Archive for September, 2010
The Midwest, the heartland of America, which had a massive effect on American politics in much of the last century, is sadly becoming less influential and significant due to lack of population growth and the increased power of the Sunbelt!
The Midwest–defined as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas–had members in both houses of Congress that had a tremendous effect on American political debate– as well as Governors who became nationally important, and Presidential candidates and winners of the office!
Just a short list of influential politicians from the Midwest would include Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, and Barack Obama!
Presidential candidates who lost from the Midwest include William Jennings Bryan, James Cox, Robert LaFollette, Sr., Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, and Walter Mondale!
Other prominent Midwesterners include Robert Taft, Arthur Vandenberg, Birch Bayh, Paul Douglas, Charles Percy, Tom Harkin, Stuart Symington, George Norris, Arthur Capper, Philip Hart, Carl Levin, William Proxmire, Russ Feingold, Eugene McCarthy, Paul Wellstone and numerous others too many to name!
The Midwest reached its peak in influence and Congress in the 1890s, but continued to have great influence for many decades, even though their population percentage within America continued to decline!
The Midwest had 143 Congressional seats in the House of Representatives a century ago, but will now probably have only 94! The Midwest will have only about a fifth of the seats in Congress, as compared to almost 25 percent in the West, 36 percent in the South, and a measly 18 percent in the Northeast, which is also suffering in the population percentage decline big time!
While Barack Obama is from the Midwest, the odds of another Midwesterner being President is remote, with all Presidents since Johnson, except Ford, being from the Sunbelt–and Ford was not elected!
The economic problems of the Midwest, suffering more heavily than most parts of the country from the Great Recession, will have less attention with its decline, and they will have far less influence in the future Presidential elections because of fewer electoral votes!
The effect on American politics of the decline of the Midwest will be felt throughout the nation, as migration South and West continues unabated!
Americans And Religious Knowledge: Very Lacking In Understanding Their Own Religion, As Well As Other Religions!
America has an image of being a religious nation, as compared to many European countries, and yet the basic knowledge of religion of Americans–their own and others–is severely inferior!
A Pew Forum Research Poll demonstrated that Americans are extremely ignorant about the Bible, Christianity, other world religions, famous religious leaders, and even the issue of the Constitution and religion!
Numerous takers of a 32 question exam showed no evidence of understanding their own religion, let alone of other faiths! The questions were multiple choice, so that the correct answer was available, but it seemed to have little effect!
Ironically, atheists and agnostics showed evidence of greater knowledge of religion than anyone of any religious group! Among those who claimed a religion, Jews and Mormons, both minorities in the religious world, scored the highest, with White evangelical Protestants substantially lower, followed by White Catholic, White Mainline Protestants, Black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics!
The fact that so many people claim to be religious, and yet have no or little understanding of their faith, and often no tolerance of other religions, is indeed a very troubling issue in a country that promotes freedom of religion and separation of church and state!
The Census Bureau will not announce final population figures for the nation until December, but early indications are that 8 states will gain seats in the House of Representatives for 2012 and after, and that 10 states will lose seats!
The Sunbelt will again gain, while the Northeast and Midwest will lose, a trend going on for a half century!
It looks as if Texas and Florida will gain 4 and 2 seats respectively, while the following states will gain one seat each: South Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Washington!
New York and Ohio will, apparently, lose 2 seats each, while Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan will lose one seat each in the House of Representatives!
Additionally, the only Sunbelt state to lose a seat will be Louisiana, with Hurricane Katrina the main reason for the loss of population in that state!
The gubernatorial elections and state legislative elections will be crucial as to how these gains and losses of seats will affect the two major political parties over the next decade in Congress!
A March On Washington is to take place on Saturday, October 2, promoted by 300 liberal groups–including the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force–to promote the goals of education, justice and employment!
Making clear their opposition to the Senate refusing to get past the filibuster and take action on House bills, the various groups have declared their right to claim they are the inheritors of Martin Luther King., Jr. and his August 28, 1963 March on Washington, rather than Glenn Beck who supposedly “accidentally” chose the 47th Anniversary of the March to hold his Tea Party and conservative gathering on the Washington Mall!
The ideas that the March this Saturday are promoting include: raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks, solving the problem of home foreclosures, creating of infrastructure jobs, and solving the immigration crisis!
Interestingly, various religious groups are supporting the march, including the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, the National Baptist Convention, and a number of Jewish groups!
Hopefully, the rally will draw more people than the August 28 March, with debate about how many actually showed up at that rally!
The Two Party System Under Attack By Voters: Will It Benefit The Republicans By Default, Or Keep The Democrats In Control Of Congress?
