Is Joe Biden taking Georgia for granted?

Biden leading in the Peach State …

PredictIt has Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, leading the rest of the Democratic field with a positive event selling at a price of $.75.  This roughly translates into a .75 probability, on a scale of zero to one, of victory in the Georgia primaries. According to PredictIt market data, Mr. Biden’s closest challenger is U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders whose chance of victory is priced at about $.14.

Democrats hope to turn the Peach State at least purple in 2020 given the demographic changes that Georgia is seeing, particularly in its Atlanta suburbs. The incumbent, Donald Trump, who beat Hillary Clinton by five percentage points in 2016, holds a lead over the top Democratic contenders, according to reporting by The Hill. Citing data from the Mason-Dixon poll, The Hill reports that Mr. Trump has support from 51% of Georgia’s likely voters versus 44% of likely voters that give Mr. Biden the nod.

…but is Georgia really on Biden’s mind?

What should be of concern to Georgia’s Democratic voters is what appears to be a lack of infrastructure on the ground.  My review of Mr. Biden’s website saw no events planned before Georgia’s primary which is scheduled for 24 March.  Mr. Biden has apparently for strategic reasons skipped any events in Atlanta celebrating the birthday of civil rights leader the late Dr. Martin Luther King, choosing instead to attend events this weekend in Charleston, South Carolina.  Given that the South Carolina primaries occur at the end of February and given that blacks make up approximately 60% of the Palmetto State’s Democratic Party voting base, Mr. Biden may put more sealant on an expected primary victory.

The midnight train to Georgia ….

If Mr. Biden is true to his word given back in June 2019, Democrats may not see the former vice-president in Georgia until August or September should he win the party’s nomination.  According to a report in Bloomberg, Mr. Biden believes he can carry a number of southern states, including Georgia, and promised to campaign in Georgia during the general election.

Given Mr. Trump’s 2016 victory and an apparent maintenance of the buffer Mr. Trump built during that election, Mr. Biden will have to lay tracks immediately after the South Carolina primaries.  Not only does he have a seven percentage point gap to close, but will need reinforced infrastructure to mitigate against any derailment that may be spawned from Mr. Trump’s removal trial in the Senate.  Individual donors and political action committees should be prepared to pitch in the emergency cash.

 

Sanders, Biden lead in Iowa. Is Buttigieg a buy?

Biden, Sanders nipping at the heels …

The latest Real Clear Politics poll has former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden garnering 20.7% of the nod among likely voters in the Iowa caucus.  U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is nipping at Mr. Biden’s heels with 20.3% of likely caucus participants supporting the independent senator from Vermont.

While Mr. Sanders continues to draw on the support he had during the 2016 campaign for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Biden has been able to maintain his front-runner status based on a more centrist approach to policy and political capital built up among black voters given his eight years as vice-president in the Barack Obama administration.

Buttigieg rising …

Meanwhile, Real Clear Politics polling data sees former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg still in the hunt polling at 18.7%. A relative unknown two years ago, Mr. Buttigieg has been able to leverage, according to Axios, $2.3 million in television advertisements, 100 staff on the ground, and 20 field offices in Iowa to put him in striking distance of a win in Iowa.

Mr. Buttigieg’s third place status behind Messrs Biden and Sanders exposes his unknown factor.  He has done well nationally given that he was not known outside of South Bend until recently.  Whether he can raise his media profile in the next three weeks enough to get him over the top remains to be seen.  Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders receive much more mentions from media, thus taking up needed oxygen for Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign to fuel itself on.

In addition to media, the philosophical space that Mr. Buttigieg seems more inclined to occupy has been taken up by Mr. Biden.  Mr. Biden moved to the middle immediately on his decision to run, his centrist approach being of no surprise to many observers.  Mr. Sanders, on the other hand, has stuck with his progressive policy rhetoric, positions that have endeared him to voters occupying the far left including a significant number of young and college-aged voters.

Mr. Buttigieg, while recognized as a moderate, cannot dominate the middle among Iowa voters and will seem less than genuine should he move left.

