What if the Civil War were fought today?

On a holiday first created to remember the massive loss of lives in the Civil War, it’s a good time to put in perspective the enormity of those losses and the detrimental effects another civil war would have on our nation. Around 750,000 combatants died in the Civil War, the mortality being the highest on the Confederate side, taking the lives of one in five southern men aged 20-24. Even after the Union victory, the Civil War was a lost decade for the south, as besides the lives lost in the military, southerners, especially blacks, migrated away from the south resulting in a massive loss in human capital that hobbled the south for decades. In 1870 the white population of the south was 25% less than it would have been if the war had not occurred. There was an even larger black migration north, as the black population in Ohio doubled in the 1860s and tripled in Washington, D.C.. The south began the Civil War as an economic powerhouse fueled by slavery, was economically ruined for much of the century, and even today many of it’s states are still economic dependents.

Many have said that we are now on the verge of another Civil War, with guerrilla attacks by domestic terrorists already targeting religious and minority groups. Right wingers, nationalists, and fascists are already stockpiling weapons and rehearsing. So lets game out a second civil war and it’s long term effects on our nation…

The borders between the rebel forces and the union would not be clear, with the rebels clearly occupying much of the south and less clearly situated in rural America. The actual borders of the Union and Confederacy weren’t real clear either, despite the maps in the history books- Besides Virginia being permanently divided, many highland areas of the south never supported the confederacy, Missouri was split and had both a Union and rump Confederate state governments, and south Florida was under union control for most of the war. Military organization was lacking in the Civil War, fought largely by state militia units further divided by ethnic groups, resulting in rival units from the same town fighting with one another. That’s clearly the case today on the rebel side with dozens and hundreds of rival groups fighting for adherents and control. The “command and control” structure isn’t much more decisive on the Union side- Would the military obey Trump’s or the future democratic president’s orders? What of the state National Guards? Then there’s the twenty odd federal police forces (Even the EPA has one)- Will the Capitol Police enforce a subpoena of the Trump administration’s crooks, and would another federal police agency answer with an armed response? And which side will state and local police forces choose?

Then factor in corruption, and just plain disorganization and stupidity… My great great grandfather served in the 28th Wisconsin Infantry Company F which during three plus years of service saw but a couple weeks of combat between postings guarding something or other in Arkansas and occasional forays into Mississippi and Tennessee. Drunkenness was the order of the day and corruption was rampant, and he was one of the nine out of ten of his company’s casualties that lost his life to disease rather than in combat.

Compare the relative strengths of the army and rebel “army”- Even a divided or half MIA military and loyal police forces would ultimately defeat a disorganized “army” of 50+ white guys, who even with ARs and pickup trucks full of ammo aren’t exactly model physical specimens. But given that disorganization and extended “mopping up” operations and the death toll could rival the Civil War’s… With ten times the population we had at the time of the Civil War, another civil war could take seven our eight million lives. The long term economic losses would be even greater- We’re now a mature economy trying to survive and maintain our place in a world with dozens of tough competitors while during the 1800s we were a growing nation with plenty of immigrants to continue that growth after the Civil War. Today a civil war would leave us an uncompetitive and impoverished nation for decades. That’s the “upside” prognosis, we could end up a failed state at war with itself for decades…

So our nation was lucky to survive the Civil War, we might not be so lucky next time… So please,  tone down the rhetoric and hatred and work to unite instead of divide!



Iowa Caucus: Leaders Emerging?

And is the race about to get tighter?

Last I head we have something like 23 announced democratic prez candidates, and I saw someone at a local dem meeting the other night with the number “24”. But at several candidate’s events in Iowa I’ve noted a lack of the usual “field” operation- Stuff like capturing attendees contact info, etc.. Now just about every candidate has raised dollars by the millions, so there’s no excuse to not have paid staff and at least one office in Iowa for them to work out of. They should also be developing a volunteer base… I get almost daily fundraising e-mails from one candidate, but have yet to be asked to volunteer. It says something that only about half the candidates have a place on their website for volunteers to sign up. And while the Obama campaign would tell volunteers what opportunities were near their zip code by this time in 2007, I found only five candidate’s websites offering that no longer advanced technology. Throw in the fact that a whole lot of the candidates are congresscritters or senators and in most cases they can legally transfer left over presidential campaign (slush) funds to future fed campaigns, and it’s pretty clear that probably half our near two dozen candidates aren’t real seriously running for president, at least this time around.

