What we learned from the Democrats’ big weekend in Minneapolis

By now you’ve read accounts of the big national political event that unfolded in Minneapolis Friday, a meeting of the Democratic National Committee addressed by four of the five declared Dem presidential candidates. For MinnPost, Cyndy Brucato more than ably covered the speeches (and the “media availabilities” in which each candidate took reporters’ questions within moments after those events concluded) in real time Friday. Her accounts (of Hillary Clinton and Lincoln Chafee and Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley) went up Friday.

All of which frees me up to make a few observations on the day.

Hillary Clinton

Clinton remains the prohibitive favorite to be the nominee. She is playing it safe and smart and that, of course, is something a lot of leftier liberals dislike about her. She’s cautious and conventional (except that, by her gender, her candidacy represents the possibility of a historic breakthrough, which for many voters may take the edge off the “conventional” issue).

Her presentation Friday was smart and strong and — as is usual in her campaign so far — lacking in the kind of specific policy commitments that some people (I’m in this category) want to hear from a presidential candidate.

She favors creating an economy in which everyone has an “equal shot at success,” and says that “a full-time minimum wage can’t lift you out of poverty.” (But it’s Sanders who says the minimum wage should be $15 an hour, by federal mandate.) She’s worried about student debt because it prevents kids from getting through college or leaves them indebted in ways that crush their post-college years. (But it’s Sanders who calls for public universities and colleges to be tuition free.)

She constantly asserts progressive goals, some of them very progressive sounding but hopelessly amorphous. An example from Friday’s speech: “My whole life, I worked to even the odds for people who have the odds stacked against them.” What will she do to even those odds? For the most part, details to come later.

She flashes a combative streak, taunting the gigantic Republican field. (“They all sound like Donald Trump, without the pizazz or the hair.”) She says Republicans like to accuse her of “playing the gender card,” and replies: “If equal pay for equal work is playing the gender card, then deal me in.” If Trump would like to debate issues of women’s health care with her, “that’s a general election debate that’s going to be a lot of fun.”

It feels to me as if she is doing everything to create a world in which she is already the nominee, and she is rehearsing killer lines that she will use against whichever pitiful troglodyte the Repubs put up against her. But she is looking past her intraparty rivals.

Hillary Clinton speaking
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Hillary Clinton doing everything to create a world in which she is already the nominee.

Maybe this is the perfect strategy. History suggests that when there is a clear frontrunner for the nomination, that person almost always ends up as the nominee. Mitt Romney. John McCain. John Kerry was the frontrunner in ‘04 before Howard Dean briefly replaced him, but in the end Kerry was nominee. If you go back further, you’ll mostly see the person who was the media’s frontrunner, and the money and organization frontrunner, and the résumé frontrunner a year before the primaries begin ends up as the nominee. The exceptions are actually fairly few, although the frontrunner often goes through a period where the impression of inevitability is temporarily shattered. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton in 2008 was one of the exceptions. But back on the first hand, by money and organization and endorsements and experience, Clinton in 2015 looks like one of the most dominant frontrunners ever.  

So maybe Democrats who are focused on the electability issue should be glad she isn’t engaging with Sanders and saying things to compete for leftier liberal votes that will make it harder for her to compete for moderate swing voters in the fall. Maybe it’s best for an incoming president to have as few concrete policy promises as possible to preserve flexibility to respond to the possibilities that present themselves. But for those who crave those kind of policy proposals, she is frustrating.

At the end of Friday’s presentation, she talked about being a grandmother and wanting every opportunity to be open for little Charlotte. But then she always says (she said it Friday, but I’ve heard it from her often) that every child should have the same opportunities. It’s a lovely thought. But every time I hear it I think that either she is suggesting a radical, revolutionary leveling of all the privileges that come to being born wealthy and connected in America, or she is just saying something that sounds great, something that she knows no one could possibly take seriously, unless she was advocating for a revolution.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders is following the opposite strategy, if you can even call it a “strategy.” He does use the word “revolution.” A lot.

He is arguing for a set of policies — pretty darn concrete policies — that are left of anything usually advocated by serious candidates in the mainstream of the U.S. two-party system. (In some technical sense, he is not a part of that two-party system, since he has never identified himself as a Democrat. But he is seeking the Dem nomination. Of course, the fact that he has identified himself with the term “democratic socialist” for decades will be used as a club by Republicans if he ends up on the ticket.)

In his presentation, he wasted little time on charm or humor or poetic language. His demeanor is sometimes described as “grumpy.” It’s safe to say that his material is not developed to reassure moderate swing voters.

He surely knows that his association with ideas that are considered radical in the traditional American policy spectrum raise in the minds of many Democrats — maybe even many who would agree with some of the proposals but want to make sure a Democrat occupies the Oval Office in 2017 — that he would be unelectable.

Sanders devoted a big chunk of his speech Friday to answering that criticism without acknowledging it. He embraced the conventional wisdom that Republicans benefit from low-turnout elections while Democrats benefit from high turnouts. The 2014 Dem disaster — with Republicans making large gains in both houses of Congress and controlling both — was all about a very low turnout. The Repubs didn’t win it, he said, the Dems lost it by not energizing a different set of swing voters — not the ones who swing between Dems and Repubs, but the ones who swing between voting and not voting. He said most of those (and he’s right about this), when they do vote, vote for Democrats.

“Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate or the House, unless we generate excitement and momentum and produce a huge voter turnout.”

Without mentioning Clinton by name, he argued that her cautious style (“the same old same-old”) will not do it. “We do not need more establishment politics or establishment economics,” he said.

The candidate who can generate the kind of turnout needed, he said, is his own candidacy, which has already shocked the political establishment by the turnout for his rallies. More than 100,000 people have signed up as volunteers. Although he hasn’t raised the huge figures Clinton has, Sanders argued, he has actually had more donors — he claimed 400,000 have contributed. It’s just that the average amount given by his donors is $31.20, because he is not the candidate of the “millionaires and billionaires.”

