With All This Choice, No Choice, Just Rubber Stamps

GOP Candidates
who have announced that they are running:
Ted Cruz
Rand Paul
Marco Rubio
Ben Carson
Lindsey Graham
Mike Huckabee
John Santorum
George Pataki
Carly Fiorina
Still to come:
Jeb Bush
Scott Walker
Chris Christie
Donald Trump (?)
Bobby Jindal
John Kasich
And each of these Presidential hopefuls has a different platform –
right? Not so much. They might as well be a set of rubber stamps. There are
minor differences, of course. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush might be willing to do
something about immigration, but probably not a path to citizenship. A few say
they will make no changes to Social Security. All favor making federal
government smaller. Almost all are anti-abortion. All want to scrap social
programs. All want to end Common Core (not really a very controversial issue).
Almost all oppose legal marriage between anyone other than a male and a female.
Almost all do not believe in climate change. Some don’t even want to hear those
words said in their presence. Many are hawks and think we should be more
hands-on (boots-on) in the Middle East.
Why even have debates when the candidates must all bow down before
the Koch brothers anyway and when they all want to turn America into Kansas?
Yikes! This time around it is probably easier to pick the ones we definitely do
not want rather than to choose one we do want.
So just narrow it down to ones who are the most tolerable and then
pick the one whose looks and mannerisms might help dilute the hating that we will be doing if
the GOP wins.
The GOP did its shady homework. It has laid down the groundwork to
win in 2016 long ago. It saw the courts stuffed with conservatives and said,
“Eureka, this is our moment!”
The GOP knew that the voting rights act was coming up for a vote
and they were pretty sure they could get that key section of the law where
“clearance” resided chucked out. And they did. Perhaps I should be Biblical,
“And so it came to pass.” They did not wait five minutes to start a most
un-American campaign of voter suppression.
They already had their extreme gerrymandering in place.
They were making their fairly successful assault on state
governments and they were obstructing all over the place.
However, they could not keep their tactics secret forever. People
began to see the sick majesty of their overall strategy. But it is probably too
late. The GOP is feeling pretty smug these days. It is probably too late to
stop the GOP 2016 election train.
The folks in Wisconsin aren’t
complaining and you would think they would be under that rather fascist brown
shirt Scott Walker (Who wants a motorcycle man for our President? Well maybe
another motorcycle man.) Kansas isn’t up-in-arms as Sam Brownback dismantles
their public schools. What’s up with that? Do we not have any fight left in us?
Take this quiz on the issues to find out who is your cup of tea, or
perhaps you like coffee:
By Nancy Brisson

Hillary and the Media – and Bill…

The media seems to salivate every time the Clinton
finances are attacked. The most recent tidbit reveals how much money the
Clinton’s earned from speaking engagements between January and May (25 million
dollars). They act like Bill and Hillary are con artists forcing people to turn
out their pockets just to listen to charismatic charlatans for forty-five
minutes to an hour.
I would think that perhaps people are willing to pay
such large amounts as $250,000 per speech because they want to contribute to the
good work being done by The Clinton Foundation and The Clinton Global
Initiative. And there is the political celebrity status conferred on these two
by holding top posts in our government like President and First Lady and
Secretary of State.
Lots of politicians (mostly Republicans) and media
people are offering up a silent and not so silent delight that we will soon be
able to prove that the Clintons are guilty of that powerful leveler of
political careers, “corruption”. The rest of us “everyday” folks out here think
that it is almost impossible to participate in politics today without being
corrupt. We will only be impressed with corruption on a very grand scale. We
expect that our politicians will find ways to make public service pay. We don’t
love the idea, but we feel helpless to change this dynamic.
People understand that there could be a conflict of
interest here: it is possible that large donations given by foreign governments
and by media figures like George Stephanopoulos could lead the donors to believe
that favors might be forthcoming if we elect Hillary as our President in 2016.
However giving to a charity that tries to mitigate misery around the globe does
not seem like the usual road to a quid pro quo.
Hillary and the media have a sort of come here – go
away kind of relationship. The press likes to expose the soft underbelly of
candidates for public office, Hillary included. However, once you show emotion
(fear, resentment) some in the press “smell blood” and like to go in for the
kill. Hillary feels that she must exercise caution when reporters are present.
We also accept that since she is running for President she cannot avoid the
media. News people complain that she seems overly formal and gives off an edgy,
annoyed air when confronted with questions which seems accusatory.
While it is true that the press is intrusive and
operates without filters, we are all hoping that Hillary gets a bit more
comfortable around the media and that she is able to hide the defensiveness she
currently reveals. I do not mind if she avoids situations which inspire a
feeding frenzy in the media. And as for the press, they could stop being so thrilled
by the shots candidates lob at each other, especially when they are aware that
what they are repeating are rumors that have not been and never may be proven
to be facts.
We have never before had a Presidential candidate
with a partner who is an ex-President and who heads a charitable foundation.
Unless this charity is simply a way to bilk donors of their money so it can
fatten the personal bank accounts of the Clintons, it would seem that we need
to cut them a little slack here.

