Saturday, September 28, 2019

Welcome to FromDC2Iowa: Contents & Guide

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Latest Half-Dozen Posts (Full Text)

An Evangelical Explains Trump

Why did evangelicals vote for Trump?
Thomas L. Johnson, July 18, [otherwise undated; presumably 2019]

NOTE: In order to do anything involving President Donald Trump -- from impeachment to presidential election defeat -- it is necessary to understand as much as possible about the man. There are a number of blog posts and columns in which I've taken a stab at it. For example:
"Intelligence Community's Inspector General and Impeachment," September 26, 2019
Understanding Trump: Know Thine Opponent," September 23, 2019
"Trump Won't Be Beat With Plans Alone," The Gazette, August 17, 2019, p. A5 (blog post title: "Marianne Williamson's Questions and Answers")
"Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure," The Gazette, May 29, 2019 (blog post title: "Why Trump May Win") (a list of 13 categories of Trump's advantages)
• For a contrary view to the one presented here, see Anthea Butler, "White Evangelicals Love Trump and Aren't Confused About Why. No One Should Be.: Focusing on the Disconnect Betseen Trump's Actions and the Moral Aspects of Evangelicals' Faith Misses the Issue That Keeps Their Support Firm," Think, NBC News, September 27, 2019.
However, one perspective I have not, and cannot, provide is how the evangelical portion of his base rationalize to themselves their relatively solid support of the man, seemingly regardless of his violations in thought, word and deed of what one would assume to be evangelicals' beliefs and standards.

As Mayor Pete Buttigieg has put it, "I do think it’s strange, knowing that no matter where you are politically, the gospel is so much about inclusion and decency and humility and care for the least among us, that a wealthy, powerful, chest-thumping, self-oriented, philandering figure like [Donald Trump] can have any credibility at all among religious people. ... Your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. ... That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth." Sojourners. "For a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that … God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again." The Atlantic.

[Photo caption: "Members of Cross Community Church, an EA congregation in Berne, Indiana, pose for a photo published on the Evangelical Assocation's Desk Calendar." Photo credit: FatherRon2011, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0,]

The following piece by Thomas L. Johnson (no relation) provides some helpful insights:
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As an evangelical who did not and never will vote for Donald J. Trump, I fully understand why many evangelicals voted for a man who is crass, mean-spirited, personally unethical, and embarrassingly self-serving. They felt that they had no choice and have every reason to feel that again in 2020:
• Trump gave them two Supreme Court justices who will vote their interests for the next thirty years. Given the reality that many if not most evangelicals have never come to terms with abortion, particularly later term abortion, that absolves Trump of his extramarital dalliances.
• Trump has evoked the sort of tribalism that evangelicals understand. They live in a world of us versus them; so does Trump.
• Like Trump, evangelicals do not allow science to compete with their preconceived notions in areas like global warming or perceived conspiracies.
• Trump has embraced Israel. Many conservative Christians see Israel as part of the end-of-times prophecies.
• Like Trump, evangelicals are not fans of social change of the sort that came out of the Obama years. They believe in two genders determined and defined at birth, in a biblical view of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and of a level of patriotism that rejects figures like Colin Kaepernick or Megan Rapinoe.
While Hillary Clinton’s campaign and personality were non-starters for evangelicals in 2016, often for reasons created or exploited by Cambridge Analytica, a Democratic candidate from the Medicare for All, open border, free education wing of the Democratic Party will present an even larger challenge.

Given their 25–26% share of the total electorate and their over 80% allegiance to Trumpism, evangelicals will more than offset the moderates who will move out of their comfort zone in the middle to vote for an Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Intelligence Community's Inspector General and Impeachment

Now What?
As I watched the three hours of the House Intelligence Committee's questioning of Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire it increasingly seemed to me that (1) no one was entirely pure, and (2) the Constitution and Acts of Congress are inadequate to resolve the challenges confronting the Committee and the Director. [Photo: Director Joseph Maguire; source: Wikimedia Commons.]

The Trump-can-do-no-wrong Republicans were overstating President Trump's innocence. The Democrats were playing fast and loose with the language of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Act (IGICA) and trying to get Director Joseph Maguire to make statements in support of their case for impeachment that Maguire was at least entitled, if not required, to refuse to make. And Director Maguire was refusing to acknowledge the conflict of interest he had in (a) serving the President who had appointed him and to whom he reported, and (b) carrying out the spirit (though not the language) of the IGICA. [Photo: President Donald Trump; source: Wikimedia Commons.]

This blog is not a "legal opinion." I have read the IGICA -- which can be found here 50 USC Sec. 3033 -- and scanned the 8000-plus-word Responsibilities and Authorities of the Director of National Intelligence Act -- available here 50 USC Sec. 3024. That's not enough research to produce a definitive judgment about the applicability of either or both laws.

But the IGICA's title referencing the "Intelligence Community," its numerous uses of variations of the phrase "programs and activities within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence" throughout the Act, can reasonably lead one to the conclusion that the probable legislative history of the Act (i.e., events preceding and surrounding its creation, press reports, committee hearings, and debates on the floor) would not support an interpretation of the language of the Act as including the process to be followed in the case earlier before Director Maguire and now before Congress: namely acts of the President alleged to be "fraud and abuse," other criminal violations, or threats to national security. [Photo: House Intelligence Committee Chair, Adam Schiff; source: Wikimedia Commons.]

Of course, this does not mean that the President did no wrong. It is only to say that it is not clear that the IGICA contemplated or addressed, let alone compelled, the Inspector General to investigate, or Director Maguire to send to the Intelligence Committee the Inspector General's findings.

What they clearly could do, and did do, was to refer the whistle-blower's complaint to the FBI.

The central problem, as I now see it, is that neither the Constitution nor acts of Congress address the challenges to our democracy posed by a president like President Donald Trump. Indeed, I doubt that the founders' effort to avoid a monarchy in the White House, and their single choice of impeachment as a check on "high crimes and misdemeanors," envisioned the possibility we would ever elect a president like Trump.

The Constitution provides for impeachment of the president and other officials, Article II, Sec. 4, that the House "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." Article I, Sec. 2, clause 5, and that the Senate "shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments." Article I, Sec. 3, clause 6. (Article II, Sec. 4, provides: "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.")

The 25th Amendment, certified by the President in 1967, provides for removal of a president found to be "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" -- a remedy primarily focused on physical or mental disability.

While the allegations in the whistle-blower's complaint may be among the most serious of Trump's offenses, the challenge confronting Congress is the tsunami of Trump's governance by tweets, over 14,000 false or misleading statements, attacks on columns of democracy (such as an independent media and judiciary), brazen violations of previously accepted required norms, ethics, morality, laws and constitutional restraints on presidents. For a partial list, see, e.g., Max Boot, "Trump Isn't Just Violating Norms -- He's Also Breaking the Law," The Washington Post, April 25, 2019.

What Congress must do is (1) reassert the constitutional powers it has been granted, that have gradually been taken over by the Executive branch, and (2) then address what additional checks are necessary to deal with this unprecedented string of presidential abuses. Perhaps what is first needed is a kind of Congressional Inspector General whose sole job it is to oversee the president and White House staff, receiving whistle-blower complaints, doing its own monitoring, then reporting to the House and Senate leadership and relevant committees. Perhaps this could provide the congressional incentive to create the constitutionally appropriate additional legislation to restrain the variety and quantity of presidential abuses unimagined by the constitution's drafters.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Understanding Trump: Know Thine Opponent

Understanding Trump

For 2500 years humans have been advised of the importance of knowing, of understanding, one's opponent in politics and enemy in war. Notwithstanding the availability of such advice it is more often ignored than followed -- including our "wars" in Vietnam and soon-score of years in Afghanistan.