Why is he able to attract new voters and activists? Because “our grassroots campaign is calling for a political revolution.” Yes, he is calling for a “revolution,” a pretty hot word in U.S. political rhetoric. Yes, true, he’s calling for a peaceful revolution accomplished through the ballot box, but it’s nonetheless a revolution that has a large quotient of class conflict.

In short, the very qualities that many Democrats fear would make Sanders unelectable, he insists is his case for electability.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Sen. Bernie Sanders wasted little time on charm or humor or poetic language.

Said Sanders: “The people of our country understand that given the collapse of the American middle class, and given the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing, we do not need more establishment politics or establishment economics. … What we need is a political movement prepared to take on the billionaire class and create a government which works for all of us, and not just corporate America and a handful of the wealthiest people in this country.

“We need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of that establishment,” Sanders said in a clear if implicit reference to Clinton. “We need a movement that tells corporate America and the wealthiest people in this country that they will start paying their fair share of taxes. We will end the insanity of living in a country where the top one tenth of 1 percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That is not the kind of economy we want.”

Of course, every Democrat engages in populist rhetoric (although this is more radical-sounding than most). But Sanders takes positions, concrete policy positions, that explain how he would like to implement this revolution through legislation that, presumably, he would hope to sign as president. It really is not normal for a candidate to be this concrete. Here are some of the positions he took, with impressively little wiggle room:

He favors defeating the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and the Keystone Pipeline. He calls the current federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) “a “starvation wage” and wants to more than double it over a period of years to “15 bucks.” He called several things about the U.S. status quo a “disgrace.” One of them is that on average women make 78 cents for every dollar made by men. He pledges to reach “pay equality.”

He called it an “international embarrassment” that the United States is the only “major country” that does not provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. He would mandate that.

To tackle unemployment (which Sanders said is really 10 percent if you count discouraged workers who have stopped looking for jobs or who are working part-time and want to work full-time, and which he said is over 50 percent among black youth), he advocates a “massive federal jobs program to rebuild our public infrastructure, our roads and our bridges.” He said he would “create millions of jobs rebuilding our infrastructure, and I intend to do that.”

He wants the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision overturned, pledges not to appoint any new Supreme Court justices who are not committed to do that and says that the political movement he envisions “tells the Koch Brothers and the billionaire class that they will not be able to continue to buy candidates and elections.”

He promises to oppose the forms of what he calls “voter suppression” (mostly various measures that make it harder to register and vote) and thunders: “If a politician is too cowardly to face the vote, if a politician thinks they must suppress the vote in order to win, that politician should get another job.”

By the way, about that idea of free college education at all public universities, he says he would pay for that “by imposing a Wall Street speculation tax.” He said he has already introduced legislation to this effect, a bill that also reduces interest rates on student debt.

Sanders did vote for the Affordable Care Act, although he always favored something much closer to a single-payer system like Canada’s, which covers everyone at government expense. While other liberals are focused on preventing the Republican repeal of Obamacare, Sanders still says “we can live in a country where health care is a right for all people.”

In a way, that last one characterizes the Sanders moment. With Republicans still demanding repeal of Obamacare, most Dems and most liberals are anxious to block them. Sanders favors what, by U.S. standards, would be a radical step beyond Obamacare. (Although by the standards of other wealthy industrialized nations, it is not radical at all.)

Is America ready to break the limits of conventional U.S. liberalism? Will voters follow a grumpy Vermonter with a New York accent who would be 75 on Inauguration Day 2016 down that path? Seems pretty unlikely, but it seems we’re going to find out. A new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll indicates that Clinton’s lead, among Iowa Democrats, which was by a 41-point margin in May (57-16 percent), is down to seven points (37-30).

Martin O’Malley

O’Malley’s speech to the DNC was a revelation, at least to me. Compared to Clinton and Sanders, he has received only a fraction of the attention and registers almost nothing in polls. I thought he rocked the room. He visibly ticked off DNC Chair (and Florida U.S. Rep.) Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Two things jumped out. He is willing to denounce the Republican field in stronger, harsher terms than any of the others, terms that almost certainly thrilled the assembled Democrats. On the other hand, he is accusing the party leadership of rigging the nomination race for Clinton, specifically by limiting the number of debates.

I guess I agree with O’Malley about the debates (although many cycles of wanting debates to be more edifying than they ever are has undermined my enthusiasm for them). And O’Malley, I should add, has — to his credit — exceeded all the other candidates in putting out substantive policy-position papers. To read them go to his campaign website and pull down the menu under “vision.”

But for me, O’Malley’s “more debates” argument interfered with his strength on Friday, which was the strength, humor, outrage and eloquence of his attack on the Repubs. Here’s some of what the call-out-the-Repubs part sounded like (I took it from the prepared text, but it was very effective from the stage, and the statements below are aggregated from various portions of O’Malley’s remarks):

“I — for one — will not remain silent in the face of the lies, … the distortions, … and the racist hate being pumped out over the airwaves from the debate podiums of the once proud Republican Party!

“Let their party be led by a hate-spewing carnival barker!

“Now in an ongoing series of debates, the party of Lincoln is led by Donald Trump. Donald Trump whose deep understanding of the law is such that last week he said part of the Constitution is unconstitutional. Donald Trump whose foreign policy insights are, he said, based entirely on what he’s seen on TV …

“You could easily have mistaken their debate for a reality TV show, like ‘Survivor.’ But the difference between the Republican debate and ‘Survivor’ is that one involves contrived challenges and oddball contestants on the edge of sanity, while the other takes place on an island …

“The Republicans stand before the nation, malign our president’s record of achievements, denigrate women and immigrant families, double-down on trickle-down, and tell their false story … 

Martin O'Malley speaking
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Martin O’Malley was willing to denounce the Republican field in stronger, harsher terms than any of the others.

“The leading Republican candidate talks openly about forced expulsions and taking away the birthright of American-born children, and we turn the Democratic Party into ‘the appalling silence of the good.’ ” (That last “appalling silence” bit, by the way, is a quote from Martin Luther King.)

