A precinct level look at Douglas County

This is the meta post with all of the parts somewhat organized into one post that will be updated as I go forward. 

Since the election in November, I have been working intermittently on a project to look at how the various precincts in Omaha voted.  My goal was to try to find information that would help explain what I thought was going to be a certain defeat by Donald Trump in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District.  I thought that in Douglas County (the main portion of the district), it would be around a 10,000 vote victory for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.  It ended up being around 6,000.  I thought with this lead, Rep. Brad Ashford would certainly get over a 10,000 vote to help get him re-elected.  He ended up getting around a 9,000 vote lead.  And I certainly thought “retain” would be closer than a 14,000 vote defeat in the county.  All of these stack on each other.  At the end of Election Day, the people and policies I had supported ended up losing, thanks in part to more conservative Sarpy County.  I wanted to know why.  This analysis and report has taken way too much of my time and has become an obsession of mine in the last few months.  I hope that it gives you some insights going forward.

What this isn’t is a replacement for actually meeting and talking with voters.  Rep. Brad Ashford lost his election by a little over 3,000 votes.  If 16 voters in each of the precincts in Douglas County switched their votes to Brad Ashford instead of Don Bacon, he would have won re-election.  That’s how close it was.  Hopefully, what this gives us is a blueprint going forward.  Hopefully, we find precincts or areas that we were ignoring, previously.


Douglas County for those not intimately aware has a number of distinct regions in it.  Separated by class and race, the county seems often that it is several distinct cities.  There are a few towns in Douglas County outside of Omaha but they don’t seem as different as North Omaha compared to West Omaha.  Omaha has been described as one of the most segregated cities in America.  The western part of the city resembles white flight.

South Omaha: South Omaha is typically defined by many in Omaha as being the more heavily Latino area of the city.  There is not a great definition of the region that is uniform in every person’s mind.  I think there is a very distinct difference between South Omaha, east of around 72nd St compared to what many people consider to be West of there.  I did go through the precincts that Tony Vargas and Mike McDonnell represent in the unicameral and included all of his precincts as South Omaha.  For the most part, for the city proper (outside of Elkhorn, Waterloo, and Valley), I will be using street line boundaries as best I can to define the area.

North Omaha: North Omaha is typically viewed as the black area of Omaha.  Again, there is not a uniform definition to explain what many mean when they refer to North Omaha.  I cut my boundaries around 48th St and East.  I went through and included the precincts that Ernie Chambers and Justin Wayne represent to include North Omaha.

Old Northwest Omaha: Thanks to the nature of Omaha and the annexation of many smaller towns for years, there are distinct regions throughout the city beyond the typical north-south boundary lines.  I drew the boundaries of Old Northwest Omaha from about 72nd and Maple – 108th Fort including the streets West and North inbetween.

Northwest Omaha: While it does not have a distinguishing racial or class breakdown, Northwest Omaha that we refer to now, seems very different than what we would look at when we refer to the Old Northwest Omaha.  West of 108th seems to refer to a different part of town, in my mind, at least.  This also goes to the boundary lines around Pacific.  So this extends 108th and Dodge – 180th and Maple encompassing the streets inbetween.

Millard: This is the large suburb in Douglas County.  There are some arguments over what Millard encompasses.  I include Millard from 96th and Harrison – 159th and Dodge, in my mind.  There is a bit of an overlap in the North area with Northwest Omaha.  Some parts of Millard are in the lower middle class to the upper extremes of higher middle class.  While it does not necessarily follow, the area tends to get nicer as you go more West (towards the higher numbers).

West Omaha: I did kind of arbitrarily draw a line separating out Millard and what I consider West Omaha.  I see West Omaha as beginning at around 160th and going west to 192nd.  I believe it starts at Harrison and runs up to about Dodge.  You can certainly argue that parts of Northwest Omaha should be included in my definition of West Omaha and I wouldn’t argue too hard.  West Omaha is typically seen as the richer parts of Omaha and they are not wrong.

Midtown: I’ll be honest, I don’t have a good grasp of what people consider to be midtown.  I went through and added all of the precincts that Sara Howard represents in the unicameral.  I believe that midtown is around 48th-72nd L St – Maple St. But I’m open for more.

The rest of the towns and outlying areas like Ralston, Bennington, Elkhorn, Waterloo, and Valley have fairly set definitions.  I consider Elkhorn to be west of 192nd and north to Fort.  Waterloo is out Northwest there, as is Valley.  Bennington is North of Fort beginning around 156th in my mind.

I have Ralston on its defined boundaries – Precinct 08-01, 08-02, 08-05, and 08-06.

As I have said, outside of the outlying areas of Douglas County, I will try my best to give the street boundaries when I talk about a precinct, as best I can, to give people a visualization of where they are.

The Trump areas

For the most part, the areas of Douglas County that most heavily voted for Donald Trump are in the Western areas of Douglas County that are typically considered out of Omaha.  There are 33 precincts that gave 60% or more of the four party vote share. Of those 33, 26 are west of 160th St.  Of the other 7 precincts, only two are east of 108th St.

In these 33 precincts, 36,750 votes were cast for one of the four political parties running.  Here were the results:

  Republican Democratic Libertarian Green
Votes cast 23,630 11,397 1,466 257
% of votes 64.3% 31.0% 4.0% 0.7%


There were clearly areas of these 33 precincts that either did not feel comfortable voting for Donald Trump as President.  There were 262 more votes cast for Congress than for the Presidential candidate of one of the four parties.  Even more startling if you begin to look at it, is that that there were another 600 voters or so who came home from either the Libertarian Party or who crossed Presidential lines.  Somewhat surprising is that there were about 500 voters for Democrat Brad Ashford who did not vote for Hillary Clinton for President.  Perhaps this is not so surprising if you believe that these two Presidential candidates were the two most disliked candidates in history.

Here were the results of the precincts at the Congressional level.  There were 37,012 votes cast for the three parties running for Congress.

Republican Democratic Libertarian
Votes cast 24,234 11,875 903
% of votes cast 65.5% 32.1% 2.4%


Donald Trump was an outspoken supporter for the death penalty.  In Nebraska, we had a referendum on whether or not we should follow through with the legislature’s repeal of the death penalty or if we should reinstate the death penalty.  The language on the ballot was not confusing if you read through the referendum on the ballot but was slightly confusing to explain to someone who hadn’t looked at it.  Retain would be a vote to keep the repeal of the death penalty.  Repeal would reinstate the death penalty.

Retain Repeal
Votes cast 13,607 22,239
% of votes cast 38.0% 62.0%


These are all pretty high margins and seems unlikely to be able to be overcome in all of the precincts.  But, again, that is not my goal.  My goal is to simply cut margins where we can, even if it is as small as 16 votes/precinct. So we will look at individual precincts if there is a way for us to cut into the margin going forward.

Precincts where Trump outperformed Don Bacon

There are four precincts where Trump was able to outperform Republican Congressional candidate Don Bacon by 3 or more points in these precincts where he got 60% or more of the four party vote share.  They were with the difference in parentheses 08-41 (6.9); 08-09 (5.2); 08-40 (4.1); and 08-14 (3.6).

08-41: This is on the Northwest side of Douglas County.  I refer to it as Waterloo, even if it may be incorrect.  This would play on one of the more popular narratives that Trump was able to do extremely well in areas with more rural areas or areas that were out of the way of the typical suburban community and do well with white voters with lower education levels.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
Votes 791 274 40 6
% of votes cast 71.2% 24.7% 3.6% 0.5%


Trump was able to get a number of voters who crossed party lines to vote for him and then went back to vote for Ashford in the Congressional races.  There were 5 voters in this precinct who did not vote for one of the four parties running for President but voted for Congress:

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes -74 +94 -7


So we need to figure out why so many of those voters went for Trump and then were able to vote for Ashford.  This may or not be repeatable without Trump on the ballot for the Democratic challenger in 2018 to replicate what Ashford was able to do.  It seems probable to me that the Trump/Ashford voters are on their way to shifting their allegiances from Democratic candidates to Republican.  The only problem with this idea is that Lou Ann Linehan, former chief of staff for Chuck Hagel, defeated Democratic candidate Bill Armbrust 54.05% – 45.95%.  Linehan ran slightly behind what she did in the rest of her legislative district in this precinct.  This is one of the precincts, in particular, where I would like more data to see the trends.

08-09:  This is one of the precincts that stick out like a sore thumb for the precincts that gave Trump so much of the four-party vote share.  This precinct is primarily located from 48th-72nd St and from Sargent-Northern Hills.  This is one of only two precincts with the majority of it east of 108th St.   This precinct only had 660 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
Votes 426 209 24 1
% of votes cast 64.5% 31.7% 3.6% 0.2%


There were only 3 voters who voted for one of those Presidential candidates who did not vote for Congress.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes -36 +33 +1


Again, we have a precinct where Trump managed to convince a number of voters that voted for Ashford to vote for him in the Presidential portion of the ballot.  There is not a good explanation to this precinct.  Jill Brown, who is probably more liberal than Justin Wayne, won the precinct 54.86% -45.14% of the vote, even though there were only 53 less votes for legislature compared to the Presidential election.

08-40: I have this listed in my spreadsheet as Valley.  Valley was 95% white in the 2010 census.  22% of the residents of Valley have a bachelor’s degree or higher.  The unemployment rate in Valley is 3.8%.  The average of residents in Valley is just over 42 years old.  There were 1,407 votes cast in the Presidential election for one of the four candidates:

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
Votes 986 363 49 9
% of votes cast 70.1 25.8 3.5 0.6


Again, we see voters choosing Trump at the Presidential level but reverting back to giving Ashford a vote at the Congressional level.

There were 1406 votes cast at the Congressional level in this precinct.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes -58 +68 -2


With 179 votes being lost from the Presidential ballot to the Legislative ballot, Lou Ann Linehan won the precinct 54.72% – 45.28%.  Armbrust received nearly 200 more votes than Clinton did in this precinct.

08-14: In the Northwest area of Douglas County, if you go far enough North you reach Bennington.  And you run into this precinct.  This precinct is only a part of what I classify as Bennington.  There were 876 votes cast in this precinct for the four party Presidential vote.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
Votes 582 252 36 6
% of votes cast 66.4% 28.8% 4.1% 0.7%


And again, what we see is Trump was able to convince a number of voters to choose him and allow them to vote for Ashford at the Congressional level.  With 1 more vote cast at the Congressional level than with the four party Presidential ballot, we see just how successful Trump was able to be over Bacon.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes -31 +42 -4


A somewhat conclusion of the Trump precincts

I’ll be honest about what I thought I was going to find.  I thought what I was going to find was that the Trump voters simply did not show up to vote at the Congressional level and that was what was causing him to overperform relative to Bacon’s numbers or even Linehan’s numbers.  I was also expecting a small swing of voters deciding to vote for Trump/Laird.

But that is not what we’re seeing.  We’re seeing a number of Trump voters deciding that they didn’t want to vote for Bacon in Congress and wanted to support Ashford.  This can be true for a number of reasons.  My guess is that there is not an insignificant amount of voters who simply wanted a split ballot.  They could not pull the ballot trigger for Clinton but did not think that the Republicans should pick up a seat there.

I think there are some voters out there who were upset about voting for Clinton and seeing that they are in a roughly safe area to vote, decided that they could vote for Trump and then Ashford.   But I do not know this for certain.

One of the more likely explanations is that Trump was able to connect at some level with these voters who may have lower education and are white in a way that Clinton was not able to.  The reasons may range from they think Trump is a secret liberal, they want a crackdown on immigration, they believe he will get things done, or simple dislike for Clinton.

The organizing principle of the Democratic Party is that we are all in this together.  The goal should be to engage these voters.  They may range from slightly misinformed to openly hostile to Democratic principles.  But we do owe it to ourselves to see if they can be reached.  Cutting into margins in areas where we performed the worst at the Presidential level can provide significant results.  A number of these voters are willing to vote for Democratic policies and we must figure out why, if we want to remain competitive.

One thing I will reiterate throughout this series is the need for positive engagement with voters in every area by the Democratic Party and staff.  We need to be going out into these communities and figure out why they can reconcile a vote for Trump/Ashford.  And what we can do to vote Democratic on each line.  But more importantly, we need to engage them to figure out what is important to them and highlight how we either have the best solution to the problem or how we are working on it.

West Omaha

While it is not completely true that West Omaha is the area of the upper middle class citizens of Douglas County, it is a good enough starting point.  I arbitrarily made a decision to divide Millard from West Omaha at 160th St and separated Northwest Omaha from West Omaha inbetween Pacific and Dodge St. So what can we figure out by the way they voted?

For the Presidential share of the vote, we have the following with 24,631 votes cast in this region:

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
Number of votes 14,361 8,920 1,159 191
% of votes cast 58.3 36.2 4.7 0.8


There were a number of people in West Omaha who could not vote for Trump or Clinton but managed to find their way to vote for Congress.  Based on the numbers that we are going to see in the next table, it seems fairly clear that the people unable to vote for one of the Presidential candidates, they were less likely to be able to vote for Donald Trump.

There were 24,850 votes cast for the three candidates for Congress.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Number of votes 15,266 8,994 590
% of votes cast 61.4 36.2 2.4


Trump was simply unacceptable to nearly 1,000 voters in West Omaha.  That’s certainly not enough to be able to win the district for Hillary Clinton or make a dent in the statewide race.  But it’s enough to give us a starting point to how to make West Omaha more competitive.  Ashford was unable to run too far ahead of Clinton’s numbers only netting about 75 votes over her, despite her seeming unpopularity.

What could Ashford or another Democratic challenger do to be able to make this area of Omaha more competitive?  Why is Trump unacceptable for nearly 1,000 voters but they can turn around and vote for a Republican who deleted his press release where he denounced him?

This is where we need to look at individual precincts to see what we can do and if there’s any hope going forward.

Overperformance of Bacon

In nearly all of the precincts in West Omaha, Don Bacon ran ahead of Donald Trump by more than 2 points (15 out of 21 precincts).  Bacon ran ahead of Trump by more than 3 points in 12 of 21 precincts.  In 4 of these precincts, Bacon was able to run ahead of Trump by 5 points.  Let’s look them, shall we?

08-31: This precinct is roughly located from 174th-180th L-Center.  This was not the best precinct for Trump.  Out of 766 votes in the precinct, this is what we have.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes cast 407 299 56 4
% of votes cast 53.1 39.0 7.3 0.5


While the voters here didn’t skip the Presidential election or write in a candidate (for the most part), they did voice their displeasure by voting for Gary Johnson, it would appear.  There were 772 votes cast for the three candidates running for Congress.  This is how they shook out with the net votes compared to their respective Presidential candidate.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes +52 +2 -44


This still looks like a fairly heavily Republican area.  Don Bacon managed to get 59.46% of the vote for Congress and Ashford was unable to crack the 40% mark.

Even on the referendum, nearly 60% of voters in the precinct wanted to reinstate the penalty.  40% of the voters wanted to keep the repeal the death penalty.

But there was some hope and why I think this area may be prime for targeting.  State Senator Rick Kolowski.  Kolowski is the former principal for Millard West High School and has primarily focused on building relationships throughout his legislative district.  He consistently outperformed the expected numbers in his legislative district.  I hope to have a meeting with him and his staff soon, which will make me sound like a gushing fanboy.

Kolowski supported Nebraska’s ENDA; he supported the repeal of the death penalty; he supported giving professional licenses to immigrants affected by DACA.  He ran against a candidate that was more or less hand-picked by the Republican establishment, Ian Swanson.  Swanson was endorsed by Lee Terry, Pete Ricketts, if you can name a Republican, he supported Ian Swanson.

Swanson’s campaign was very similar to what you would consider from a Republican trying to run in a Conservative area.  I wrote more about his website and campaign somewhere else.  Swanson’s ideological differences between Bacon are infinitely small.  Kolowski and Ashford are also kindred moderate spirits.

Kolowski won 57.7% of the vote in the precinct over Swanson’s 42.3%.

How did Kolowski do it?  I’d like to meet with his staff before I write a definitive account but I have an idea.  In politics, as in life, we often use heuristics to make sense of our world.  When we look at the ballot, we see that someone has our preferred political party next to their name and we are more likely to vote for them.  We see that another politician is with a different political party, we begin to demonize him or her.

All of a sudden, we don’t really care what their ideas are.  If they are aligned with the correct political party, it does not really matter if they do not seem like a good person for the most part.  As you discover their political party or their policy beliefs your opinion of them might change.  But if you have developed a relationship with them or if you have strong bonds with them, it does not change very much.  All of a sudden you are voting for that person instead of voting for a party.

Kolowski’s strength, in my opinion, is based around the idea that he is able to build relationships with people.  They don’t see themselves as voting for a moderate Democrat but for Rick Kolowski, their kids’ former principal or neighbor.

08-37: This is one of my favorite precincts in all of Douglas County.  So is 08-31, to be honest.  This precinct is roughly 174th-180th St Harrison-Q.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 613 437 57 7
% of votes cast 55.0% 39.2% 5.1% 0.6%


There were a number of people who could not pull themselves to vote for Trump on Election Day.  There were 1,114 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.  There were 1,125 votes cast for the three candidates for Congress.  Bacon was able to get a larger vote total than Trump

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes +76 -22 -36


Bacon was able to consolidate a number of the voters who voted Johnson as part of some form of protest and a number of what I assume are Republican leaning voters who voted Clinton.

But this is another area that Democrats could target with relationship building.  This is another Kolowski precinct.  Kolowski was able to win the precinct with 647 votes garnering more votes than Trump and fairly close to Don Bacon’s vote total.

08-35: This precinct is located roughly on 156th-163rd St and Y St – Q St.  This is yet another precinct that Trump underperformed what you would think.  There was not a lot of votes cast in this precinct, 482 for the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 250 189 34 9
% of votes cast 51.9% 39.2% 7.1% 1.9%


Again, what we see is Trump being unacceptable but Bacon able to pick up the struggling Republicans who could not find it in themselves to vote for Trump.  With 480 votes cast for the three Congressional candidates, we have the following net votes:


Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes +26 -6 -13


And this is the third Kolowski precinct that we’re looking at.  There were 430 votes cast in the Legislative race.  Kolowski was able to receive 247 votes or 57.4% of the votes cast in the race defeating Swanson 57.4-42.6.

This is also on the list of potential targets where new votes can come from.

05-20:  This precinct is different than the rest of the ones that we looked at for a couple of reasons.  It’s more North and West of the other 3 precincts.  It’s located from 180th – 192nd St and B-Cedar. First, this is not an area where Trump really struggled.  There were 1,143 votes cast for the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes cast 750 355 36 2
% of votes cast 65.6% 31.1% 3.1% 0.2%


While Trump was very successful in this precinct, there were still a few voters who couldn’t find it in theirselves to be able to vote for Trump.  There were 1,138 votes for the Congressional candidates in this precinct.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes +54 -35 -22


Bacon was still able to convince a number of voters to vote for him instead of voting for Trump.  Second, this is not a Rick Kolowski precinct. Lou Ann Linehan, a Republican, defeated Bill Armbrust, a Democrat 62.8% – 37.2% in the precinct.  That’s with a number of voters not voting in the state legislature race.  The area is still very conservative but even then we see that there are a number of voters who could not vote for Trump for President.

If we are serious about reaching new voters, we have to figure out why voters were willing to not vote for Trump on the Presidential line but vote for candidates who supported them in all other ways.


There is a town in Douglas County that is surrounded on most sides by Omaha located around 72nd and Harrison St.  This town is Ralston.  The median household income in 2015 was $57,453.  The median gross rent was $772 and the mean price of housing units was $171,015.  From the census bureau, 85% of the town is white.  10% of the population is Hispanic and 2% of the Ralston population is black.  For the population of Ralston that is 25 or older, 29% of the population has a Bachelor’s Degree or higher and nearly 88% of the population has high school education or higher.  The unemployment rate in the town is 2.5%.

