On Polls of Wisconsin Governorship and U.S. Senate Races

I am more than a little puzzled by the discrepancy between the respective margins that I’ve seen polling organizations recently report in the races for the Wisconsin U.S. Senate seat and the Wisconsin Governorship.  I understand that pollsters are currently finding that Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin leads her opponent, Republican State Senator Leah Vukmir, by perhaps as many as 15 points, while Republican Governor Scott Walker is indicated to be trailing his opponent, Democratic Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, by only a few points – either at or within the margin of error.

While incumbency has always been a distinct advantage in American electoral politics, in the hyper-partisan, polarized environment currently existing both within the country and the State of Wisconsin, it’s hard for me to believe (as one seemingly should, if the polls are to be credited) that up to ten percent of the Wisconsin electorate will split their tickets to retain both Sen. Baldwin and Gov. Walker.

Although voter sentiment could swing heavily one way or the other in the ten days remaining before Election Day – those with longer memories will recall that the Carter-Reagan Presidential race was razor-thin until the electorate split heavily for then-Candidate Reagan in the weekend before the 1980 Election Day – it seems to me that the reported narrow margin between Gov. Walker and Superintendent Evers is closer to the existing state of our Wisconsin political climate than the wide margin reported to exist between Sen. Baldwin and State Sen. Vukmir.  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see both races decided (either way) by fairly narrow margins.

On the Caravan

There are certain positions embraced by large numbers of our citizens that I don’t understand – literally, “don’t get”; perhaps foremost among them is the visceral desire so many of our people have to keep immigrants out of our country.  The President is obviously currently in the process of inciting a frenzy amongst his supporters about the “caravan” of Hondurans now making their way north from their country through Mexico.

Putting aside the fact that the President is blatantly lying about these desperate people – such as calling their progress north an “invasion” (2000 penniless, malnourished, exhausted, unarmed people — including children — over 1000 miles away is hardly a challenge for the most wealthy and armed 300+ million people on earth), while indicating that the caravan was organized and/or encouraged by the Democrats and includes “Middle Easterners” (presumably terrorists) – so as to prey upon his supporters’ fear and intense dislike of Hispanic immigrants for his own political gains, it cannot be ignored that although the President exploits these feelings, he didn’t create them; a significant segment of our populace obviously does feel a deep antipathy toward non-white, non-English-speaking immigrants.

In an economy in which just about everyone that wants a job has one, it’s hard to ascribe these citizens’ abhorrence to fear of job loss.  Perhaps some of it arises from no more than a wary discomfort with what is different.  Perhaps some arises from the notion that immigrants are a drain on our public finances.  (Acknowledging that there are distinctions that should perhaps be taken into account, I have seen any number of economists opine that immigration is an overall a net economic plus for us.)  Since the vast majority of the President’s supporters and virtually all of those that form the backdrop of his rallies are of European Christian descent, it’s hard not to attribute the hostility of some (NOT all) to racial and/or religious bias.

As these struggling people continue their extremely arduous and dangerous journey north, the irony of the anxiety being felt by some of our citizens isn’t merely an “800 pound gorilla” … it’s King Kong.  I see little difference between the struggle those in the caravan are currently enduring to escape intolerable conditions in their own country to seek a better life in our country from that of the European emigres who left intolerable conditions in their countries to come here a couple of centuries ago.  Whether they braved a terribly dangerous journey to cross the sea to an extremely harsh environment because of religious persecution, famine, or otherwise, they came here, as the Hondurans currently intend, because they saw it as their only way to a better life.  The vast majority of them arrived here with no more than those in the caravan carry today.  Those of English, French, German, Russian, Irish, Polish, Scandinavian, Italian, Spanish, and other descent certainly must have considered the languages, customs, faiths, and skin tones (between northern and southern Europe) of the others strange and perhaps threatening.  They got over it.

I absolutely agree that those that immigrate here should make every effort to assimilate and contribute – for their good as well as ours.  That said, while we need immigration laws, they should be tolerant ones.