The first known offer of this advice came from a famous Chinese general, Sun Tzu (544-496 B.C.). He wrote:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War, III. Attack by Stratagem, 18.

I read books when I have time to sit. When I'm driving, walking, or tending to home chores that require my eyes but not my ears, I listen to audiobooks. This morning, while doing kitchen chores, I was listening to Cliff Sims' Team of Vipers. Sims was involved with the Trump campaign and White House and seems capable of a relatively balanced portrayal of the President -- at least as far as I am in the book. What he said reminded of Sun Tzu, so much so that one section of Sims' chapter 7 caused me to go back to it later, when at my laptop and able to transcribe it. [Photo: Cliff Sims with President Trump on walkway outside Oval Office; photo credit: Yellowhammer News]

Cliff Sims was describing former Speaker Newt Gingrich's effort to categorize politicians by using the ancient Greek poet Archilochus' line, "a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing." Hedgehogs are the "big picture guys." Foxes are the policy wonks, focused on details and creative alternative solutions to problems.

With these ancient literary sources in mind, here is what Sims wrote:
Trump is a hedgehog who knows one very big thing: 'We need change.' . . . He is the agent who will deliver the needed change. . . . Trump believes he alone, often through shere force of will, can solve certain problems. That's one lens. Layered on top of that is his belief that all of life is a negotiation, and that all negotiation is a zero-sum game. There's no such thing as a 'win-win.' Someone will win and someone will lose. Layered on top of that is his belief that personal relationships are paramount, taking precedence in all negotiations, even over mutual interests. And layered on top of that is his belief that creating chaos gives him an advantage, because he's more comfortable in the mayhem than anyone else.
Make of it what you will. This characterization of Trump helped me to understand the Democrats' opponent. And I'm with Sun Tzu -- knowing, understanding, Trump is an essential part of any successful campaign.
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See also, "Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure,""The Gazette, May 29, 2019, p. A6.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Presidential Qualities

Considering Bullock's Presidential Qualities

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, September 18, 2019, p. A6

Democrats will end up voting for whomever their convention picks. This column is too early for an endorsement. My favorite will be someone as a campaigner who can beat President Trump, and as president will have the competence, compassion, relationships, experience and ethics to be effective.

Get out the vote? Yes. But to win the Democrats’ candidate will have to win over independents, Libertarians, Greens, and yes, Republicans and the 40-percent-plus of voters who still support President Trump. Where do those voters live? Where Democrats must go to become a national party: those 80 percent of U.S. counties that President Trump carried in 2016.

Earlier I wrote about Marianne Williamson’s formula for Democrats’ victory – while acknowledging her odds of becoming the party’s candidate were somewhere between slim and none. ("Trump Won't Be Beat With Plans Alone," The Gazette, Aug. 17, 2019) Governor Steve Bullock’s current odds may be no better. But his qualities and strengths are something Democrats should look for in whomever they choose next July.

Bullock is the only incumbent Democratic governor to win re-election in a state that Trump carried (in Montana by 20 points).

He’s persuaded his Republican Legislature to pass progressive programs: campaign finance reform, Medicaid expansion and more. He is, as we say, mostly “right on the issues,” both as governor and as campaigner.

He’s been sufficiently pro-labor as Montana’s attorney general, governor and practicing lawyer to have been endorsed by the AFL-CIO – and Iowa’s Attorney General Tom Miller. And he’s sufficiently respected by other governors to chair the National Governors Association.

He is a young 53. I have two sons older than that.

He and his wife, Lisa, grew up in Montana, have been married to each other for 20 years and have three children. Both are well educated; he has a law degree, with honors, from Columbia, she a degree in mathematics and computer science.

[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore; Governor Steve Bullock speaking with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.]

He comes across as genuine, comfortable in his skin and his Levis. He can connect with small town folk, farmers, ranchers, and others in the mountain time zone and the 80 percent of counties Trump carried, as well as Washington (where he practiced law) and New Hampshire, where he’s picked up support.

We have no training program for presidents. Any president would benefit from experience on the receiving end of the White House’s impact on school boards, cities, counties, state governors, legislatures, the U.S. House and Senate, military, intelligence and executive branch agencies, federal courts, international organizations and our allies.

No Democratic presidential candidate today has the range of experience in those venues possessed by President George H.W. Bush (43’s father) or former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (

“Senator” is not an administrative position. Governors come the closest to the administrative and legislative challenges confronting presidents; 17 presidents had experience as governors.

Whomever the Democrats ultimately choose, Bullock provides examples of the strengths they should be seeking.

Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City is a three-time presidential appointee whose latest book about Washington is Catfish Solution. Comments:

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Links to Governor Bullock Sites
As explained in the opening paragraph, this blog post is NOT an endorsement. But if you are intrigued by what you've just read, here are links to Governor Bullock's Web site and some of his supporters' Facebook pages:

Web Page
Bullock 2020,, and see "Meet Steve,"

Steve Bullock For President
Bullock For America
Governor Steve Bullock
Gov. Steve Bullock For President 2020

And here are some of the sources used in writing this post:

(1) Brandon Duffy, “Democratic hopeful Steve Bullock on what Amazon and President Trump have in common, and why young voters should care,” CNBC, Sept. 1, 2019,

(2)Wikipedia, “Steve Bullock (American politician),”

(3) S Grace Panetta, “Steve Bullock is running for president in 2020. Here's everything we know about the candidate and how he stacks up against the competition,” Business Insider, Jul. 31, 2019, 11:11 AM

(4) Steve Bullock’s Biography, Vote Smart,

(5) Jonathan Martin, “Steve Bullock, Montana Governor, Is Running for President,” New York Times, May 14, 2019, p. A18,

(6) Steve Israel, “Can Steve Bullock Win?” The Hill, Aug. 21, 2019,

(7) “First Lady Lisa Bullock,” Office of Governor Steve Bullock,” undated,

(8) “List of Presidents of the United States by Previous Experience,” Wikipedia

(9) The tinyurl following the Governor Bill Richardson experience reference ( links to one of my prior Gazette columns, “Candidates’ ‘Experience,’” (The Gazette, March 30, 2008, p. A9,

(10) For number of counties carried by Trump in 2016 see, e.g., Mark Muro and Sifan Liu, “Another Clinton-Trump Divide: High-Output America vs Low-Output America,” The Avenue, Brookings, Nov. 29, 2016

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Note: Some of the handful of words that were deleted for reasons of space in the published column have been included in this version.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Sub-government

The Sub-Government
Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 21, 2019, p. A7

We worry where our country and world are headed. We rely on the media’s tweet trackers to tell us what’s next. It’s rumored our president wants to buy Greenland before it melts.

Our presidential campaign is being waged on teens’ screens of social media. Russia is fighting a war without bombs on the world’s democracies, including our own, and winning. Manipulation of emotions of anger, fear and hate can destroy democracies with escalating divisiveness from within, regardless of elections’ outcomes.

Meanwhile, much of the self-inflicted damage from Washington transpires beneath the radar – in good times and bad. Why? Campaign contributions; yes. But there’s more. Not the conspiracy theory of a “dark state” undermining the president. It’s what I call the “subgovernment phenomenon,” out in the open but unreported by the media, whether in Washington, Des Moines or Iowa City. [Photo Credit Common Dreams ("Ahead of a crucial vote . . . defenders of net neutrality . . . projected . . . 'Property of Verizon' on the [FCC's] building to draw attention to the corporate interests at play . . ..")]

