2016: The Rot at the Core

What can be said about 2016 as it winds down? Certainly, something has gone horribly wrong. What could it be?

I believe that ultimately what has broken us apart is a destructive selfishness which has metastasized into a cancer.

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Clinton & the Team

It has been a good two weeks for Hillary Clinton. First came the opening debate where she did what she needed to convince the party faithful and the pundits she is the front runner. That leveraged into Vice President Biden announcing he will not run. Finally, she sat down in front of the Benghazi Committee of the House and made a good case that the whiff of scandal was behind her.

But more impressive than all this was how it happened. This was a team effort where the Democratic Party started to rally around her and unite. It’s what it will take to win the election – and today there is little doubt she is the odds-on favorite to be the next president.

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Reforming Reform

Tax reform is on the minds of many Republican candidates, and that’s a good thing. Donald Trump revealed a plan, suggesting he may be a serious candidate after all. This announcement came as his poll numbers were slipping, so we may have a hint what voters think about actual policies. Jeb Bush released his plan earlier this month with the distinction of being called “weird”.

The point is that we are talking about taxes and serious tax reform, which is good. No one should expect one plan to suddenly spring forward and cut through the elaborate mess we have. Then again, once the knife is out, you could carve a better tax code out of a banana. But what really is needed? What is “simplification” or “reform”? Let’s start at the beginning.

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Exit Boehner, Enter …. ?

When Pope Francis came to visit Congress, everyone knew something big was going to happen. Causing Speaker Boehner (R-OH) to have an epiphany and resign was not on anyone’s list.

But, there you have it – a Pope that works strange miracles.

To say that in the aftermath all Hell will break loose depends on whether your definition of Hell is complete inaction (it probably should be). By that standard Congress has been deep in the fire for a long time so we can’t blame Boehner for seeking a cool escape once he was touched by His Holiness. But is there a way out for the rest of us?

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S-s-same As It Ever Was?

September is a month of change, but you’d hardly know it this year. The weather is warm, the Fed still hasn’t raised rates, and the Republican debate still focused heavily on one person (who will remain unnamed).

But that last one is where the more things change the more they stay the same.

My famously conservative friend Mitch Berg complained on facebook about a diatribe regarding parenting responsibilities by a childless 20-something associate, which sounded like an ugly situation. Turns out it was very ugly – it started as a discussion on defunding Planned Parenthood. The young woman in question, described as normally very level-headed, had a serious fire under her that needed venting. It’s a passionate issue, for sure. Mitch and his more conservative friends rolled their eyes as well as anyone can in English prose.

But they shouldn’t have – this is important stuff. Why? Because I think we’ll see a lot more of this in coming months as the Republicans do what they have to do, thus doing a lot of the work that Democrats need to do. It deserves examination.

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For What It’s Worth

For an election that’s more than a year out, this one sure is making a lot of noise. And, like most noise in an election, it’s about 90% (cowpuckey). But if you listen closely, there may be something very big happening just beneath the surface. It’s not very loud yet, but it may reverberate into some beautiful music.

The sound that you may not hear is the progressive left getting its act together.

With the fans of Sen Sanders going after Sec Clinton – and getting a little bit in return – it’s hard to see how this band is going to come together. But after Clinton’s confrontation with Black Lives Matter (BLM) something wonderful has happened – people seem to be listening. If we all start doing more listening and a little less “speaking up”, as the left is wont to do, this may yet come together.

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Summer of Discontent

The news is full of Donald Trump and his lead in the crowded Republican field. Off to the side a bit, Sen Bernie Sanders is drawing huge crowds and capturing the imaginations of many supporters – and a few polls, too. With more than a year to go the Presidential election is going wildly off script as insurgent candidates are leading the insider choices, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

Will this keep up for the next year or more?

A smart person would say that nothing is predictable as the electorate is obviously very volatile right now. Good thing I’m not smart. Despite the teevee noise and the large crowds it is very early and what we might call “mainstream” voters – people with jobs, families, et cetera – are not engaged yet. They will probably put a stop to the circuses and at least change the tone before it’s all over. But that doesn’t mean the election will quite go back on script.

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