PPFA’s 300th Post-iversary! (A Retrospective)

Can you believe it? It’s taken three-and-a-half years, but Presidential Politics for America now has 300 posts on WordPress. That seems impossible to me, but I look back and… there they all are. Some people waste time by partaking in drugs and alcohol. Others binge TV series or cable news. But me? I write! Even if no one is reading. We all have our vices. (Well, except for Cory Booker.)

I thought this momentous occasion deserves to look back at some of the earlier moments that made this possible. Let’s re-examine some of posts 1 to 299. It’s kind of like a clip-show in a TV series. You know, because those are so well-received.

Do me a favor: click on at least one post that you think sounds interesting and take a look. You might enjoy being transported back in time for a bit.

Post #1 — September 13, 2015: Donald Trump and the Fragility of the GOP

The first post! Its thesis: that Republican voters were so sick of established leadership that they were ready to turn over the party to a non-Republican outsider who might “take the party in an unpredictable direction.” Considering his tariffs, his preference for Vladimir Putin’s word over U.S. intelligence, his undermining of U.S. federal law enforcement, his withdrawal of the U.S. from world leadership, and his presiding over unprecedented national debt growth, and most Republican voters not seeming to care about any of the above, I’d say that’s a point for PPFA!

Post #10 — September 25, 2015: The Trouble with Trump

Its thesis: boy, did Donald Trump look ignorant on the issues, and boy was I getting frustrated with his supporters not caring that he looked ignorant on the issues. It turns out I was also foreshadowing his presidency. I often think that even though he swings and misses so wildly as a president and a person, the fact that he’s fighting endears him to most Republicans. That and the judges.

I also used a picture of Trump hiding in a pile of tribbles next to Captain Kirk, so that was fun.

Trump Tribbles
Trump’s cameo in the legendary Star Trek episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles.”

Post #14 — October 7, 2015: Ted Cruz: Sleeper

The post that quickly put PPFA on the map before it just as quickly tumbled off. I made the case that Ted Cruz, who was well back in the polls and in the heads of oddsmakers, was in great position to rise and win the nomination. And rise he did, ultimately winning Iowa, ten other states, and finishing in second overall.

In the meantime, the post spread around the Cruz circles, aided by tweets from Rick Tyler and Chris Wilson, two high-ranking officials in Cruz’s campaign. The post ultimately had over two thousands likes, comments, and shares on Facebook, and it remains this site’s most read post.

That’s what runners call peaking too early.

Post #30 — November 9, 2015: The Ben Carson Post

Here I laid out my grievances against Ben Carson’s campaign, grievances not too dissimilar than I had against Trump. I have no problem with an “outsider” running for office if they seem to know the issues well, but Dr. Carson also didn’t seem to grasp them. I feared his experience as a leading brain surgeon, though impressive, did not set him up for the job of president.

“Carson tells us neurosurgery is a lot more difficult than being a politician. He may be right, but that’s not the point. They’re totally different tasks. They require different education, experience, and skill sets. . . . Scaling Mount Everest is more difficult than hitting a major league pitcher, but Edmund Hillary would have an impossible time hitting a double off Sandy Koufax.”

I also brandished PPFA’s “Complexity Spectrum.”

Complexity

Post #28 — December 1, 2015: The December Power Rankings

Ranking Trump as the third most likely nominee, I finally began to come to grips with his possible presidency. Here was me coming to grips:

“This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. (At this point, I don’t know if I’m telling you or reassuring me.)”

Post #34 — December 10, 2015: Hillary Clinton: Tone Deaf and Traumatized

Where I pointed out a disturbing approach to her campaign, an approach which contributed to her downfall in the general election. (Here I quote Clinton then give my reaction.)

“We’re not only dealing with one inflammatory demagogue, we’re dealing with a party in danger of losing its way, of undermining the values that we have stood for.”

This language loses all hope of bringing Republicans into the fold of her potential presidency. She lumps all of them together, as if they’s a monolithic group of racists, as if there aren’t good Republicans looking for good solutions to our big problems.

If I were advising her, I would have warned her against using such language again. Nine months later, however, we had “Basket of Deplorables,” one of the greatest motivators of Republican voters in the 2016 election.

Post #35 — December 11, 2015: Fifty Days Until Iowa!

With Trump still leading Iowa polls, I called the state for Ted Cruz. Nailed it.

