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My Big Dem Weekend

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Well, we just wrapped another Indiana Democratic State Convention.  And as anyone who was there will tell you Democrats left their convention on fire and ready to do their best to fire incumbent Governor Mike Pence in the fall, I thought it was only fair that we provided you with some additional perspective that you can’t get anywhere else.  And there’s probably good reason for it.  So here are my five big takeaways from this weekend’s activities…

  1.   John Gregg is a great speaker, but.  Despite our policy differences I will never take away Gregg’s energy, charm and dynamic personality.  He really can get a crowd worked up.  Now with that said, he can also lose focus and get too caught up in the moment like when he told the Indiana Democratic African-American Caucus that Pence was no friend of Black people.  I thought it was a bit much and it implied that Pence was a bigot.  With all due respect to the gentleman from Sandborn, I’ve never met many bigots who expanded education opportunities for poor black children through school choice and vouchers.  In fact, if one really wanted to go out on a limb, one could argue that taking money away from those poor black children that would be used for vouchers so middle, upper and wealthy white families can get subsidized pre-K might better fit that definition.  Just a thought. So next time John, stay focused.
  1.  Bernie’s people are nuts.  What’s the difference between a Bernie Sanders supporter and a die hard attendee at Indy Popcon?  One spends a lot of time in fantasy land, entertaining ideas and concepts that don’t work in reality and when you tell them it’s time to get get back to the real world they get mad at you.  The other wears a costume.   I told that joke while standing in the Convention Hall and got into an argument with a Sanders supporter who mistook me for a delegate.  He told me that Sanders won Indiana and the people spoke.   I told him people can do some crazy things, just look at the Republican who won Indiana.   And don’t even get me started on how the Berniebots spent 30 minutes trying to get failed resolutions concerning superdelegates read into the convention record. Ugh!
  1.  Viva la Latino Vote.   Indiana Democrats can thank Donald Trump for this one.  Democrats think Trump’s remarks regarding Judge Gonzalo Curiel gives them new ammunition to engage their Latino and Hispanic constituents, as well as those who aren’t necessarily political, but aren’t crazy about the guy who wants to build a wall to keep their relatives out of the country.  This was also hinted at in the convention speeches delivered by Lt. Governor candidate Christina Hale and Attorney General candidate, former Lake County Judge Lorenzo Addendo.   Which by the way, someone needs to get Judge Addendo some caffeine.  I am sure he is a nice guy, but listening to him talk was like listening to a slower Paul Harvey and you did not want to stick around to find out the rest of the story.
  1.   Who’s down with LGBT? (Sorry “Naughty by Nature”).   If someone was selling a can of alphabet soup at the State Convention they would have made a killing if those were the only four letters in the can.  In just about every speech, the speaker either mentioned LGBT rights or the catch phrase “who you love”.  The LGBT issue even got a better reception than the “J-O-B” issue. (However if I was dealing with five percent unemployment rate, I’d play down the jobs issue too.)  Now as you all know, I am all for equal rights and I only believe in discrimination based on merit, however I do wonder how much this issue will resonate geographically and demographically?  Of course LGBT rights are a big deal here in Central Indiana, but as you get away from the center of the state, we all know it becomes less of an issue in some smaller places where still a good chunk of Indiana lives.  I also noticed while the younger, more progressive Democrats were on fire about the issue, a lot of the older folks either did the polite golf applause or just kind of sat there.
  1.  Hoosier Democrats love Hillary.    Hillary Clinton may have a 55-percent unfavorable rating, but I can tell you where a good chunk of the other 44-percent were this weekend.  Berniebots notwithstanding, Clinton’s recorded address, as stiff and mechanical as came across, was a hit with the delegates.   And unlike when Donald Trump addressed the Republicans last week, there wasn’t the very loud audible gasp in the audience as if you’re drunk uncle just took the microphone at your wedding and was about to do a toast regarding your new interracial spouse and family.  Of course at one point while watching the video I couldn’t help but think Clinton was going to say, “It is of no concern.  Soon the rebellion will be crushed and Sanders will be one of us.”

 

Do Your Dime Bag on Your Own Dime

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Here’s a thought.  If someone wants to get unemployment, they should have to be able to pass a drug test.

