Thursday, February 17, 2016

By Reed Galen

Quote by a Smart Person: "Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see the options." Simon Sinek

Welcome to the American Singularity

Denial a’int just a river in Egypt. No matter how long so many of have waited for the political stars to return their proper orbits, it’s not likely to happen. Trumpentum and Feeling the Bern are the siren songs of the day and they’re sucking up a lot of breathable air. Because most of calendar 2015 wasn’t uprooting and uncomfortable enough, February 2016, all by itself, has decided to toss a bunch of issues at the feet of presidential aspirants and watch them scramble to react, often predictably, to their supposed meaning.

South Carolina

This weekend the Republicans square off in their third electoral contest of the primary, hoping to capture South Carolina’s usual magic of deciding the party’s nominee (please don’t write me about Newt.) Survey after survey, before and after last Saturday’s debate, show Donald J. Trump with a commanding lead that it appears will hold until voters go to the polls in a couple of days. If indeed he does win, this will be Trump’s second (consecutive) victory. Continuously the frontrunner in surveys since he joined the race, every win makes it more difficult to see how The Donald is not the GOP’s standard-bearer in the fall. Campaigns can scuttle about planning for a Convention all they want. If Cruz and Rubio can’t start closing the deal in a hurry, DJT = Nominee.

Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are duking it out well behind him. Just today, the John Kasich campaign announced he won’t even be in-state for Election Night; heading back to New England to try and finish strong in Massachusetts and Vermont on March 1st, head to Michigan a week later and hold on for Ohio on March 15th.

Courtesy @MattKLewis/Twitter

Courtesy @MattKLewis/Twitter

Anything less than a third place finish for Jeb Bush, super PAC or no, would seem to close whatever windows to the nomination he still has. Unlike South Carolina, a natural powerbase for the Bush family, Nevada holds no such nostalgia for Jeb. Donald Trump is up by more than 20 points in the latest survey and, as a caucus state, Sen. Ted Cruz and his ground game would appear to be well-position to scoop up some delegates next week.

SC, SC, SC, SCOTUS and Scalia

Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected passing last week threw yet another basket of rattlesnakes into the American political ether. Given President Obama’s last two choices for the High Court (Sotomayor and Kagan) Republican presidential candidates and Members of Congress rushed to call on Obama to leave Scalia’s seat open until a new president is chosen this November. If any member of the GOP expects the president to abide by their wishes, they’re better off waiting for the Sun to rise in the West.

The reaction on both sides to Scalia’s death, and the near total-lack of respectful dialogue (spend about five minutes on Twitter) is a further indication of where the country stands – astride yet another wrenching and consequential change in its direction. The America of old no longer exists and its vestiges are lashing out to remain relevant. The America of tomorrow is still largely unformed and the forces of Left and Right appear to be fighting a death struggle for the reins. But for those supporting a Trump or Sanders, many of whom may never have heard of Scalia or knew his politics, the universal reaction of the political establishments provides more evidence that maybe none of them deserve to keep their jobs.

President Obama is going to nominate a successor for Scalia. Republicans and conservatives will likely brand the candidate as too extreme before they receive any vetting or a hearing. Had they abided by the process, they likely could have given the jurist a fair shake and decided, some months down the line, that they’re not going to give the lame duck president his third Justice. They still have the majority, after all; they only need 51 votes to send the judge back to whatever bench from which they appeared. By refusing to even consider a nominee, Republicans may fire up their base, but a complimentary energy emerges from Democrats and liberals – further overheating the rhetoric and pushing voters further away from traditional power bases.

A Second Billionaire and Third New Yorker

Earlier this month, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg personally told the Financial Times he’s considering an independent bid for the presidency. (You can read my tick-tock on that process here.) Bloomberg certainly has the financial wherewithal to make his run a reality – and would add yet apply another seismic fracturing to an already shaking political landscape. But more than just his ability to fund the campaign, if indeed it looked as if Bloomberg was gaining traction among millions of voters for whom neither the GOP nor the Democrats are worthy option, what does it mean for the long-entrenched two-party system?

Every party of our governmental and political structure – from local elections to federal bodies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rely on this underpinning to function. States make it implicitly difficult for new parties or independent candidates to participate, let alone compete. If Bloomberg takes on the challenge and wins (work with me,) the result for the DC establishment would be cataclysmic. How do you lobby someone who doesn’t need your money or your campaign contributions? How do you lobby someone who almost assuredly been more personally successful in business than you or your client will likely ever be?

Apple of my FBI

Earlier this week, a Federal judge in California ordered Apple to essential break its own encryption to get into the phone of one of the ISIS-inspired killers in the San Bernardino massacre of late last year. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, said a) they haven’t done this before and don’t want to learn how and b) will fight tooth and nail against the order. This is both the right position for Apple and the smart one for Americans’ civil liberties and protection. If Apple has to do this for the San Bernardino case, the Feds will start asking them to do it for just about everyone else; or worse, they’ll demand the methods by which Apple would conduct such a hack.

What’s more, this is trying to open a phone after the bomb has literally gone off. Instead of pro-actively and prophylactically reviewing the female shooter’s social media accounts, thereby finding plenty of reason to deny her entry into the United States, the government is now asking the biggest company in the world to open its technological kimono so they can have a peek. In this case, the Feds had their chance and they blew it.

Let’s now put this case into the context of Justice Scalia’s death. Who knows how he would have come down, but with only eight Justices on the bench, any tie decision would go back to the trial court’s original verdict. In many cases, and this case in particular, the far-ranging and unknowable consequences could reverberate for decades.

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AuthorReed Galen