“Their party’s leading candidate scapegoats immigrant families. He launches racist attacks on entire ethnic groups of Americans — to the delight of David Duke and other white supremacists —  and our response … is to limit debates?”

But O’Malley’s positive vision, even his colorful denunciation of the other party, were significantly undermined by the fact that his main message was a demand for more Dem debates.

This cycle the DNC has taken an unprecedented level of control of the debate schedule and has sanctioned a total of six debates, four of them occurring before the Iowa caucuses. Here’s O’Malley denouncing the DNC on that score:

“Four debates and only four debates — we are told not asked — before voters in our earliest states make their decision … . This is totally unprecedented in our party. … This sort of rigged process has never been attempted before. … Whose decree is it? Where did it come from? To what end? For what purpose? What national or party interest does this decree serve? How does this help us tell the story of the last eight years of Democratic progress? How does this promote our Democratic ideas for making wages and household incomes go up again and not down? How does this help us make our case to the people? Is this how the Democratic Party selects its nominee, or are we becoming something else … something less? … Will we let the circus run unchallenged on every channel, as we cower in the shadows under a decree of silence in the ranks? Or will we demand equal time to showcase our ideas, our solutions to the nation’s problems, and our leadership for the better America we carry in hearts?”

As delivered by O’Malley, his two main themes were constantly interspersed. He never went more than a line or two about his own proposals or about his views of the Republicans without inserting a demand for more debates. He didn’t say so during his talk Friday, but when asked by reporters he specified that he believed the limit on debates was rigged to help Clinton.

I’m not sure others felt this way, but for me, irrespective of how many debates you might think are ideal, O’Malley was making a self-serving argument because he doesn’t believe he can get the attention he needs without more debates. But he made a big impression and, I suppose, if he could make it to a national television audience in a few debates, maybe he could shake up the race for the nomination.

Sanders, by the way, when asked at his media availability, said that he too favors more debates. But he didn’t mention it in his own speech and his candidacy obviously — compared to O’Malley’s — is thriving without the debates.

Lincoln Chafee

The fourth candidate who appeared Friday was former Gov. and Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Scion of a distinguished Rhode Island Republican family from back in the days when New England Republicans were often quite liberal, he is now a Democrat but has been elected to office as a Republican and an independent.

I’m not sure who thinks Chafee has a chance to become the Dem nominee for president or how, but he did make an interesting comment (during his media availability) about why he had shown up at a DNC meeting. He noted that there is little or no precedent in recent history for a brokered convention or even a second ballot, but that in such a scenario the DNC members — who are also superdelegates — can play a big role, so he wanted to make sure and meet them and show them his political wares.

Personally, I find Chafee affably authentic and charming and even modest (if it’s possible to be modest and still offer yourself for president). He almost seems to have wandered in out of a Frank Capra movie. In judging a candidate for president, he says, you should think about his record, his character and his vision for the future.

As far as his record, he mentions that in 2003 he was the only Senate Republican to vote against authorizing the Iraq war, a fact he always brings up (and is not above pointing out that Hillary Clinton voted to authorize it). Sanders, who was then in the House, also voted no. Chafee also notes that he voted against George W. Bush’s “tax cuts for the rich.” He says Rhode Island’s economy prospered during his term as governor.

Lincoln Chafee speaking
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Lincoln Chafee mentioned that in 2003 he was the only Senate Republican to vote against authorizing the Iraq war.

On his “character” he mentions a few things, including that he has had “no scandals.” Later, the media asked him if that was any kind of backhanded shot at Clinton. He says nope and, likably, acknowledges that a no-scandal record involves a lot of luck for a governor who makes many appointments and can get dragged into something scandalous by his appointees.  

When asked whether he joined the other non-Clinton candidates in demanding more debates, Chafee said six seemed fine, noting that “Lincoln and Douglas only had five.” (He didn’t note that those debates were when they ran against each other for U.S. Senate.)

Some footnotes

The fifth declared Dem candidate for president, former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, was the only no-show. Wasserman Schultz announced that he was taking his daughter to college that weekend. I’m pretty sure he made the right choice.

Rabbi Michael Latz of Minneapolis congregation Shir Tikvah gave the benediction before the start of the morning business session and managed (in an unusually long benediction) to mix a huge amount of Old Testament-infused godliness with a lengthy discussion of the murder of Emmett Till. Till was a black child from Chicago who was murdered for whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955. Friday was the 60th anniversary of Till’s death. When Latz finished his benediction, instead of an “amen” the assembled Democrats gave him a standing ovation. Wasserman Schultz commented that she had never before seen a standing ovation for a benediction. Nor have I.

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Comments (57)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/31/2015 - 11:32 am.

    If Hillary is the nominee

    the democrats will lose, regardless of who the republicans run against her. That’s why there’s 17 people who are clamoring for the republican nomination. They know she can’t win and the republican nomination is a free ticket to the presidency.

    Politicians don’t recover from being so far under water in terms of likability and trustworthiness. It’s why an inexperienced, unaccomplished community organizer from Chicago managed to wrestle the nomination away from her in 2008.

    That’s why party insiders are panicking, limiting debates and clamoring for Sanders, Biden, Gore, anybody, who can come in off the bench and fill in for the empress with no clothes other than the proverbial orange jumpsuit.

    The question for democrats is, has her “inevitability” reached such a momentum that there’s no stopping the train … as it heads off the trestle. We shall see.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/31/2015 - 02:07 pm.

