The Democrats: Calm as a Duck On Top of the Water…

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After the debacle that was the Republican National Demolition Derby last week (really didn’t think it was possible to bottle up that much hatred in one room), the Democrats get their turn in the barrel for the next four days. Starting today up until former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is nominated on Thursday, the Democratic National Committee will throw their shindig in Philadelphia to nominate their choice for President and the proceedings have the appearance of a duck. If you know anything about ducks, they look calm and placid on top of the water, but they’re paddling like hell underneath it to keep everything moving.

It pretty much seems that, at every step along the way, the Democrats have tried to shoot themselves in the foot at every opportunity that they get. 2016 was supposed to be the year that they were supposed to reward Clinton for her patience after getting beaten in 2008 by Barack Obama and, for the most part, the major players that could have given her issues stayed out of the way. Vice President Joe Biden didn’t have it in his heart following the passing of his son and other prominent Democrats lacked the national name recognition to be able to mount a charge (looking at you here, Martin O’Malley). But the DNC was definitely caught with their pants down when it came to a certain septuagenarian from New England.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont caught on to the wave of voter disdain for those in Washington (despite him being a part of the Washington scene for the past 25 years) and threw the first of several monkey wrenches into the coronation of Clinton. The first warning shot came in Iowa, where Clinton eked out the slimmest of victories over Sanders, and continued onward. At some points, Sanders would pull off the impossible – evidenced by his win in Michigan – and many, especially younger voters, were enthused by the policies espoused by Sanders (free college, $15/hour minimum wage, etc.).

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Sanders proved to be an excellent foil for Clinton, whipping her into shape for the general election as she had to campaign hard in the Democratic primary to ward off Sanders’ run. Neither would be able to garner the number of delegates outright to be able to earn the nomination, so the choice came down to the super delegates, the members of the Democratic Party who serve as the final arbiter of such decisions. Despite the cries that it was unfair – but, to be honest, Sanders knew the rules and failed to attempt to even woo them before the primaries began (probably because he just joined the Democratic Party to run for President, not because of a long affinition for the group) – super delegates overwhelmingly supported Clinton and, as a result, she will be the nominee Thursday evening.

All is not calm in the Democratic world, however. There are factions of Sanders supporters that, despite what their candidate has said about supporting Clinton and defeating Cheeto Jesus, are behaving like petulant children who will pout because they didn’t get their way. These “supporters” have threatened to either not vote or to vote for another candidate, such as the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein (who ran an underhanded campaign in offering to give up her nomination for President if Sanders would join their party), to “make their protest known.” There’s only one problem with this:  by doing so, they would be giving the election to the Orangutan Mutant, who would destroy the system far worse than Clinton ever could.

Throw in the perceived voting irregularities, Clinton’s investigations by the Republican-led Senate over Benghazi and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over her private e-mail server, Clinton’s less-than enthusiastic approach to campaigning (the female Clinton has always been a policy wonk, unlike her husband and former President Bill Clinton, who enjoyed the campaigning) and the idea that it was “ordained” by the DNC that Clinton would be the nominee (among other things) and there’s plenty of “paddling like hell” under the water that is occurring.

That doesn’t even begin to add in the latest Democratic shooting of foot. Leaked e-mails from a Russian hack show that the DNC at the minimum wasn’t happy about the Sanders campaign looking to usurp the nomination from Clinton and, at the max, actively was wondering how to stop Sanders’ rise. While none of the e-mails were from Clinton, one e-mail in particular from the Chief Finance Officer of the DNC, Brad Marshall, questioned Sanders’ religious background and whether he was an atheist (many socialists, as Sanders purports to be, are at best areligious and at extreme atheist) and how it could be used against him in certain areas of the country.

Although there is little to no evidence that any action was taken on this or other e-mails, the chair of the DNC, Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida, has been ushered out as the chairman of the DNC effective following the convention (not a big deal as she would have served her term by the end of the November elections) because of the viewed impropriety. This has been something the Sanders campaign has sought for some time because of several perceived slights from Wasserman-Schultz towards the campaign and the scheduling of debates (something that the Sanders campaign agreed to before the campaign started). The actions following Wasserman-Schultz’s announcement aren’t going to soothe anyone’s feelings, however.

