Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Welcome to FromDC2Iowa: Contents & Guide

Over 1,000 blog posts on a variety of topics since 2006.
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Latest Half-Dozen Posts (Full Text)

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
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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

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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

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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:*

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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%).

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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.
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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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Monday, April 22, 2019

Impeachment and the Mueller Report

Random Thoughts Regarding
Impeachment and the Mueller Report
April 22, 2019; April 23
* 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.
Politics and the Constitution

The Constitution specifically imposes on every member of the House of Representatives the power and responsibility for impeaching a president. ("The President ... shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Art. II, Sec. 4. "The House of Representatives ... shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." Art. I, Sec. 2.5. "The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments." Art. I, Sec. 3.6).

There is no provision excluding this responsibility from "cases in which so doing might result in a House member's inability to be reelected," or "cases in which conviction by the Senate is highly unlikely." It is as inappropriate (and possibly unconstitutional) for a member of the House to fail to support an impeachment inquiry for partisan reasons as for that Member to pursue impeachment for partisan reasons.

The founders laid this responsibility upon the House for reasons similar to their choosing the House as the body to declare war (a constitutional obligation House members have also sidestepped) -- because it is the closest to the people who will bear the burden of both decisions.

Grounds for Impeachment

Not only is it impossible to read the Mueller Report -- or even the books and daily newspaper reports about President Trump -- without concluding that an impeachment inquiry is clearly warranted, but the Report's authors suggest that is their conclusion as well.

Although constrained by the distinctions between the powers of an "Independent Counsel" and a "Special Counsel," and their lack of authority to indict a sitting president, the authors note that "a criminal investigation during the President's term is permissible" (vol. II, p. 1), and that "a President does not have immunity after he leaves office," leading to their decision to conduct "a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available." (vol. II, p. 1). That certainly sounds like a contemplation of at least the possibility of an indictment for obstruction of justice after Trump leaves office. This conclusion is reinforced with the comment that "we are unable to reach [the] judgment . . . after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice ... " (vol. II, p. 2) along with the ten or more categories of "overarching factual issues" and "general statements about the President's conduct." (vol. II, p. 7).

In addition to possible future indictments for obstruction of justice, the Report states, "The conclusion that Congress may apply obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.” (vol. II, p. 8)

Finally, a simple comparison of the charges and findings regarding the behavior of Trump against those of the two presidents impeached by the House during the past 50 years renders laughable any suggestion that Trump's offenses do not warrant an impeachment inquiry.

President Richard Nixon's impeachment involved his response to an old fashioned physical break-in at Democratic Party headquarters. The articles of impeachment were for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. (The latter was for Nixon's refusal to comply with Congressional subpoenas -- something Trump is currently doing, although Trump is going above and beyond mere refusal by actually suing the Congressional committee!). (

For Trump Administration's current refusal to comply with Congress' demands, see Peter Baker, Annie Karni and Alan Rappeport, "Democrats Ask and Trump Says No, Signaling a Bitter Fight Ahead," New York Times, April 23, 2019, p. A12, and Robert Costa, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman, "Trump Says He is Opposed to White House Aides Testifying to Congress, Deepening Power Struggle with Hill," The Washington Post, posted April 23, 2019, 8:28 PM.

President Bill Clinton's two article of impeachment -- for perjury and obstruction of justice -- grew out of a "sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Clinton by Paula Jones" and inappropriate sexual encounters with a White House intern. (

Impeachment Alternatives

If, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many other Party leaders urge, there is not to be an impeachment of President Trump, notwithstanding the constitutional obligations of House members, I have urged alternatives such as House resolutions or censure.

What the House must provide, for the sake of our democracy and constitution, as well as the legacy of this House, is more than mere multiple congressional committee hearings. There must be some form of House action, with a recorded vote of each member.


Following the publication of this blog post analogous analyses have been published. Here are two (with no suggestion this blog post was read by either of them, something I would consider highly unlikely):

Hillary Clinton, "Mueller Documented a Serious Crime Against All Americans. Here's How to Respond," The Washington Post, April 24, 2019, 4:44 PM

Elizabeth Drew, "The Danger in Not Impeaching Trump; It may be risky politically, but Congress has a responsibility to act," The New York Times, April 25, 2019

# # #

Monday, April 15, 2019

Presidential Candidates' Rankings and Experience

Democratic 2020 Presidential Primary:
Candidates, Rankings and Experience
April 15, 2019; updates April 23, 25, 26
* 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.
This site is intended to be an entertaining conversation starter for those who enjoy and follow politics and have maintained enough civility to continue to speak about such matters with friends and family.

I have not endorsed any candidate, and am not now working in any candidate's campaign. (If and when that changes I will post a notice to that effect.)

Moreover, this blog post does not engage in the foolishness of forecasting -- especially this early in the campaign. Plenty of "unknown unknowns" will be encountered along the road to November 3, 2020, any one of which can change the outcome during a single news cycle.