Why do I bring this up?  I bring it up because Indiana actually has a worker shortage.  Contrary to what you might think, the Hoosier state does not have enough skilled workers and it’s only going to get worse.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce recently published a study revealing that 45% of employers were leaving positions unfilled because they couldn’t find workers to fill the spot.  And while some of that is lack of skills, a lot of that is individuals not being able to pass a drug test.

So here’s one way to address that.   If you want unemployment benefits, you have to agree to random drug testing.  Or if you apply for a job while on unemployment and you fail your drug test, you lose your benefits.

Federal regulations already allow states to tie unemployment benefits to drug testing in certain cases, so there’s no reason why Indiana couldn’t promulgate rules to make that happen.  In fact, there was legislation introduced a few years ago that would have done just that.  However it didn’t pass.  I would assume that because unemployment was much higher lawmakers weren’t too thrilled about creating a barrier to getting benefits.

However, in a universe where unemployment is not only low, but there’s a worker shortage, there is no reason why we shouldn’t tie these benefits to drug testing.

If you want to stay home and get high, that’s your right.  But the conservative-libertarian in me says you should do your dime bag on your own dime.

 

Dear GOP, I Hope You’re Happy Now

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I think there is a certain amount of irony that on the day the AP reports that Hillary Clinton has the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination for President, Republicans are scrambling to deal with the Donald and his latest Trumpism.

You know, the one about the judge overseeing the lawsuit involving Trump University.  Trump says Judge Gonzalo Curiel is a “Mexican” so he is against Trump because the candidate wants to build a wall on the southern border.   Cabrón!!!

Trump is who he is so no one should really be shocked at the outrageous things he says, but just when you think he’s hit the bottom of the barrel he manages to dig a little deeper..

However, for my Republican friends if you think life was annoying before, just wait.

Because people were “mad at the establishment” you now have a Presidential nominee who is going to continue to double down, make that quadruple down on outrageous comments.

And now instead of talking policy and offering a vision as to why conservative ideas are better than liberal/progressive ones to move America forward you are now going to get the Marco Rubio/John Cornyn treatment.

And note, the only people who will think this stuff is cool will be the Trumpsters (his supporters).  Those of us who are sane will have moved on to other things.  We told you this was going to happen, now you have to live with the consequences.

Hope you’re happy.  I’m off to get some more info on Gary Johnson. He seems like a nice, sane, guy.

The Politics of Credit and Blame

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Recently I heard an elected official give a speech where he touted how the economy was turning around, jobs were coming back, unemployment was dropping, but there was still more work to be done.

Shortly afterwards, I heard someone who opposes that elected official say that while jobs were being created, they weren’t good paying jobs, wages were stagnant, and hard working folks were still falling behind.

Now here’s where it gets tricky.  The elected officials who were touting the good economic news were Barack Obama and Mike Pence.   The ones saying things weren’t all that great were Donald Trump and John Gregg.

Talk about some strange bedfellows.

I have always said that for good or bad, the President and Governor get the credit or blame when the economy does well or goes south, even though the only jobs that government creates are government jobs; that’s just the way things are.

And I have always found it fascinating when politicos try to thread the credit/blame needle of the economy being great or not as bad under the guy on their side of the aisle, however, it’s the Great Depression when it comes to that other guy they’re running against.

The truth is always in the middle.  And the real data shows things are turning around for a major portion of the population, however it mostly the low-skilled and low-educated workers who are getting the short end of the stick.

This is why instead of spending a lot of time playing the credit/blame game, time might best be spent on developing policies and programs to give those folks the opportunity to get ahead and participate in the slow, but solid, recovery.

It’s also a lot easier to stay consistent, politically speaking.

I’m just saying.

Those “Good Paying” Jobs

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Indiana got some good news last week.

The state’s economy added 12,000 jobs in April and more Hoosiers were working last month than ever before.  Unemployment is at 5.2 percent and the state’s workforce participation rate is 65.3 percent, the national average is 62.8 percent.

Good news, right?  Not for everyone, especially critics.

Despite these little things called facts, the criticism is that while jobs are being created, they are not the “good paying” jobs that Hoosiers need.  They point out to the fact that Indiana’s per capita income is 38th in the nation at slightly less than $41,000 annually.  Of course, Indiana also ranks 5th in the nation for cheapest states to live.  By the way, the state with the highest per capita income was Connecticut ($67,000), which also ranked second in the country by CNBC as the most expensive state to live.   So there’s a bit of trade off.  But all this got me to thinking, what exactly is a “good paying” job?

