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A Political Snow Job

If nothing else, the big blizzard that hit the East Coast is sparing us from some of the oh-so-trite coverage of the presidential election, which actually only gets underway eight days hence.

Governor Christie did make it back to New Jersey for the storm, even though he had originally said that the Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno, could manage the preparations and aftermath well enough. And she probably could, but New Jerseyans elected Christie and we want him to fulfill at least some of his duties before he slinks back here in the spring to either finish out his term or pull a Palin and resign to do his own cable TV insult show. Besides, his brief run up the polls in New Hampshire seems to have stalled and he’s now behind the other so-called moderate or establishment candidates, and far behind Donald Trump in the February 9 primary.

In fact, it’s the other governor, Ohio’s John Kasich, who seems to have caught a bit of a tailwind in the weeks leading up to the first votes. Some of those polls will likely be outliers because they show him with 15 and 20 percent of the vote, but the trend is positive, and that’s what every candidate wants just before the election.  Meanwhile, it’s Marco Rubio who got the De Moines Register‘s coveted (by those who work for newspapers) endorsement, but that only shows that the Register can be just as wrong as the Manchester, NH Union-Leader, who endorsed Christie before the holidays.

And on your left, that’s Bernie Sanders holding an aggregate lead over Hillary Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire on the strength of the youth vote, which can be treacherous for any candidate to rely on. These results might hold until February, but in the end I don’t believe that Bernie will be the nominee, and that goes for Trump or Cruz too. There’s a president in both fields, but they don’t have a clear lead in the early states.

Which of course brings us to the next topic which is, what any of these candidates will, or could, do if they are elected. And that’s where things get complicated. When asked about the limits of what they could do as president, only Rand Paul answered questions about executive powers.  Every other candidate–every one–declined to give an answer. Not only is that dangerous, it likely shows quite a bit of ignorance about how our constitutional system works.

First of all, should a Democrat be elected, and that’s the scenario I see, the Republicans will control the House of Representatives, and the Senate will either have a small Democratic or Republican majority, but likely not the 60 vote threshold the parties need to stop a filibuster. That will mean that any of the far left policies that Sanders or Clinton advocate will not see the light of day. Public option health care? Nope. Free public college tuition? Nope. Carbon tax? Nope. Immigration reform with a legal status option? Probably nope. Any Democrat will have to compromise and try, incrementally, to move the system to the left.

But wouldn’t a Sanders win be the result of a massive electoral shift to the left? Yes, absolutely. Which is why he won’t be elected. Such a shift is at least two cycles away.

On the Republican side, if Trump or Cruz wins the election, that would mean that the electorate will have moved decisively to the right, which it hasn’t. So they won’t.

A more moderate GOP candidate would have a friendly House and possibly a small Senate majority. This is a recipe for some serious legislation, but the Democrats would likely filibuster the worst ideas away. It would also mean more tax cuts for the wealthy and a rollback, via the same executive orders the Republicans decry from Obama, of the EPA rules that govern everything from automobile standards to coal plant closings to public land management, fewer limits on Wall Street banks (Hillary might do some of this too), and more limits on women’s health care. Of course, the most ominous event would be the rollback of the ACA, which is a very real possibility.

In such a polarized environment, and I don’t see a decisive shift either way in November, much of what the candidates are saying will not come to pass. Throwing 11 million people out of the country would signal the United States as throwing out its historical legacy and I discount it out-of-hand. The same is true of having the Mexicans building a wall on our border. And none of the far right’s agenda concerning marriage equality, banning and criminalizing abortion and bombing ISIS targets will become law. The Sanders agenda, even if some of it is carried by Hillary, is also unlikely.

My faith in the judgement of the American people leads me to believe that the nominees will not be any of the far right or far left varieties. If it looks like one of them might come out of Iowa and New Hampshire with momentum, I can see a backlash by more moderate voters in the later voting states. It won’t mean that the polls now are wrong, but it will mean that they will shift in what is usually a fluid political environment. The money will flow to the establishment candidates for good and for ill, and by the time this is over the country will have experienced a messy, rocky, changeable, infuriating, frustrating, unsatisfying, but ultimately liberating process.