Of the dozen dem candidates clearly “in it to win it”, some are developing impressive field operations despite bumping along in the polls in the low single digits- The best example is Congress member Delaney who has opened 8 campaign offices and campaigned in every one of Iowa’s 99 counties before this critical campaign year even started! Averaging the polls, only 2 candidates, Biden and Sanders, have double digit support with Biden at 27% and Sanders at 18%. Buttigieg, Harris and Warren trail at 9% each with O’Rourke at 5%.

So what chances do this half dozen candidates who have found at least 5% support have of winning the nomination. As always, 538 has the answer and it won’t cost us a cent, here’s the link to their most excellent analysis. 538’s results are sobering- a candidate at 5% has about a 4% chance of winning the nomination, and even at 9% the chances only improve to about 7%… However, we do have 3 candidates at 9% and throw in Beto at 5% and there’s a 25% chance one of these 4 will be the breakout candidate that wins the nomination. 538’s analysis predicts that Bernie at 17% has about a 14% and Joe Biden at 27% has about a 32% chance of heading the dem ticket in 2020. And I know, that don’t all quite all add up to 100%…

So the race is probably narrowing to Bernie and Joe and probably just as tight as Bernie and Hillary’s fight last go-round, with at least 3 or 4 more great democratic candidates running serious campaigns too in case they should falter. And looking at the crosstabs, Bernie may very well catch Joe, and I’ll have a bunch more interesting finds from digging down in the crosstabs in a future post.



How the Minnesota Democratic Party re-elected Trump…

It’s friday after the 2020 elections, finally got some sleep and still can’t believe we lost. But the numbers don’t lie, especially here in Minnesota where we have paper ballots and a bunch of senior citizens running the elections that you don’t argue with. But for the first time in decades a republican won Minnesota, and it was Trump, the least popular republican ever. Was the closest race in the nation, with Trump taking Minnesota by almost a percent.

What the… ?

We should have seen it coming- Unlike Iowa and other surrounding states, one big ol’ metro area has 60% of the population and the state capitol too, so our Democratic Farmer-Labor (official term, not many farmers left in the party and the republicans are wooing labor) Party figures they can pretty much ignore rural Minnesota. Thus we’ve seen party support for rural down ballot candidates drop and disappear. Hillary barely won Minnesota in 2016, garnering 178 thousand less votes than Obama got in 2012. Trump in 2016 got only 3 thousand more votes than Romney did in 2016. Almost every one of those lost democratic presidential votes, 169 thousand, came out of the most rural 4 of Minnesota’s 8 congressional districts.

In 2012 our downballot candidates won several rural congressional and legislative seats in Minnesota, and in 2014 and 2016 we lost a bunch of them back to republicans. The Minnesota Democratic Party was not ignorant of this drop in rural votes and took action. Problem was, they took the wrong action- Pulling most all support for rural legislative candidates in 2018 and favoring suburban congressional candidates. No surprise that while the blue wave pushed democratic candidates to victory in surrounding states, the Minnesota Democratic Party held on to the statewide offices, swapped congressional seats, and made slight gains in the legislature. By 2020 many rural democratic local units had gone dark, and rural democratic voters took the hint and stayed home on election day.

The above 2020 prognostication is fiction, and hopefully will remain so. But truth is, their are several swing states where a low turnout of rural democratic voters could give even Trump barely enough electoral votes to eek out a win. That’s why even in rural red districts, every democratic voter counts!


Homelessness Ended in Southwest Minnesota… Not!

Today we were summoned to a local meeting room for a discussion of homelessness here in southwest MN. Turns out the discussion was rather one sided, as ’twas just a media event for HUD to proclaim that chronic homelessness had been eliminated here, at least according to their count and definition. Having patted themselves on the back and brown nosed the local social service agency staff present, HUD offered a few minutes press availability before high tailing it outa town.

