Embracing Ron DeSantis

    This is probably a bit too early. Through November, the stage should belong to House, Senate, and state candidates who are on the verge of restoring economic and social common sense to the country. There are plenty of bright spots deserving attention: first term Governor Glenn Youngkin in Virginia; Congresswoman Mayra Flores in Texas' Rio Grande Valley; Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia.  There are plenty of races showcasing interesting, but unproven newcomers: JD Vance in Ohio; Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania; Adam Laxalt in Nevada; Katie Britt in Alabama.  There are known names trying to fend off well funded Democratic opponents: Ron Johnson in Wisconsin; Congresswomen Michelle Steele and Young Kim in California; Marco Rubio in Florida. Billions of dollars will be spent, billions of column-inches will be written, and trillions of electrons will be launched over the next five months in support or opposition to thousands of candidates nationally. This promises to be fun for Republicans, but much of the analysis will be done in terms of what it means for Trump. How have his endorsements fared? What Democrat could beat him? When will he decide? What Republican could deter or beat him? Let's preempt some of that. 

    The premise:

        1. America is exhausted with divisive politics. Joe Biden was elected on the expectation that he would restore calm competence to government, but has instead governed ineffectively from the Left. Elections from Virginia to San Francisco, to the Rio Grande Valley show that the fever of open borders, lawlessness, and educational social indoctrination is breaking. 

        2. The Republican Party has become the party of the working class, while the Democratic Party has become the party of the elites. What began with Nixon's "silent majority" and progressed through "Reagan Democrats", and the Tea Party movement culminated in Donald Trump's Republican Party. 

        3. A majority of Republicans like "Trump's policies without the turmoil": America first; secure borders; balanced trade with a return of manufacturing; an end to costly foreign wars; pride in America; traditional social values.  But with financial constraint and decorum. 

        4. Trump's behavior after the 2020 election creates the greatest risk that the Democrats could hold the presidency in 2024.  The party was more popular than Trump in 2020 - while Trump was losing to Biden  Republicans gained 12 House seats and only lost the Senate after Trump's intervention in Georgia. As a "Red Wave" builds in 2022 and there is a modest preference for generic Republicans , Trump's favorability remains 12 points under water.  

        5. Vindication is not a viable political strategy. 

    The implications: 

        1. Trump cleared the Republican field in 2016 with frontal attacks on one opponent after another: John McCain; Jeb Bush; Chris Christie; Marco Rubio; Ted Cruz; Rick Perry; Mike Huckaby; Rick Santorum; Rand Paul; Ben Carson; Carly Fiorina; John Kasich. Every geographic, ideological, racial, and gender corner of the party had their chance, but they never coalesced around an alternative to Trump. The process began about a year before the 2016 primaries. 

        2. The trick for alternative 2024 Republican candidates (Mike Pence: Ron DeSantis; Nikki Haley; Mike Pompeo - to be generous add Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, Tim Scott, Rick Scott, and Glen Youngkin) is to remain credibly visible without becoming a punch line for Trump. As successful sitting governors, DeSantis, Abbott, and Youngkin are in the best position. 

    Six months out from the "getting serious" date, a strong current is flowing toward DeSantis. 

        - He is smart: Yale undergraduate; Harvard Law.

        - He is a veteran: Navy JAG; Iraq War with Seal Team 1.

        - He has serious conservative credentials: founding member of the House Freedom caucus; early suppp0rter of candidate Trump.

        - He has taken decisive leading positions on many issues: opposition to restrictive Covid mandates; measures against illegal immigration; opposition to gender education in grades K-3. 

        - Running for re-election as governor in 2022, he has raised over $100 million, and enjoys near-60% approval ratings while not asking for Trump's endorsement.  

        - At 43 years of age, and leading a large diverse state, he represents a chance for the country to turn the page. 

