The Election Chronicles, Volume 29: Don, If You Want To Run the Country, Here Are the Things You Need to Know

Dear Don:

I’m writing you this letter in the hopes that you will learn. I write sincerely hoping you will read this in humility. The Presidency requires some basic understanding of how our nation runs and it’s clear that you’re behind the curve.

Last June you announced your intent to run for President as a Republican even though your party affiliation is questionable. I wrote about this here but let’s face it: Your credibility as a Republican is suspect at best.

Given that, it’s not surprising that your complaining of the process of choosing a candidate is unfounded.

You see, you’re complaint boils down to this: The process of choosing a nominee cheats you and your supporters.

But it really doesn’t. The process is complicated and Byzantine but it’s ultimately intended to put forth a candidate who has the best chance to win the general election.

But more to the point, your remarks point to your ongoing refusal to pay attention to the process of how candidates are chosen. You complain that “this is not a democracy.”

In fairness, you’re right: we are not a democracy. We’re a republic. I know this is complicated, but I’ll make it as easy as I can.

In a democracy voters make all the decisions: all legislation is voted on by all the voters. A republic, on the other hand, elects people (members of congress) who represent us, and they vote on legislation. This makes sense on a few levels. Even back in the 1700s it would have been arduous for every voter to vote on every piece of legislation. But it would be impossible now. Since January of 2015 the 114th Congress has passed 143 laws (out of 9,095 proposed).

But that’s not the only reason. In 1787 and 1788, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton wrote a series of essays we now call the Federalist Papers. They were written under the pen name “Publius.”

The Federalist Paper, Number 10 was written by James Madison and he spoke to this issue. He wrote about the danger of factions and Don, I think you should look closely at this.

James was afraid that a faction would gain enough votes to push this new nation into a bad direction; he recognized that, even before social media, we could get caught up in this “dangerous vice.” He felt that electing representatives (congress) would prevent this.

Don, I’m writing this because you clearly haven’t done your homework on how our nation runs. This has become evident in the last few days when you’ve argued that the delegate selection is rigged.

But, and I say this with all due respect, it isn’t rigged. All political parties make their own rules on how they choose their nominee. When it comes to the Republican Party everyone else running has done their homework and you haven’t. Now that this has been found out, you can’t blame the teacher, you can’t blame the principal, and you can’t blame the school board. You have only yourself to blame.

I pray you don’t become our next President, but if you do, you need to do your homework. You’ll be called to negotiate complex multinational treaties. You’ll be called to meet with other world leaders who have done their homework who will expect that you’ll be able speak with some intelligence and competence. And you’ll be called to make hard decisions where there just isn’t time to “bring you up to speed.”

I know this isn’t easy for you to hear, but you need to stop being lazy. You’ve run your campaign without doing the hard work of learning how to be President. You’ve filled halls with people who like you and you’ve made certain that nobody with hard questions gets anywhere near you. Of the few times where you’ve actually taken questions you haven’t done well (do you really believe that women who have abortions need to be punished?).

We choose a President every four years and we do so with great expectations. We expect a President who will keep us safe but we also want more. We expect a President who has a vision of who we are and where we are going. We don’t want a President who speaks to our worst fears and governs by exclusion.

Don, get to work.



The Election Chronicles, Volume 28: According to His Measure, I'm More Successful Than Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s campaign makes several claims. I’ve been fascinated by one: Vote For Me Because I’m Rich. He has essentially said that he can be successful as President because he’s been smart enough to get rich.

But here’s where it gets hard. Don claims to be worth $10 billion but there’s really no way to verify that. Some believe his net worth is half that.

But that’s OK. Let’s take him at his word and believe him when he says he is worth $10 billion.

Many times during his campaign he’s bragged that he started his career with a “small loan” of $1 million from his father. But he won’t tell anyone when he got the loan or how long it took him to pay it back.

In any case, let’s accept the fact that he got the loan shortly after he graduated from college in 1968. Assuming his math and timeline, he has turned $1 million in 1968 to $10 billion in 2016. That’s a gain of 10,000%. That’s impressive.