There is a dominant American DNA strand, the strand that actually made this country great:  that without regard to ethnicity, gender, religion or other particulars that distinguish us from one another, our forebears that chose to make the journey here carried the same gene in their psyches — the courage to risk everything for the promise of a better life.  These Hondurans possess the same DNA strand.  Whether they ever reach and/or are admitted to our country, they already are, in the most fundamental way, citizens of the United States …

On Craig Counsell

Conceding that my close attention to Major League Baseball waned in the late 1980’s as our family grew, I’ve always felt that the best manager I’ve ever seen was Billy Martin.  Because of his managerial skill, Mr. Martin was asked to manage [and because of his vitriolic nature, ultimately asked to leave  😉 ] multiple organizations.  With each team, he would assess the talent that he had, and won Divisions, Pennants, and World Championships with different strategies and different arrays of talent:  when he had great power, he relied on offense and the homerun; when he had starting pitching, he relied on his corps of starters and his defense; when he had speed but little power, he’d steal a base, hit and run, and manufacture offense; when he had a great closer, he’d build his game strategy to maximize his closer’s effectiveness.

Although I’m but a bandwagon fan of the current Milwaukee Brewer team (although a true fan of the 1982 World Series team), I’ve now seen enough that I consider Craig Counsell — although toiling in a small market during Baseball’s Big Money Era may prevent him from ever mounting the victories and championships that Mr. Martin did – to be every bit as adept as Mr. Martin was.  He only had one pitcher win as many as 10 games this year and has only one position player – Mr. Yelich (despite my enduring affection for Charlie Moore) – that is better than the 1982 counterpart.  [Although I’m happy to debate, I’d submit that the ’82 team was markedly better than the current Brewers at catcher and all infield positions; that Ben Oglivie (40+ homeruns in ‘82) and this year’s Ryan Braun are a “push” in leftfield; and that although they brought very different skills to their teams, Gorman Thomas and Lorenzo Cain are a “push” in centerfield as well].  Mr. Counsell nonetheless managed his team to as many victories (in 162 games) as the ’82 Brewer team.

Mr. Counsell doesn’t seem to get rattled; he’s been able to leverage a bunch of different talents to the team’s best advantage; and by all accounts, he’s been able to juggle a number of personalities and egos to maintain a loose clubhouse.  Whether Milwaukee wins or loses the pennant or – if it gets that far – the World Series, he’s done an incredible job, and the Brewers and we Brewer fans — true or bandwagon – are fortunate to have him.

The Portrait of President Trump Amongst Republican Presidents

Although I suspect that most of you are aware of this, in President Trump’s recent 60 Minutes interview, the camera apparently captured a portrait hanging in the White House painted by a Trump supporter that depicts President Trump sitting at a table in the company of past Republican Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and … Abraham Lincoln.  All except Mr. Lincoln (who is shown with his back to the observer) are portrayed with broad smiles on their faces, as if sharing some congenial moment with Mr. Trump.  Although – now back from travels – I really do want to get to substantive topics, the irony of this (apparently lost on Mr. Trump, or he wouldn’t have had the picture hung) is more than I can let pass …

What would Mr. Roosevelt – who, despite his wealth and standing, chose to fight in his late 30’s in the Spanish-American War and led the charge up Cuba’s San Juan Hill, as President legendarily suspicious of big business and its abuses, the “Trust [Monopoly] Buster,” the regulator of railroads, the rabid outdoorsman who loved the environment and established and expanded national parks during his term — have of a congenial nature to share with Mr. Trump?  (Of all his table companions, if I was Mr. Trump, I’d fear TR, the only one likely to just … slug me.)

What would Mr. Eisenhower – a man who devoted his life to the military service of his country, was a de facto “general-diplomat” during WWII that respectfully, patiently, tactfully, and thoughtfully held British, French resistance, and American forces in alignment, served as the first Supreme NATO Commander, and as President confronted soviet aggression while nourishing the NATO Alliance — have of a congenial nature to share with Mr. Trump?

What would Mr. Nixon – a highly intelligent and deeply-schooled foreign policy mind who devoted his life to thwarting soviet aggression – who, despite his personal failings, was as responsible as any single individual for forging and maintaining the American Era between 1945 and 2016, who brought an end to 20+ years of the deepest acrimony between the U. S. and China by forging what has remained a positive relationship with China until the Trump Administration, and established the Environmental Protection Agency [yes, really 😉 ] – have of a congenial nature to share with Mr. Trump?