    For the next five months there is no incentive for Trump or DeSantis to engage each other, but before the end of the year Trump will face a decision.  This time the decision may not be his to make. Meanwhile the Democratic "opposition researchers" who chased Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and the Trump family for a decade will pivot to Dunedin, Florida High School, class of 1997.   


bill bowen - 6/23/2022


A Failure of Goal Setting

   Goals must be achievable. Success requires goals,  plans, appropriate resources, leadership, evaluation of results, and adjustments.  Experience as a legislator does not necessarily prepare someone for the most important and complex executive job on earth, but it should at least bring expertise and critical thinking in terms of goal setting and allocation of resources. Unfortunately for the American public and for the people of Ukraine, Joe Biden comes up short on the goal setting requirement. 

    This is not a discussion of executive competence - the botched Afghan exit might be placed at the feet of Secretary of Defense Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Milley (or not); the disaster at the southern border might be placed at the feet of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas (or not); the surge in crime might be placed at the feet of ideological district attorneys and mayors (or not); confusing direction on Covid measures might be placed at the feet of the Centers for Disease Control and Doctor Fauci (or not); supply chain failures might be placed at the feet of the globalized capitalist system (or not).  The central failure to be addressed here is the inability to set realistic, achievable goals. 

    Exhibit 1: Build Back Better. Forget the substance - whether it would have been good or disastrous to spend another $1.9 trillion for universal pre-kindergarten, free child care, expanded Medicare, electric vehicles, subsidized housing, clean energy, mass transit, and paid family leave while raising taxes on corporations and high income earners. It was clear for months that Joe Manchin, and to a lesser extent Kyrsten Sinema, were not going to provide the 5o votes needed to get Joe Biden into the transformational category of FDR's New Deal or LBJ's Great Society. Manchin was clear in defining his limits, but Biden was unable to ratchet down his goals. As a result he, thankfully, got nothing. 

    Exhibit 2: Energy. Biden shares John Kerry's view that we should not increase oil and gas production in North America, and has expressed that gas price increases will have the benefit of hastening a transition to green energy, reflecting a total disconnect from the fact that today's American energy supply is 35% oil; 34% natural gas; 9% nuclear; 3% wind; 3% hydro; 1% solar; and 5% "other renewable" - and that there is no realistic transition plan.  Never mind that Russia, China, India, and much of the rest of the world do not share the Western zeal for placing global warming considerations ahead of economic health.  The connection between this inability to set realistic goals and cost-driven inflation is inescapable - and will be a central cause of the Democrats' electoral defeat this November, and likely in 2024.  

    Exhibit 3: Ukraine. The most consequential failure of the Biden administration's inability to establish achievable goals is coming at the expense of the people of Ukraine. For months President Zelensky has indicated a willingness to accept the reality of ceding territory to Russia - perhaps only Crimea; perhaps only part of the Donbas. Biden made the early mistake of personalizing the war, calling Putin a war criminal and saying that he could not remain in power.  Subsequent discussions of driving Russia completely out of Ukraine set an unachievable goal, setting Ukraine up for tens of thousands of deaths and the world for famine without Ukrainian wheat and Russian fertilizer. 

    It doesn't have to be this way. Whatever his other faults, President Trump set aggressive goals and - despite multiple distractions - achieved many of them: The US-Canada-Mexico free trade agreement; the Abraham Accords between Israel and much of the Arab world; agreements with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador  to control the border; a trade agreement with China.  Even though the goal of disarmament was beyond reach, discussions with Kim Jong Un put a two year stop to nuclear and missile tests. Before Covid hit, real incomes for working class Americans were rising and the Federal Reserve was slowly raising interest rates. Goals were being met. 

    The dynamics in Washington will change after the November elections. Perhaps the administration will be pragmatic - as was Bill Clinton after the Democrats lost 54 House seats in the 1994 elections when he teamed with Republican House leader Newt Gingrich to produce balanced budgets.  Perhaps there can be some bipartisan, realistic goal setting relative to budgeting, energy, and the border.  Pessimists note that would require abandoning Chief of Staff Ron Klain, Domestic Policy Council Director (and Obama conduit) Susan Rice, Kerry, Mayorkas, and a number of other zealots who have driven the administration onto the rocks. But, perhaps a major course correction is itself an unrealistic goal for a president who will be 80 years old shortly after the mid-term elections.  


bill bowen - 6/16/2022