But let me tell my own story. I’m much younger than Don, and I graduated from Woodbridge Senior High School in 1978. My parents gifted me with an electric razor that was probably worth $35.00

Now don’t think I was cheated. My father was weary of my using his razor and gave me one of my own. And this was long before high school graduations commanded trips to Europe, SUV’s or other lavish gifts. Most of my classmates received gifts of a similar nature and none of us felt cheated.

Fast forward to now. In the 38 years since my graduation I’ve done many things, but now my wife and I are worth about $2 million. This comes from the value of our house, our cars, and the money we’ve saved for retirement. I won’t bore you with the details, but here’s my point:

Donald has increased his value by 10,000%. I’ve increased mine by 57,000%.

Full disclosure: I’ve been blessed. Much of my education at George Mason University, Boston College, St. Patrick’s Seminary, and Catholic University were paid for by my parents, the Stigmatine Fathers, and the Paulist Fathers.

But unlike Donald I’ve never declared bankruptcy. He claims he has never filed for “personal” bankruptcy but his companies have filed four times.

By Donald’s measure, I’m more successful than he is.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 27: Does Anyone Believe in the Future of the Republican Party?

Last October I suggested that this election would mark the end of the Republican Party.

I argued that registered Republicans may claim the same party but hold different views. Almost all Republicans claim allegiance to President Reagan and view his Presidency with nostalgia. They all claim to be “Reagan Republicans.”

But they aren’t.

The “mainstream” Republicans looked to Jeb Bush and expected to have wrapped up the nomination by this time. Jeb favored smaller government and garnered significant popularity from his time as governor of Florida. His wife, Columba, was born in Mexico. They married in 1974 and she became a US citizen in 1979. Clearly he was the best candidate to reach out to the fastest growing demographic in our country. And, by the way, Jeb had the best argument to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan. His candidacy never got footing, and now most of his supporters are looking at Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Christian Conservative voters looked to Ted Cruz. They recognized that his successful Texas Senate campaign in 2012 made it clear he did not join the Senate to make friends. Most Senators recognize that they best serve their constituents by cooperating and working together with other Senators. But Ted and his supporters believe they are not following their own agendas, but God’s. And if you believe you are advancing God’s agenda, any compromise with your opponents diminishes your commitment to God’s agenda and places your soul in peril. In October of 2013, against the wishes of the Republican leadership, Ted forced a 2 week shutdown of the federal government over his call to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It didn’t work, it made his party appear out of touch, and it made much of the Republican Party hate him. But for his supporters it made him appear brave and visionary.

The libertarian wing of the Republican party has always attempted to find their voice. They believe that government should provide for a national defense and almost nothing else. They claim that the framers of the Constitution worked hard to limit the role of government in the lives of individual Americans and the expansion of government, particularly in the last 80 years, has betrayed their memory. They hold that only the free market can adequately pick winners and losers and social welfare programs incentivize the wrong people. They favored Rand Paul (and earlier his father Ron Paul). This wing never had much of a chance but they were OK with that.

The greatest surprise of the 2016 campaign (and the topic that will be written about for decades to come) comes from Donald Trump. He is a real estate developer and has never held elective office. When he began his presidential bid in June of 2015 he wasn’t given much of a chance. But he successfully tapped into long simmering anger among many Americans, and he drew huge numbers of people to his cause. And so what is his cause? It’s hard to pin down but Don’s rhetoric comes down to this: Washington is broken. The people you have elected for the past 50 years have betrayed you. They promised to serve you and make your life better but instead they made themselves comfortable at your expense. It’s time to throw them out and “make America great again.” I’m wealthy and smart and I know how to get things done. I will fulfill the promises the establishment promised.

So here’s the problem: John Kasich simply does not have the support he needs to lead. Ted Cruz’s promise of a “Christian Caliphate” emboldens conservative Christians but frightens the rest of us. There just aren’t enough libertarians to go anywhere. And Donald’s ongoing xenophobic, misogynist, racist and hateful remarks only shows us he cannot lead.

