Saturday, October 22, 2016

Like Two Tsunamis Crashing Into Each Other


Six months ago, someone asked if Donald Trump's character and HB2 here in North Carolina were still going to be campaign issues come Election Day, November 8, 2016.

'Yes, of course it will!' I said. Even blind hogs find acorns every now and then, right?

But no one ever thought that in this year of a 'change election' that those would be the ONLY two issues people were concerned about this year. No. One.

The economy is sluggish, if that. We have never come close to a robust recovery coming out of the worst recession since the 1930's. The early years right AFTER a nasty recession are usually the best ones in terms of growth simply because so many of the laid-off workers are usually the first ones hired back once excess inventory is sold off or houses start to get built again, for example.

President Obama will retire on January 20, 2017 as the only President in modern times to have not presided over a US economy that exceeded 3% GDP growth in any quarter of any of his eight years in office. That would be 32 quarters.

That is like a football team scoring maybe a safety or a field goal every other quarter or so over 8 looooong seasons. At least they are 'scoring' every now and then you could say but they are never going to win a lot of games nickel-and-diming it along like that. Ever.

Under President Obama's watch, we have seen the national debt explode 100% to $20 trillion, up from $10 trillion when he took office. The federal deficit today is now half of what it was when he took office in 2009, that is true. However, it was over $1.2 trillion in that first year due to stimulus payments and bailouts and buyouts as we tried to stop the hemorrhaging of the economy so 'cutting' the deficit to $500 billion is nothing to write home about or win any award for achieving.

And by the way, CBO just came out with a report showing the budget deficits going UP this last year under President Obama to $650 billion on his way out of the White House and heading BACK UP to over $1 trillion in the next several years. Mainly because nothing fundamental or structural was done over the last 8 years to do anything constructive or helpful to solve our nation's fiscal deficiencies.

Add in ISIS; deteriorating racial relations; illegal immigration; no comprehensive energy policy; health care costs STILL rising almost exponentially despite the fact that President Obama got everything he wanted in the ACA passed in 2010 and a raft of other pressing issues, and you would have to believe the American people are just going to run to the polls to vote for a 'Big Change' to everything it would seem.

And yet, at this juncture 16 days away from perhaps the most consequential election we will see in a while, this election is boiling down to 2 things, at least here in North Carolina, that is:

  1. Does Donald Trump have the temperament to be in the White House?
  2. Does everyone have the right to choose which bathroom they can use?
It is like two tsunamis, one coming in from the west and one coming in from the east and colliding in the middle, say, over some small isthmus of land and totally covering it up with sea water and foam and detritus of all kinds.

And it is going to take some time to clean up after it all. That is a guarantee.

Let's take a look at how this might play out come Election Day:

For one thing, 'Election' Day has already started. Absentee ballots were requested and many already returned by the time early in-person voting started Thursday, October 20 in North Carolina.

By the time November 8 rolls around, over 50% of all ballots will have already been cast based on past experience. Around 4.5 million people in North Carolina can be expected to vote this year and close to 2.5 million ballots will have been cast before November 8.

You are going to hear both the left and the right crow about how their supporters are 'swamping the polls!' between now and then. Based on the first day of record turnout in Wake County, there is probably cause for jubilation on the left, at least in the larger cities.

However, the same thing could be happening in the smaller towns and more rural counties, many of which are going to be slower to report their turnout based on the resources they have at their disposal.

Add in the fact that many polling places are still underwater in and around the Neuse River down east, not to mention the fact that thousands of houses and homes have been destroyed by the recent floods.

Many of those people could care less about the general election today when they are more concerned about where they are going to live and eat the next day.

Finding a clean place to just go to the bathroom and shower and clean up is more of a concern to them than who has the right to join them right now.

The basic question that remains to be seen is this:

'Who is going to show up to vote this year and will the final electorate look more like the Obama turnout of 2008 and 2012 or will it not look like either of those 2 years?'

A bit of history might be helpful at this point. In 2008, with historic high levels of African-American and young voters voting for the first African-American president in American history, President Obama won North Carolina by 14,000 over a very weak and uninspiring John McCain.

In 2012, with slightly lower turnout levels among African-American and young voters but still way higher than what was considered 'normal' before 2008, President Obama lost North Carolina by 88,000 votes to Mitt Romney, even though Pat McCrory won the gubernatorial race by over 250,000 votes over Walter Dalton.

Many people attribute that drop-off to Mr. Romney's Mormonism. It might be other things factored in as well but it is impossible to believe that it did not play some role in such a disparity in his vote totals in North Carolina in 2012.

You almost never see a down-ballot candidate out-perform the presidential candidate at the top of the ticket in almost any presidential year. Most people want to vote for the President first but then lose interest as they go down the ballot all the way to the district judges and bond referenda before their eyeballs fall out of their head due to lack of interest in such issues or even knowing who, what or why 'judicial temperament' is a good thing for any candidate for a judgeship to possess.