On Saturday, August 24, 4:00 p.m., there will be a discussion of these issues at Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., in the course of a hopeful and sometimes humorous reading from Catfish Solution: The Power of Positive Poking. Hope to see you there.
Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Marianne Williamson’s Questions and Answers

Reading from latest book, #CatfishSolution, next Saturday, Aug. 24, #IowaCity's #PrairieLights, 4-5PM. Hope to see you there.

Trump Won't Be Beat With Plans Alone

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, August 17, 2019, p. A5

Where the column as submitted differs from the column as published the submission is indicated in [brackets] and italics.

Marianne Williamson may not have “the answer.” But she’s the only one who has framed the right questions [– the essential first step to finding answers.] Whether or not that qualifies her to be president, it clearly qualifies her to be a [Democratic Party] campaign strategist. Those who trivialize and mock her do so at their party’s and America's peril.

Here are the questions: "What strategy is President Donald Trump using?" and "What strategy does that require of Democrats?" [One might modify Williamson’s answers, but she's correctly answered the first question and pointed us in the right direction on the second.]

At the June 27 Democratic Debates, she warned the Party that plans are not enough: “Donald Trump … didn’t win by saying he had a plan."

She doesn’t advocate abandoning 20th Century political strategies. Democratic Party candidates still need to meet party members who now stay home or vote Republican – especially the ones living in the 80 percent of American counties that Trump carried in 2016. The candidates must show up, really listen to voters’ challenges and needs, and propose plans that at least outline solutions.
[Photo credit: By Supearnesh - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,]

But Williamson closed that Debate by posing and answering the first question: "Donald Trump is not going … to be beaten just by somebody who has plans. He is going to be beaten by somebody who has an idea what this man has done. This man has reached into the psyche of the American people and he has harnessed fear for political purposes."

She’s right about that. Trump won, and may win again, by personally utilizing the same strategy in speech [and tweet] that he and the Russians use in their social media campaigns.

Trump may or may not believe in climate-change science, but he sure believes in the neurological science of the amygdalae, limbic cortex and brain stem, some of the most phylogenetically primitive regions of the brain. He believes in the science of reward and addiction that increase smart phone, videogame and slot machine players’ TOD (time on device); advertisers manipulating consumers into buying things they don't need, with money they don't have, to impress people they don't like; gaslighting, social psychology’s findings regarding groups’ influence on individuals; and the science behind propaganda [and the big lie.]
[Photo credit: public domain, (found on page]

In short, he understands the role of fear, anger and hatred of "the other" [in successful campaigns.] He knows the [2020] presidential election will be won more by targeting the most primitive regions of the brains of [140 million or more] voters than by what’s aimed at their cerebral cortices.

So, "What strategy does that require of Democrats?"

Williamson says, "I have had a career harnessing the inspiration and the motivation and the excitement of people." And in her closing statement said that Trump has "harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out. . . . I’m going to harness love for political purposes."

Her use of the word “love,” with its romantic associations, was neither a precise nor helpful choice in this political context. The Greco-Christian term “agape” would have been only marginally better.

The challenge is much more complex. Trump is strategically increasing the emotions of hate and fear. [In this contest on a playing field in the most primitive regions of Americans’ brains,] what can Democrats do to excite even greater emotional responses involving compassion, empathy, and feelings of community [necessary to our “more perfect union”]?

Marianne Williamson’s questions are a major contribution that deserves understanding and appreciation. Now it’s up to Democrats’ candidates to craft and apply the answers.
Nicholas Johnson is a native Iowan and three-time presidential appointee; his latest book is "Columns of Democracy." [Nicholas Johnson, a native Iowan and former FCC commissioner, will be doing a reading from his latest book, Catfish Solution, at Iowa City’s Prairie Lights, Aug. 24, 4:00-5:00. Contact::]

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Ever-Timely Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie Night at Uptown Bill's

Today would have been Woody Guthrie's 107th birthday (July 14, 1912-October 3, 1967). We celebrate that each year at Uptown Bill's on the closest Saturday Night Concert to his birthday, which this year was last night.

Because during the course of his life Woody wrote "over 1000 songs" it was not possible to perform and group-sing all of them. The selection was limited to what would fit in the two hours allotted for the nostalgic concert.

What was especially moving this year was the realization that at the same time we were singing about the suffering Woody was writing and singing about in the 1940s, the suffering is still playing out along our southern border and for the poor throughout our country (think "Deportee," "Hobo's Lullaby").
As author Stephen King put it in a Tweet today: "First, you stoke hatred and fear of minorities. Then you round them up and put them in camps. Next, you send out rading parties to get those who have been driven into hiding. The armbands come next, right?"
You've heard -- and probably sung -- Woody's "Deportee (Plane Crash at Los Gatos)," written in 1948. But now read the words of "Deportee" and think about President Trump's politics of anti-immigrant, anti-other, and what he has ordered should begin today, July 14, 2019.

The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning, The oranges piled in their creosote dumps; They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border To pay all their money to wade back again

Chorus: Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita, Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria; You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane, All they will call you will be "deportees"

My father's own father, he waded that river, They took all the money he made in his life; My brothers and sisters they working the old church, They rode the big truck still lay down and died [Chorus]

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon, A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills, Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves? The radio says, "They are just deportees" [Chorus]
This is what it sounded like when Woody sang it:

A few of the members of the Family Folk Machine performed. From left (stage right) to right: Kevin Kaufman (harmonica); Lynn Partridge; Claire Sauder; Jean Littleton, Director; and Wendy Levy.

Here is a clip from Lynn Partridge's performance of Woody's "Pastures of Plenty" (1941) [full lyrics below].

It's a mighty hard row that my poor hands have hoed My poor feet have traveled a hot dusty road Out of your Dust Bowl and westward we rolled And your deserts were hot and your mountain was cold

I worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes Slept on the ground in the light of your moon On the edge of the city you'll see us and then We come with the dust and we go with the wind

California and Arizona, I make all your crops And its North up to Oregon to gather your hops Dig the beets from your ground, cut the grapes from your vine To set on your table your light sparkling wine

Green pastures of plenty from dry desert ground From the Grand Coulee Dam where the waters run down Every state in this Union us migrants have been We'll work in this fight and we'll fight till we win

Well, it's always we rambled, that river and I All along your green valley, I will work till I die My land I'll defend with my life if it be 'Cause my pastures of plenty must always be free
The two principal organizers of the evening's event were Jeffrey Morgan and Joe Brisben. Here's a clip from their performance of Woody's "Hobo's Lullaby" (1944) [full lyrics below]. (I recall during the late 1930s, when I was a child, hobos knocking on the kitchen door asking for food. Mother would always offer them something to eat.)

Go to sleep you weary hobo Let the towns drift slowly by Listen to the steel rails hummin' That's the hobo's lullaby

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

Do not think 'bout tomorrow Let tomorrow come and go Tonight you're in a nice warm boxcar Safe from all that wind and snow

I know the police cause you trouble They cause trouble everywhere But when you die and go to Heaven You'll find no policemen there

So go to sleep you weary hobo Let the towns drift slowly by Listen to the steel rails hummin' That's a hobo's lullaby

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
And the finale? "This Land is Your Land" (1940), of course. Here's a clip; no lyrics below because you know them and can sing along with us. (You don't? OK, click HERE.)

It was a great night. I hope you can join us next year for this and other great Saturday evening concerts. Uptown Bill's offers a laid-back comfort similar to a gathering with friends and neighbors in your own living room, folks who have come to listen to, rather than talk over, the musicians; and musicians who don't mind (even encourage) you to sing along if you feel like it.

