The mother of all conspiracy theories 

I’m not saying real estate mogul Donald Trump has spent the past year and a half doing everything in his power to undermine the Republican Party and get Hillary Clinton elected. That would be one crazy conspiracy theory.

But if he were, the following facts would surely go a long way to explain what has been one of the most unbelievable presidential races ever. It also would make Hillary everything many Republicans already believe her to be: the most diabolical political candidate our country has seen in decades — maybe ever.

Consider the following facts:

  1. Trump and the Clintons were friends before the race. No one denies this, btw. The Clintons attended The Donald’s wedding in 2005. The notoriously cheap Trump has given money to both the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s senate campaign in New York. In fact, before this race, Trump always spoke highly of the Clintons. So when did he change his mind exactly?
  2. Bill encouraged Trump to run against Hillary. Ask yourself: why would he do that? Maybe he thought Trump was beatable. Or maybe he KNEW it. Out of the gate, Trump insulted Mexicans — a growing demographic and powerful voting block for the left. After the 2012 election, it was clear to anyone paying attention that Romney’s strategy of appealing only to white Christian voters was antiquated. Political experts agreed: the only way Republicans could win in 2016 was to broaden its appeal to minorities. Isn’t it odd then that Trump has taken the exact opposite approach. And it’s genius, right? Think about it: Trump is a well-known celebrity from “The Apprentice,”saying all the things the distraught and neglected Republican-core voters want to hear, making this political “outsider” an instant threat to stand out in a crowded field of primary candidates. Even if Trump failed, the long-term damage he could do to the Republican brand would be irreparable. Haven’t you seen more than a few stories about the death of the Republican Party this election cycle? Why would that be? I guess it’s just a coincidence that the Clintons’ loyal supporter and friend could be responsible for dismantling their opposition.
  3. Trump allegedly said Republicans were suckers. While fact-checkers haven’t confirmed this, there are those who say the proof Trump believed he could easily hoodwink Republicans has gone suspiciously missing — plucked from YouTube. Conspiracy much, bro?
  4. Trump appears to have done everything he could to lose. Usually after the primaries, candidates move to the middle. That is to say once they’ve secured their party’s support, they soften their stances to appeal to those on the fence. Not Trump. If anything he has doubled down on devisive rhetoric, even applauding cronies such as Newt Gingrich and Rudy Guilliani — who have terrible track records with women themselves — when they insult women like FoxNews’ Megyn Kelly for questioning how Trump could answer charges of sexual assault from a dozen accusers. Look at the big picture here: From promoting illegal torture, to proposing that all Muslims be at least temporarily banned from entering the U.S., to saying Mexicans would pay for his wall, nothing he is doing matches any expert’s winning strategy. This is a guy who called John McCain a loser for being a POW. You can’t make this stuff up.

Or can you?

If this conspiracy is right, a vote for Trump is a vote against the long-term viability of the lone major party fighting against an oversized federal government. And a vote for Hillary accomplishes the same thing.

The liberals and their media win no matter what. That can’t be right? That would be crazy.


Reagan’s lost Republicans 

For reasons I don’t understand, the Republican Party seems to have no interest in my vote. 

I was raised a Republican. Reagan was the president of my childhood, and my younger self identified with his speeches centered on self-reliance, the American dream, and reducing the scope and influence of government. Those themes fit like a glove in my mother’s household. Her very biggest rule for me was “be honest.” Nothing could make her more upset than a liar, but certainly I knew she also valued self-reliance. Growing up, I knew I shouldn’t expect others to do for me anything I could do for myself. Although my mother was socially more progressive, “liberal” was a dirty word in our home. I’d be well into my teens before a guy named Bill Clinton made me consider the possibility that not all Democrats were freeloaders or misinformed; I began to consider some people might actually want to use the government to lift up society’s most vulnerable. 

Still, in ’96, my first chance to participate in a presidential election, I cast my vote for Ross Perot. I was going through a libertarian phase, worried about the size of our federal government and believing that people could do a better job of pursuing their own ideas of happiness if government would just get out of the way. Twenty years later, I still largely feel the same. 