What would Mr. Ford – perhaps the most honorable man to live in the White House since President Lincoln, devoted to his wife for 58 years, personally beloved on both sides of the political aisle, who was a trial to his advisors because he was loath to say or think anything bad about anybody, a steadfast supporter of the NATO Alliance, who took the courageous but politically unpopular step of pardoning Mr. Nixon that he knew could cost him re-election because he believed it was the right thing to do – have of a congenial nature to share with Mr. Trump?

What would Mr. Reagan — who most aggressively of all Presidents confronted Soviet advances, who set the stage for the fall of the Soviet Union (which Vladimir Putin, who President Trump “likes,” has been reported to have called, “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”), who amicably compromised at times with the Democrat Speaker of the House, and who described his “City on the Hill” as “… A tall proud city … teeming with people of all kinds … with free ports … open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here …” — have of a congenial nature to share with Mr. Trump?

What would George H. W. Bush – a man of gentlemanly demeanor, devoted to his wife for 73 years, who, despite his wealth and family standing, enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday, as the first American representative to China reinforced the relationship established by President Nixon, as President skillfully crafted a multi-nation alliance to conduct Desert Storm and had the political courage to raise taxes when he felt the nation’s finances required it, and watched Mr. Trump shamefully impugn his son, Jeb, confiding to a friend that he was voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016 – have of a congenial nature to share with Mr. Trump?

What would George W. Bush, perhaps overmatched by the presidency but by all accounts a well-read man who as President provided Medicare Drug Coverage for Seniors and, whether wise or unwise, sought to spread the American ideas of freedom, human rights, and democracy into the Middle East, a fiercely loyal Bush who watched and listened to Mr. Trump disrespectfully impugn his father, his brother, and himself – have of a congenial nature to share with Mr. Trump?

Finally, what would Mr. Lincoln – “Honest Abe,” a reader and self-made man, who fought fiercely to preserve the American Union, declared that “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand,” freed African slaves and, after a bitter civil war that makes our current travails seem of no account, declared that Americans should move forward “With malice toward none and charity for all” – have of a congenial nature to share with Mr. Trump?  (Perhaps the painter had the grace to place Mr. Lincoln’s back to the observer because he could only fairly have shown tears in Mr. Lincoln’s eyes.)

The portrait portrays other Republican presidents standing a bit back from the table:  Presidents Grant, Hoover, Coolidge, and Harding.  I am surprised that the artist didn’t place Messrs. Hoover, Coolidge, and Harding at the table with Mr. Trump, since each seemingly has more in common with him than any of the Republican presidents discussed above:  in 1930, Mr. Hoover signed the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act, which implemented protectionist policies that raised U.S. tariffs on thousands of imported items and is claimed by some economic scholars to have exacerbated the Great Depression; Mr. Coolidge most famously proclaimed that “The chief business of the American people is business”; and Mr. Harding, of course, presided over the Teapot Dome Scandal, wrongdoing uncovered as a result of an extensive Congressional inquiry that ultimately resulted in Mr. Harding’s Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, doing jail time for taking bribes from oil interests …

Forbes’ Article: Roberts Requests Tenth Circuit to Investigate Kavanaugh Ethics Questions

While quite a bit has already been said in these pages about the Kavanaugh confirmation battle, a good friend has called a Forbes article to my attention that the friend felt some might find of interest.


P.S. to Last Kavanaugh/Bond Post

After posting last night’s entry, I saw that in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, William Galston made a passing reference in his column to the possibility that Democrats might seek, as “FDR tried,” to expand the number of Supreme Court Justices to counteract the effect of conservative Justices.  While I am an admirer of Mr. Galston, I hadn’t seen his column when I entered the last post  🙂 .

Final Kavanaugh Thoughts … and Determining James Bond’s Political Prescience: Part II

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there  🙂.

