Thursday, December 8, 2016

Obama Legacy is Gone

There was likely more shock on Election Night at the White House than the newsroom of CNN and probably as much horror as in the Clinton Peninsula Hotel room.

Much of the Obama legacy will shortly be gone. He thought his unprecedented campaigning for Hillary Clinton would ensure its survival, but having the most votes wasn’t enough, having the most policy papers and solutions was irrelevant, and being the “party of the ascendant” was a mirage. A sufficient number of people wanted to just burn it down to give Donald Trump a 100,000-vote victory in the only three states that mattered in 2016: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

A quick review of the Cabinet picks and the policy agenda shows how dramatically Obama’s policy legacy joins his Democratic Party legacy. The party is at lows that predate the 1930s and the Roosevelt era. The party can hope to recover, but it is unlikely to save Obama’s agenda. Recall the administration’s shift to using federal agencies (power plant EPA standards, waters of the U.S. rule), foreign policy (China global warming agreement) and executive discretion (Keystone Pipeline, deportations) was implemented to circumvent a resistant Congress and to fulfill Obama’s unrealized second term agenda and create a legacy. That fragile legacy built on executive authority and defended by a weak party will soon be gone.


Downtown LA is Coming Alive

When I first entered Los Angeles in 1965, it was through downtown. What a depressing place – dingy, dirty and in decline. Today, every visit is a new adventure. High rise buildings with lots of Chinese money, first-class sports complex, extraordinary Catholic Cathedral, Grand Central Market, ethnic areas of revival, art districts, and world-class art venues: the Disney Concert Hall, the Contemporary, and newest and most impressive, The Broad.

The Broad is LA’s new contemporary art museum and most accessible. Not only is it free, but the art hits the highlight best-known post war artists, blended with the newest and provocative. The collection has Koons, Johns, Ruscha, Warhol, Baldessari, Lichtenstein, Basquiat and Cindy Sherman.

The Grand Avenue museum also has some amazing installations, such as Yayoi Kusama’s enclosed room of mirrors and lights, Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.

And, it has Richard Prince’s “I eat politics, I sleep politics, But I never drink politics.”

Richard Prince’s background:

Richard Prince emerged in the late 1970s among a group of artists using conceptual photographic strategies, including Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, and others. In Prince’s technique, he rephotographs advertisements or magazine images and presents them as art. For this reason, he is aligned with the theories and concerns of appropriation and specifically with the critical debate over artistic authorship.

Alongside the photographs of pre-existing images, Prince developed the Monochromatic Jokes series of paintings, an example of which is Eat, Sleep and Drink, 1989. Jokes can be seen as masks for something else, masking harsh critiques under cool, detached irony. The line is from a well-known New Yorker cartoon showing two men and a bartender discussing when not to discuss politics. A very good thought for today.

The 2018 Governor’s Race Starts

Candidates are lining up in both parties for the 2018 governor’s race in Colorado. Democrats haven’t had a competitive race for more than a decade. Bill Ritter ran unopposed in 2006 after both Ken Salazar (who opted for U.S. Senate) and John Hickenlooper (stayed Denver mayor) dropped out. In 2010, Hickenlooper was more or less appointed to the nomination after Ritter declined to run for a second term.

But already, in anticipation of 2018, at least a half dozen Democrats are floating their names, including State Senator Mike Johnson, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Congressperson Ed Perlmutter, and back from Washington D.C., Ken Salazar. Several legislators are also being mentioned.

Republicans have had tough primaries. In 2010, chaos ruled when the establishment frontrunner, Scott McInnis, was defeated in a primary by an unknown Tea Party advocate. Tom Tancredo, former congressman, jumped in the race and won more votes than the Republican nominee Dan Maes. Bob Beauprez was the nominee in 2006. Although he made it without a primary, a well-funded opponent who failed to make the ballot did him much damage. In 2014, he got through a five-person primary, but lost to Hickenlooper by 5 points.

Beauprez is not on the 2018 list, but early names mentioned are District Attorney George Brauchler, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, businessman Kent Thiry, and a variety of legislators and state party officers.

Although Democrats have had a good run in Colorado, holding the office since 1974 except for the eight Bill Owens years (1998-2006), the Barack Obama presidency has been hard on the Democratic Party. They are down to only 18 governors and will be anxious to hold onto Colorado.

Also read The Buzz: Can Democrats hold the Colorado governorship?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Year of the Outsider

In a Denver Post guest editorial last January, I asked:
“Are Western democracies facing an existential crisis? Around the globe, anger and frustration are fueling what may be another historic challenge to political and party establishments.
Nowhere is this more evident than on the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign trail, where political outsiders are riding a wave of voter discontent. These candidates, with little or no political experience, are often discounted as “unelectable.” But in this election cycle, voters seem more interested in an opportunity to vent than the traditional calculus of electability.”
The crises for the EU and the Western Alliance appear life-threatening and the struggle of survival is not going well for the advocates of the liberal Democratic ideal.