Uptown Bill's has performance rights for these songs. The event last evening, and this blog post, are intended as a tribute to Woody Guthrie, one of America's 19th Century greatest figures as well as musicians. No compensation has been or will be received for posting it. The brief video clips are not intended as, and are not, a substitute for access to the body of his work. If anything it may have a minimal impact on encouraging visitors to visit other sources. The lyrics, and Woody Guthrie's performance of "Deportee," are openly available and unprotected on the Internet. Given the lack of economic impact, the use of the material in a historic and commentary context, and the limited portion (of 1000 songs) used, it may very well be "fair use." However, if any copyright owner objects to this use a simple email to specifying the specific, protected material sought to be removed will result it its removal.]

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Dems Presidential Primary - Polls July 11, 2019

11 Between 1% and 26%; 10 Never Over 1%; Top 6 in Iowa

Iowa's Top 6; Poll June 29-July 4, 2019
Buttigieg 25%
Warren 18%
Sanders 16%
Biden 16%
Harris 16%
O'Rourke 2%
All others 0-1%

National Results

[Source:; graphic display of data from 2008 election]

10 candidates with poll numbers 0%-1%; All Polls June 1-July 9
[In addition, for all but Gillibrand and Delaney these candidates have been in the 0% to 1% range in every poll since November 2018.]
Bennet, Bullock, De Blasio, Delaney, Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Moulton, Ryan, Williamson

11 candidates with poll numbers above 1%; their range for July

Biden 18-31%
Sanders 10-23%
Warren 9-22%
Harris 10-21%
Buttigieg 3-10%
O'Rourke 2-4%
Castro 0-4%
Yang 0-3%
Booker 0-2%
Klobuchar 0-2%
Gabbard 0-2%

11 candidates with poll numbers above 1%; average (mean) of last three polls

Biden 26%
Warren 17%
Harris 14%
Sanders 13%
Buttigieg 5.7%
O'Rourke 2.7%
Yang 2%
Gabbard 1.3%
Booker 1.3%
Klobuchar 1%
Castro 1%

Getting into the weeds of the NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll

Later in the day, after this blog was posted, the results of a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll were released. Its biggest contribution was not the predictable revelation that Biden, Warren, Harris, Sanders and Buttigieg still lead the pack.

It was the details -- such as the data indicating 82% of primary voters are "very" or "somewhat" closely following the candidates; only 12% of Democratic voters say they have "definately" made up their minds; and their answer to "Who is your second choice?" The answers? Harris (14%), Warren (13%), Sanders (12%) and Biden (10%).

The poll also dug into how voters' candidate preference varied between those "who want large-scale change" (Warren, 29%; Sanders, 18%; Biden, 16%; and Harris, 14%), those "who want small-scale change" (Biden, 35%; Harris, 14%; Buttigieg, 8%; and Sanders, 7%), those who think issues most important (51%; Biden, 18%; Warren, 18%; Sanders, 17%; and Harris, 11%), those who think defeating Trump is most important (45%; Biden, 34%; Warren, 21%; Harris, 16%; Buttigieg, 8%; and Sanders, 6%).

(1) There's still time. The fact your candidate hasn't yet become the flavor of the month doesn't mean it can't happen. If past primaries and elections are any guide there will continue to be a lot of changes in the rankings between now and the Iowa caucuses in February 2020. Note the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finding, immediately above, that only 12% of primary voters have now settled on whom they're supporting.

(2) Polls vary widely depending upon such things as the quality and reputation of the polling firm, the number of people polled, the way questions are framed, recent news coverage of the candidates and related events, and how closely the public is following the process.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Everybody Gets an Office

Everybody Gets an Office, Even the Losers

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, July 7, p. D2

Democrats have 13 categories of challenges Nov. 3, 2020. ("Why Trump May Win,” May 29, 2019). One of the 13 was on display at The Gazette/Iowa Public Radio’s June 20 Pints & Politics: Why 23 outstanding, qualified candidates are as much curse as blessing. Ben Kieffer asked the 150 politically savvy attendees to applaud if they’d picked their candidate. Only one did. Everyone else clapped for “haven’t picked one.” Two debate nights later many remain undecided. [Photo credit: Nicholas Johnson, Pints & Politics audience, Big Grove Brewery, Iowa City, June 20, 2019.]

Followers of the 22 “losers” may lack enthusiasm for the ultimate winner. What to do? How about this: Have all 23 individually pledge that if they win, they will offer an appropriate, important position in their administration to each of the 22 former candidates who want one (e.g., White House, cabinet, major agency, ambassadorship). They can all have offices, though only one is oval. In other words, we kind of elect all of them. Would that make you more enthusiastic for the winner if your choice loses? What do you think?

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City
# # #

Everybody Gets an Office

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 26, 2019, p. A7

Democrats have 13 categories of challenges Nov. 3, 2020. See “Why Trump May Win.” One of the 13 was on display at a recent local gathering of 150 politically savvy folks: Having 23 outstanding, qualified candidates is as much curse as blessing. The host asked the group to applaud if they had picked their candidate. Only one person responded. Everyone else clapped when asked if they “hadn’t yet picked one.”

Followers of the 22 “losers” may lack enthusiasm for the ultimate winner. What to do? How about this: Have all 23 individually pledge that if they win they will offer to each of the other 22 an important administration position (for which they are qualified) to every former candidate who wants one (e.g., White House, cabinet, major agency, ambassadorship). They all get offices, though only one is oval. In other words, we kind of elect all of them. Would that make you more enthusiastic for the winner if your choice loses? What do you think?

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City

# # #

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Making a Greater Greta World

Schoolchildren around the world are trying to get our attention -- and action -- regarding the numerous crises we confront. One of the most dramatic examples is what Greta Thunberg has accomplished. The first video -- 4:22 minutes -- is her appeal to the EU. The second -- 33:46 minutes -- reports on her global movement. You may have already seen these videos; but if not you will soon agree they are "must viewing." [Photo: Wikimedia Commons; Austrian World Climate Summit, May 2019, Wien Copyright: Eugénie Berger.]

Friday, June 14, 2019

Presidential Qualities from Elvis to Lyndon

Related columns and blog posts:
"Why Trump May Win," May 29, 2019 [embedded: "Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure," The Gazette, May 29, 2019, p. A6]

"May 4 Updates: Popularity; Klobuchar; Iowa 2nd District," May 4, 2019

"Dem Primary Candidates' Ranking - May 2, 2019," May 2, 2019

"Democrats Qualified for Debates," April 29, 2019

"Presidential Experience," April 28, 2019 [embedded: "Democrats in 2020 Should Value Experienced Candidate," The Gazette, April 28, 2019, p. D3]

"Impeachment and the Mueller Report," April 22, 2019

"Presidential Candidates' Rankings and Experience," April 15, 2019

What to Look for in 20-plus Democratic Presidential Candidates
and How Are They Doing As Of Today?

Those of us Iowa Democrats who have yet to pick our final candidate of choice are thankful we still have some time to make up our minds before the precinct caucuses February 3, 2020 -- with New Hampshire (Feb. 11), Nevada (Feb. 22), and South Carolina (Feb. 29) watching and close behind.

What to look for?

(1) Winner. Top qualification for most Democrats is a winner, someone who can beat President Donald Trump. If you'd like a little pep-me-up, here's the latest: "Top Dems Lead Trump In Head-To-Head Matchups, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Democratic Primary Race Narrows As Biden Goes Flat," Quinnipiac Poll, June 11, 2019. Six Democrats could, today, beat Trump: Biden (53 to 40%, 13 points), Sanders (51 to 42%, 9 points), Harris (49 to 41%, 8 points), Warren (49 to 42%, 7 points), Buttigieg and Booker both 47 to 42%, 5 points).

