A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week
Earlier in the week (Neighbor, how stands the Union?), my attempt to answer a question on “gloom and doom” about politics grew to almost 2500 words. I thought they were excellent words – verging on splendid – but there were too many of them.
The problem of too many words has two solutions. “Throw some away” is often the right one but it is tough on the lonely ego at the keyboard.
Use them in another story is a terrific compromise, so here they are.
In addition to sharing a few key moments from a horrendous week in politics, I thought I would add some cartoons that are unabashedly partisan because they show what appeals to the staunchest of Democrats and Republicans.
Those who have grazed to the bottom of the home page of Pundificator.com know that I like cartoons. I post them on Facebook, and they appear on the website too. In general, I duck the most partisan ones, but the ones in this story are included for a different reason. Almost all of them cater to their own team and show how intensely each side hates the other.
Here is what made for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.
Des Moines Register Poll
The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s most influential newspaper, did not release its statewide poll that traditionally suggests the outcome of the Iowa caucuses.
Apparently, a minimum-wage pollster increased the font size on her computer screen and that made Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s name disappear from her list of questions. Those on the other end of the line did not get to choose him.
Professional pollsters thought the “kill the entire poll” solution was excessive, and conspiracy theories spread like the coronavirus. Were Democratic “elites” stealing the spotlight from Bernie Sanders yet again?
Have you noticed how conspiracy theories now seem to pretty much require elites? Given general feelings about them, perhaps it is nice that elites still have something to do? They have assumed the same role in conspiracy theories as vampires or axe murderers play in horror movies.
The Iowa Caucuses
On Monday evening, far fewer Iowa voters than expected made their way to local high school gyms to arm-twist their neighbors into supporting one of the many Democratic candidates. This they bravely did even without being told what to think by the Des Moines Register’s now-hidden poll.
The voters did just what was expected. They stood in different sections of the gyms under signs for their heroes and let themselves be counted up. Those whose heroes were deemed not viable because they did not receive 15% of the vote then selected second-choice heroes and stood under their signs. They too were counted up.
About the time the voters zipped up their parkas, headed out into the cold and went home for dinner, the shit began to hit the fan. Crude though it might be, the image works well in Iowa because there is a whole lot of shit (25 million pigs) and some really big fans (about 4500 windmills).
The untested voting-result-reporting App failed. The phone lines to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters were jammed because the desire for perfect fairness made the reporting take too long. Panels of cable news pundits had nothing to analyze and the political world came to a halt.
Recriminations and conspiracy theories followed.
There are two million voters in Iowa: 37% independent; 32% Republicans; and 31% Democrats. Of the more than 600,000 Democratic voters, about one-quarter showed up to caucus and the co-winners shared half of that number. In other words, a tie meant you got about 2% of the total vote. In a State the Democrats might easily lose in November.
Why, you may ask, do the Iowa Caucuses exist at all. Well, for pretty much the same reason that the Democratic Polk County Steak Fry takes place in Des Moines in the late summer of each election year.
Wait? What? How does ethanol relate to steak fries and caucuses? The candidates need local support to win and thus get the “bounces” in polling and fund raising that are the only point of either exercise. Candidates pledge to continue the ethanol mandate in gasoline in exchange for the support of local elected officials.
The Iowa Caucuses have little to do with elections and shouldn’t exist at all, but, as bad weeks go, this one was off to a strong start and it was only Monday.
Perhaps it is not surprising that cartoonists whose audiences are on the left devoted little attention to the Iowa Caucuses.
State of the Union Address
On Tuesday we had the State of the Union address, which is prom night for the politerati.
Like the Iowa caucuses, the State of the Union address is something that shouldn’t happen at all but, if it has to happen, it should go off without a hitch.
First, the President was walking into the room where the House of Representatives had voted to impeach him; and, second, the vote to find him guilty or not wasn’t scheduled until the next day. The 100 Senate jurors were in the audience as was the Chief Justice who was presiding over the Senate trial. Nothing awkward about that.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – neither a fan of the President nor of impeaching him – presided and seemed more than a touch out of sorts.
She left off the traditionally respectful “high honor and distinct privilege” greeting.
