(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!
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