Friday, January 29, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Iowa Election Edition

Happy Friday, folks.  This post is number 1,501!  I meant to do a little celebration for my 1500th post, but then I forgot.  Oh well.

Let's get to it.

It may be that members of the Republican establishment, in their trolling of Cruz, don’t address Trump’s own electability because they recognize it for what it is. “Of course, this willingness to accommodate Mr. Trump is driven in part by the fact that few among the Republican professional class believe he would win a general election,” the New York Times reported in a separate piece about the establishment’s supposed détente with the mogul. “In their minds it would be better to effectively rent the party to Mr. Trump for four months this fall, through the general election, than risk turning it over to Mr. Cruz for at least four years, as either the president or the next-in-line leader for the 2020 nomination.”
Note the hat.  Via @drunkoldgrad.
So wait, the piece asks, does this mean that the GOP Establishment is willing to lose this election in order to keep Cruz out of the White House?
No.  Of course not.
In reality, the Republican establishment wants to win this election...
Their first objective is to take out Cruz. That means stopping him in Iowa. If he loses Iowa, a narrative sets in about how he blew it, and he might then finish out of the top three in New Hampshire. From there, he would likely not be able to make the dominant sweep through the South over the next month that his delegate strategy requires. If we look at Cruz’s Iowa trend line over the past week as he’s been taking incoming fire from all sides, it seems that this part of the plan is working.
The second objective, and a much longer-term one, is to take out Trump.
Assuming Cruz is out of the race, and the mainstream field is narrowed, the GOP would try to grind out state electoral victories, giving their “acceptable” candidate a legitimate claim to the nomination, to be contested in a brokered convention if necessary.
Speaking personally, my money’s been on a brokered convention for some time.  I’m actually looking forward to it.
If Republicans were to nominate Mr. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a hard-line conservative, and Democrats chose Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg — who changed his party affiliation to independent in 2007 — has told allies he would be likely to run.
Though somewhat shocking, this is actually pretty straightforward.  Cruz and Sanders are both hardline guys whose base of support is the extreme wings of their respective parties.  Trump, meanwhile, is a race-baiting asshat whom at most 33% of Americans favor, and Clinton might still get indicted for felony mishandling of classified materials.  
So yeah, there might be an opening for a centrist here.  
Meanwhile, Bloomberg is as middle-of-the-road as it gets.  He started as a Democrat but ran New York City as a successful pro-business Republican for eight years before re-registering as an Independent to go for an unprecedented third term, leaving him something like the Emperor of New York City.  Having already run a city of eight million with a standing army (well, police force) of fifty-thousand, he is much more qualified to be President than are most U.S. governors.  He also balanced NYC’s budget (!!!) in his first term while taking on and humbling the previously unstoppable Teacher’s Union in order to enact draconian but much-needed school reforms.  He then set the City on a path towards overwhelming economic prosperity, so that by the start of his third term, the only thing New Yorkers had left to argue about was the number of bike lanes his people were installing around the City and the imperial mayor’s quixotic desire to limit the sizes of restaurant cola servings.
I am, as you can imagine, a monstrous fan.
But, from Slate:
In a race between a Democrat who, because of the demands of party politics, is sensitive to minority groups and a Republican who rejects social liberalism and a role for the state at all, Bloomberg offers a third way: A centrist or even conservative spin on Democratic policies without the racial politics of the Democratic Party. And while Bloomberg wouldn’t win a three-way race, he could draw enough of those suburban white Democrats to give the popular vote to a Republican opponent. Which is what the polling shows. Against Sanders and Trump, Bloomberg draws 12 percent support and makes the race a coin toss. Against Clinton and Trump, he draws 13 percent and gives the popular vote to Trump.
So, bottom line, the chattering classes are saying that if Bloomberg runs, he splits the Democratic coalition and gives the race to a Republican, even if that Republican is a race-baiting asshat.  
Speaking personally, I don’t care.  I want him to run because he is by far and away the best candidate.  However, NO ONE agrees with my political views, so the odds that YOU think this is a good idea are so vanishingly small as to be virtually non-existent.
Short answer: Yes.  
This was a great article, though, with a lot to unpack.  My favorite bit was what follows:
Do you think the things that Trump has been exploiting have always been exploitable, or do you think that some conditions, either in the Republican Party or the country at large, have changed and made Trump possible?