Sadly, it won't be that easy -- whatever matchup polls show. For 13 categories of reasons why, see Nicholas Johnson, "Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure," The Gazette, May 29, 2019, p. A6 (in the blog post, "Why Trump May Win"). Moreover, even the Quinnipiac details are concerning. For men (47% Biden, 46% Trump) and white voters (46% Biden, 47% Trump) it's a tossup.

(2) Elvis. Louis Armstrong, when asked to define "jazz" is reported to have replied, "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." So it is with your candidate having "Elvis." Your candidate either has it or s/he doesn't. At a minimum we want a candidate who will offer us a presidency we will not be afraid, embarrassed, or bored to watch. [Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons; Tupelo, Mississippi, 1956.]

(3) Policies. To what extent are you and the candidate in agreement about the most important issues, policy positions on those issues, and areas of possible compromise?

(4) Lyndon. President Lyndon Johnson's biographer, Robert A. Caro, titled one of the books in his The Years of Lyndon Johnson series, Master of the Senate because of Johnson's never-equaled capacity to persuade. How effective will your candidate be when functioning as president? They are going to need a measure of "Lyndon" as well as "Elvis." How much support do they already have within the U.S. House and Senate to help pass the legislation you and they want? How effective will they be in rallying the American public behind those proposals? What experience have they had managing very large organizations? Do they work well with staff members? How many qualified acquaintances do they have who could fill the 4,000 positions requiring a presidential appointee? What is their understanding of the military, or international organizations and relationships? [President Johnson in Oval Office with West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. Photo on display at West Virginia History On View.]

So How Are They Doing So Far?

(1) Debates. As of June 12 there were 14 candidates who met the Party's requirement for debate participation under both criteria: (a) polls (3 in which they were chosen by 1% or more), and (b) donors (65,000 with 200 or more in 20 states). They were Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Harris, Inslee, Klobucher, O'Rourke, Sanders, Warren, Williamson, and Yang. Six met only the polls standard: Bennet, de Blasio, Delaney, Hickenlooper, Ryan and Swalwell.

Eight have attracted the support of 2% or more: Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris, O'Rourke, Booker and Klobuchar.

Source: Geoffrey Skelley, "The First Democratic Debate Deadline Is Almost Here: Who’s In And Who’s Out," FiveThirtyEight, June 12, 2019.
"Who's on First?" (June 26 and June 27)

The first debates will be held on June 26 and 27 in Miami, from 8:00-10:00 p.m. Central Time, televised on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo with their moderators NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, MSNBC prime-time host Rachel Maddow, and Noticias Telemundo and NBC Nightly News Saturday anchor José Díaz-Balart There are 20 participants; 10 each night. They are said to have been selected at random, drawing folded paper slips from two categories: those in the top tier and all the others. The results?

June 26: Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Tim Ryan and Elizabeth Warren.

June 27: Michael Bennet, Joseph R. Biden Jr., Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Johyn Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.
Source: For more, including photos of all 20, see Reid J. Epstein, Lisa Lerer and Matt Stevens, "The Democratic Debate lineups Are Set. Here's What to Expect," New York Times, June 14, 2019, p. A1.

(2) Endorsements. FiveThirtyEight has a point scale for measuring the weight of a candidate's endorsements: 10 points for former presidents, vice presidents and current national Democratic Party leaders; 8 points for governors; 6 points for U.S. senators; with lesser points for lesser office holders. Thus, a candidate's comparative "endorsement points" takes on meaning as a measure of his or her support from the Party's "establishment" -- an "honor" that some voters would view with suspicion rather than follow blindly. Here, then, for what it's worth is the current "endorsement points" ranking:
Biden - 94
Booker and Harris - 57
Klobucher - 39
Warren - 25
Sanders - 22
O'Rourke - 15
Buttigieg and Castro - 12
Bullock - 8
Delaney - 6
Inslee - 5
Gillibrand, Hickenlooper and Swalwell - 3
Source: "The 2020 Endorsement Primary," FiveThirtyEight, June 9, 2019.

(3) Likability. During one of the 2016 presidential primary debates between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Obama took the opportunity to reassure Clinton, whose "likability" had been questioned, that she was "likable enough."

Is your candidate "likable enough"?

Nate Silver has offered an engaging chart of candidates' various favorability rankings by Iowans; for example, the percentage of those polled who view the candidate "very favorably," "mostly favorably," "mostly unfavorably," and "very unfavorably." From these percentages he calculates the candidate's "favorability score." He also reports the percentage of those polled for whom the candidate is their first choice. He uses data from the Selzer Iowa poll, June 2-5, 2019.

Here are some numbers for the top 8: Buttigieg (4.1), Harris (4.0), Warren (4.0), Biden (3.8), Sanders (3.7), Booker (3.7), Klobuchar (3.6) and O'Rourke (3.6) -- ranked by their Nate Silver "favorability scores" in that order.

Five candidates are the "first choice" of percentages of voters greater than 2%: Biden (24%), Sanders (16%), Warren (15%), Buttigieg (14%) and Harris (7%).

Five candidates have "very favorable" percentages of 30% or more: Warren (37%), Biden (36%), Buttigieg and Sanders (both 32%) and Harris (30%). Combining the "very favorable" and "mostly favorable" percentages, those with a total of 60% or more are: Biden (73%), Warren (71%), Sanders (70%), Harris (63%) and Buttigieg (61%).

The three candidates with the highest (worst) "very unfavorable" percentages are de Blasio (13%), Biden (9%) and Sanders (8%). Combining the "mostly unfavorable" and "very unfavorable" percentages for those over 20% the highest (worst) are: de Blasio (40%), Sanders (25%), Biden (23%), Gillibrand (23%), O'Rourke (21%) and Gabbard (20%). The two best (lowest percentage total unfavorable) among those who were the "first choice" of 2% or more are: Buttigieg (12%) and Harris (13%) (the rest were upper teens and twenties).

If you would like to explore these numbers for all 23 candidates my source is: Nate Silver, "Silver Bulletpoints: Iowans Seem To Like Warren And Buttigieg," June 13, 2019

# # #

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Why Trump May Win

Trump Will Lose? Don't Be So Sure
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, May 29, 2019, p. A6

(As submitted; asterisks (*) indicate The Gazette modified the text for space reasons: e.g., the previous clause or sentence was deleted, or paragraph heading was run on into previous paragraph; regular formatting was substituted for bold paragraph headings.)

“It is unthinkable Americans would reelect Trump,” a friend said the other day. I told him to think harder. Here’s why.

Trump is president. Most presidents who want a second term get it; recently Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama.*

[Photo credit: Commons/White House.]

He has experienced a win. First-timers find Presidential campaigns difficult; they make mistakes. Trump has a tested, winning playbook. [Added May 30: Moreover, he's been continuously campaigning ever since he descended that escalator into a crowd of paid extras June 16, 2015 -- four solid years next month, with 18 months to go.

The economy’s strong. Whatever the full data may show, Trump benefits from the public’s perception of a healthy economy – a major factor in presidential elections.

He’s a media master. He knows how to keep the stories and cameras on himself while diverting attention from his disasters. Worst case, he can start a war; remember “Wag the Dog”?

America’s gone red.* In 2016 Trump won 2,600 counties, 85 percent of our continental land area. Republicans control both houses in 32 states’ legislatures – the most ever.

He’s near the finish line. With his rock-solid 42 percent he only needs nine percent to win. The Democrat must cobble together 51 percent.