What may also be weighing on Mr. Buttigieg’s ability to leap ahead of Messrs Biden and Sanders is the view of black Americans toward his candidacy.  Although blacks are waning demographically, they still comprise a significant voting block within the Democratic Party.  Mr. Buttigieg has very little support among black voters and expression of this lack of support will manifest itself on 29 February when voters go to the South Carolina primary.  The specter of this onslaught may be looming over the polls in Iowa as Iowans who are more concerned about selecting the candidate best situated to beat Donald Trump decide to make a perceived securer choice in either Mr. Biden or Mr. Sanders.

The prediction markets …

The political prediction markets are giving Mr. Sanders the highest probability of winning one day after the last debate prior to the Iowa caucus.  PredictIt is pricing an affirmative on a Sanders’ victory at $.46 while pricing an affirmative on a Biden victory at $.32. Mr. Buttigieg’s chances at victory as determined in the prediction markets looks more in line with his poll numbers where PredictIt is pricing his chances of winning at $.17.

Is Buttigieg a buy?

Locking in Mr. Buttigieg at $.17 with the hope of a 500% return on the chances of a Buttigieg win would require two things.  First, Mr. Buttigieg will have to increase his media exposure by continuing to message via broadcast media, social media, and newspapers.  Second, he would need monumental gaffes on the part of both Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders.  While Mr. Biden is known historically for misspeaking, Mr. Sanders has been very disciplined in his messaging.  This week’s allegations that Mr. Sanders shared with Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018 his doubts about a woman beating Mr. Trump in 2020 seems not to have had much of an impact on his campaign.

What could cause some disruption in the Biden campaign is any testimony offered during the Senate’s removal trial of Mr. Trump where such testimony describes any impropriety on the part of Mr. Biden in his son’s service on an energy company’s board in Ukraine.  Even so, we believe that such testimony would only serve to secure Mr. Sanders’ lead.

Conclusion

We don’t see Mr. Buttigieg winning Iowa.  Iowans want to increase the chances of selecting a candidate that can go toe to toe with the President.  While the payoff would be substantial, the chances of a Biden or Sanders fall in Iowa are not high enough.

Andrew Yang’s candidacy has a realistic view of America’s digital future

The eye-catcher ….

This afternoon during a town hall meeting in Bedford, New Hampshire, Andrew Yang, contender for the Democratic nomination for president, made the argument that his fellow candidates for president were not aware that the United States is in a fourth industrial revolution.  Just what is this fourth industrial revolution that Mr. Yang is referring to?

You’re in the Matrix, baby…

In his book, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Klaus Schwab describes the environment spawning the revolution of technology and how it impacts work, government, and the economy:

“We have yet to grasp fully the speed and breadth of this new revolution.  Consider the unlimited possibilities of having billions of people connected by mobile devices, giving rise to unprecedented processing power, storage capabilities and knowledge access.  Or think about the staggering confluence of emerging technology breakthroughs, covering wide-ranging fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing, to name a few.  Many of these innovations are in their infancy, but they are already reaching an inflection point in their development as they build on and amplify each other in a fusion of technologies across the physical, digital, and biological worlds.

We are witnessing profound shifts across all industries, marked by the emergence of new business models, the disruption of incumbents and the reshaping of production, consumption, transportation and delivery systems.  On the societal front, a paradigm shift is underway in how we work and communicate, as well as how we express, inform, and entertain ourselves.  Equally, governments and institutions are being reshaped, as are systems of education, healthcare and transportation, among many others. New ways of using technology to change behavior and our systems of production and consumption also offer the potential for supporting the regeneration and preservation of natural environments, rather than creating hidden costs in the form of externalities.”

We have all heard the buzz terms “automation” and “AI” bandied about.  We take for granted that advanced communications bring us closer to our global neighbors, where we once occupied local space, i.e. being at home or driving thirty minutes to work, some of us now work on a daily basis with a colleague located in Mumbai, Bonn, or London.

