Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Fat Lady Hasn't Sung Yet

The 1996 World Series pitted the New York Yankees against the Atlanta Braves. The defending champion Braves were heavy favorites with a potent offense and a starting pitching rotation that included three Hall of Famers - Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. It was widely assumed that Atlanta had the Series wrapped up after winning the first two games by a composite score of 16-1, both in New York no less. Some Atlanta writers went even further, telling everyone to never mind the current Yankees and to start comparing the Braves to the 1927 and 1936 Yankee teams that are generally considered to be the best of all time. Well, someone neglected to tell this to the 1996 Yankee team. New York went on to sweep the next four games (three of which were in Atlanta) and win the Series 4-2. Sportswriter Mitch Albom pointed out that what the pundits forgot is that before a winner is anointed, the games must first be played.

Yeah, I know. Sports is not politics. The winners in sports are almost always athletically superior than their opponents or harder working or both. Politics is largely a beauty contest or a matter of who can sell himself most effectively. Knowledge, intelligence and good judgement are less important than charisma and celebrity. And we're currently paying the price (BHO) for this lack of a political meritocracy. Still, the outcomes of political contests are not final until all the votes are counted, or in the case of the nomination process, until a candidate has accumulated a majority of delegates.

So, I don't get it. It seems as if there's a disconnect between the media's perception that Donald Trump is now the presumptive Republican nominee and the reality that he may not be. Pre-Super Tuesday predictions were that Trump would win 9-10 (out of 11) states and between 250 and 300 delegates. More than 300 could be considered a smashing victory and less than 250 a disappointment. Well Trump won 7 states and somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 delegates. He has a total of (again, approximately) 320 delegates to about 230 for Ted Cruz and about 110 for Marco Rubio. 1237 is needed to win. And the race is over?

The raw vote totals look even less impressive for Trump. Rubio's and Cruz' combined 49.7% easily beats Trump's 34.2%. This points out a major part of the Republicans' problem which is that they have two viable, closely matched anti-Trump candidates. If the Democrats had someone of the caliber of, say, a Joe Biden taking votes from Hillary Clinton, then they might be in the same situation as the GOP with Bernie Sanders playing Donald Trump's role. As it is, Sanders is doing remarkably well, even after what pundits claim was a bad Super Tuesday for him. Clinton beat him 486-321 yesterday, giving her a 577-386 delegate overall lead, with 2383 needed to win. That hardly seems insurmountable. And this is before the indictment.

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard notes that three Trump victories yesterday (Vermont, Virginia and Arkansas) were won by less than three points each and that the delegate distribution from these three would not have been appreciably different had he lost them all. Had he lost all three, McCormack says the perception would have been that Trump had a bad night winning only 4 out of 11. Take John Kasich out of the race and that's what would have happened.

Three states that Trump lost were closed primary (AK, OK) or caucus (MN) states, meaning that only registered Republicans could vote in them. (Technically, Massachusetts is a "closed" state, but only in that a voter declares his party when he shows up at the polls.) The only closed state that Trump has won is the Nevada caucus and voting irregularities make those results suspect. Trump does better in open voting states, probably because many Democrats are crossing over to vote for him, either because they adore his left wing politics or they're hoping to help give Hillary an easy opponent. The majority of upcoming contests are closed, including all four on Saturday and 8 out of the next 10.

Wait. There's more. Exit polls Tuesday showed that only 27 percent of voters had heard about Trump's reluctance to denounce David Duke's endorsement. Only 20 percent had heard about the Trump University scam and lawsuit. Only 13 percent had heard about the failure of Trump Mortgage. This information will become common knowledge at some point. Better for it to be in the next two weeks with ads flooding the airwaves in contested states than after the nominating process has ended and the Democrats get to do the flooding nationwide.

Donald Trump securing the GOP nomination would be bad news indeed but he can't do it without winning the games first. And he's not nearly as good as the 1996 Atlanta Braves were.

Other stuff --

James Lileks puts humor aside (for the most part) and reacts to Erick Erickson's call #NeverTrump.

Holman Jenkins (WSJ) tells Trump (and Sanders) supporters to quit blaming "elites" for many of their self-inflicted problems.

To be honest and impolitic, the Trump voter smacks of a child who unleashes recriminations against mommy and daddy because the world is imperfect.

The blaming of elites has gone too far. The American voter has a big hand in his own disappointments. His retirement system has been a conspicuous demographic Ponzi scheme for at least two generations, yet he keeps voting for unfunded benefits. The Obama administration complains in its latest economic report about declining state and local investment because all the money is going to the unfunded pension promises negotiated by public-sector employees (i.e., voters) without also negotiating the taxes to make good on them.

Yet voters have welcomed being gulled with talk of lockboxes and trust funds while their payroll taxes are diverted to unrelated, voter-pleasing spending and the alleged trust funds are filled with IOUs by the government to itself.

Voters stood idly by or cheered as politicians loaded up our economy with regulations and growth-killing institutions that undermine productivity.

Yet Trump voters, like children, now say, But you promised!

Kevin Williamson gets nostalgic for smoke-filled back rooms.

It was democracy that did the parties in, of course. One of the harebrained progressive reforms foisted upon our republic is the so-called open primary, which amounts to something close to the abolition of political parties as such. If anybody can vote in the Republican primary — Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, independent, etc. — then membership in the party does not mean very much, and, hence, the party itself does not mean very much. Instead of two main political parties, we have two available channels for the communication of populist spite; the parties themselves are mere conveniences for political entrepreneurs and demagogues. Trump might as easily have run as a Democrat — he is a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, and he raves about the wonderful things the butchers at Planned Parenthood do — but the opening was more attractive on the R side.

In a Prager U. production, Adam Carolla tells us who not to vote for.

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