      Said by Mr. Tester…

      Said by Mr. Tester with the same conviction and certainty as when describing the inevitable Romney victory of 2012. Income disparity over the past 30 years will be the defining issue of this election, not who had the most secure email server or who can build the longest and tallest walls. The final Republican candidate will have their own rational and solution for income disparity and ask for votes based on that. As will Ms. Clinton, if she is the nominee. The Republican solution will necessarily follow their core beliefs of reduced taxes and favored benefits for those at the top and income disparity will be solved by “trickle down” on steroids. Which, of course is nonsense and why we have had 30 years of growing income disparity in the first place. Ms. Clinton will take the opposite tack and sound a lot more like Bernie Sanders than any recent Democratic nominee. And that will lead her to victory and she can thank, in part, Bernie Sanders for leading the way on the true fixes for income disparity: higher base wages for all through a higher minimum wage and significant infrastructure investment creating high paying jobs, educational opportunity for all without 30 years of debt resolution, a 50 year fix and increase for Social Security and a fair and workable solution to immigration. Sorry Mr. Tester, Hillary may have those unfavorables to overcome; but, she enjoys the facts on the ground and you had better get used to saying: “Madam President”.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 08/31/2015 - 06:49 pm.

      Perhaps you should explain to us, Dennis

      why she still leads every GOP contender in head to head match ups and favorability ratings?

  2. Submitted by Sue Halligan on 08/31/2015 - 11:50 am.

    Better Summary

    Thank you, Mr. Black, for a much more substantive account of the speeches given Friday than that by Cyndy Brucato last week. I was at the afternoon session (couldn’t get into the morning one) and agree with your assessment of both Bernie Sanders (I’m one of those who has signed up to volunteer) and Martin O’Malley. I’m aware that the chances of “the grumpy Vermonter” winning the nomination are slim, but he’s speaking for me when he campaigns. Both he and O’Malley had me on my feet many times during their addresses, so I would say they both rocked the room. Until hearing O’Malley speak, I had been unaware of the plan to limit the number of Democratic candidate debates, and I think his indignation was soundly based. I only hope it will prove productive in changing those plans.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/31/2015 - 12:24 pm.

    I always get nervous….

    When democrats pretend they know who is and is not “electable”. They didn’t think Obama, Franken, or Dayton were “electable”, and they were convinced that all the guys that have lost in the last 40 years were the most electable candidates they had. Instead of thinking about who they want to vote for, they think they can figure out who other people will vote for… and that frequently blows up in their faces.

    Moderation would have been a good idea in the 80s… we got Reagan. Since then we’ve been sliding into a right-wing fanatasy world and “moderation” will longer suffice. Meeting in the middle and doing less than we need to do is no longer a viable option, our window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

    The problem with American liberals is they decided back in the 70s that we can just tweak our way out of major problems without doing anything “drastic”. That mentality has led to decades of decline and stagnation at a time when we should have made huge strides forward. For decades we’ve been sitting on perfectly good and workable liberal policies that would have resolved problems ranging from air quality to education because democrats thought moderate tweaks were more “workable” than actual solutions. Whatever.

    So I read an article like this, like one I’ve read a thousand times over the last 40 years, and I always just want to ask: “why are liberals so afraid… of being liberal?” Liberal works. Liberal got women the vote, workers rights, prevented another great depression, built the best public education system in the world (until liberals decided to privatize it), etc. You guys say you’re afraid of losing an election… and then you lose anyways. Look, it’s not about whether or not the democrats win, it’s about whether or the people win. It doesn’t do us any good to have democrats win if the nation’s still gonna lose.

    It’s like our last election cycle, democrats ran the table, they could’ve fixed the transportation budget for decades, they could’ve dumped millions of needed funding into infrastructure, but then they decided they were afraid of “blowback”, they lose elections… so they pulled and left their work unfinished… and then lost anyways and now we’re stuck with same damn problems they promised to resolve. What’s the point? Better to have resolved our problems and lost the election than to lose the election anyways and leave the problems unresolved.

    So now you want me to vote for Hillary Clinton, the poster child of NOT moving the ball forward… because it’s a “win” for democrats? Here’s a better idea: Why don’t YOU vote Sanders and we’ll actually move the ball forward and resolve some of these problems instead of leaving a big giant unresolvable mess to future generations? Wouldn’t it be funny if liberals actually acted like liberals for a change?

    • Submitted by Paul Harvey on 08/31/2015 - 02:45 pm.

      Yes, Hillary (or Bernie, or Martin, or Lincoln, or Jim) in 2016

      I intend to vote, and work for, any Democrat that wins the nomination, any of whom will “move the ball forward” compared to any Republican running. Criticisms from the left of Hillary (and of Obama, all too common from many Sanders supporters) have an air of unreality about them, as if a President acts within a political context solely of his (or her) own making. Thus, for example, the stimulus bill in 2009 is judged to have been too small, or worse, too timid, which conveniently ignores that the bill needed Republican support in the Senate to overcome an expected filibuster and the 3 Republican supporters would vote only for a smaller bill.

      Will Hillary move the ball forward? She was instrumental in promoting a national healthcare bill during her husband’s administration; she is not necessarily averse to bolder policy moves. But even if you’re not convinced, a President makes countless decisions over the course of four years, as do his or her appointees: know that the ball will be moved forward under a Democratic presidency, in myriad ways, ways we may not realize nor remember. It would move even further with a Democratic Congress. In short, go ahead and support Bernie or whoever you believe can win, but I hope you will also support whomever the eventual nominee turns out to be, and not sit out the Presidential race in a self-defeating fit of pique.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/31/2015 - 04:18 pm.

        Unreal realpolitic

        “Thus, for example, the stimulus bill in 2009 is judged to have been too small, or worse, too timid, which conveniently ignores that the bill needed Republican support in the Senate to overcome an expected filibuster and the 3 Republican supporters would vote only for a smaller bill.”

        The only reason senate democrats had to worry about republican filibusters is they allowed faux-filibustering, they could’ve and should’ve changed rules ran the table. The reason they failed, and the nation suffered is because the had some fantasy that they could get republican support. The stimulus WAS too small, etc. etc.

