Betraying LBJ

I’ve lived in three cities in the U.S.; all three have been home to a Presidential Library. I still regret not visiting the Carter Center in Atlanta during my five-year-stay there but I did take plenty of visitors to the Bush (senior) Library in College Station. So finally after living in Austin for three years, I visited the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library on the University of Texas campus. It’s an impressive monolithic structure featuring a cavernous atrium within, adjacent to the Public Affairs school with its name. The library, like any other, features the work and life of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States. LBJ, as he was known, was a Texan native and grew up not too far from Austin in Johnson City.

LBJ Pens for Legislation

As soon as you enter the Library, you see a row of pens corresponding to the legislation it was used to sign it into law. That sight sets the tone and impact of his presidency featured extensively in the displays at the library. The amount of progressive legislation signed into law in just 5 years was enormous and continues to shape our lives to this day. Check out the following legislation he moved through Congress:

LBJ Legislative Achievements

Look at that list and think about the impact it has had on your life. I can literally trace my presence in this country (and to be writing this post) all the way to the Immigration Act of 1965 and it wasn’t even his signature legislation. Other progressive landmarks included Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, Public Broadcasting (NPR & PBS), the Clean Air and Clean Water Act, and plenty others in highway safety (seat belts), urban housing (Fair Housing Act), criminal justice. Even as an Indian, I can thank the Johnson administration (& of course Norman Borlaugh) for saving over a billion lives by facilitating the Green Revolution.

So with that impressive list of achievements, you would imagine Johnson is still feted as the greatest President ever by the Democrats, right? Plus he would easily win a second term. Not so. Johnson got bogged down in the Vietnam War and didn’t even seek a second term. The anti-war progressives protested vociferously and eventually pinned the Vietnam War mess solely on Johnson’s shoulders and we ended up with a Nixon presidency who eventually expanded the war into Cambodia and Laos after having to withdraw ignominiously from Vietnam in 1974. The ‘secret plan’ to end the Vietnam War as promised (does that remind you of someone today?) was never revealed and in fact, it’s now known that the Nixon campaign treasonously sabotaged a peace plan in 1968 to prolong the war and deny the Johnson administration any credit.

So even with those solid progressive victories that liberals continue to cherish and enjoy even today, Johnson was relegated to the history books as a failed President and passed away without any fanfare. Given this precedent, why would any Democrat work for any progressive agenda if he or she knows that one error in judgment in a war-related decision would take you down (again, does this remind you of someone?) The progressive Left would never stand by you and would instead let a demagogue conservative win just coz their candidate wasn’t as perfect as they demanded. Eventually, all the liberal environmentalists from the 60s ended up driving SUVs in the suburbs that they fled en masse to get away from the minorities. If nothing else, the progressives love two things – protesting in perpetuity and acting in ways that eventually underscores the goals that they are protesting against. Wait, add one more thing – being goddamn hypocritical. Holier-than-thou progressives will always complain about not getting their perfect candidate and will blame the rest of us for nominating a flawed candidate but eventually it comes down to who gets the most votes. The other side turns up but progressives don’t.

If nothing, conservatives understand electoral politics. Remember the 2010 midterms after being nearly wiped out in 2008? You can achieve your goals but you have to first get elected to introduce and pass legislation. As a Democratic presidential nominee once famously said, you cannot change minds but you can change laws. That’s how we got desegregation, civil rights, and even gay marriage. You are not going to get everything at once but you can lose everything at once. Unfortunately her words fell on deaf ears.

Be it 1968 or 2016, the progressives love snatching defeat from the jaws of victory just because they didn’t have a perfect candidate. Even when they were shown that the conservatives have fielded the most imperfect candidate you could imagine. But will we learn? I hope so but I fear we will not.

A Third-Party Run for Sanders?

By now, Bernie Sanders has all but exhausted his options for winning the Democratic nomination. Even after his win in West Virginia today that had its inordinate share of idiosyncratic voters [1], he trails Hillary Clinton by 285 pledged delegates. He would’ve to get three-fourths of the votes in California to even get tantalizingly close.

However, the super delegates who often vote in favor of the candidate who wins the majority of the pledged delegates, will put Hillary over the top and some more. After dissing the super-delegates as undemocratic and as ‘the establishment’, he cannot count on their support especially if it is to countermand the majority of voters’ wishes [2]. So what’s the next step for Bernie Sanders?

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  1. Registered Democrats who are in fact Republicans and have been for a long time []
  2. Hillary Clinton currently has nearly 3 million votes more than Bernie Sanders []

The Need for the Perfect Candidate

February 8th, 2016 - Hudson, New Hampshire

Increasingly, voters in America, more so for the Democrats than for Republicans, are asking for the perfect candidate in terms of what they say and what they promise to do when elected. At times, what they promise to do may not even be realistically possible but I’ve already tweeted about that. This is more about demanding something from the candidate that he or she isn’t.