Post #36 — December 14, 2015: CNN GOP Debate Preview

Candidates 5

I have no idea why it looks like John Kasich is wearing a beret.

Post #42 — December 24, 2015: All I Want for Christmas…

… is an open or brokered convention. Some time before I die. Please. I could die happy.

Post #52 — January 8, 2016: Donald Trump and the Paradox of Choice

Among my theories about Trump’s poll-topping longevity was that there were SO many ways to attack him that criticisms were diffused and no one could decide on what they should focus. It was a “paradox of choice.”

Post #63 — January 26, 2016: How Trump and Cruz Should Settle Iowa

Still my favorite post.

Posts 68 and 69 — January 31, 2016: My Iowa Caucuses predictions for each party

With great specificity, I ventured a prediction in each party’s opening contest…

Post #72 — February 2, 2016: PPFA: Basically Jesus

And absolutely nailed them! Trump still led Iowa polls, but I saw Cruz organizing his way to the top. In fact, I got the top five Republicans in the right order, and, like butter on delicious Iowan corn, on top of that I correctly saw Hillary Clinton winning by a nose.

Of course, in between (post 71), I predicted Marco Rubio was going to be the Republican nominee. That wasn’t very Jesus-like of me. More of a doubting Thomas.

Post #79 — February 8, 2016: Marco Rubio’s Achilles Heal

After thinking Rubio’s third place finish in Iowa had sent him off to the races, Chris Christie strapped on a suicide vest and tackled Rubio on a New Hampshire debate stage. Rubio’s campaign never recovered, and, looking back at it, it was the night Donald Trump became the likely nominee of the party. The only one who could take him down was first taken down himself by Trump’s portly co-conspirator. Trump went on to win New Hampshire and the two February contests to follow, setting himself up for a strong Super Tuesday.

Post #81 — February 9, 2016: New Hampshire Primary Predictions

More success! Though not quite perfect.

Post #88 — February 14, 2016: Antonin Scalia and American Politics

The night I heard Antonin Scalia died, I quickly scribbled this reaction. After chiding the too-quick politicization of his death (“our politicians and media are more classless than a Marxist utopia”), I anticipated the next year’s disappointing debate of whether President Obama should put forward a replacement and whether the Republican-controlled Senate should consider that replacement. The post generally lamented the state of American politics, which, if you took a drink every time I did so, would currently qualify you as an alcoholic.

Post #94 — February 21, 2016: Another PPFA Victory Lap

I certainly missed the rise of Trump, but boy was I nailing individual primaries! Nevada and South Carolina: easy peasy!

Post #100 — February 26, 2016: Is Donald Trump Inevitable?

What an ominous 100th post! Even before Super Tuesday, I was saying things like:

  • “You know it. I know it. We didn’t want to believe it, but it’s happening. Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, and there’s no stopping it.”
  • “[W]e can’t forget that he’s already up by double digits in nearly every national poll. Considering A) his great February, B) the fact that he leads in most states across the country, and C) his imminent Super Tuesday triumph, there’s no reason to think he’ll ever lose his big national lead.”
  • “We also can’t forget that people who get drunk on Trump never sober up.”
  • “It’s his world; Republicans are just living in it.”
  • “Not only is he an inevitable nominee, but it’s increasingly clear that he gives the Republicans a great shot in November. The same people who thought he never had a shot at the nomination are now saying the same about his general election chances.”
  • “Consider that his likely Democratic opponent also has huge unfavorables. Consider that independents have an extremely skeptical opinion of her.”
  • “[I]t’s clear that Trump is creating totally new voters — disenfranchised, un-formally-educated, and mad-as-hell Americans who feel like their own party keeps losing battles in Washington as the country burns all around them.”

Yikes.

Post #118 — March 11, 2016: No, Trump Did NOT Have a Good Debate

Trailing only “Ted Cruz: Sleeper,” this is actually PPFA’s second most read column in its history. As I so frequently did, here I criticized Trump’s lack of knowledge and curiosity on the issues. In this case, I was using the previous night’s debate to show it. Anti-Trumpers really seemed to like the post and shared it around.

Post #123 — March 16, 2016: Experience is the Teacher of All Things

After the March 15 “Ides of March” primary day made made it crystal clear to me that Donald Trump was headed toward the Republican nomination, a depressed and emasculated PPFA gave up the blog for a while. At least I did it in a clever way: the day after warning readers to “Beware the Ides of March,” I used my second favorite Julius Caesar quote to headline my disappointed departure.

