Friday, February 12, 2016

POSTED: Thursday, February 11, 2016, 8:05 PM

Between a day off yesterday and a heavy editing gig tonight, there's been no time for the normal bloviating (good for you, right?). But the state of the Democratic presidential race has changed quite a bit since we last checked it out just four days ago. That's partly because of the surprising size of Bernie Sanders' landslide win over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. But it's also because of the weird geography in which the candidates focus for months on Iowa and New Hampshire -- mostly white, as previously discussed -- and then launch a mad scramble for black support in South Carolina, where African-Americans are a majority, or close to it, in the state Democratic Party.

In this regard, Bernie had a great day on Wednesday when Ta-Nehisi Coates -- arguably the top black public-intellectual writer of the moment -- said he would vote for Sanders and The Nation's Michelle Alexander wrote a withering critique of how the Bill Clinton White House treated black Americans.

But today was a pretty great day for Hillary, who hailed the endorsement of the Black Congressional Caucus PAC (PAC?...It's complicated) and got a priceless shout-out (and perhaps unfair dig at Sanders) from -- for my money (heh) -- the greatest living American, the civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis.


POSTED: Tuesday, February 9, 2016, 8:05 PM
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Verizon Wireless Arena on Feb. 8, 2016, in Salem, New Hampshire. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Do you want to know the scariest part of what just happened in New Hampshire. It's that in a few short months. too many of us have grown too used to the idea. The idea that a guy with no policy ideas other than that his orange-topped brilliance will force the Chinese to cower, the Mexicans to pay for a giant wall and  that he will "make America great again" can actually capture the presidential nomination of the party of Abraham Lincoln. The idea that a short-fingered, anti-woman tweeting, anti-immigrant hate-mongering vulgarian named Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States.

As I write this, the newsroom TVs are glowing red, white and blue with the predictable pundit prattling. There's a lot of focus on the race for second place in the Granite State, and on who's moving up going into the next round of states. But let's not dismiss Trump's victory tonight. We shouldn't. We can't. There's too much at stake.

Trump's appeal, especially to blue-collar independents, is testament to the anger that a large and powerful voting bloc -- dominated by older white males -- is feeling in an era when America is becoming increasingly non-white and the middle class is continually undermined. The unlikely rise of the inexperienced real-estate magnate will probably be compared to other iconic political moments -- from LBJ's moral defeat in the snows of New Hampshire in '68 to Obama's surge eight years ago.

POSTED: Monday, February 8, 2016, 8:31 PM
Granite State showdown: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at Thursday night's debate. (JUSTIN SULLIVAN / Getty Images)

If you're a political junkie like me, one of the great things about being alive in 2016 is that there's more than one way to "watch a debate." Last Thursday, I was commuting by train during a lot of the (relatively) rock 'em, sock 'em debate between the Democratic presidential candidates in New Hampshire…so I "watched" it on Twitter.

That meant my view of the clash between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton was filtered with a thick layer of Internet snark. But it also meant that a lot of my first impression was set by the pundiocracy, the Acela set, or whatever we're calling these days the D.C. pundits who try — with mixed results - to shape our political agenda.

A lot of those TV and Internet talking heads called it a bad night for Bernie Sanders, because he’d seemed to fumble questions about North Korea and other foreign-policy hot spots. But after I got home and saw the actual debate highlights, I realized that it had, in fact, been a devastating night for Clinton.

POSTED: Sunday, February 7, 2016, 11:46 PM
Military personnel stands guard outside Levi's Stadium before the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

On Jan. 15, 1967, I was just a few days away from my 8th birthday. We'd just moved into Don Draper's neighborhood (although I didn't know it at the time, maybe because Don Draper is fictional) of Chilmark in New York's northern suburbs, with a dank family room and a fairly newfangled color TV. I could probably count on one had the sporting events I'd ever watched, as it had been just that fall that my Midwestern-raised dad had been turned on by a friend to the NFL's Giants. But something told me that I should check out this thing that was called, by some, the Super Bowl. Maybe because the name sounded like a favorite toy, my Super Ball.