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The hiring of Wasserman-Schultz by the Clinton campaign as “honorary chair” of the campaign isn’t going to settle any ruffled feathers. Instead of just letting Wasserman-Schultz lurk behind the scenes and advise the campaign – much like what many think deposed Fox News honcho Roger Ailes will do with the Drumpf campaign since his dismissal – the announcement by the Clinton faction is a stick in the eye to the Sanderites. It is a sign once again that, instead of a placid lake, there are at least ripples in the water.

Alas, as the Democrats converge on the City of Brotherly Love for their convention, their attempts at showing a “united” front seem to be coming apart at the seams. Over the next week, there will be the usual parade of party hierarchy and celebrity speakers (including Lady Gaga – take that, Mr. Oompah Loompah, for star power!), but it is going to be the thoughts of two people that will draw the most attention.

First off will be Sanders and his speech on Monday night. Sanders has already appeared with Clinton on the campaign trail and fully endorsed his former opponent, but it will be how well he can convey that same message, after all of the turmoil of the past few days, and be taken as sincere with his speech. Several other people in the Sanders camp, including his wife Jane and former campaign manager Jeff Weaver, would also be great advocates for Sanders supporters to move on to Clinton.

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The final person who will be able to make an impact is Clinton herself. No matter how many people say good things about her, whether it is family, coworkers, friends or rivals, it will be Clinton’s speech on Thursday night that will sway many opinions. Can she find a way to present the current course of the United States in an optimistic light and show how her Presidency would further the goals of the country? This will be important because of the “doom and gloom” speech that was sputtered last week (hell, the entire Republican National Demolition Derby sounded like the Hellmouth had opened and demon spawn were ravaging the world). If Clinton can show that there is an “adult in the room” and project a solid, stable base for the next Presidency, it could go a great way to winning over people.

But that’s not coming until Thursday. Until that time, we’ll have to see if the Democrats can put it together and not just give the appearance of unity but actually show that it exists. If they are able to overcome their own self-inflicted wounds, then they will come out of Philly with the rockets roaring. If they can’t, then there’s the 4:1 chance that Cheeto Jesus might rise up from the brimstone.

Dear Bernie Fans: Don’t Become the Democratic StormTrumpers

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Since the campaign started immediately following the second inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, it seems that there has been a course. On the GOP side, they rolled out a clown car of buffoons, religious zealots, has beens and never weres and even three civilians, just to give the right seasoning to the idiocy. Now they are down to a representative of each of those categories and I will let you figure out where they go.

On the Democrats side, however, they were supposed to be the adults in the room. They put up a solid policy person in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who seemed as if she were a shoo-in for the nomination, but some challengers arose. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley was supposed to represent the “new guard” of the Dems (at the wet-behind-the-ears age of 53), while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was to represent the progressive side of the party. On the way to the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the nominee – she did, after all, swallow her pride and take a position in President Obama’s cabinet following his crushing defeat of her in 2008 – a strange thing happened:  the people listened to someone else.

Much like the knuckle draggers who began listening to the rantings of a lunatic on the GOP side (once again, take your pick of lunatic), some on the Democratic side found a message in the anti-Establishment rhetoric of the Independent Senator from Vermont, Sanders. An avowed democratic socialist (definition:  while businesses can run just fine and not under government ownership, heavy taxes WILL be paid by those companies; the money then will fund several social programs that will lift all boats, such as free college and other items), Sanders’ message first alit on the ears of the youth, then on those who were disillusioned with having to look at another Clinton taking a turn in the White House.

Sanders stunned Clinton from the start, battling to a near draw in Iowa before moving onto his backyard in New Hampshire and taking the bellwether state by a large margin. Clinton regained her footing by romping through the South in early March, but Sanders hasn’t gone anywhere. Of the 33 primaries or caucuses that have been held to this date (with the delegate-rich state of New York up for grabs on Tuesday), Sanders has won 16 of them, primarily states with large white demographics and large college towns that will probably be Republican states come November (Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, etc.).