Post #124 — April 8, 2016: Why I Stopped Writing

But I couldn’t stay away!

Post #125 — April 10, 2016: A New York State Unkind (to Ted Cruz)

“Ted Cruz’s chickens have come home to ride the 7 train,” I said, commenting on Cruz’s myopic “New York values” criticism of Trump. Criticizing the media for trying to hype up Cruz’s chances after a Wisconsin win, I warned that in the imminent New York Primary, “the narrative coming out of Wisconsin — that Cruz was consolidating #NeverTrump forces and was kicking off a big comeback against a mortally wounded Trump — will be totally reversed.” I said Trump was about to win big in not just New York, but, written a couple days later, across the entire northeast.

And that’s what happened.

Post #134 — April 24, 2016: The John Kasich Post

I only saw one of the candidates campaign in person. Here, I wrote about it.

“Bob Dylan Band-mate Robbie Robertson once described Dylan’s decision to go electric at Newport as a ‘rebel rebelling against the rebellion.’ That’s John Kasich in the 2016 Republican Primary.

In the year of the outsider railing against the establishment, Kasich is the establishment railing back.” 

Post #139 — April 30, 2016: Help Us, Indiana. You’re Our Only Hope

The trilogy begins.

Post #140 — May 3, 2016: The Coronation of Donald Trump

While pundits were again talking themselves into a possible Cruz win in Indiana to slow down Donald Trump (particularly after a now awkward endorsement of Cruz from Indiana Governor Mike Pence), I knew better.

  • “It’s happening. Donald Trump is going to win big in Indiana, allowing him to do the same in the next nine states. He has gone from a laughing stock to one election from the Oval Office. From reality TV to avatar of the angry masses. From Birtherism conspiracy to the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. Tonight, in one of the more amazingly self-fulfilled prophecies in recent political history, Donald Trump will be crowned a winner.”
  • “Do not, do not, DO NOT dismiss his candidacy in the general. The probability of him winning this election feels roughly a thousand times more likely than his chances of winning the nomination when he glided down an escalator to the rebellious sounds of Neil Young. (Oh, how we laughed!)”
  • “Ultimately, he has the media wrapped around his finger (or is it the other way around?), a steadily acquiescent Republican Party, the promise of heretofore disinterested voters, and, most important, the perfect opponent for an authenticity campaign. Indeed, Bernie Sanders has softened the ground for Trump. Nearly half the Democratic Party now joins the Republicans in defining Hillary Clinton as speaking and acting on behalf of institutions, not people. Trump’s entire campaign is based on the reverse. If you don’t think that’s dangerous in 2016, you’re not paying attention.”
  • “You’re darn right this read as a general election post. It has begun.”

Post #141 — May 4, 2016: This is a Problem

In a column about Hillary Clinton, I warned “This is a huge problem for the Democratic Party.” Was I right, or was I right?

Post #144 — May 13, 2016: Electoral Math: Six Months Out

In my first crack at the electoral math, I saw Clinton with a narrow 276 to 262 victory — considerably closer than the general punditry predicted.

Post #150 — June 3, 2016: Dear Anti-Trump Protesters

After said protesters resorted to indefensible actions against Trump supporters, I responded. My point stands: any liberal worth the label must allow dissenting opinions to be had and heard without resorting to censorship and violence. Let those opinions lose out in the marketplace of ideas instead of helping them grow stronger by a counter-productive attempt to silence them. In other words:

“Your attitude is disgraceful. Your actions are indefensible. Your herd mentality is dangerous. You accomplish nothing but strengthen the resolve of your opponents and add to their numbers.

You point to Donald Trump and his supporters and accuse of them of propagating hate. Now you can point to the mirror and do the same thing.

So knock it off.”

Post #151 — June 7, 2016: Sanders’s Swan Song

A good-bye to the plucky campaign turned political movement.

Post #170 — July 25, 2016: The Dempire Strikes Back

The trilogy continues! After a look back at the Republican Convention, I look ahead at the Democratic response.

Post #171 — August 1, 2016: The Perishability of Revolutionary Time

I think this post had some of my best writing of pre-election PPFA. It certainly had one of the best headlines.