Polls indicate that there is great anger and fury among voters toward both the Democratic and Republican parties, and the wonder is how it will affect the party balance this November in the midterm elections for Congress!
The Democrats are highly unpopular, with only 38 percent approving, and 60 percent disapproving of the party’s performance in an Associated Press poll, but the GOP is far worse–with 31 percent approving and 68 percent disapproving!
In a CBS-NY Times poll, the Democrats have a rating of 30 percent compared to the Republicans with just 20 percent!
The Republicans are not seen as “new”, as they were in 1994, when they had been out of power since 1954–an amazingly long 40 years!
Now they have only been out of the majority for four years, and this comes after 12 years of control, in which they helped to cause the horrific conditions that led to a doubling of the national debt, two wars, and the Great Recession!
So they are on the defensive, as many do not see the GOP as really offering a better alternative, but simply putting back in power those who botched things up!
Will the country really give the Republicans the majority? Our two party system is frustrating to many, but there is no realistic chance to have a three party system or replace either one of the major parties, which have been around since 1854!
So it will be interesting to see what the voters, individually in each of the 50 states, decide to do with their anger and frustration! And also realize that polls can change rapidly as we get closer to the election, and are not always accurate in any case!
This year, there are at least four and possibly five Independent candidacies that might affect election results!
The most likely to succeed is Independent Senate candidate Charlie Crist, Governor of Florida, who broke with the GOP and is running against Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek!
A second strong possibility is Independent Lincoln Chafee, former Republican Senator from Rhode Island, running for Governor!
Additionally, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is running a write in campaign for her seat after losing the primary to Tea Party backed Joe Miller!
Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware is considering a similar write in campaign against the person who defeated him in the GOP primary, Christine O’Donnell!
Finally, former GOP Congressman Tom Tancredo is mounting an independent bid for Governor in Colorado!
The most recent prominent Independents in office have been Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut!
Further back, Jesse Ventura was Independent Governor of Minnesota; Senator Lowell Weicker was Independent Governor of Connecticut; and Angus King was Independent Governor of Maine!
These cases of Independents running for, and some winning, office are fascinating, but the odds this year, as always, are daunting!
IF both Charlie Crist and Lincoln Chafee win, it will be considered a major coup for the movement toward independent candidacies, but it is also very possible NO Independent will win, as the two party system is well entrenched!
For those who are progressive, the US Senate race in Florida is a difficult choice!
The Republicans have nominated former Speaker of the State House Marco Rubio of Miami, a favorite of conservatives and the Tea Party Movement! He is a Cuban American who would help promote the conservative agenda, and has sometimes been called the Cuban Barack Obama, a young man who could be imagined to be a seeker of higher office than the Senate were he to win the seat!
The Democrats have nominated Miami Congressman Kendrick Meek, who has gained the support of President Obama, Vice President Biden, former President Bill Clinton, and former Vice President Al Gore! Meek has a strong liberal record, and is the only African American candidate for the US Senate this year, and were he to win, he would become only the seventh US Senator of his race, and only the fourth to be elected by popular vote!
And then there is Governor Charlie Crist, who has been a Republican his whole political career, until he recognized that he could not win the GOP nomination in a primary race with Rubio, witnessing an extremely rapid drop in polls over a period of about six months late in 2009 and early in 2010! So he proceeded to leave the Republican Party this past spring and announce a candidacy as an Independent!
Crist has had a comparatively moderate record as Governor, but has been criticized as having no principles, except his own advancement, but he actually comes across as a person who has shown courage and willingness to cross the aisle, and pledges that is what he would do if elected to the Senate! The one thing that remains troubling is his refusal to indicate how he would side in organization of the Senate were he to win–that is, would he join the Republican caucus which has already rejected him in favor of Rubio, once he bowed out of the primary race, or would he join the Democratic caucus, in either case probably keeping an official Independent status, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman have asserted!
For a progressive, it is a tough choice as to who should be supported, but the key point is who has the greater likelihood of stopping Marco Rubio and the Tea Party Movement from gaining the Senate seat!
It is extremely hard to imagine Kendrick Meek winning the seat, and he remains in third place! So it seems likely that a vote for Meek would help Rubio defeat Crist, an unfortunate and tragic circumstance were that to happen!
With the announcement today that former Congressman Robert Wexler of Boca Raton, who knows and admires Crist, but worked in the House of Representatives with Meek, is about to endorse Crist, it comes across to the author that despite what Obama, Biden, Clinton and Gore have done to back Meek, that the stance of Wexler makes a lot of sense!