This doesn’t make headlines, but there are Republicans who have already recognized that they don’t have a candidate who can beat Hillary. Neither Trump or Cruz will have enough votes. But a Cruz nomination will at least keep the GOP intact while a Trump nomination will not.

If the GOP dies in 2016, conservatives will regroup, but it’s hard to know how.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 26: Super Tuesday in the Rear View Mirror

Many of us (or at least some of us) spent last Tuesday watching the news to see how the different candidates fared on “Super Tuesday.”

We learned that it was a good day for the frontrunners. Of the 11 state races in the Republican race, Donald Trump won 7, Ted Cruz won 3, and Marco Rubio took 1 (Minnesota).

Meanwhile on the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton won seven and Bernie Sanders won four.

At this point in the election cycle it appears that it’s Hillary’s and Donald’s to loose. For Democrats it’s the news that surprises no one. Bernie has successfully awakened several groups: young Democrats, socialists, people who believe that wage unequality makes us weaker, and people who strongly favor Single Payer Health Care. But Hillary has been a household name for 24 years since her husband was elected our 42nd President.

On the other hand the Republican party is in full panic mode. Last October I posted the possibility that this election could well lead to the death of the Republican Party. I argued that the current GOP consists of several factions that are only coming into view now.

Trump speaks to Republicans who feel the United States is no longer the leader of the world and need to reclaim it. They believe that we Americans are under attack by immigrants from Mexico, Muslims from Syria, and the Chinese who benefit from trade deals that steal American jobs.

Cruz speaks to Republicans who have a strong belief in a Christian God. They believe that God chose America to be (as Ronald Reagan called it) a shining city upon a hill. America will be judged by God based on whether we follow God’s laws. Abortion, gay marriage, and cooperation with Muslims anger God and will make us weaker. Our country needs to reclaim “family values” and our worst enemies are those who choose “political correctness” over faithfulness to our Creator. A vote for Cruz guarantees God’s blessing.

Rubio speaks to the “establishment Republicans.” They speak to an America where government is limited, free enterprise is valued, and laws are passed only when they need to be. In previous election cycles he would have claimed the best road to the nomination. Unfortunately he is seen as “part of the mainstream” and an upstart.

The panic over the concept of Trump nomination has caused the GOP to run in several directions. Some, like Chris Christie have sold out and back Trump, hoping for a cabinet post.

This morning we listened to a speech given by Mitt Romney. Mitt warned that Trump has no idea what he’s doing and that he’s suckering his supporters.

It appears there is no realistic path to Trump coming into the GOP Convention with a majority of delegates. But if he doesn’t come with more than 50% of the delegates we will have what’s often called a brokered convention. The hope then lies in Trump’s opponents coalescing around one candidate and the combined delegates outvote Trump.

Many of us see this as a possibility but I still think the more likely path forward is that another Republican announces an independent candidacy. My money is still on Ted Cruz but other possible candidates include Michael Bloomberg or even Mitt Romney.

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a wild ride.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 25: What Happens if Trump Gets the Republican Nomination?

I’ve written about this topic often, but it continues to fascinate me. The Republican primary is running in directions that nobody could have predicted. A year ago Jeb Bush was the presumptive nominee and he was swimming in money. It was his to lose.

But in June Donald Trump announced his candidacy and at that time few thought of him as a serious candidate. Don came with no experience in governing anything, a history of avoiding responsibilities for his mistakes by declaring bankruptcy, and very little experience as a Republican.

But for numerous reasons Donald’s numbers have gone up while Jeb’s tanked. Many of us (myself included) expected Don to flame out in late summer or early fall. Or late fall. Or early winter. Or…well, you get the point.

In an earlier post I spoke about the possibility that the Republican Party may well fracture because different Republicans point to different values. There are “mainline” Republicans who favor smaller government but see their path as one of cooperation and coalition building. Marco Rubio speaks to this group. Christian conservatives populate another faction. They strongly believe that we are one nation under God and we are subject to God’s laws. They agree with the idea of smaller government but they also believe that government must defend traditional marriage, ban abortion, and ensure Christians never be compelled to violate their beliefs. They see our future best defended by Ted Cruz. Donald Trump speaks to a group much larger than anyone expected. They believe that government is so broken that someone from the outside, someone who has a track record of getting things done, who is not afraid to say bold and even offense things gives us our best path forward. They look at Don and believe he can translate his success in real estate to making “America great again.”