There are six precincts in the town.  Donald Trump won all six of the precincts.  Gary Johnson got considerable support in the town.  In three of the precincts, we have a very close election between Trump and Clinton. Here are the totals for the town for the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Green
# of votes cast 1484 1233 158 24
% of votes 51.2 42.5 5.5 0.8


Like most of the precincts that we’ve looked at, there are more people voting for the three Congressional candidates over the Presidential candidates.  This seems odd, since in general, there are more votes for President than there are for Congress.  This is typically true, even if we exclude write-in votes, like we are doing here.

There were 2937 votes cast for one of the three candidates running for Congress compared to 2899 votes cast for the four presidential candidates.  Here is how they voted with the net votes for the Congressional candidates compared to their Presidential candidate.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes -55 +172 -55


Ashford lost the town of Ralston by 24 votes overall.

So why did Ashford do so much better in Ralston than Clinton?  I think there’s something to the explanation that Trump was able to do well with the white working class voters or middle class voters.  For some reason, Trump was able to connect with these voters in a way that Clinton was not able to.  This is another time that I wish I had more data to compare this to.  I would love to see how they voted in a previous election.

There are quite a bit of Trump/Ashford voters in the town.  I would love to talk to them to see why they voted the way they did.  Perhaps, they believe that Ashford will help get things done in Washington in a way that they don’t think Bacon could.  Or if they simply believe that we should have a split government.  This is a belief that is fairly pervasive in Nebraska, in my experience.  But certainly not the best explanation.

Ashford was able to win three of the precincts.  He received over 50% of the vote in two of them.  He ran ahead of Clinton in all of the precincts.  His worst precinct there was him only running by 1.8 points ahead of Clinton.

The Democratic Party of Douglas County and of Nebraska should probably set a goal of winning Ralston in the next Congressional election.  There seems to be distrust of Bacon in this area, so it should be a way to communicate to them, compared to areas where they have to link Bacon to the unpopularity of Trump.

It’s possible that in this area what will sell is the fact that Bacon is not a resident of Omaha and is more of a carpetbagger.  At the end of the day, what is going to convince people to vote against a President and his or her party if they like him will be if their lives are not improved in 20 months.

I can tell you an issue that will not move the needle in Ralston – the death penalty.  There were 2,862 votes on Referendum 426.  They voted to reinstate the death penalty by a wide margin.  For the next table, retain is keeping the repeal of the death penalty.  Repeal is reinstating the death penalty.

Retain Repeal
# of votes cast 1217 1645
% of votes 42.5 57.5


What issues will reach out to Trump/Ashford voters?  Which way are they headed?  Are they headed TOWARD the Republican Party by breaking party lines by voting for a Republican for President?  Or are they headed TOWARD the Democratic Party by breaking party lines by voting for a Democrat for Congress?

That is what we need to find out to net more votes.

South Omaha

South Omaha is typically referred to as the heavily Latino area of Omaha.  There’s a bit of confusion when I asked people for their definition of where South Omaha really is.  I went through the precincts that are represented by Tony Vargas and Mike McDonell in the unicameral and added them into my definition of South Omaha.  Even still, I think I may have gone too far west in saying where South Omaha is on the map (which sounds like a paradox if you are not familiar) by including some areas all the way to 72nd St and Harrison.  I also may have gone too far North stretching to Douglas St. But I will be fairly upfront with the problematic areas in this analysis and let you know where the areas are that I had problems identifying.  I think it is critical for us to have a shared definition of regions if we are going through this exercise.

What we will refer to as North and South Omaha are two of the areas that gave Hillary Clinton the most of her margin in Douglas County.  The 24 precincts that I’ve highlighted as South Omaha had 21,798 votes cast for the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes cast 7,288 11,956 949 372
% of votes cast 35.4 58.1 4.6 1.8


Trump won two of the precincts there.  It is debatable whether or not you would either consider these two precincts as part of South Omaha.

04-12: This precinct is located from 48th-60th St from about Harrison to Q St.  This could be too far west for a number of people to really consider it South Omaha but it is represented by Mike McDonnell, so I included it here.  But Trump still managed to win the precinct.  There were 1,043 votes cast for the four presidential candidates there.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 558 429 36 20
% of votes cast 53.5 41.1 3.5 1.9


In the Congressional race, there were about the same number of votes cast for the three person Congressional race, 1,039.  Ashford was able to run well ahead of Clinton.  While this was his worst precinct in South Omaha, he still managed to win.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes -80 +78 +18


It’s not immediately obvious to me how Trump was able to win in this area. My assumption is that the more West you go in this precinct the whiter the area is.  But unfortunately, I do not go in this area too often.  The reason why I say it is not immediately obvious to me why he won is because we have Democrat Mike McDonnell winning the precinct with just under 58% of the vote.  Of course, there were about 300 less votes in the state legislature race.  Gilbert Ayala who ran a very conservative campaign for the state legislature had a poor showing.

But then, again.  There were 1,006 votes cast on Referendum 426.  693 votes were cast to reinstate the death penalty.  Only 313 votes were cast to keep the repeal of the death penalty.  There were a number of fairly conservative votes in this area.

04-05:  This is the other Trump precinct in this area.  This is another area that was added to my spreadsheet with South Omaha as the region as it is represented by Mike McDonnell.  This precinct is located around 42nd-50th St G St – Oak St.  This is a really strange precinct on their vote totals.  There were 1,322 votes cast in the precinct for the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 653 600 53 16
% of votes cast 49.4 45.4 4.0 1.2


There are a number of Trump-Ashford voters in this precinct.  There were 1,348 votes cast in the Congressional elections for the three candidates with the net votes.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes -61 +112 -9


It just gets a little stranger.  This was Mike McDonnell’s best precinct.  He got 964 votes in this precinct.  Ayala only received 243 votes.  But it was also a precinct that voted to reinstate the death penalty by a 52.7-47.2 margin.

This is an area that can be improved upon for 2020 and could be an area that could be improved upon for 2018, as well.  The question that we have to answer is why did Trump resonate in this area to such a degree and why did Mike McDonnell do the same.  To my untrained eye, as Trump did better, McDonnell should have done worse.  But it simply did not happen, here.

Death penalty repeal

One of the things I am most fascinated by was how poor the death penalty referendum performed in Douglas County.  Douglas County has a fairly sizable Catholic population.  Traditionally, Catholicism has been linked to the abolition of capital punishment.  In 1974, the U.S. Catholic conference voted to declare its opposition to the death penalty.  Pope St. John Paul II wrote in the 1990s that to narrow the death penalty.  He wrote that the cases in which a prisoner must be executed “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”  Pope Francis wrote in 2015 to state the case for the abolition of the death penalty.  He wrote that capital punishment “contradicts God’s plan for man and society.”  But the Catholic Church has not necessarily called for the statewide abolition of death penalty even if there is opposition to the death penalty.  Catholic teaching usually leaves no question that the right to the execution of prisoners is a right left to state.  Pope Francis went further, writing, in 2015 that “today the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed.”

Beyond the Pope, a number of American Catholic publications including America Magazine, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, Our Sunday Visitor, and Patheos Catholic came out together to support the abolition of the death penalty in 2015.  I am not sure of the popularity of Catholic publications in traditional Catholic families especially here in Omaha.

I want to preface something before this next paragraph.  I’m not Catholic, myself.  I don’t know how much weight I would give what the Pope says either in his writing or his speeches, especially if it contradicts my already held belief.  In other denominations, it is more common for people to already arrive at a political belief and then use their religious beliefs to provide support to it.

One of the interesting things that I think gets overlooked is how opposition to abortion spread.  Evangelical and protestant Christian groups did not originally view abortion as such an important issue for a while.  In the 1970s, the consensus in the Evangelical community was that abortion was warranted in many circumstances.  In 1979, Christianity Today, published an article that concluded that the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.  In the 1970s the biggest defender of pro-life issues was Ted Kennedy.  Richard Nixon and even George H.W. Bush were pro-choice.  For most people, they simply did not think about abortion.  If they did, they primarily saw it as a Catholic issue.

Pat Buchanan argued in a memo to Richard Nixon that Nixon should try to peel off Catholic Democrats by appealing to them on abortion and switching to pro-life.  The argument was basically that Nixon would force Ed Muskie to choose between Catholics and liberals if Nixon came out in favor pro-life policies.  Soon after, Nixon spoke of his “personal belief in the sanctity of human life-including the life of the yet unborn.”  As we have seen, it did not take root for a while.

Republican strategists Richard Viguerie and Paul Weyrich recruited Jerry Falwell to lead a coalition around economic and social conservatives.  The idea was to focus on abortion as the most important issue.  They viewed it as a way to divide the Democratic Party.  Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979.  But even then, the voting patterns in Congress and the voters themselves were not as partisan until the late 1980s.  Political scientist Greg Adams demonstrated that “Republicans were more pro-choice than Democrats up until the late 1980s.”

But if you ask any pro-life voter Protestant or even Catholic, they will tell you that the reason that they are pro-life is because the Bible tells them that the fetus has a soul and the Bible tells them that it is murder.  The Bible hasn’t changed in the last 30 years.  What has changed is people’s personal beliefs and their own partisan beliefs.  For many, Republican politicians are seen as pro-life and Democrats are pro-choice, regardless of their actual stance.  They use the partisan divide and then dress it up with religious connotations.

I say all this to say this.  People are complex and have many different ideas floating around their head at a given time.  People use flawed reasoning to explain answers to complex questions.  It’s not to say who is right or wrong on a given issue, just highlighting how people’s views changed on an issue like abortion with the backdrop of their church.

Anyway, one would think in a Catholic area that they would be more likely to oppose the death penalty.  But we don’t necessarily see that.  In the Elkhorn area, which is over 25% Catholic, they overwhelmingly voted to reinstate the death penalty on Referendum 426.  According to Pew Research, 54% of White Catholics favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder.  39% of White Catholics oppose the death penalty.  43% of all Catholics support the death penalty compared to 46% who oppose it. Elizabeth Bruening uses a Pew study from 2013 to show that only 37% of Hispanic Catholics support the death penalty.  She argues that it is white Catholics who are the ones not supporting the abolition of the death penalty contra the Catholic church teachings.

But this isn’t exactly what we see when we look at the precincts that are predominantly Latino and what, I’m presuming, is Catholic.  In the South Omaha area, that I’ve identified, as a whole, we find that the community is evenly split between reinstating the death penalty to keeping the repeal of the death penalty.  There were 19,671 votes cast for this referendum in this area.  Remember, retain would be to keep the death penalty repeal and repeal would be to reinstate it.

Retain Repeal
Votes cast 9,298 10,373
% of votes cast 47.3 52.7


This does not fall upon party lines or is necessarily caused by lack of voters.  There are 800 less voters on the referendum than for the 4 party Presidential vote or for Congressional vote.  Hillary Clinton received 7,337 votes and 58.9% of the vote.  Brad Ashford received 7,758 votes or 62.1% of the votes for Congress. Pew Research found that 36% of Latinos support the death penalty compared to 50% who oppose.

South Omaha remains to be a very Democratic stronghold but it is worth looking into the way Latinos respond to the death penalty and by extension how Catholics view the death penalty.


The great suburban area of Omaha is Millard.  Known for its nice schools and because of it, nice property value, these mostly lily white neighborhoods make up a large chunk of the population in Omaha.  There’s a bit of a difference between Millard and what is more or less known as West Omaha.  One of the things that I’ve been thinking about while I’ve been researching this, is that the idea of West Omaha or large chunks of how Omaha is laid out is based on class and is based on race.  For many people, if you are in a nice neighborhood west of 72nd Street will announce that it is part of West Omaha.  If you are not in a nice neighborhood and you are east of about 144th St, they’ll say it’s not really West Omaha, yet.

I tried to separate out what would be considered West Omaha and Millard by drawing a line around 160th St.  This is not totally accurate because, for instance, Millard West (a high school) is located at 180th and Q.  So I also did another run with the numbers that included West Omaha, West of 160th.  The one area that I tried to leave intact without including it in this data is the Westside area.

There were 33 precincts in my initial run with Millard (it’s still a little problematic but we’ll get there).  Out of those 33, Hillary Clinton won three precincts.  She did not receive more than 50% of the four party Presidential vote in any precinct. Brad Ashford won four precincts in the area, receiving 50% or more in three of the precincts. Four precincts voted to hold the repeal of the death penalty.

The three precincts that Clinton won may not be considered a part of Millard by everyone.

05-04: This is the main one that I would not necessarily consider as part of Millard but it doesn’t really fit into any other classification.  The precinct is located from 72nd-90th St L St – F St and U St – F St.  It is basically just North of Ralston.  By vote percentage of the four party presidential vote, this was Hillary Clinton’s best precinct.  There were 916 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 412 451 41 12
% of votes cast 45.0 49.2 4.5 1.3


Somewhat surprising, considering what we have seen in other places where we have Republican voters who were not willing to vote for Trump but followed through downballot, we have basically the same amount of votes cast downballot and not a big swing for anybody.  There were only 5 more votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes +4 +10 +3


Without trying to contact each individual voter on who they voted for, it seems fairly intuitive how people voted.

05-05: This precinct is located around 90th-108th St and Q-Center.  It’s a little bit East of where most people consider to be Millard.  But I still think it’s a good example of Millard.  And again, we don’t see Republican voters who are just not voting for Trump but voting downballot for Republican voters.

We just have two fairly unpopular candidates going against each other.  If anything, we have more reluctant Democratic voters who did not want to vote for Clinton but would vote for Ashford.  There were 904 votes for one of the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes cast 398 444 45 17
% of votes cast 44.0 49.1 5.0 1.9


There were 6 more votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates.  Looking at who was able to benefit the most, we see Brad Ashford.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes -4 +27 0


It looks like there were 4 Trump/Ashford supporters and then he was able to pick up the Stein voters and the 6 voters who decided not to vote for one of the four options.  Of course, I could be sorely mistaken.

There has not been a great example that we’ve looked at so far where we have seen non-Hillary Democratic voters.  This is probably the best one that we’ve seen, so far.

05-08:  This one is on the edge of my demarcations for Millard in both the East direction and is necessarily on the southern border as Harrison is the dividing line between Douglas and Sarpy.  It is 96th – 102nd St Harrison – Q St.  Here we see a bunch of voters who could not vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. They found a home with Gary Johnson. There were 1,056 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes cast 429 512 97 18
% of votes cast 40.6 48.4 9.2 1.7


Ashford and Bacon both got more raw votes than the Presidential candidates despite there only being 6 more votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes +20 +45 -40


The question going forward for the Democratic Party is, is this sustainable?  Can a Democratic challenger in this precinct win by more than 120 votes (Ashford won by 108)?  Can a Democratic candidate for President reach and get a number of those Johnson voters to vote for them in a year when the candidate is not so unpopular?  What can we do to ensure that to happen?  Those are the questions we need to be asking and answering if we want to net more votes.

Stony Brook

In my mind, one of the better examples of the working class area in Millard is the Stony Brook neighborhood.  This area is mainly located from about 144th-156th Harrison-Q.  I guess I don’t really like the concept of working class neighborhoods because so much of what we consider to be working class is based upon income or house prices.  There are those who make a lot of money doing more blue collar type of labor and those who do white collar work who are highly educated and do not make much in terms of income.  Maybe this is just me.  The houses in this area are not terribly large or expensive which would tend to indicate that it is a working class neighborhood.  But who really knows these things.  I also think of this neighborhood area, rightly or wrongly, as an area where there are older white voters who have lived there for a while.

One of the questions that I wanted an answer to when I started this project or had this idea was to investigate areas that I think of as working class areas and see if Trump had unique appeal in those areas because there were a lot of thinkpieces about this phenomenon.

The precinct in this area is 05-18.  While Donald Trump easily won the precinct, there were quite a few libertarian-curious voters and there were a number of voters who could not find it in themselves to vote for Clinton, as we’ll see.

There were 1,367 total votes cast for one of the four presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 732 544 73 18
% of votes 53.5 39.8 5.3 1.3


It does not seem once we get to the Congressional vote that Trump had a unique way of appealing to these voters.  Rather, this was just a more conservative area. There were 1,380 votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes +9 +40 -18


This was a conservative precinct and would have voted for the Republican candidates for federal office, pretty much regardless if this is any indication.

Just to further drive this point home, voters in this precinct overwhelmingly voted to reinstate the death penalty for the state of Nebraska.  63% of the 1,325 voters who voted on the referendum voted to reinstate the death penalty.

Millard Oaks

This is my old neighborhood area.  It’s not an exact match for the precinct.  But we’re looking at the area from 156th-163rd from Harrison-Q St. The area is more of the area of Millard that would be considered upper middle class portion of the region. There are other areas that are a better description of upper-middle class of Millard but this is one I’m more familiar with.  In addition, this area is home to a number of families that move to this area to be able to attend their choice of the Millard High Schools. Also, this area once had me playing hide and seek as a 20 year old being interrogated by someone just a few years my senior about what I was doing to his house. The answer was nothing but it did not satisfy him.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, based on all of that information, we have a fairly conservative area for the three precincts – 05-19; 05-33; and 08-35. These three precincts cast 1,829 votes for one of the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 1000 711 98 20
% of votes cast 54.7 38.9 5.4 1.1


There’s a fairly common thought that has been shown in these precinct looks that Trump does worse with what we think of as higher income areas. This idea was fairly prevalent when you looked at Congressional districts that were more highly educated in the suburbs of other cities.  Some of the ones that were more interesting was Georgia’s 6th Congressional District where Trump only managed to win by 1 point. There is a clear mark where Trump fails with voters. Unfortunately, there is not many journalists going to these suburbs to talk to voters to determine why they could not vote for Trump. And we have another precinct here where there was quite a few number of voters who could not vote for Donald Trump and there are some Trump/Ashford voters, as well.

08-35: The first one that I want to look at is precinct 08-35. This is located from about 156th-163rd St and located Y St – Q St. There were 482 voters who cast a vote for one of the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes cast 250 189 34 9
% of votes cast 51.9 39.2 7.1 1.1


Johnson outperformed his overall numbers for Douglas County and even in these three precincts. This would be understandable. Libertarianism is overrepresented by white more affluent citizens. But when we look at their votes for Congress, we see that there are a number of them who are not willing to vote for a libertarian at the Congressional level. There were two less votes for one of the Congressional candidates.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes +26 -6 -13


While this is a conservative precinct there are a few voters in the area who were not willing to vote for Trump when it came to Election Day.

For those of you who have read thus far, you may in your mind trying to construct if this is a precinct represented by Rick Kolowski. And it was. As I’ve talked about before Kolowski was able to outperform in a number of precincts where conservatives were more able to succeed. This precinct was one of his best. He was able to get 57.4% of the votes over Ian Swanson who received 42.6% of the vote.  This, again, was not entirely a product of voters simply not voting at the state legislative level. There were only 50 less votes cast for legislature than for President. He only received 3 less votes than Trump did in this precinct.

05-19: This is the heart of Millard Oaks. This is also the best of the three Trump precincts.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 581 384 49 5
% of votes 57.0 37.7 4.8 0.5


There were 14 more votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates. Brad Ashford outperformed Clinton in this precinct. Trump was able to do better than Bacon, as well. There were quite a few of the Trump/Ashford voters. I’ll be honest, Trump/Ashford voters fascinate me.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes -28 +54 -7


Even more surprising, this area was also represented by Kolowski.  He won the precinct pretty handily garnering 54.4% of the vote over Ian Swanson.

The area is not a great example of “working class” based on the income of the area or with their house values. It simply does not seem like an area that anybody would really assume that it is a “working class” neighborhood. This is yet another example of an area that I would like to see data for more than just this election data. Unfortunately, I do not have this data.

Trump – retain voters

When I first started to look at this data, I made a little comment that there are quite a few Trump supporters who also voted to keep the repeal of the death penalty. I initially thought that there were quite a few Catholic Trump supporters who thought that they could follow the Church’s teachings by voting for Trump and then voting to keep the repeal of the death penalty. This would require actual investigation by someone who gets paid to do this to determine why these voters could vote for Trump who was an avowed supporter of the death penalty but also could vote to keep the repeal of the death penalty. Overall, in Douglas County, keeping the repeal of the death penalty outperformed Trump by 1 point.