He has Russian support. Russia’s role in the 2016 election was no one-off. Their similar techniques throughout Europe and here will only intensify in 2020. Is it serious Russians can hack voting machines? Sure, but the least of our worries. When they can manipulate voters they don’t need to hack machines. Indeed, when they can foment our self-destructive civil war of words they can destroy our democracy from within without firing a shot.

Trump knows social media. He has already spent about as much on it as the top five Democratic candidates combined. (Are you unaware of how Facebook swings elections worldwide by increasing anger, divisiveness and manipulating voters?* We’ll talk about that after you’ve first read Roger McNamee’s book, Zucked (2019) and watched Carole Cadwalladr’s TED Talk, “Facebook’s Role in Brexit – and the Threat to Democracy” (2019),*)

Trump is unrestrained. His willingness to violate our Constitution, laws, social and political norms of behavior gives him a competitive advantage.

He studies and befriends authoritarian leaders. He uses their techniques. Want examples? He turns immigrants, Muslims, asylum-seekers and Democrats into “the enemy.” To expand presidential power he encourages citizens’ distrust in professional journalism, the judiciary and Congress’ constitutional powers. He transforms the Justice Department into his personal defense team.

Trump feeds his base raw meat. Democrats have ignored their base. President Franklin Roosevelt gave Democrats a coalition of the poor, working poor, working class, farmers and trade unionists. Had Democrats served and maintained that base they would win every election from school boards to the White House. Shoe leather and door knocking have given way to some Democrats’ belief that money from the East coast and voters from the West coast are enough to maintain a winning national party.*

He can avoid primaries. The Democratic Party’s primary candidates can’t. They must first raise and spend money on name identification and primary contests. Some will suffer bruises to their reputations. Party activists and voters are splintered. Those supporting unsuccessful candidates may end up with less enthusiasm for the ultimate winner.

Voter suppression benefits Trump. Many Democrats who want to vote won’t be able to.

Is it hopeless for the Democratic Party’s nominee? Of course not. We have an outstanding couple dozen candidates, any one of whom I’d welcome as a next-door neighbor. But to win Democrats must start with a realistic assessment of Trump’s strengths.
Nicholas Johnson is a native Iowan and three-time presidential appointee; his latest book is Columns of Democracy. Website:* Contact:*

# # #

Saturday, May 04, 2019

May 4 Updates: Popularity; Klobuchar; Iowa 2nd District

May 4, 2019

Check below for: Senator Amy Klobuchar in Iowa City today (May 4); her background, pros, cons, stats, money, donors, endorsements. Plus: (1) How are "early-state activists" changing preferences? (2) A poll of Iowans' top choices. (3) If the general election were held today who could beat Trump? (4) "Who's Running in Dem Primary for Iowa's U.S. House District 2?" (5) And finally, my review of her presentation at The Mill.
* Presidential Candidates Rankings, April 15, 2019 (with updates)
* Impeachment and the Mueller Report, April 22, 2019 (with update),
* Presidential Experience: How Your Candidate Measures Up, April 28, 2019
* Democrats Qualified for Debates: Will Your Candidate be in the Debates? April 29, 2019
* Dem Primary Candidates' Ranking - May 2, 2019: How's Your Candidate Ranked?, May 2, 2019
* May 4 Updates: Popularity; Klobuchar; Iowa 2nd District, May 4, 2019
* What Dems are up against; some insights from 2-1/2 years ago: Donald Trump’s Barrel of Squirrels: How Does the Donald Do It? Sept. 26 2016
* Attacks on our democracy and what we can do about it: Columns of Democracy available from Iowa City’s Prairie Lights and Amazon.
Presidential primary candidate and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is visiting Iowa City today: 3:30 p.m., Iowa City Public Library, Room A; The Mill, 5:00-7:00 p.m. Here's a summary introduction and some stats:

Born 1960, and grew up in Minneapolis-St. Paul; one sister, parents Star Tribune columnist and K-12 teacher; exemplary academic record of high school valedictorian, Yale magna cum laude, and University of Chicago J.D.; two books; married John Bessler (lawyer, law professor), one child, Abigail; partner in two law firms (corporate "regulatory work in telecommunications law"); elected Hennepin County Attorney 1998, 2002; U.S. Senate 2006, 2012, 2018 (58%, 65%, 60%) (first woman elected from Minnesota); very popular in Minnesota, selected for leadership, numerous awards; travelled with Senators McCain and Graham to Baltic and Ukraine 2016; noteworthy televised participation in Kavanaugh and Barr hearings. Sources:;

Negatives: (1) "African American prison admissions in 2006, Klobuchar's last full year [as county attorney], were 22 times higher than whites." Comment: This statement, standing alone, is misleading. Senator Klobuchar's response ("If you look at the data, you will see there was a 65 percent decrease in incarceration of African Americans when you go from the beginning of my term to the end." CNN Sunday, March 17, 2019) may also be misleading. But to be fair, and provide balance, one should also consider this Washington Post analysis: "Amy Klobuchar Cites Bad Data to Claim Credit fior Reducing Black Incarceration," Washington Post, Marcy 21, 2019. Significance requires context: national averages; Hennepin County averages before and after 2006.
(2) "In February 2019, Buzzfeed News reported that Klobuchar's congressional office was 'controlled by fear, anger, and shame'. Interviews with former staffers indicated that Klobuchar frequently abused and humiliated her employees, with as much staff time spent on managing her rage as on official business. Klobuchar was also listed as one of the 'worst bosses in Congress', with an annual staff turnover rate between 2011 and 2016 of 36%, the highest of any senator."; Comment: Sources may be disgruntled employees; Klobuchar may just be hard-driving and as tough on herself as others; may not suffer fools gladly; may have changed behavior since then; would require more research before accepting as valid negative for president.

Donors. Klobuchar raised over $5.2 million in seven weeks (and can add additional $3 million from prior quarter). She had about 100,000 new donors; average donation $40; 85% of donors gave less than $100. Emily Tillett, "2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates Reveal First Quarter Fundraising Efforts, CBS News, April 15, 2019.

Endorsements. Klobuchar ranks 4th out of nine: Biden, 80; Booker, 57; Harris, 55; Klobuchar, 39; Warren, 23; Sanders, 22; O'Rourke, 14; Castro, 12; Buttigieg, 11. FiveThirtyEight. Note that endorsements often (but not always) reflect the combined preferences of wealthy donors and Democratic Party officials. Compare these rankings with the ones immediately below.

Early-State Activists. Iowa is an "early state." These percentages indicate which candidates are being considered by activists as possibly worthy of their support. The percentages following the candidates' names are their standing as of December 2018, February 2019, and April 2019. They are ranked by their last (April) percentage -- the most current and relevant. The others provide indication of the direction of their popularity.
On the most current ranking Klobuchar is 5th out of 11. FiveThirtyEight, "Which candidates early-state activists are considering".

Harris 61% 54% 53%
Booker 45% 49% 47%
Warren 24% 40% 35%
Buttigieg - 17% 29%
Klobuchar 34% 37% 26%
Gillibrand 21% 23% 26%
Sanders 29% 29% 24%
Biden 39% 34% 21%
McAuliffe 5% 14% 15%
Castro -- 17% 15%
O'Rourke 34% 14% 15%

Iowa Voters. Most polls measure candidates' national support. Here are the Gravis poll results for Iowa on April 22, 2019.

Biden, 19%
Sanders, 19%
Buttigieg, 14%
Harris, 6%
Warren, 6%
O'Rourke, 5%
Booker, 4%
Klobuchar, 4%
Delaney, 2%
Gillibrand, 1%
Yang, 1%
Castro, 0%

Klobuchar Nationally. Four polls on April 30, 2019, report Klobuchar somewhat below her support in Iowa: CNN, 2%; Quinnipiac, 1%; Morning Consult, 2%; Boston Globe/Suffolk, 1%.