Last fall I honestly thought that he would flame out, lose Republican support, drop in the polls, and announce an independent candidacy. As a Democrat I saw this as good news. Trump and the Republican nominee would divide the Republican vote and the Democrat would win.

Now I’m not so certain. It’s true that we are in the delegate count’s early stages (and you can track that here) but Trump continues to steam ahead. Perhaps he will still flame out, but the “Republican establishment” is trying to figure out what to do.

I suspect that if Trump’s momentum continues and his delegate count rises, he will not leave the Republican race. I suspect Ted Cruz might.

Ted comes to the 2016 race with decent Republican credentials. After graduating from Harvard Law School he clerked for William Rehnquist and later served as the Solicitor General of Texas. In 2012 he was elected to the United States Senate.

But as a member of the Senate he went out of his way to offend his fellow senators. House Speaker Sam Rayburn (1882-1961) famously stated: “You have to go along to get along.” Ted never got the message. He has consistently claimed the “high moral ground” as a rational to prevent progress in Congress.

The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to write the annual National Budget for the President to sign. This gives the Congress the “power of the purse” and allows Congress to defund any program they don’t like.

Several times Congress has refused to fund the government over budget disagreements and when they do the “federal government” shuts down. This means that thousands of ordinary government employees (including my sister) stay home, don’t do their work, and pray that they won’t be docked the time they lost while Congress and the President can’t get along. It also means that National Parks close and a host of other services are out of reach.

This may be a long way around my point but Ted has made his career based on not playing well with others. Simply put, other senators hate his guts and not even Republican senators want him to be President.

Since Ted is behind in the delegate race, and since he has no loyalty to himself (and claims a loyalty to God), I wonder this: if Donald Trump appears to be winning the GOP nomination, will Ted leave the Republican party and run as a candidate of his own party? I think there is a real possibility that Ted will claim that he is God’s candidate and will found his own party (perhaps called the Christian Party). He will run on a platform that the only way forward for our country lies in following God’s Law.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 24: Coming Out of South Carolina, Minus One Candidate

A few days ago we got the results of the Republican primary in South Carolina and the Democratic caucus in Nevada. There was no surprise that Donald Trump won South Carolina and won all 50 delegates. It was closer in Nevada, but Hillary Clinton got he victory she needed. Interestingly enough the Republicans now travel to Nevada and the Democrats to South Carolina.

Jeb Bush called it quits, and even people like me who would never have voted for him feel a little sadness. Last year at this time he was seen as the presumptive GOP frontrunner but his campaign never got traction. Frankly, this had nothing to do with the man, and possibly everything to do with his last name.

We find ourselves at a time in our history when large swaths of our population grow weary of “politics as usual” and are apparently willing to gamble on outsiders without the experience, temperament, or skills to lead. Too many Republicans looked at Mr. Bush and had no stomach for another Bush/Clinton campaign.

I disagree with many of his positions, but I do respect him as a man, a husband, and a father. I wish him well.

I’ve begun to keep track of the delegate count in both parties here and I’ve removed Jeb from the table.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 23: Keeping Track of the Delegates

Four years ago I set up a table to keep track of delegates for each of the two major parties. I mistakenly believed that it would be an easy task, but instead soon found that different media outlets disagreed on the numbers.

There are several reasons. The road from vote count to delegates won can be arduous. In the 2012 Iowa Caucus Mitt Romney appeared to be the winner, but the final results showed that Rick Santorum edged him out. Additionally, both parties invite unpledged delegates (oftentimes called “superdelegates”) who may voice a preference but don’t have to cast their vote until the convention.

And so once again I’ve built a table that tracks several media outlets and their delegate count. I only have a few now, but I suspect that as time goes on, more media outlets will have their own trackers.

Interestingly enough, as I write this, all three media outlets show exactly the same numbers. I suspect they are all getting their numbers from the Associated Press.

