Month: October 2016

France, Louisiana to the United States: “Been There, Done That”

Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front

At least once every decade, somewhere in this world, there is an election between a scandal-plagued liberal and an equally scandal-plagued conservative.  There are two noteworthy case studies in which the circumstances were eerily identical, as were the outcomes.  You’d think we would have learned something from them, but yet, here we are, in the exact same spot we’ve been.

Louisiana has their gubernatorial elections in off-years.  The 1991 election would determine who would go to the governor’s mansion in 1992.  Buddy Roemer was the incumbent governor; he was a Democrat-turned-Republican former U.S. Representative who defeated then-incumbent governor Edwin Edwards in the 1987 election.  Though elected as a Democrat, he switched parties a few months prior to his re-election campaign.

Though Roemer had been modestly popular at the start of his tenure, public opinion eventually soured.  Some say that his approval ratings dropped after he vetoed an anti-abortion bill, alienating much of his socially conservative base.  But one of the primary reasons was due to his continued attacks on Marine Shale, a company which Roemer’s administration identified as a main source of environmental pollution within the state.  The company’s owner launched an all-out media campaign against Roemer.

Not helping was the fact that Louisiana has a jungle primary that allows anybody, regardless of political affiliation, to run for office.  If nobody wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters move on to a runoff election, forcing people to choose between one of two candidates and effectively establishing a winner with more than 50% of the vote.  In 1991, former Democratic governor Edwin Edwards sought a rematch against Roemer.  Also running was Republican David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  Duke was a two-term state representative with an energetic base.  In the jungle primary, Edwards placed first with 34% of the vote.  Shockingly, Duke defeated Roemer, and placed second with 32% of the vote.  A runoff would occur between Edwards and Duke within a matter of weeks.

Local media often joked that the only way Edwards would win again in Louisiana was if he ran against Hitler.  These premonitions proved to be prophetic.  The Republican establishment repudiated Duke for his stances, and received no help from the national Republican Party.  Edwards was no saint, either.  He had been put on trial during his third term for fraud and racketeering charges of which he was eventually convicted. Voters were faced with a dilemma: choose between an embattled former governor or a state representative with a history of racism and bigotry.  “Vote the lizard, not the Wizard” became a infamous bumper sticker, reflecting the mood of the election.  Edwards vowed to serve only one term in response.

In the runoff campaign, Edwards defeated Duke in a landslide with Edwards receiving 61% of the vote, paralleling his earlier victories in 1975 and 1983.  In this instance, voters had to choose between the lesser of two evils.  Though Edwards was ridden with scandal, the voters had to make a choice with the whole world watching.

Nearly 10 years later, in 2002, voters in France experienced a similar predicament.  It wasn’t for a governor or a legislator people were voting for, but rather the President of France.  France, like the United States, had two major parties at the federal level:  the center-left Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party) and the center-right Rassemblement pour la Republique (Rally for the Republic, later known as Les Republicains).  France’s electoral system was set up similarly to Louisiana’s:  each party presented a nominee who would run in the general election.  Should no candidate receive 50% of the vote or more, the top two candidates would move on to a runoff.

Many expected the runoff to be between incumbent Jacques Chirac, the nominee of the Rally for the Republic and former Mayor of Paris, and Lionel Jospin, leader of the Socialist Party.  However, numerous smaller leftist parties entered the race, hoping to boost name recognition.  Though all had pledged to back Jospin in the runoff, and unbeknownst to Jospin, they had a larger-than-normal support.

Additionally, perennial National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen ran an ambitious campaign.  He positioned himself in-line with French nationalism and social conservatism.  He was against immigration, especially in cases involving Muslims and people of Jewish religious affiliation.  Le Pen polled surprisingly high, further worrying Jospin’s campaign.

The first round of voting proved to be truly shocking for the nation.  Chirac placed first, with Le Pen slightly edging out Jospin.  The minor leftist parties had eked away enough votes to cost Jospin a chance at the runoff.  People took to the streets with a strong message.

“21 Avril.  J’ai mal au coeur.”  April 21.  My heart is sick.  Demonstrators took to the streets immediately after the election.  One estimate had nearly 1.3 million people marching in the street against Le Pen.