So what I wanted to do was look at the precincts that Trump was able to win and then look at the precincts where “retain” outperformed Trump. There were 9 such precincts in Douglas County.  I’m ignoring one of them because there simply was not very many voters in the precinct.  That precinct is 08-27 which is located from 144th-156th Center-Pacific. There were 107 votes for one of the four Presidential candidates and only 102 votes for Referendum 426.

06-26: This precinct is located from 114th-132nd and Harney-Dodge.  It is actually located next to 08-27 which is interesting for what we’re going to talk about in a little bit. This is labeled in my spreadsheet as the Jewish Community Center area. Beth Israel Synagogue is located just south of this precinct, closer to Pierce St. The Jewish Community Center is located just west of this precinct. I bring this up because as I began to look at the precincts who voted for Trump and wanted to retain the death penalty repeal, they were focused in this area. The areas that were around this area were 08-27; 06-04; 06-28; 06-10; 06-26; 06-03; and 06-09.  The next table is how the precincts voted for Trump and then for retain on Referendum 426 and then if retain was able to overperform and by how much (essentially retain minus Trump).

Precinct Trump Retain Retain – Trump
08-27 50.5 60.8 +10.3
06-04 50.7 53.0 +2.3
06-28 55.0 46.4 -8.6
06-10 50.9 45.6 -5.3
06-26 47.4 52.1 +4.7
06-03 54.2 49.0 -5.2
06-09 51.3 50.6 -0.7


It’s not perfect if you just have those precincts but it’s rather interesting that these precincts were able to stomach voting for Trump and for retaining the repeal of the death penalty. If we were able to segment these areas from the precincts down to the street level analysis. I would be willing to bet that the areas that were closer to be able to walk to Beth Israel Synagogue would be more likely to vote to retain on Referendum 426.

06-06: This precinct is located a little to the South and a little to the East of the precincts (at least the Western portion of this precinct). There’s not a good explanation of this precinct. It is located from 72nd-78th St and I-80 – Oak St. I have it listed as Midtown but not exactly what I would describe it as that. Trump won the precinct by 5 votes over Hillary Clinton.  He happens to be the most popular of the candidates listed on the ballot. Don Bacon lost this precinct to Brad Ashford. It seems to indicate that in this area there were a number of people who could not bring themselves to vote for Clinton but were leaning Democratic. There were 20 more votes for the three Congressional candidates than for the four party Presidential candidates.  Ashford got 55 more votes than Clinton did in the precinct and won it outright. But even still, retain did not win in the precinct. It got 49.1% of the vote.  It lost by 16 votes. This is a precinct where I would want to talk to the voters. They did not vote on ideological lines.

06-08: This precinct could have easily been listed in the table above. It is located from 108th-114th St Center-Pacific. So it is just outside of the tabled precincts I looked at. It just strengthens my idea that the voters who voted for Trump and then voted to keep the repeal of the death penalty were clustered.  Trump won this precinct by 4 points or 50 votes out of 1,330 cast. Bacon got 682 votes in the precinct as there were 31 more votes cast in the precinct for Congressional candidates compared to the four party Presidential vote. Even with all of that, there were a number of voters who crossed party lines to keep the repeal of the death penalty.

06-02: This is yet another one of the areas that could have easily been considered in that table I have of the Jewish Community Center area. It is located from 96th St – 108th St Pacific – Dodge St. Unlike a couple of the precincts that we have been looking at, it wasn’t particularly close. Trump got nearly 54% of the vote compared to Hillary’s 42.5%. Bacon won by 3 points, as well. And retain was not very close either. There were 55% of voters in this precinct who voted to keep the repeal of the death penalty compared to only 45% who wanted to reinstate the death penalty.

05-23: I could even consider this precinct as part of the same are. It’s a very narrow precinct located from 104th -108th St F St – Pacific St. This was a very close precinct in the Presidential vote where Trump defeated Clinton by a mere 8 votes out of 1,165 votes cast. This is another one of the precincts where we have Democrats who were unwilling to vote for Clinton. Brad Ashford got 50.6% of the Congressional three party votes. But then they crossed the line again to vote to reinstate the death penalty. Although, 48.5% of voters wanted to keep the repeal of the death penalty.

So why are all these voters who supported Trump but also wanted to keep the repeal of the death penalty? There are a couple of different possible explanations. My favorite one based on the table above is heavily influenced by religion. Judaism, at least some denominations, oppose the death penalty. Shabbot observant Jews need to live within walking distance of their synagogues to be able to attend services and be able to walk home.

The other explanation is one that we should consider, as well. Voting is inherently a social phenomenon. We kind of ignore this, to some extent. If your family or your friends support a particular cause or candidate and are passionate about it, they will talk to you about it. If you end your friendship with them or sever ties with your family over it, you are the ones that are considered a jerk. If you start arguments at get togethers, people will not invite you back. Overall, it is polite to just allow for the ones who are passionate to express their beliefs. These beliefs extend to a certain point where they are saturated by an area. Friendships, by and large, are not chosen because of ideas or shared interests, they are largely formed and cultivated because of proximity. What good is it if you are a Democrat living in a fairly conservative area to express support for a Democratic candidate that you don’t feel passionate about? You may lose friends, lose invitations to neighborhood get togethers, or family get togethers. It is easier to just accept it. And to a certain point, you may bring that baggage in with you when you vote. You may not feel comfortable, necessarily, voting for Trump but you may just choose not to vote for Clinton. If that same area is heavily invested in the idea of keeping the repeal of the death penalty, you may accept it, too.

But it’s definitely worth exploring this area to see if it can be flipped. It’s certainly interesting.

Northwest Omaha

The last area in Douglas County that I spent a lot of time has been Northwest Omaha. There’s not any significant difference between most of West Omaha and Northwest Omaha. The main difference is that large portions of West Omaha are in the Millard School District and many of the high school graduates continue onto Millard University (University of Nebraska – Lincoln).

For the most part, I’ve designated Northwest Omaha as West of I-80 which is roughly 108th St and North of Dodge St. I tried to not go too far north or west in order to not to run into Bennington or Elkhorn.

There were 37,771 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 19,228 16,327 1,818 398
% of votes cast 50.9 43.2 4.8 1.1


This is a pretty conservative area with the Presidential votes. But even still, there were a number of voters in the area that did not want to vote for Trump, for whatever reason, but would still want to vote for a Republican for Congress. There were 38,253 votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates. So there were about 500 voters in the area who could not find it within themselves to vote for one of the four Presidential candidates. As we’ll see from their Congressional votes, there’s even more voters who did not feel comfortable voting for Trump at the top of the ticket. Here is their Congressional votes with the net votes.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes +1,037 +533 -690


There were a number of Ashford supporters who could not find it within themselves to vote for Clinton. The largest section, though, by far, was non Trump supporting Republicans.

There were a number of precincts in the area that Clinton won. Most of her victories were in the more Eastern part of the precinct. She won precincts 07-19 (120th-125th Dodge-Parker); 07-18 (104th-118th Dodge-Parker); 07-15 (104th-122nd Parker-Maple); 07-05 (108th-120th Hilltop-Fort); 07-09 (102nd=108th Maple-Fort); 07-02 (106th-109th Military-Newport); 07-25 (120th-125th Ohio-Maple); 07-10 (108th-120th Maple-Hilltop); 07-23 (90th-96th Maple-Boyd); 07-11 (120th-132nd Maple – Fort) and 07-03 109th-120th Fort-Redick). It is simply amazing to see the divide crop up between the Eastern part of NW Omaha compared to the rest of the precincts. There is a clear line between about 125th and the rest of the area. Those areas have a high population of African-Americans. This area primarily goes to Burke High School. Even still, there is one precinct that also voted for Don Bacon.

These precincts cast 13,192 votes for one of the four Presidential candidates and 13,369 votes for one of the three Congressional candidates:

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 5,675 6,624 717 176
% of votes 43.0 50.2 5.4 1.3


Bacon Ashford Laird
# of votes 5,901 6,932 536
% of votes 44.1 51.9 4.0
Net votes +226 +308 -181


07-02: This precinct is located in the Northeast part of the precinct from 106th-109th Military-Newport. There were 1,278 votes cast for one of the four presidential candidates:

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 578 624 68 8
% of votes cast 45.2 48.8 5.3 0.6


There were a few voters who could not bring themselves to vote for one of the four presidential candidate but who still voted for one of the three Congressional candidates. There were 1,298 votes cast for one of the three Congressional candidates. Here is how they voted with the candidates’ net votes.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes +64 -4 -32


Trump may not have been acceptable to a number of the voters there. But Bacon only won the precinct by 22 votes.

One of the nicer parts in all of Douglas County includes the neighborhood of Huntington Park. Houses in this neighborhood have an average list price of $375,000 and range from $275,000 – $500,000. When I think of the rich suburbs of NW Omaha, I think of Huntington Park. It is roughly west of 156th and Blondo. The precinct that best encapsulates this area id 07-34 which is located from 156th-162nd Parker- Maple.

There were 1,002 votes cast in this precinct for one of the four Presidential candidates.

Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 585 367 43 7
% of votes cast 58.4 36.6 4.3 0.7


As we see, this is a pretty conservative area. There were 1,030 votes cast for one of the three candidates running for Congress.

Bacon Ashford Laird
Net votes +80 -10 -25


In the nicer parts of Douglas County, time and time again, we see that the areas are very conservative but still have a problem voting for Trump. Maybe there is a social stigma with voting for Trump but they feel comfortable supporting Republicans, anyway. For many, party id simply outweighs social stigma.


State Senator Rick Kolowski represents this legislative district. It is located in Millard and parts of West Omaha. As I’ve mentioned a few times, Kolowski is a moderate in the unicameral who often takes progressive positions there. Thanks to the Daily Kos’s election team, we have some numbers about how this district voted in 2012. Based on my own research, I have the numbers for how this area voted in 2016.

According to the Daily Kos’s findings, they found that there were 19,579 votes cast in this legislative district. There were only 231 votes cast for one of the non two party candidates for President.

2012 Romney Obama
# of votes 12,734 6,614
% of votes 65.0 33.8


There were more votes cast in 2016 in this legislative district despite what people assumed. There were 20,067 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.

2016 Trump Clinton Johnson Stein
# of votes 11,525 7,410 943 189
% of votes 57.4 36.9 4.7 0.9


There were a number of voters in this legislative district that did not feel comfortable voting for Trump after voting for Romney in 2012. Gary Johnson had a significant increase in his vote share, as did Jill Stein.  Despite what we were told about Hillary Clinton’s extreme unpopularity, the one who seems to be hurt the most by their unpopularity was Donald Trump. Some journalists need to write about suburban voters who couldn’t find it in themselves to vote for Trump in November.

Distorted reality part 3

Sorry for the delay, here is the next part in my series.  I am going to primarily focus on Donald Trump and the Constitution.  For the past 8 years, I have heard nothing but consistent attacks on Barack Obama for violating the Constitution, as well as consistent claims from conservatives that they are merely upholding the Constitution when they withhold their support for him.  I’m going to look at some (not all) of the times Donald Trump has advocated for violating the Amendments in our constitution.

Image result for barack obama painting constitution

Note: This does not even include other portions of the Constitution that Donald Trump has called on to violate throughout his campaign.

For reference:

The Muslim ban

Mass deportations including references to a “deportation force.”

Ending catch and release

On profiling Muslims

On shutting down mosques

On the surveillance of mosques

Trump on a Muslim database (I’m ambivalent on whether he called for a Muslim database)

Trump on torture

Libel laws


Donald Trump ISIS families

Donald Trump birthright citizenship

Donald Trump criminalizing abortions

Donald Trump guns and stop and frisk

Donald Trump supports North Carolina Voter ID law

No fly, no buy

Image result for donald trump


First Amendment violations

Muslim ban: The ban on Donald Trump’s website states the following:

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.

As the American Civil Liberties Union notes in their report, “The Trump Memos”, a policy that excludes members of a particular religion would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  This is based on the precedent in L:arson v. Valente.

It could potentially be a violation of the 1st Amendment based on the rights of religion, speech, and peaceful associations, as well.  It would be challenged almost immediately.

Profiling Muslims: Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses would likely be violated, as well as the freedom of expression .  The Supreme Court has previously ruled that the government would have to show a compelling interest otherwise it would be invalid.  The Supreme Court further wrote, “a law targeting religious beliefs as such is never permissible.”  The Establishment clause continues to prohibit the government from enacting a law or policy that favors one religion over another.  Further the government cannot pass laws to prohibit speech just because they disapprove of the ideas.

Shutting down mosques and surveillance of mosques: Both of these would violate the First Amendment under both the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses.

Libel laws: There is no federal libel law.  They are administered by the state and are constrained by the First Amendment.  Libel laws are purposely constrained so that our political discourse is not hampered.  There has to be proof of actual malice.

NSA and PATRIOT Act: Storing bulk metadata of phone calls is a violation of the First Amendment as, the ACLU notes, “it vacuumed up sensitive information about Americans’ associational and expressive activities.”

Banning media outlets: Trump has repeatedly banned media outlets from covering his campaign.  Press bans would infringe on the right of a free press.

Second Amendment violations

Stop and frisk: When trying to defend the indefensibile policy of stop and frisk, Trump stated,”you know, [the police are] proactive and if they see a person possibly with a gun or they think may have a gun, they will see the person and they’ll look and they’ll take the gun away.”

That’s actual gun grabbing of individuals without any way of determining whether they legally have a gun.  States pass laws including conceal-carry and open carry.  Grabbing people’s guns as part of a stop and frisk policy seems problematic.

No fly, no buy: I’ve written about this before but “no fly, no buy” is both a violation of the 2nd and 5th Amendments.

Third Amendment violations:

Mass deportations: This is the only speculative violation on my list.  There’s not a lot of case law on the Third Amendment.  But in Engblom v. Carey, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a member of the National Guard is considered a soldier so housing the National Guard without consent would be a violation of the Third Amendment.  In order to effectively deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the United States, the federal government would have to exponentially increase the number of immigration service agents or they could help rely on the National Guard to enforce the deportations.  If the National Guard take up residence in an immigrant community without consent, this would be a blatant violation of the Third Amendment.

Fourth Amendment violations

Mass deportations: Trump has repeatedly called for mass deportations of the 11 million undocumented immigrants that are currently in the United States.  Of course, undocumented immigrants are hard to distinguish between legal immigrants.  Now, we wait until they come into contact with the criminal justice system.  To weed out undocumented immigrants, we would need a massive increase in the number of border patrol agents and immigration service agents.  This would also likely lead to an increase in suspicionless interrogations and arrests, racially discriminatory traffic stops, warrantless searches of workplaces and homes, and warrantless home raids by law enforcement officials.

This is would almost certainly violate the 4th Amendment.

We’re not even getting into the possibility of warrantless wiretaps.

Profiling Muslims: Warrantless profiling, suspicionless interrogation, and warrantless wiretaps would likely violate the 4th Amendment, as well.

NSA and the PATRIOT Act: Warrantless recording of phone calls and e-mails is a violation of the 4th Amendment.

Killing ISIS family members: In 4th Amendment cases, including Tennessee v. Garner, the Supreme Court ruled:

“the use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so.”

Stop and frisk: Warrantless or suspicionless stop and frisk would certainly be a violation of the 4th Amendment as it is racially applied in most jurisdictions.

Fifth Amendment violations

Muslim ban: Equal protection requirements apply to the federal government under the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause. Denying citizens access to the country based on their religion would fail under the Due Process clause, as well.

Mass deportations:  Mass deportations cannot happen as soon as Trump becomes, gulp, President.  The government would still need to prove that the immigrant is not lawfully in the country.  Otherwise it would be a violation of due process.

“Ending catch and release”: This would violate due process principles spelled out in the 5th Amendment.  It has to follow certain procedural guidelines based on the ruling in Zadvydas v. Davis to make sure that it serves a legitimate purpose.

Muslim database: A requirement that would make every Muslim register with the government because of their religious beliefs would be a violation of the Privacy Act of 1974.  If they lost any rights or liberties as a result of this database, it would fail on Due Process grounds.

Torture: The Due Process clause bars interrogation by torture.

Killing ISIS family members: Drone strikes on US citizens have been argued against as an expressed violation of the 5th Amendment’s due process clause.  The Obama drone memo arguing against this, was an abomination.

Stop and frisk: Taking people’s guns away without any checks, probable cause, or proving allegations this would be a violation of due process.

No fly, no buy: No fly, no buy is a violation of the 5th Amendment.

Sixth Amendment violations

Mass deportations: The Supreme Court applied Sixth Amendment protections to immigrants in 2010 with the case of Padilla v. Kentucky.  Immigrants facing interrogations from the “deportation force” would likely require that immigrants have the right to an attorney present.  Without explicitly qualifying this, the deportation force would likely face violations of the Sixth Amendment. A fair and speedy trial with an immigration court already backlogged would likely not occur, as well.

Eighth Amendment violations

“Ending catch and release”: The American Civil Liberties Union has long argued that current immigration detention centers violate the 8th Amendment standards for “cruel and unusual punishment.”  Detaining immigrants until they are deported are likely going to deteriorate conditions further.

Torture: This obviously violates the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.  John Yoo and the Bush Administration’s claim about enhanced interrogation techniques have been largely discredited and the McCain-Feinstein Amendment has prohibited US government agencies and officials from using interrogation methods not listed in the Army Field Manual.

Killing ISIS family members: This would almost certainly constitute a cruel and unusual punishment for merely being a family member of someone who joined ISIS.

Ninth amendment Violations

Personal privacy: The Ninth Amendment was used in part of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion and struck down statutes of law that criminalized abortions.  The Ninth Amendment was also used in Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges.  The Supreme court found that we do have a right to privacy from government intrusion.  Criminalizing abortions (even though he has tried to walk it back) would likely be a violation of the Ninth Amendment.

Tenth Amendment violations

Stop and frisk: If Trump did actually try to set policy for all police departments in the country by instituting stop-and-frisk, this would be a major violation of the 10th Amendment. If he set his gun grabbing strategy like above, it would violate the state’s ability to pass gun legislation.

There are more violations of the 10th Amendment but they usually fall on the grounds of Trump trying to usurp state’s rights and powers.

Fourteenth Amendment violations:

Muslim ban: In Afroyim v. Rusk, the Supreme Court opined that “the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to, and does, protect every citizen of this Nation against a congressional forcible destruction of his citizenship, whatever his creed, color, or race.”  Equal protection requirements apply to the federal government under the 5th Amendment’s Due Process clause.

Birthright citizenship: I’ll have something longer on this belief, soon enough.  Possibly a new project I’m working on.  But Trump ending birthright citizenship is a blatant violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Fifteenth Amendment violations

Voter ID: Trump has supported the North Carolina voter ID law.  The law was struck down as unconstitutional as being passed with discriminatory intent.  It was passed, in part, to ensure that minority voters could not show up to vote.  Hence, why I believe voter ID is unconstitutional.

Nineteenth Amendment violations

Voter ID: Demographics that vote for Democrats were explicitly targeted with voter ID laws.  This includes women.

Twenty fourth Amendment Violations

Voter ID: While voter ID is not considered a poll tax by everyone, voter ID typically requires a fee to be able to obtain valid ID.  Without paying this fee and without the ID, they will not be able to vote.  This is an abstract version of a poll tax.

Twenty sixth Amendment violation

Voter ID: One of the ways that the North Carolina voter ID law targeted voters was to prevent potential voters from preregistering so that they would be able to vote after they had turned 18 and were eligible to vote. A support for North Carolina’s onerous voter ID bill is support for making it more difficult to vote.




Distorted reality: Part 2

One of the ideas that I read fairly consistently is that Donald Trump is some type of social liberal.  This was originally taken up by Republican operatives who wanted to push the idea that Trump was not a “true conservative.”  This is laughably incorrect.  I can’t even believe I have to address this.  Trump takes conservative values and turns them up to 11.

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The extent to which people think Trump is some type of liberal is based on his campaign donations to Democratic candidates; based on previous interviews where he claimed he supported pro-choice policies; and portions of his books where he talks about a way to have universal healthcare.  I don’t believe I’m missing anything.