Post #173 — August 15, 2016: A PPFA Endorsement… Kind Of

Here was a plea to at least consider supporting Gary Johnson’s quest to get into a debate if you didn’t like the two major candidates or two major parties.

Post #174 — August 19, 2016: Quick Hit Friday: Northeast Democrats

Where I warned that the country hadn’t sent a Democrat from the northeast into the White House in quite some time.

Post #176 — August 26, 2016: Quick Hit Friday: The Rare “Third Term”

Then I warned how rare it was for a party to have a third consecutive term. I feel like I was doing a lot of warning.

Post #177 — August 29, 2016: Clinton the Inaccessible*

Wherein I criticized the Clinton Campaign, particularly its strategy to run out the clock and play not to lose. I was particularly critical of Clinton ducking a press conference. In contrast, I noted, Trump was always up to the challenge. (He has since resorted to Clintonian ducking.)

Post #182 — September 27, 2016: No Contest

After Clinton and Trump had their first debate, I led with this:

“Wow. As the fives of loyal PPFA readers well know, this site has been pretty anti-Trump for over a year now. I had been constantly floored by his ignorance, made incredulous by his nonsensical answers, and laughed out loud at his and others’ firm belief that Donald Trump should be President of the United States. But then last night happened. And I saw him side by side with Crooked Hillary Clinton. I saw him take her best shots and keep moving forward. I saw how he persevered despite the biased moderator, and I saw him come through it looking stronger than he had before. And now I’m a convert. He won me over. I’m voting for Donald Trump.

Nah, just kidding, he was bad.”

Nonetheless, I also knew it wouldn’t matter. Those things don’t get graded on facts and details. Considering he won the election, maybe… he was good?

Oh, and I broke out the Microsoft Paint again:

untitled

Post #186 — October 7, 2016: Electoral Math: One Month Out!

Now I have it just 272 to 266 in favor of Clinton. Fragile. (By comparison, on October 7 the statisticians at FiveThirtyEight had her with an 82 percent chance to win. So did the New York Times. That seemed crazy to me.)

Post #190 — October 13, 2016: Presidential Poetry for America

In a stretch where our future President was caught on tape bragging about being able to sexually assault women because he was rich before he then stalked his female opponent on a debate stage, I thought we needed a little poetry in our lives. Here was the day’s limerick:

There once was a billionaire Donald
Who dabbled in marrying models.
On the edge of November,
He had a run to remember,
Until he bragged about women he fondled.

In retrospect, I was wrong to rule him out, but at least I got to rhyme Donald with fondled.

That post also had a sonnet dedicated to debate audience-member Ken Bone. Oooh, yeah, you forgot about Ken Bone, didn’t you?

Post #191 — October 19, 2016: Debate 3: Return of the Red Eye

The trilogy concludes. Painfully.

Post #195 — October 27, 2016: How Trump Wins

I was pretty on the money here. Nearly two weeks before the election, I noted he was just a small polling rally from winning the election. And that rally came when…

Post #197 — November 1, 2016: One… Week… Left

After the polling shift toward Clinton post tape-gate, I wrongly predicted a much larger Electoral College win (333-205) for Hillary Clinton. But then, in this post, I react to James Comey’s announcement that he was re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“I expect Trump to get the national polling to near even in the next week,” I said. “As someone who worries about a Trump presidency, this was a terrifying development.” 

The tide then turned, and it turned fast.

And yet…

Post #200 — November 8, 2016: Election Night Preview

My 200th post still expected the “blue wall” in the Electoral College to hold for the Democrat. Boy was I wrong. I missed a handful of states, among them Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, each won by President-Elect Trump by considerably less than one percent.

Post #203 — November 10, 2016: Trump and the Five Stages of Grief

In my last post for a while, I outlined how anti-Trumpists out there might cope with November 8’s shocking development. I think I’m still in the fourth stage. Stage five — acceptance — continues to elude me. “President Donald Trump” has yet to stop sounding equal parts ridiculous and dystopian. We elected a punchline real estate tycoon and reality TV star to our highest office, and he behaves the same way he always has — and often worse.

End of Part I

For the next four months, I licked my wounds, rested my eyes, and plotted my comeback. The next iteration of PPFA would settle into weekly posts, slightly less Trump-bashing, and a lot more posts about history. Part II will take a look at PPFA version 2.0. (Or is it 3.0? Maybe 4?) See you tomorrow, I hope.

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