Writings and observations

rainey

Well, boys and girls, we’ve had ourselves a convention season. Two shows of entirely different tone and quality. Very different in messages. Word is the two of ‘em cost about $30 million.

So, let’s have a little display of hands here. You on the starboard side – has all the hoopla changed your mind about anything? Anything at all? Go ahead, raise your hands. We’ll wait.

Now you on the port side – same question. Did you watch ‘em and did it make a difference in your vote? Hands up, please. O.K. Are you sure?

Hmm. That’s how you feel? Really? After the $30 million and all. One hand in the air? My, my.

That’s about the sum of a recent little informal poll I’ve done with friends and correspondents in the wake of this overly expensive political carnage. People seem to have come away with little or no change in their views of the two presidential candidates. Or, of the two sponsoring parties. Or, much else.

In a way, it’s not surprising. National political conventions have just about outlived their usefulness. Going in, everyone pretty much knows what will happen, how their state will vote and who the nominee(s) will be. There’s no guesswork. No suspense. Just the show and a lot of words from many unknown people that even the networks have found so uninteresting they don’t broadcast many of ‘em.

With 50 states using 50 sets of rules to select delegates to these political moshpits, it’s hard to see any direct connection to the folks at home and how they look at things. This is especially true with the use of state caucuses that are about as representative of home voters as a hermit using a Ouija board.

Primary elections aren’t much better since some are “closed” to voters outside a particular party while others are “open” to any and everybody. Results so truly unrepresentative they reflect little value when used to measure a state’s political proclivities.

Since the voting rights act was wrongfully gutted by SCOTUS last year, many states have enacted new laws barring some residents from registering or, if already registered, from voting. Just last week, a federal appeals court ripped up new laws in North Carolina and labeled them for what they actually were: attempts to keep minorities from voting. I’d guess some other states – Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kansas, Wisconsin, Georgia et al – are going to be affected, too. Good!

I know there are some cretins who scream and howl about all things federal, even when some federal actions benefit them. But, seems to me, the only way to clean up our befouled elections and their mystifying and questionable implementation, is to throw ‘em all out and start over.

I’d like to see a single federal statute for conduct of all races for national office. States would be given total power to conduct their races anyway they deemed fit. But, nationally, if we’d select delegates in the 50 states the same uniform way, there would be some consistency and consistency and more accuracy in results. Not the hodgepodge and grossly inaccurate mess we have now.

Then, we should take apart the antiquity called the Electoral College which has outlived its usefulness. At least in its present form. It’s become a bottleneck and results issued by the body can be – and often are – not truly representative of the popular vote. As it is now, if a candidate carries half a dozen states, he/she is a winner regardless of the other 44. That’s not right. But that’s what it’s become.

Some sort of electoral body is probably necessary to support a more truly voter representative and level playing field. Of course, what shape and how it would be structured are controversial. But, it could be done. And it should be done. Soon.

Which brings us back to conventions. And that $30 million. It’s hard to see what the two parties got for that lavish and disgusting expenditure. The GOP was actually out begging for $6 million from former benefactors just to pay the tab in Cleveland. Which gives you some indication of the resources the national GOP has on hand to help candidates in the November elections. Not much.

Besides, Republicans may have crowned a presidential candidate who won’t be in the field come November. You can get pretty good odds on that in Vegas these days. I may take a couple of retirement dollars that didn’t go to help pay for someone else’s meaningless convention and make a small Nevada investment. Could be.

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Rainey

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The incident centering disqualifer 96 is admittedly small and harmless – a small embarrassment for Donald Trump and a chuckle at his expense for the opposition. But for people who understand how government works, as a practical matter, the point is not small at all.

On July 27, Trump held a press conference at which he had in mind hashing on Democrat Hillary Clinton’s running mate (for vice president, Tim Kaine. Like most politicians, Kaine left behind over the years some grist for the opposition, but Trump didn’t use it.

“Her running mate Tim Kaine, who by the way did a terrible job in New Jersey – first act he did in New Jersey was ask for a $4 billion tax increase and he was not very popular in New Jersey and he still isn’t.”

Kane is a senator from Virginia; he is a former governor there, but never proposed legislation like that attributed to him by Trump. (Kane had fun with the mistake, admitting that he’d been a poor governor of New Jersey.) Reporters quickly figured that Trump had meant to refer to former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean (1982-90), who was a Republican. The $4 billion tax increase was proposed by a Democratic governor of New Jersey, Jim Florio; Trump was correct that it was unpopular, though Kean remains a popular figure in New Jersey. Kaine did propose a number of tax increases in Virginia, but no single piece that amounted to $4 billion.

Called on this at the event, Trump said, “What? I mean Virginia.”

People make mistakes, and if you’re talking about details and personnel outside your area of specialty, it’ll happen. But just as Trump probably could without error run through a list of, say, the major developers in New York, so could nearly any of his opponents for president this year – in either party – run through a list of who served where and when, with special attention to which party was involved. Hillary Clinton obviously would not have mistaken Kean for Kaine, but neither would Bernie Sanders or – to put a finer point on it – would Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush. Those people are all immersed enough in the finer points of what they’re doing to not make that kind of mistake. They have learned about American politics the way a person might learn a foreign language.

Donald Trump never has bothered to learn. He doesn’t know this stuff. And in politics, what you don’t know most certainly will come back to bite you. – rs

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