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The Convention Candidate

Okay, that debate deserves at least a few words. Warren gave a very strong performance. While a lot of the coverage focuses on her attacking everyone, the fact is that other than the newcomer and maybe Biden, everyone else was attacking everyone, so Warren isn’t alone there. But she is alone in her performance, followed by another strong showing by Klobuchar, whom Buttigieg tried to hit, mostly without success.

Anyway, we’ll see how this sets the polls moving for the Nevada caucuses. This post isn’t really about the debate, but what happens going forward. I had written the rest before and then watched the debate, it was easily the most important debate of this cycle (so far?), so I wanted to point at it here.


The trajectory of the Democratic nomination is such that no one may have enough votes to win the nomination on the first ballot at the convention. The question is, what should happen next?

While the candidate with the most delegates at that point will likely call for their own nomination, is that right? Depends.

It depends, first, on how many delegates they actually have. If they are a hair short, then the claim is stronger. If they aren’t, it’s weaker. Second, do they have broad support among the various constituencies of Democrats? Did they get broad African-American support, Latino support, Asian support? If so, stronger, if not, weaker.

In what seems the most likely scenario at the moment, Sanders comes away with a healthy lead over individual candidates, but at a deficit to the moderates collectively. He doesn’t get strong minority support. He doesn’t get that close to an outright majority.

In such a case, he hasn’t earned the nomination. He might still get it, through the politics of a convention, but it wouldn’t be his for the taking. It would be down to horse trading. Who will be the VP candidate? What concessions to rules and policies for the platform? And so on.

Which is where we’re likely headed.

Sanders would have leverage in that scenario, but only so much. His main threat would be to blow up the party, which isn’t as much of a threat as a description if he doesn’t have control over his own voters. Which, he hasn’t shown much control.

Anyway, that’s where we’re heading if the current state of things stays as it is. It’s not as likely to, though. Chances are a lot of folks see Nevada and South Carolina and take a cue and the four-way moderate contest becomes two at best. The moderates that fall back likely drop out and pick their horse and things firm up considerably.

Assuming that does happen, Sanders loses some support in the offing, as some of his current support is from people who just like front-runners.

But the way the math works out, even then the convention may go past the first ballot with all that entails. Oh well. Politics is messy.

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Thoughts on the State of the 2020 Race as of mid-February.

Happy ♥ belated Valentine’s ♥ Day.

Lots of doom and gloom splash the websites of late, about this thing or that thing and fret and worry and hairpull and dread! Oh my! How dramatic the press can be over Democrats, but over Republicans derilict and all but androidified by a monstrous idiot, barely a titter! Barely a noise at all.

So what is there? Iowa, for one.

If you go back down the history of nominations, of conventions, you will find a thing to remember, friend. You will find that it is almost a rule that delegations were not seated, were contested, were bickered over, had problems. You will find, in that long history of putting peoples’ names up to be the candidate for president, that things have always gone oddly and badly.

And there are reasons. There’s the dynamic between state law and private political parties which have their own desires for how those laws should change. There’s the fact that lots of people who go into politics aren’t that competent (they’re human, after all). There’s a ton of moving parts and fractures and needs all pulling against each other, shoving and worrying their own ways around in the chaos.

So, don’t be too worried over Iowa. Don’t be too worried if the whole nomination process goes quite badly. That’s the way of things.

What’s next? The state of the field, right? Right—we have an odd selection of candidates. A Democratic Socialist, a young mayor from Indiana, a billionaire trying to swoop in, a former veep with his dwindling polling, a progressive warrior with her own electoral woes, and a suddenly rising moderate with her chance here and the wonder if she can make anything of it.

All of them better than the president. Indeed, I believe practically anyone, even you, would do better.

But can they beat him? Can this idiot no longer be president as of January of 2021?

Don’t worry about it. As long as people go vote, it will be fine. Go register. Go vote in your state primary, as a practice run. Come November, you cast your ballot and it’ll be fine.

How do I know it will be fine? Because that’s how our system works, of course. We choose our leaders. If we do our jobs, then the outcome is already determined. If we go and vote, we get better leaders. If people stay home or can’t be bothered to choose a good candidate over a bad one, we get bad leaders. And if things get worse, they have only themselves to blame.

I always vote, because I want good government. If you do, you should always vote. It’s like looking both ways before crossing the street, or washing your hands before meals.

Anyway, the election is in 37 weeks.

  • You want good government.
  • Good government requires that you vote.
  • Therefore ⇒ You want to vote.
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2020 Democratic Debate 8.0

Ah, the Friday-evening debate we’ve all been waiting for.

For this debate we have seven candidates like last time, but we also have the Iowa caucuses under our belts, which have given a little bit of clarity on where things stand. Buttigieg and Sanders neck-and-neck on that one puts the whole thing in a different light, doesn’t it?


Going into the debate, some expectations:

Sanders

Having done well in Iowa, and expected to do well in New Hampshire as it borders Vermont, Sanders will probably be looking to cement his position. His main threat, per latest polls, is Buttigieg, but he may not take the expected bait of moderators to get into a direct confrontation.