In short, democracy.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sports

The Madness Is Upon Us – College Basketball Style

Yes! It’s Here! March Madness 2013 – the Superbowl of College Basketball, will begin Thursday, March 21st, 2013 with 68-teams focusing on the biggest prize in the college ranks, that of National Champion!

To be fair, there are several ‘Play-In’ games of smaller schools to actually get the opportunity to play against the #1 seeded teams in each region. Oh BOY, if you’re the smaller school that wins the ‘Play-In’ game. But the elation of that win turns into a sudden dose of reality once they step into the arena of BIG TIME Basketball against powerhouse #1 seeds like Indiana out of the East Region, Kansas from the South, Louisville representing the Midwest and, yes, the Cinderella Darling of previous National Championship runs, Gonzaga University out of the great state of Washington – with a student body enrollment of just over 7,800 – solidifying the #1 seed from the West.

march madness1

Just looking at the brackets this year brings about intrigue and anxiety, depending on who you’re pulling for. I’m a North Carolina Tarheels fan and they’re an 8 seed. They’ve been a staple in the Big Dance for years and have 5-National Titles which includes 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005 and the last in 2009.  They won’t win a 6th this year. (Sorry ‘Heels Fans). This is the first time I can recall UNC not having a ‘true’ big man in the middle. It will be tough to advance without one, especially if they win against #9, Villanova, they get #1 Kansas. Goodnight.

Also coming out of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) are N.C. State, another 8 seed in the East, Miami, a 2 seed also in the East who, arguably, should be a 1 after winning the ACC tournament and perennial tournament participant, Duke University (BOOO!), a 2 seed in the Midwest Region.

Another first, at least in my opinion, there’s not a clear favorite to win this year’s coveted trophy. That is unless you’re a #1 seeded fan. Indiana, Kansas, Louisville and Gonzaga have all been ranked #1 this season, only to suffer loses immediately after becoming #1. I know some will say, that’s just the regular season and this is when the season begins. True in both, but in years past, the dominating teams like Duke or Georgetown or North Carolina or Kentucky  – which didn’t even make it in this year –  or Michigan or Michigan St., just to name a few, were teams that ran the table during the regular season in most instances, won their conference championship and/or were regular season champs. It just doesn’t seem like the teams have that same dominance this year. And because of that, this tournament is Wide Open.

March-Madness2

Outside of North Carolina being the clear favorite, I’ve never been so excited about March Madness. Why you ask? Because of how evenly matched these teams are, it will be hard to discern which region has the clear advantage or which team has an easier track to the Final Four. All the #1 seeds will make it deep into the tourney but they also have uphill battles with some teams that are poised to send them home before the Final Four.

Let’s take a quick look at some possible bumps in the road in each region:

  •  Louisville, the overall #1 seed in the Midwest may play #9, Missouri in the 2nd round and if Duke makes it through, Wow, what a great game to see who makes it through the Elite 8.
  • Gonzaga, out of the West, has #2 seed Ohio State possibly in an Elite 8 match-up  but they may have a tougher time trying to get past a tough Sweet 16 possibility with  #4 Kansas State. And, there’s a hungry, 29-5, #3 seed, New Mexico team sitting out there as well.
  • In the South, Kansas has some match-up problems of their own with a possible tango with #4 Michigan, in a must-see Sweet 16 nightmarish challenge. Within the same region, Florida and Georgetown may do the dance to advance to the Elite 8.
  • Finally, the East #1 seed, Indiana definitely won’t have a cake-walk with Syracuse, a struggling #4 seed in their bracket. Miami, a 2 seed, is playing some great ball at the moment and has all the momentum going into this tournament. They too, are in the East and have a chance to advance to the Final Four.

Again, just looking at the brackets this year, survival early will be the name of this year’s Madness. Upsets have happened early before but I don’t see any of the #1 seeds getting bounced early this year. However, I don’t think all of the #1’s will make it through to the Final ‘Soirée’ either.

 My Final Four are: Ohio State, Kansas, Miami and Louisville

 Finalist will be: Ohio State vs. Miami

 National Champions: Miami Hurricanes

 I’m no Prognosticator by any means but my picks feel solid. It’s all up for debate which is why we fill these crazy brackets out every year. It’s Always fun, Always Crazy and It’s Always Madness Baby! Thanks Dick Vitale J