In the late 90s, right-leaning radio grump Don Imus became a hero of mine. I found him on US97 and enjoyed his disdain for elitism while working the dough room at a pizza restaurant where I made $5.75 an hour. This was the hardest job I have ever had. My young family was very poor at the time despite the fact my wife and I both worked. For a while, we utilized food stamps, which freed up money for rent, and my kids were born on Medicaid. I remember just how grateful I felt that there was a safety net for people like us. I don’t know how we could’ve made it otherwise. Despite my admiration for the I-Man, I’d vote for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. I felt government health care, in particular, lifted a huge burden off working poor people like myself, allowing them to better care for their families and pursue their American dream. By 2004, we were off Medicaid, off food stamps, and I had returned to college, determined to carve out a middle-class life for my family.

In 2008, I would graduate with a degree in journalism. My first job was with a biweekly newspaper run here in the conservative Ozarks by a staunchly Republican family. This was not a problem for me. The editor and publisher trusted me to guide our ’08 election coverage fairly, and I did my best to cover local, state and national elections with an even hand. I’m still proud of the work I did. Though I supported government investments in infrastructure and education, I considered myself an independent. 

A fan of John McCain – based on my familiarity with the senator and POW as a regular guest on Imus – it was the 2008 election where I began to feel the charismatic Democratic senator from Illinois was not getting a fair shake. The market was tanking at the time and all of my research indicated keeping interest rates low and stimulating the economy through FDR-like spending was the best course of action for our nose-diving market. I quietly voted for Obama, and I’ve never regretted it. 

When the Tea Party sprung up in ’09 and ’10, I was exposed through my job to much of their rhetoric. While they would rail on about out-of-control government spending, the economists and contractors I’d talk to were much more supportive of the needed stimulus. Reining in such spending could actually cause a Depression and debt levels were still quite manageable compared to the size of the GDP. In WWII, for example, the ratio of debt to GDP was much higher. Here in southwest Missouri, I didn’t understand the anger I was exposed to. Couldn’t conservatives see what I was seeing? Bush, who I loved in early aftermath of 9-11, had cut taxes and started two wars. Now the economy was free-falling and debt spending was keeping it afloat. This was not the time to dig in heels. Obama’s course was not only not radical, it was the right course. 

And then there was health care. I supported Obama’s public option, which I thought would be the best way to drive rising health care costs down. But my Republican friends and colleagues freaked! This was subsidized care v. the free market — a completely unfair fight, they said. But Obama had what I thought was a strong backup plan: the Affordable Care Act, modeled after Republican “Romneycare” in Massachusetts and the proposed alternative to universal health care in the 90s. Surely, that would be agreeable. 

Not so much. 

The whole premise of Obamacare was that everyone needed to get insurance to help reduce costs for all because too many people weren’t covered, which puts the burden of costs on too few. My libertarian leanings didn’t like penalties for not securing coverage, but Medicaid expansion would at least protect the poor. Expansion also was made attractive to states with the federal government shouldering startup costs. I’m sure Obama thought opponents would fall in line. But he misread the room. 

The Supreme Court would rightly find states weren’t obligated to expand Medicaid, and so red states like my Missouri turned down billions of dollars to undermine the president’s efforts, ignoring or neglecting their often rural base, which could have benefited hugely from expansion. 

Now, over 60 times congressional Republicans have tried to overturn the ACA, the very system many prominent members of their party have championed in the past. Not surprisingly, rates continue to climb and it’s hard to imagine this system surviving as-is long into the next administration. 

And now we have Donald Trump, whom I once enjoyed on “The Apprentice.” The billionaire adept at avoiding taxes and securing bankruptcy protection, who has used in his campaign a fear of minorities and Muslims to solidify a base of support, has privately joked about sexual aggression against women, openly questioned the president’s citizenship, allegedly bilked small-business owners with the threat and promise of frivolous lawsuits and called war hero McCain a loser for getting caught behind enemy lines — a man who has built his business empire through media promotion — says he’s not getting a fair shake from the free press. 

Last night, in furtherance of his ongoing campaign nonsense, former Speaker and current Trump-waterboy Newt Gingrich, implored FoxNews show host Megyn Kelly to call adulterer and former president Bill Clinton a sexual predator, unsuccessfully, to make good I suppose for covering current sexual allegations against Trump. Kelly, rightfully, stood her ground. Has there been any acknowledgement on Gingrich’s or Trump’s behalf that Republicans in the 90s were wrong somehow to railroad Clinton for his unsettling indiscretion with a White House intern, which now looks positively tame compared to the allegations against Trump? Nah. I guess they’re too busy looking hawkishly toward the Middle East, planning to build a wall to keep out Mexicans all while cutting tax revenue for peers in their tax bracket. How can we pay for that?! Where is the outcry from debt-focused Tea Party conservatives now? 