Since “good” is a relative term, what’s good for me, my wife and dog, might not be good for my brother, his wife and eight kids.  So I decided anything that keeps a roof over your head and food on your table is good, especially considering the alternative.    Of course it helps if you do your part by getting an education, being able to pass a drug test, waiting until you’re married to have kids, and all those things that help keep you out of poverty, but we’re not talking about personal responsibility, we’re talking about good paying jobs.

According the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a single adult in Indiana with two kids needs to make nearly $51,000 before taxes to have a “living wage”.  Of course that depends on where you live (i.e. the cost of living in Richmond is nine-percent cheaper than Indianapolis), how much debt you have, whether you rent or own, etc., but we’ll stick with that number for sake of argument.  And what’s even more interesting two adults with two children and only one working only need to make $46,000 before taxes.  See, there’s something to be said for a two-parent household.  But I digress.

Well, according to the Department of Workforce Development, Indiana created 3,300 manufacturing jobs in April.  And my friends over at the Indiana Manufacturing Association tell me in September 2015 the average weekly wage in manufacturing was $1,058.  So let’s do a little math here.  ($1,058/wk x 52 weeks = $55,016).   So not only were 3,300 jobs created in April whose average salary nine months ago would afford a single parent with two kids a “living wage” but they also have a little extra to save or take a family vacation.  Of course, this assumes you’re qualified for the job in the first place.

Now if you got a job in the trade, transportation and utilities industry (3,300 of those jobs were also created in April), your average weekly salary was about $700 or $36,000 annually.  Your chances are somewhat better in the professional and business services (2,700 jobs created) or the private education and health services (1,900 jobs created).  You’re looking at about $800 weekly or $41,000 annually.  Granted, they don’t help out the single parent with kids, but if you’re single and no kids, you can have a decent quality of life because according to M.I.T. you only need to make slightly more than $20,000 to have a “living wage”.

Hmmm.

So what’s the moral of this story.   It’s easy, a “good paying” job means different things to different people.  It depends on whether you’re single or married, have kids, where do you live, what’s your education level, how much debt do you have, can you pass a drug test, etc.   So depending on your situation, there are a lot of good paying jobs out there.  And if you don’t think the jobs you’re qualified for pay “good enough”, maybe it’s not the jobs that are the problem.

 

Magic Mike

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

You may find this hard to believe but the biggest vote getter in the last Tuesday’s primary was Governor Mike Pence.

I’ll let that sit for a second.

Yup, the man who has been taking it on the chin when it comes to RFRA, LGBT rights, the abortion issue, you name it, got more votes than anyone on the ballot last week.

According to the most recent unofficial results published at the Secretary of State’s website, Pence got nearly 814,000 votes; 813,897 to be exact.  That by the way is approximately 267,000 more votes than John Gregg received who got slightly more than 546,000.  Pence also got more votes than Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders combined.

Now of course, the anti-Pence narrative has been two-fold.  First, Pence ran unopposed.  Second there were 26 percent of Republicans who voted in the primary chose not to choose him.

Fair enough, now let’s put that in perspective.  Let’s say for sake of argument that a “non-vote” for Pence was a “no vote” and 26 percent of Republican primary voters wanted someone else on the ballot.  If we accept that as true then logic dictates that 74 percent of Republican primary voters wanted him on the ballot.  Right?

Secondly, the folks touting that 26 percent drop off between the Presidential and Governor’s race seem to have conveniently forgotten that there were two races in between those spots, the U.S. Senate and Congressional districts.  And when you look at the theory of voter drop off as you go down the ballot, things tend to get put in a little more perspective.

  • Presidential primary – 1.1 million votes cast
  • U.S. Senate primary – 983,000 votes cast (11 percent drop off)
  • Congressional primaries – 908,000 votes cast (18 percent drop off)
  • Governor Mike Pence – 814,000 votes cast (26 percent drop off)

So as you can see, the “drop off” had already started long before primary voters got to the Governor’s slot.

And if you really want to dig, there was a combined 11 percent drop from the total number of Congressional primary votes and the votes for the Governor, or in other words, 94,000 Hoosiers decided not to vote for Pence.  Now let’s assume those non-votes are no votes and they all will vote for John Gregg in November.  Instead of 267,000 vote head start, Pence has a 173,000 vote start.  Which is about 100,000 more votes than what Pence beat Gregg by the last time.