The thing you have to remember about Republican operatives is that they want every losing candidate to be portrayed as not a true conservative.  Mitt Romney was portrayed as a squishy liberal because of Romneycare and whatever else the topic of the day was.  John McCain was called a liberal because of his support for McCain-Feingold or his “maverick” Senate record or possibly siring a black child.

So why am I hearing it about Trump from people on the nominal political left?  The short answer is that people want to justify their hatred of Hillary Clinton (or whoever the Democratic nominee would have been) and want to be able to say that voting for Trump is not going to be as bad as you would think because of some beliefs that he may have held in the past.  Or maybe they really like what Trump is saying and want to find a place to hide behind.  I’m not sure.  But ultimately:

It does not matter what a politician sincerely believes.

Trump, if elected President, would certainly have a majority in the House of Representatives and Senate.  Trump would sign whatever legislation that the Republican Congress would put forth.  If you think that Trump would not sign legislation taking away rights of the LGBT community, rights of women, rights of minorities, you are simply mistaken.

Further, Trump’s judges that he says who are on the short list for federal court nominations would have to be approved by the Heritage Foundation and make up, as Scott Lemieux notes, the Conservative dream team.  Replacing Antonin Scalia’s seat with a more conservative judge would set back the progress made over the last 10 years, by 50 years.  The votes on the Supreme Court would be there to overturn Obergefell and Windsor.  Say hello to more decisions like Shelby County.

But hey, at least we will have solace that Trump, maybe, does not in his heart of hearts believe in a conservative agenda.

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Now that we got out of the way, we can go into actually dissecting his views.  What evidence has Trump espoused on the campaign trail that he is a social liberal?


One of the ideas that Trump is a social liberal is based on the idea that Trump described himself as pro-choice for years.  He even went so far as to say that partial-birth abortion is ok:

The idea, I guess, that some are trying to point out is that Trump, in his heart believes that abortion is ok.  Ask Strom Thurmond if personal actions necessitates political beliefs.

At any rate, Trump, largely because he is running for the Republican Party’s nomination has repudiated that position.  He has taken a more extreme position than most pro-life advocates have taken.

Transcript for the video: Here

So Trump believes that we should punish women for having abortions.  The men would not be punished.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 59% of women obtaining an abortion are mothers. The idea behind Trump’s punishment of women having abortions would jail or fine mothers.  Most of these mothers are poor, 49% of those who have had abortions make less than 100% of the federal poverty level.  The majority of the women having abortions (54%) were either married or cohabitating.  1.06 million abortions were performed in 2011.  These women would be punished if Trump had his way.

I should mention that Trump and his campaign later tried to clarify Trump’s point that he was referring to doctors performing abortions should be punished.  It’s amazing what happens when your job is predicated on being able to keep up with the lies a compulsive liar tells.

Trump reiterates that his point is that the abortion laws are currently set and that when he is President, he would protect the unborn via judicial appointments.   We could quite literally say good-bye to the standards from Roe v. Wade and say hello to personhood amendments.

If you believe that Trump is pro-choice based off of the video where he claims that he is pro-choice, then you should probably have doubts of that position based off of his video appearance with Chris Matthews.  Again, it doesn’t matter what Trump believes.  It matters what bills he would sign, who he would appoint to the judiciary, and what laws he would enforce.  Based on his campaign and his actions, he would appoint reactionaries to the federal judiciary and would have the votes to overturn Roe v. Wade.

LGBT equality

Donald Trump, himself, said that he would be much better for “the women than [Hillary Clinton] is.  I’m much better for the gays.”  I talked about abortion above and as a side note:

I think it does a disservice to lump women’s equality and rights with the idea that I can sum it all up with abortion.  According to polling, women are much more liberal than men on a number of issues.  This includes support for the Affordable Care Act, raising the minimum wage, stricter gun control, abolishing the death penalty, and support for same-sex marriage.  The only issue that I have seen where women diverge from men on “liberal” issues is that women are more likely than men to think that marijuana should not be legalized.  I can certainly talk at length (as if there is any other way for me) to talk about all of these (and perhaps I will).

But the idea that Trump is much better for the LGBT community is just astounding.  It’s almost as if he is a compulsive liar.

Here’s Donald Trump on Fox News Sunday

WALLACE:  But, Mr. Trump, let’s take one issue.  You say now that the Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is the law of the land and that any politician who talks about wanting to amend the Constitution is just playing politics.  Are you saying it’s time to move on?

TRUMP:  No, I’m saying this.  It has been ruled up.  It has been there.  If I’m a, you know, if I’m elected, I would be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things.

But they’ve got a long way to go.  I mean at some point, we have to get back down to business.  But there’s no question about it.  I mean most — and most people feel this way.

They have ruled on it.  I wish that it was done by the state.  I don’t like the way they ruled.  I disagree with the Supreme Court from the standpoint they should have given the state — it should be a states’ rights issue.  And that’s the way it should have been ruled on, Chris, not the way they did it.

This is a very surprising ruling.  And I — I can see changes coming down the line, frankly.  But I would have much preferred that they ruled at a state level and allowed the states to make those rulings themselves.

WALLACE: But — but just to button this up very quickly, sir, are you saying that if you become president, you might try to appoint justices to overrule the decision on same-sex marriage?

TRUMP: I would strongly consider that, yes.

Trump is running on a strident anti-LGBT platform and nominated Mike Pence who was most famous for pushing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act through Indiana.  He also co-sponsored an amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage; voted against ENDA; opposed a bill for prosecuting hate crimes; and voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

To be fair to Donald Trump, he said that people should be allowed to use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.

If you believe Trump at his word that he is going to nominate judges to overturn the same-sex marriage decision, it would seem that he is also going to nominate judges who believe in stronger RFRA laws than should be deemed appropriate, and give a larger latitude for businesses for “religious liberty.”

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Child leave policy

Trump, under pressure from his daughter Ivanka I would assume, announced a child care leave reform policy. It’s predictably terrible.  Why is it so terrible?

Single mothers, arguably the ones who would benefit the most from such legislation, don’t look to be included. Ivanka Trump in an interview with Cosmopolitan (which has done really great work with political issues over the last year or so, I’ve read numerous articles from them about abortion policies and birth control) said

“It’s meant to benefit, whether it’s in same-sex marriages as well, to benefit the mother who has given birth to the child if they have legal married status under the tax code

Ivanka was widely credited with having helped draft the proposed policy which is not surprising to anyone who paid attention to the Republican National Convention. That sounds very vague and it’s almost intentionally done to be very vague because it’s “not written down yet.”  The proposed policy on Trump’s website (linked above) doesn’t talk about who is included or not included but Ivanka’s interview seems to indicate that single mothers are not included.  Over 3 millions single mothers living with children right now live in poverty.  70% of black children are born to unmarried women.  If the goal of the legislation is to reduce the wage gap, help single moms, and reduce poverty, this policy is an abject failure.  It needs specificities to note who is included and who is excluded.

Even if they clear that up, it does not include paternity leave, paid family leave to take care of sick family members, paid adoptive leave, surrogate births, same sex couples, etc.  It’s really just a disaster of a policy.  It’s important to include paternity leave because working fathers can take time off to be able to spend time with a newborn child to bond, allow the mother to get back to work thus reducing the wage gap, and also reduces the potential childbirth penalty employers have when they hire women.  Focusing only on maternity leave would, almost certainly, make women more costly to hire than men.

Not to get to bogged down in specifics but by excluding adoptive parents, it is discriminating against millions to be able to spend time with their newly adopted child.  Beyond that, it excludes nearly 40% of tax payers because they do not owe federal income taxes.

This is just getting started.  It’s terrible policy.  It would, in all likelihood, make things worse than they are and would leave it comically underfunded.  If proposing terrible policy ideas that lack details makes you a social liberal, than sure, maybe he is one.  But these are just some of the issues highlighting the comical claim that Trump is some type of social liberal.

I repeat:

It does not matter what a politician sincerely believes.

What matters is the legislation that they would support and for an executive what appointments they would make.  It is clearer than anything in the world that Trump is a traditional conservative on both of these grounds.  The legislation that he would push to be passed is terrible policy on a number of grounds and would exacerbate problems already held.  I could talk more about a number of different issues where Trump does not differ form traditional Republican orthodoxy including taxes, the minimum wage, and civil rights and liberties.

But I am saving the last part, at least, for where I discuss why Trump is an authoritarian.

Trump, despite the claims of many Republican operatives, is a Republican in every sense of where the party is, currently.  The extent to which Trump is a social liberal is so small that it would be smaller than his hands.  He backs it up with a number of heterodox Republican stances and beliefs that I simply can’t ignore.

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Distorted reality: Part 1

Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Presidency a little over a year ago.  I thought it was a a big joke.  Because well, every single one of his stunts about running for office had been a stunt prior to that.  Beyond that, I didn’t really think that Donald Trump would be able to garner that much support.  how much support would a failed reality star and real estate mogul really get?  But somehow he was able to navigate his way through the most crowded Presidential field in the history of presidential primaries.  Trump has managed to cultivate a strong following for his supporters in his quest to win the White House.  I do think, he’s ultimately a threat to our democracy as a demagogue with authoritarian tendencies, so you can take what I’m going to say with a grain of salt.

Question the legitimacy

On September 15, 2016, Donald Trump’s campaign issued a campaign release disavowing birtherism and stated that he alone was able to obtain the birth certificate of Barack Obama in 2011 so that Trump could believe that Obama was born in the United States and believed that since 2011. Trump held a press conference the next day where he talked about his hotel and refused to answer any questions but closed with saying that Obama was born in the US period and that Hillary Clinton started this conspiracy theory.

“Hillary Clinton, in her campaign of 2008, started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

It was awkward and full of lies.

The birther conspiracy isn’t part of the fringe in the Republican Party.  According to a poll from YouGov in January of 2016, 53% of self identified Republicans said that they do not believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States. An additional 26% are not sure where Obama was born.  This is actually one of the higher numbers for birtherism.  Public Policy Polling (PPP) which along with YouGov is one of the few polling outlets to ask this question wrote in 2011 that 51% of Republican voters did not think Barack Obama was born in the United States.  That, itself, was an increase from August of 2009 when 44% of Republicans thought that Obama was not born in the United States.

Birtherism takes off and has stuck around because the legitimacy of a Democratic President has to be taken into question.  Questioning Barack Obama’s birthplace is not the only way that some sought to question the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency.  In the third presidential debate, John McCain accused the community organizing group as “maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

This line of attack worked.  In November of 2009, PPP found that 49% of McCain supporters thought that ACORN stole the election for Barack Obama. ACORN was shut down in 2010 because they could no longer access federal funding.  Congress had passed a law banning federal funding for any organization “that had been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws or campaign finance laws or with filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency.”  ACORN shut down without this funding.  But no matter, 50% of Mitt Romney supporters thought that ACORN stole the election for Barack Obama in 2012. So Congess decided to block funding, again, in 2013.  Despite the fact that it is disbanded and defunded twice over, 32% of Trump supporters think that ACORN will steal the election for Hillary Clinton.  In that same poll, we see that two-thirds of Trump supporters think that Hillary Clinton would be president only because the election results are rigged for her.

It should be noted that this isn’t the first time that the Republican Party has questioned the legitimacy of a President.  Richard Nixon accused John F. Kennedy and his campaign of rigging elections in Illinois and Texas.  Nixon eventually conceded but the 1960 election vote frauds have been the subject of intense scrutiny by Republicans ever since.  Nor is this the first time that they have questioned the legitimacy of a presidential candidate.  In 1968, Mitt Romney’s father George had a short run for President. George was born in Mexico to his US citizen parents.  There was a lot of talk about George Romney’s eligibility to potentially run for President. Ultimately, it did not matter as Romney made a remark about brainwashing and dropped out of the race.

Lies, damned lies, and press releases

The campaign press release from Donald Trump’s communication staff mentioned that Obama released his birth certificate in 2011 and that Trump then believed that Obama was born in the United States.  Obama released his long-form birth certificate in April of 2011.   In an interview in May of 2012 to The Daily Beast, he doubled down on this claim:

That’s what he told the literary agent.  That’s the way life works… He didn’t know he was running for president, so he told the truth. The literary agent wrote down what he said… He said he was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia… Now they’re saying it was a mistake. Just like his Kenyan grandmother said he was born in Kenya, and she pointed down the road to the hospital, and after people started screaming at her she said, ‘Oh, I mean Hawaii.’ Give me a break.”

Later, that same month in an interview with Wolf Blitzer:

“Everybody’s entitled to your opinion.  You know my opinion and you know his opinion and that’s fine. We’re entitled – as he said yesterday in the airplane – we’re all entitled to our opinions and he’s entitled to have his opinion. I don’t happen to share that opinion, it’s wonderful…Many people put those announcements in because they wanted to get the benefits of being so-called born in this country.  Many people did it…Is it the most important thing?  In a way it is. You’re not allowed to be the president if you’re not born in the country.

A Tweet from Donald Trump’s official Twitter account seemed to break the case wide open in August of 2012.

My favorite is this Tweet where he implies that there was a murder to cover up Barack Obama’s birth certificate.  This tweet was posted in December of 2013.

Trump didn’t even move beyond this in January of 2016 saying that he has his “own theory on Obama.  Someday I’ll write a book.  I’ll do another book.  It’ll do very successfully.”  There’s plenty of other things out there that Trump has said about birtherism and he clearly played a significant role in pushing this conspiracy theory.  He also clearly did not have a change of heart in April of 2011.  Or if he did, he didn’t display it, in any fashion.  There is simply no closure that Trump brought to the issue that Trump accepted.  The biggest question is what caused him to change his mind on the issue.  What happened in the last 8 months to seemingly convince Trump that Obama was born in the United States?  Did his extremely credible source turn out to be a liar?

It’s clear that the campaign release left out quite a bit of details about how Trump got to this conclusion and when.  It certainly wasn’t in 2011 when the long-form birth certificate was released.

Not that it stopped Trump and his campaign from spreading a lie that Hillary Clinton started the original birther movement.  Andy Martin describes himself as “king of the birthers.”  Martin is a Chicago based activist who first circulated the rumor in 2004.  Most of Martin’s claims were centered around the idea that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim.  Martin, like Trump, also touted his political power after Obama released his long-form birth certificate.  Also, similar to Martin, he was accused of making racially insensitive remarks and anti-Semitic remarks that had somewhat of a following with neo-Nazis.

There was a memo in 2007 from discredited pollster Mark Penn where he wanted Clinton’s campaign to focus on him as unAmerican.  Penn advised Clinton to focus every speech “born in the middle of America to the middle class in the middle of the last century.”  It’s not hard to see why Penn was terrible and was not invited back to Clinton’s 2016 campaign.  Penn’s strategy also did not actually bring up questioning where Obama was born but to bring up his schooling in Indonesia and the like.  Penn’s strategy was not actually taken seriously.  A volunteer coordinator in Iowa forwarded a birther e-mail.  She was immediately fired. This was followed by a phone call from Patti Solis Doyle to David Plouffe to personally apologize.  I could go even further but it’s clear that Clinton’s campaign did not actually push the birther issue.

Trump exploited the idea that Obama was not a legitimate president because of the color of his skin or the way his name sounded.  He capitalized on people’s fears and mistrust of someone that didn’t look exactly like them.  He stoked these fears; he nurtured this idea and he has shown no remorse.  His campaign is a series of lies, halftruths, and good old fashioned racism.  Trump lies indiscriminately and reflexively.  This is taken as a positive by his supporters.  Except they assume he is telling the truth.  They praise him for straight shooting and saying how it is.  But as we’ll see, the way they think the world is, isn’t always how the world actually is and Trump obfuscates basic knowledge and his own stances with the talent of a compulsive liar.














The affirmative case for Hillary Clinton

One of the weird things about election season is the weird alliance between the more ardent Bernie Sanders supporters and Donald Trump supporters that there is simply not a case to be made for Hillary Clinton to be President.  The Bernie or bust supporters believe that the only case to be made for Clinton is of fear of Trump.  Trump supporters feel the same way.  I think there’s a very strong case to be made for Clinton to be president.  But like everything, if you’re not open to the argument, I’m not sure how successful it will be.

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  1. Supreme Court and the federal judiciary – One of the annoying things that we do in America is that we tend to overrate the power of the American presidency.  Thanks to our Constitution and the system within a Madisonian democracy, there are a high number of veto points and consistently limits the power of the presidency.  Thanks to our hyperpartisanship that is happening in our federal legislature, every single bill that is introduced by a Democrat or supported by Democratic leadership will be instantly opposed by the vast majority of Republican Senators and members of Congress.  This will certainly limit the amount of progressive policies that can be enacted within a Democratic president even if Democrats take back the Senate and make inroads into the House of Representatives.

    The main way that a President can make a lasting impact in our political environment and government structure is the appointments to the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary.  These are lifetime appointments, by and large.  With Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, there is an immediate opening on the Supreme Court that can allow Hillary Clinton to shift the median vote on the Supreme Court to a liberal vote.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is likely to retire in the next few years and due to the age of the other justices excepting the Obama appointees and Chief Justice John Roberts, there is likely to be another opening within the next 4-8 years.  Shifting the median vote on the Supreme Court to a liberal vote is going to be huge.  This can change voting rights, death penalty, mandatory minimums, public sector unions, LGBT rights and equality, etc.  You can bet that a Democratic Senate will be focusing on environmental issues and there will be court challenges to these laws.  Having a Supreme Court who believes in a living Constitution is going to be friendlier to this agenda.

    Of course, this argument can be considered as only saying that Clinton is better than Trump.  This is true but she is simply better than any Republican in this regard.

  2. Voting rights – When Clinton was a Senator, she introduced a bill that would help voting rights tremendously.  The bill was called the gold standard for voting rights reform.  The bill would make election day a holiday (a cause Bernie Sanders took up this year); restore the right to felons who have been released from jail and off parole; limit ability to throw out voter registration forms; prevent voter id laws from being enacted; create a national standard for early voting; require paper records in all precincts; and automatic recounts in 2% of all polling places or precincts.  All of these things are fantastic and part of a very progressive agenda.

    One of the policies that she is running on in this election and has since the primary is to repair our voting rights problem.  Her policy is to automatically register voters; repair the Voting Rights Act including the section that was struck down in Shelby County v. Holder; set a national standard for early voting; and restore voting rights to felons who have served their time.  Again, these are all very worthy goals.  Restoring the Voting Rights Act alone would help with minority voters, young people, and low-income voters to prevent onerous voter id restrictions.  This could also prevent worse gerrymandering and would require the preclearance that was previously guaranteed.

    More on voting rights can be found here for my thoughts on voting rights.

  3. Repealing Hyde Amendment – The Hyde Amendment is an amendment that is more or less included in every spending bill to prevent federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the mother or if the pregnancy is a result of incest or rape.  The Hyde Amendment is a barrier to prevent health insurance policies from offering abortions.  What’s worse is that while the federal funds prevent funding for abortions, only 17 states provide public funding for low-income seeking abortions.  The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) bans the use of federal funds for abortions sought by teeenagers.  The Hyde Amendment forbids Medicaid from funding an abortion.

    Clinton has specifically opposed the Hyde Amendment since, at least, 2008.  It’s not an exciting issue.  But the Hyde Amendment is a real barrier for poor or low-income women from being able to obtain an abortion.  As they have to wait longer, it is more likely that the cost will increase and the chances of health complications increase as we the fetus ages.

    If you’re pro-life, though, this does nothing to convince you that Clinton should be elected.