        Sure, Clinton would better than Trump or Walker, but so would anyone, you keep thinking you can throw the weakest liberal you’ve got into the fray and count on progressive votes… and then you lose. There’s nothing “unreal” about wealth disparity, student debt, racism, sexism, crumbling infrastructures, increasingly polluted environments, and gun violence. Nor is there anything unreal about our prison populations or the failure to graduate students with critical thinking skills. ALL of these problems are decades old and not only have democrats failed to move the ball forward, it’s rolled backwards. You run candidates that won’t even consider liberal agendas and then complain about how hard it is to promote a liberal agenda. Whatever.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/31/2015 - 06:23 pm.


          I thought Jason said it was the Conservatives that supposedly rant about the dire straits our country is in. I will never understand why the far Right and far Left folks keep looking for bad news when we live in a super country where billions of other humans would love to live. Oh well !!!

          God Bless America !!!

          • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 08/31/2015 - 09:02 pm.

            …in Order to form a more perfect Union…….

            …pursuit of happiness….(“the pursuit of happiness” means something like occupying one’s life with the activities that provide for overall wellbeing. This certainly includes a right to material things, but it goes beyond that to include humanity’s spiritual and moral condition.)

            Refinement, John, not debasement.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/01/2015 - 08:08 am.

              Refinement would mean a vote for Hillary or Jeb. All the folks on the far Right and far Left who are calling for “Revolution” seem to want something more drastic.

              Since our recipe is pretty good right now, I happily support gridlock and refinement. Thank heavens the 2 extreme positions seem to balance each other out.

          • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/31/2015 - 10:26 pm.


            John you need to pay more attention to your 17 presidential aspirants. Never before has the drumbeat of disaster been so loudly beaten. Even Donald Trump runs around in $5,000 suits and a $9.95 hat telling us to make America great again. Bernie Sanders is much more about ideas to make things better than any of the Republican candidates who care much more about convincing us how bad it is than doing something about it. Their new ideas are so pitiful we’re now talking about a wall in ND to stop Canadian hockey players from wet backing it into UND. If Obama, Boehner, McConnell, Reid, Pelosi and Biden all got together and agreed on a 90 day plan to say only nice things about each other, complete a few compromise measures and tell the rest of us: “These are the good old days” all of their approval ratings would double (quadruple in terms of the House and Senate). Right track /wrong track polls would swing way to right track, people would feel good about our direction and investors would jump at the chance to pour money into this new found optimism. This could really happen if our politicians cared more about doing their jobs than protecting their jobs.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 09/01/2015 - 01:11 pm.

            I despise that phrase….

            God HAS blessed America. What God should be doing is blessing countries with people living in squalor, disease and hopelessness. When kids are scrounging to eat what we would throw away, I’d say that God has blessed this country way too much, and others not nearly enough.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/01/2015 - 09:08 pm.


              We definitely are an amazing and unique country. We have a mixed economy that rewards those who work, learn, save and invest We provide for those who are truly unlucky / needy, both citizens and legal immigrants We repeatedly reach out to help people in other countries without striving to conquer them.

              I hope that God continues to approve of our choices and continues to bless us. That way we can continue to help those who are less fortunate. A weak/poor country has little ability to help others.

              That is my biggest fear. The DSA and Far Left supporters will strive to kill the Golden Goose while looking for that treasure trove of golden eggs to distribute arbitrarily.

              • Submitted by jason myron on 09/02/2015 - 11:07 am.

                The only faction

                that’s killing the “golden goose” are oligarchs and capitalists that plunder this country for every drop of its natural resources and manpower for a profit no matter what the cost. And I would rather see those countries enjoy a better standard of living on their own, rather than rely on us to throw them a bone just to keep up the myth of our exceptionalism and provide some of us with an opportunity to look down on the rest of the world in order to feel superior.

          • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/01/2015 - 05:21 pm.

            Billions of other human beings?

            That may have been true in the past, but it no longer is.

            In general, people from Canada, western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and other rich countries enjoy coming for a visit but are happy with going home again. How often do you hear of illegal immigrants from Canada?

            You may have noticed that most of our immigration nowadays is from countries that are either very poor or war-torn, and that Canada and Australia are just as much immigrant magnates as the U.S. is. Percentage of immigrants in the U.S.: about 13%. Percentage in Canada: about 20%, in Australia about 28%. Granted, they are starting with smaller populations, but they are rapidly diversifying. In both countries, the main sources of immigration are the UK and China, but there are also 250,000 Americans living in Canada and 72,000 in Australia. Our main sources of immigrants are Mexico, India, China, and the Philippines.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/01/2015 - 11:20 pm.

              Yes Billions

              The countries you noted account for a small portion of the people on this globe. And yes they are fortunate also.

              As a friend told me about looking at other companies and seeing “greener pastures”… He would say “they just moved the brown spots”. By the way, I loved traveling Europe and Canada for work. And yet I was still very thankful to get back to the USA… I think that is pretty typical for many people. “There is no place like home.”

              And since most of my co-workers and customers are middle to upper middle class. Hearing about their high taxes and governmental service challenges help convince me that they have brown spots a plenty also.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/31/2015 - 06:16 pm.

        Cut the Nose Off

        My very Conservative parents swear that Romney lost in 2012 because the far right stayed home since Romney was such a moderate. I find the idea of the fringe voters staying home because their fringe candidate got bounced by the party majority fascinating….

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/31/2015 - 03:54 pm.

    Hillary and the three mouths

    Hillary is most likely the candidate — it will take more than the email kerfluffle to change that.
    If I wasn’t sure of that already, the fact that Dennis thinks she will lose convinces me that she’s a winner. It’s becoming more and more obvious that the reason that there are so many Republican candidates is that none of them are making a convincing case that they could either win or govern. If that wasn’t true before Trumpet, it is now.
    Sanders, O’Malley and Chafee are all good men with good things to say, and I’m glad they got a chance to say it. It’s their fifteen minutes of fame.
    What makes the Democratic field different from the GOP is that most of Sanders, et. al.’s supporters will support Hillary in the election. A few might sit on their hands, but none will vote Republican. The Republicans will see to that. If people don’t vote for Hillary, they’ll vote against Bush (or whoever).
    Maybe in another eight years the Republicans (or the Trumpsters) will have a chance.