Automation, as Mr. Yang reminded us today in Bedford, threatens to replace workers in fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and automobile plants.  But we professionals are threatened, too.  Just yesterday my employer emailed workers sharing the news of a partnership with a tech firm that uses technology that reduces the number of documents attorneys have to review.  The upside is that attorneys may have more time to apply critical thinking skills to activities that they do best: problem solve.  The down side is that we may need fewer attorneys to do certain types of work.

Change is never a factor that should be absent from our expectations

And what of agile response as part of governance?

Not only does government face policy challenges when addressing a changing labor market, government will face challenges from digital platforms capable of providing services government currently has a monopoly on.  Again, citing Mr. Schwab:

“In summary, in a world where essential public functions, social communication and personal information migrate to digital platforms, governments—in collaboration with business and civil society—need to create the rules, checks and balances to maintain justice, competitiveness, fairness, inclusive intellectual property, safety and reliability.

Two conceptual approaches exist.  In the first, everything that is not explicitly forbidden is allowed.  In the second, everything that is not explicitly allowed is forbidden.  Government must blend these approaches.”

One recent example of the challenges government could face from competing platforms is the proposal by Facebook to introduce a stablecoin. A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency that uses an asset or a reserve currency as a back up.  In other words, the asset or reserve currency can be used to as a measure of the stablecoin’s value.  Policy makers such as U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, have expressed reservations that Facebook and other digital platforms that issue a cryptocurrency could pose a threat to the U.S. government’s ability to regulate currency and promote its economy.

None of the current Democratic candidates nor the incumbent president have expressed how modern financial technology and the currencies that fintech can produce may impact the U.S. economy.  In a changing economy, could a lack of experience in this area contribute to poor policy making regarding governance in the digital 21st century?

Yang so far has the knowledge to govern in a digital 21st century America …

Changes in how Americans will work over the next twenty years and the currency that they will use for exchanging commercial value will require someone who does not make policy based on an analog view of the world.  Observers of technology and government usually lament how policy never keeps up with rapid changes in technology.  Can the United States go four more years with its government’s chief executive completely unaware of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact livelihoods?

Congressional Democrats’ impeachment efforts gave Trump a little room to put hit on Soleimani

The eye-catcher….

Have efforts by the Congressional Democrats to impeach President Trump given him space to launch the type of military attack we saw last week against Iran?  While the U.S. House Democratic caucus asserts that it can walk and chew gum at the same time , apparent failures to move legislation sponsored by Democrats to the House floor may have provided the President with the cover he needed to carry out the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani.

Talk of impeachment, which has been occurring since Mr. Trump took office in January 2017, sucked up a lot of media oxygen within the last few months with congressional hearings coming to a head last December with the impeachment of Mr. Trump.  What has received far less coverage by the media and the public at large are attempts by Democrats to head off escalation of tensions between the United States and the Republic of Iran via legislation.

H.R. 2354…

On 25 April 2019, U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California, introduced H.R. 2354, the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2019. The bill notes the Republic of Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and that Iran’s missile tests could lead to increased tensions with Israel and Saudi Arabia as well as the United Nations.  The bill also found that the Republic of Iran threatens maritime activity and puts U.S. naval and commercial assets at risk.

Concerned about President Trump’s tweets promising severe action against the Republic of Iran for its military actions and threats in the Middle East region, the bill reminds the President and the American public that the power to declare power lies solely in the Congress.  Pursuant to the bill, no funds for kinetic (conventional) military action would be authorized without an authorization from the Congress to take action against the Republic of Iran.

Mrs. Eshoo’s bill is a companion bill to S.1039 introduced by Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of Utah.  His bill was introduced on 4 April 2019 and contains the same language as H.R. 2354.

Both bills currently sit in each chambers respective foreign affairs committees.

Trump maximizes his political capital in a legislative vacuum ….

President Trump’s approval ratings have been pretty much consistent since May 2018, hovering around 42% for the past 19 months.  He campaigned on an “America First” platform which includes reasserting American dominance in world political and economic affairs.  His actions against Iran have not eroded his political capital with his base and arguably with his European allies as the European Union struggles with what to make of this latest move.

