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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 27, 2016

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(Charleston, West Virginia) – It’s been a crazy, topsy-turvy political year, one which I don’t think anyone could have predicted. Something tells me the unsettled political business – for better, or for worse – is not over yet! Let’s brunch on that this week:

“Cuba” – At press time came word of the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. In my lifetime, there have 11 U.S. Presidents, from Eisenhower to Obama; yet Cuba has had only one, Fidel Castro (pictured above with former President Jimmy Carter in 2002). Yes, Fidel's brother Raul has been a figurehead the past few years, but everyone knew who ran the show.

The great singer Sam Cooke had a big hit song, “A Change is Gonna Come.” I can hear it playing now. It will be fascinating to watch Cuba emerge from the third-world, into a thriving, vibrant Western economy. I wonder whether the Trump Company will build a resort casino there? I’d bet on it!

“Hillary Clinton First” -- She lost the Electoral College, but she won the popular vote, and I think the significance of that should be noted. A majority of the U.S. population said, “We have no hesitation in electing a woman to be President.” It signaled that the public has relatively little political gender-bias left. She probably won’t be the first female President, but maybe Democrat Hillary Clinton just paved the way for a Republican President Nikki Haley, or for a Democratic President Maggie Hassan. Politics works in mysterious ways. Haley, the South Carolina Governor, was just nominated to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

“Speaking of Which” – An article trending in the days after the election was entitled “Never underestimate how much America hates women,” Really? Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by two million ballots. Nine new women were elected to the House of Representatives (six Democrats; three Republicans). For the first time ever, the U.S. Senate will have 21 women (16 Democrats and five Republicans). President-elect Trump has named three women to Cabinet or cabinet-level posts, with many more slots to be filled. Six U.S. Governors are women. Parity for women in government across the board? Certainly not yet, but their numbers keep increasing. The Supreme Court could have four female Justices by spring. To say that “America hates women” is just rhetorical nonsense.

“Do-Over 2020?” – It’s odd to speculate, but I do not think Hillary Clinton is done. Four years from now she’ll be 73, but if she is in good health, she could be a viable candidate again. First, a lot depends on Trump’s successes or failures. Second, the Clintons love a fight! Yes, she lost in 2008 and 2016, but would the Clintons dare all odds and try again in 2020? Health permitting, I say yes. These are not people who walk quietly into the night. Think of Ronald Reagan barely losing the GOP nomination in 1976, only to come roaring back in 1980, ousting President Carter, who had a very bad four-year tenure. The Clintons are that calculating.

“Thanksgiving Leftovers” – Green Party Candidate Jill Stein is trying to raise over seven-million dollars to conduct recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. She and others believe some voting machines may have been hacked, thus the inquiry. The money is being raised privately, as candidates - not taxpayers - must foot the bill. Why not? If it helps to clear the air and to remove any lingering doubts about the election, then so be it.

“A Familiar Name” – Last week I talked about a lot of fellow Wisconsinites who’ve risen to national political prominence, but I forgot one. Representative-Elect Liz Cheney (R-WY) is taking her dad’s old seat in the House. But former Vice President Cheney’s daughter was actually born in Madison, when her mom and dad were graduate students at the University of Wisconsin. Cheers to another “Cheesehead!”

“Be Careful What You Wish For” – A lot of Republicans are excited about the GOP holding the White House, the House, and the Senate - all at the same time. While that may sound like “Kumbaya,” just remember that in 1976 and 1992 Democrats won all three prizes and proceeded to have an intra-party war over things such as national health care. The last time the GOP held all three was from 2003 to 2005, but it was a highly unstable time politically, as control of both the House and Senate were shifting back and forth, and not a lot got done. Contrast that with 1996, when Democrats had the White House and Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, but a lot got done. Divided government is often the better model to watch.

“Not the End of the World!” – There is certainly more anxiety after this election than any other in my lifetime (including 2000). But our country has never imploded, not even after the Civil War. Oddly enough, it was President Obama who advocated for change when the electorate did not like it. In 2013, after a government shutdown was resolved, he said to Republicans, “You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it.” In 2014, the GOP did just that, taking back control of the Senate and - in 2016 - the White House. Change happens. That's the ebb and flow of democracy; so Democrats will have their day in the sun again, maybe in 2018, or 2020, or later.

“2017 Elections” – I always love the odd-year elections. New Jersey and Virginia are the only states that have statewide elections in the off years. Incumbents Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) are termed out. Both are likely to seek higher office. The races for their seats in their respective states should be very competitive and fun to watch! And it gives political junkies something to chatter about in an odd-numbered year!