The President left off shaking her outstretched hand.
Seated behind him and to his left, she glowered for most of the hour and a half.
The President did a recitation of his many economic good works (leaving aside whether he caused them or not), which would have made a superb 50-minute speech, but then set off to break the State of the Union grandstanding and base-pleasing records.
This was agony for the Democrats in the audience because they know from experience how effective grandstanding and base-pleasing can be.
Perhaps the high or low point depending on your perspective was forcing nearly 300 Democratic elected officials to attend the ceremony in which Rush Limbaugh (who could not be booed because of a recent Stage 4 cancer diagnosis) received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
After the speech (mercifully) ended, Speaker Pelosi tore up her copy making sure to provide clear sightlines for all the TV cameras. This might or might not have been a felony because she had one of two “official” copies.
Cable news went nuts, with each side hurling invective at the other.
Not bad for a Tuesday.
The Impeachment Vote
On Wednesday, after several more hours of speech making and attention getting, votes were taken on each of the two articles of impeachment. Witnesses were not called.
Even Japanese soldiers hiding out in caves because they have not been told World War II is over, knew that the President was not going to be convicted in the Senate. The only surprise was Mitt Romney (R. UT) voting to convict on one of the two articles – far less than the 20 Republicans required for a 2/3 majority.
There were 1054 individual votes cast by Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate on the two articles of impeachment. I did not count the votes of the one independent in the House (who voted yes on both) nor the one Democrat and two Republicans recorded as not voting in the House. I did count the one Democrat who voted “present” as a half a vote to impeach and half not.
Of those votes, how many would you have expected to be along party lines and how many not? Well, that would be 1047 to 7. About 2/3 of 1% bucked their parties while 99 1/3% toed the line. If all that matters is political affiliation, why do we need actual humans to serve as Congressmen and Senators?
Maybe we’d do well to remember a fellow called G. Washington, who said, in his farewell address, “The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
Impeachment is an important accountability tool but a poor political weapon. Speaker Pelosi showed good political judgment in opposing it, but she lost that battle to those on her left.
The National Prayer Breakfast is another political institution whose time never was. The idea is more uplifting than the political reality. Perhaps the only good thing is that it is traditionally nonpartisan, but not this year. The President lambasted the Democrats forcing Speaker Pelosi to squirm in her seat at the dais. Protocol penalty flags were thrown.
Later in the day, during a speech in the East Room of the White House, the vitriol continued.
Colonel Alexander Vindman and Ambassador Gordon Sondland, both of whom provided damaging testimony against the President, were fired.
The words “gracious in victory” were not used.
The Biden campaign barely bothered to deny the trouble it was in thanks to finishing fourth in the still incomplete results of the Iowa Caucuses.
The Democratic National Committee and the Iowa Democratic Party blamed each other for the debacle of the vote count, which was still incomplete. Shadowy stories about the vendor of the vote tabulator App and its ties to yet another group of “elites” began to emerge.
Looking forward to New Hampshire
The Democratic candidates turned on each other in the final debate before the New Hampshire primary, but they did shake hands, and nobody tore anything up.
The big issue seems now to be electability. Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg are more or less tied. Former Vice President Biden is in free fall.
The economy remains on fire: good news for the President; bad for the challengers.
Mike Bloomberg, the other Mayor in the race, promises to spend whatever it takes to beat Trump and showed it in the fourth quarter of 2019 when he outspent all other candidates of both parties combined.
The fivethirtyeight.com data driven political forecasting website now shows that the second most likely occurrence (with a one in four chance) is that none of the Democratic candidates will win a majority of delegates thus throwing the choice to the Milwaukee convention. According to their forecast, the most likely outcome (with a two in five chance of happening) is that Senator Bernie Sanders will have amassed the majority of delegates.
Take these two outcomes together and you have about a two in three chance of The Democratic National Committee’s worst nightmare. They can’t be seen to steal the nomination from a candidate they see as a sure loser and they can’t be seen to choose their nominee in a smoke-filled room.
Is Anybody Watching?