The Republican Party of my youth promoted personal responsibility, eliminating government red tape and dependence, free markets and free people regardless of race, creed or nationality. Remember: Reagan called for tearing down walls, not building them. Just how is it that his party today easily demonizes those among us who fight for the upward mobility or the poor, good infrastructure and an educated workforce — things that actually open up the American dream to more people and create an environment for ripe for entrepreneurship and innovation. 

I never wanted to be a Democrat, but I guess that’s what I am. 

If the Republican Party ever begins to resemble Reagan’s type of thinking again, please let me and mom know (even she can’t stand all of Trump’s lies and posturing). We are just waiting for that ticket to earn our votes. 

All it might hold hidden

Somewhere I’m already dead,

Among the ferns in Costa Rica, 

An anteater,

Hunting for sweet earthy blood,

Selfless, thoughtless, bumbling

Under the green canopy,

Or held safe by pressure on a deep sea 

Floor, where the light can’t waken 

Or convict a whisper once boy

Who sat quiet to see

The top of this mother ocean,

And imagined for a full moment,

All it might hold hidden.

I may decide to ride the tide

As a single grain of black sand

Broken and born, my lava soul,

Shattered in the Bali sea,

Forever mournfully swaying 

In rhythm with the swells,

In the shadow of Mount Agong.

 Through the trick of time,

I see us meeting

In the space between

The ocean and the stars,

Where the debt of debtors is paid,

And no one is who we were,

Inseparable, indistinguishable

From the breath that is, 

was and will be.

There, only there,

We can lay down our shields and mirrors 

To rest. 

Lazy Jake runs for office

My old buddy Jake Wilburn beat me to the punch. I have no interest in holding a public office, but I’ve often thought it would be a lot of fun to run a campaign. Who doesn’t want to wear a dictator’s cap and pound their fists on a podium as throngs of supporters gobble up the the crap you make up on the spot, working themselves into frothing messes? Ah, politics. 

Jake is running for Lt. Governor of Missouri as a write-in candidate. Recently, using what appears to be a paper coozie as bait, my former late night donut-shop co-worker and friend asked followers to manufacture the scandal his campaign deserves. 

This was too good to pass up. 

Below is the nonsense I wrote in response to his query (still waiting to find out if I won) followed by an actual Q&A. For context, you should know he ran for state house seat in 2012 as a Libertarian, garnering roughly 18 percent of the vote in his southwest Missouri district. Now, he’s just having fun, promising to play Tetris if elected to what he sees as an unnecessary public post.

The contest

My buddy and would-be bureaucrat Lazy Jake Wilburn is seeking eternal glory and life on easy street as the next Lt. Governor of Missouri. A tireless advocate for toddler gun rights, this write-in candidate supports consensual corruption, regulating nonviolent video games, subsidies for dictators, Triple H (attitude era) and cushy government gigs.

With the story lines coming out of this year’s presidential campaign, Crooked Jake fits right in the mix. His resume skills include surprise groping of the inferior gender, losing work emails from home, and denying he said what you just heard him say. I know Jake says his run for office is all about the money (and drugs from ISIS) but I can see through his little game. I can smell a hidden snarky budget lesson. And we don’t need no education! What’s next booklover? Mandatory lesbian abortion awareness?

Lying Jake, a suspected North Korea national who won’t rule out burning political enemies alive when he loses, is distinguishing himself from the other candidates. In fact, I believe he is guilty of the greatest-possible sin in modern politics: he won’t pretend he can change anything. Ever since the founding fathers launched their guerrila campaign against the imperialists who rightly stole this land first, politicians of every stripe have promised, and largely failed, to deliver to constituents more freedom, prosperity, safety or services. Not Naked Jake Wilburn. This emperor wears no clothes and has the audacity to tell you he just likes being naked. No naive altruism free-riding on a working man’s dime; no hardened self-serving guardian of privilege. Just Bedwetter Jake and his ties to the Irish mafia. And the very worst part: this puppy mill owner wants working patriots to WRITE IN his name on the coming rigged ballot. No R or D to pencil in. How evil is that?