Who beats Trump? Nearly everybody. Real Clear Politics reports the results if a general election were held on May 3, 2019, between six Democratic candidates and President Trump. Here are the projected results, in percentages of votes, Democrat first, Trump second:
O'Rourke, 52%-42%
Biden, 51%-45%
Sanders, 50%-44%
Harris, 49%-45%
Buttigieg, 47%-44%
Warren, 47%-48%

Who's Running in Dem Primary for Iowa's U.S. House District 2?

"After floating the possibility two weeks ago of becoming a candidate for the 2nd District U.S. House seat, Johnson County Democratic Sen. Kevin Kinney has decided not to run. . . . So far, former state Sen. Rita Hart of Wheatland, who was the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Quad Cities attorney Ian Russell, Iowa City businesswoman Veronica Tessler and Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken have expressed some level of interest in succeeding Loebsack." James Q. Lynch, Kinney Decides Against Seeking 2nd District Seat," The Gazette, May 2, 2019, p. A2. That was Thursday; by Saturday we read, "Tessler Bows Out of 2nd District," The Gazette, May 4, 2019, p. A7.

Review of Senator Klobuchar's Presentation at the Mill
(Posted to Facebook May 5, 2019, 11:13 AM)
Please let me know if #SenatorAmyKlobuchar's remarks at The Mill (May 4) are available anywhere in audio. (Video, here: thanks to Tom Carsner, has very poor audio -- but does give sense of crowd size.)

I'm still not endorsing. And my "Academy Award" for Best Campaign Speech Performance won't weigh much in that ultimate endorsement. But credit where due: Senator Amy Klobuchar's May 4 performance at The Mill ranks among the best I've witnessed in 75 years of evaluating campaign speeches.

I'm judging it in the context of where she was, and when it was, for: lack of reliance on notes; content, organization, delivery, timing; awareness of, relationship with, and shaping remarks for audience; energy, authenticity; knowledge of local community, politics and politicians; ability to move audience from laughter to tears (without being maudlin) back to laughter, the John Oliver model (mixing in-depth analysis of serious issues with humor) and Paula Poundstone-quality extemporaneous response to audience; along with, of course, choice of issues and their presentation with understanding, commitment and rational analysis -- plus her unexpected understanding of how to beat Trump.

I've never seen The Mill quite so tightly packed with people wall-to-wall that it was hard to capture in pictures; here's one effort, along with her introduction and a close-up from my ringside seat. And see the previous blog post:

# # #

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Dem Primary Candidates' Ranking - May 2, 2019

How's Your Candidate Ranked as of May 2?
* Presidential Candidates Rankings, April 15, 2019 (with updates)
* Impeachment and the Mueller Report, April 22, 2019 (with update),
* Presidential Experience: How Your Candidate Measures Up, April 28, 2019
* Democrats Qualified for Debates: Will Your Candidate be in the Debates? April 29, 2019
* Dem Primary Candidates' Ranking - May 2, 2019: How's Your Candidate Ranked?, May 2, 2019
* May 4 Updates: Popularity; Klobuchar; Iowa 2nd District, May 4, 2019
* What Dems are up against; some insights from 2-1/2 years ago: Donald Trump’s Barrel of Squirrels: How Does the Donald Do It? Sept. 26 2016
* Attacks on our democracy and what we can do about it: Columns of Democracy available from Iowa City’s Prairie Lights and Amazon.
Two Top-Ranked Polls: Quinnipiac and CNN/SSRS
Polls taken April 26-29 and April 25-28; registered voters; small samples (419, 411). Five Thirty Eight.
Biden 38%, 39%
Sanders 11%, 15%
Warren 12%, 8%
Buttigieg 10%, 7%
Harris 8%, 5%
O'Rourke 5%, 6%
Two more; lesser-ranked polls by Morning Consult
Polls taken April 22-28 and April 15-21; likely voters; large samples (15,475, 14,335). Five Thirty Eight.
Biden 36%, 30%
Sanders 22%, 24%
Buttigieg 8%, 9%
Warren 9%, 7%
Harris 7%, 8%
O'Rourke 5%, 6%
Bottom Line
The ranking of the top six candidates in these four polls keeps Biden and Sanders ranked 1 and 2, Harris and O'Rourke 5 and 6. Buttigieg and Warren exchange places as 3 and 4. The remaining candidates are at 1%, 2% or 3% (with the exception of Booker in the 2nd Morning Consult poll at 4%).

# # #

Monday, April 29, 2019

Democrats Qualified for Debates

Will Your Candidate be in the Debates?
* Presidential Candidates Rankings, April 15, 2019 (with updates)
* Impeachment and the Mueller Report, April 22, 2019 (with update),
* Presidential Experience: How Your Candidate Measures Up, April 28, 2019
* Democrats Qualified for Debates: Will Your Candidate be in the Debates? April 29, 2019
* Dem Primary Candidates' Ranking - May 2, 2019: How's Your Candidate Ranked?, May 2, 2019
* May 4 Updates: Popularity; Klobuchar; Iowa 2nd District, May 4, 2019
* What Dems are up against; some insights from 2-1/2 years ago: Donald Trump’s Barrel of Squirrels: How Does the Donald Do It? Sept. 26 2016
* Attacks on our democracy and what we can do about it: Columns of Democracy available from Iowa City’s Prairie Lights and Amazon.
When and where are the Debates?

The first "debate" among the Democratic presidential candidates will be held in Miami June 26 and 27, 2019. ("Debate" is in quotes because these presidential candidates events are more properly thought of as a news conference with 20 subjects and one or two questioners than as the classic academic form of debate, with two teams of two persons each engaged in timed presentations and rebuttal.)

What's the Standard?

There are two paths to qualification for participation: donors and polls. To qualify because of donors the candidate must (a) have received donations from 65,000 or more individuals, including (b) at least 200 donors each from within at least 20 states. To qualify on the basis of polls the candidate must have received at least 1% support in at least 3 polls.

Who are the Top Candidates?

Sixteen (of 20) candidates qualify under one or both standards.

The top seven have 9 polls each over 1%, and more than 65,000 donors: Sanders (563,359), Buttigieg (158,568), Harris (138,000), Warren (134,902), Biden (96,926), Klobuchar (>65,000), O'Rourke (>65,000). The 8th, Andrew Yang, ranks 5th for donors (101,352), and has 5 polls over 1%.

The additional eight include seven who qualify only with polls Booker (9), Castro (7), Gillibrand (6), Hickenlooper (4), Delaney (3), and Ryan (3). Gabbard qualifies with donors (>65,000).

For additional data see, Maggie Astor, Denise Lu and Matt Stevens, "Who's in the Democratic Debates, and Who's in Danger of Missing Them," The New York Times, April 29, 2019; and compare, Geoffrey Skelley, "16 Candidates Now Qualify For The First Democratic Primary Debates," FiveThirtyEight, April 26, 2019.
# # #

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Presidential Experience

Click HERE for the application to some of the top Democratic candidates of the criteria set forth in this column.
* Presidential Candidates Rankings, April 15, 2019 (with updates)
* Impeachment and the Mueller Report, April 22, 2019 (with update),
* Presidential Experience: How Your Candidate Measures Up, April 28, 2019
* Democrats Qualified for Debates: Will Your Candidate be in the Debates? April 29, 2019
* Dem Primary Candidates' Ranking - May 2, 2019: How's Your Candidate Ranked?, May 2, 2019
* May 4 Updates: Popularity; Klobuchar; Iowa 2nd District, May 4, 2019
* What Dems are up against; some insights from 2-1/2 years ago: Donald Trump’s Barrel of Squirrels: How Does the Donald Do It? Sept. 26 2016
* Attacks on our democracy and what we can do about it: Columns of Democracy available from Iowa City’s Prairie Lights and Amazon.
Democrats in 2020 Should Value Experienced Candidate
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, April 28, 2019, p. D3

Why focus on the Democrats’ presidential primary? Because of the 13 elected presidents since 1932 (Gerald Ford was appointed) only two who wanted reelection didn’t win (Presidents Jimmy Carter and H.W. Bush). This history, plus President Donald Trump’s loyal base, suggest the 2020 election is Trump’s to lose.

