Common Ground: It's time to say goodbye
We hope we have inspired a way to reach political common ground.
Today: Our last column
CAL: After ten and a half years, this is our final Common Ground column. More than 250 times we have tried to demonstrate a different model for dialogue between liberals and conservatives.
BOB: We have also spoken to audiences in many states about the importance of common ground in Washington. We have seen people open Common Ground chapters. Sadly, although you and I have found agreement on many issues, polarization still rules Washington.
CAL: Let’s see if we can go out with a bang. Since 2005, we have offered predictions for the New Year. We had a terrible record in 2015. I predicted political divisions in each party would intensify, with the liberal wing of the Democrats causing problems and the conservative wing of the GOP frustrating its leadership in both chambers. I was half right, as those divisions intensified within the GOP, causing the resignation of Speaker John Boehner. I did correctly predict a nuclear deal with Iran and the opposition to it by most Republicans and even some Democrats.
BOB: And I predicted, wrongly, that a bill making our borders stronger would pass Congress. Neither of us foresaw the huge Syrian refugee migration. I goofed predicting tax reform would pass Congress. In fact, little of significance passed.
CAL: Let’s look ahead to 2016. The big question: Will Donald Trump be able to win the Republican presidential nomination and the general election?
BOB: Those are two separate questions. Can Trump get the Republican nomination? His only serious competition comes from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, so he could, but I doubt it. Can Trump win a general election? Not on your life. Cruz? He could get the nomination and then lose in a landslide to Hillary Clinton. Rubio would be the strongest Republican.
CAL: The GOP establishment still doesn’t understand the frustration of many voters who are angry about Republican elected officials not living up to their promises. A perfect example is the latest budget deal, which adds to the debt and gives Democrats practically everything they wanted, including funding Planned Parenthood and Syrian refugee resettlement, but no money for completing a border fence. Republicans live in fear of getting blamed for a phony “government shutdown.”
BOB: I knew you would hate that deal, but it also allows for a temporary end to destructive partisan brinkmanship.
CAL: Back to Trump. It's dangerous to predict anything when it comes to him, but if Republicans want to beat Clinton, they must think about the uninformed and independent voters. Trump tops the Republican pack, but if you add support for all other candidates, a majority of GOP voters prefer someone else.
BOB: The question is : When Republican candidates begin to quit the race after February’s Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, which candidate will GOP voters support? I suspect their first choice will not be Trump or Cruz. Rubio is in the best position to attract supporters of other candidates.
CAL: In the past, Democrats have been the party of disarray, so they must love the disarray among Republicans. But if there is another terrorist attack before the election (and I predict there will be), all bets are off. Clinton, who has been supportive of President Obama and as secretary of State helped formulate his anti-terrorism policies, will be in trouble. Voters will demand a strong leader who is not afraid to identify the enemy and can formulate a strategy to defeat it.
BOB: I think voters will opt for experience over tough talk. That bodes well for Clinton. This will be especially true if Cruz or Trump is the GOP nominee. Cruz’s talk of carpet bombing the Islamic State, even if women and children are killed, is extreme. Trump’s ignorance about foreign policy will worry voters who don’t want a rookie as commander in chief in dangerous times.
CAL: They elected a “rookie” in 2008, and now we are paying the price. Hillary’s “experience” was mostly flying around the world and hitting a “reset” button that didn’t work. She has no solid accomplishments she can run on.
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BOB: Republicans face a nomination campaign with candidates who have stark differences. It reminds me of Barry Goldwater vs. the GOP establishment in 1964. Do they choose an isolationist foreign policy or continue to engage overseas? Do they continue to be anti-undocumented workers and risk alienating Hispanics, or do they accept, as Ronald Reagan did, that some pathway to citizenship is essential? Flat tax, consumption tax, or no tax reform? Big questions, Cal.
CAL: You’re right. What about the ultimate prediction?
BOB: Hillary wins by a narrow margin.
CAL: Cruz wins in a runaway. It’s Time To Say Goodbye. I hope we have inspired others to speak and develop relationships across the ideological divide and to remember we are not enemies, but Americans first. There are plenty of people who would love to destroy us. We shouldn’t help them by destroying each other.
BOB: I couldn’t agree more. We have done our best, but politicians apparently are content with gridlock. It has been an honor and pleasure to share this space with you, Cal.