Sanders’ performance has not only driven out every other candidate in the Democratic race (O’Malley at least made it to the first primary in Iowa before dropping out; Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb and Lawrence Lessig didn’t even make it that far), he’s getting the attention of many in the Democratic Party. Noted director Spike Lee led a pro-Sanders campaign ad that featured such fellow Hollywood celebrities as Rosario Dawson, Susan Sarandon and Dr. Cornell West and other celebrities such as Danny DeVito, Sarah Silverman and Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk in the Avenger movies as well as a two-time Academy Award nominee) have also come out in support of Sanders’ campaign.

But as the campaign has gone along, Sanders has been the victim of the political system. For the first time in ages, the Democratic usage of superdelegates may have an impact on the outcome of the primary. While only behind Clinton by a bit more than 200 elected delegates – those that are allotted by the results of the primaries – Sanders is vastly behind Clinton in the pledged superdelegates that the party uses as a final check on the results of the primaries. Of those pledged superdelegates, Sanders has earned 31; Clinton has picked up 469. Thus, when some news outlets post the delegate count, they show it as a rout for Clinton, 1758-1076, without pointing out that the superdelegates are a huge factor in that count.

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Once again much like the StormTrumpers of a particular candidate in the GOP race, the Sanders forces have been responding in similar manners. During a fundraiser held by actor George Clooney and his wife, Amal, for Democratic candidates in San Francisco on Friday night, Sanders supporters protested the fundraiser and Clinton, refusing to look at the work that the fundraiser was doing for “down the ballot” candidates in the upcoming races (of the nearly $350,000 raised, approximately $300,000 of it was to go to the Democratic National Committee and candidates from the Democratic Party in several states; Sanders has done little to no campaigning for fellow Democrats in their races). Hurling insults at Clinton’s motorcade and carrying derogatory signs, the Sanders supporters seemed to lack the knowledge of what the Clooneys have done for people, if anything else.

Then there’s the tactics that are straight out of Roger Stone’s handbook (if you’re in a cave, Roger Stone is the GOP “strategist” who works with Drumpf). According to many superdelegates, phone calls as late as 2AM have been made by Sanders supporters to their homes. Many of these persons who have issues with the superdelegate process have taken to populating websites and databases such as those called the “Superdelegate Hitlist” (perhaps noting the murderous tone, it now is the “Superdelegate List”). Those that venture online and attempt logical discussion with Sanders supporters on the Democratic process are often met with a literal wall of non-discourse and, when discussion is taken to the nth degree, commentary that seems as if it has come from a StormTrumper themselves.

The battle between Sanders and Clinton has had moments when it has been an excellent exchange of ideas and viewpoints as to the future of the Democratic Party and perhaps even the United States itself. Lately, however, the civility that the two candidates have carried has been fraying a bit, perhaps because they’ve been at this for several months and there’s still a long time until the convention in July. What the candidates – and what their supporters – have to remember, however, is that they are all on the same side.

Unlike the train wreck that is occurring before our eyes on the GOP tracks, the Democrats have two excellent choices. While neither is perfect, either one presents a logical and practical future for the United States in both domestic and foreign policy. Clinton’s vision is one of pragmatism and hard work; Sanders’ is one of bold steps that would alter many aspects of life in these United States. But with either one, the option is better than what is slobberingly gazing from the opposite side.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a U. S. Senate who will not even consider doing their jobs – the work of leading the country – over confirming a nominee for Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. We’ve seen several states enact draconian legislation against LGBT persons, knocking them down to second-class citizens because of a “religious freedom” to be as fucking bigoted as they can be. We’ve also seen one candidate on the GOP side freely admit that the U. S. should be led as a “Christian nation,” despite the fact the Constitution that he seems to so lovingly want to follow says that something such as that should NEVER be done. Do you really want three or four SCOTUS seats, more “religious freedom” bullshit and other social doctrines attacked by whomever comes out of the GOP coven?

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Look, Sanders supporters, I get it. You’re tired of the same old politics and want a change. Through his very candidacy, Sanders has garnered the attention for those changes. But if his supporters continue to call those that support Clinton “Democratic whores,” it’s going to be a bit difficult to be able to keep him in the mix or potentially even consider some of those ideas he has so powerfully presented so far.

The ability to look at things logically and, if the facts demonstrate that the fight is truly unwinnable, to be able to accept whatever prize can be gained from the battle is one of the measures of compromise that this nation is built on. To either downgrade Clinton or pout in your rooms and not vote if “your guy” doesn’t win is juvenile at best. Look logically at the situation and hopefully the skies will clear…if you don’t want Iran in the Western Hemisphere as a theocratic government for the U. S., the only way to go is with the eventual Democratic nominee, whoever it is.