This is simply one approach to the question, "Where are we now?"

The Ranking
As of today (April 15) reports there are 227 Democratic Party candidates, 84 Republicans, 24 Libertarians and 14 from the Green Party.
Update April 23, 2019: As one would expect, the number of candidates remains relatively steady: Democrats up 2 to 229, Libertarians up 1 to 25, Republicans and Greens steady at 84 and 14. Ballotpedia (a site full of additional interesting and useful data as well).
We will be reporting on the top three or four Democrats, as measured by four criteria: popularity with voters, money raised, number of donors, and weighted endorsements.

My judgment as to the top four at this time, considering all four criteria, are: Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke and Cory Booker (pictured below in that order; first three from Wikimedia, no Wikimedia of Booker so used selfie he took). Here's how they rank:

Popularity (from Real Clear Politics): Sanders, 21.7%; O'Rourke, 8.3%; Harris, 7.8%, Booker, 3.7%. (Biden, at 31.2%, is excluded from this ranking because he has not yet entered the race.) Rolling Stone, presumably also measuring popularity, changes rankings each week. This week they are consistent with Real Clear Politics' findings. Currently, Rolling Stone's rankings for this and last week were: Sanders (1, 1), Harris (2, 2), O'Rourke (4, 3), Booker (7, 6).
Update April 23, 2019: This week we expand the leaders' group from 4 to 6: At the top, Biden (30%) and Sanders (22.5%); in the next cluster O'Rourke (8.8%), Harris (8.5%), with Buttigieg and Warren tied at (6.0%). Real Clear Politics. The latest single poll, Monmouth, April 23, reports (name; percentage): Biden 27; Sanders 20; Harris 8; Buttigieg 8; Warren 6. Rolling Stone changed slightly to Real Clear Politics' 5: Sanders, Harris, Warren, O'Rourke, and Buttigieg (in that order).

Joe Biden. Of course, with Biden at 30%, and predictions he'll announce this Wednesday (April 24), that's a game-changer for the current front runners. April 25: It finally occurred this morning, rather than yesterday. It will be a couple of weeks before we can gather and update info on his money, number of donors, endorsements -- and whether his announcement will increase, or decrease, his support percentage.
April 26: Biden's announcement April 25 produced little news and less enthusiasm from most media. Many stories led with a list of reasons why Democrats should not, and will not, select him as their candidate, along with reporting President Trump's disparaging nickname for him: "Sleepy Joe." Here's an example: Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, "5 Questions That Will Determine if Joe Biden Can Succeed," The New York Times, April 25, 2019, p. A17. No candidate among the 20 now considered serious candidates has the range and depth of experience essential to a president's competence on Day One (though all have more than the current incumbent). But as limited as even Biden's is (U.S. senator, vice president, two prior presidential primaries, some international), his experience exceeds that of any of the others. His pre-announcement popularity with voters (30%) also put him at the head of the pack. Kind words seemed relegated to the opinion pages. Here's Republican David Brooks, "Your Average Joe," The New York Times, April 25, 2019 [Photo: Joe Biden, World Economic Forum, 2005; Credit: wikimedia commons.]
Money Raised (in total dollars and dollars per day; from PBS Newshour): Sanders ($18.2M; $444,000/day); Harris ($12M; $171,000/day); O'Rourke ($9.4M; $520,000/day); Booker ($5M; $84,745/day). Note the consistency in the Money Raised ranking and the Popularity ranking.
Update April 23, 2019: PBS Newshour reports no changes from last week for Sanders, Harris and O'Rourke. But we should probabaly now note that Buttigieg has raised $7 million ($107,000/day) and Klobuchar $5.2 million ($104,000 per day), both ahead of Booker, last week and this, at $5 million.
Number of Donors (from New York Times, Feb. 9, 2019): Given that the first primary is "the money primary" (discussed in Commentary, below) the total donated to each candidate is a relevant measure of their strength for a variety of reasons, including popularity. But because it can be so significantly affected by the receipt, or rejection, of PAC money and other large contributions it can be deceiving. (And because candidates can solicit and count their $1.00 and $5.00 contributions, their "average" (i.e., mean) contribution can also be deceiving.)