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 08/31/2015 - 04:27 pm.

    What we learned…

    We also learned that there is not a whole lot of high-profile people moving into viability as candidates for 2020 or 2024, depending on what happens.

    I see Hillary Clinton as a vulnerable candidate who will require a strong VP to help overcome the issues–where are plausible VP candidates (or are those assumed to be the other candidates)?

  6. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 08/31/2015 - 04:56 pm.

    Bernie Sanders represents a rhetorical corrective in our politics: It will be more Okay to be liberal, even socialist, after people get used to hearing him calmly and rationally state that, yes, he is a socialist, and what that really means.

    We should all send him a bit of campaign money, to make sure he’s able to say in this race.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/31/2015 - 06:29 pm.

      I Agree

      I remember the first time I described the far Left commenters here as Democratic Socialists. They denied it and insisted that I was wrong. I think the folks on the far Left will likely become more comfortable with that description after supporting Bernie.


      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 09/01/2015 - 09:30 am.

        Far left?

        Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, Ethanol subsidies, the list goes on of democratic socialist programs supported and expanded by politicians of every stripe, left and right: including GWB and his signature social democrat program: Medicare Part D. I don’t see Bernie Sanders campaigning to nationalize Apple, MicroSoft or Ford. He is just ahead of the curve on practical things that initially are labeled as the final step to Communism and later found on banners at Tea Party rallies: “Keep your hands off my Social Security”. In 20 years Republican candidates will routinely campaign on their steadfast support of ObamaCare. Of course, if there still is a Republican Party. Can you say: “Trumplican Party”? He does like his name in lights.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/01/2015 - 01:54 pm.

          Amount of Alignment

          Technically Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, etc are all simply mandatory participation savings and/or insurance plans. If the payroll tax rate had been higher or the benefits lower, most people would not be concerned about them. They contribute, then they receive back.

          It is only the continual desire by the Left to remove the premium (payroll tax) maximum amount and their desire to cut/tax benefits to the wealthier recipients that would make them truly socialistic tools. Wealthy would pay more and get less or none.

          ACA, Welfare, Medicaid, Highly progressive tax rates, etc are backed by the DSA and like minded folks because they truly exist to arbitrarily transfer wealth between citizens. Which is a very socialistic concept.

          My point is that the far Left folks are a lot more aligned with the DSA than folks on the far Right. The GOP has it’s Tea Partiers and the Democrats have their Socialists… Is that hard to agree with?

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/01/2015 - 02:39 pm.


            Since there is a Tea Party but not a Socialist Party.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/01/2015 - 03:19 pm.

              Bernie and DSA

              Bernie and the DSA would beg to differ with you. Just curious. Why do you think it is so hard for the folks on the far Left to admit they are Democratic Socialists? The folks on the far Right are proud to be Capitalists.

              My furthest Left commenter on G2A willingly admits that she supports many of the positions held by Democratic Socialists. But she is a rare and special person and I respect her for that.

              • Submitted by jason myron on 09/01/2015 - 07:53 pm.


                a more appropriate question, given the rise of Donald Trump, is why can’t the “far right” admit that they’ve embraced racism, bigotry and xenophobia as core tenets of their political ideology? As for your one resident commenter, why in the world would you consider her a bellwether for what the Democratic party stands for?

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/02/2015 - 08:34 am.

                  I agree that there is a large mix of people who support the GOP party, some minority of them likely are racists, bigots and xenophobes. However I am not sure supporting Trump means that they support the negative things you listed. Likely you see racism and bigotry in many places where it is not present.

                  You may see being anti-affirmative action, anti-welfare fraud and supporting intense law enforcement in high crime areas as being racist. Whereas I see them as the opposite because it means that everyone is being treated equal, not being treated different because of their race.

                  I don’t think Laurie stands for the whole Democratic party, I think she represents the far Left portion of the Democratic party quite well.

                  • Submitted by jason myron on 09/02/2015 - 10:09 am.

                    Well, John

                    Perhaps you should acquaint yourself with the latest PPP poll that spells out how racist and xenophobic the party, and specifically Trump supporters, have become.


                    66% of his supporters think that Obama is a Muslim. 61% think he wasn’t born in the US and 63% want to amend the constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship. I don’t have to imagine the xenophobia, it’s there plain as day.

                    And once again, you probably need to bone up on a statistics class if you think one person is representative of anything other than an opinion..

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/02/2015 - 12:34 pm.

                      Xenophobia: fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign

                      How again do those answers translate into the above?

                      I think eliminating the Birthright Citizenship is to reduce the motivation for pregnant women to risk themselves and their baby to get the baby born in the USA… It is an odd rule that allows intentional border violators to have an American child.

                    • Submitted by jason myron on 09/02/2015 - 07:39 pm.

                      Fear is fear, John

                      Obviously it has become a core tenet to today’s conservative. Fear of change, other races, religions, sexual orientations, etc. Did you actually read the poll? You mention immigration yet breeze past the startling, sad fact that a vast number of your party, including elected leaders, think our president is a Muslim and wasn’t born in this country. Does that not bother you?

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/02/2015 - 12:40 pm.

                      Just Curious

                      Would you just open the broders to every human that could get a plane, train, car, boat, mule, bike, walk, etc here?

                      I actually am a big fan of more legal immigration and visiting with people in other countries. However I am for strong border security and deporting quickly those who violate them. Is this what you mean by xenophobic?

                    • Submitted by jason myron on 09/02/2015 - 07:34 pm.

                      Even more curious

                      is trying to figure out how supporting the 14th amendment equates to supporting completely open borders. Please point me in the direction of where I advocated that.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/02/2015 - 11:15 pm.


                      You have accused the GOP supporters of many things here, including racism and xenophobia.

                      I am curious what they would need to do to prove to you that you are incorrect regarding the majority of them? I don’t see securing the borders and deporting every illegal alien as xenophobia or racism, I simply see it as enforcing our borders, the law and protecting the jobs of our low skill/ low academic workers.

