The caucuses

Last week we received a couple of queries from presidential campaigns on whether or not we would endorse before the Nevada caucuses. It’s nice to feel appreciated.

We considered not commenting at all on the Republican caucuses, for two reasons. One is that the Nevada GOP seems determined to force the Republican National Committee to strip Nevada of its early berth in the presidential race. The other is that if the national Republican Party can’t treat the presidential race seriously, why should we? So here’s our comment: Fun’s fun. We’ve all had a good laugh. Now would you please offer up some candidates for president?

As for the Democratic side, we won’t endorse. It is difficult to make a choice when only one candidate can be pinned down. Our first priority is always the economy, and, instead of endorsing, we want to offer advice to caucus goers: Be very aware of the need to repair this nation’s top heavy economy and be aware of the Democratic Party’s culpability. One Nevada Democratic Party caucus ad says “Democrats will fight the growing income inequality in our country.” If true, it’s about time. Up to now, Democratic leaders have been part of the problem.

In 1976, the most conservative Democrat since Wilson was elected president with a Democratic House and Senate. When the dust settled on Jimmy Carter’s four years, we learned that the gap between rich and poor had widened. (See “Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, February 2003).

In 1992, a corporate Democrat scraped through to win the presidency, initially with Democratic majorities in both houses. When his eight-year tenure was over, the gap between rich and poor had widened. (See Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007, Congressional Budget Office, October 2011.)

In the sixth year of Barack Obama’s presidency—he had big initial Democratic congressional majorities—we learned that the gap between rich and poor had hit a 30-year high (“America’s wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income families is widest on record,” Pew Research Center, Dec. 17, 2014).

Thus, politics as usual is part of the problem. The uncertainty created by Hillary Clinton’s shifts make it impossible to know where she stands on the economy. We have become so accustomed to political analysts talking about candidates “moving to the right” or “moving to the left” that we forget that’s not the way democracy is supposed to work. While candidates are expected to change their minds based on changed circumstances or new information, there should be some unchanging principles they use to guide them. We have a very good idea what Bernie Sanders’s economic policies will be as president. Neither we or anyone else know what Clinton’s program will be as president because while she is a candidate that program is a moving target.

Sanders may have changed issue stands as he learned more, but there are fixed stars in his universe. Clinton, however, does not change positions in response to new information—she has never admitted a mistake in voting for war in Iraq—but only as a result of political reverses. She moved left as her standing in this race shrank and is now becoming an economic populist. But will she be one after taking office, when her political future is no longer threatened?

Caucus goers should use great care in making their choices. Now is your chance to hold party leaders accountable. You won’t be able to when one of them is in office.