In the runoff, voters again had to make a difficult decision.  Would they vote for Le Pen, the nominee of a party that supported antisemitism, racism, and bigotry?  Or would they vote for Chirac, the man though, unpopular and embattled in scandals from his days as Paris’ mayor, would act as a placeholder until the next election?

The result was one of the most lopsided elections in French history.  Chirac won 82% of the vote.  He was successful in trying to convince those from the other side of the aisle to vote for him because the stakes were simply too high.

Isn’t it funny how history repeats itself, as if we never learned from earlier mistakes?  Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have proven to be two of the most flawed nominees in the history of either party. Both of them are laced with scandal after scandal after scandal.  If you’ve read earlier posts, you know where I stand.  You know my basis of reasoning.  Unlike France and Louisiana, you have at most one chance to vote for president.  I’m not going to tell you who you can or cannot vote for.  That is for you to decide.  What I am going to tell you is vote with your consciousness, not your complacency.  If you are satisfied with where a candidate stands on a broad range of issues and not just one single issue, that is your prerogative.  If you want to truly vote your beliefs and go for someone of a third party, go right ahead.  But don’t, and I repeat, DON’T, stay home and not vote and act like your vote does not count.

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Jordan’s Quick Picks: 2016 Election Edition

SNL Spoof

With almost two weeks to go until the general election, it’s time to start thinking about who you’ll vote for.  Chances are candidates have been knocking on your door, asking for your vote.  It can get a little overwhelming.  In this divisive, polarizing election, you may be thinking “why bother?”  Simply put, if you don’t voice your concern via the voting booth, you have no right to complain for the next two-to-four years.

In the business field, return on investment (ROI) is critical.  Are the benefits you receive comparable to your investment?  The same can be said in an election cycle.  The investment at hand is your vote.  When you vote, are you getting some sort of benefit in return?  Are the actions of your representative helping their constituency?

I have decided to make the following endorsements based on efficacy, vision, and return on investment.  Only you can decide who you vote for come this November.  These are merely suggestions; I wholeheartedly respect your decision to vote for whomever you feel will adequately represent your value set.

President – Gary Johnson (L).  This has been the hardest decision I’ve made in an election cycle since I’ve been able to vote.  I am analyzing this decision on the basis of who will best help the people of Wyoming.  Currently, our energy industry is struggling.  Some say it’s just a downturn in the energy industry.  Others say it’s the over-regulation of energy policy in this country.  At any rate, it’s obvious that we are struggling.  The politics of Wyoming really represent a libertarian streak; we like to be left alone, away from the infighting and dysfunction of Washington, D.C.  Wyoming has historically voted Republican in every election since 1964, and the closest a Democrat has come to winning Wyoming was Bill Clinton in 1992 (you can thank vote-splitting for that).

I am a firm believer that the transition of power between the parties keeps individuals active in the process.  If something does or doesn’t go right, you have the ability to change it.  I tend to agree equally with the Democratic and Republican parties.  This intricate thread often weaves a conflicted web.  I consider myself a centrist, a moderate.  I am able to see things from both points of view.  However, I am so dissuaded from voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton because of the volatile political environment they’ve helped bolster, that I cannot bring myself to vote for either of them.  To do so would be morally reprehensible.  I have not seen evidence of actions that either campaign would take that would benefit the state of Wyoming.  Alas, many people will be eager to vote for Trump because he has an (R) next to his name.

Sure, Johnson’s had his share of blunders on the campaign trail.  Every candidate has had their blunders, some more than others.  Here’s why I support the Johnson/Weld ticket.  Johnson is a strong supporter of the energy industry as a former governor of an intermountain state.  He believes that when regulation is focused on the problem rather than the business, we can begin to transform our energy policy and production.  He believes that every American has the right to make their own decisions in their lives that will benefit them without governmental interference.  He believes in a simpler tax code, and also believes in a strong protection of domestic civil liberties.  He is a strong, independent alternative to either major party ticket.

Some have voiced concerns about the actions one might take as president.  Please keep in mind the process of checks and balances – a process that allows both the legislative and judicial branches to have the ability to “intermingle” with a president’s agenda.  A president cannot unilaterally act, and his agenda is merely a vision statement, a guideline if you will.

