Teatime in the City - 2016

PoliMosh: Dancing in the American Political Mosh Pit, Vol. 1

By Samir Shukla

Welcome to my political diary. I call it Polimosh. It's a dance in the mosh pit that is American politics. This column is geared to politically independent thinkers and is beholden to no party or candidate. All ideologies are considered and put through the ringers. Functionality of politicians and policy are applauded and dimwits are taken to task. Facts are of the essence.

Here's my motto as a political junkie: if you can go see it for yourself, go see it. If you can go hear it for yourself, go hear it. If it is allowed to touch and feel, do it. Leave no stone unturned as you ingest political propaganda. Look on the other side of the coin even if your political leanings fall on a specific side. It can't hurt. That is the way to extract truth and facts, keep propagandists at bay, and make logical, not emotional decisions.

Every political party spins the truth and twists the facts to win seats. The work of the American people by those in legislatures, congress, state capitols, and the White House could be done in a thoughtful and cooperative manner, albeit preceded by robust dialogue. That's the hope of people who put politicians in office. There will be differences in philosophy, but negotiated deals and laws are not that difficult to achieve. That is not the case in current American politics. It has become a mosh pit; a free for all. And though enjoyable to watch on occasion, it's not good for the country.

Thinking minds and moderate politicians can resolve our problems and unravel some of the distrust between citizenry. Ideologues and political purists are hijacking conversations and creating chaos. The so-called political correctness is not the problem. It's an irrelevancy that politicians blow out of proportions. Politicians also love to bash the media, but would get nowhere without it. The term “media" in today's society is a muddled term. The long-established gatekeepers such as the New York Times are, of course, the media. But so is the guy writing a blog, posting signs, passing out flyers, or talking to his neighbors in order to persuade them to his way of thinking. In this over-connected world, we are all media.

Every election is important, so it's bit of a cliché to say this election is a once in a lifetime event. However, this election does feel different. There are angry outsiders in the front of the pack of candidates. The Republican nomination process may end up in a brokered convention in July if no clear winner surfaces during the caucus and primary season. The Democrats are fighting it out, but it's really just a two-way competition between Sanders and Clinton. It will get resolved by end of March.

I'm espousing a simple concept: political independence. By all means throw your support to candidates of your liking, which I hope you've done after logical reasoning and not via emotions, but keep your intellectual political independence. Unaffiliated and independent voters are the middle ground, the spine of the country, if you will. They are the coveted voters that will shape a candidate's success in a general election.
In this column, I will write about my thoughts on debates, primaries, and the general election, still nine months away. Any political event I attend will be noted through analysis. I will also post this on Saathee.com on a weekly and ongoing basis. Join me on the journey, fellow polimoshers.

January 1, New Year dawns
The holidays are over, the political season of 2016 gets ratcheted up several notches and Presidential candidates become more focused and go on the prowl for voters.

January 8, Trump Hits Rock Hill, SC
On this drizzly evening, I slogged the lines and sat through Donald Trump's rally in Winthrop University Coliseum, Rock Hill. It was a near-capacity crowd of supporters, curious bystanders, entertainment seekers, and a few detractors. Trump is clearly surprising everyone with his staying power leading up to the primaries. I'm among those who thought he would fizzle out before the voting begins. But the story is otherwise. His supporters like to hear what he has to say. They say he speaks his mind, unlike career politicians. Overhearing conversations among those in the long line to the venue and chatting up some people revealed that Trump's simpleton sloganeering is working. His same lines are oft-repeated. Many people wore shirts and caps with Trump's motto for his campaign, “Make America Great Again." I wondered about that as likely did many attendees. Just what the heck does that mean? What part of America is he going to make great again? Will he use some of his billions in wealth or a magic wand? Trump can excite a crowd with slogans bereft of details. His stance on immigrants, China, and Muslims has gained traction among his crowd. This evening Trump checklisted his oft-repeated mantras including that of building a border wall and making Mexico pay for it. The crowd, mostly white folks, ate it up. The entire evening Trump fed the crowd the red meat they sought. So it goes. The highlight of the evening? I filled up my gas tank for $1.67 per gallon in South Carolina before I hopped the border and drove back to Charlotte. Love these low gas prices.

January 12, State of the Union Address

President Obama pontificated on his presidency at this final state of the union address. It was a legacy speech that quietly taunted his opponents. He was looking inward and backward to his accomplishments. He knows the slacker congress is not going to support much of anything he wants to do in the coming months so he didn't bother coming up with a list of things to accomplish in his final year. He made a passionate callout to the electorate and common folks on coming together to solve our problems. Maybe a few people will take that to work. At the end of the address, his call to eradicate cancer in the near future felt a little like an afterthought as an unconnected dangling statement. It's a worthy pursuit, but it was rather anti-climactic. Bottom line: If you are a Democrat you mostly liked his speech and wish him well. If you are a Republican, you didn't like the speech and can't wait till he leaves office.

