Three Important Benchmarks You May Have Missed


Big Events Grab Headlines. Sometimes the more important back story gets lost

Benchmark 1: The Resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen as Secretary of Homeland Security

We expected this one for some time. Besides this change of personnel, three more points worth noting as national benchmarks:

  • There has been much commentary that Nielsen was holding back Trump’s worst instincts. There has also been much discussion that in the end, she sold her soul. Whatever protests she might have mounted, she did the president’s dirty work. She did it in an area that stains this country forever. Sorry, no residual points for doing any of it hesitatingly. She chose to stay on Team Trump long enough to be a key part of the problem.
  • Here is yet another who joined this administration with a good reputation. She now joins those whose reputations are forever destroyed by this administration. The list of such people is long, only two years into this administration. She, like those before her, are forever tarnished and diminished. None are likely to get a second chance and rebuilding their standing.
  • This now takes us to over a dozen cabinet or cabinet level entities with an Acting leader. That is a record by orders of magnitude. On top of that, most of these organizations also lack permanent deputies in key positions. Trump says he likes Acting officials, as this gives him more flexibility. It is a poor way to run a government and does not serve the nation. Never have we had so many agencies so under staffed and under led. When a major disaster or conflict occurs, we will pay for this foolishness.

Remember that Homeland Security is not about only immigration. Trump has tried to make that the only issue, but more is at stake. This critical organization was created out of 9/11. It is also responsible for counter terrorism, public security, nuclear proliferation, and more. It contains the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, FEMA, Customs, TSA – 22 agencies in all. All run by yet another temporary leader, lacking key deputies. And this is the agency whose mission set Trump says is his number one priority.

Benchmark 2: The Paths for Democrats (and Republicans) are Shaping Up

Let’s talk about Republicans first, as the choices are fewer and the odds are simpler. There are some noises about primary challenges to Trump, but they seem unlikely to amount to much. I expect the so-called Republican leadership to fall in line behind Trump in 2020. At best, they will try to minimize the association. That will not be good enough. The party is now gutted. It has no intellectual rigor and no moral foundation. There is no way forward as a credible national presence.

That those who labored in Republican fields for so long were so willing to let it all go in service of Trump has been amazing and tragic to watch. They did this to themselves.

The Democrats have a very different path shaping up, and it is interesting. In case you missed it, two more members of Congress declared for the presidency this week. They are unlikely to be the last. Already some cannot meet the 1% poll and/or minimum contributions to make the debates. The field will thin in due course.

This is the most interesting, qualified, and thoughtful group of candidates ever. This is noteworthy. There are some smart people in this crowd, thinking big ideas.

The challenge, as President Obama warned this weekend, is not to get to fixated on who is a “real” Democrat. To not fight over who is pure enough to carry the mantle of leadership. The debates, the polls, the primaries over time will tell us what people want.

My bet is that the winning ticket will left of center, but not WAY left of center. It will not be led by someone 70-80-years old. It likely will not be led by a self-proclaimed socialist. Nor will it be led by an apologist for what capitalism has metastasized into for our country. The calm, rational leader, who is steady and works with a wide range of people should carry the day. Watching the Democrats find that person out of this group will be a bit like a high stakes game of musical chairs. Let’s hope they get it right.

Benchmark 3: The Rise of the Independent Voter for Less Than Obvious Reasons

 There is fascinating Linkage of Junk Email, Robo Calls, and Political Affiliation.

I have made it clear in other posts that I am not much of a fan of Independents. They are part of the problem that created the uncontrolled mess that is our politics today. Without party discipline or structure, political warlords fight it out with each other. Parties can be annoying, but they have great value in governance and in growing leaders. But I got a novel take on independents last week.

I was at a meeting of my local precinct and we were discussing independents. A lady in the front row announced that she was an independent and she wanted to tell us why. I assumed it was a version of the old “I vote for the person, not the party,” or “both parties disgust me.” I was wrong. It turns out that she was a life-long Democrat. She changed her registration and stopped donating money. Why? Because she was overwhelmed in the past year with the volume of emails and phone calls asking for money.

And that was before we had 20 candidates! I get at least a dozen such emails a day myself. This woman said they changed registration just to get a break from the constant din. I don’t know how we fix that, short of nationally funded candidacies at a certain threshold. Candidates have to fundraise, and the courts consider this a First Amendment issue. But I bet you more than a few independents are so classified for the same reason. We know that most independents consistently vote Democratic or Republican. This adds further credence to this story of why register as independent. There must be a better way to fundraise than alienating our own.

We live in interesting times. Stay tuned!

Bill Clontz, Founder, Agents of Reason      Bill Clontz

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5 replies to Three Important Benchmarks You May Have Missed

  1. Will, Bill, I must say that your comments further entrenched me as a registered unaffiliated. I personally can’t stand either party and yet have a responsibility to vote, and will do so as I did in the last election. I can hardly wait to see if front runner Bernie will once again be denied by shenanigans or if another Democrat will replace him? Maybe Howard Schultz enters the race as a Democrat……likely not? And of course “the Donald” will be running, orange hair and all. Twill’ be an interesting election with AOC coaching the candidates from the sidelines……..glad I’m not affiliated!

    • Ah, Jim – to each his own. Perhaps one of these days you can write up how you see the independent contingent solving the challenges we face. I surely respect anyone’s right to register as they think best, but I fail to see the case for being permanent outsiders to process reform; the modern history has not been encouraging. You and I will just have to disagree on your friend Bernie, but hey, this would all be boring if we all agreed on everything! Keep weighing in, my friend. I value your input and I know others do as well.

  2. I don’t really believe that there is much of an “independent” vote. I think of them as the apathetic vote. They have opinions about “left” vs “right”, but they don’t care enough to vote. I’m this way about lots of things other than politics; I may have an opinion about something but it’s neither strongly held nor important to me.

    Motivating them to vote is different from trying to persuade them to choose a side. I suspect that’s why we see so many appeals to outrage from the left and the right.

    • Good observation, thanks.

      I think that may well be true for a good segment of that population. They vote inconsistently and erratically, and as such are problematic for the body politic. I have encountered them, too, as it sounds like you have. But there are also a good number who choose to register as independent for a variety of reasons, but vote regularly as DEM or REP. Definitely a mixed bag out there.

  3. Yes. Motivation to register one way or another is a “mixed bag”. Here in Pennsylvania the Democratic party tends very much toward the corporate side of the party. (They gave us Arlen Specter the Democrat, a man who said “I only became a Democrat because I can’t win as a Republican. I haven’t changed my views.”) That means that every once in a while I change my registration to Independent because I just can’t stand it any more. But, I have to switch back to the Democratic party in order to vote in the primary. It’s a pointless exercise in paperwork and the fact that I engage in it is an indication of just how annoying the Democratic party can get.

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