Now this is not to say that Pence doesn’t have a lot of work to do this campaign season.  Heck, even the Governor will be the first one to tell you he has  a lot of work he’ll have to do to win back those moderates and independents who are crucial to any victory.  However, if you are going to try and take the primary results to begin writing the political obituary of Mike Pence, you may find that rumors of his political demise might be somewhat grossly exaggerated.

Winners, Losers and Warning Signs

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Winners, Losers and Warning Signs

Since the May primary is officially over, it’s time to do the annual post-mortem winners and losers blog post.  Feel free to add your own in the comment section…

Winners

  • Donald Trump, obviously. Hoosiers not only gave him 53 percent of the vote but him on the clear path to the GOP nomination.  Good luck uniting your party.
  • Bernie Sanders. The old socialist puts together a coalition and beats Hillary Clinton.  Not that it matters at the convention, but you take your wins where you can get them; just not the delegates.
  • Todd Young. A superior air and ground campaign, coupled with missteps by his opponent and bad press at the end vaulted him to likely be the next U.S. Senator from Indiana.
  • Jim Banks and Trey Hollingsworth. Both men managed to navigate a crowded field and come up with victories.  Albeit Hollingsworth’s will be short-lived if he can’t unite 9th CD Republicans because Shelli Yoder and the Democrats are definitely going to target him.
  • David Long. The President Pro Tempore took his challenger seriously and beat the hell of him, 73-27.
  • Luke Kenley. (See David Long)

 

Losers

  • Ted Cruz. I had written a Facebook post earlier saying Indiana would either Cruz’s Alamo or Gettysburg.  Turns out it was both.  And by the way, we broke the news five hours before it was official that Cruz was preparing a concession speech where he would suspend his campaign and it made Fox News.  I’m just sayin.
  • Hillary Clinton. In a state where she gets the support of Evan Bayh, Joe Donnelly, Joe Hogsett and Andre Carson and she still loses to the old Socialist from Vermont.  Ouch!  She even lost Marion County.  Get some band aids.
  • Marlin Stutzman. You would have thought Stutzman could have thrived in the “outsider” environment, however between joining the Young petition challenge, the campaign finance issues, the out of state consultants and running out of money at the end, it was the perfect storm to lose in.
  • Everyone who ran against Jim Banks and Trey Hollingsworth. Although both only got about 35 percent of the vote,  that’s all you need in crowded field and had not everyone and his mother run in those seats, it might have been a different story, much like the Presidential race.
  • Pete Miller. Although a nice guy, Miller got it from both sides.  The far right had an axe to grind over RFRA and LGBT rights and there was an undercurrent by some local folks that he just wasn’t representing his District.  A bad combination.
  • Casey Cox. He got a far right challenge over RFRA, but also I am told as the author of the abortion bill that banned abortions based on race, gender and disability, some Democrats crossed over to support his opponent.
  • The guys who ran against David Long and Luke Kenley. I’d call the cops after the beating you got.
  • Curt Smith, Indiana Family Institute. Not only did Ted Cruz get his clocked cleaned.  Smith’s efforts to take out the Senate President failed.  And Smith even lost his race to be convention delegate.  Yes, he did managed to help take out Miller, but that’s like taking home a box of Rice-A-Roni, a case of Turtle Wax and a copy of the home game after losing on Jeopardy.

 

Warning Signs

  • Mike Pence and John Gregg. Although it might be easy for hard Ds and Rs to paint Pence and Gregg as either winners or losers after last night (Pence getting nearly 200,000 more primary votes than Gregg or Pence’s under-vote in some Republican areas) it’s actually a little more complicated than that.  In fact it’s so complicated; you will have to read about it in my next column on one of my various media platforms.  I promise to let you know when it goes up.

Trump Should Welcome a Contested Primary

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

You know for a guy who supposedly got rich because of his negotiation skills, you would think Donald Trump would be French kissing the idea of a contested Republican convention instead of whining about the possibility.

Think about it.

What happens in a contested convention?  If no candidate has a clear majority of delegates after the first vote, the wheeling and dealing begin.  Trump has gotten rich doing that so why worry?