Pick stolen from candidate Jake Wilburn’s Facebook page

An actual Q&A

Here’s Jake answering a few real questions by email about his campaign. 

Q: Why this position?

A: In 2012 I ran a serious campaign for state representative. I was really jaded after those experiences realizing that 90% of people don’t vote based on substance and are very uniformed. The race for this useless position of Lieutenant Governor perfectly encompasses the game of pandering to willful ignorance that is politics. I could almost describe this campaign as a reaction of light hearted disgust.   
Q: What are some of the media outlets you have talked to?
A: When I launched the campaign I sent snail mail letters and materials to every major print and radio news organization in the state. I made sure they knew I was an actual candidate and requested to be given the same consideration for interviews or voter guide surveys as any other person running for office. I also reached out to some political podcasts and other outlets that interview interesting local people. Most of them told me that since I was running for office, even as a joke, they didn’t want to interview a candidate. I even tried to make sure sites like Ballotpedia and BallotAccess news knew about me. In the end I was interviewed by the Columbia Missourian newspaper, the Springfield News-leader, and a morning news talk station out of Columbia. I believe that if my name was printed on the ballot I would have done slightly better with the media…or maybe they are just biased and this whole thing is rigged…
Q: What kind of feeback have you been getting? Has anyone challenged the notion of the do-nothing job?
A: There have been some people that really “get it.” They seem into what I am doing and reward me with high fives. Facebook marketing tells me it’s the same type of people who like South Park and/or marijuana. Regardless, it’s a small group. I think the humor I use doesn’t have mass appeal to people who are deeply involved in Missouri politics like religiously conservative old white people and millennial communists. Most people I have talked to in person don’t really understand what I am doing or don’t care (see previous answer on being uniformed and willfully ignorant). A few people have been offended by the campaign because they are strongly backing another candidate. Others have been put off by my “unprofessionalism” so they obviously don’t get the joke.
Q: Worth it? How many votes do you expect?
A: Political satire is right up my alley and having an interesting and nonconventional avenue to express my opinions has given me personal satisfaction if nothing else. I’m also pretty much guaranteed to win “two truths and a lie” every time I play from now on. The only thing that worries me slightly is that this may hamper future opportunities in life since it might imply that I should not be taken seriously in other ventures. I don’t let fear decide my fate so I went with it anyway.     
It remains to be seen how many of those high fives turn into votes. A highway patrolman named Charles R. Jackson ran for Lt. Governor as a write in during the 2012 election and received 346 votes. I don’t even have that many likes on facebook. There was a write in candidate for a legislative seat in 2012 that had zero votes. He didn’t even vote for himself. With only a few exceptions in US history, write in candidates get abysmal numbers in elections so I am keeping my expectations low. If I buy a dozen donuts on Election Day and give one away to everyone who promises to write me in, I might come away with about nine votes and one with sprinkles left over for me to enjoy.

Expanding the base Trump style

So if Trump loses, do we lose our democracy? Talk from his supporters is actually turning to pitchforks and riots

Why? Trump — who has spent his entire adult life clamoring for and receiving public attention — says he’s not getting a fair shake from the media. That’s right, the same media so enamored with his divisive rhetoric that he barely had to advertise during the primaries; Clinton outspent Trump by $116 million in the party-focused part of the race.  

Of course, now that his off-camera self has been caught bragging about sexual aggression, that same media has the stones to publish stories coming forward from alleged victims claiming the kind of assault he was gabbing about. 

The media has a bunch of biases by the way, but it’s always slanted towards stories that produce revenue. If anyone should understand that, its Trump. Still, he can’t help but shovel coal into the campaign train he has driven off the tracks crying like a victim himself against the same media he’s used to build his empire. 

What is his strategy? How does this win over the growing group of people in the middle who might still vote for him? More than four in 10 people now identify as independent voters. So where is the exploration of the issues that might sway the uncommitted to the right? Trump arguing the system is rigged against him as the Republican candidate for president while conservatives still control the House and Senate is at odds with reality. 

But Trump isn’t spending his time on Twitter talking about lowering taxes; he’s insulting Alec Baldwin, Paul Ryan, Rosie O’Donnell. I. Don’t. Get. It.

