Election Reflections

August 28, 2016

Let’s pay a visit to an earnest voter…

The Labor Day weekend was a week away and the election campaigns would swing into full gear following the holiday. He had a hard time deciding what to do with his vote in November.  His mom used to make it easy, voting the party ticket no matter what. He heard someone say that they would write in Reagan’s name this election. He told himself that he was more conscientious than that so he reviewed some of the issues.

Climate Change

He thought that climate change was at least partially caused by human activity, so he decided he should probably vote Democratic this election. Republicans were climate deniers, weren’t they?  Hell, some Republicans denied evolution.  Michele Bachmann had announced that she wasn’t running for re-election for her House seat. He thought that she should be put out to pasture where she could do the least harm.  He had read a climate scientist writing that it didn’t matter much anymore, that human activity had already flipped the switch.  Sure, we might be able to make a few small improvements, some amelioration of the damage, but it wasn’t worth arguing with others who preferred to think that climate change was as real as Santa Claus.  What was that song by Chris Rea?  The Road To Hell

White House Short-timers

Obama had a few months left in his second term.  Was he hoping that Iran didn’t do something crazy in the meantime?  Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said (Interview with David Axelrod) that the worst day in an election campaign is the best day working in the White House. Everyday some part of everything that happens in the world came into the White House so the stream of problems was constant.

September was coming up.  Did Obama say a little prayer that there would be no financial crisis like the one that beset former Prez Bush in September 2008?  Bush’s body language in those last few months of his second term screamed out that he wanted to be gone from the flood of problems coming across his desk.  Bush had turned out to be a big government Republican with dramatic big government solutions to the financial crisis.  He had flooded Iraq with lots of cash in 2003.  Then he had wanted $700 billion from Congress.  His Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, had famously handed the Congress a scrap of paper, the most concise emergency bailout plan ever devised.  Hank could have written it on a piece of toilet paper in the men’s room.  $700B!

Rock-em-sock-em big government robot fights for justice

Democrats had been proposing big government solutions to society’s problems for as long as he could remember.  Solutions that cost a lot of money and produced meager or mixed results.  Was it bad execution of a good solution or was it the wrong solution?   The Dems were good at blaming someone or something else when their programs didn’t work very well.  Human greed, Republicans, selfishness, and poverty were the usual suspects.

Republicans blamed most problems on government regulators, Democrats, high taxes, and a loss of Christian values.  Republicans believed that a progressive income tax, the taking of money from one person and giving it to another, was a violation of a person’s property rights.  He agreed with that so maybe he should vote Republican.  But then most Republicans wanted to take away a woman’s right to choose what happened inside of her own body.  That was also a violation of a woman’s property rights, a God given right to privacy. So which property rights should he hope to protect with his vote?  Neither party cared much for the Constitution, that was for sure.

Social mores

At heart he was a classic liberal, or what is now called a moderate Libertarian. Gay marriage, fine.  If transgender people wanted to use the sex of bathroom that they identified with, fine.  His granddaughter had said she didn’t care if some transgender boy wanted to use the bathroom. The stalls had doors.  Dems seemed more libertarian on social issues, but very autocratic on economic issues.  Why couldn’t the Dems or Republicans be libertarian on both social and economic issues?  Because then one of them would be the Libertarian Party, he thought ruefully.  The anti-government anarchists had taken over the Libertarian Party several decades earlier.  Maybe it was time for the moderates to take it back?

Taxes

He didn’t think that politicians in Washington should be using the tax code to correct what they perceived as inequities in society.  It was the Republicans in 2003 who had stopped the practice of penalizing married couples through the tax code.  A Democratic House and Senate had put that one into place in 1971 (1998 article) but it was Nixon, a Republican, who signed the legislation.  Democrats could justify any tax.

The Hammer of God

He didn’t think Bible thumping politicians should be telling us how to live our lives. He was with the Dems on this one.  No, God wasn’t dead.  He was kept alive by politicians who used Him as a rhetorical weapon against the other party. Running for his first term in Congress, Abraham Lincoln, a Whig, had endured accusations that he was not a religious man (Sandburg’s Lincoln bio).  The Whigs had morphed into the Republican Party during the 1850s and now it was the Republicans who used religion as a cudgel against Democrats.  (Obama warning in 2012 race)  Apparently, only Republicans knew God’s will and how to implement it here on earth.  How could he vote for a party that was so conceited and arrogant?

