mud-fests, especially Donnelly’s.

That the Democratic leadership took the hardest line against Gorsuch, knowing that the Republicans would invoke the misnamed and hyperbolic “nuclear option,” was ill-advised. Gorsuch was laureled with what are considered the most reputable credentials, though, at heart, he seems to be just another Republican party hack. Democrat opposition turned out to be yet another futile political gesture.

An all-out fight against the second Supreme Court nominee – if Trump gets one, which is likely – would have been more useful. Since only a bare majority vote is now needed in the Senate to confirm, Trump can serve up even a Liberty University zealot and the Democrats will be hamstrung. Better they had contested a less-credentialed person than Gorsuch, one that even some sensible Republicans would balk at.

In addition, the anti-abortion lobby is second only to the NRA in its focused, single issue, get-out-the-vote capabilities. Democrats are now sparring over making a pro-choice stance for candidates mandatory, which is absurd, given the party’s ethnic and religious history, though what most Democrats would agree on is that pro-life Democratic office holders resist limiting the reproductive rights women already possess.

Some diehards these days think Bernie Sanders could have won the presidency, if he had been the nominee. Isn’t it pretty to think so?, as Hemingway would have said. The Republican Money Machine didn’t bother to lay a glove on Bernie during the primary season. Picture the garbage that would have been heaped on him had he been the nominee. Recall that along with Trump it was Sanders who didn’t release his most current taxes during the primaries – it was Jane who was doing them, he’d cry. What were they hiding? Now Jane and Bernie are under investigation for the usual kind of money shenanigans. Yet Democrats remain divided today because Sanders was essentially a third-party candidate. And he is too old to be a baby boomer.

What motivates Democrat voters who sat out the election, or voted for Jill Stein, or the fairly crazy Libertarian candidate, in 2016 was well put by David Hoppe in the Indianapolis weekly Nuvo. The were folks ”...who think of voting not in terms of collective self-interest, but as a hermetically personal form of self-expression.”

If Joe Donnelly loses in 2018, self-expression – and Trump and the Republicans – again will have won the day, to say nothing of the House, the Senate, etc.

The HuffPost version ran on 6/26/2017 and can be found here.

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