I believe there is evidence that this foundation
takes on real projects both at home and abroad to lift up people in need. I
also tend to doubt that there is any criminal activity here worthy of
Republican glee. All these allegations will do is force Bill Clinton to stop
doing good things out in the world if he wants his wife to win the Presidency.
And that will be a true loss for all who currently benefit from The Clinton Foundation
and its programs.
This is the view from the cheap seats.
By Nancy Brisson

Election Dread

We, the electorate, have no taste for negative ads.
We want to hear about policy. We want to hear about the ideology that will
inform each candidate’s behavior in office once elected. We dread this election
and, in fact, every election these days.

Demonizing candidates does seem to work. We tend to
elect whichever party excels the most at demonizing their opponents in any
given race. It sort of turns election races into bouts of MMA – although with
words (not as appealing as actual physical wrestling, I’m guessing).

Billions will be spent to splash dirt on to
candidates. Some of the most bizarrely effective ads these days are ones that
blame a candidate for merely belonging to the opposite party and voting in
agreement with that party’s policies. Sometimes recent ads accuse candidates of
not hewing purely enough to the party line. (You’re damned if you do and damned
if you don’t, eh?)  When did accusing a
candidate of voting for what s/he felt was right become as effective in erasing
that candidate as proving that s/he is guilty of corruption or lying.
We could try to mount a campaign in which people
simply tell us what they believe and what they will do when various important
policies come up for a vote. We could stop writing ads that merely repeat
someone’s voting record, which we could easily find online or in the
Congressional Record. We could make a policy that ads that are inaccurate will
be immediately taken off the air.
How many ads can be purchased with 1 billion
dollars? If we are talking about purchasing ads in local media markets we are
talking about turn-off-the-TV-soon territory. Even national networks will be
flooded with negative ads. Time to take that Paris trip you always talked
about. Perhaps a South Sea Island would be even more cut off from the media
However, it would be difficult not to watch this car
wreck. We would be so tempted to rubberneck just to see who said what nutty
thing, who has put him/herself beyond the pale and whether Hillary, who we
would love to have as our first female President, finds the right notes to hit
and proves to be the strong, honest, sensible, and wise candidate that we want
her to be. (If she always keeps that new granddaughter in mind as she guides
our nation we should all be just fine.)
Will the appeal of the wipe-outs outweigh the
tedium? Once an ad is produced it must, because of costs, be used over and over
again. Perhaps there is even a known brainwashing threshold that is met by
hearing an ad a certain number of times. Cynical people (or people who wish to
expose the techniques of cynical people) care about this stuff.

These negative ads are a perfect way to lose voter
interest and to make sure the actual electorate is small. People are
interviewed all the time during any given election season who say they won’t
vote because they hate the meanness of the ads and they don’t think one party
is any different or any better than any other party. This could just be
laziness, but it could be sensory overload. After a while the brain just tunes
out and decides to be done with the whole business. Best voter suppression
apparatus ever, but do we really want to take our electorate from blasé to
nauseated. The ads will not change but I would love to see a political party
with the guts to try a new way. 
By Nancy Brisson