Obamacare

But he also thought that the Federal government had no constitutional right to be telling people that they had to buy health insurance.  Each party wanted to take away people’s rights and freedoms.  As a small employer for several decades, he had often wished that health insurance wasn’t tied to employment. Bigger companies could offer more favorable benefits to good employee prospects, and it was tough to compete with that. Despite his preference for private solutions to societal problems, he wished that there was a program like Medicare for all or no tax write offs for health care benefits.  One or the other.  A public option had been a part of Obama’s 2008 platform (Politifact) but he had not been a particularly strong leader on this one and had encountered resistance from the members of his own party.  The result was Obamacare, a rough draft legislative hodge-podge that was more typical of a preliminary committee product, not a final piece of law.  Democrats just sucked at crafting economic legislation yet, in an ironic twist, they tended to see most of society’s problems as economic ones.  Obama had got his health care legislation passed only to see it used against the Democratic Party in the important census election of 2010, when the Dems lost a large lead and control of the House. Bill Clinton had tried to pass a health care bill in 1993 and lost Democratic control of the Congress to the Republicans in the 1994 election.  The Dems had apparently not learned their lesson.

Security

He couldn’t decide who was going to best keep the country safe.  Republicans seemed to think that Mexicans threatened each American family somehow.  Not all Mexicans, he understood, just illegal Mexicans.  For years, hundreds of thousands of students and visitors had come to the U.S., then overstayed their visas and remained in the U.S. illegally.  According to Republicans, all those other illegals weren’t a problem. Just Mexicans.   The Donald would build a wall.  In 2006, a Republican Congress had approved funds for Homeland Security to build more fences along the southern border.  Neither Democrat or Republican Congresses had been able to move the fence building further along toward actual construction.  Having once solved the problem of building a skating rink in Central Park, the Donald thought that he – and only he – could get this fence thing going.  He wished the Donald good luck in herding 535 fat cats in Congress toward any one project.  As the top Fat Cat, maybe the Donald could make it work.

Crazy vs Experience

Nah, he thought, the Donald was too crazy and inexperienced. Most Presidents were either one or the other, but not both, except for Bill Clinton.  Clinton had been crazy enough to have sex with an intern in the Oval Office and inexperienced enough to propose a universal health care plan.  He had won the Presidency with the lowest popular vote in the country’s history yet Clinton had thought he had some clear mandate. Even strong Democratic control of both the House and Senate could not help him and within two years, Clinton certainly contributed to the loss of  both the House and Senate to the Republicans.

Split the vote

Several decades ago a co-worker had shared his personal voting system.  “Split your ticket in the hope that the government stays split,” the guy had said.  That way the politicians could do the least harm.  Maybe that’s what he would do this election.  His congressional vote didn’t matter.  Few Congressional districts were contested in the general election and his district had voted Democratic for more than forty years.  Republicans would likely keep the House anyway.  Democrats might just take the Senate so he should vote Democratic to make it more likely.  That would help split the Congress.  That still left his vote for President.

Supreme Court

Over and over again he had heard that this Presidential election was a vote for the direction of the Supreme Court for the next decade or more.  His secret hope was that the Court would remain at eight members. If there was no clear majority on the Court then there should be no precedence set in Constitutional law.

Libertarian?

Maybe he should vote for the Libertarian Candidate, Gary Johnson?  Johnson seemed neither inexperienced or crazy other than the fact that anyone who runs as a third party candidate in this country must be crazy.  If the Dems took the Senate, they could simply block any nominee to the court and keep the Court at 8 members.  He could tell himself that a Libertarian vote was a combined nod to both the Democrat and Republican parties.  It would not be first time that he had split his vote but it had been quite some time since it did it in the hopes of a split government.

Baseball

Having resolved all those election issues, he turned his attention to the World Series schedule.  If the series went to seven games, the last game would be played on November 4th, at the height of pre-election coverage and just a few days before the election. (Schedule) If the Cubs were in the World Series for the first time since 1945, the attention of many voters might easily be diverted to the historic match up.  Let’s say the Cubs won the series for the first time since 1908 and let’s imagine that the series went to seven games, with the final game played on Friday, the 4th. KC Royals’ fans had celebrated their 2015 series extra inning win over the Mets just two days after the final game.  He could imagine that millions of Chicago residents and former residents would be there to celebrate the event on Sunday perhaps and the festivities rolling into Monday.  Although Illinois was usually a solid vote for the Democratic Presidential contender, he imagined the possibility that thousands of Illinois voters, distracted by the post-Series events, didn’t vote in Tuesday’s election.  Like Florida in 2000, the results turned on the votes of a few in Illinois and Donald Trump won the Presidency because the Cubs won the series.  Nah, he thought, sounds too much like a bad movie script.

Next week: a troubling long term trend that will hurt many investors

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