Does the American electorate see actions against Iran building up goodwill between themselves and the president? Back in June 2019, a poll by Politico found that 36% of Americans supported military action in Iran after the Iranians shot down a US drone.  When views toward action in Iran are viewed via partisan eyes, 59% of Republicans favored action against Iran while only 23% of Democrats and 28% of independents supported a strike against Iran. It should be noted that Mr. Trump, at the last minute, decided against a military strike against Iran believing the cost in lives on both sides was not worth the loss of the drone.

An analysis in Bloomberg points out that the hit seven months later on Soleimani may have given Trump leverage by making the Administration appear unpredictable. Political actors in Europe and the Middle East may have less of an idea as to Mr. Trump’s responses to certain events or his endgame. For example, Iran has hit tankers with no American response but out of the blue a hit on an Iranian general in alleged retaliation for attacks on American drones and the death of an American contractor.  Iran may have thought it had the US figured out but the willingness to surgically remove an important member of Iran’s military hierarchy may give Iran pause.

But given public attitudes toward military involvement in and with Iran, Democrats in Congress have let fester a legislative void, failing to promote aggressively legislation that would have restricted Mr. Trump’s actions to continued use of soft force while eroding his influence with the American electorate.

The takeaway on political capital …

Tough to tell whether it was luck or political skill, but Mr. Trump, so far, has been able to take a risky military action without apparent loss of political capital.  Over the next few months we will be able to get a better idea as to whether his resources and power built on his actions, relationships, and influence will erode as a result of the action.  Something else we should be mindful of is the ability of an executive to operate in what amounts to a political “no-fly zone” where the legislature hasn’t taken any initiative to head off potentially disastrous events by enacting law leaving an executive to operate freely.

 

Towards a political strategy of increasing black sovereignty …

How white capital spreads like a virus …

I don’t think that one need go through a winding, mundane academic discourse for why blacks in the American jurisdiction need to pursue sovereignty.  Everyday, American social culture tells blacks living in the American jurisdiction that we do not belong here.  Socially, blacks have been lumped into a generic “people of color” box, on the false pretense that non-whites share the negative effects of systemic racism; that we are all in the same boat sitting in steerage while whites enjoy the privilege of capital accumulation, access to credit, better jobs, and higher income.  America’s political left argues that this unequal treatment calls for public and social policy that should somehow put whites and non-whites in equal positions economically and politically.

Members of the Left that take this position lack an appreciation for how much time and man has not changed.  Europeans came to North America, the Caribbean, and South America under a charter from monarchs that, in a nutshell, required exploitation of the land and people found in these places.  Monarchs wanted to expand their national power and enrich their coffers in order to finance the competition they experienced between each other.  They borrowed gold from wealthy members of their respective societies and encouraged their surplus labor with promises of religious freedom, greater incomes, and landownership of their own, to help conquer these new worlds.  By these initiatives, western culture would spread and flourish with non-Europeans being either absorbed as best they could or eliminated.

Non-Europeans were never meant to be included in the governance of these new lands or in the distribution of natural resources i.e. land, minerals, etc., that accompanied conquest.  Blacks were brought to the western hemisphere as chattel slaves, the tools that would plant and harvest the tobacco and cotton plantations of the American south and the sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

And like a virus, this occupation by capital of non-white spaces continues in the form of gentrification, where generous monetary policies by America’s central bank inflated assets already held mostly by American descendants of Europeans which provided the collateral that backed the loans that were used to buy homes under stress in black neighborhoods.  Americans of European descent no longer need to use armed force to wrest land from non-whites.  Central banks now aid Europeans with capital to spread their influence.

Reparations won’t happen …

For the past two or three years, a movement of American descendants of slaves (ADOS) has been advocating for government policy that delivers on past promises by the United States government to provide slaves with land as recompense for physical bondage.  ADOS believes that providing a direct capital infusion to descendants of black American slaves is the best approach to closing the wealth gap between whites and blacks while compensating blacks for the labor stolen from them and used to build the American economy.