Buttigieg

In a similar position to Sanders for very different reasons, in New Hampshire he’s not a neighbor. The main question will be how much time he spends going after Sanders versus trying to tamp down his main moderate rivals (Biden and Klobuchar). It’s likely that he’s not making any dire push for New Hampshire, but isn’t writing it off, either.

Warren

She didn’t make any surprise in Iowa, and she’s not that high in New Hampshire polling (though she is a neighbor), so it seems like she will try to make some moves to help her in the medium-term. She could try to stake out the in-between ground that has been vacant since Booker and Harris have left the race. If she can make the case for the middle-way, that’s probably her best bet to siphon away from both moderates and progressives.

Biden

Having come up short in Iowa, Biden is almost locked-in to depending on the south to make his case for him, so like Warren will probably be less focused on New Hampshire retail and more on setting up for the next act (particularly with Bloomberg increasing his push). With Buttigieg having taken the lead in the moderate lane, he’s got some heat off him and can benefit from lowered expectations by beating them.

Klobuchar

Still pushing along in third in the moderate lane, it’s not clear what strategy she can muster here. The middle-way that someone like Warren might take is too off-brand for Klobuchar to attempt. Her best bet is more of a elder stateswoman play, but (for whatever reason) none of the female candidates have much attempted that kind of strategy.

Steyer and Yang

They’re still there. They have some good ideas, but at least in Yang’s case some weird ones, too. No idea if any of it amounts to anything other than a kind of data-gathering strategy that could be useful to candidates down the road. With Steyer, it’s not clear what he’s doing, so it’s hard to say if he can do it well.


OK. Klobuchar definitely stepped up. We’ll have to wait to see how much it helped, but it was definitely above her normal debate performance. She was the first to invoke gratitude to her fellow senators who did their duty and voted to convict Donald John Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors, along with praising Lieutenant Colonel Vindman for his service to the nation (Biden subsequently prompted the crowd to give Vindman a standing ovation).

Steyer elbowed his way into the fray at least a couple of times, mostly to remind everyone how important it is to defeat the president in November.

Yang did his best to underscore the basic sensibilities of a universal basic income: that it would empower all people to make choices that would benefit their lives in ways that government is either unwilling or unable to do. It would cut through all sorts of red tape to let people make positive changes. It’s a good pitch, but it’s damned hard to sell a panacea as a presidential strategy, whatever its virtues.

Warren didn’t have a bad night, but it didn’t feel like she had a great one either. Seemed to mostly play to her base and reminded me of Sanders in some of the early debates where she stuck to her message without really adding. With more debates coming this month and her current position, she may have felt it was best to play it safe.

Speaking of Sanders, he also had more of an average night, which is at least partly because he’s usually (a little too) good at staying to his message. But it seems to be working for him, at least in Iowa and in New Hampshire.

Biden was steady, though weaker than his best. Which, like Warren (and Sanders?) may have been strategy. Again, with two more debates and contests this month alone, and the thick of the campaign nearly upon us, and it being a Friday night debate, playing it easy makes a lot of sense. (On the other hand, not attempting minor differences, just to see if it helps, is usually a wasted opportunity.)

And finally, Buttigieg. He took some flak, as expected as the biggest beneficiary of the Iowa caucuses. His main contribution to the debate was the repetition of his phrase: “Turn the page.” One naturally assumes that, should he receive the nomination, it would be one of his slogans to wield against the president. He had a decent night for all the criticism of his inexperience. It’s important to note that it’s not merely the lack of government experience, but also life experience that’s rolled into that. He has experienced a decent amount for his age, but compared to the older candidates it’s still significantly less.


On the whole a decent debate if only for seeing how the candidates react with the busy week and Iowa behind them. The upcoming contest in New Hampshire and the other debates and primaries this month will really get us down to the big day coming on 3 March.

In terms of strategy, playing it safe was probably safe, but stepping up like Klobuchar did, especially with others sitting back a bit, should help her. We’ll see how much.


The election occurs in 38 weeks.

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society

What to do with Your Impeachment Trial

Note: this was written prior to the start of the trial. Some details may have bitrotted by the actual Senate practice diverging from their rules or precedent.

You find yourself having an impeachment trial. Naturally, the question arises, what to do with it? You’re stuck in that dusty chamber all day. You can’t go on television. You can’t fundraise. You can’t even have your phone with you to play around with. No recess, no nap time, nothing.

The first thing to do is to remain calm. Having an impeachment trial is a big responsibility. You are deciding whether or not to remove a federal official from office. Depending on the official and the nature of the allegations, this will be a slog. They will have lawyers defending them with substantive arguments about facts and process in their jobs that has led to this occasion. On the other side will be House managers who will present the case for removal.

You will have to listen to witness testimony and might even write down a few questions to be asked of the two sides. Once you are presented with the facts and witness testimony and documentation from the executive or judicial branch, it is important to consider the ultimate purpose of impeachment.