Therefore, the number of donors is data worth considering. (Bear in mind, these numbers are significantly affected by how long the candidate has been in the race, and change daily if not hourly, but the calculation on any given day provides some useful information. The following ranking was reported by the Times on Feb. 9 of this year.) Our current four candidates (Sanders, O'Rourke, Harris, Booker) are ranked 1, 2, 5, 8. Sanders, 1.2 million; O'Rourke, 743,000; Harris, 239,000; Booker, 56,000. (Those ranked 3, 4, 6, 7 are Elizabeth Warren (343,000), Kirsten Gillibrand (272,000), Sherrod Brown (114,000), and Jeff Merkley (105,000).
Update April 23, 2019: Some candidates report number of donors, others don't (e.g., Cory Booker). Some indication of numbers can be gathered from data regarding average contributions. Here's a CBS News report as of April 15. Emily Tillett, "2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates Reveal First Quarter Fundraising Efforts," CBS News, April 15, 2019.
Sanders - 900,000 donors (includes 100,000 Independents, 20,000 Republicans) - 99.5% of donors gave less than $100, 88% of money came in $200 or less amounts - average donation $20
Harris - 218,000 donors - 98% less than $200 - average $28
O'Rourke - 218,000 donors - 98% less than $200 - average $43
Buttigieg - ($7,000,000) - 158,550 donors - 64% less than $200 - average $36.35
Warren - 135,000 donors - 99% less than $200 - average $28
Endorsements (from 538's points allocation system, from one to ten based on prestige/influence of the endorser): Booker (57), Harris (55), Sanders (21), O'Rourke (14).
Update April 23, 2019: Booker, Harris and O'Rourke are unchanged (57, 55, 14). Sanders is up one (to 22). And there are three additions for us this week: Klobuchar, who leaped to third place at 44; Biden, who is now being included, at 21; and Warren at 18. (Buttigieg is ranked ninth with 8 endorsement points.) FiveThirtyEight.

Update April 29, 2019: Big news, but no surprise: following Biden's declaration of candidacy he arrived on FiveThirtyEight's endorsement chart at number one, with 75 points. Booker (2), Harris (3), Sanders (6), and O'Rourke (7) still unchanged (at 57, 55, 22 and 14 points each). Klobuchar (4) has dropped from 44 to 39 points. Warren (5) is up from 18 to 23; Buttigieg (9) has risen from 8 to 11 points.
In terms of the concerns I've expressed regarding attacks on our democracy (Columns of Democracy), the Popularity ranking (Sanders, (O'Rourke, Harris, or Harris, O'Rourke), Booker), though both imperfect and clearly premature, comes the closest to "the people's choice." Money Raised, which produced the same ranking, and Number of Donors, which produced a similar ranking, are similar measures -- in this instance not just of the donor's marginal preference of one candidate over others, but of enough commitment to part with their money. (This is especially-to-only true if the candidate has refused PAC money and is relying on small contributions. To the extent money is coming from the 1%, PACs, and corporate bundling of checks we have a preliminary primary that Larry Lessig has called "the money primary," from which the surviving candidates are picked by the major donors who usually expect something in return. Voters are then left with choices from among only those candidates who have been cleared and "nominated" by America's most wealthy to run in the second primary.)

Endorsements raise separate, but related issues to those raised by "the money primary" -- as Bernie Sanders discovered in 2016. As the FiveThirtyEight site explains, "Party elites use endorsements to influence not only voters but also each other, hoping to get other powerful party members to rally behind the candidate they think would be most acceptable." In other words, just as there is "the money primary" there is also the "Democratic Party elites primary." Just as the major donors tend to have their own reasons for favoring one candidate over another, so do the Democratic Party elites.

Note that Booker and Kobuchar, who rank number one and three respectively with endorsements, rank 5 and 6 in fundraising, 7 and 8 in popularity, and 8 and 10 in number of donors.

So far this blog has focused on candidates. There is another factor that should be relevant to voters, but is often overlooked. That is: if your candidate were to win the general election, and become president, which of their past experiences and skills give you some confidence they will be able to not only win election as president but be able to function with competence as president? That is the subject of the blog post "Presidential Experience," April 28, 2019.

Am I interested in "the issues," the new (and old) ideas being put forth by the candidates? You bet I am. I love to learn about new public policy ideas, research and write about them, and think up new ones of my own. I've spent much of my life doing just that.

Candidate Andrew Yang has a "platform" (scroll down his "policies" page) that looks like it has about 100 such proposals. I'll probably look through all of them at some point.

There will be something connected to this blog post about policy if this post becomes an ongoing project.

I care about a candidate's intelligence, their curiosity, their creativity. But more than their creative ideas, what I want to know is their understanding of the processes that can transform those ideas into a reality that has a positive impact on people's lives.

As I have put the question to every presidential candidate I have talked to during the past 40 years or so, "Why are coal miners going to be safer in the mines with you in the White House?" along with similar questions. In other words, "I like your proposals, but how are you going to make them happen when they will be so strongly opposed by the major donors to the House and Senate members whom you'll have to persuade to vote for them?"

It's relatively easy to come up with new ideas, even very popular new ideas -- especially if you have a research team to write them and they're tested with polling and focus groups before you reveal what they are, and you're able to follow the advice to "be sincere, even if you don't mean it." What's far from easy is having a Lyndon Johnson's knowledge of what it takes to translate those ideas into legislation that one can get through the House and Senate and still win reelection. Get your candidate to talk about that.

Meanwhile, I'll inform myself regarding what the candidates are proposing. It may reveal something about their background, values, process and focus. I just won't, ultimately, end up endorsing anyone based on their stump speeches alone.

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