How to Fix the Presidential Debates

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Since the conclusion of the last GOP Presidential debate that was held on the cable network CNBC – a truly dismal effort that left nobody satisfied with the outcome – there has been bellowing from pretty much everyone. Yes, the CNBC debate was a clusterfuck from the start – with three moderators and two guest questioners, it was never clear who was in charge – but once they became coalesced around an issue, the Republican debate participants struck back with veiled threats against the “mainstream media” (important point here:  if you’re going to govern a country as vast as the United States, you’re going to need that “mainstream media” at some point to get things done). It left the entire night as a giant stain on the 2016 Presidential campaign process.

The candidates complained about a multitude of things, including the length of the debate, the number of questions received, the quality of the questions and so forth. The moderators, in their defense, were faced with participants who, when presented with a viable question – such as Dr. Ben Carson’s involvement with the snake oil provider Mannatech, Senator Marco Rubio’s attendance in the Senate, how billionaire Donald Trump plans on paying for his myriad of xenophobic programs or why Senator Ted Cruz was against the recent compromise that passed a federal budget out of Congress and to President Barack Obama for the next two years – either didn’t answer the question, answered another question that they wanted to answer, waited for a partisan GOP audience to air their opinion through booing or attacked the moderators and the media. When you have this type of Mexican standoff (which Trump is now looking to wall off at Ciudad Juarez), there’s not much that is going to occur in said debate.

Now the candidates have decided to set up their own rules for how debates will be conducted. There is supposedly a letter that a majority of the 14 remaining candidates in the GOP race have gotten behind (bypassing the logical arranger for such events, their own Republican National Committee) that is being sent out, but it isn’t to be taken seriously. The letter supposedly would allow the candidates to vet the moderators, review the questions of the debate before it is conducted and such bullshit as whether there will be a gong, bell or buzzer to indicate their time is up when answering a question.

It was announced on Thursday night that next week’s debate on November 10 (which wasn’t expected to fall under this supposed “letter” being drafted) and being aired on Fox Business Channel will already have a smaller “main event” field. Through their criteria, Fox Business has chopped the “main event” debate stage down to eight, separating New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee off to the “kiddie table” debate beforehand. That “kiddie table” debate has also been chopped, with former New York Governor George Pataki and current South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham being eliminated from the debates altogether. Those that are being dropped down or out completely are not polling at the prescribed levels by Fox Business and, as such, have met the axe as to the debates and probably will soon as a viable candidate in the GOP race.

As a result of some of these changes, get ready for more whining out of the GOP candidates. If the GOP candidates – and also their Democratic brethren – want a chance to take on a serious debate, replete with issues to discuss, then it would be necessary to follow these rules.

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Both Parties Must Have a Debate On Foreign Ground – The GOP is the only party who has stepped outside of their traditional “home turf” of Fox News (or Fox Business), where they could be semi-comfortable in that they would receive a decent hearing (even these GOP candidates, however, complained about the Fox News debate). The CNN GOP debate was considered to be quite good as the longest debate yet, providing for more discussion of the issues but not enjoyed by Trump or Carson, who lack the background to describe how their policies would work other than “they’ll be great.” By this point, you already know about the CNBC snafu. The Democratic Party hasn’t left its cozy home with CNN and their next “debate” – a candidates’ forum in South Carolina on Friday night that will feature former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, current Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb and Lawrence Lessig have ended their campaigns since the first Democratic debate a couple of weeks ago) – will be hosted and aired by MSNBC and commentator Rachel Maddow.

Each party has their partisans; I would be more interested in how they speak to a hostile audience and, just maybe, both sides could have a chance at swinging those in the middle ground to some of their viewpoints (this would also help as far as governance, but that’s another story for another time).

The Arbiter Determines All – While one or two moderators is OK, one should be the rule. There should be only three questioners involved in the game and the participants in the debate have NO RIGHT to choose who they want to fire questions (why would I want to hear you and a “friendly” questioner lob softballs all night?). Finally, there will be one voice who makes all determinations on the floor of the debate hall – The Arbiter (usually a moderator would do this, but they are too encumbered by their own networks to draw in ratings and worried about any potential future dealings with the candidates to have the balls to do anything).