2016 Election Outcome Already Determined by Historical Data

Pundits seem to have this treasure trove of election
“truisms” gleaned from careful analysis of America’s political history by
political “geeks”. We heard some of it before the midterms and it centered on
using past practice to predict election outcomes. We heard about low turnouts
in midterms. We learned that this favored Republicans in the 2014 election.
Pundits knew which races held an infinitesimal amount of wiggle room and which
elections did not. Why even bother to open the polls? These pundits proved that
tradition matters and it trumps even the most atrociously outrageous political
behavior, and very active attempts to contravene it with sweet reason.
The newest piece of “geek” political “truth” says
that once a party controls the White House for two terms the country always
(very few, very old exceptions) votes in the opposite party. Such historical
analysis suggests that an election in 2016 is unnecessary and that we could
save a lot of money and time if we simply let Republicans pick our next
Since the pundits have this down to basically a
science I am already inclined to just accept the inevitable. Yes, I have a
sinking feeling in my gut because I think we would have to eventually undo
almost everything a Republican President would do right now, especially with a majority
in Congress and in the Supreme Court. This nightmare scenario may make many
feel the same degree of glee as I do of despair, but I still conclude that what
the faithful applaud in ideological form they will soon come to despise in

Perhaps you already have heard me say this, perhaps
not, but I just cannot stop making this point until or unless it becomes a
political meme. I believe if America had referees the Republicans would be
benched for their disgustingly anti-American behavior. They have accepted public
office under false pretenses. They had no intention of governing. They took
office in order to stop governance and have left the American people to fend
almost for themselves through very tough economic times. We had only the Obama
administration between us and financial ruin. Republican racism has embarrassed
us in front of the entire world. They should be arrested for sedition and
jailed. They should be penalized and they should have to sit out this election.
They do not deserve to skate into the highest office in our nation on the heels
of some kind of statistical probability.
By Nancy Brisson

The Election Geeks Are Loose


the 2016 election is now open for business. 
The elections “nerds” have been champing at the bit but their bosses at
the major media outlets have been holding them back.  Heel boys, heel!  Surprisingly (or not) the boys seem to have a
harder time controlling themselves than the girl media stars do.  The charts and polls and expert guests had
been kept to a minimum until January, 2014, but it looks like the “go” signal
has been given.  The polls, charts and
experts are now proliferating and the speculation about who the candidates will
be has been ramped up considerably. 

on the Democratic side, until Hillary makes the decision to run or not,
speculation can’t really run rampant. But from now until the parties pick “the”
candidate we will run through the Republican roster each and every day – all
day long – hour after hour.  You really
have to be a real election hound, an addict, to want to do this or some
variation of this for the next two years.

of these pundits have a deep knowledge of election history and it is sometimes interesting
to listen to the stories they have to tell of previous elections. What they
tell us often makes the electioneering we are seeing since Bush left office
appear to be a bit more normal than it reads to me. I still read the political
climate as more extreme than usual. However, even these election history geeks
seem to be separating the historical from the actual, and there is some
acknowledgment that things might just be extreme enough to make a new mark on
election history. Have we even plumbed the depths of the strategies that are
awaiting us?

same commentators also have an enormous collection of election “wisdom” or lore
or, dare we say, superstition which prods them to say things like “second term
curse” (why would we even bother electing someone for two terms if such a fate
is inevitable)? These are the same prognosticators who say that after the first
100 days, the second term President becomes a “lame duck” and will not be able
to accomplish another thing. Well they’ve obviously been given the nod or have
heard the starting gun and they have begun their, seemingly delightful (at
least to them) game of election speculation.

the reversal of fortune that has recently put a Chris Christie run in the
shadows (maybe only temporarily) has finally opened up that door to the current
incarnation of unending election analysis. 
All past predictions must be reshuffled and new predictions made.  The door only needed to be opened a tiny
crack in order for the pressure from all that election fervor to shove it wide.
These media people are not nuts all the time, but elections set them to
sharpening their eccentricities and their instincts. I think it may be that
these geeks, who are mostly guys, see elections as an American sport, with
players, and managers, and stat sheets, and odds. In fact (new thought) we may
get a two month reprieve while we root for our athletes in the Sochi Olympics
and try to win our billion by filling in a perfect March Madness bracket sheet.

was hoping that we could wait until the 2014 election was done before the election
brackets were drawn, but the 2014 election doesn’t look like it will shift the
majority in the House, and it even looks like Dems could lose the Senate, so I
guess the media has given up on it already. 
It’s a foregone conclusion to them. However, I will wish for a turnover
in these gloomy stats, and I will hope that voters have the sense to elect
Democrats in 2014.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

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This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com