  4. Paid family and Medical leave – Clinton, despite the claims made by the Donald Trump campaign, have been fighting for paid family and medical leave to help provide for up to 12 weeks of medical leave for care for a new child or a seriously ill family member.  I wrote about the need for paid family and medical leave and why it’s important.  This is a very progressive goal and will likely be one of the new fights that will be coming in the next 8 years.
  5. Immigration reform – Clinton has said that she will defend the executive actions of DACA and DAPA to prevent deportations of immigrants who were born here and follow through with protections for them.  She has also talked about the need for comprehensive immigration reform which is certainly needed.  Immigration reform used to be a bipartisan issue and one that was clearly needed to address the issues.  The idea is to get the 11 million undocumented immigrants from out of the shadows and to pay taxes as they assimilate to American society.  This includes a pathway to citizenship which is very important to help these millions of people to be in the formal economy.  Further, she has stated the need to close private immigrant detention centers which are usually the ones that follow through with the worst abuses.
  6.  Campaign finance – The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is consistently cited by Bernie sanders and his more erstwhile supporters as a grave threat to democracy.  I think that ultimately this decision has been overblown because of people’s  obsession with simple explanations to complex problems.  Yes, there is a problem of money in politics.  Simply overturning Citizens United will not fix this.  At any rate, the group Citizens United made a move about Hillary Clinton in 2008 about how Hillary was a European socialist who wanted to take over the country.  Clinton has denounced the ruling since it was handed down.  She has campaigned heavily on this and has promised to propose a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  I don’t think this is a very practical solution as it could be overturned with a simple majority on the Supreme Court.   But she wants it overturned.

    I know, that, some of you will talk about how Clinton is taking money from dark money groups in her quest to be President so she is a hypocrite.  I don’t really buy this argument as Clinton will need the money to be able to be President, unfortunately, and can still not like the rule.  She is simply playing the game with the rules that are currently out there.  I’ve never really bought this argument but if you think Clinton is a hypocrite, I’m sure you will. But I think questions about her judgment about foreign policy are simply an excuse not to vote for her.

  7. Foreign policy judgment– Since I was just talking about Citizens United and this will follow naturally.  In 2008, Clinton had Mark Penn as a staffer and had a number of longtime Clinton staffers on her campaign.  This campaign failed.  There were a lot of terrible mistakes in that campaign including the Michigan and Florida fiasco and subsequent fight for the nomination and pledges to fight for the nomination.

    Clinton did not hire these staffers in her most recent campaign.  There were not campaign shakeups after her loss in New Hampshire.  There was not really any surprises in the primary (outside of Michigan which is still not really clear why she lost that state).  She dominated the delegate game without spending a lot of her money and without going negative against Bernie Sanders (by and large).  Poor Clinton judgment on the campaign trail would have had her shaking up her campaign after New Hampshire or Michigan or after a poor showing in a caucus.  She won all of her “must win” states.  While the primary votes seemed to be close,  after New Hampshire, it was never as close as the 2008 Democratic primary.

    But what about her Iraqi war vote and her hawkishness?  Clinton, unlike in 2008, has renounced her vote for Iraq and has talked about it being a mistake.  When she gave her vote in October 2002, she also gave a speech about why she was making this vote.  It seemed to be a straightforward reason for why she decided to make this vote.

    I’m not a fan of her hawishness, overall.  She is more of a hawk than I am.  This is for certain.  Her claims that she made a mistake with her Iraqi war vote in 2002 (unlike in 2008) and her change in her campaign from 2008 show me that she learned from her mistake back then.  When Bill Clinton was asked about the biggest mistake of his presidency, he, almost, without fail would cite the Rwandan genocide as one of his biggest regrets.  I think this played into her overall hawkishness and support for “regime change.”

    Other attacks on her foreign policy regarding Syria, Libya, or Honduras don’t, to me, pass the sniff test.  There were no good answers with regards to Syria.  Especially, when you keep it in mind that there is still the Rwandan genocide still in the minds of the Clinton.  Honduras is a weird thing to criticize her for, considering she is being criticized for not getting involved int he coup.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    I’d doubt that Clinton would get us into another war, especially in the Middle East.  But to just say that she is forever tainted because of her Iraq vote and can’t learn from this mistake (while very similar to other criticisms of her, in general) are, in my opinion, misleading.

  8. Environmental policy– Clinton has said that she will support the Clean Power Plan and help defend it. Of course, to do so, she would need a majority for the Supreme Court.  In fact, ALL environmental policies will need a majority Supreme Court to help defend it.  This is just something we need to deal with.  I’m not going to spend much time on this but Clinton is supporting a number of actions that will make America cleaner.
  9. Student loan debt, colleges, and single payer– The biggest ideas of Bernie Sanders that was supported by young voters was the idea to get rid of student loan debt and make colleges free and then single payer.  Student loan debt is a big issue for a number of young voters as they have thousands of dollars in debt for a degree that they are, in all probability, not using in their jobs.  The idea is that if we make colleges free we can get rid of student loan debt forever and make it affordable for all Americans to attend colleges.  Clinton’s plan is an actual plan.  Supported by a number of Democrats in the House and Senate, community colleges will offer free tuition.  The other idea is to allow families making less than $125,000 will be able to attend four year public colleges without tuition and students from families making less than $85,000 will be able to attend college without paying tuition.  In true Clintonian fashion, this would also require students to work 10 hours/week.  This will be funded through grants in the states.

    For those who already have debt will have an option to refincance their loans and create a payroll deduction to let both employees and employers pay off student loans in a different way.  Her plan will also limit the amount of income that you have to pay back to less than 10% of your monthly income and forgiven after 20 years.  This is paid for by increases in taxes to high income earners.

    As opposed to quantitative easing which is creating a new function for the Federal Reserve and allows for additional powers for the Federal Reserve, this is much more likely to pass and to be implemented.  Beyond that, it’s just a better idea.  There is not a consistent argument to expand the power of the Federal Reserve to take over student loan debt without also letting the Federal Reserve provide for a universal basic income (which I actually support) or other policy ideas that we’re ignoring because they’re not feasible.

    Sanders ran on a platform of Medicare for all plan to allow for a single payer system in healthcare.  His ideas were full of promises for money that simply were not there and misstaed a number of facts about savings and the cost of the program.  I’m not here to relitigate the primaries so I’ll move on. Clinton has long been advocating for an option for people over the age of 55 to buy into Medicare.  Her support for such a system was part of her health care reform in the 1990s.

    While running in the primaries, she criticized Sanders, rightly in my opinion, that his universal coverage was too expensive and not feasible.  But the buy-in for those who are 55 or older will allow for health insurance premiums to also decrease as those who are older are the biggest drivers for health insurance costs increasing.  Removing them from the public marketplace would decrease health insurance premiums for those who are younger and healthier.  Beyond that, it would expand coverage to millions of Americans.  The biggest issue is that states have already blocked Medicaid expansion but a majority in the Supreme Court may uphold such a public option that would move America into universal coverage.

  10. Minimum wage – Senator Sanders ran on a campaign to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15/hour.  This idea was largely supported by younger supporters.  Clinton’s proposal more or less mirrored Barack Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage to about $12/hour and chain it to cost of living increases that are automatically renewed.  Clinton’s proposal was criticized as not being enough.  She later clarified if there was legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour, she would sign it as President.

    Clinton’s proposal is the better proposal.  I don’t mean that lightly.  Increasing the minimum wage, essentially more than doubling it from its current wage would certainly lead to job losses.  There is a lot of economic research that shows that increasing the minimum wages incrementally does not lead to major job losses.  Increasing it significantly, would almost certainly lead to job losses that would harm the program and harm the idea of a progressive policy that needs to be enacted.

    The Congressional Budget Office’s central estimate for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would reduce employment by 500,000 with most of the job losses focused on those making less than $10.10/hour currently.  An increase to $15/hour would focus on those making less than $15/hour and would certainly lead to larger job loss.

    Further, a $15/hour minimum wage is not going to be passed and is not supported by a majority of Americans.  While there is certainly a need to increase the minimum wage, increasing it uniformly to $15/hour would hurt workers in the midwest and south and other places that have low cost of living while significantly helping those in higher cost of living areas.  The $15/hour minimum wage probably will have minimal job losses in the Seatac area but if you go into the more rural parts of Washington, increasing it that high will lead to a number of job losses and businesses no longer to be able to afford it.

    There is simply not a policy argument that $15/hour is better than $12 or $17.  It’s just a number that ends in $5.  A minimum wage increase needs to be able to have minimal job losses so that a progressive policy can be supported going into  the future and needs to have large support to be able to be enacted.  An increase in minimum wage will be attacked with every job loss and it needs to be able to withstand these attacks.

    But even if you do believe that $12/hour is insufficient for everyone in the country, you have to admit that such a large increase in the minimum wage would be a tremendous policy achievement for a Democratic president and Democratic Congress.  I don’t believe that $12/hour will be passed by a Congress held by Republicans and would face a lot of difficulties in order to be enacted.  It is more likely than $15/hour.  And is the superior policy.

    There are so many other policies that I can bring up or reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton including gun contorl, the drug epidemic, LGBT rights, etc. that it boggles the mind that people think that there is simply not a reason to vote for Clinton in November.

    I do believe that Trump is a racist who has authoritarian tendencies and would do irreparable harm not only to political discourse but our democracy, overall.  But I think there are a number of positives for Clinton that she should be evaluated in her own right.



The Right Way of Nominating a President

A talking point when people discuss the 2016 presidential election and the primaries is to talk about the unlikelihood of having Senator Ted Cruz or someone similar to him, who is considered to be an extremist on the Republican side of the political spectrum.  Often, the claim that the Republican party will nominate the one who has the best chance of winning, meaning that he is either a pragmatist or a moderate Republican, as opposed to someone who is more ideologically pure.

Let’s take a look.  We’re beginning with 1976, as it was the first time a Republican primary was held in every state.  This allows us to compare the past and present without having to rely on deals in the backroom filled with cigar smoke and scotch.


The 1976 Republican primary was slightly confusing.  President Gerald Ford initially announced that he would not seek re-election (technically, election).  But he re-considered and began a campaign to seek the nomination and eventual election.  Former Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, began to criticize Gerald Ford in the summer of 1975 and officially announced his candidacy in the fall of 1975.  Reagan was considered the favorite of the Conservative section of the Republican party.  Reagan and his Conservative allies were critical of Ford on the policy of detente with the Soviet Union, Ford’s refusal of help for South Vietnam, the signing of the Helinski Accords, and giving the Panama Canal back to Panama.  The Heritage Foundation would like to remind people that Reagan also criticized Ford for the centralization of the federal government.  Ford criticized Reagan for being too extreme.  Despite this, there was not a nominee at the time of the Republican Convention.  Ford began with a slight lead in the votes but still shy of the number needed to secure the nomination.  In order to gain some votes, Reagan pledged to nominate moderate Republican Senator Richard Schweiker as vice-president.  The move backfired, as conservative delegates were outraged at Reagan.  Senator Jesse Helms who had helped Reagan’s comeback during primary season, was particularly angry.  Helms tried to draft James Buckley as the nominee.  Many Mississippi delegates also switched allegiances and Ford won the nomination.  The Mississippi chairman allegedly switched support because of the nomination of Schweiker.

Conclusion: Reagan was clearly the Conservative choice for the nomination, but in an effort to gain votes, he tried to placate the moderates within the party and it failed.  I feel uncomfortable saying that Ford was nominated because he was seen as the more pragmatic or moderate choice.


The 1980 Republican Presidential primary more closely resembles the primaries that we see. Ronald Reagan was considered the heavy favorite, almost as soon as the 1976 Republican presidential primary concluded.  Reagan had given a speech at the end that overshadowed Ford’s speech.

Minority Leader Howard Baker was known as the great conciliator in the Senate.  There was a story that Democratic Senators would privately support Baker’s quest to run for President.  Because of this, Baker would get the dreaded RINO tag, today, if he was in the political eye.  Baker lost the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire caucus before withdrawing.  A Gallup poll found him to be in 2nd place behind just Ronald Reagan in 1979.

Former Governor John Connally was a Democrat until 1973.  Then he switched parties.  Connally was friends with President Lyndon Johnson and supported the same candidates up until the 1972 election where Connally supported Nixon, instead of George McGovern.  But anyway, Connally was considered a great fundraiser, a fairly strong leader, and a strong orator.  Connally would probably be compared to Mitt Romney in 2008.  If Reagan had been defeated in 1980,  Connally would have likely re-emerged as a potential candidate in 1984.  But poor campaigning, as well as a lack of electoral chops, ultimately doomed him.

Senator Bob Dole,who ran for vice-president under Gerald Ford ran in 1976, chose to run in the 1980 presidential election.  He received less than 1% of the vote for the New Hampshire primary, and immediately withdrew.  Dole, while he was a war hawk and tough on crime, made his first Senate speech on increasing federal aid for the handicapped and disable.  He also joined Democratic Senator Jim McGovern in an effort to lower eligibility requirements for federal food stamps, a fairly liberal goal.  Dole later pleaded with Gerald Ford to run in 1980 as a stop-Reagan faction.

Congressman Phil Crane was a Conservative member of Congress since 1968.  Crane was one of the most Conservative members of the House of Representatives, who had been raised on Barry Goldwater’s campaign for president.  Crane was the first chairman of the Republican Study Committee to keep watch of the Republican party in Congress, who was considered to be too moderate.  Crane was also the Chairman of the Illinois Citizens for Reagan, trying to help in Reagan’s primary presidential run.  He was unsure if Reagan would run again in 1980, and said that if Reagan ran, he would drop out.  He stayed in, even after Reagan’s entrance, but dropped out in early March.

Congressman John B. Anderson initially started as one of the more Conservative members of the House but eventually shifted, gradually to the left for social issues.  His fiscal conservatism remained, though.  He broke with the administration on the Vietnam War and was an outspoken critic of Richard Nixon.  Anderson was also allies with Gerald Ford.  Anderson was primaried in 1978 but survived the primary by 16% of the vote.  He decided to run for President.  Actually, John Anderson deserves a much longer post all about him.  Anderson had considerable support from Rockefeller Republicans, who were more liberal than Reagan supporters.  He was considered much more liberal than many of the Republican nominees.  At one point, he stated that cutting taxes, increasing defense spending, and balancing the budget were an impossible combination.  Anderson withdrew and eventually ran as an independent garnering 7% of the votes in the general election.

Former CIA director George H.W. Bush supposedly represented the centrist part of the Republican party.  He criticized Reagan’s supply-side economic theory as “voodoo economics.”  This eventually proved to be successful in the Iowa caucus.  He also won a primary where Reagan did not bother to show up.  But for the most part, Bush was dead in the water by the end of April.  Bush finally withdrew on May 26, 1980.  Bush was later named the vice-presidential nominee by Ronald Reagan.

Former Governor Ronald Reagan who was unsuccessful in 1968 and 1976, finally was successful in 1980.  Reagan represented the true conservatives.  He campaigned hard on the idea of supply-side economics, proposing that tax cuts would increase revenues because people would work harder.  Reagan also promised a balanced budget for the first time since 1969.  Reagan was the front-runner and after firing his campaign manager finally started to act like it, culminating in a victory.

Conclusion: The conservatives’ Conservative won the nomination.


The 1988 Republican presidential primary started with Vice-President George H.W. Bush as the front-runner but eventually included Senator Bob Dole, Congressman Jack Kemp, Governor Pierre S. du Pont IV, and televangelist Pat Robertson.

Governor Pierre S. du Pont IV was governor of Delaware and announced his intention to run for the presidency in 1986, before anyone else.  But he had some radical ideas.  He proposed reforming social security by offering private saving options .  He also wanted to wean people off of welfare by offering jobs, even entry level jobs in the government.  He proposed instituting random drug tests to those who flunked driver’s license tests.  He was a novice and bowed out after a next-to-last finish in New Hampshire.

Congressman Jack Kemp had a difficult time convincing people of his ideas if he became president.  Kemp had a libertarian philosophy of supporting individual rights, preaching tolerance, supporting women, minorities, blue-collar workers, and organized labor.  These ideas clashed with the typical conservative view of ideas and values.  To Democrats and those more liberal, his free market philosophies were just a form of anarchy.  His fiscal policy was very similar to Ronald Reagan, in that he argued for supply-side economics.  He also wanted to freeze government spending.  His poor showing on Super Tuesday eventually forced him to withdraw.  Kemp could probably be compared to the libertarian wing of the Republican party, that is in vogue today.

Televangelist Pat Robertson announced he would run in 1986 if 3 million people signed up to volunteer for his campaign.  Robertson supported a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.  He also wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy and the Department of Education.  He also wanted to ban pornography.  He was a true social conservative.  His views are now basically the same as the generic Republicans.  With his true social conservative credentials, he managed a 2nd place finish in the Iowa caucus.  He withdrew before Super Tuesday.

Senator Bob Dole, who had previously lost as a vice-president in 1976 and lost the Republican nomination in 1980, decided to have another go at it.  Dole and Bush did not differ much in their views.  Bush drew criticism for his portrayal of Dole.  Dole was viewed as an angry person by responding to a question by saying Bush should stop lying about my record.  He was also viewed as a micromanager who could not handle a presidential campaign.  At this point, Dole would be comparable to Mitt Romney in 2008.

Vice-President George H.W. Bush was the early front-runner for the presidential nomination.  Bush was still considered to be the leader of the centrist part of the Republican party, but there was no real conservative to challenge him.  Bush finished in third place at the Iowa caucus.  During the New Hampshire primary, Bush ran a campaign ad portraying Dole as a taxraiser which helped contribute to Dole’s response.  But Bush’s organizational strength really helped as he was able to clinch the nomination once Super Tuesday began.  This is likely comparable to John McCain in 2008.

Conclusion: The only “true” Conservative was Robertson who finished 3rd or 4th.  But the two front-runners were both Republicans who appealed to the centrist wing of the party.


The 1996 Republican primary did not have any immediate front-runners.  The only one who was considered in that breath was Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

Ambassador Alan Keyes entered the 1996 Republican presidential primary to center the debate around abortion and bring it to the forefront of the political debate.  Keyes did not fare well in the primaries and eventually withdrew.  He would be comparable to what Ben Carson is trying to do, now.

Governor Lamar Alexander ran for President in 1996.  He did not do anything memorable, apparently, and ducked out pretty quickly.  He later served as an adviser to the Dole/Kemp campaign.

Journalist Steve Forbes tried to run in 1996.  He supported a flat tax of 17% on earned income, while maintaining the first $33,000 would be exempt from the tax.  Beside that, he was a traditional Republican.  He supports free trade, school vouchers, downsizing the federal government, and the death penalty. He also opposed drug legalization, same sex marriage, gun control, and environmental regulation.  But his campaign was doomed by his inability to cultivate a winning campaign style.

Presidential advisor Pat Buchanan challenged George H.W. Bush in 1992 because he thought Bush was leading the country in a liberal direction.  Buchanan wanted to challenge the Washington establishment in 1996.  He ran to the right of Bob Dole.  He opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  But there were questions about Buchanan’s comments about being a possible Holocaust denier and having a key campaign adviser go to a meeting with a white supremacist group.  Buchanan denied these allegations saying that the media was trying to smear him.  Buchanan is probably most comparable to Newt Gingrich in 2012.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole was the front-runner for the 1996 presidential nomination but did not have the support of many of the party’s higher-ups.  George W. Bush, Colin Powell, and Dick Cheney were all approached to run in 1996 but declined to run.  Dole was criticized by the left and the right of his party, over the convention platform and his platform, too.  Dole was criticized for the inclusion of the Human Life Amendment.  He had promised a return to supply side economics, promising a 15% cut across the board to income tax.  He is comparable to Mitt Romney in 2012.

Conclusion: There was not a real strong primary challenge in 1996, Bob Dole rose to the top of the pile.  The more conservative members were not real strong challengers.


Again, in 200, there was not a real front-runner for the nomination but George W. Bush became the favorite among the Republican leadership.  John McCain was a darkhorse but he became quite the challenger to Bush.

Ambassador Alan Keyes: Keyes ran again in 2000, this time on a more Conservative platform than before.  He called for the elimination of all federal taxes except tariffs.  He also campaigned on a ban of homosexuals in the military.  He continued his call for bringing abortion policies to the forefront of the political debate.

Senator John McCain: McCain tried to fight against the political doublespeak and the special interest groups.  His campaign focused extensively on campaign finance reform.  McCain repeatedly held long town halls and frequent meetings with reporters to show his straight talk campaigning.  McCain was repeatedly accused by the Bush campaign as a Manchurain candidate.  The Bush campaign also accused supporters of McCain that they were not really Republicans but Democrats pretending to be Republicans.  McCain’s independent streak in the Senate finally caught up with him and the straight talk campaign was defeated under a slew of negative ads.

