Thursday, January 28, 2016


Viewed from afar, the Trump debate affair is intriguing, if not actually interesting.  It could be consequential.  If the Fox debate ratings are actually higher (within the realm of possibility), Trump is wounded, perhaps mortally.  The debacle may also signal the beginning of the end for Fox's hegemony, as the spectacle of the lunatic right in blood combat with themselves continues.

If Trump triumphs on the ratings and then in Iowa, it does seem to put the in in inevitable.  But Cruz went on the attack in the day or so between Trump's fascist move of demanding to choose his interviewers--admittedly a common practice for more than 30 years in entertainment "journalism" but new to electing a President. If Cruz continues tonight, Trump can't answer him.

It comes down to how many Iowa caucus voters are put off by Trump refusing to debate his opponents, a violation of an almost sacred practice in this particular ritual of presidential campaigning.

A NY Times story suggests that voter registration figures don't support the idea of a Trump voter surge in Iowa anyway.  (Nor for that matter for Bernie Sanders.)  We'll see.  Only then will there be informed speculation on whether this debate or its ratings made any difference.

Trump is not going to be President, ever.  Nor is Bernie Sanders.  So the possible interest is in what effects their candidacies will have on the campaign and the parties.  Trump sinking Fox may be good enough.  Sanders showing the latent leftward idealism in the electorate and pushing the inequality issue can only help the Democratic party.

Update: The early consensus of those who were paid to watch the GOP debate is that Ted Cruz blew a golden opportunity.  Without Trump, he was the most prominent target for the others, and they went after him effectively, or so many thought.  Contrary to my expectations, Cruz did not go after Trump with any consistency, although he did mention that his absence showed his lack of respect for Iowa voters.  But he wasn't alone in this--Perry Bacon at noted that no one attacked Trump, the frontrunner in Iowa, which is inexplicable, unless...Trump designed this whole thing to get Cruz and the others to self-destruct.

Update 1/29:  The overnights are in and the GOPer debate trumped Trump's competing event, by 12.5 million to 2.8 million in viewers.  Trump can trumpet that the ratings are down, which they are from their high points for GOPer debates, but clearly Trump's absence gave the others an opportunity--which, according to the pundits, none of them successfully grasped.  If the debate made any difference, they say, it will likely show up in Iowa by who comes in second.

On the Democratic side, I'm betting that Iowa and New Hampshire split.  In 2008, Barack Obama blew everybody away by convincingly winning in Iowa, and he had a clear lead in New Hampshire.  But contrarian NH voted for Hillary, and that meant a long contest into May.  If Bernie wins the Iowa caucus, the same seems likely to happen in New Hampshire--having voted for Hillary once, they'll do it again.  If Hillary wins Iowa, she will be anointed as the near-certain nominee, and New Hampshire will feel comfortable in voting for their Vermont neighbor, Bernie Sanders.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Republican American Tragedy

Update 1/28: Further evidence of GOP government cynicism: the state gov provided bottled water for state employees in Flint beginning at least a year ago.

The tragedy of Flint illustrates the major features of the current Republican destruction of the American political process.

First, the demi-fascist takeover of cities by the Michigan state government, who appoint an "emergency manager."  Nearly all of the white representatives of the Republican politico-corporate complex rule over minority majority cities,  industrial ruins made more ruinous by racism.

Then the refusal to believe any reality that runs counter to rabid right ideology.  Then the incompetence bred by contempt for government, resulting in political appointees or corporate stooges.  Then the deflection of responsibility to others while the high priced ass-covering goes droning on for years.

Amy Davidson at the New Yorker has the basic story. To save some money, the Flint manager stopped getting water from Lake Huron that had been clean and safe for years, and tapped into the highly polluted local river in Flint.  Not even copious chlorine could sanitize it, and either from gross incompetence, contempt for the non-white non-rich of Flint (Davidson's emphasis) or another attempt to save money--likely some combination of all three--they failed to add an anti-corrosion agent to the water.  It was flowing through lead pipes, and the lead began to corrode and crumble into the water.  The citizens of Flint--including the most vulnerable, growing children--were being poisoned.

And the state government headed by new GOPer darling Rick Snyder insisted it wasn't happening, the water was fine, just a bunch of lazy whiners in Flint, as per GOPer mythology--sorry, GOPer Gospel.

 Meanwhile their supposed environmental people were doing a heckava job trying to support their governor's contention with bad or downright fraudulent testing.  Because polluted lead-infested water is a liberal hoax, like global warming.  Just a lamestream media fantasy.

Meanwhile, the citizens of Flint were getting hit with exorbitant bills to pay for the water that was poisoning their children and possibly killing them.

The regional branch of the federal EPA was not blameless either, and it took citizen agitation and the independent research of a whistle-blowing professor who had previously exposed danger in the DC water system during the GW Bush administration. But eventually even a GOPer darling governor had to face the poisonous reality.  Though some heads rolled, the state investigations illustrate another facet of corrupt GOPer governance: investigation of state actions under GOPer control by GOPer state officials, in this case directed by an attorney general who both defends and investigates the state government he hopes to lead (pronounced "leed") by running for governor in the next election.

Meanwhile, starve-the-government conservative Gov. Snyder is complaining that the federal government isn't giving him enough money to pay for all the damage done as a consequence of his style of non-governance.   Flint is reconnected to the Lake Huron water now, but the pipes may carry lead poison until they are replaced.  Which in Flint may mean never.  It hasn't gotten any less black or poor, after all.

Reality has consequences, and this will for years, not only feeding layers of lawyers and investigators for years, but the illnesses and conditions and stunted growth and disabilities that well may accrue.  Not to mention that it's all going to turn out to be much more expensive, further hobbling the economic future of Flint.  (And let's not forget the folks in  the auto companies and their industrial satellites that polluted those waters and the pols who refused to deal with that reality.)

Yet the GOP is so invested in its increasingly insular and detached from reality gospel that the likelihood that they learn anything from this approaches zero.

It's an American tragedy, different from the Greek.  In classical tragedy, the leader's hubris brings him down.  In American tragedy, the people pay for the leader's hubris, with their lives.  The leader may have to learn to survive on speaking fees and corporate board handouts.