Well, Janet Dailey of The Telegraph seems to be. Here is the headline and first paragraph of her story. “The Democrats have Trump to thank for their existential collapse”
“Last week, the Democratic party managed to appear, by turns, laughably incompetent, incorrigibly pompous, irresponsibly petulant, and tactically clueless. That’s quite a record.”
Though it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week, what odds do you offer that the worst is not still to come before November?
Jonathan, February 11, 2020 at 7:10 pm said:
Don’t confuse me with Nancy Pelosi, but I pray for you, Pundi, that you carefully vetted your statement – “Apparently, a minimum-wage pollster increased the font size on her computer screen…” – and that in fact it was the computer screen of a “her” (if this pronoun still permitted in polite company). Unlikely as it may be, you may have erred due to the accumulated impressions indelibly etched in the corners of your brain which form a memory. If so, don’t despair as we who know you shall remain certain that you treasure “women” (permitted?) and hope that you will continue to share your intellect and charm for years to come…
Haven Pell, February 11, 2020 at 10:09 pm said:
Glad you asked the question as the details ended up on the cutting room floor as the story got longer and longer. It came from a 538 podcast. 538.com is the data journalism website about polling and predicting. One DMR pollster out of many enlarged the font on her screen so 40 calls out of several hundred left Mayor Pete off the list of choices. 538.com faulted tossing out the entire DMR poll because those 40 responses could simply have been omitted as if they had never happened. And yes the source did use the female personal pronoun. Nearsightedness is among us. It could have happened to anyone. In a way it says more about the flaws in polling and perhaps should give us pause when we decide to rely to heavily on “well, the polls are saying….”
John Austin Murphy, February 11, 2020 at 7:29 pm said:
Where is Herblock when we need him?
Haven Pell, February 11, 2020 at 9:57 pm said:
He was definitely in a different market. Everyone felt the same way about the war and those who were fighting it.
Russell, February 13, 2020 at 12:59 pm said:
Were Herblock alive today, Fox would offer an adblock to keep his cartoons out of the Trump echo chamber.
The one bright note was Bill Weld did better among Republicans than Joe Biden did among Democrats in the New Hampshire primary.
Haven Pell, February 14, 2020 at 10:03 am said:
I have not heard the latest on the next steps for Bill. For Joe, it appears that emeritus status is the logical path. (My predictions have not been money makers in the past as I think I am too influenced by recent events.)
Chris Meigher, February 11, 2020 at 7:43 pm said:
As a terminally handicapped and low level Winner-at-Games, I do still relish your tennis reportage.
But you hit a more convincing stride with this new post: a very good day – and week – for Pundificator.
Well done, Haven!
Haven Pell, February 11, 2020 at 9:56 pm said:
Thank you Chris. Means a lot coming from a publisher
Garrard Glenn, February 11, 2020 at 7:43 pm said:
I pray for a brokered Democratic convention. There’s talk of it now, as no one can manage a commanding lead. That may continue all the way to the convention.
The convention is likely to yield cries of unfairness with a decibel level exceeding even that of both Collusion and Impeachment. Eardrums may pop. Dueling may break out, after a long hiatus.
Pray with me.
Haven Pell, February 11, 2020 at 9:55 pm said:
C grenville, February 11, 2020 at 10:10 pm said:
well, you had a good time with this latest review! Well done, funny and almost trenchant. I especially liked the observation about the pigs and the windmills in Iowa.
Tonight, I guess we will see about your NH, where the Concord that Trump doesn’t know about is
Haven Pell, February 11, 2020 at 10:15 pm said:
Phew, I worried that the pigs and windmills might have been a bit risqué
Chip Oat, February 11, 2020 at 10:30 pm said:
I’m reminded of that Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”
Haven Pell, February 12, 2020 at 3:03 pm said:
and so we do.
Peter W Bragdon, February 11, 2020 at 11:16 pm said:
I would like a return to machine politics and the choice made in a smoke-filled room. The Pendergast Machine chose Harry Truman.
Haven Pell, February 12, 2020 at 12:00 pm said:
Since 1968, we have swung toward “participation” though perhaps at a cost in terms of candidate quality. It is difficult to imagine another field where the skills on display in the interview process have less to do with the skills required to do the job.