Republicans Winning at State Level

The Republicans may have been doing nothing in Washington,
DC but they have been very busy in the states. I don’t know about you but it
makes me very nervous that 2/3 of our states have Republican governors and over
half have a Republican majority in both houses of their Congress. For a party
that is trying to restore Federalism in which the Federal government takes a
minor role and most domestic power goes to the states I would say that the GOP
is on point to implement this facet of their “plan” should they win control in
Washington. This is one more reason in a growing list of reasons why we should
not let this happen. If you like the Federal-State mix we have now, if you like
Medicare and Social Security, if you feel the Federal government should use
some of our tax dollars to make sure  children don’t starve in America  and that our disabled are cared for and our
poorest citizens are not abandoned, then I say “be afraid,  be very afraid. Republicans do not wish the
middle class well and as for the poor and society’s other dependents, they seem
only to desire to cut them loose.
Alabama                 Robert Bently                          2015                        Both houses Republican

Alaska                     Sean Parnell                            2014                        Both houses Rep.

Arizona                    Jan Brewer                              2015                        Both houses Rep.

Florida                     Rick Scott                                 2015                        Both houses Rep.

Georgia                   Nathan Deal                            2015                        Both houses Rep.

Idaho                       Butch Otter                             2015                        Both houses Rep.

Indiana                    Mike Pence                             2017                        Both houses Rep.

Iowa                        Terry Branstaad                      2015                        Houses are split

Kansas                     Sam Brownback                      2015                        Both Houses are

10.     Louisiana                 Bobby Jindal                            2016                        Split

11.     Maine                      Paul
LePage                            2015                        Both houses Democratic

12.     Michigan                 Rick Snyder                             2015                        Both houses Republican

13.     Mississippi              Phil Bryant                              2016                        Both houses Rep.

14.     Nebraska                 Dave Heineman                      2015                        Non partisan

15.     Nevada                    Brian
Sandoval                        2015                        Both Houses Democratic

16.     New Jersey             Chris Christie                           2014                        Both houses Democratic

17.     New Mexico            Susana Martinez                     2015                        Both houses Democratic

18.     North Carolina        Pat McCrory                            2017                        Both houses Republican

19.     North Dakota          Jack Dalrymple                        2016                        Both houses Republican

20.     Ohio                        John
Kasich                             2015                        Both houses Rep.

21.     Oklahoma               Mary Fallin                              2015                        Both houses Rep.

22.     Pennsylvania           Tom Corbell                            2015                        Both houses Rep.

23.     South Carolina        Nikki Haley                              2015                        Both houses Rep.

24.     South Dakota          Dennis Daugaard                    2015                        Both houses Rep.

25.     Tennessee               Bill Haslam                             2015                        Both houses Rep.

26.     Texas                       Rick
Perry                                2015                        Both houses Rep.

27.     Utah                        Gary
Herbert                           2017                        Both houses Rep.

28.     Virginia                   Bob McDonnell                       2017                        Both houses Rep.

29.     Wisconsin               Scott Walker                           2015                        Both houses Rep.

30.     Wyoming                Matt Mead                              2015                        Both
houses Republican
Here it is in map form (you know the red states are

27 Republican controlled legislatures

17 Democratically controlled legislatures

5 Split Legislatures

1 Officially non-partisan legislature (Nebraska)
It takes 270 electors to win the Presidency in the electoral college. By my count the current state of the states gives Republicans 311 electoral votes. While it is possible that the popular vote in a given state might not reflect  the configuration of the state’s government, it also seems very possible that those in power are a reflection of the sentiments of the voters in that state. Here’s the map:



This is the view from the cheap seats

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com


Off to the Races

The pundits and commentators who eat, sleep, and breathe
politics are off to the races – the 2016 Presidential races that is. They can’t
help themselves. The Republicans (who have no viable candidates) are just too
juicy to resist. The Democrats have to wait for Hillary so they are no fun for
these guys at all. (Until last night at least, when several seasoned newsmen
decided that Hillary has informally put herself into the race.) But the GOP has
these media “President-makers” salivating (why, I have to ask).

I know that the Presidential election is as close to a sport
as politics gets. Handicapping potential candidates, filling in those racing
sheets with pros and cons; it is almost as good as picking the brackets for the
NCAA Tournament.

But, you need to cut it out boys! And I say boys because male
commentators seem to be much more likely to engage in this type of behavior and
to do it way too early. Hold your horses! Don’t jump the gun! The odds are way
too long! I won’t go on.

We still have a very important (much more important than
usual) 2014 election. Handicap that. What seats are open? Who’s running? Who’s
likely to win? Keep track of it for us. Do the counts, please. You are the
experts after all.