Trump as Sherman with election end in sight 

As the 2016 presidential campaign reaches into the home stretch, New York real estate developer Donald Trump appears to have employed a political strategy akin to William Sherman’s march to the sea in the Civil War. Surrounding the former star of “The Apprentice” television series, is scorched earth here, there and everywhere in the wake of fresh sexual assault allegations. 

The enemy most clearly obstructing his path to the White House is corporate media. 

Those liberal bastards! How dare troublesome outfits such as The New York Times report allegations of sexual assault – as well as Trump’s emphatic denial – against said businessman while simply looking to become leader of the free world? 

To the Times’ credit, it appears a strong understanding of the First Amendment and libel case law by its legal reps have emboldened this pillar of American journalism. 

Yesterday, the Times laid a legal smackdown on Trump, all but begging him to sue the publication for exercising that thing we call freedom of the press. The letter, authored by attorney David E. McCraw, is, in my mind, nothing short of beautiful – a jewel members of the media and lovers of the American legal system should enjoy far and wide. 

Trump, with all his bluster, took to the campaign trail trying to marry the Washington establishment with the liberal media despite the fact that the U.S. House and Senate remain under Republican control. It all feels desperate and predictable. 

While I could have never guessed The Donald would become the GOP’s nominee for president at the controversial outset of his campaign, the very tough path for Trump became clear before convention delegates landed in Cleveland this summer.

In 2012, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney did about as well as one could with white, Christian voters and still narrowly missed the executive office. No lesson learned for Trump, however, who has seemed hell-bent on doubling down on Romney’s strategy, alienating latinos, Muslims and minorities at nearly every turn. 

“The Atlantic,” which recently endorsed opponent Hillary Clinton – only the third such presidential endorsement by the publication since its founding in 1857 – is, unlike Trump, on top of the demographics. In its Oct. 13 piece, “We’ve reached the end of white Christian America,” it rightly notes that those who identify as both white and Christian now represent 45 percent of the population. 

Maybe that explains the anger and venom that rises to the surface at Trump rallies – America has changed without full white, Christian consent. And now there’s little left to do but wait for the crowning insult to the good-old-boy network that has for so long fed people like Mr. Trump so well: we elect a woman leader.

Nobel laureate Bob Dylan must have seen the writing on the wall when he said, “the times, they are a changin’.”

Hillary, Donald underwhelm in second debate

Last night, Secretary Hillary Clinton faced off against real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump in the second presidential debate of the 2016 election. If you watched the painful exchange of ideas for the duration, you likely already know the issues and candidates well and were struck by nothing, in particular.

In fact, precious few are excited about this election, according to Pew Research, which has found the most appealing quality in the candidate voters support is the fact that he or she isn’t the other.

To solidify your views, you may have turned to some of your favorite analysts on FoxNews, MSNBC, CNN or Twitter, where a culture of quick quips could have entertained you through the meandering democratic exercise. 

Fact checkers, perhaps not surprisingly, found the former first lady generally had a better handle on facts, while Mr. Trump, again, took more liberties.

Even so, this left-leaning hippie isn’t entirely lost when it comes to Trump’s appeal. While Hillary always seems to be searching for the right words, Trump is off the cuff, natural. If his view of the world aligned with reality, I might even be tempted to vote for him. But as it is, facts are important to me, and I like to break stereotypes; I’m a white male in my 40s, btw.

Regarding other impressions, it seems to me Trump can offer no adequate explanation for #gropegate, and Mrs. Clinton has no satisfying answers for lost emails during her tenure as Secretary of State. Both issues speak to character flaws, though I must admit to being more concerned about unwanted pussy grabbing, myself. Call me biased, if you like. Sidenote: isn’t Billy Bush just as creepy as you always thought he was?

Overall, viewers saw the debate much like I did, it seems; 57 percent thought Hillary won the night.

Looking forward, I found myself agreeing with Charles Krauthammer’s analyses on Megyn Kelly’s show post-debate: Trump salvaged his wreck of a campaign, but while Hillary could well be the target of future Wikileaks revelations, The Donald is just as vulnerable to more hot-mic moments from The Apprentice days or elsewhere.

Nov. 8 can’t arrive fast enough.