I also want to warn people about “writing-in” a candidate.  That’s not to say that you can’t; you have the ability to speak out and vote for whomever you want.  Be sure to check your state’s write-in laws before you vote.  In the state of Wyoming, a write-in candidate has to file candidacy papers and pay a fee no later than two days AFTER the general election.  Many independent and minor party candidates are trying to get ballot access in this fashion.  As of October 23, 2016, the following parties/candidates have access to the ballot, and may also be recognized for any write-in votes they receive:  Democratic Party, Republican Party, Green Party (write-in), Libertarian Party, Constitution Party, Reform Party.  There has been a lot of talk about people wanting to write-in Evan McMullin’s name on the ballot this November.  Be advised that McMullin has NOT sent in the proper paperwork to Secretary of State Ed Murray, thus, any write-in votes he may receive may not be counted.

U.S. House (WY-AL) – Ryan Greene (D).  The last Democrat to go to Washington, D.C. from the state of Wyoming was Rock Springs’ very own Teno Roncalio back in 1976.  He retired in 1978, and was replaced by Dick Cheney.  This year, Ryan Greene is hoping to win the seat vacated by Cynthia Lummis.  The Republican nominee is former Virginia resident and daughter of Dick Cheney, Liz Cheney.  There are several reasons why I am voting for Greene.

Greene works in the energy industry in southwest Wyoming.  He knows how turbulent it’s been in the past few years.  He will go to Washington as a moderate voice to help the thousands of people being impacted by this economic downturn in the state.  He is not a party-line partisan.  He will represent everyone, and not just the people of his party.  He’s had a lot of Republican support, thanks to his consistent outreach throughout the state.  Greene has talked to thousands of people in both urban and rural areas of the state, and is a strong believer in community.

Liz Cheney arrived in the state back in the fall of 2013.  She attempted to unseat popular incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi.  Little did she realize that we really like Senator Enzi, and that carpetbagging isn’t really appreciated in this state.  Cheney believes she can coast by on her name, which still leaves a sour taste in many mouths throughout Wyoming.

Republican voter registration is nearly three-to-one, when compared to Democrats in this state.  However, in 2006, Barbara Cubin (R) nearly lost to Gary Trauner (D) because of her debate debacle.  It’s possible we could see this again this year.  Greene has an uphill climb, but he could very well win in what is a competitive race in Wyoming standards.

State Senate District 12 – Liisa Anselmi-Dalton (D).  Anselmi-Dalton is running to replace Bernadine Craft (D), who is retiring after 10 years in the Wyoming Legislature.  She is running unopposed for this seat that has been in Democratic hands since at least 1997.  Anselmi-Dalton is a local businesswoman who manages several hotels in Rock Springs.  She is a Matt Mead-appointee of the state travel and tourism board, and has also been endorsed by the NRA for this election.  Though running unopposed, I feel it necessary to highlight the fact that Liisa Anselmi-Dalton will serve the people of Rock Springs wonderfully, just as Sen. Rudy Anselmi did for nearly three decades.

State Senate District 14 – Fred Baldwin (R).  Three-term state senator Stan Cooper is retiring, and State Representative Fred Baldwin won the Republican nomination to replace him.  Baldwin is a one-term representative from Kemmerer.  This district represents North Rock Springs and parts of Rock Springs north of Reagan Avenue and west of Foothill Boulevard.  His opponent, Charlotte Sedey (D), hasn’t made a concerted effort to win votes in Rock Springs, and I have failed to find information on her stances on given issues.  Baldwin is a firm believer in diversifying Wyoming’s economic portfolio during this turbulent time.  He believes that public lands should be kept in public hands, and further believes that the public should have more of a say in what happens to these lands.  Though his stance on healthcare is a bit mixed, I believe that with the support and public input he desires, he can become more active in this specific topic.  I believe Baldwin will be good for the state senate.

State House District 17 – JoAnn Dayton (D).  Dayton is running unopposed for this seat.  She is a one-term representative who has been valuable to House Democrats.  I may be a bit biased, but her constituent services have been excellent.  She has helped keep me informed on the progress of a bill that both she and I supported.  She represents everyone in Rock Springs, even when they may be outside of her district.  Dayton is a wonderful woman who will continue to do great things for this city.