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Jon Stewart and George Soros – Leaders of Democratic Party?

Question from the latest Rassmussen poll – “Is the leader of the Democratic Party Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, George Soros, Jon Stewart, someone else or is there no clear leader?” [via] Almost everyone is expected to be on that list but George Soros and Jon Stewart? When were they even considered as Democratic Party leaders and by whom? Far-right wackos? If this is some kind of blowback against painting Limbaugh as a leader for Republican Party, I will gladly accept Jon Stewart as the leader of any party.

The Presumptive Democratic Nominee

Finally after a 50-state primary, the Democrats have a presumptive nominee. Presumptive because the nomination will be endorsed only in the Democratic Convention in Denver in August. Heck, even previously ignored territories like Puerto Rico and Guam joined in the nomination party with cable news network actually paying attention to polling. Even though the networks spent an inordinate amount of time talking about the historic moment, for once they may not be overreaching. For Barack Obama to be the first African-American to be nominated as a Presidential nominee is indeed a major achievement for the United States. This blog probably was bold enough to make a prediction way back in 2004. Also, the fact that Obama didn’t run this campaign as an African-American candidate and received wide support not only from black-dominated states like South/North Carolina and the South but also from the whitest of the states like Iowa, Wisconsin, and Oregon. He didn’t win the nomination because he was black but in spite of it; that makes it noteworthy. The path wasn’t easy and it took fighting off a stubborn,  uncompromising, and at times obdurate establishment candidate. But the fact that the establishment candidate was a woman also a first for America bodes well for the political future of this country. America is definitely better off in the eyes of the world after this election. Given the country’s reputation, no one would have thought the country would have voted for an individual whose last name is one letter different from its foremost enemy and shares a middle name with another favorite and recently-deposed enemy. That in itself is a major victory for the United States already. Also, within the country never before was such a disparate electorate so enthused for an election and the fact that the interest was sustained over a long primary period stretching over 16 months showed that it was no mere passing fad.

For African-Americans who lived through the tumultous 60s and had to fight for civil rights wouldn’t have believed if you told them that a black person would have a realistic chance of winning the White House. The Internet is rife with nostalgic stories of people remembering those days and remarking at the amazing distance the country has come since then. But of course, as primaries in West Virginia and Kentucky showed, racism is not entirely wiped off and probably will never be. Pockets of old school thinking and sense of entitlement remain but such beliefs are definitely waning. This generation post-Vietnam post-Cold War had never had any feeling of accomplishment or anything challenging to look forward to. This White House administration in fact managed to do what it had promised to do in 2000; uniting America although it did so against the establishment akin to sticking it to the man. Anyone noticing the constrast between McCain and Obama speeches on Tuesday (not just in speech making) knows that Republicans have an uphill task this year.

The final hurdle in uniting Democrats, Hillary Clinton’s continued run for the nomination in spite of dwindling chances of achieving it, will fall this Saturday. Her email to prominent supporters and media makes it amply clear that she will formally drop out of the race and endorse Obama this Saturday although I will believe it only when I hear it from her on live television. Her speech on Tuesday post-completion of all primaries left much to be desired and she lost the opportunity to go out on a high note after winning South Dakota. Even her staunch supporters like PA Guv Ed Rendell criticized her for trying to negotiate with a Presidential candidate for the Veep spot. The treatment of her 17-million voters as her personal bargaining chip did not go down well with anyone and has in fact strengthened Obama’s position on not picking her as his Veep. Although it can be a political decision at times (Kennedy-Johnson), picking a vice-president is considered a personal preference best left to the nominee since it is the highest office in the land that is not subject to a direct election. Picking a Veep this season is already a tough decision so any attempt by Clinton to blackmail Obama doesn’t go down well with the party and Obama’s campaign.

Come this Saturday, we’ll hopefully see the end of an interesting primary season and the launch of one of the most significant general election in recent times given the implications for the rest of the world. Let the games begin.

The Drag Race

So it is yet another Super Tuesday. Honestly, it doesn’t take much to make a Tuesday super these days. In India, Angarika could be safely considered as one especially if you are a Siddhivinayak bhakt but across the pond, it just takes two states to head to the polls. Folks on the cable news networks have been celebrating Christmas all year round and they will be glad to know that whatever the outcome, it is going to continue at least until June. If you wonder how the heck do these so-called pundits who have got every prediction wrong continue to ramble every evening then you’ve not known the wonder of the polls. If you want to know why I think that this race will continue then just take a look at the Gallup poll below:

Gallup Poll Obama Clinton

This daily poll conducted by Gallup tracks the numbers for Clinton and Obama. If the past few weeks have been any indication, then it is simply pointless trying to judge who is leading. On some days, the difference is more than 10 points and that lead reverses thanks to some idiotic controversy, which strangely doesn’t matter when asked independently. Yesterday, Obama was up by 5 points whereas only a few days ago he was 4 points behind; all within the margin of error. So technically, the only poll that may matter is the day before the poll and all these daily yo-yo polls don’t really tell you much. If you pay close attention to the process, these poll numbers don’t even matter and only the delegate count math does which in fact is unlikely to change drastically unless one candidate is completely blown away. And knowing that even Guam went 50-50 (difference of seven votes), it highly unlikely anything untoward will happen in IN and NC. So why do the pundits keep yapping? I know, I should just watch re-runs of Law & Order instead.