January 12, State of the Union Republican Response
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley gave the response to President Obama's State of the Union address. Haley was courageous in removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol, although the impetus to do so followed a tragedy. It was a genuine move that briefly endeared her to the progressives. She is popular in the state. Her response to Obama was a typical one that a Republican/conservative would have given. She gave a decent speech, but I was intrigued by her recognition of legal immigrants and her party's participation in helping create the corroded political atmosphere. "We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America's leadership. We need to accept that we've played a role in how and why our government is broken," she said. Bravo. Many conservatives didn't like that, but it needed to be said. The bombastic rhetoric won't work in the general election, and she knows it. Bottom line: Haley would make a formidable Vice Presidential candidate. She may not be jockeying for the VP ticket, but the eventual Republican nominee would be an idiot to not at the least have her name on their selection short list. She could go after Hillary Clinton, if she wins the Democratic nomination, in manners the blokes can't. She can play her conservative card while connecting with the vast numbers of moderate women as well as immigrants and minorities.

January 19, Sarah Palin Endorses Trump

I read about this momentous occasion for Trump this afternoon. Many Republicans and conservatives want to stop Trump. A Palin endorsement may do the trick. Just ask John McCain.

January 23, Bernie Sanders National Live Stream

Bernie Sanders did a brief speech, a National Live Stream on YouTube, to his supporters to fire them up before the primaries. He emphasized the individual donors making small contributions that are fueling his campaign. He repeated his campaign mantras of billionaires and the wealthy taking the country for a ride. “Almost all of the new wealth is going to the top 1 percent. Top 10 percent have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined," he explained. He also said a rigged, corrupt campaign finance system is eroding people's confidence. He hit the nail on the head when talking about his candidacy that's unnerving for Clinton, “We have formed a campaign that has the establishment shaking, they are shaking. If we win in Iowa and New Hampshire… let me tell you we are doing better and better in South Carolina." He sounds reasonable when he genuinely talks about the broken criminal justice system, comprehensive immigration reform, and climate change. Sanders has his heart in the right place, “the political revolution is all about… when ordinary people stand together." This call for a revolution is laudable. The problem is he is living in la-la land when talking about the bigger picture. Let's say he wins the nomination, gets elected and even if the Democrats regain congress (a mighty tall order), free college education for all and single payer healthcare are not happening in this country anytime soon. That would require the mindset of at least 60 percent of Americans to think that way and then push their representatives to act. Hillary Clinton has shifted a bit further to the left in recent weeks to counter Sanders and she now talks of “incremental" changes to healthcare and economy. That is a more logical way of doing business. Most ordinary folks don't have the capacity to do revolutions in their lives. They make incremental changes to improve their lot. But in the current divided country and congress, even incremental change is difficult. Sanders' TV speech was a short stump motivator for his supporters. It remains to be seen if he can counter the Clinton Juggernaut after Iowa and New Hampshire.

Here's my parting message for this column. Change your party affiliation to Unaffiliated. Dump the parties. In North Carolina, unaffiliated voters can vote in either primary. It's a small way to shake up the branches, make extreme partisans on both sides less important. The independent middle needs to swell and take back the nomination process, reduce the effect of massive campaign money, and moderate the election process. The two established political parties are sure as hell not going to do it.

Election 2016 Notes

North Carolina Primary and ID Law
North Carolina voter registration deadline for the primary is February 19. Early voting is March 1-12 and the primary is on March 15. The state of North Carolina now requires a photo ID to vote on Election Day. Approved IDs include Driver's License, Passport, and Military ID, Veterans Affairs ID, some Tribal IDs and others. There are several exemptions with declaration of reasonable impediment. For more details, visit the site http://voterid.nc.gov/

Upcoming Debates

February 6: Manchester, New Hampshire, St. Anselm's College Institute of Politics (ABC News)
February 13: South Carolina, TBD (CBS)
February 25: Houston, Texas, University of Houston (CNN)

February 11: Milwaukee, WI (PBS)
March 9: Miami, FL (Univision)

March 7: Raleigh, NC (9pm), The leading candidates for the Libertarian Party's nomination for President face off eight days before the North Carolina primary. Moderator: Barry Smith, Carolina Journal

February 9: New Hampshire
February 20: South Carolina (Republican primary)
February 27: South Carolina (Democratic primary)
March 1: Georgia
March 1: Tennessee
March 1: Virginia
March 15: North Carolina

Libertarian National Convention
May 27 – 30, Orlando (LP.org)

Republican National Convention
July 18 – 21, Cleveland Ohio (Gop.org)

Democratic National Convention
July 25 – 28, Philadelphia (Democrats.org)

Some Regional Voter Resources
North Carolina State Board of Elections: http://www.ncsbe.gov/ncsbe/
South Carolina State Election Commission: http://www.scvotes.org/
Georgia Secretary of State/Elections: http://sos.ga.gov/index.php/?section=elections
Virginia Dept. of Elections: http://elections.virginia.gov/