David Cameron is gone; Matteo Renzi just defeated; Francois Hollande dropped out; and Barack Obama’s term is up and legacy, including globalism, is slipping away. Only Angela Merkel is left to defend the alliance, and her hold has been weakened.

If 2016 was the year of the outsider, 2017 is the year of revolt. And populism is now the dominant theme.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Trump Surge Builds on Obama’s Recovery

After the boom market in 2007 when 1000 points was added to a 14000-point DOW in 49 days, it was four years before a similar 1000-point rise in May of 2013. The DOW went up 257 points on Wednesday after the election (Election Day the DOW was 18332). The DOW crossed 19000 on November 22. It took more than a year to get there, from 18000 registered back in December 2014. A very slow slog, at least partially related to oil prices, which now seem to be headed above $50 a barrel. Barack Obama can take some credit for the economy from 2009. The DOW today is 19191. If the rally continues, 20000 is definitely in sight by January.

The stock market was neither anticipating a Donald Trump win nor was encouraged by the possibility. The market declined after the first Comey email announcement on October 28(273 points in the following week) and rebounded nearly 400 points on the Monday prior to Election Day after the Sunday news that there was no legal issue to pursue.

Pundits and investors were both wrong in their prediction of the election result and wrong about the market reaction.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Can Democrats Hold the Colorado Governorship?

Hillary Clinton’s defeat has changed a host of political careers. John Hickenlooper was going to Washington. Now, it appears he will serve out his term and possibly be active in the first truly open and contested gubernatorial election in more than a decade. He could, of course, get a tempting offer to run something interesting in D.C., New York or elsewhere.

Both parties approach the 2016 prospects optimistically. In the 2014 off-year election, Republicans won all the statewide constitutional elections except governor. And their best vote getters, such as Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman, won in spite of the state’s slight shift to the left in recent years. In the 2016 presidential election, along with Coffman, Republicans won a contested statewide CU Regent race and held onto State Senate control while Clinton won the state by 136,000 votes.

Democrats’ optimism begins with history. They have controlled the governorship, with the exception of Bill Owens’s eight years, continuously since Dick Lamm’s first term beginning in 1974 (Lamm, Romer, Owens, Ritter, Hickenlooper).

Also, if the 2018 election holds true to form, it can be difficult for the presidential party. Ronald Reagan in 1982, Bill Clinton in 1994 and Barack Obama in 2010 all lost significant numbers of House seats. George W. Bush was an exception in 2002 due to 9-11, which strengthened the position of most incumbents. Does Donald Trump overreach? Does the economy not surge? Does a crisis of his making erupt overseas? Or conversely, is his first year seen as a success and opponents perceived as divided and ineffectual? The answers to these questions will largely shape Colorado’s race.

Presidential popularity is the key factor as presidents with approval ratings below 50 percent suffered major losses. Will Trump be popular in 2018 or will he and his era produce some new metrics to observe?

Read Politico: Democrats look to 2018 governors races for rebuild

Democratic Party’s Risk in Moving to Left

From the new head of the Democratic National Committee to the Democratic leadership in Congress, Democrats may shift to the left as they absorb the loss of the presidency and continued minority status in the House and Senate. Democratic Party state chairs are meeting in Denver today. They are, no doubt, thinking most closely about what will help in their 2017 and 2018 elections.

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Senator Elizabeth Warren made it clear she intends on opposing the new Trump administration as representing Wall Street, K Street, banks and corporations. She is the primary champion of the pro regulation, anti-tax cut approach. Is moving to the left on regulation and taxes a good 2018 midterm or 2020 strategy?

It is too early to determine the level of support for the left-liberal position. Much will depend on Donald Trump’s success the first year, but history would suggest caution. Democrats have a host of Senate seats to hold in 2018, many in pro Trump or competitive states. Also, the effort to rebuild their gubernatorial ranks after the losses during the Obama years will require candidates who are less ideological and more common sense. Defaming Wall Street and corporations or promoting federal regulation may not be especially in favor during the next election cycle. Also, it seldom works in competitive states that require appealing to centrist voters.

The Democratic Party’s move to the left after 1968 produced few gains in House or Senate in the 1970 midterm and a historic presidential level loss in 1972 with George McGovern. He carried Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Warren’s Wall Street Journal interview was particularly hostile to business and pro-regulation. She sounds so “2016”:
Class Warfare
The clearest point that comes out of this election is that the American people do not want Wall Street to run their government. They do not want corporate executives to be the ones who are calling the shots in Washington.
Anti-D.C.
Whether people were voting for Hillary Clinton or whether they were voting for Donald Trump, they weren’t voting for Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan’s deregulatory mix—let guys do whatever they want to do, let giant corporations do whatever they want to do.
Massachusetts politicians have a poor record of leading the Democratic Party to the White House – Ted Kennedy, Michael Dukakis, Paul Tsongas and John Kerry. Ms. Warren’s resume of tenured Harvard law professor is not a currently popular job description.