Who do you see as an up-and-coming female candidate in either party? Just share your comments by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: cbsnews.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 20, 2016

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(Charleston, West Virginia) – I usually wait a week to ten days to weigh in with greater detail on election results. As witnessed on social media, people are really hostile and angry. I get that. Losing – whether a football game or an election - is no fun. People have so much emotionally invested in their choices, and that’s okay. Passion for politics has kept us as a great incubator of democracy – however imperfect the experiment can be at times. There are some lessons to chat about, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Basket Full of Deplorables” – It’s okay to attack the other candidate, because that’s just how politics works. A Republican candidate calls a Democratic candidate a name, and vice versa. But, when you attack the other candidate’s supporters it’s a whole different story, and often it backfires. This year, when Hillary Clinton referred to half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket full of deplorables,” it failed badly. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney said, “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him [Obama], who are dependent upon government…who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.” Lesson: It’s okay to insult your opposing candidate, but when you insult the people who actually vote, it can often be political suicide. It does not play well with independent, undecided, or wavering voters.

“Senate Owes Trump” -- A lot of establishment Republicans wanted nothing to do with Donald Trump, and some openly opposed him. But here’s an unmistakable reality from Election Day. Republicans owe control of the Senate to Trump. Yes, Republicans in Florida and Ohio won reelection on their own, without Trump’s help. But in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Republican Senate candidates won with great help from Trump’s coattails. If not for Trump, Democrats would have seized control of the U.S. Senate. Watch Cabinet appointments, judgeships, and treaties. The Senate is in Trump’s debt, and he’ll try to cash in!

“House-Keeping” – On the other hand – and this could be troublesome for Trump - the House owes him nothing. Sure, the Republicans lost six seats, but they still hold a big majority. By the way, don’t buy the line about the perceived split or major gulf between Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan had to distance himself from Trump so he could help local Congressional candidates win. It was about Ryan holding his own majority in the House. Newt Gingrich did a similar thing in 1996, openly advising more liberal House Republicans, like Rep. Scott Klug (R-WI) and Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA), to run ads against Newt - if need be - to show their independence. Gingrich still needed them to win – to hold his majority - and his strategy worked.

“The Priebus-Pence Ticket” – Yes, I know the ticket was Trump-Pence, but the real duo to watch is the ticket of Reince Priebus – the incoming White House Chief of Staff – and Vice President Mike Pence. Donald Trump is one of the few Presidents this nation has elected who has never held any other elective office. But the government is not run by the White House alone; Congress and the Federal Courts are the other legs of the barstool. Pence served 12 years in the U.S. House, rising to the fourth-ranking leadership position. Priebus headed the Republican National Committee for six years, and is close to his fellow Wisconsinite, Speaker Paul Ryan. The Priebus-Pence team will be formidable shepherding legislation through Congress.

“Protests Will Fade” -- They are mad about the outcome: Trump won the Electoral College, while Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. I understand the gut-wrenching emotion that brings. But the anger won’t sustain itself. You need an issue to hang your hat on. No one is claiming voter fraud, ballot rigging, voting by the dead, voter intimidation, or any of the other nefarious anti-voter behaviors we often hear about in a close election. Short of any substantive allegations of wrongdoing, the election outcome has finality (though not popular to many), and it stands. People will vent until they get tired, or it’s too cold to be outside.
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“2018 Road Map” – If Democrats thought they had a bad night in 2016, it may only get worse. In 2018, Democrats are defending 25 Senate seats (their own 23 and the two independents who caucus with them), while Republicans only defend eight seats. Even though the party out of power in the White House usually gains seats in Congress in the midterm elections, the disproportional number of Democrats defending seats in the Senate does not bode well for the minority party.

“Cheeseheads Rule!” – Okay, I admit my bias as I grew up in Wisconsin, and it will always be home to me. But it may have the most political clout of any state in the nation right now. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is Speaker of the House. Kenosha resident Reince Priebus is RNC Chairman and future White House Chief of Staff. Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) is now Chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) won reelection on a night everyone predicted he’d lose, thus helping the GOP hold control of the Senate. And, Federal Court of Appeals Judge Diane Sykes is on Trump’s short list of nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court. My only wish is that all this “Cheesehead Power” could somehow help the Green Bay Packers win a few more games and get to the Super Bowl this season!

Skip the politics! Which is your favorite professional football team since I’m claiming the Packers? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media, LLC

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