That’s a good question. I think that people who base their political appeal on stirring up the latent anger of, let’s just say, for shorthand’s sake, what Richard Nixon called the “silent majority,” know that they’re riding a tiger. Whether it was Richard Nixon very explicitly, when he was charting his political comeback after the 1960 loss, rejecting the John Birch Society. Or whether it was Ronald Reagan in 1978 refusing to align himself with something called the Briggs Initiative in California, which was basically an initiative to ban gay people from teaching, at a time when gays were being attacked in the streets. Or whether it was George W. Bush saying that Islam is a religion of peace and going to a mosque the week after 9/11. These Republican leaders have always resisted the urge to go full demagogue. I think they understood that if they did so, it would have very scary consequences. There was always this boundary of responsibility, the kind of thing enforced by William F. Buckley when he was alive.
I think that Donald Trump is the first front-runner in the Republican Party to throw that kind of caution to the wind. As demagogic as so much of the conservative movement has been in the United States, and full of outrageous examples of demagoguery, there’s always been this kind of saving remnant, or fear of stirring up the full measure of anger that exists.
“I am not actively involved with organized religion,” Sanders said in a recent interview.
Sanders said he believes in God, though not necessarily in a traditional manner.
“I think everyone believes in God in their own ways,” he said. “To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together.”
So… there’s a God because we all live on the same planet?  
Uh oh.  Because according to Gallup, 40% of Americans won’t vote for an atheist, and 50% won’t vote for a Socialist.  But that’s only what people tell pollsters.  Honestly, I bet the real numbers are closer to 70% and 80%, respectively.
Which isn’t to say that we’ve never had an atheist in office.  In fact, according to the Post article:
[T]hree presidents, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, have been unaffiliated with a specific religious tradition, according to the Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life.
Jefferson, at least, was a pretty well-known atheist.  For that matter, I often wonder how religious was Reagan was when he wasn’t on stage.  His kids are well-known atheists, and his wife famously kept an Astrologer while sitting as First Lady.  Neither fact speaks to a deeply held Christian conviction.
For what it’s worth, I would be shocked to learn that either Trump or Clinton hold more than strictly nominal spiritual beliefs, though both has been thumping the Bible quite a bit recently out on the campaign trail.  Like Reagan, I’m sure they see religious conviction as a tool to be exploited against the electorate.  Of course, that only works if we allow it.
Lucifer from Vertigo.
So-called One Million Moms has officially called for a boycott of Lucifer, saying the show is "spiritually dangerous" and "glorifies Satan." This isn't the first time the group have raised Hell over Lucifer - a previous petition to stop the show from reaching the air was unsuccessful. Despite One Million Moms's attempts to demonize Lucifer, its pilot garnered mostly positive reviews from critics.
Because we were just talking about spirituality…
First, One Million Moms has a grand total of eighty-six thousand members, which is why Fox doesn’t give a rat’s ass what they say.  If we assume that fully half of them are rabidly active within the organization—an admittedly generous assumption—we can see that this is barely enough Moms to justify a print run for their organizational handbook, much less cancel a major network television show.  Now they want to boycott Olive Garden, one of the show’s signature sponsors.  How many of these ladies are eating at Olive Garden often enough for the boycott to hurt restaurant sales?  I’d be curious to see some sales figures that correlate One Million Moms with Olive Garden attendance.
Also: Olive Garden?  Yuck.  
Does anyone actually eat there?
Finally, where are these allegedly positive reviews?  Speaking personally, I liked Lucifer tremendously, but every review I’ve seen says that the police procedural format undermines what would otherwise be an interesting and entertaining premise.  Bottom line, Lucifer is having an existential crisis based around the fact that he doesn’t particularly want to be the bad guy, that he has started to like some of the people with whom he has made deals.  This leads into the police bit because he starts investigating the murder of one of his… friends?  clients? —which makes sense because the Devil exists to dole out punishment to the guilty.  But Lucifer’s approach—and the crisis that underlies it—throws the cosmic balance of all out-of-whack.  If there’s no evil, then how can there be good?  There’s also stuff about free will and a police detective who appears to have an incorruptible soul, but that’s the gist of it, and I enjoyed it a Hell of a lot.
I am surprised, though, that they called the show “Lucifer” and made it about the actual Devil.  They could have run most of the same premise using Hades or Pluto and perhaps avoided offending One Million Moms… and God knows how many other people.  Granted, doing that would have left the show even less tied to the original Vertigo graphic novels, but it’s not like they’re going by what was in the books, anyway.

Full disclosure: I’ve not actually read the books.  I merely read a Slate review of them in which it was noted that they are not a police procedural.  But I like police procedurals, so who gives a shit what those assholes say over at Slate?  Lucifer’s producers needed to take a comic book and turn it into an episodic, mystery-of-the-week-style network TV show.  The procedural format gives them a vehicle for that exact thing, around which they can then hang the actual book’s overarching storyline.  This is such an obvious solution to what would have otherwise been a vexing problem that I’m amazed that it surprised anyone.
I'll leave you this week with a little music.  This is my new favorite running song, Fort Minor's "Remember the Name".  They play it a lot on Pandora's "Runnig Radio" station.

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