Governor George W. Bush ran as a “compassionate Conservative.”  He implied that he was a centrist Republican.  He ran on bringing honor and integrity back to the White House.  He also ran on cutting taxes, increased military spending, improving education, and aiding minorities.  Bush’s campaign was that of a generic Republican.  But he was able to effectively paint McCain as a RINO.  Bush won the South Carolina primary, the nomination, and the election on the backs of Christian Evangelical voters.

Conclusion: While Bush implied that he was more of a centrist Republican, he effectively showed himself to be the more Conservative option between himself and John McCain.


The early front-runner for the 2008 Republican nomination was Rudy Giuliani but he bowed out fairly early after failing to do well in Iowa.  Mike Huckabee won Iowa and seized the early momentum but John McCain finally won the nomination.

Congressman Ron Paul announced his candidacy in March of 2007.  Paul had a large following and a large group of supporters but ultimately he was unable to unseat any of his rivals in the primary elections.  Paul ran on a campaign of balancing the budget, bringing the troops home, non-interventionist foreign policy, an attempt to be a civil libertarian, and being pro-life.  Paul’s supporters claim to be libertarians but it comes from a different brand, overall, than traditional libertarians.  ANYWAY, Paul failed to endorse another Republican candidate in 2008.

Governor Mike Huckabee was the most Conservative candidates in the 2008 Republican primary.  He was a favorite among Christian evangelicals.  He has stood by his comments that we need to take this nation back to Christ.  He drew considerable support from the Christian evangelical activist groups.  Some media outlets looked through his past speeches and claimed that he was a right-wing Christian.  Huckabee won the Iowa caucus but ultimately bowed out of the election because of lack of funds and structural problems with his campaign.

Governor Mitt Romney’s first run as the presidential nomination was a failure.  Romney’s biggest liability was that he ran for Senate and was Governor of one of the most liberal states in the union.  Late in his gubernatorial tenure, he began to shift his social values to align more with the traditional conservatives’ views.  He was derided by social conservatives for lack of core values and opportunism.  He also faced suspicion from Christian evangelicals because of his religious faith.  Romney was charged as being a flip flopper and came off as phony.  Despite his obvious skills as a fundraiser, it was too much to overcome, with a serious challenger.

Senator John McCain attempted to run for President in 2008.  McCain had national name recognition.  But he faced some criticism for his support of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.  But he mainly got the nomination because of the troubles and inexperience of Huckabee and the phoniness of Romney. McCain’s straight talk and his appeal as an independent thinker showed support from many in the Republican electorate.

Conclusion: McCain was hardly more electable than Romney, but McCain proved to be more Conservative than Romney but less so than Huckabee.


The 2012 Republican primary basically pitted favorite Mitt Romney against the rest of the field.  The rest of the field was supposed to step up to become the anti-Romney candidate.

Speaker Newt Gingrich was one of the favorites for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination in 2011.  Gingrich had some hiccups early on in the campaign having to fire most of his staff.  He appeared back on the upswing and fared well in the South and with evangelical Christians.  Gingrich was a favorite at one point but he struggled and began to lag behind Romney.  Gingrich, typically, fared well in the debates but his campaign was plagued by gaffes such as his ill-fated moon colony idea.  Gingrich lasted well into the primary despite the urging by fellow candidate Rick Santorum.  Gingrich announced he was the “last conservative standing.”  He eventually withdrew and threw his support behind Romney.

Ron Paul ran in 2012 like he had in 2008.  He ran a similar campaign to what he had in 2008.  He eventually ran out of money.  He refused to endorse any Republican candidate or speak at the Republican National Convention.

Rick Santorum decided to run for President to allow the Conservative voice to be heard and articulated.  Santorum initially lagged behind many of those who dropped out and the favorite, Mitt Romney.  But as more of the conservative candidates dropped out, Santorum became the only voice for the true conservatives.  Santorum was able to hold on as long he could before eventually suspending his campaign.

Mitt Romney’s second run for the Republican nomination was more successful than the first.  Always adept at fundraising, Romney was able to compete against lesser opponents.  While charges of his flip-flopping re-emerged in 2011, he was able to defend himself against them.  He focused primarily on the eventual match-up with Barack Obama, as opposed to criticizing his fellow Republicans.  Because of his fundraising ability, he was able to outspend his opponents to the point where he broke them.

Conclusion: I’ve been very critical of the 2012 Republican primary field but Romney was the strongest of the weak candidates.  Romney was easily the most electable candidate of the bunch, but not as a question of his moderate ability.  He was a talented fundraiser and able to effectively communicate his message.  It also helped that Romney seemed to look like a president.

1976: More moderate

1980: More conservative

1988: Senator Bob Dole vs. Vice President George H.W. Bush had Bush as more conservative than Dole.

1996: Weak candidates but Dole was moderate

2000: More conservative between Bush and McCain

2008: This one is tough. Huckabee was more conservative than McCain or Romney but was not as strong as a candidate as either of them.

2012: Weak candidates but Romney was moderate

Overall conclusion: The Republican nominations seem to vary over time but it does not seem that there is a tendency by the party to nominate the most moderate choice.  It seems that there is a bias to elect the most electable candidate with a particular bias toward those who have run for the nomination in the past.  When there are stronger candidates, the Republican party chooses the most Conservative stronger candidate.  But at times when there are weaker candidates, the moderate candidate is allowed to shine and win the nomination.

The Left Way of Nominating a President

I would like to make historical comparisons, if I can.  Some on the Left, make a generalized comment that the Democratic Party chooses the most conservative candidate for the Presidential nomination. I will start with the 1972 Presidential Primary and conclude with the 2008 Presidential primary.


In 1970, Maine Senator Edmund Muskie gave the message of the Democratic Party to Congressional voters before the mid-term elections.  In January of 1971, South Dakota Senator George McGovern announced his candidacy for the Presidential nomination, polling in 5th place among other Democratic hopefuls.  By August of 1971, Muskie was the heavy favorite to win, not only the Democratic nomination but to win the Presidential election.  In January 1972, McGovern was polling at 3% among Democratic voters.  In January 1972, Alabama Governor George Wallace announced his candidacy for the Presidential nomination.  Former Vice-President Hubert Humphrey announced his near perennial decision to run for President in 1972.  In March of 1972, former Governor of North Carolina announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.  The Congressional Delegate for Washington, D.C., Walter Fauntroy, announced his candidacy and won the D.C. primary.  After a series of campaign attacks, Muskie ended up losing momentum and withdrew from the nomination before the convention.  George Wallace survived an assassination attempt in May of 1972, but was paralyzed from the waist down.  This effectively ended his campaign and he withdrew during the convention.  Humphrey was well-organized for the 1972 primary season, eventually winning many primaries.  He ultimately withdrew after a delegation fiasco at the convention. Sanford withdrew during the convention after finishing in 5th.  McGovern won the nomination.


Edmund Muskie: Muskie was the vice-presidential nominee for Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election.  Muskie became the voice of the Democratic party by 1970.  He was also chosen to give remarks to the State of the Union address in 1972 and 1973.  Muskie was the heavy favorite to win the Democratic nomination.  But Richard Nixon and his “dirty tricks team” forged a letter alleging that Muskie insulted French Canadians and that his wife drank and swore.  Muskie made a big deal out of his defense for his wife.  He had melted snowflakes on his face that many people thought were tears.  He was accused of breaking down.  Even though Muskie won the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary, Muskie’s momentum was halted and he withdrew from the nomination.


Hubert Humphrey: Humphrey served as Vice-President from 1965-1969.  Humphrey was originally a skeptic of the Vietnam War.  But after President Lyndon Johnson gave him the cold shoulder for his criticism, Humphrey became a vocal supporter of the war.  Although Humphrey had major support from labor unions and other key Democratic allies, including civil rights activists, he was eventually troubled from his lack of support from college students and anti-war activists over his support for the Vietnam War.  Humphrey, who had the full faith and credit of the Democratic Party in 1968, tried to skip the primaries in 1972, ultimately failed, losing to George McGovern at the convention.

George Wallace: Wallace was the Governor of Alabama, who ran in 1970 for re-election as Governor, based on pretty racist advertisements including accusing blacks vowing to take Alabama.  Wallace did not support the Vietnam War.  Wallace’s 1968 election has been the platform for the Republican Party, since.  He argued against the federal government and busing laws.  Arguments, that more or less, carried over to today.  But in 1972, Wallace declared himself a Democrat and that he was a moderate on segregation.  Wallace was a great campaigner, but his assassination attempt ended his campaign.

Terry Sanford: Sanford, the former Governor of North Carolina, announced his candidacy to show that not all Southerners were in favor of segregation.  Sanford served as Governor of North Carolina, where he increased the state’s expenditures to public universities.  He oversaw the creation of North Carolina’s Community College System.  He raised taxes to help pay for the expenditure.  He also fought for desegregation in North Carolina.  He also was a vocal opponent of the death penalty.  Sanford did not fare well in the primaries.

George McGovern: McGovern, the Senator from South Dakota, was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War.  He had helped lead protests in 1968 after Humphrey won the nomination.  He announced his candidacy before anybody else, in January 1971.  McGovern was still polling below 5% by 1972.  McGovern ran with a grassroots level organization focusing on his anti-war policies.  McGovern won less primary votes than Hubert Humphrey but won, in part by a winner take all system in California.  McGovern’s campaign was focused on withdrawal of Vietnam, amnesty for draft dodgers,  and a 37% decrease in defense spending,  McGovern’s campaign at the end was attacked by the labor movement and Southern Democrats.

Conclusion: McGovern won over the party’s established candidates in Muskie and Humphrey.  By focusing on college students and appealing to the Left, McGovern won the nomination.  The favorites were both Muskie and Humphrey, they both lost.



There were no heavy favorites for the 1976 Democratic nomination, a record 23 people entered the race, but ultimately, it went to Jimmy Carter. In February of 1975, Henry Jackson, Senator from Washington, announced his candidacy.  He was considered the favorite when he ran for his candidacy.  Governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter announced his candidacy, as late as January of 1976, Carter was polling at 4% among Democratic voters.  After Carter announced his candidacy, Morris Udall, a Congressman from Arizona announced that he would be the liberal alternative to Carter.  Near the end of the campaign, Governor of California Jerry Brown announced that his campaign hoping to stall the conservative Carter’s campaign.


Henry Jackson: Jackson was considered a whore for defense spending.  He criticized President Dwight Eisenhower for not spending enough for defense spending.  He was considered the Senator from Boeing for his all talk about adding additional contracts to his state.  Jackson was one of the biggest supporters for the Civil Rights movement.  But because of his calls for defense spending and his support for the Vietnam War, Jackson’s campaign was initially attacked by the Left.  Jackson had raised his profile by speaking about the Middle East and U.S.-Soviet policy.  Jackson was also supported for his vocal support for Israel.  But because he never got off the ground for his support for Vietnam War and his lack of support from the labor movement, he ran out of money and ultimately dropped out of the campaign.

Jimmy Carter: Carter was not well-known nationally.  But because of the opposition to the Watergate scandal, Carter was able to target people because of his outsider status.  Carter won election as Governor of Georgia, in part because of a nasty racially charged campaign.  While he was Governor, he announced that segregation was over.  Carter merged hundreds of state agencies, as well.  He ran as a moderate in the South to George Wallace’s ideology.  While in the North, he looked Conservative.  Carter grabbed the early momentum by winning Iowa and New Hampshire. His early successes led the Left to find a new candidate to support.

Morris Udall: By the time Udall decided to run, Carter defeated his early challengers with a string of victories.  Udall announced his candidacy as the liberal alternative to Carter.  Udall was known in Congress for his environmental policies, Native American welfare, and commitment to campaign finance reform.  Udall, apparently, made witty speeches, which delighted a lot of his supporters.  Udall did not really emerge as a a formidable foe to Carter.  He was attacked as a racist in the Michigan primary.  He ultimately lost and did not get over the campaign as he endorsed Edward Kennedy’s run in 1980 against Carter.


Jerry Brown: Brown announced his candidacy even later, hoping to challenge the moderate Carter.  Brown was the Governor of California, at the time.  He was a fiscal conservative, championed environmental issues, and opposed the death penalty.  Brown was unable to stop Carter’s momentum, despite ultimate primary wins in Louisiana, New Jersey, California, and Nevada.

Conclusion: There was no clear establishment favorite after Edward Kennedy declined to run.  Jackson was the first favorite, but ultimately dropped out.  Carter was considered a conservative, at the time, but never really earned the support of the Party.  The Carter primary victory was vastly different than any since.



At the beginning of the campaign, vice-president and former Senator from Minnesota, Walter Mondale was the early favorite for the 1984 Democratic nomination.  Despite a primary win in New Hampshire by a moderate Senator from Colorado named Gary Hart, Mondale maintained his front-runner status.  Civil Rights Activist Jesse Jackson was regarded as a fringe candidate and finished in 3rd place, eventually winning 21% of the popular vote from the Democratic primary.  Former astronaut and Ohio Senator John Glenn also announced his candidacy, he was in 2nd place behind Mondale in early polling, but Glenn ultimately failed as a candidate.


John Glenn: Glenn was an astronaut and became a Senator in 1974.  Glenn was considered a choice for Carter’s vice-president nominee but his speech did not impress the Democratic Party.  In November of 1983, Glenn was polling a close second, trailing only Mondale.  Glenn decided to run for President as if he was voting for Senate.  He declined to cater to the interest groups, trying to appeal to everyday voters.  Glenn went deep in debt for his presidential campaign and failed to live up to his early billing.

Jesse Jackson: Jackson was more or less considered a fringe candidate.  He managed to win three to five primaries.  He won more votes in Virginia than any other candidate, but Mondale won more delegates.  Jackson’s campaign was doomed by his anti-Semitic remarks referring to New York City as Hymietown.  He also refused to disassociate himself from Louis Farrakhan.  He also was a supporter of the Palestine state.  Jackson was also critical of Mondale, saying that the last relevant politician from Minneapolis was Hubert Humphrey.


Gary Hart: Hart, Senator from Colorado, started out behind many contenders as someone who was not well known within the Democratic Party.  He began his campaign in New Hampshire earlier than most.  By late 1983, Hart was ahead of the middling contenders and polled in the middle of the pack.  Although, he lost the Iowa caucus, he came back and won the New Hampshire primary.  Hart was a moderate Democrat, who people thought represented the future of the party.  Because he was more independent, his ideas were different than many of the contenders in the Democratic primary.  Mondale jumped on this by claiming that Hart’s ideas were not substantial enough.  Ultimately, Hart lost to Mondale in the Democratic convention.

Walter Mondale: Mondale, by virtue of being Vice-President from 1977-1981 and running in 1980, was the clear front-runner in the 1984 election.  Mondale was a typical liberal Democratic presidential candidate who eventually campaigned against Ronald Reagan by supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, a nuclear freeze, and against Reagan’s economic policies.  His liberal attitudes helped him clinch the Democratic nomination but ultimately failed him in the general election.

Conclusion: Mondale was the most liberal candidate in the field.  He was also the front-runner throughout the entire election.  Some credit his lopsided defeat in the general election as the reason to shift to more moderate candidates from the Democratic party.



After the fairly strong showing in the 1984 presidential primaries, Gary Hart was considered the front-runner for the 1988 nomination.  But in 1987, news broke that Hart had an extra-marital affair.  Hart suspended his campaign and it became a free-for-all for the nomination.  Representative Dick Gephardt initially seized some of the momentum in Iowa by highlighting what he thought was unfair trade practices by Japan and South Korea.  Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis portrayed Gephardt as a flip-flopper in commercials.  Gephardt finished second to Dukakis in New Hampshire but his flop-flopping advertisements doomed Gephardt by Super Tuesday.  In early 1988, Jesse Jackson gained momentum by winning in Michigan.  But that was short-lived, as Dukakis won the Colorado primary and Wisconsin primary in back to back days. Senator Al Gore ran, as well, trying to capture the momentum on Super Tuesday as being the only Southern candidate, when 12 states would hold their primaries.  But he failed to account for Jackson, as Jackson and Gore split the Southern votes.  Dukakis did not focus on the Southern states and was able to win the majority of the primaries.



Dick Gephardt: Rep. Gephardt ran for President from his position representing Missouri, the 3rd District.  Gephardt, initially was dependent on labor and union spending as he decided to run.  He, initially, was critical of the decision in Roe v. Wade but later decided that he no longer supports restrictions on abortion rights.  He, also, initially voted in favor of Reagan’s tax cuts before being against them. He supported universal health coverage, fair trade, and progressive taxation.  He was able to capitalize on this spending by running advertisements that included highlighting unfair trade from Japan and Korea.  But after Jesse Jackson’s strong showing in Michigan, many unions and those in the labor movement switched support to Jesse Jackson, Gephardt ran out of money and steam.  Despite his strong showing early, he was out by Super Tuesday.

Al Gore: Gore, initially was a long-shot for the nomination.  But because of his youthfulness and his centrist policies, Gore seemed to be a match made in television heaven.  Gore was a Southern Democrat who opposed federal funding for abortion, supported prayer in school, and voted against banning interstate sales of handguns.  Gore was compared, somewhat favorably, to John F. Kennedy.  But Gore did not foresee Jackson splitting the Southern vote with him on Super Tuesday.  Gore was also criticized for some of the supporting words given by New York City Mayor Ed Koch in defense of Israel.  Many of these views cast others in  negative light and Gore was perceived as being too negative, he soon dropped out of the race.

Jesse Jackson: Initially considered a long shot due to his race and his kind of strange showing in the 1984 Presidential nomination process, Jackson showed to be a formidable foe by giving a rousing speech to the United AutoWorkers in Detroit.  Jackson picked up a lot of support in the union heavy Michigan.  After, he won the state, Jackson was considered the front-runner.  Jackson was considered to be a very liberal candidate supporting a variety of views that were not even on the Democratic party platform.  He was a supporter of single payer health care, going away from mandatory minimum sentences, reviving many of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies for farmers, providing free community college for all, among others.  Jackson was doomed, in part, because of the criminal activity of his half-brother.  Jackson, also, did not have the support from white voters.

Michael Dukakis: The Governor of Massachusetts at the time, Dukakis merely outspent the rest of his opponents to eventually win the nomination.  It really wasn’t that impressive of a victory.  This seems similar to Mitt Romney in 2012.  Dukakis ate up his competitors by outspending them and appealing to white voters.  By not focusing on the South, Dukakis was able to win other stats while Gore split the South with Jackson.


Conclusion: This election was very strange.  Dukakis was able to pick apart his opponents by using their weaknesses against them.  By focusing on flip-flopping with Gephardt, appealing to white voters to defeat Jackson, and to show that Gore was not liberal enough, Dukakis was able to secure the nomination.  This one had three lead changes for the nomination and the heavy favorite before the election did not even end up running.



As the Iowa caucus came about Iowa Senator Tom Harkin won handily but less than one month later, Harkin was out of the race.  Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, who was painting himself as a New Democrat, was a relative unknown.  A woman came forward claiming an affair with Clinton, but he re-branded himself as the comeback kid.  He finished in second place behind Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas in New Hampshire.  California Governor Jerry Brown won in Maine delaying the momentum of Tsongas.  Clinton began to take the momentum away from Tsongas and Brown, finishing in 2nd place in Arizona before beginning to win states of his own.  Tsongas hoped to push Brown out of the race by Illinois but Brown managed to stick around coming in 3rd place.  A week later, Brown won Connecticut sealing the fate for Tsongas.  Clinton won the vast majority of states after Connecticut.  Brown lost New York after being ahead for awhile.  That was the end for Brown.  Clinton was able to secure the nomination.


Tom Harkin: The Iowa Senator was considered the early favorite for the Democratic nomination.  He had strong support with the labor movement and began his run as a populist.  But he was not well suited for a national campaign.  Poor showings at other primaries doomed Harkin.  He threw his support behind Bill Clinton, early on, and later campaigned for him.