Secretary of Labor Cheri Berry garnered 100,000 more than Mitt Romney did in 2012. Think about that for a minute.

In order for Hillary Clinton to win North Carolina's 15 Electoral Votes, experts say that 22% of the final electorate has to be African-American. That means that close to 1 million votes have to be cast for Hillary Clinton in North Carolina or almost 1/2 of her total votes in the state.

If she does that, she will win hands-down going away all flags flying.

However, she has failed to generate the enthusiasm in the African-American communities and young voting block that President Obama did which stands to reason since he was the first African-American to win the presidency and a cool symbol of progress for many young people and African-Americans nationwide.

What HB2 has done on the left is to energize thousands of progressives in the major cities mostly to turn out and vote against the Republican Governor Pat McCrory and the GOP-led General Assembly which is one reason why we saw long lines on the first day of early voting.

So perhaps that will be enough to offset any drop in African-American or youth voting statewide.

To them, it 'feels' like a tidal wave that is going to sweep out all of the Republicans and the dozen or so Democrats who voted for HB2.

On the other hand, the sheer size of the rallies for Donald Trump at every site large or small in North Carolina this past year gives hope to people on the other side that a tidal wave of conservatism is swelling on their side that is going to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning North Carolina's 15 electoral votes and keep Governor McCrory in the Governor's Mansion and Republicans in solid control of the General Assembly for another two years.

10,000 people showed up for a Trump rally in tiny Kenansville, population 775, this past summer. People don't show up for a political rally in those numbers if they do not intend to vote in large proportions for that candidate, that is for sure.

Based on who you talk with, you could be persuaded that this is going to be a 'wave election' for the Democrats at the state level where they win every Council of State office except Secretary of Agriculture and they at least get Republicans below veto-proof majorities in the NC house and senate.

Others can convince you that Republicans will keep the Governor's Mansion and close to veto-proof margins in the NCGA; Senator Burr and Trump will get the 15 North Carolina electoral votes he needs to have any chance of winning the Presidency simply because they 'know' a 'wave election' is building for Trump and the Republicans much like Reagan in 1980.

One by-product of this nasty and in many ways, desultory presidential campaign, other than its interminable length, might be the surprising numbers of people who have just given up on our democratic process and just choose to stay at home and not vote this year.

Many people say they just can not vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump this year. You might see totals for both of them fall below the votes cast for the gubernatorial candidates on both sides as we saw in 2012 with Mitt Romney which came as a surprise to most observers.

You can hardly blame anyone for not voting this year. It reminds us of the Rolling Stones' song, '(Stuck Between a) Rock and a Hard Place':

But you still need to vote. One way or another. Up and down the ballot in all the races and referenda.

It is the only system of government we have. We will make it through. Somehow. America always has in the past. And this is certainly not as 'scary' of a time as the Civil War, World War I, Great Depression and World War II were for our forebears and ancestors.

We even survived 25+ years of dismal presidential 'leadership' (sic) before the Civil War.  Take a look at that list of presidents. James Buchanan was the last one and he was so awful that historian place him at the absolute bottom of all of our 44 Presidents so far and he won that almost by acclamation.

Mick Jagger is no poet along the lines of now-Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan (will wonders never cease?) but perhaps we should heed the words to 'Rock and A Hard Place' as we go forward after this election:

'You'd better stop; put on a kind face....We're in the same boat on the same sea and we're sailing south on the same breeze...and our children are playing with loaded dice'

Indeed. Just the 'loaded dice' of the burgeoning national debt at $20 trillion and rising with the attendant potential explosion in interest costs if interest rates just return to 'normal' rates of 5-6% is enough to keep you awake at night.

Hopefully, our next President will lead us in an effort to finally do something about it.

lyrics to 'Rock and a Hard Place'

The fields of Eden

Are full of trash

And if we beg and we borrow and steal
We'll never get it back
People are hungry
They crowd around
And the city gets bigger as the country comes begging to town

Stuck between a rock
And a hard place
Between a rock and a hard place

This talk of freedom
And human rights
Man's bullying and private wars and chucking all the dust into our eyes
And peasant people
Poorer than dirt
Who are caught in the crossfire with nothing to lose but their shirts

Stuck between a rock
And a hard place
Between a rock and a hard place
You'd better stop put on a kind face
Between a rock and a hard place

We're in the same boat
On the same sea
And we're sailing south
On the same breeze
Guiding dream churches
With silver spires
And our rogue children
Are playing loaded dice

Between a rock and a hard place
You'd better stop

Give me truth now
Don't want no sham
I'd be hung drawn and quartered for a sheep just as well as a lamb

Stuck between a rock
And a hard place
Between a rock and a hard place
You'd better stop put on a kind face
Can't you see what you've done to me

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