8.  A number of pundits have intoned over the last weeks that Justice Kavanaugh will have a “major impact” on American jurisprudence for “the next 30 or 40 years.” I’m not so sure.  The nominee’s baldly partisan performance, as noted in Part I of this post, has cast the Supreme Court as merely another partisan institution of government.  Every American should hope that this impression – and any reality underpinning it – are quickly dispelled.  However, I offer a couple of unintended consequences that might result from the current tarnish upon the Court’s nonpartisan image:

The first, in the near term, is Chief Justice Roberts’ reaction. As many are aware, Supreme Courts of various periods are identified by the names of their Chief Justices:  the “Warren Court,” the “Rehnquist Court,” etc.  I would offer that the history of the Court shows that renowned Chiefs have sometimes been more focused on the reputation of their Courts than they were the outcome of any particular case.  If, as seems likely, the Chief Justice doesn’t want the legacy of his Court to be one of rank partisanship, I’m wondering whether he might not become a swing vote – i.e., that to regain an impartial image for the Court, he might support liberal positions on some matters (such as abortion cases) rather than follow what might be his natural inclination.  Conceding that this suggestion is pure speculation, I do offer one point in its support:  his providing the fifth vote (with the four liberals) to uphold the substance of the Affordable Care Act – on a rationale neither seemingly at the core of the parties’ legal arguments nor aligned with the reasoning espoused by the liberals.  One might suppose that the Chief Justice didn’t want his Court striking down the signature legislation of a duly-elected President and Congress, and crafted a legal argument to effect that result.

There is a second consequence that might arise in the longer term from any enduring popular impression that the Court is politicized: a liberal recasting of the structure of the Court.  The Constitution does not specify the number of Supreme Court Justices.  Congress sets the number.  The number of Supreme Court Justices set by Congress ranged from six to ten during the nation’s first 80 years; the current arrangement of nine Justices was set at nine pursuant to the 1869 Circuit Judges Act.

I suggest that demographics may not abide conservative rulings by the Supreme Court over the length of Judge Kavanaugh’s projected term.  Every day, our voting population has more now-young and now-minority people inclined to view cultural issues – be they gender, race, religion, or other — as Democrats do, and fewer people that view those issues as Republicans – and Justice Kavanaugh – do.  A study released in April by the admittedly-liberal Center for American Progress projects that by 2036, 40% or more of eligible voters in as many as 14 states – including Trump-won states Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Alaska, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana – will be non-white.  In a polarized society in which a growing majority of citizens could feel that their views and rights are being thwarted by what they perceive to be partisan conservative judges, it seems not only possible but perhaps predictable that a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress will simply pass a statute expanding the number of seats on the Supreme Court, and thereafter nominate and confirm liberal judges to those posts so as to neutralize the votes of Justice Kavanaugh and any other surviving conservatives.

As virtually all of us recall from our early schooling, what I’m suggesting could occur was proposed by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930’s, due to his frustration with the Supreme Court’s early vitiation of New Deal laws.  The proposal ended with the most stinging political defeat of FDR’s presidency.  Even the President’s fervent supporters were outraged that he was attempting to tamper with another branch of government.  I would suggest that the reaction might be different within the next 20 years if a popular impression of the Supreme Court as a partisan institution takes hold.  Roosevelt’s proposal met with widespread castigation because in those days – whether correctly or not – the Supreme Court was viewed by the populace as above the fray, indeed, sacrosanct; unless the damage done to the Court’s image by Judge Kavanaugh’s performance is rectified, it doesn’t strike me as that long a reach to suppose that a majority of citizens might within the next score of years come to favor a law that they believe is needed to provide them justice.

9.  Finally, we come to James Bond, and his projection as to which party will be helped in the midterms by the outcome of the Kavanaugh battle. Over the last few days, commentators have pontificated at length as to which party will be more inspired by the result of the struggle – the Republicans by their victory, or the Democrats by their defeat.  While I might feel otherwise if the mid-terms were to be held this Tuesday, I submit that ardor is cooled by victory, and inflamed by defeat.  I believe that the fictional 007 would feel the same.  In Moonraker, after relating Bond’s victory at cards over Hugo Drax in the seemingly harmless early contest between the British Secret Agent and the villain that formed the opening vignette of every classic Bond novel, Ian Fleming wrote:


“Before [Bond] slept [that night] he reflected, as he had often reflected in other moments of triumph … that the gain to the winner is, in some odd way, always less than the loss to the loser…”