Paul Tsongas: Tsongas ignored the Iowa caucus and decided to focus on the New Hampshire primary.  He began the campaign focusing on his independence and fiscal conservatism.  He decided against campaigning on a tax cut like many other candidates. He was viewed as a social liberal and an economic moderate.  While in Congress, he focused on environmental conservation  and pro-business economic policies.  He was critical of the Democratic party for focusing on wealth redistribution when he thought they should be focusing on the federal deficit.  Tsongas, after his New Hampshire primary win, picked up several other primaries but was unable to match Clinton for fundraising.  His biggest chance was to force Jerry Brown from the race, which he was unable to do.  He was briefly considered the front-runner but Bill Clinton’s popularity and narrative as the comeback kid, placed him as the favorite for the majority of the race.


Jerry Brown: The former Governor of California was considered to be the most left candidate and the candidate who was the most right.  He campaigned by only accepting individual donations.  He also campaigned on populist ideals, calling for Congressional term limits.  But at different points, he campaigned for a flat tax, the abolition of the Department of Education, opposition to NAFTA, and support for living-wage laws.  Brown’s campaign was interesting, not spending for commercials but hosting talk and radio shows.  What allowed him to be a serious contender to Clinton was a narrow victory in Connecticut.  What doomed him was his in the New York primary, he told many Democratic leaders in New York City that he was considering Jesse Jackson as his Vice-President.  Because of his anti-Semitic remarks earlier, Jackson was still a hated figure in New York City.  Brown was unable to win New York.  Ultimately, Brown came in 2nd place overall.

Bill Clinton: Clinton gave a very long speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention that was poorly delivered.  He should have played the saxophone.  But Clinton was an unknown in Iowa for the nomination, finishing a distant third.  While campaigning in New Hampshire, accusations of an extramarital affair was surfacing.  Clinton went on 60 Minutes with Hillary Rodham Clinton fighting the charge.  Clinton was able to convince enough voters to give him some love.  He finished within single digits of Tsongas in New Hampshire.  This was considered a major victory for Clinton’s campaign because he was not expected to do this well.  Clinton secured most of the South on Super Tuesday but he had failed to win a state outside of the South.  Because of Jerry Brown’s mistake in New York, Clinton was able to win New York which gave him credence that he wasn’t a regional candidate.  Clinton later became the nominee.

Conclusion: The original favorite bowed out early.  Clinton became the favorite by New Hampshire but there were still many questions about his ability to win outside of the South fairly late.  While Brown was never considered a favorite, he gave Clinton a challenge.  As for who was most Conservative and most Liberal?  Clinton was thought to be the leader of the New Democratic Party where it was going to win the middle of America.  Brown was considered the most Conservative and most Liberal candidate.  Tsongas is certainly not a Liberal.  Harkin was the closest to a Liberal in the campaign.  But, yikes. There was not a true Liberal in the Mondale mold.



Vice-President Al Gore was considered the favorite to run for the presidential nomination, as early as 1997.  Meanwhile, New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley formed an exploratory campaign to run for President in 1998.  Bradley was the only candidate to challenge Gore.  He trailed Gore in every poll and every primary.


Bill Bradley: Bradley campaigned as the liberal alternative to Vice-President Al Gore.  He campaigned on universal health care, gun control, and campaign finance reform.  Bradley also advocated for expanding the minimum wage, the Earned Income Tax Credit, expand Head Start, and expand welfare.  He stated that the best tax system would be low rates and no loopholes.  Bradley did not lead in any poll and he lost every primary.

Al Gore: After basically 12 years in the national spotlight, either running for President or being Vice-President, Gore was the Democratic Party’s favorite to win the nomination.  Gore ran to the middle throughout the campaign and distanced himself from Bill Clinton.  Gore was offensive with Bradley during their debates, but thanks to access to the party’s credit card, Gore was able to win the nomination, easily.

Conclusion: If you’re arguing for Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, Al Gore is basically your comparison.  Gore was much more conservative than Bradley and was considered the favorite three years before election.  If this is the nomination process in 2016, I fear for the 2016 Democratic nomination.  As we’ve seen for a number of primaries the favorite failed to secure the nomination, but in 2000, this was remarkably changed.




In May of 2002, Vermont Governor Howard Dean announced he would form an exploratory committee to run for President.  Massachusetts Senator John Kerry announced in December of 2002 that he, too, would form a committee.  North Carolina John Edwards also announced his intention to form a committee.  In April of 2004, fundraising totals for the first quarter of 2003 were announced showing Edwards in the lead, followed by Kerry.  Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman were ahead of Howard Dean but they were still over $4 million behind Kerry and Edwards.  Dean showed the first advertisement of the campaign.  A liberal website, MoveOn held a nonbinding Democratic primary for financial support and the website’s endorsement.  Dean came in first, followed by Dennis Kucinich, and Kerry.  By July of 2003, the second quarter fundraising numbers were in and Dean was now able to raise more money than anyone else.  Kerry came in second.  Edwards tied with Lieberman, in third place.  In fall of 2003, Dean was considered the favorite, performing strongly in polls.  Although he was a pragmatic centrist as Governor, in the mold of Bill Clinton, he denounced George W. Bush’s policies, in addition to, Democrats who did not oppose them, enough.  Dean was referred to as a Rockefeller Republican, socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  Despite being a heavy favorite, Dean focused on negative advertisements in Iowa.  After the results of Iowa were counted, Kerry finished in 1st, Edwards in 2nd, and Dean in 3rd.  Dean downplayed the result but Kerry was able to win New Hampshire, as well.  Edwards regained momentum by focusing on positive ads.  Kerry was able to maintain his lead throughout the process and secured the nomination.



Howard Dean: Dean has become a favorite of liberals on the internet who think that Dean represented the only liberal response in 2004.  They forget the criticism of Ralph Nader and others that called him a Rockefeller Republican.  Dean opposed the Iraq War and the Bush tax cuts and drew on the internet for grassroots activism and campaign funding.  This was in the mold of Jerry Brown asking for individual donations for his presidential campaign.  Dean was a longshot candidate to begin with, but because of his early announcement, as we’ve seen, he was able to gain early support.

John Edwards: Edwards was a one-term Senator from North Carolina.  He was the second or third place finisher in almost every primary.  Looking at the fundraising numbers, Edwards was the favorite to win the nomination.  By virtue of staying in the race longer than others, he was able to secure a number of delegates.  He also focused on positive advertisements.  He refused to attack John Kerry.

John Kerry: Despite not being the party favorite or party activists’ favorite, Kerry won nearly every primary or caucus.  You know he’s pretty much the favorite, when they say that the Iowa caucus revitalized his sagging campaign.  It’s the first caucus.  Whatever.

Conclusion: Edwards was initially the favorite if you look at fundraising.  Due to the internet and progressives, more or less seeing the same blogs and websites, Dean was the favorite.  But when it came to voting, there was no doubt, Kerry was the favorite, throughout.  Dean was considered by some to be the most liberal and that’s certainly the popular narrative now.  But that could simply be political posturing.  Edwards was often the one who was characterized as being the populist.  But we know how narratives can be invented years after the fact.




This was the first presidential election I remember paying close attention to. I watched the Democratic Presidential debates and also one of my friends and I volunteered for John Edwards’s campaign.  With respect to the other candidates, the choices were between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards.  Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton emerged as the early two favorites in terms of fundraising.  Clinton was the favorite, according to an assortment of polls. In September 2007, she was leading the first six states that would hold primaries and caucuses. After multiple third place finishes, Edwards dropped out of the race.  Barack Obama won the early momentum by winning Iowa after Hillary Clinton declined to show up.  Obama campaigned largely on hope and change.  The Iowa caucus announced his presence to those who had been ignoring politics.  After the Iowa caucus, Obama began to look a little bit better in polls, showing him leading in New Hampshire.  Clinton narrowly won New Hampshire.  She stumbled after New Hampshire, implicitly making a racial remark about Obama.  Bill Clinton later compared Barack Obama’s primary victories to Jesse Jackson’s victories in 1988.  Obama surged on Super Tuesday after a one on one debate with Hillary Clinton.  The idea among Democratic voters and progressives was that Obama would be more liberal than Clinton.

Overall conclusion:

The favorite for the Democratic primary won in 1984 and 2000.

The most “moderate” candidate won in 1976 and 2000.

There is not strong historical evidence for the claim that the Democratic party would nominate the most moderate candidate.  Nor is there strong evidence for the favorite before the primary season to win the Democratic nomination.

Rewrapping the same policies: Rand Paul, Paulism, Libertarianism and the Republican Party

Note: This piece was originally written in September of 2014.  Senator Rand Paul has since announced his candidacy for Presidency and suspended his campaign.

At this point, it seems inevitable that Rand Paul will run for President in 2016.  The media infatuation with the junior Senator from Kentucky and his “libertarian” philosophy has only grown in the last few months, even from sources that are nominally called the liberal media by conservatives, including the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, even the New York Times ran an article about how libertarian philosophies were the latest political craze sweeping the nation.  These articles seem to leave many things out; the criticism of both libertarian philosophies and Rand Paul seem to be held to a minimum.  This piece will be how libertarian philosophies connect to voters, focus on Rand Paul’s tenure as Senator, and why there is such an infatuation with the younger Paul.

Defining libertarianism and defining “Paulism”

The Libertarian Party of the United States argues that they seek a world of liberty, in which all individuals are “sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.”  They go on to clarify that “all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”

Because of these beliefs, Libertarians should have control of their own bodies making them very “liberal” on their views of prostitution, drug use, and gambling.  Additionally, they believe that there should not be government censorship or government established, or favored, religion.  For the most part, libertarians believe that those who identify as LGBT should be treated as equals and that “consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.”  Likewise, they believe that abortion decisions should be left to the individual.  Laws establishing crimes without victims should not be considered crimes according to their beliefs.  Libertarians are slavishly devoted to the free market and adherent to the policies established by the free market.  Finally, their beliefs would entail an isolationist foreign policy with the military only being built to defend against an attack on U.S. soil.  There is a book published by the Ayn Rand Institute making a hawkish libertarian argument, which admittedly I have not read.

Here is where we should probably differentiate what we mean by libertarianism and the policy preferences of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party.  The libertarianism that is espoused by the Pauls and other members of the libertarian wing, for the most part, is traditional libertarianism combined with the beliefs of the religious right.  We saw above, that for the most part, libertarianism entails fiscally conservative policies with socially liberal policies.  Those within the Republican ranks who espouse libertarian beliefs almost always hold conservative views on abortion, LGBT issues, etc.  The main difference is that the libertarian wing of the Republican Party wants to decriminalize marijuana.  Jokingly on the internet, it has become common to refer to libertarians as Republicans who like to smoke pot.  The Paul’s are no different, we’ll see Rand’s views below, but Ron was strong pro-life, voted initially against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, among other issues.  The furthest libertarian many of them will go on LGBT issues is to say that the states should decide on how to define/handle the issue.  This combination of libertarianism and the views of the religious right has become what I refer to as Paulism.

The popularity of Paulism

The biggest strength in the public opinion of voters is the idea of a smaller government.  This opinion has become prevalent and has been the central plank of both political parties.  Both political parties have campaigned on the idea of cutting spending for government programs that their respective party disagrees with.  According to a CBS News Poll released on August 5, 2014, 56% of adults nationwide would rather have a smaller government providing fewer services compared to 35% of adults who believe the government should be bigger and provide more services.  This is fairly consistent with what we see in the polling results.  A CNN poll released on October 20, 2013 found that 60% of adults nationwide believe that the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.  35% believe the government should do more.  A Gallup poll released on September 9, 2013 found that 53% of adults nationwide answered that the government is trying to do too much compared to 40% who believe the government should do more.  The Gallup Poll has been asked going back since 2008 with the same basic results.  Clearly, Americans want to rein in the federal government.

If we attribute libertarianism/Paulism with a slavish devotion to the free market and business, we can see another great strength of libertarianism.  61% of Americans had a positive image of capitalism according to a January 27, 2010 Gallup poll.  In that same poll, 86% of Americans reported having a positive image of free enterprise (I’m guessing because the word free is in there).   Entrepreneurs were seen as having a positive image with 84% of Americans.  If you were wondering why politicians drone on and on about small business it might be that 95% of Americans have a positive image of small business.  You may want to take that poll with a grain of salt as it was about 11 months before the TEA Party wave of 2010.  Even if you regress the poll results downward, you see that Americans have a very positive image of businesses, capitalism, and the free market.

Rand Paul’s primary/campaign

In 2010, Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning decided to retire rather than to seek re-election.  Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson was the initial favorite, as Paul was a little known ophthalmologist who was giving speeches around the state.  Paul was able to raise nearly half a million dollars on August 20, 2009.  He quickly capitalized on his outsider status and small government rhetoric.  He painted Grayson as a career politician and a liar.  Grayson countered that Paul opposed the PATRIOT Act, supported the closing of Guantanamo Bay, and that the foreign policy decisions prior to September 11, 2001 were partially to blame for the attacks. Paul accused Grayson of lying and accused Grayson of displaying a shameful tactic.   This would remain a useful tactic for Paul throughout his political career.

Paul initially supported the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison facility.  Early in his campaign for Senate, he reversed that position and probably because of campaign advertisements attacking this position eventually supported closing Guantanamo.  He stated, “foreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution…these thugs should stand before military tribunals and be kept off American soil.  I will always fight to keep Kentucky safe and that starts with cracking down on our enemies.

The popular ad hoc narrative around Rand’s campaign and TEA Party groups in general has been that the traditional polling firms underrated their candidates.  This narrative is false.  While Grayson was the early favorite leading Paul in early polls by about 10 points in August and September, by November Paul had barely taken the lead according to a Survey USA poll.  By Christmastime 2009, Paul now had a commanding lead over Grayson by nearly 20 points, according to Public Policy Polling.  Paul never relinquished this lead.  On May 18, 2010, Paul won the Republican nomination by 23 points.

In Kentucky, minor parties and independents are required to collect 5,000 signatures before getting their potential candidate on the ballot.  By filing deadline on August 10, 2010, no minor party or independent candidates filed.  This fits into the quite convenient narrative that Paul is a Libertarian and no Libertarian candidate would file out of deference to Paul.  Again, we see the narrative fall short.  The Kentucky Libertarian Party issued a press release stating that Paul was not a Libertarian.  In that press release, they expanded on the title by providing concrete examples of where Paul differs from the Libertarian Party.  The Libertarian Party “want[s] a complete repeal of the PATRIOT Act, closure of Guantanamo Bay, and an end to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”  Paul campaigned on keeping Guantanamo Bay and the Libertarian Party stated Paul “denied that he seeks to overturn the PATRIOT Act.”  The Libertarian Party of Kentucky was also critical of Paul for supporting the “discriminatory ‘one man, one woman’ definition of marriage” and not supporting civil unions.  Finally, Paul agreed with a law that outlawed adoption by anyone not living in a traditional, legally recognized, marriage.  This was, again, at odds with the Libertarian Party of Kentucky and most Libertarians.

While running for Senate in 2010, there was some debate about a mosque that was potentially going to be built two blocks from Ground Zero.  Paul stated that he did not support a mosque being built two blocks from Ground Zero.  He went on to say, “in my opinion, the Muslim community would better serve the healing process by making a donation to the memorial fund for the victims of September 11th. “

Perhaps his most famous incident while campaigning was an interview where he stated that he would have tried to modify the Civil Rights Act to get rid of the title that would ban segregation at private institutions.  It became the focus of his campaign and set up tension for after he was elected.  Paul repeatedly stated that he was not a racist and that he abhorred racism but he did not want to limit the free speech of private businesses.  In an interview with Rachel Maddow, he stated that businesses that practiced segregation were practicing bad business.    After the ensuing questioning of such a policy, Paul stated that he would not support repealing the Civil Rights Act.  On May 20, 2010 after Paul won the primary, he made an announcement to clear up the confusion of whether he supports the Civil Rights Act.  He stated “I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act.”  In his statement, he criticized the liberal establishment because they are “desperate to keep leaders like [Paul] out of office, and we are sure to hear more wild, dishonest smears during this campaign.”

His opponent in the 2010 Senate race was Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.  Conway was considered the slight favorite in early polling leading by about 4 points according to polls by SurveyUSA and Rasmussen released in August-November of 2009.  By December of 2009, Paul had taken a 6 point lead, according to Public Policy Polling.  In virtually every poll after December of 2009, Paul led Conway, peaking at 25 point lead according to Rasmussen in May of 2010.  At the time, there was some talk that Conway could upset Rand in the general election.  Perhaps because of that, a lot of money was spent on the campaign.  Paul raised nearly $8 million compared to Conway’s nearly $6 million.

Aqua Buddha

There were five debates between Conway and Paul.  One debate, in particular, was nasty between the two candidates.  The debate was on October 18, 2010.  Conway brought up stories about Paul that circulated about the latter’s college years at Baylor University.  Senator Paul was a member of the NoZe Brotherhood that was banned at Baylor University for mocking Christianity.  Allegedly, Rand and a friend led a female student to a creek, tied her up and made her worship “Aqua Buddha.”  Paul was furious and said to Conway, “don’t make up stuff about me from college that you think you’ve read on the Internet blogs.  Grow up.”  The report in question was in the Lexington Herald-Leader among other news outlets.

Going further, Paul said, “Jack, you should be ashamed of yourself.  Have you no decency?  Have you no shame?”

Conway replied, “Values matter. Why did he freely join a group known for mocking or making fun of people of faith?  And secondly, when is it ever a good idea to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol called Aqua Buddha?”  Instead of answering the questions, apologizing for the incident, denying the incident took place, or pivot to anything else, Paul attacked Conway.

“You know how we know you’re lying?  Your lips are moving.  You’re accusing me of crimes.  Do you know nothing about the process?  You’re going to stand there and accuse me of a crime from 30 years ago from some anonymous source?  How ridiculous are you?  You embarrass this race.  You really have no shame, have you?”  Paul responded.   It’s shameful to criticize Rand.

Paul criticized Conway for not joining many other states for suing the Obama administration over the constitutionality of Obamacare.  Paul argued that there were constitutional problems with the individual mandate and other portions of the law.  This was before the Supreme Court would rule that the mandate was, in fact, constitutional.  Conway said,”[I’m] always amused to get a lecture in constitutional law from a self certified ophthalmologist.”  Conway went further saying that there was no constitutional question when it came to Obamacare.

According to the polling results, people seemed to have liked Paul more after the debate.  A poll conducted by Rasmussen on October 18 showed Paul leading 47-42.  Rasmussen conducted another poll on October 23 and found Paul leading by 7 points, 50-43.  Conway’s chances of winning the election substantially declined.  The final poll conducted by Public Policy Polling on October 30 showed Paul leading by 15 points, 55-40.  The final election results showed Paul had won, 55-44.

Rand Paul’s early tenure

The media and Rand did not always have such a great relationship.  Shortly after his re-election, when he was questioned about his stance on the Civil Rights Act, Paul asked when his victory lap would begin.  He refused to go on the show “Meet the Press” if they were going to ask him about his stance on the Civil Rights Act.  He would later accuse the media of misconstruing his position.  This was a tactic he would learn how to use well.

One of his first acts during his Senate tenure was to help produce a bill that would be known as the Birthright Citizenship Act with Senator David Vitter (R-LA).  Currently, children born in the United States are considered United States citizens, regardless of the citizenship status of their parents.  The legislation introduced by Paul and Vitter would amend the Constitution so that the child can gain citizenship only if, at least one parent is a legal citizen, legal immigrant, active member of the Armed Forces, or a naturalized legal citizen.  When a child is born, the parents of the child would have to prove their citizenship status.   While introducing the legislation, Senator Paul maintained that “citizenship is a privilege, and only those who respect our immigration laws should be able to enjoy its benefits.”  Going further, Senator Paul argued that this legislation would make it that “everyone follow the rules, and goes through the same process to become a U.S. citizen.”

Shortly after being elected to the Senate, Senator Paul challenged Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid on the re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act.  He called the law an “unconstitutional infringement on civil liberties.”  He tried to insert a series of amendments to weaken the law.  The first would limit suspicious activity reporting requirements to requests from law enforcement agencies and the other would exempt certain gun records from being searched under the PATRIOT Act.