Democrats want a winning candidate. They should also want a competent president.

There’s a path to becoming British Prime Minister. There’s none for our presidency: 17 presidents were former governors, 14 vice presidents, eight cabinet secretaries, three came directly from the Senate, for five it was their first election. None had to meet education or experience requirements, take training programs or read manuals.

We want character, compassion, compromise, courage and curiosity in our presidents – along with intelligence, honesty, decency and other commendable personal qualities. Competence alone isn’t enough.

No candidate will have the wide range of experience a president needs, but the more the better.

In the 2008 Democratic primary Bill Richardson won the experience challenge. He understood legislative process from 15 years in the U.S. House, state government from two terms as governor, and federal as former Secretary, Department of Energy. He had administered large organizations and had the international perspective of a former U.N. ambassador credited with successful hostage negotiations.

Richardson used this in a comedic political spot.

A man interviewing him for a job recites Richardson’s resume and then asks him, “So, what makes you think you can be president?”

George H.W. Bush had a comparable record: CIA director, House member, U.N. ambassador, chief liaison China, Republican National Committee chair, and eight years as vice president.

What’s the range of helpful experience?

Administering eight million federal, military, and contract employees requires unique skills. Having been a governor, big city mayor, or cabinet officer helps.

There are “political people” – those who have run for office, managed campaigns, served constituents, and know the norms. It helps to have been one.

Presidents impact many government institutions: school boards, mayors and city councils, county supervisors, governors, state legislatures, Congress, Cabinet departments, the judiciary and the military. Has your candidate had experience within those institutions?

Presidents needn’t be former constitutional law professors, but they need to understand and support, emotionally as well as intellectually, the Constitution’s limitations on, as well as powers of, the presidency.

Having been a U.S. Senator is not enough. But understanding the executive-legislative relationship is essential, and it helps to have been a legislator somewhere.

There are 4,000 presidential appointments. Some candidates could list 4,000 qualified appointees from memory. Others struggle to name a couple dozen. Where will your candidate look? How will they choose?

A range of life experiences and acquaintances from high school dropouts to Ph.D. professors; multiple ethnicities and religions; labor leaders and CEOs; impoverished and wealthy; urban and rural; agricultural, manufacturing and retail employees, makes for a more competent and compassionate president.

The president must be an international player and may become a global leader. Having worked with and for organizations like the United Nations, World Bank, NATO, or as an ambassador, provides insight. Failing that, previous education, multiple languages, and world travel can help a president to frame questions and understand the answers.

While we’re enjoying the excitement of evaluating our stampede of wannabe candidates let’s give at least some thought to their qualifications as wannabe presidents. Measure them against this list, and then ask them, “What makes you think you can be president?” [Photo credit:]

Nichholas Johnson, a native Iowan and three-time presidential appointee, maintains for his latest book. Comments:


Application of Experience Criteria to Top Democrats

1. What is meant by "experience"? To have been a vice president, or senator, is an experience, but is not "the experience" referenced here.

The breadth of desirable experience for a president is more like the experience, understanding and skills one would hope for a decathlon competitor. In track competition a decathlon consists of four track and six field events, a total of 10 events. Competitions include 100-meter sprint, 110-meter hurdles, 400-meter event, 1500-meter event, long jump, high jump, shot put, discus throw, javelin throw and pole vault. My high school track experience consisted of shot put and discus. Even had I possessed skill in those events decathlons would have been out of the question. Javelin perhaps, but I've never tried to pole vault, and there was good reason for the coach to keep me out of running events.

Similarly, it is not enough that a president has been a governor, or senator, or ambassador. What one would hope for, ideally, is a candidate with experience in each of the eight (and more) categories of experience detailed in the column, above, and summarily repeated, below.

2. Is lack of experience a deal-breaker? In brief, "No." It is a relevant factor in comparing candidates that is often overlooked. There are many legitimate, relevant reasons for preferring one candidate over another. Experience is but one of them. Others are mentioned in the column, above.

3. What about Trump's "experience"? In fairness to the Democratic candidates, all of whom are fairly light in the experience department (as the word is used here), it should be noted that each and every one of them far exceeds Trump -- who fails to qualify in almost all of the eight categories

Comparing the Leaders

To remind, the categories, above, are:
1. Administration and management of huge organizations.
2. "Political" savy.
3. Range of institutions exposure.
4. Constitutional knowledge.
5. Legislative experience.
6. Network of quality potential appointees.
7. Range of acquaintances and life experience.
8. International understanding.
I've chosen six candidates for comparison: Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg, Harris, Warren and O'Rourke.

1. Administrative. All are lacking administrative and management experience leading huge organizations. All have had some experience in smaller settings: Harris' role as California Attorney General; Sanders and Buttigieg as relatively small-town mayors; Biden heading various projects while reporting to President Obama. None has served as a governor or federal cabinet secretary.

2. Political. All have run for and won one or more elections.

3. Institutional range. The range of their institutional familiarity is limited. Two have served on a city council (Biden and O'Rourke). Harris served as a state's attorney general; Biden was once a public defender; Warren a professor in higher education institutions.

Buttigieg is the only one with actual military service. None has even worked in, let alone headed, the Pentagon, CIA or other intelligence agencies. Warren served on the Senate Armed Services Committee; O'Rourke on the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees.

I'm sure there's more, but in the column, above, I mention "school boards, mayors and city councils, county supervisors, governors, state legislatures, Congress, Cabinet departments, the judiciary and the military" and few have touched more than one or two of those bases.

4. Constitution. Three are lawyers (Biden, Harris and Warren), but that is not the equivalent of a mastery of constitutional law or involvement in controversies in which the constitution was an issue. Of course, constitutional and Supreme Court interest and study, with emphasis on Article II executive power, is not restricted to those with law degrees.

5. Legislative. All but Buttigieg have legislative experience in the U.S. Senate or House. There may be some with state legislative experience that research did not uncover.

6. Network. Biden probably has the edge in the number of contacts with individuals qualified to serve the federal government in some professional capacity (which is what this category is about). The others would not have reason to have a breadth of such contacts (beyond the specialties of their committees other other life work). Of course, those who have made it to the debates on the basis of number of donors have at least a political network of 200 people in 20 states: Sanders (563,359), Buttigieg (158,568), Harris (138,000), Warren (134,902), O'Rourke (>65,000). But that's not what this category is about.

7. Diversity. There's no way (at least that I know of) to find out the range of acquaintances and life experiences of the leading candidates with sufficient detail and accuracy to make meaningful judgments and comparisons. That does not detract from the significance of this category, or the possibility one might pick up bits and pieces if attuned to looking for them.

8. International. So far as my scanning of their bios revealed none has the kind of international experience described in the column: "United Nations, World Bank, NATO, or as an ambassador." Biden as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and vice president, had significant foreign travel and meetings with leaders of other countries. Buttigieg's military service included time spent in Afghanistan; he is said to know eight languages.

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