If Meek somehow should gain the seat, it will be a surprise victory, but under the circumstances that exist, and with Crist being a moderate likely to organize (hopefully) with the Democrats while remaining an Independent, the author has decided that he will support and vote for Charlie Crist as the next US Senator from Florida, and hopes that Marco Rubio will be denied that seat in what is now a very close race between Rubio and Crist! May Charlie win and accomplish a distinguished record in the Senate for the state of Florida over the next six years!
President Barack Obama has just hit a new low in popularity in public opinion polls, an alarming statistic for him and the Democratic Party!
Obama has dropped down to 42 percent, with 54 percent unhappy with his performance as President!
This is, obviously, not good news for him or his party, with every indication that the party will lose a large number of seats in Congress, and possibly lose the majority in one or both houses to the Republicans!
But it is not a guarantee by any means of what will happen, as polls have not been proved to be always an accurate reflection of what people will do on Election Day!
It also is a poor barometer of what will happen in the next Presidential election as shown by the following statistics:
September 1946–Harry Truman 32 percent rating
September 1978–Jimmy Carter 42 percent
September 1982–Ronald Reagan 42 percent
September 1994–Bill Clinton 42 percent
Realize that all of the above Presidents, despite their low public opinion rating at this point of their first term, went on to win another term as President, with the exception of Jimmy Carter!
So it is not time to write off Barack Obama by any means for 2012, and also at this point, there is no GOP potential nominee that has the backing or credentials that can be seen as presenting a real threat to the President!
But also recall that trying to predict the winner of the next Presidential election this far ahead of the contest is a losing proposition, as no one thought these future possibilities were reality at this point of a Presidential term:
Woodrow Wilson in 1910
Warren G. Harding in 1918
Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1930
Harry Truman in 1946
John F. Kennedy in 1958
Richard Nixon in 1966
Jimmy Carter in 1974
Ronald Reagan in 1978
Bill Clinton in 1990
Bill Clinton in 1994
Barack Obama in 2006
So the Presidential campaign truly begins right after the midterm elections are over on November 2, and there will be plenty to talk about, write about, and analyze about the perennial race for the White House!
With less than six weeks to go until the midterm elections, the Democrats are making clear that they are cowards–unwilling to stand up for what they believe in and what they have accomplished!
This Congress has been easily the most exceptional one since 1965-1966 under Lyndon Johnson, and yet most Democrats refuse to defend what they have done, and to show courage and guts and rip apart the negativism of the opposition Republicans!
This is NOT the time to be polite or pleasant! If the Democrats lose control of either or both houses of Congress, much of what they have accomplished may be destroyed, so this is the time to fight tooth and nail, and not care about the attacks of hypocrisy that will come from talk radio and Fox News Channel!
The health care bill has just gone into effect, the greatest social legislation since the 1960s, and the Democrats need to defend it, emphasize the positive nature of it, and refuse to apologize for it or act as they were not involved in creating it!
The Democrats must make it clear that the Republicans offer no alternative except a return to the past failures, and that they are not really concerned about the middle class or the poor, but only the wealthy! All they do is promote hate and division, appealing to the worse side of human nature, and yet they evoke religion and morality, when they exploit without caring about the sick, the unemployed, the homeless, and the handicapped!
The Democrats might play hardball, and if they still lose control of Congress, at least they will be able to look in the mirror and be proud that they have given a good fight! As Leo Durocher, the baseball manager, once said, “Nice Guys Finish Last!”
Stephen Colbert of Comedy Channel is famous for being humorous, but he was on Capitol Hill today, testifying on the work conditions and life circumstances of undocumented farm labor, which is responsible for our supplies of fruits and vegetables at cheap prices!
Colbert tried a day of this backbreaking work and came away with an understanding of why very few American citizens are willing to do that kind of work in the broiling sun, with the tremendous physical strain on human bodies as a result!
We all want to buy fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices, and yet we have people who rail against hard working immigrants who pay taxes and Social Security, work for very low wages, and yet complain far less than the average American worker about their work conditions!
If we did not have this immigrant labor, some of it undocumented, we would not have our food supply which is the most varied in the world!
Also, do most Americans want to cut their own lawns and clean their own houses and businesses? The answer is NO, and immigrants, including undocumented ones, do so without complaint!
Many immigrants also are involved in other tough jobs, including construction and taking care of young children, and millions of Americans count on them!
But yet, we have demagogues who keep on telling us that all undocumented immigrants are criminals, and should be deported!
Were we to turn against the reality that we are all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, and deport millions of undocumented immigrants, we would soon discover how much we need them, and we just might show them respect and allow them to get on the line for future citizenship on the basis of the 2007 McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill backed by President Bush and future President Obama!
But sadly, even Senator McCain has become a demagogue on this issue to win the support of Arizona voters!
Instead, we allow politicians to exploit the issue and divide us, and give America an ugly image of being a nativist nation!