                      So what do you want to see happen?

                    • Submitted by jason myron on 09/03/2015 - 11:50 am.

                      I’m not incorrect.

                      Listen to the rhetoric of the group you have vying for the nomination of your party. Listen to the rhetoric spewed out by their followers. Deporting “every illegal” is a pipe dream. It’s never going to happen. It would take decades and billions of dollars. And spare me me the pablum that you want to “protect the jobs of our low skill/ low academic workers.” We both know that has nothing to do with ‘protecting our borders” and everything to do with keeping a predominately white status quo.
                      As I pointed out before, Obama has deported way more illegals than the Bush administration. What we should be doing is spending those billion on devising programs and providing education to turn those “low skill/low academic workers” that you love to look down your nose at every day, into highly skilled, marketable individuals.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/04/2015 - 07:45 am.

                      Directionally Correct and Horses

                      You apparently have a gift for reading minds and intent. As far as I have heard folks are only talking about “illegal immigrants”. You know those folks who budged in front of legal immigrants and illegally violated the US border. And yes there are some bad folks on both sides of this discussion, but I believe most just want the law enforced. As I am reminded often, the business owners like low priced help.

                      As for educating… You can bring a horse to water but you can not make them drink. We spend almost a trillion dollars per year on public education. Spending more is not the answer, somehow these folks need to want to learn.

            • Submitted by jason myron on 09/01/2015 - 04:36 pm.

              Not to mention

              that most of us don’t equate taxation with piracy.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/01/2015 - 09:35 am.

        Except that

        Bernie Sanders has said little about socialism (democratic or otherwise) since he started running for President. Most of what he is proposing now is more an extension of The New Deal and The Great Society than European Democratic Socialism.
        The heart of socialism is national ownership of resources and production. I don’t hear anyone proposing that.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/01/2015 - 09:53 am.

          DSA Purpose

          “We are socialists because we reject an economic order based on private profit, alienated labor, gross inequalities of wealth and power, discrimination based on race and sex, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo. We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships. We are socialists because we are developing a concrete strategy for achieving that vision, for building a majority movement that will make democratic socialism a reality in America. We believe that such a strategy must acknowledge the class structure of American society and that this class structure means that there is a basic conflict of interest between those sectors with enormous economic power and the vast majority of the population.”

          • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 09/01/2015 - 12:26 pm.


            I think we can agree that GWB is likely not a card carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America. But; he did carry water for their agenda with Medicare Part D. Finding the extreme of anything and then attributing it to all whoever showed sympathy to any part of the message is lazy and sloppy. What’s next? A Hitler analogy?

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/01/2015 - 08:36 pm.

            That’s from the DSA constitution

            Not from any statement that I can find that Sanders made.
            He did recently say in an interview with George Stephanopoulos:
            “STEPHANOPOULOS: You are asking for a lot of shakeup. Is it really possible for someone who calls himself a socialist to be elected president of the United States?

            SANDERS: Well, so long as we know what democratic socialism is. And if we know that in countries, in Scandinavia, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, they are very democratic countries, obviously. The voter turnout is a lot higher than it is in the United States. In those countries, health care is the right of all people. And in those countries, college education, graduate school is free. In those countries, retirement benefits, childcare are stronger than in the United States of America. And in those countries, by and large, government works for ordinary people and the middle class, rather than, as is the case right now in our country, for the billionaire class.”

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/02/2015 - 08:44 am.

              Democratic Socialism

              I think the Far Left folks who are resistant to be labelled “Democratic Socialists” do not understand what Bernie just said.

              To me he said that many of the countries in Northern Europe are shining examples of “Democratic Socialism” in action. If you want the USA to operate like them you are probably are a Democratic Socialist supporter.

              Not sure why far Left Democrats freak out when they hear this.

  7. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 08/31/2015 - 07:22 pm.


    Very interesting so let’s summarize.

    Clinton “always says (she said it Friday, but I’ve heard it from her often) that every child should have the same opportunities. It’s a lovely thought. But every time I hear it I think that either she is suggesting a radical, revolutionary leveling of all the privileges that come to being born wealthy and connected in America, or she is just saying something that sounds great, something that she knows no one could possibly take seriously.” Summary: she will say whatever it takes even if it is complete nonsense or a lie, just to get elected.

    Sanders wants more people to vote meaning that those will be the ones who never voted meaning, in turn, that they don’t know much and don’t care much. The only way to entice them to vote is to promise them a pie in the sky and that is exactly what Sanders is doing: Let’s take money from the rich and give them to the poor. Of course, it has been tried many times and never worked (and no, Finland is so much different from America that it cannot be a shining example): USSR, Cuba, Venezuela… But he may be right that he has more chances than Clinton…

    O’Malley seems to make bashing Republicans his major public speaking approach which is simple and effective but not very decent considering that all the accusations are without merit (Trump notwithstanding). Of course, in the debate he may score more points with this approach – hence his position on it. As for his “vision,” I checked and it does not include any economic or foreign policy points which are the things most reasonable people care the most.

    And Chafee (along with Webb) is a candidate that no one knows about and no one cares to know about.

  8. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 08/31/2015 - 09:28 pm.

    How boring…

    What a way to spend a weekend – listening to a bunch of old white candidates campaign.

  9. Submitted by S.T. Malleck on 09/01/2015 - 04:00 am.

    All Democratic and Republican candidates are awful

    Bernie Sanders wants to give everybody free stuff! Woohoo! Where he’d get the money to pay for that isn’t discussed much, but if you want an idea, take a look in a mirror. At first he seems like a refreshing change from Hillary Clinton, who stands for the establishment, war, and corruption.

    But Sanders is totally clueless. He seems oblivious to the fact that the Berlin Wall fell several years ago, and that a lot of people died trying to jump over it to escape the society that he’s proposing for us. He’s basically a Communist, trying to resurrect a dead methodology that’s failed in every country that enacted what he’s proposing today.