State House District 18 – Michele Irwin (D) or Thomas Crank (R).   This is a very difficult race as well.  This has been a Republican stronghold for quite some time.  Irwin ran for this seat against the aforementioned Baldwin back in 2014.  To call the race a “shellacking” would be an understatement, likely due to the disparity between Republican and Democratic voters in this district.  During a candidate forum in Evanston, both Irwin and Crank had similar positions on Medicaid (both were in favor of expanding the program to some degree), both had similar positions on economic disparity between eastern and western Wyoming, and both are against raising preexisting taxes/establishing a state income tax.  I believe that either one would be a good candidate for this seat.  Irwin is from Green River, while Crank is from Diamondville.  If you’re looking for someone who might know the issues better close to home, Irwin would be a good bet.

State House District 48 – Jackie Freeze (D).  I recently had a good talk with Jackie Freeze, who’s running against incumbent Mark Baker (R).  As a former WWCC administrator, she knows how to help people grow and run a successful institution.  I go back to thinking about the return on investment people have made in electing Mark Baker to the House, and I wonder if they feel they’ve gotten an adequate return on their vote.  Baker has campaigned consistently on conservative principles and has been unwilling to work with House Democrats.  As a matter of personal privilege, I am still angered at the three times I’ve gone to the Capitol and asked to meet with him, only to be snubbed every single time.  Jackie agrees that constituent services are important.  She publishes regular content on her Facebook page regarding her views on important election issues.  You can view it here:  https://www.facebook.com/JackieFreezeforHouseDistrict48/?fref=ts.  I highly encourage you to check her out and vote for her.

Other legislative endorsements – Stan Blake (D-HD 39), John Freeman (D-HD 60).

Sweetwater County Commission – Holly Dabb (D), Scott Hamel (I). Let me preface this by saying that the current makeup of the Sweetwater County Commission is four Republicans (Chairman Wally Johnson, John Kolb, Don Van Matre, and Doc Wendling) and one Democrat (Reid West).  Concurrently, legislative representation of Sweetwater County currently consists of three Democrats and three Republicans in the House and two Democrats and one Republican in the Senate.  The proportions don’t necessarily add up.  Additionally, Sweetwater County is considered a bellwether county.

This year, Wally Johnson and Don Van Matre are up for reelection.  I constantly find myself asking, “what good has the county commission done for the people of Sweetwater County?”  Usually, I end up drawing a blank.  And it’s not just me; many people in this county are frustrated with how it’s being run.  We get frustrated with the status quo, but we never take charge and try new people out.

Tonight was the forum for Sweetwater County Commission candidates.  There were a variety of issues discussed, from zoning to business to infrastructure to lobbying.  I found the answers striking for both Holly Dabb and for Scott Hamel because their mindset would bring new ideas and balance to a lopsided commission.  One topic discussed was energy diversification.  All candidates were against building wind turbines in Sweetwater County.  Democrat Gary Baliff gave his reasoning as them being an “absolute eyesore.”  Van Matre and Johnson were also against them.  But Dabb gave some insight:  if we do not have the proper infrastructure to house a higher output in energy production, then doesn’t it seem like a waste to talk about it at all?  Hamel agreed, and I think we absolutely need to evaluate infrastructure before we can even consider alternative energy.

Business development was also a big topic.  Hamel, a Green River realtor, was very focused on the topic of business development and laid out an energetic pro-business stance in terms of not overtaxing new business and encouraging business to develop in this area, while finding strengths in this county that will attract both bigger and smaller businesses.

One of the topics that was talked about as well was the state’s rainy day fund.  Sweetwater County contributes quite a bit of money to the state, but it is being held up in this account that isn’t being spent.  I will agree with Johnson on one point in particular:  how can the state have a rainy day fund when the state doesn’t even have a definition of “rain?”  This was something that was agreed upon up and down the slate.  Any candidate must address this problem.