No wonder most voters don’t vote in midterm elections; you news
folks skip right over the midterms. You don’t generate any excitement about
them. Turn the midterms into a horse race. We need people to get out and vote
in 2014 before the elections in 2016. I have made a bet, I guess with myself,
that if we get a majority of Dems in both the House and the Senate for Obama’s
last two years he can bust through that lame duck crap and still get some of
the people’s business done. He can get back the two years he had at the
beginning of his Presidency, the ones with the Democratic majorities in both
houses of Congress that got scrapped by the “great recession”. It seems fair
that Obama get those two years back. It seems unfair that the people get only 4
years of work out of an 8 year Presidential term. Chris Matthews and Wolf
Blitzer – I’m talking to you – and anyone else who is off to the races.

I know that Republicans have a meeting just about every minute
and that these meetings are like flashing a bunny in front of a dog in front of
a horse. You are like little news puppets. The GOP is playing you. They keep
your attention on 2016 so they can have their way with 2014. Get a grip guys
and if there are any girls who are guilty, you get a grip too. Focus – 2014,
then 2016, please, please, please!


This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com


Hater Week – Zombies v the American People


It is always interesting to watch the GOP in the Obama years
as they zombie-up and do nothing except grumble, criticize, and complain;
accuse, indict, and convict. We the people have elected a President who,
according to the GOP, can do nothing right. Not only is the President wrong but
so are the American people. They are so glad that Congress is basically their bitch
and that they can correct the mistaken policies that the President and the
American people wish to pursue. They are secretly congratulating themselves
that they have been able to hold our feet to the cleansing fires of austerity
and have been able to keep employment low so that they could continue to blame
the Democrats for high unemployment and bad fiscal policy, even while making it
impossible for Democrats to have any say in setting fiscal policy since just
after the original stimulus plan. OK, through a less than pretty strategy we
did get the tax increase at the top, but through a technicality we remained
saddled with Grover Norquist.

This week the Republicans have been making my head whip
around like that poor possessed woman in The
. First we have had to listen to them insisting that the Boston bomber
should be treated like an enemy combatant even though he is an American citizen.
What? When an American joined terrorists in the Middle East and was killed in a
drone strike, Republicans were appalled that this traitor was not treated as an
American citizen and given a fair trial. Now we have another American, however
much we might want to disavow him as a citizen, and this time they are irate
that he is not being treated as an enemy combatant. Whiplash! It looks like the
only strategy these two complaints have in mind is to indict Obama. Why is our
Congress fighting our President when America has so many real enemies? Good

These guys are playing a long game of their own. They plan
to hold America in place, to not let it move one inch to the left, until they
can take office in 2016 and pursue the agenda that they mistakenly believe is
the road back to a “morally straight” America, which, if we are totally honest,
has never existed. We are human beings; we are flawed; we do the best we can.
The GOP will then create the Fundamentalist Heaven on Earth that they swear we
will all be grateful for and they will distort America in whatever ways they must
to bring the corporations back and keep them here by busting the unions. And we
will drill happily ever after until the Rapture.

The second thing that happened this week was this stuff with
the air traffic controllers and the Sequester. The Senate came together and
unanimously passed a bill to keep control towers open on the eve of their Spring
break. Wow! That was the fastest move I have seen this Congress make in the
last five years! What, no filibuster? I didn’t see that kind of hustle when
toddlers lost their Head Start programs.

I don’t know that I have ever been more aware of how little
power citizens have in our government than I have in recent years. We can write
our Congressional representatives, we can write editorials, we can march in
demonstrations and carry signs, but these behaviors have had almost no effect
on Republicans who have their districts zipped up and squared away through
gerrymandering and tradition. If they are able to change the election laws in
the other ways they would like they will make it even more difficult to unseat
Republicans. Yes, I know this is the way American politics works and that all
of these things fall under the category of strategy, but there must be lines
that are drawn that make some things off limits; some things too manipulative
and underhanded to be legal. Where are the lines? They are disappearing. Obama’s
new digital grassroots campaign strategies have actually given me the greatest
hope that the average citizen can still participate in government but soon
these techniques will be co-opted by both the GOP and by the marketplace and
their effectiveness will be neutralized.

There seems to be only one way out of this untenable
situation, out from under the party that is usurping the rights of American
citizens and changing the landscape of our democracy perhaps forever. Elect
Democrats in 2014!