In May of 2011, he went on Sean Hannity’s radio show to discuss racial profiling in airports.  On the show, Paul said, “I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders.  It wouldn’t be that they’re Islamic.  But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after –they should be deported or put in prison.”  Luckily, the TEA Party did not hold any such rallies and did not make statements that they needed to water the tree of liberty (with the blood of tyrants) and to take the country back.  At least he doesn’t support racial profiling.  Well, except, he sort of is for racial profiling.  From the same radio show, “I do want them going after, for example, let’s say we have a 100,000 exchange students from the Middle East – I want to know where they are, how long they’ve been here, if they’ve overstayed their welcome, whether they’re in school.”

On November 29, 2011, Senator Paul made a floor speech in the U.S. Senate titled “Preserving Constitutional Liberties.”  In the speech, he stated that we should not detain citizens without a court trial.  In addition, he called for the government to prosecute terrorists in domestic courts and end indefinite detention.  Just a little over a year earlier to that, he stated that he was not in favor of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.  Senator Paul stated he is “simply arguing that people, particularly American citizens in the United States, not be sent to a foreign prison without due process.”  Paul’s nativist stance on how America should deal with terrorists was also something he would continue.

Ending foreign aid

Senator Paul published a budget for fiscal year 2012 that he is still trying to back away from, today.  The budget was radical for many of its notions.  The portion of the budget that got most of the attention was his proposal to end all foreign aid, including foreign aid to Israel.   In the budget plan, he wrote, “while this budget proposal does eliminate foreign aid to Israel, it is not meant to hurt, negate, or single out one of America’s most important allies.  This proposal eliminates all foreign aid to all countries.  Israel’s ability to conduct foreign policy, regain economic dominance, and support itself without the heavy hand of U.S. interests and polices, will only strengthen the Israeli community.”  He gave several interviews, including one with Wolf Blizter, Jonathan Karl, and Dave Weigel saying that he cut the foreign aid to Israel and all foreign aid.   In his interview with Dave Weigel, Paul was upset with people reading his budget proposal saying, “people emphasize too much the cuts to one particular country.  We had $500 billion of cuts.  The cuts to that one particular country were three-fifths of 1 percent of it.”  Left unsaid by Senator Paul is that cutting all foreign aid would represent about 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget.  In 2009, the United States spent $44.9 billion in foreign aid out of total government spending of $3.52 trillion.  After a few months of criticism, Paul replaced his budget with a new one.   The section on Israel is omitted.  In addition, instead of cutting all foreign aid, foreign aid would be frozen at $5 billion.  This budget was the same budget that he introduced to the Senate.  Roughly three years later, in August of 2014, when a reporter asked him about ending foreign aid to Israel, he said the following:

“I haven’t really proposed that in the past.  We’ve never had a legislative proposal to do that.  You can mistake my position, but then I’ll answer the question.  That has not been a position – a legislative position- we have introduced to phase out or get rid or get rid of Israel’s aid.  That’s the answer to that question.  Israel has always been a strong ally of ours and I appreciate that.  I voted just this week to give money-more money- to the Iron dome, so don’t mischaracterize my position on Israel.”   Again, we see how Senator Paul responds to criticism.

While promoting his budget, Senator Paul stated that public opinion was on his side.  According to the Pew Research Center, cutting foreign aid has plurality support from 2009-2013.  In 2011, 45% of Americans thought we should decrease funding to aid to the world’s needy, compared to 21% who thought we should increase it.  This is largely because Americans constantly overestimate how much spending goes to foreign aid.  The Kaiser Family Foundation, in November of 2013, found that 62%of Americans thought that we spend too much money on foreign aid.  The poll found that, on average, Americans thought that 28% of the budget goes to foreign aid.  Once respondents were informed that spending on foreign aid accounted for 1% of the budget, the amount of people who thought it was too much was almost cut in half and those who thought it was too little doubled.


In February of 2013, Paul had written to John Brennan requesting additional information on the Obama administration’s belief of drone strikes on U.S. soil.  Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter back, dated March 4, 2013, to the Senator stating the administration has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and “has no intention of doing so.”  Further, Holder dismissed Paul’s questioning as entirely hypothetical and unlikely to occur.  Holder finally admits that there are extraordinary circumstances where the President would have no choice to authorize the military strike.  The examples Holder gave was Pearl Harbor and the September 11 attacks.  Soon after he received the letter, Paul issued a press release stating that Holder has not ruled out drone strikes on American soil, calling it an “affront [to] the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”

On March 6th, hours before Paul’s filibuster began,  the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on oversight for the Department of Justice.  Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) began a line of questioning on Holder to clarify the position of the administration on drones.  The line of questioning led to a question that was intended to ask, does the Constitution allow the United States to to use a drone to kill a United states Citizen, even one who is a suspected terrorist, while he is sitting at a cafe and not an imminent threat.  After a lengthy back and forth, Holder finally stated that no, the Constitution does not allow it.  Senator Cruz seemed pleased with this remark stating, in his usual grace, “after much gymnastics, I am very glad to hear that it is the opinion of the Department of Justice that it would be unconstitutional to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil if that individual did not pose an imminent threat.”

Soon after that, Paul’s filibuster began.  He criticized the letter issuing a blanket statement that “there is the use of lethal force that can always be repelled.  If our country is attacked, the President has the right to defend and protect the country.  Nobody questions that.  Nobody questions if planes are flying towards the twin towers whether they can be repulsed by the military.  Nobody questions whether a terrorist with a rocket launcher or a grenade launcher is attacking us, whether they can be repelled.”  Senator Cruz and Senator Mike Lee both asked Senator Paul if he was aware of the Senate Judiciary hearing earlier and the response Holder had given.  He said that he was and that he was not satisfied as Holder had not said that it was unconstitutional but just responding to Cruz’s question.  Senator Paul received a letter from Holder later stating simply that the president does not have authority to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.  Again, nothing about constitutionality.  Nevertheless, Senator declared victory stating that he finally received the answer to the question he asked.

Paul drew distinction between Holder’s responses, despite saying almost the exact same thing as Holder did, in his letter to Paul.  During the filibuster, Paul stated, “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime, without first being found guilty by a court.”  That statement is not quite correct.  As Senator Paul pointed out in his filibuster multiple times, that there should be an imminent threat standard.  Paul was critical of the Obama administration not wanting to debate the 5th Amendment, saying “if we’re going to do something, so dramatic as to no longer have the 5th Amendment apply in the United States, to have no accusation, to have no rest, jury trials for folks that are to be killed in the United States, it’s such a dramatic change that you would think we would want to have a full airing of a debate over this.”  During the 4th hour of the filibuster, Paul stated bluntly, “I’m aware of no legal precedent for taking the life of an American without the 5th Amendment or due process.”

On April 22, 2013, Senator Paul appeared on Neil Cavuto’s Fox Business Network Program.  You can watch the video at this link, so you don’t think I’m taking the Senator’s words out of context. “I never argued against any technology, when you have an imminent threat, an active crime going on.  If someone comes out of the liquor store,with a weapon in $50 in cash.  I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him.”  Police officers are only authorized to use deadly force if a suspect is an imminent threat to the life of an officer or the people nearby.  This should be concerning to the 2nd Amendment supporters and gun rights activists who believe that the Obama administration will take away their guns.  Senator Paul seems to believe that someone with a gun is an imminent threat and can be killed by a drone, onsite.  Sensing the contradictory nature of his words on Cavuto’s program and his filibuster, Paul issued a press release: “Armed drones should not be used in normal crime situations.  They may only be considered in extraordinary, lethal situations where there is an ongoing imminent threat.  I described that scenario previously during my Senate filibuster.”  The scenario if you missed it was the 9/11 attacks or Pearl Harbor, essentially.  The same exact thing Holder said.  Senator Paul and his office said that it was unfair to single out one specific quote from his filibuster to show his hypocrisy.  Apparently, they were fine when they argued semantics about the Obama administration’s position on drones.

Senator Paul’s legislative actions to stop drone strikes was to write a bill that would prevent drone strikes on American citizens on American soil unless it was an extraordinary circumstance.  No bills were written to prevent drone strikes that are currently taking place.

Rand’s rise

It was after Rand’s filibuster that the media began to really fall in love with him.  Fox News described him, incorrectly, to the left of Barack Obama on drones.  Many political commentators were enthusiastic about Senator Paul and his stand against the arbitrary executive.  Very few media publications were willing to state that Senator Paul had the same position on drone strikes that he was filibustering.  The filibuster did not criticize the Iraqi war or the neoconservative hawkish tendencies of the Republican Party but was only a criticism of the Obama administration (for the most part) which plays well to the Republican base regardless of their tendencies to describe themselves, incorrectly, as libertarian.

The filibuster certainly had the desired effect of lifting Paul’s name in political circles.  In polls taken immediately after the filibuster, Paul’s name recognition among Republican primary voters had skyrocketed.  More importantly, they had skyrocketed in the positive direction.  Suddenly, Paul became the voice of freedom defending everyday Americans from the tyranny of the Obama administration.  His filibuster focused on a hypothetical that has no chance of occurring but paints a picture in people’s minds that they are willing to accept.  It’s not hard for many opponents of the Obama administration to believe that a drone strike could be ordered on someone sitting at a café in Houston minding their own business.  Of course, many of these same people believe that Obama is taking their guns and raising their taxes.  Their views on what is actually happening is somewhat skewed.

The media already had problems with drone strikes and Senator Paul helped to capitalize on this.  Of course, the media criticism of drone strikes was focusing on drone strikes that were happening overseas on suspected terror suspects.  There was also criticism of the list that the Obama administration had that listed their terror suspects.  The lack of transparency and the killing of seemingly random people overseas enraged many people including many members of the media.  Of course, there was very little criticism of this from Paul but the media heard drones and wanted to report on it.

The criticism of Rand

When the media does criticize Rand Paul, it’s for reasons that really do not have to do with his own policy ideas, however toxic that they can be.  He was criticized for having a close aide and co-author of a book who was a pro-secessionist radio host and neo-confederate activist.  Rand’s father, Ron published a racist newsletter and the casual association between the elder Paul and racism was waved away by libertarian writers, including Reason magazine editor, Nick Gillespie.  Jonathan Chait, a writer for the New York Daily News notes that the association between the Pauls and racism should not discredit their ideas but that “white supremacy is a much more important historical constituency for anti-government ideas than libertarians like to admit.”

Other criticism of the Senator focused on plagiarism.  During a speech, he, or rather his aides, wrote a speech heavily plagiarizing from the Wikipedia entries on the movie Gattaca among other places.

When the media tries to call out the Senator on his flip-flopping of ideas or repeats the words that Paul had used in the past, the media is construed as the bad guy.

Later tenure

During the fiscal year 2014 budget negotiations, Senator Paul proposed an amendment that would withdraw all funding for the United Nations.  Ron Paul was a frequent sponsor of a bill that would remove the United States from the United Nations.  In 2011, Senator Paul sent an e-mail to his supporters fundraising based off of the U.N. Small Arms Treaty which he claimed would take your guns from you.   Despite being very popular among right-wing conspiracy theorists, the treaty is not nearly that interesting nor does it claim what they claim it can do.

After Edward Snowden leaked documents about the controversial spying with the National Security Agency, Senator Paul realized what a great opportunity this was for himself.  Senator Paul joined TEA Party backed Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and FreedomWorks to sue the Obama administration over the NSA metadata spying.  According to one lawyer who also filed suit against the spying, the lawsuit authored by Paul, Cuccinelli, and FreedomWorks was plagiarized.  The lawsuit gave Paul some credibility within the civil libertarian community.  The lawsuit was the centerpiece of a number of speeches given by him, including a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference which was well-received.

Senator Paul, while campaigning, stated that he has zero tolerance for discrimination.  The Senate proposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit employer discrimination based on sexual identity or orientation.  While it was in committee, Senator Paul voted against the bill and voted against it again once it was brought up to the whole Senate.  Perhaps this is not surprising since he does not believe that the federal government should be legislating against the employer’s wishes to discriminate.  Before it went before the Senate, Senator Paul and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to add an amendment that would create a “national right to work law.”  Right to work laws are laws that prohibit employers and workers from entering into contracts mandating union membership for any profession.  This would, seemingly, contradict Paul’s position on legislating who employers can hire.

In the late summer of 2013, the Syrian conflict had intensified with a report that Bashar al Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons on the rebel fighters on August 21.  At first, Senator Paul stated that we should support Assad because he had protected Christians in Syria.  He argued that the military strikes would destabilize the Assad regime which would then endanger Christians in the region.  Then he went on Fox News, and goshdarnit those liberals at Fox News, got Paul to say that Assad deserved death for the use of chemical weapons on civilians but that the air strikes would not be effective enough against the Assad regime.

After the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee (RNC) performed an election autopsy to determine why they lost and how to prevent future losses.  One of the key findings of the report was that the Republican Party needed to reach outside their traditional demographic, rich old white guys.  Rand took it upon himself to show that he was the right person for the job to reach out to younger voters, Latino voters, among others.

Reaching out to Latino voters

Senator Paul was critical of immigration reform including the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill.  In his own effort to help with immigration reform, he decided to add an amendment intended to “Secure the Vote”.    His amendment would “require states to check citizenship before registering people to vote in federal elections.”  According to his press release, the amendment would ensure that individuals on work visas or given a new status under the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform are not allowed to vote until they become citizens.  He introduced an amendment to add onto this bill that would remove the pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.  Instead, his amendment would treat the immigrants as if they were in line in their home country while they are in the United States.

After the summer “crisis” of thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally, the Republican Party had a golden opportunity to show how they would reach out to Latino voters.  The Republican led House of Representatives passed two bills to deal with the crisis.  One of the bills focused on President Obama’s deferred action policy to not deport DREAMers.  The DREAMers are young adults who were brought to America as children and have completed high school and lived in the United States for at least five years prior to the bill’s passage.  To qualify for conditional status, they would need to have graduated from a two-year community college, completed two years toward a four-year degree, or have served two years in the military and after that, they can apply for permanent resident status within a specific 6 year period.  Americans overwhelmingly support keeping DREAMers in the country.  In the perfect way of reaching outside the demographic, Senator Paul went to Guatemala on a medical mission, accompanied by television cameras, photographers, political reporters, and two press secretaries.  When asked by right-wing news site Breitbart, Paul stated that he supported the House bills and “it will go a long way to fixing the problem.”  The Senator’s office confirmed that Paul supported both bills the House passed.

As we saw above, Senator Paul does not support a pathway to citizenship to those here illegally.  According to the national exit poll in 2012, 77% of Latino voters believe that unauthorized immigrants working in America should be offered a chance at legal status with only 18% saying that they should be deported.  The pathway to citizenship is somewhat more popular with Latino voters than it is with all voters nationwide.

Immigration reform is not the only important thing to look at when we look at appealing to Latino voters.  Looking at a poll from ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions from November 6, 2012, we see how Latinos view a number of other key issues.  To reduce the deficit, 42% of Latino voters believe that spending should be reduced and there should be increased taxes.  Only 12% of Latino voters believe that reducing the deficit should only be done through spending cuts.  25% of Latino voters believe that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed.  61% of Latino voters believe that the Affordable Care Act should stand as law.  Going further than the Affordable Care Act, two-thirds of Latino voters believe that the federal government should ensure that all people have access to health insurance.  Only a quarter of Latino voters think that people should provide their own health insurance.  While Paul is convinced that if he can just talk to Latino voters, he can convince them that he is right, this does not seem likely.

Reaching out to women

Since Paulism is essentially Republicanism with the added bonus of favoring marijuana legalization, it comes as no surprise that Paul is extremely pro-life.  Senator Paul has twice proposed a bill that would declare that human life begins at conception; this would give fertilized eggs the same legal status as those who are born.  Senator Paul stated that Congress has the power to define when human life begins under the 14th Amendment.   These types of law are known as personhood laws and do their very best to make abortions illegal. This type of law and this view is not popular with any segment of the population in America, except very right-wing Republicans.  A CBS News Poll released in August of 2014, found that 36% of Americans believe that abortions should be available, 34% said that they should be available under stricter limits, with only 26% of Americans stating that they should not be permitted.   A CNN Poll released in February of 2014 found similar results with 27% saying abortions should always be legal, 51% saying sometimes legal, and only 20% saying that they should always be illegal.

Lest I get criticized by those on the Right, who think it’s unfair to only include abortion and birth control in the issues about women, I’ll point out a couple of quick things.  Women tend to be more liberal than their male counterparts.  For instance, they support same-sex marriage by a much higher margin than males.  Rand Paul believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be returned to the states, although he states that he, himself, does not approve of same-sex marriage.  In general, women support stricter gun control laws.  They support a larger social safety net.  They are also more likely to support a path to citizenship for immigration reform.  All of these things, Senator Paul opposes.  Women, though, are more likely to believe that marijuana should not be legal according to a CBS Poll released May 18, 2014 showing 53% of women stated that marijuana should not be legal.

Reaching out to younger voters

According to the Pew Research Center’s fantastic work on millennials, about half of millennials do not identify with either political party even though they are “the most liberal and least conservative” of the four generations that the Pew Research Center studied.   17% of millenials identify as Republicans compared to 27% identifying as Democrats.  If you include those who lean towards a political party, nearly 50% of millennials identify as Democrats or lean Democratic compared to 34% for the Republican Party.

Those are just the parties; if Senator Paul will truly reach out to younger voters it will be on the issues.  Over two-thirds (68%) of millennials support same-sex marriage, which was a 24 point increase since 2004, the largest increase over the four generations.  Millennials also believe in a path to citizenship to those in the country illegally.  55% of millennials support a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants compared to 25% who believe that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay and only be able to apply for permanent residency and 16% who believe that undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to stay legally.  56% of millennials believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 49% of millennials believe in stricter gun control.  53% of millennials believe that government should be bigger and offer more services.  No other generation has majority approval for a bigger government.  While millennials are skeptical of the Affordable Care Act, 42% approve compared to 54% who disapprove, 54% of millennials believe that it is the government responsibility to insure coverage for all.

Where Rand Paul actually reaches younger voters is his somewhat actual libertarian stance on the drug war.  69% of millennials support the legalization of marijuana.  According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center released in February of 2014, 39% of Americans stated that marijuana should be legal for personal use and 44% stated that it should be legal for medicinal use.  To be fair to Senator Paul, he is trying to reform our criminal justice system with Senator Cory Booker.  He is trying to end mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders and to focus more on treatment for those in prison for drug possession compared to punishment.  Two-thirds of Americans agree that the government should focus more on providing treatment for people who use heroin and cocaine rather than prosecuting them.  Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans believe that it is a good thing for states to move away from mandatory prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

An interesting politician

Part of the reason that the media and people, in general, are infatuated with Rand Paul is that he is an interesting politician.  He makes interesting choices that other politicians are not willing to make.  He and his aides write a lot of op-eds on anything from foreign policy objectives to the demilitarization of the police.  He went to Howard University to give a talk about how the Republican Party can be inclusive (there were lots of things wrong with the speech but still an interesting choice).  He went through with a formal filibuster, as opposed to the normal procedural filibuster.  He is also willing to talk to the media about a number of key issues.

Senator Paul is media savvy but it does not make him a great person or someone who can change the standing of the Republican Party with a number of key demographics.  While Senator Paul can communicate with the media effectively, he cannot hide his record of voting or obsession with adding amendments to bills that are likely to pass.  He can make great talking point speeches about the arbitrary executive, the drug war, the rights of employers to privately discriminate, or how the Republican Party can be more inclusive but eventually he needs to follow it up with actions that actually agree with the speeches he makes.

At a certain point, media members and even those who try to convince themselves that they are libertarian will be faced with two realities.  The first is that they will realize that Paul is not a libertarian but rather a Republican who has some nominally libertarian ideas.  If those who believe they are libertarian still believe that Paul is their savior then go for it but they should probably re-identify as Republicans.  The other reality is one that everyone must face at one point in their life.  That reality is that your political view is an individualized project and it’s not easy to convince people that your political views are right because your views are not always right.  For the media members this would mean that maybe Paulism is not going to take off just because you believe a politician is interesting or because the views of the politician match some supporters at arbitrary points.