Politically, ADOS doesn’t have a chance.  There is no definitive support in either chamber of Congress for any reparations initiative.  The only black American in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, has not made reparations a campaign narrative. Given his standing in the polls, he does not have the political capital to offer a policy proposal on the matter.  Without a champion in the executive or the Congress providing stewardship for policy or legislation, reparations will not happen.

The current system poses an existential threat to blacks …

After 500 years in the western hemisphere, if blacks are still fighting to close a capital gap that eliminates the buffer between blacks and devastating unemployment, homelessness, and bankruptcies, then it is time to shift paradigms and create a new political economy.  Civil rights violations stemming from race discrimination. Lack of jobs stemming from race discrimination. Poor education funding resulting from racial discrimination. These issues should be non-existent where blacks are not subject to policies and laws designed by whites for the benefit of whites.

It is time for blacks living in the American jurisdiction to pursue public policy and law that generates a parallel political economy where law, technology, and politics converge to provide blacks with a sovereignty that better ensures their survival.

Political power starts in households, not in group politics

The head fake …

We are in the silly season.  National election primaries are ramping up as the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucus looms in February and a number of state legislatures prepare for state representatives to invade their respective state capitals.  It is the silly season because candidates will attempt to sell you ideas and plans that have not a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.  All one has to do is listen to Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders’ promises of delivering free college education or free childcare for working families without once laying out the tactics for dealing with a Senate that will likely be in the hands of the Republican Party on 3 January 2021.

The danger of group non-efficacy ….

One overlooked incident of silliness is the voters’ placement of limits on their own political power. Many voters limit their power and influence to the singular act of voting.  The reasons are well documented.  Voters are working two jobs trying to keep food on the table.  After working two or more gigs to feed their kids, voters want to chill for a couple hours watching Netflix versus going to a city council meeting or watching a debate or congressional hearing on C-SPAN.

These types of voters, those who cannot make the time to glean information on policy making are dangerous and quite frankly shouldn’t be allowed near a voting booth as their uninformed voting decisions have a negative impact on the rest of society (although some candidates may like this type of voter as long as they have bought into the candidate’s narrative hook, line, and sinker.)  Creating a large collective of voters i.e. political colonization, is advantageous to a candidate especially where the candidate can sell that group on what the group’s self-interests should be.  The candidate enjoys efficiencies from aggregating this most important electoral resource because creating a collection of voters buoyed by a few singular issues helps to refine the number of promises or political packages the candidate has to offer.

The risk to individual households with interests that vary widely from the group is that their political needs will not be served.  Being herded into a large group, whether based on race, culture, income, etc., dilutes your position, limits your influence, drowns out your voice.  There is a decision to be made.  Either be the wolf maximizing your political gains or be the sheep herded to the slaughter spawned by dissatisfaction.

Each household must step out on its own….

An individual household cannot hold itself back out of some false sense of allegiance to a group.  There is no rule saying you must bear the cost of a group’s non-efficacy.  Once you have decided that only you can increase your influence; that showing up just to vote is not enough, then you must take the next step of investment.  I will not tell you that the investment is cheap, but the costs can be minimized.  Here are a few simple steps that you may have already heard of.

First, build your political network.  That network may be right in front of you.  We are all six or fewer handshakes away from meeting Kevin Bacon.  Someone in your network likely knows a policymaker or elected official.  In that case, seek out an introduction.

One other way to meet policy makers or elected officials is to identify the policy maker or elected official that is making a decision on a matter that you are most interested in.  Contrary to public belief, elected officials want to meet you.  You are their resource.  When you identify them, set up a meeting or determine what events they will be attending so that you can meet them.

Second, continuously engage your policy makers or elected officials on those top issues you are concerned about.  Engagement need not be expensive.  Written correspondence is great.  A short letter will suffice.  Letters are preferable to email.  While both types get entered into the record, letters get more thorough responses.  Also, if your budget allows, offer to meet the policy maker or elected official for coffee or lunch.  As long as you are not lobbying on behalf of a group or business, no disclosure reports need be filed.