Could you imagine yourself doing that in similar circumstances? Would you feel ashamed, or possibly try to cover it up? You should weigh those things. Bad conduct, even just a little, is a blight. We all have a duty to keep government free from rot. We swore it in our oaths. Removal is the remedy the Constitution offers for rot. Cut the rot out, the Constitution says.

But maybe the conduct isn’t that bad. Maybe the party has learned their lesson. Have they said as much? Offered any indication they understand it was a mistake? Or are they hardened? The bar for getting to impeachment typically means there are facts against the party: the House does not undertake impeachment lightly, and they know less than two dozen officials have ever been impeached, so they want to make them count.

And their record is pretty darn good, with nearly two-thirds of the officials either resigning or being convicted. Not to forget: acquittal in an impeachment trial doesn’t mean innocent, but it also doesn’t mean not guilty. It may simply be that there were bribes given to Senators, or it might mean that the Senate didn’t feel the matter reached the level of wrong to require removal.

Assuming you aren’t on the take, that will likely be the biggest question of your trial: is it bad enough to remove?

There are two main factors to consider:

  1. The articles, per se. Maybe the things that were done are just bad enough that they are stinking, rotting, and filthy. In that case, hold your nose and get that rot out!
  2. The nature of the office. Is it a very high office, like a cabinet member? Or an upper-tier member of the judiciary? For some positions, particularly high ones, it’s important to have no question, no reproach. The higher the office, the lesser the offense needed to remove.

In summation, you need three things for your trial to be a success:

  1. Evidence and witnesses. Make sure you get to the facts of the conduct. Without facts to go on, it’s not a real trial.
  2. Contrition and mitigation. Mistakes happen, and even good people do bad things under stress and pressure. If you believe in your heart that the damage is reparable and that the conduct will not continue, you should consider that.
  3. The consequences of acquittal. Ultimately, if you believe that there is rot, do not take a chance. The government you save may be your own. Just as you don’t want to serve in the Senate with scum, nobody wants to serve in government under scum. We are very lucky that our nation is populated by intelligent, hard-working people. We can replace any rotten government official at a moment’s notice if need be. But replacing the government, if it becomes overrun with malingerers and no-good bribe-takers and the corrupted elements of humanity, is much harder.

Help keep the government free of rot by doing your part in your impeachment trial!

Thank you for your service.

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society

2020 Democratic Debate 7.0

For the sixth debate there ended up being seven candidates, and for the seventh, six.

It was something of a bland debate, and not only because, sadly, the candidates of color have left the race or didn’t qualify for the debate. Which is what it is. Having diversity matters, and the process should be changed to better support it in a variety of ways (including shortening the campaign period), but the purpose of that diversity is primarily to ensure that we end up with candidates that will be broadly aware of the challenges facing America (that is, having a slate of candidates with different ethnic backgrounds, social backgrounds, and genders wouldn’t be worth a cent if their outlooks and cares were all the same).

But the immediate blandness was mostly due to the candidates again not having much to gain or lose by going big. With the top four at or around viability for Iowa, there wasn’t a lot on the line for them, and neither of the other two were close enough or had strategic options to push themselves over.

Part of the issue was with the debate questions themselves. In at least some of the questions, the moderators tried to triangulate around controversy or static, which is never a good sign. The contest and the debate aren’t about what Sanders did or didn’t say in a private conversation.

Of course, neither is it about a vote 20 nearly years ago. Or how many past elections were won or lost or who against.

Which is to say that the bottom line is that these debates often tell you more about where the motivations for the campaigns and media are than anything useful in deciding who to vote for or what policies to prefer.

One surprise is that, as the campaign has dragged on, the issue that stands out as being correctly given some of its due attention is climate change. Climate is a hot planet issue… err, hot button issue, and rightly so. It’s a defense issue, which should make it easier in time to cut through the faux conservative points about cost or economy in the face of a threat to both.

One bright spot was Steyer on healthcare when he basically said if Congress was functional we wouldn’t be having the debate. Term limits likely wouldn’t fix that problem, but at least he’s got the real problem: our lawmaking body isn’t responding to the needs of a nation. All the presidents in the world aren’t going to change that. We need to see changes both in who goes to Congress and how those two chambers operate. But I digress.

With the recent assassination of a member of the Iranian government fresh on the minds of the nation, foreign policy inevitably played a bigger role, but in an odd way. Usually in the course of a campaign there are international crises or moments to reflect on the nation’s role in the international order, but they are typically externally-driven and framed in terms of how candidates would have responded. This was a case of Donald John Trump lashing out in an untrained manner.

As that was the framing, the idea that experience would have helped is a non-starter. Brains would have helped. The president doesn’t have a bad strategy borne of inexperience. He has no strategy borne of his complete lack of capacity to ingest, much less digest intelligence. If he had that, he would never have abrogated the nuclear deal with Iran in the first place.

All of which is to say that the answers were of a kind: restore what Donald John Trump has broken. Besides, to do so in a climate that will be far more difficult to achieve even the same results, given how badly the fool has repeatedly undermined our national credibility.


It will be helpful to see some voting, and soon we will. Nothing brings clarity to a race like some of our citizens putting down their choices and letting everyone take a look and then make their own choices based on how things are shaping up.