    On the Republican side, there’s xenophobes and haters like Trump who want to build a new wall on the southern border to keep out people who just want to come here and build a better life for themselves. Trump and Sanders are two sides of the same coin.

    Good lord, could the candidates of these two dinosaur parties be any more awful?

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/02/2015 - 07:47 pm.

      You think Democratic Socialism is the same as

      East German Communism? Really?

      Have you been to Scandinavia? They live pretty well, nothing like the East German society portrayed in The Lives of Others.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 09/02/2015 - 08:06 pm.

        No comparison

        I have been to Scandinavia – actually to all four countries there. And they do live well. The problem is that there is no comparison between America and Scandinavia. They spend less than 1% for defense relying on American strength instead and they are highly homogenous societies with high work ethics. Plus, Norway may live off its oil and other countries there are beginning to see some troubles.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/02/2015 - 11:28 pm.

          Apples and Apples

          I like to compare them to Minnesota. As you say, the USA is so much more complex than those socieites. Especially with our role as World Police…

          Now if they want to compare the EU to the USA… That is getting closer and I think they have more issues than we do.

          I mean Germany, the most powerful and influential country in Europe is just a bit more complicated than California…

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/01/2015 - 06:25 am.


    The Democratic Party now reminds me of the Vikings right now. The Vikings, in recent decades have almost always made the mistaking the cautious choice with the risky choice. With a small lead, the Vikes will run the ball three times into the line, turn the ball over and the other team will score a touchdown. What they should learn is never do, is that the seemingly conservative choice, running the ball, is in fact the riskiest choice.

    Everyone tells us that Hillary is the cautious, conservative, electable choice. But what’s that based on? She is not a particularly charismatic person, she isn’t a strong orator, nor a particularly good explainer of Democratic positions and values. She has all the money in the world, but that can be a liability too, particularly in this anti establishment election. There is pretty much a consensus across the political spectrum that the people contributing and inordinate amount of money to political campaigns are the exactly the same people who should not have an inordinate influence on our politics. Campaign fundraisers are held secretly in the dark of night for very good reasons as Mitt Romney could tell you.

    And there is Hillary herself. She has a short fuse, and a tendency to let her contempt for some people show in alarming ways.Her handling of the email matter, in making the mistake in the first place and secondly, in not recognizing the seriousness of the issue, is political malpractice.

    What the Democratic Party needs to consider here is whether the end result of Hillary’s electability will be a very credible second place showing in November of 2016. If that happens, my party can look at the long history of Viking after the fact rationalizations for defeat as a guide to what to say.

  11. Submitted by joe smith on 09/01/2015 - 10:00 am.

    Taking a look at the 2 top contenders from each party in Iowa polls right now should make every American nervous. Forget the email scandal with Hillary just take a look at the decisions she made as Secretary of State. The Arab Spring, she claimed as an opening for democracy to take hold in the Mid East, all of the people there on the streets, said it was an opening for Muslim Brotherhood or other one off (ISIS) groups to take control in the vacuum. Who was right? The Russian re-set button, how’d that work out?
    Bernie Sanders is a socialist, just like Hugo Chavez, promise a chicken in every pot and then watch as the money dries up those same poor folks fight each other for scraps. Same thing in Cuba, didn’t work, can’t work.
    Trump, he like Bernie is entertaining but until he explains how he will help the middle class try to recover from the past 9 yrs of being blasted by both parties in their pocket books but used as pawns in the media, I’m a skeptic.
    Doctor Ben Carson is by far the most likable of those 4, he is thoughtful, intelligent, and extremely sincere in his beliefs. My fear is the enormity of the mess that is our Federal Government will be too much for his current staff and himself that the Republican Party steps in to “help” out. That means status quo!! That scares me!
    Who will lead us out of this malaise we are in as a country, marginal growth, middle class being pummeled, 95M out of the work force, 46M on food stamps, 7 of the 10 counties with the most growth and increase in wages in the DC area, schools failing our kids, 71% of the folks feeling the country is going in the wrong direction….. We need someone special!!

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/01/2015 - 04:44 pm.

      Too Bad

      It is too bad that Romney had that “47% moment”. I think he would have made a very good President… So far none of the current candidates impress me that much.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 09/01/2015 - 09:02 pm.

        Based on what?

        I don’t think Romney would have made a very good president at all…and 53% of the country agreed.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/01/2015 - 11:29 pm.

          I agree

          That “47%” comment did sway many people. And there is no point commenting on his strengths. It is history and you would disagree.

          I had a related question for you from another post. What do you consider a “moderate”? See the Sponsorship Analysis graphs for a point of reference.



          • Submitted by jason myron on 09/03/2015 - 12:23 pm.

            Who do I consider a moderate?

            Barack Obama. He’s a centrist a politician if there ever was one… same with Clinton. On the GOP side, Jon Huntsman, Romney, McCain, Arnie Carlson, etc…

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/03/2015 - 06:10 pm.


              My theory is that folks sitting in the far left of the stadium, see moderates as the politicians that are directly in front of them or maybe a little to the right. That means that 10% are on the Left, 20% are Moderate and 70% are DINOs or Right wingers… They may see Ellison as slightly Left, Obama as Moderate and Paulsen as a far righter.

              By the way, this works in reverse also, my ultra-Conservative loving mother likely would see Paulsen as being too Liberal. And me being just slightly right of center can see Paulsen, Clinton and Klobuchar as moderates.


              • Submitted by jason myron on 09/04/2015 - 10:55 am.

                Not interested in your theory

                of who sits where inside of your imaginary stadium. So you can dispense with the Venn diagram, flow chart or any other learning tool that you may hove conjured up. I’m interested in what people write…and your very own words and ideas dismiss your attempts to portray yourself as some sort of moderate. You’re completely welcome to hold your views, but at least be honest as to where YOU are in regards to stadium seating.
                Have a nice weekend.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/04/2015 - 10:37 pm.


                  Ironic that my stadium looks a lot like the GovTrack site’s Sponsorship Analysis graph. You also have a nice weekend !!!

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