You can near guarantee an audience if you are bringing some insights or knowledge to the table.  In your emails or letters, always demonstrate that you are abreast of the issue by sharing some tidbit that you have researched.  This bit of information will get you closer to a meet and greet.  Stay informed!

Lastly, donate time, money, or both.  If you want to impress a policy maker or elected official, show up to hearings and if the forum allows, make a statement for the record.  If you believe an elected official is meeting your representative needs, send them a donation.  People who donate get an audience, even if it is a response to a message via LinkedIn.

You can do it …

The above advice is from real world experience.  I have met policy makers and elected officials simply as a result of reaching out.  For we shy types, it is not easy at first, but keeping your “ask” real simple will settle your nerves and keep the engagement simple.  Once you are willing to increase your households influence over the political process, you will see the investment of time as worth it.

Need more consultation on reaching out to policymakers or elected officials? Feel free to reach out to me at altondrew@altondrew.com.

 

 

Impeachment is a distraction for black voters

Blacks in America are participating in the impeachment fervor with as much intensity as other political group in America.  As commentator Attorney Antonio Moore cogently and passionately shares with his listeners, blacks own less than three percent of America’s wealth and that ownership percentage is decreasing. Blacks are wedded to the Democratic Party with anywhere from 88% to 90% of the black electorate voting Democrat since 1976, according to Attorney Moore.

Blacks are under economic duress from a capital allocation perspective.  Writing for The Nation, Leah Douglas notes that blacks today comprise less than two percent of America’s farmers and own one percent of America’s rural land. Ms. Douglas, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture data, points out that since 1969, 80% of black farmland has disappeared, in part due to sales of land held by families via a mechanism known as partition sales, where one family member can sell their portion of land to a developer and the developer puts the entire parcel up for sale where the law allows for the extinguishing of other family member ownership rights.  And citing U.S. government data, The Guardian reports that 1.3% of America’s farmers are black, owning .52% of the country’s farmland.

Why is this important? Because at the base of any access to capital is control of natural resources in your country.  Bonds, stocks, and currency derive their value from a working political economy and a working political economy derives its value from how well it can extract, process, manage, and distribute natural, financial, and human resources.  For those concerned with the economic well-being of the political collective known as black people, access to capital and garnering more income from capital must be top priority.

Let us not for get the disparity in household wealth as well.  According to an article by The Economist, mean black household wealth is $138,200, while median household wealth for blacks is $17,100.  And 19.4% of black households have net worth of zero or less, due in part to lower incomes and higher debt loads.

Whites are experiencing mean household wealth of $933,700, with a median household wealth of $171,000.  Only 9.2% of white households have a net worth of zero or less.

But to listen to the candidates for the Democratic Party nomination, you’d think that 13% of the population didn’t have a capital problem.  Besides the obligatory commentary on gun violence, access to healthcare, and white supremacy/nationalism, the candidates have offered no plans, tactics, or strategies for addressing the problem.

The only candidate coming anywhere close is Andrew Yang whose universal basic income plan is purportedly designed to address the pending doom of mass job losses spurred by robotics and artificial intelligence by offering each eligible American a stipend of a $1,000 a month to be used in any way the citizen wishes.  Mr. Yang hopes that the stipend goes to supplementing grocery costs, paying medical bills, other household expenses, or to savings.  What has been perceived as a giveaway has not yet given Mr. Yang any major traction although he had been able to qualify for all of the Democratic Party’s debates.

And not only are the candidates ignoring the black economic agenda, their comrades in the Congress appear to be as well. While there have been a number of bills introduced in the 116th Congress designed to increase diversity in banking or encourage minority business ownership (see H.R. 1432, H.R. 4101, and H.R. 5322), none have been introduced to allocate capital in such a way that the wealth gap is closed.

What are elected officials signaling? That they have other priorities and probably won’t move on the drastic measures that would be needed to bring about any equality where it counts; in capital.  The impeachment distraction will be short-lived, but the wealth and capital gap is not going away.