Dabb is the former publisher of the Rocket-Miner newspaper.  A journalist by trade, she understands the necessity to keep government transparent, which is something the county commission desperately needs.  Hamel brings business expertise to the position, which I think would be valuable when talking about expanding the residential and commercial opportunities in this county.  I can’t bring myself to vote for Van Matre nor Johnson because the only thing I have seen them do in this last term was open a new medical center that is being used for outpatient services, even though we already have prior buildings for such procedures.  Additionally, their response to the nursing home crisis a while back was rather lackluster.  Gary Baliff is running as a conservative Democrat.  He positions himself in-line with the Republican incumbents, which personally makes voting for him difficult for me.  I believe that, if elected, the commission will see political balance at a 2:2:1 ratio, and will see new ideas blossom in the process.

Sweetwater County School District #1 Board of Trustees – Max Mickelson and Carol Jelaco.  The school board has been an area of concern for many different residents of Rock Springs.  I’ve seen many a Facebook posts regarding frustration with how they’ve handled graduation rates and staff concerns, among other things.  I’m a true believer in adding new voices to the conversation and keeping voices that are able to view things with an open mind.  I have genuinely appreciated Max’s work for the school board during the time he’s served.  Of all school board members, he’s the only one (that I’ve seen, mind you) who has actively gone to schools to observe classrooms.  He challenges individuals to think outside the box.  He welcomes community discussion, and encourages people to speak out.  He is transparent.  He is a local business owner who works with wonderful adults in this community.  But most of all, he’s a parent actively working to make this school district a great place to learn and work.

I’m always interested in having former educators on the school board.  They have the classroom experience, that behind-the-scenes experience that can be beneficial for steering the district vision in the right direction.  That’s where Carol Jelaco comes in.  Carol taught in the public school system for 34 years – 32 of those spend in Rock Springs.  She has been a part of the Sweetwater County Education Association, as well as the Wyoming Education Association.  I truly believe that her expertise in the educational field will only benefit the school board.

Wy-HOMECOMING

Arlington

I decided to take the way less traveled on the way back from Laramie this past weekend.  Rock Creek Trail is nestled in the mountains just south of Arlington.  As a little kid, I always remember going to Laramie and seeing how beautiful the changing colors were on the trees.  Sunday was the first time I ventured into this little canyon, and I’m sure glad I did.  As I sat along the banks of Rock Creek, I reminisced about the great weekend I just had.

I never understood the purpose of homecoming growing up.  In high school, it was just one giant week of popularity contests and school pride events.  I was probably most active during senior year, where, in shock and awe, I participated in every single day of homecoming.  I dressed up as a senior citizen, helped build the bonfire, painted people’s bodies for the football game, and yes, even went to the dance.  People who know me know that I hate school dances.  Or dancing in general.

As a senior, I still didn’t know what homecoming truly meant.  Rather than ponder, I just sat back and enjoyed it.  It was my last year.  Four years really flew by.

College was no different.  Granted, the first two years went by fairly slowly, but I was completely okay with that.  I had a blast as an undergraduate.  I was involved, I had a great group of friends, and I had the best brothers I could ask for.  One thing remained constant from high school: homecoming week was a really big deal.

The celebrations were grandiose and there was a larger sense of school spirit.  Being in a fraternity, you were highly encouraged to participate in some event that week.  Homecoming week certainly brought out the competition in each house.  It would behoove certain people to find their niche and contribute in their own individual way.

Homecoming Sing was always something to look forward to.  Each house got to show off their school spirit and household talent in a sing-off.  Last year, one of our members re-worded the lyrics to some country song; the name which confounds me because I’m not a devout listener of country music.  Along with the lyrics, he helped coordinate some dance moves which we hoped would impress.  Though we didn’t win, it was a fun experience.

I got involved more as a member – and later, as an executive – of ASUW.  The pig roast, the hyping-up of people in Simpsons Plaza, the volunteer spirit through The Big Event.

This weekend was my first homecoming as an alumni.  I felt out of place.  It was weird.  My entire scholastic career, I’ve been on the opposite end, participating in festivities as a student.  This time, I was a college graduate.  A lot of the people I went to school with (save for Cameron) weren’t there anymore.  However, as the weekend progressed, I saw more and more familiar faces.  My big in the fraternity came back to celebrate.  My best friend, who is now in law school, took some time out of his busy schedule to have a few drinks.  My aunt, along with her boyfriend, my cousin, and her boyfriend, all went to the Buck at 7:45 PM on a Friday night.  That is officially the earliest I’ve ever been there.