That was my opening, took off my imaginary city council member hat, put on the press hat, and asked the question they didn’t want to hear: We’ve had homeless people in my little town of 39, I know of a mayor of a small town in southwest MN that’s struggled with homelessness, so how come our numbers don’t jive?

Turns out HUD is counting chronic homelessness only, which they define as being homeless for a year or more amongst other measures. Now what homeless person here on the tundra is going to stay the winter? That makes it damn easy to have no homeless people in Southwest Minnesota when if they as much wander south to Iowa or get an apartment for a month they aren’t officially homeless anymore. And for a Trump administration that’s trying to look like they’ve accomplished something, anything, it’s a low bar to meet. So sadly a lot of good democrats that know otherwise and concerned local folks were co-opted by HUD into this self congratulating media event.

Truth is, we’ve got homeless people here and everywhere, often for want of simple needs like transportation to a 20 mile away job or funds to fix up their house. Yup, I’ve actually met homeless people out here that own homes free and clear but can’t afford repairs to make them habitable. As for the transportation problems, I brought this up with “roads and bridges” advocate and legislator Chris Swedinski and he tried to talk it down. This is the same legislator who thinks everyone should have their own snowplow instead of those “socialized” government snowplows. When I mentioned to him the basement flooding many of our citizens experienced these last few days and my attempts to acquire a heavy duty pump for our town, he told me we each need to buy our own pumps, generators, etc.. Sorry Chris, most of our citizens already have those big box store generators and such, and most of them weren’t up to the job if we could even get them started. And Chris, hows that pickup truck plow working on snowcrete drifts? Yup, this is the mentality we’re up against…


Storm Lake culls the candidates…

You gotta love a small town with the trifecta of a beautiful lake, a college, and a packing plant. Storm Lake would be a household word but for the fact it’s in the middle of northwest Iowa, over an hours drive from any Interstate, and I suspect the airport can’t handle business jets. But it’s Storm Lake’s diversity, rural geography, and the fact that the local newspaper editor Art Cullen has won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the excesses of Big Ag that made the city a natural for a presidential candidate forum on rural issues.

So a bunch of organizations like Art’s newspaper, the college, Huffpost, and Farmer’s Union organized today’s major and only events on the Iowa campaign schedule. Now these multi candidate forums, steak fries, etc. generally draw just about every candidate, the weather was great today, and the floods were far away from Storm Lake… Yet only five candidates had the courage to show their face in rural Storm Lake today. Julian Castro, John Delaney, Amy Klobuchar, John Ryan, and Elizabeth Warren had the guts to show up in rural Iowa today, the rest of the herd blew off us rural democrats and we should treat them likewise on caucus night.

But first, there was the “pre forum” event over at the high school, which kinda bombed…DSCF2495Good idea, poor implementation= They kept the bleachers locked up while setting up risers for the video media, maybe hoping for a “mosh pit” between the cameras and speakers. Crowd looked to be less than 100 even counting the press and Liz Warren was running late, so I bailed and headed over to the “main event”.

The actual forum was much better organized, despite what looked like Huffpost’s attempts to crowd out competing media. Each candidate got about 15 minutes with Editor Art Cullen and a couple lesser known young questioners, one of whom asked some pithy questions and the other seemed to keep trying to drag the questioning off topic to the standard far left topics with little or no relation to rural issues. Here’s the staging:S0142521That’s Art Cullen on the right with Liz in the “hot seat” next to him. She was first up, clearly had done her homework, and stuck to economic issues despite the aforementioned questioner’s attempts to distract her.

Next up was Julian Castro who did OK despite being a thousand miles away from his base. Then the two lane delay factor left us with no candidates for a few minutes (campaign staffers, don’t assume you can average 70 MPH out here) ’til John Delaney arrived.  John comes off as a policy wonk and junior version of Biden, ‘cept he made the mistake of voting for the “too big to fail” banks and that won’t play in Storm Lake or Peoria. John’s a long shot candidate, but he seems to be opening up campaign offices all over Iowa.