Trump claims that he can build a wall on the border and make Mexico pay for it.  He says he can renegotiate our trade deals with China and Japan and eliminate our trade deficit.  And he called the Iranian nuclear deal a sham and says he could do a lot better.  So if he can negotiate all these items, why should he be worried about a few delegates?

And when you break it down, it’s really not that many.

Remember, to get the Republican nomination for President, you need 1,237 delegates.  After Wisconsin, Trump has 740 or 47 percent of the current total.   If he stays on this trajectory he will have about 1162 delegates by convention time, which is 75 delegates short of what’s needed to win the nomination..

So you mean to tell me one the most famous billionaires in America who has been negotiating multi-million and billion dollar deals for decades is worried about convincing 75 people to change their minds and support him for President?  Seriously?

Trump who plans to bring the Chinese to their knees, make Mexico fork over a few billion pesos to build a wall and bomb the you know what out of ISIS is worried that he can’t 75 Republicans to change their mind and support him for President?

If that’s the case then it appears that rumors of Trump’s deal making abilities may have been grossly exaggerated.

When Third Parties Become First Choice

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

One day I was asked that if it came down to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who would I vote for President?   My answer was Justin Trudeau because I would be living in Canada. (Rimshot!)  But seriously folks,  when you take a good look at what’s been happening at the national level and to a lesser degree, the state level, third party candidates are starting to look a lot better to a lot more people.

A recent Monmouth national poll had Libertarian Presidential candidate and former two-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson at 11 percent in a three-way match up with Clinton and Trump.  Clinton was at 42 percent, Trump came in at 34 percent.   And before you accuse Johnson of “stealing” votes from Republicans thus helping elect a Democrat, the data showed he pulled about equally from both candidates.  Actually he pulled slightly more from Clinton than Trump.   And the main reason for his support, you guessed it, people are really tired of two-party system and the current crop of candidates.

Here locally, while the Republican and Democratic candidates have pretty much settled on their gubernatorial candidates, Libertarians actually have a contest between longtime party activist and construction company owner Rex Bell of Wayne County and Fishers businessman Jim Wallace, who sought the GOP nomination in 2012.   I sat down with both of them and moderated a debate and they’ve both encountered a lot more support for a third party candidate than in previous years.  And even on my own website, Indy Politics, I am running an informal poll and so far nearly 60 percent of the  close to 1,000 respondents so far say they would be willing to support a third party candidate.

Why are so many people taking a new interest in third parties?  It’s easy, they are tired of the current two-party system; the bickering, the ineffectiveness, the gamesmanship that doesn’t lead to anything, the inside baseball, you name it.   Normally third parties only get nominal attention, unless there is something really big going on, like a Ross Perot in 1992.  This year is different.  Will they win, probably not.  But will their presence be felt, definitely.

Politics 101 – Know How to Count

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

One of the  first things they teach you in Politics 101 is how to count, especially when it comes to the number delegates needed to win a nomination.  Because now that we are past Super Tuesday, knowing how to count delegates is more important than the actual delegate count.

This is important because while Donald Trump has a clear lead in the delegate count, there’s a lot more to it.  Try to keep up.

Using Real Clear Politics  as our reference point, Trump clearly leads with 316 delegates.  A candidate needs 1,237 to win.  That means Trump has  26 percent of the delegates he needs to win.  However, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson and John Kasich have a combined 365 delegates.  So when you look at total delegates (everyone else who dropped out notwithstanding)  Trump has 47 percent of current total delegate count, everyone has 53 percent.  And remember a majority gets you the nomination, not a plurality.

Now here’s the second thing to think about here.  Trump does very well when there is an open primary system.  He won big in new Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Massachusetts which are all open and anyone can vote as long as you are registered.  He did not do so well in Alaska, Oklahoma and Iowa which are closed primaries.  Why does this matter?  There are 21 contests between now and the end of the month, seven caucuses, 11 primaries and three conventions. Fifteen of those are closed, so only registered Republicans can vote, which means they are structurally favored for someone other than Trump.

Also throw in the fact that out of those 21 contests, only seven are winner take all and that depends on breakdowns of congressional district delegates versus winner take all delegates.  And don’t even get me started on the rules regarding proportionality.  It’s even more complicated.

So what’s the moral of the story.  Like I said, you have to know how to count.  And after looking at the map for the next 30 days, anyone who thinks Donald Trump has this election in the bag, definitely does not know how to count.