Several fraternity alumni came back this weekend.  People who had been in the house long before I was there.  I tailgated with them in the parking lot of War Memorial shortly before the game.  Everybody was so happy to see one another.  Everybody acted like they hadn’t even been gone that long.  Those long-lasting friendships withstood the test of time.

My family gathered at my cousin’s house for some homemade pizza after the game.  We celebrated togetherness and family.  It certainly was a homecoming to remember.

This weekend made me realize what homecoming meant.  I had such a huge family on campus, between friends, fraternity, and actual family.  You really get to pick who will be in your family at your home away from home.  Though you may be gone, and off to bigger and better things, you can always come back home.  Your family will still be there, awaiting your arrival, ready to reminisce and relive the good ol’ times.

I’m Still Struggling to Figure Out Who in the World I’m Voting For

Vote for Nobody
I’ve struggled and struggled and struggled for months now to figure out who I’m voting for.  I’m mad.  People all across this country are mad.  It’s showing.  But I can’t find a candidate I fully support. It’s touch-and-go with different candidates on many issues I feel are important.  Each one addresses them differently, some more satisfactorily than others.  The jury is still out on who I’m voting for, and here’s why.
  1. A vote is earned, not given.  Nobody in this race has earned my vote.  They have not addressed my problems satisfactorily.  For that matter, no candidate has visited this state (you’ll be hearing about the obvious reason in a later blog posting).  If a candidate wants my vote, they need to discuss the issues people are facing all over this country, Wyoming included, instead of only a few states that really “matter” to them.  The only reality is that these states matter only because they can sway the election.  Gary Johnson is the only one who has made anywhere close to an effort to campaign here, as he will be having a Google Hangout with people at the University of Wyoming this coming week.
  2. The Supreme Court.  I am a believer in an unbiased Supreme Court, a court that should judge without political motivation.  Unfortunately, we live in a society where we elect judges in some jurisdictions and present a litmus test on certain issues for others.  I’m going to throw it back to 1876 for a context of what I’m looking for.  Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden vied against one another in one of the most disputed elections in this country’s history.  There were 20 disputed votes from five different states that would decide the election, so Congress – in its productive heyday – created the Electoral Commission.  Seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and one independent were to serve.  David Davis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, was the most reliably unbiased person to hold office in this country.  He was supposed to serve on the Commission, but was elected to the Senate by the Illinois Legislature; thus, he was unable to serve on the Commission.  The consequences of that decision gave the presidency to Hayes.  But the bread and butter argument is that the court, in my opinion, should have four Democrats, four Republicans, and one independent so that the court does not sway in either direction.  Hillary will sway the Court in favor of the Democrats, Trump the Republicans.  Some of their nominees frighten me as well.  Four-to-four-to-one is a good ratio.
  3. Where’s the talk about the issues!?  Hillary Clinton borrowed a Michelle Obama quote during this campaign.  She’s consistently said, “When they go low, we go high.”  Yet, I continually see Hillary commercials go low on the defensive against Trump.  Trump has never taken the high road in his entire campaign.  During the debates, an aggregate total of two minutes has been spent talking about the issues, if that.  The rest of the time, it has been irrelevant political blather, personal attacks, and distractions that keep us from concentrating on the real issues.  Instead of spending time attacking one another, talk to us on how you’re going to resolve the issues this country is facing.  Tell me how you’re going to revitalize our crippled energy industry.  Tell me how you’re going to put Wyoming workers back to work in these fields.  Tell me what you plan on doing.  Don’t redirect me to your website.  Don’t tell me where I can donate money.  Tell me the solutions to these issues.

The picture at the top of this post speaks volumes.  Some days, I feel like I should vote for nobody.  Who is going to focus on what I really care about?  Over the course of the past year-and-a-half, I’ve figured out who I’m not voting for, and that decision is between me and my ballot box this coming November.  As for the rest of the candidates, well, they have less than a month to persuade me, because right now, I’m not convinced.