You can find my tracker here.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 22: More Winnowing

We woke up this morning to find the winners in New Hampshire. It was a good night for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and the end of the road for Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina who both suspended their campaigns.

By any metric this campaign is one for the books. Trump and Sanders are sucking up most of the interest and neither are faithful members of the parties whose nominations they seek. I wrote about this in a previous post: Trump has bounced around to several parties and Bernie describes himself as a Socialist while caucusing with the Democrats.

Despite reams of articles who claim that these are signs of the apocalypse, I don’t believe that either of them will ever be President. It’s become fashionable to decide that government is broken and needs new people or new ideas or whatever.

But at the end of the day we have a large and complex government. We expect our government to protect us from foreign invaders (and even the Libertarians believe this). But we also demand that our government embody our basic values.

Our government was born on September 17, 1787 when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the final document. To this day, 229 years later, we all look to this document (and the amendments that followed) as the blueprint of how our nation runs.

Today the role of President demands a skill set that would have bewildered our founders. We live in a nation and a world much more complex and nuanced than ever before. The idea of a “gentleman farmer” who leads for a few years and returns to his farm is quaint but obsolete.

Politicians in the 21st Century demand an understanding of how to get things done. We will elect a President in nine months who will lead our nation from 2017 to 2021 and perhaps to 2025.

I’m not telling anyone how to vote but I pray we Americans vote for someone who possesses the skills to respect where we’ve been and envisions where we should go.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 21: The GOP Field Continues to Winnow

The Iowa caucuses gave us our first snapshot in the 2016 campaign, and also gave a few of the GOP candidates the news they didn’t want to admit: they were done. Today we learned that Rand Paul and Rick Santorum have both suspended their campaigns.

This means that there are only 10 viable candidates for the Republican nomination. In a few days we’ll have the results of the New Hampshire. Let’s see who drops out after that.

I’ve updated my Presidential 2016 page.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 20: An Iowa Surprise

We woke up this morning to some surprises in Iowa.

For the past several months America’s attention has focused on Iowa and the practice of caucuses instead of primaries. Only Iowa, Nevada, Alaska, and American Samoa caucus.

Caucuses present a nightmare to pollsters. Simply put it’s hard to predict who will actually show up and participate. Two days ago the Des Moines Register reported that Republican Donald Trump led with 28% and Ted Cruz followed with 24%. Marco Rubio commanded only 15%.

That’s not what happened. Today we learned that Ted leads with 28%, Don follows with 24%, and (most surprisingly) Marco surprised everyone with 23%.

On the Democrat side of the isle Hillary Clinton feared a defeat, given that Bernie Sanders is heavily favored in New Hampshire and losing the first two states bodes ill in the long run. It was close, but it appears Hillary won by a razor thin margin. To quote her campaign: a win’s a win.

Not surprisingly these results did winnow the field, even if a little. On the Republican side Mike Huckabee, and on the Democratic side Martin O’Malley, both suspended their campaigns. They made good choices. Neither were viable candidates and needed to leave.

This makes the Democratic nomination a two person race. On the Republican side, several candidates need to do the same thing. Right now Marco Rubio is the candidate of the “mainstream” wing, Ted Cruz is the candidate of the “Tea Party/Evangelical” wing, and Donald Trump is the candidate of….geez I can’t even describe this.

In any case the ultimate nomination lies in one of these three people. If you’re an Abraham Lincoln or a Teddy Roosevelt or a Dwight Eisenhower or a Ronald Reagan Republican, you need to come together and support Marco Rubio.

As a Democrat I hope you’ll ignore my advice but I have to confess a fear: there’s always a chance that the Republican nominee will win. If that happens I think we can survive a Rubio Presidency. Indeed we survived (but paid the price for) the Presidency of George W. Bush. But a Ted Cruz Presidency would lead us to a Christian Caliphate where our laws won’t lead us to freedom but instead to a nation that cares only for those who look like Ted and believe in his homophobic and exclusionary agenda. A Donald Trump Presidency would make us so xenophobic that our collective fear would drive all of us into poverty.

Here’s my plea to Republicans: Don’t nominate someone who will destroy us.