Thursday, December 26, 2019

Off The Mark

Every December I make predictions for the coming year. But unlike most people who make predictions, I actually go back and review the predictions I made the prior December. Usually I do ok. A few of the predictions are spot-on and some are close. Two or three are total misses. 2019 was mostly all misses. I mean I was way off the mark on most everything. But like a gambler who doubles down to catch up, I will make my predictions for 2020 and hope for the best.

But first, how far off the mark were my 2019 predictions? Judge for yourself.

_1. Alabama wins another National Title.
Grade C: They made it to the championship, but Clemson kicked their ass.

_2. The economy continues to slowdown, but we don’t go into a recession until 2020. The tariff wars cool off which helps stabilize the economy for now.
Grade B: I was right about the slowdown, but I don’t see a recession in 2020. The tariff wars have finally cooled off, but too late to avoid a significant negative impact on 2019.

_3. Oil prices remain relatively low.
Grade A: I think this one was fairly accurate

_4. The Democrats will spend most of their time investigating Trump and Trump’s associates, but they won’t pursue impeachment. They will talk about it a lot, but it’s not a battle they can win. (Unless of course Trump does something really crazy…which is always a possibility.)
Grade: F: While I was right about the Democrats investigating Trump, I was wrong in predicting they would not pursue impeachment. I guess you really can’t fix stupidity.

_5. Trump gets to fill another Supreme Court seat. Get your popcorn ready.
Grade F: Maybe this was more of a wish than a solid prediction.

_6. LA Rams beat the LA Chargers in the Super Bowl. Super Bowl television ratings are in the toilet.
Grade C: Well the Rams got there, but what was I thinking picking the Chargers to make it?

_7. Red Sox and Dodgers meet again in the World Series. This time the Dodgers win.
Grade F: Total miss

_8. I think we will get an infrastructure bill and immigration reform passed this year. Both parties realize that they have to get something done with the 2020 election coming up. I know it’s hard to imagine anything getting done in Washington, but it might just happen this year. Whatever gets passed it won’t be great, but maybe a step or two in the right direction.
Grade D: Of course I should have known Congress would accomplish nothing. They did pass a last minute highway bill which is better than nothing I suppose.

_9. Russia will continue to push the boundaries in the effort to expand its influence in the Middle East. They will take advantage of the lack of leadership in the West.
Grade B: I think this is sort of correct. I thought it would be more eventful, but Russia is taking every opportunity to play a larger role in that part of the world.

_10. The Best Movie award will go to another movie I have not watched, nor will I ever. (Unless it goes to Crazy Rich Asians…really good movie, two thumbs up)
Grade F: Green Book won and it is a great movie…which I did watch.

So now for those 2020 predictions…and you can take these to the bank.

_1. LSU wins the National Championship. Head Coach Ed Orgeron becomes spokesperson for the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association.

_2. Oil prices will remain stable. If there is any significant movement I think it will be downward.

_3. Climate Change Hysteria will increase. In this election year, it’s a popular drum to beat. Greta Thunberg wins a Nobel Prize.

_4. The Irishman wins the Academy Award for Best Movie. Robert De Niro's acceptance speech turns into a rant about Trump.

_5. I am picking the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers for the World Series match up. Astros win in six games. This is a lock. Bet the farm. Now.

_6. 49ers face the Ravens in the Super Bowl. Ravens win. No one cares.

_7. I am going to lose weight, again. 10 lbs minimum.

_8. Truck capacity tightens considerably. While freight volumes are likely to increase slightly, the major factor will be the exodus of smaller fleets from the industry. Insurance costs will be the final nail in the coffin for a lot of carriers. Expect rates to go up 5-7%.

_9. In the wake of Brexit, the U.S. and the U.K. reach an historic and HUGE trade agreement. Scotland decides to stay with the U.K. so they can sell more whiskey to Americans.

_10. And the Big One: The Democrats impeachment efforts will fail and then Trump will announce that he is NOT going to run for re-election. He won’t resign, he will just say he’s decided not to run. Mike Pence will be the Republican candidate with Nikki Haley as his running mate. It will be a close race. Once again, the Democrats win the popular vote, but lose on the electoral votes. I have no clue who will be on the Democratic ticket. It won’t matter. Trump will ride off into the sunset saying that he was responsible for the win and if he had run, it would have been a landslide…. and that he really was the greatest President ever. The Democrats will spend the next two years unsuccessfully trying to convict him of something….anything...there must be something…everyone knows it…right?

Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.- Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of the Roman Empire 160-181 A.D.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Meaning of a Conservative Victory Across the Pond

The results of this week’s election in the United Kingdom seems to have conservatives here in the States feeling much better about their chances in the upcoming Presidential election. If the Brits have had enough of The Left, surely this means a big win for Republicans here in November.

I wish. Indeed, I am a moderate conservative and would be inclined to vote for almost anyone representing my side of things, including Trump (which I did in 2016, not in the primary, but as a last resort on election day). So I am encouraged to see a big conservative win in the old country.