Then came Amy Klobuchar… On top of every issue, damning monopolies and promising tougher antitrust enforcement. She hit all the bases and hit it outa the park, speaking from experience on issues where the other candidates can only offer policy proposals. No surprise Amy got the best audience response. Last up was Ohio Congressmember John Ryan, another policy wonk who noted the similarities of Rustbelt and rural problems.

So as only a town with a packinghouse, college, and Pulitizer winning newspaper editor can do, Storm Lake has culled the 2020 democratic presidential; candidate cattle call from 20 odd down to five. Amy seemed the preferred candidate followed by Liz, Julian did well for a new candidate off his native turf, and the Johns showed the substatntial policy chops our democratic congressmembers have these day.

My bets on Amy!

And thanks to Iowa 4th CD candidate J.D. Scholten for keeping up the good fight:DSC_6266




Would you donate to elect rural democrats?

We rural democrats, ‘specially here in Minnesota, gotta problem: Our statewide candidates like Amy Klobuchar win almost every legislative district, while our downballot democrats running to represent those same legislative districts get beat by double digit margins. It’s not hard to see why- Amy wins because her campaigns have had millions to make her a household name and 12 years of incumbency hasn’t hurt either. Downballot our dinosaur Democratic state party throws six figure funding at suburban races while writing off rural Minnesota. So our downballot candidates on low 5 figure budgets struggle to get name recognition, and on election day are lucky to break 40%.

Last November in R+11 Iowa 4th Congressional District (CD) upstart democrat J.D. Scholten damn near retired rabid republican Steven King, coming within 3% of winning. In the process King’s Nazi sympathies became public, leaving him a political zombie still going through the motions of being a congressmember while even his own party took away his committee assignments. Scholten did that with a brilliant campaign powered by 3 million dollars in fundraising, over three times King’s haul. The same story was repeated in several rural districts as “small d” democrats via millions of small donations defeated or damn near defeated republicans that were way too red for even their rural districts.

So here in west central Minnesota’s 7th CD, given that the state party has all but abandoned us, what if we started our own campaign fund to properly fund strong democratic candidates challenging republican incumbents who’ve worn out their welcome? Across the border in South Dakota Billy Sutton has kept the lights on in his campaign after running the strongest democratic campaign in South Dakota this decade… Will you donate to send him to Congress in 2020? And in Nebraska’s 2nd CD, Kansas’ 2nd, back to Iowa’s 4th, and in a bunch of other rural districts we came within a hair of winning…

We online democrats have a history of “money bombing” worthy candidates the party has ignored to victory- Will you donate to help rural democrats retire republican incumbents in 2020?


New best practices: Off year conventions!

Old political hacks have more than enough bad memories of election year conventions that dragged on for days (and nights), struggling to select candidates, write the platform, elect party officials, and maybe even find time to deal with urgent party business. No wonder conventions became friday morning ’til late sunday afternoon tests of endurance with victory going to those who could get off work friday and maybe monday too and afford multiple nights in big city hotels.

So no wonder the idea of off year conventions to elect party officers is catching on. I follow several democratic party units in the rural areas of midwest states on Facebook, and seems like everybody’s doing it, and turnout has rivaled election year conventions. Last weekend South Dakota democrats has their convention, I’ll refer you to South Dakota’s best progressive blogger Cory Heidelberger for his account at this link.

My own 7th congressional district had it’s convention too, and it went pretty well, especially since someone finally stepped up to relieve me of the thankless job of Outreach Officer. While the convention started friday eve with social events and ended with a saturday night banquet that required another nights hotel stay for those travelling far, following CD7 tradition the business of the convention began at 12:30 pm saturday and was over before 4. That meant I could leave the south end of the district at 7, drive 240 odd miles there (bit more than usual as my shortcuts were iffy due to flooding) and arrive at 11:30 with plenty of time to prepare for the meeting. Meeting over, hopped back in the TDI at 3:50, gambled and took some of my usual county road shortcuts, and got home just before 8. Average speeds were 56 MPH on the way up and 59 MPH headin’ home, the VW Golf TDI again showing it’s ability as a real world performance car on this 90% 2 lane route, with MPGs in the usual 40s.

So off year conventions are working well- Heck, even the CD7 republicans copied us and held their convention the same weekend!