By the next year, I was pretty much hooked on sports, so it's really no surprise that -- through a lifetime of many ups and downs -- I've positioned myself, wherever I was, on my 9-inch black and white TV in college or even on my computer while I worked, ahem, the Sunday night shift at the paper, to watch all 50 Super Bowls. Tonight's Super Bowl 50 was...well, it was the dullest one I've seen since the routs of the 1980s and '90s. But the game was marked by the usual helmet-crunching, CTE-causing violence, four hours of relentless capitalism (capped by the winning quarterback making his post-game remarks a product placement for Budweiser, after kissing the actual Papa John), and of course "honoring America" out the wazoo.

It was the USA...love it or leave it. I hope I live to see 50 more Super Bowls, or see the Philadelphia Eagles win just one. Both of those things seem highly unlikely.

POSTED: Thursday, February 4, 2016, 6:01 PM
In an Aug. 10, 2015, file photo, protester and social media activist DeRay McKesson records outside the Thomas F. Eagleton Federal Courthouse in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Shortly before 9 p.m. on Wednesday night, something really exciting happened in the world of American politics...and for once it had nothing to do with the short-fingered vulgarian of 5th Avenue, the "democratic socialist" from maple-syrup country, or anyone else among the shrinking cast in the 2016 White House reality show.

The best-known civil rights activist to emerge from the chaos in Ferguson and the #BlackLivesMatter movement -- 30-year-old social-media whiz DeRay Mckesson -- filed papers at the last possible moment to run for the open mayor's job in his hometown of Baltimore.

Even though Mckesson's remarkable odyssey from a comfortable-but-obscure school administrator to a leader of protests in Ferguson and elsewhere has made him a national figure in just 18 months, the activist -- famous for, among other things, his bright blue down vest that he wears year-round -- faces an uphill campaign against 12-13 other Democrats, including several elected officials. But after marches, sit-ins, and occasional unrest -- including a mini-riot in Baltimore last April after the killing of arrestee Freddie Gray -- it will be fascinating to see whether #BlackLivesMatter can gain an electoral foothold.

POSTED: Thursday, February 4, 2016, 3:22 PM
Signe Wilkinson 02/03/16

Just a short in-between-posts-post to say that it wasn't just me who thought that Monday's Iowa caucus wasn't democracy's finest hour. It was also the state's largest, and much-honored, newspaper, the Des Moines Register. Oh, and Iowa's popular long-time governor.

One of these days, America will figure out how to elect a president. I won't live to see it.

POSTED: Wednesday, February 3, 2016, 6:06 PM
Gov. Wolf and the Assembly have been at odds for months over a new state budget and the money he wants. (DAVID SWANSON / File Photograph)

There's a thing that pops up Twitter from time to time under the hashtag, #ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion....a way for folks to express their undying love for Nickelback or the movie Ishtar. Well, here's mine: I think Tom Wolf is doing a good job after one year as Pennsylvania's governor.

I know this is an unpopular opinion because the pollsters tell me that the first-term Democrat has a low approval rating -- pretty close right now to where it was for his predecessor Tom Corbett, who in 2014 was unceremoniously voted out of office by the people. With the state unable to pass a real working budget during 2015, and with school districts and non-profits facing continued uncertainty over how much money they'll get from Harrisburg and when it might come, that's hardly a surprise. According to one recent poll making the rounds, the governor's current approval rating is at 33 percent.

In that case, We...Are...The 33 Percent.

POSTED: Tuesday, February 2, 2016, 4:33 PM
(Jim Mahoney/Associated Press)

ROSENCRANTZ: Heads. (He picks up the coin and puts it in his money bag. The process is repeated.) Heads. (Again.): Heads. (Again.) Heads. (Again.) Heads.

GUILDENSTERN (flipping a coin): There is an art to the building up of suspense. Heads.(flipping another): Though it can be done by luck alone.

ROSENCRANTZ: Heads.

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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