But, the U.K. is not the U.S. The process is different, the number of parties represented is different, the Brexit issue has become a defining issue for many voters and, most importantly, a key demographic is different. While the United Kingdom isn’t as “white” as it used to be, it’s still pretty white. Like 85% white. The United States is just over 60% white. I realize this is a highly charged issue. I also realize that there are a lot of white liberals here and in the U.K., and that not all blacks and Hispanics vote Democrat. But, the Republican voters in this country are mostly white and most people of color vote Democrat. That’s just how it is. And the Republicans are struggling to get their message to resonate beyond their traditional base.

The U.K. population is also a bit older, 30% over 55 compared to 25% over 55 here. I think that matters. In addition, many of the “social” issues that divide along party lines in the United States are less divisive among the Brits. And the citizens of United Kingdom, all of Western Europe for that matter, have had more time to experience the negative effects of liberal policies. The idea of moving even further to The Left is no longer acceptable, even to those who would certainly not be considered “conservative” value voters in this country.

So, I am not persuaded that the splash created over there by this week’s big conservative victory will have much of a ripple effect on our election in this country. If anything it may motivate the Democrats to move more toward the middle while the Republicans keep playing their same old sad song, hoping to get just enough electoral votes to sneak across the finish line one more time.

By the moon that shines above us in the misty mornin' night
Let us cease to run ourselves down but praise God that we are white
And better still we're English, tea and toast and muffin rings
Our ladies with stern faces, and the captains and the kings

-lyrics from the song "The Captains and The Kings" by Brendan Behan

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Presidential Elections…What Really Matters

We are less than a year away from the 2020 Presidential Election. And right now it’s a mess. Trump is not going to be impeached. So he will be the Republican candidate, like it or not. The Democratic candidate will probably be Joe Biden, like it or not.

For Trump to win, the Democrats will have to ride the crazy train all the way to the left. I don’t see that happening. Even IF a left-leaning candidate should somehow get the nomination, by the time we get to the real race in the Fall of 2020, they will have walked back much of the extreme rhetoric and focus on more realistic ways of addressing healthcare, climate change, immigration, college tuition and maybe even talk about ways to pay for some of it. But they won’t let up on attacking Trump. And Trump will fight back. The 30% that love him will love him even more for that, and their votes are in the bag. But, the back and forth will motivate even more Democrats to vote, which is always a challenge for that party.

So the Democrat will win. And it won’t be based on Trump’s performance as President either. And by performance, I mean results, how the country is actually doing. And in that regard we aren’t doing all that bad. I’d give him a B+. (Probably higher if not for the tariff war). If by performance, one means acting Presidential, then he’s an F. He’s just not going to be that guy. And most Americans dislike him because of it.

The Democrat win won’t be based on policy either. In some cases Trump’s actions have not been well-thought out or well-executed. But directionally, his policies probably make sense to over half of likely voters. If one were to take Trump and party affiliation off the table and just look at policy objectively in terms of the strategic direction for the nation, I believe most people would favor Trump and/or Republican policies. But objectivity evaporated long ago. If a Democrat President deports illegal immigrants, he’s protecting America. If a Republican does it, he’s crushing dreams and destroying families.

When it comes to Presidential elections, performance matters, up to a point. Policy matters, up to a point. But what really matters is Personality. Picking Presidents is largely a personality contest. This is a big problem for the Republicans. We have a growing population of voters whose Presidential Personality frame of reference consists of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. For most people under 40, maybe even under 50, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are viewed much more favorably than Bush or Trump. The media plays into this narrative as well. The hard-cores on the left and the right listen to their preferred networks and mostly follow writers and bloggers with whom they agree. But most Americans aren’t paying that much attention. And it’s all the other messaging in music, television, movies, late night talk shows, etc. that sets the tone and creates the image. Clinton and Obama are portrayed as cool and smart. Bush, a nice guy, but not very cool and certainly not very smart. Trump is the worst of all, a self-absorbed narcissist. The bully no kid wants to play with, the boss no one likes to work for, the customer you avoid dealing with and the jerk you don’t want living next door. The Orange man who can’t be trusted with the nukes. This is how Trump is viewed by the majority of Americans and the rest of the world. There may be threads of truth here, but the image is decidedly one-sided, shaped and widely-shared by liberal media, entertainment and social networks.

The only Democratic candidate who could ever lose to Donald Trump, did just that. Hillary Clinton isn’t going to win many personality contests. And she had some questionable performance issues of her own as Secretary of State. Performance or policy can hurt you if your personality isn’t great. So Democrats stayed home, handed the White House to Trump and have been trying to snatch it back ever since.

Frankly, even if Trump somehow pulls off the win in 2020, Republicans have a personality problem that will continue to turn off voters who were born after 1980, and that would be most of the voters. When young and middle-age voters think of Republicans they think not only of Bush and Trump. They think of Dick Cheney, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Pastor Robert Jeffress, The Five on Fox, The Wall, Katrina, The Koch Brothers, Fracking and Golf. Think about it. When Clinton or Obama play golf it is a much needed break from the stress and hard work of being President. When Bush or Trump play it is akin to Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

This is the world we live in and it’s not likely to change. Certainly not for the next 40 years. We’ve got at least two generations who have no good memories or images of Republican leadership other than maybe John McCain. It’s a problem for conservatives. Maybe it’s time to create a new party and just start over.

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.- Franklin D. Roosevelt