The Arbiter will be an unknown person, presumably with knowledge about debate procedure, the subjects that would be presented during the debate, the histories of the participants involved in the debate and should have as little involvement with one political side or the other or be in media as a current broadcaster (if it has to be, then The Arbiter should be from the opposing party or media outlet – couldn’t you imagine someone from the Wall Street Journal serving as The Arbiter for an MSNBC debate and someone from the New York Times handling the Fox debates?). The Arbiter will be in charge of officiating the event and providing the punishments (we’ll get to that in just a second) that will be meted out for violations of the debate protocol. At the end of the debate, The Arbiter slinks back into the dark, never known by those who were in attendance.

The Arbiter will have several weapons at his/her disposal:

Question Refusal – The Arbiter will have the right, after a question is posed, to determine if the question is worthy of being answered. Such questions as whether some other candidate has the “moral authority” to do something or something that prods two candidates to spat at each other over insignificant bullshit would be the main thing that The Arbiter is looking for. If a questioner poses such a question, the first infraction is a warning with a second infraction resulting in a 10-minute penalty (removal from the debate). A third violation will result in the questioner’s removal from the remainder of the debate.

Microphone Control – The Arbiter would have control over the candidates’ microphones for the purpose of keeping them on track with questions. If a candidate is posed a question and said candidate either starts off on a tangent or doesn’t address the question directly, The Arbiter has the power to cut the candidate’s microphone. The Arbiter will pause for five seconds before reactivating the candidate’s microphone and, if at any time during the candidate’s response he goes off topic again, The Arbiter will end the question by shutting off the microphone for the remainder of the question.

The Arbiter will also be in control of how long the candidate speaks; once the candidate has reached the maximum allotted time (60 seconds in the previous debates), The Arbiter will cut off the candidate’s microphone permanently unless asked a follow-up question.

If the candidate cannot keep on track with his replies to the questions being posed, The Arbiter will have the right to remove the candidate from the debate or, if the candidate refuses to move, will have his microphone cut off for the remainder of the debate and his/her constant interruptions will begin to annoy everyone.

Question Count – The Arbiter will be responsible for keeping a running count (can be aided on this by electronic timing of each candidate’s responses) or time bank on how many questions each candidate has received and/or how much time each candidate has been speaking. If The Arbiter notes a predominance of questions to a few candidates, then he will inform the moderator and the moderator must change tactics and ask other candidates questions until The Arbiter feels it is balanced out.

Have a Manageable Debate Field – This has been the major problem with the GOP debates is the number of people on the stage. When you have 10 candidates looking to make their mark in a two hour debate, the most a person is going to be able to speak is probably around seven or eight minutes (once you deduct commercials, opening and closing statements and audience applause/outrage/outbursts). In the GOP field, there is probably no more than six viable candidates (I’ll let you choose your six); the Democrats have already limited their field from six to three, so they are on course for the primaries.

The whittling of the field is useful because, if you’re drawing 1% of the vote six months to a year after you announced your candidacy, the likelihood of you earning the party’s nomination next summer is highly unlikely. It’s simply a numbers game in that you aren’t going to get the attention as someone at the back of the pack that the frontrunners are going to get from being the, well, leaders. It IS a Catch-22, but that’s the way many things are in life. Unless the front six are mysteriously overcome with a debilitating illness that renders them incapable of running for office (and Christie isn’t above trying to inflict said illness on the frontrunners), you’re going back to your previous job or hosting duties on Fox News.

Implementing these rules – and simply letting the respective committees, the RNC and the Democratic National Committee – handle the nuts and bolts of debate preparations is the logical way to go. You’re running for the most important office in the United States; being concerned that the debate hall has a temperature more than 67 degrees shouldn’t be on your mind. Policy thoughts, debate tactics and proving yourself to U. S. citizens should be your goal. As President Obama also stated earlier this week, if you aren’t able to handle the queries of journalists from the news networks, you’re going to have trouble handling Putin.

Will these rules be adopted? No way in hell…but it would make for a more streamlined debate with plenty of policy discussion. And who wouldn’t want to see The Arbiter enforce his rules on both bags of bozo biscuits running for President?