The Polls Are Open… And We Wait

Bars are closed on Election Day in most locales, but you can have a Whiskey right here.

By now, you’ve either voted absentee or you plan to vote today. Then again, maybe you’ll sit it out. That’s up to you…

You’ve likely made up your mind regarding Trump-Pence versus Biden-Harris. Or perhaps you’ll vote Libertarian, or do a write-in or leave the ballot blank. It’s up to you as well…

Wherever you stand, today is your chance — the country’s chance — to grade Trump on the last four years.

It’s a pass/fail evaluation. In essence, the ballot asks only if you want Trump back in the White House. Yes or no.

Then we wait and see what happens tonight. Or more than likely, wait until tomorrow, if not the next day, if not the day after that. Or maybe longer.

There’s plenty to consider in all of this.

Let’s dig in…

Donald Trump versus Joe Biden is definitely a “choice” election, with two competing views of the future.

In one corner, we have the Republican Party, clearly transformed by Trumpism, moving much more towards becoming a proverbial “party of the working man.”

Hey, when 57,000 people show up at a Trump rally in the old-line manufacturing town of Butler, Pennsylvania (pop. 15,000), something is happening. And that alone is a political shift with generational implications.

On the other side you have what used to be the Democrat Party, now transformed — if not hijacked — by shadowy coastal elites, spouting policies cooked up in the recesses of both Davos and the Progressive academic Left.

At the same time, this is a “referendum” election. You either like President Trump’s policies or not. You like Trump personally, or not.

For five years, Trump has been and remains a disruptor. He’s from outside the cozy system. And it shows.

Simply through his presence — let alone his policy choices, executive orders, tweets, etc. — Trump drives some people crazy.

The political establishment hates Trump. The Deep State can’t stand him. Bureaucrats grit their teeth and drag their feet at his orders. Federal judges enjoin him.

Trump is hated by Big Media, Wall Street, Big Tech, academia and globalists everywhere. The Progressive left despises him. It’s visceral. (And it’s mutual.)

Yet there he is… The builder from Queens, hard as steel, taking everything his opponents throw at him and tossing it back.

Immigration, trade, regulation, energy, taxes, social policy, war and peace, and much, much more…

With Trump it’s “America First.”  And oh, how his opponents hate that phrase.

“I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump once quipped about withdrawing from an industrially disastrous international energy/climate agreement.

And it’s worth noting: the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently endorsed Trump for a second term.1 “‘Good-paying green jobs’ are probably not jobs for Pittsburgh, or Cleveland, or Toledo, or Youngstown,” wrote the newspaper that serves Western Pennsylvania.

Yes, Trump is a bull in the Washington “China” shop. (The capital “C” is intentional.)

And like him or not — his policies and/or his style — Trump is consequential.

Four more years? We’ll see…

On the other hand, Biden offers a return to what he calls “normal”…

The first element of the Biden campaign is obvious: to get rid of Trump. That’s all many want to see at the end of the day. Adios, Orange-Man!

Beyond that, Biden proposes to return the country to some semblance of a now-lost — and somehow better — past. He’s unclear about which decade he’ll time-travel to, though, considering that Biden has been a fixture in Washington since January 1973.

Much of Biden’s political career covered years of U.S. decline — certainly, the 1990s forward and the rise of China as a global strategic competitor.

These decades were eras of globalization, financialization, deindustrialization, wrecking the middle class, the deterioration of American academe. Biden was right there, in the thick of it, every inch of the way.

Biden has not run a visible campaign. He avoided media and evaded tough questions, from overall policy to his execrable family dealings with China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and more.

Yet Biden successfully leveraged the ongoing COVID pandemic as both a club with which to beat on Trump and as an excuse to remain out of sight and away from voters.

Looking back over Biden’s low-key campaign, he obviously sat on his lead in the polls, burned the clock and took an easy, lazy float towards Election Day.

To the extent we know anything about a future “President Biden,” he offers some variation of Obama redux, if not Obama’s third term.

That, and a new national future with his “Biden Plan”/Green New Deal, which — as we’ve discussed — will dramatically decarbonize and disrupt the energy supply, if not upend the economy.

In addition to a radical new energy policy, Biden has waved his arms and promised free stuff, like “Medicare for All.” And free college. And some semblance of free money via “universal basic income,” all paid for via the magical mysteries of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

Meanwhile, per an old Washington saying, “people are policy.”

No doubt, Biden’s staff are assembling their version of Washington’s famous “Plum Book,” the list of over 7,000 federal positions, jobs and committees that are subject to presidential appointment.2

On this last point, give Democrats credit for having a political farm team that puts professional baseball to shame. They have people for every job.

In a Biden administration, we’ll see new faces — albeit, many familiar old names — across Washington; well-vetted, reliable Progressive and Neocon policy players from the Clinton-Bush-Obama (CBO) days.

Biden will rehire former CBO officials, as well as trusted Congressional staffers, K-Street lobbyists, think tankers, Wall Street bankers, big shot lawyers, state and local party loyalists and armies of faculty lounge kooks from universities across the land.