Experience vs. Change

Even if you have been casually channel surfing over the past few months, I’m sure you have heard these slogans over and over again – “I’ll be ready on day one; experience matters” or the more catchy – “Change you can believe in; yes we can”. Clinton and Obama have been at loggerheads for over an year now vying for the Democratic nomination and even after their 20th debate last night, we still aren’t sure who is the nominee. Hopefully Texas & Ohio (and oh yeah, Vermont & Rhode Island too) should put us over the hill on the slope toward the Presidential contest in November. It doesn’t help that the Republicans have their nominee already picked out notwithstanding the attention-seeking antics of Huckabee.

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Are Super Delegates democratic?

The primary season to elect the nominees for the Presidential election for both the Republican and Democratic parties has been pretty interesting this time. Usually the primary candidates battle it out for the first few states and then after those states vote, the nominee is all but decided. traditionally it has been Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina that had decided the nominees. However this year has been different and even after a year-long campaign before even the first primary and two-thirds of the states done with their primaries, the Democratic nominee is still undecided. Although McCain has emerged as the Republican nominee, Huckabee is still winning states throwing the party in chaos.

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The Primary Season Heats Up

The United States Presidential Primary field just got a whole lot narrower this morning. First, John McCain emerged victorious in yesterday’s Florida primary in what may be considered one of the greatest comebacks in recent political history. Languishing far behind the front runners, Guiliani and Romney, his campaign was nearly bankrupt in the summer and his stance on immigration and the Iraq war were proving to be disastrous. But resilience and a lackluster Republican field allowed him a second chance. Second, John Edwards stepped out of the Democratic race making it a Clinton-Obama face off. The garibon-ka-saathi Edwards had no choice but to announce his withdrawal after the other two candidates hogged not only the limelight but also garnered millions. Even Edwards admitted that he has to step aside to let history blaze its path because if the Democratic nominee makes it to the White House it would be the first time a woman or a black candidate makes it. Only a McCain nomination would threaten that possibility.

The primaries on Tuesday will more or less decide the nominees for both parties as more than 20 states go to the polls and nearly 1600 delegates are at stakes. You need a little over 2000 to garner the nomination. I just hope we don’t have a brokered convention where much horse trading ensues because that will simply embitter people and reduce the voter turnout in November.

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Blame Democrats is Bush’s favorite mantra

Democrats are endangering children’s health, by sending me an S-chip bill I won’t sign (paraphrased from Bush’s speech on the SCHIP veto) [via]. Aargh! I don’t understand how Americans buy such BS. More on the “SCHIP is a step toward socialized medicine” argument later.

Republican Smackdown

“This is the classic G.O.P. playbook. I’m sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did.

I’m not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no doubt today will take a break from belittling Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease to start lying about me just as they have lied about Iraq. It disgusts me that these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have.”

Look, Kerry’s got balls now!

If you’re wondering what the heck is going on, then listen up. Bush and his cronies are attacking Kerry for something he said. You might just think this was October 2004. And of course, they are misquoting and misleading as always. Gosh! these Republicans sure are desperate now. Probably, stealing an election might be their only way out.

Anyway, to cut short the smear campaign, Kerry has apologized and admitted to ‘botching up the joke’ about Bush, which I too agree with. He has also retreated back to Washington and is off the campaign trail. I think any hopes he had of running again in 2008 have now vanished. Continue reading

Obama for President?

I am not sure if any of you heard an obscure senatorial candidate from Illinois speak at the Democratic National Convention yesterday. I was extremely impressed with Barak Obama’s performance as the Keynote Speaker. He has an excellent speech-writer and matches content with his powerful oratorical skills. His speech criticized the GOP for “slicing-and-dicing up the country into Red states for Republicans and Blue states for Democrats”. He rightly said that the people did not care for the Red states or the Blue states but they cared for the United States of America. That line alone caused cheer among even non-citizens, like me.

“We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people … all of us defending the United States of America.” (Barak Obama)

Watch out for him.

After seeing Clinton rock the convention on Monday and Obama do the same on Tuesday, I wondered why India doesn’t have good political speakers. Is it enough to have a fancy family name and pander to outdated rhetoric?

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