These kinds of people will make policy for Biden. They’ll write “interagency consensus” papers, such as what (now retired) Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman used to worship (as discussed here).

In this regard, what may be “normal” to Biden resembles more of a political “restoration” in the worst sense of the word. Back to the 1990s, 2000s and much of the 2010s…

It’s something like the exiled aristocracy returning to France after the unpleasantness of the French Revolution and Napoleon.

Intentionally or not, Biden summons the ghost of Talleyrand, who said of the returning French Bourbons that, despite their years out of power, “they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”

On all of this, we’ll find out tonight, or perhaps tomorrow or the day after.

But looking back, what has this campaign season been all about?

According to a recent Gallup Poll, 56% of Americans believe they are “better off now than four years ago.”

That’s better than Reagan had in 1984. Or Obama in 2012.

But is today’s election about those so-called “issues,” which some people claim are so important?

Or is the election at root all about personalities… Certainly the personality of You-Know-Who?

One way or another, and connected with both policy and personality, the thing that struck me over the past six months or so was the phenomenal level of fundraising just for campaigning.

The campaign was definitely about money…  About raising ungodly gobs of it. At the federal level, I’ve seen numbers that add up to tens of billions of dollars.

For example, Joe Biden’s campaign had months in which it raised $300 million and more. That’s over $10 million per day.

The thing is, no politician raises that kind of cash via contributions from the “little guy” at, say, $20 per pop.

Just do the math…  At $20 per donation, a campaign requires 500,000 people to slap down the credit card every single day and build that $10 million war chest.

No, that’s not how it works…

The way to raise big money, like $10 million per day, is to make big promises to big, wealthy donors.

For that $10 million per day, Biden had to make promises to Wall Street, Silicon Valley, corporate oligarchs, K-Street lobbyists, Hollywood, the “trust fund” class.

By definition, deep-pocketed people write big checks. Often as not, the checks go through “bundlers,” who in turn show up with hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars during a campaign cycle.

At the presidential level, this kind of fundraising places serious money under control of the candidate’s campaign committee. And of course, donors expect payback if/when their guy wins.

Plus, consider related spending by other party apparatus such as the “Republican/Democrat National Committees,” and “R/D Senate Campaign Committees” and “R/D House Campaign Committees.”

These are not policy organizations. They’re more like… well, banks. Routinely, they take big checks from deep-pocketed donors — much of it “dark” money. Then they spread the cash to candidates.

Later, donors want something back, like certain people in certain “Plum” jobs, or certain policies, or spending on certain issues.

Plus, there are so-called “independent” (no, not really) expenditures by political action committees (PACs) and similar issue-focused organizations. These players deal with everything from gun control to abortion, labor unions, minimum wage, health insurance, drug prices and much more…

People fork over all this money because they want their guy to promise who will get what jobs and how he will direct the federal money.

And big-time money concerns not only the presidential election…

Another goal of deep-pocketed players is to win elections in the Senate, House, state legislatures and other down-ballot contests.

Right now, Senate races in Kentucky, Arizona, Montana, Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina and Maine are ringing the cash register in the range of several tens of millions of dollars each. For the most part, it’s based on fundraising from high rollers, accompanied by the usual winks and nods.

In what appears to be a new spending record, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is being challenged by Democrat Jaime Harrison, a former lobbyist for big banks, pharmaceutical companies and even Walmart.

As of this past weekend, Harrison’s fundraising was over $100 million.

Think about that. A lobbyist-turned-challenger raised $100 million for a Senate seat in a small state like South Carolina. Hey, it’s not for the $174,000 annual salary.

Nor is Harrison’s $100 million mostly local. Much of the funds are outside money, especially New York and California money. Plus, Washington cash from PACs and Democrat slush funds.

In South Carolina, big donations and “bundles” come from people who want Sen. Graham out because of his help in placing three new justices on the Supreme Court, as well as to flip the Senate to the Democrats.

Follow the money, right?

So, whew! Finally, this expensive, contentious, bitter election fight draws to a close.

It’s been a long time… Plenty of water under the proverbial dam.

But today is the day…

While tonight, and over the next few days, we’ll await the outcome and learn what grade the voters gave to Trump.

We’ll see whose money-raising efforts bought themselves a president, and Senators and House members.

We’ll see who holds political power, control over policymaking — things like appointing federal judges — and government spending within the vast federal machine.

And in days to come, we’ll see how the country reacts…

We’ll find out if the owners of those downtown and strip mall buildings, who boarded up their windows, are onto a new trend that will sweep across the land.

Because despite the importance of today, there’s still tomorrow.

There’s always another dawn, when the diary of America begins a new page.

On that note, I rest my case.

That’s all for now… Thank you for subscribing and reading.

Best wishes,

Byron King

Byron King
Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder
WhiskeyAndGunpowderFeedback@StPaulResearch.com

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1 The Man and the Record, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

2 United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions, Wikipedia

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