Where have all the Moderates gone? 

December 2016

If you have heard it once, you have heard it 1000 times: our country is more divided (insert your favorite synonym here) more than ever; racial tensions are greater than ever before; and, more individuals fear what is in store for their country, 401k’s, and lives of their grandchildren.

Yes, the country is divided, and maybe it is more divided than ever before. The ability to measure these types of sociological phenomenon isn’t easy, but we do know certain regions of the country prefer different types of music, entertainment, books, and government involvement.

But, if you are just now recognizing how divided the country is, then you haven’t taken a hard look at what has been happening for the past eight years. This article isn’t intended to bash Obama or the Progressives; the goal is to provide a glimpse of the reasons why both parties have failed Moderates and why millions of us consciously decided not to vote in this election and why we feel completely ostracized in the national discourse. Like those that are biracial or interfaith say: the whites didn’t like me because I’m black, and the blacks didn’t like me because I’m white. Nowadays, the Republicans don’t like me and the Democrats don’t like me, so where do I fit in? Where can my Moderate voice be heard?

To understand how and why the moderates have gotten where they are, let’s look at a few of Obama’s most impressive and tarnished actions:

  • Iran Nuclear Deal: Billions of dollars to the Iranian regime with the chance of stalling Iranian nuclear production / No clear U.S. advantage
  • Executive Orders: Excessive use of Executive Orders rather than working with Congress to ensure checks and balances
  • Foreign Policy: Undermining various agencies, namely State Department by leading diplomatic efforts from the White House (e.g., Re-establishing relations with Cuba via the National Security Council)
  • TPP: Indifferent - has both good and bad
  • Syria and the Middle East as a Whole:  “Leading from behind” proved to be a way to allow Russia to gain and assert leadership in Middle East; Not vetoing the UN resolution against Israel as emotional revenge on Netanyahu rather than true political reasoning.
  • Middle East Alliances:  Created new alliances and challenged existing ones (e.g., Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia)
  • Russia:  Continuous aggression which was not countered
  • Obamacare:  Required a Supreme Court case to affirm its constitutionality (employer mandate) / Excise taxes such as medical device tax, health insurers, drug companies / Expanded coverage to U.S. citizens
  • Expansion of Government:  Provided new oversight to consumer groups and other public sector needs, such as healthcare
  • Dodd Frank:  Offered Wall Street controls and Consumer Protection by introducing new regulations
  • Political Scandals (Solyndra, NSA & Snowden, IRS Witch Hunt):  Extensive reach of Government / Dogmatic agenda and bypassed Congress
  • Rise in Racial tensions & Law Enforcement:  Fergusson, Baltimore, Dallas, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castille all deepened the questions about race and role of law enforcement in our nation
  • Business / Corporate Taxes: Surtax on investment Income / Limited action to bring back profit gained abroad
  • Climate Change:  Series of reports and conferences detailing the need to cut carbon emissions and explore alternative energies

With this list of changes in the domestic and world order, there is no wonder why the electorate was interested in an alternative to the Obama agenda or Democrats. Hence, one of the many reasons why Bernie Sanders was and why a future Elizabeth Warren presidential-run is so appealing

However, in this past campaign the alternative to the Democratic machine turned out to be a business tycoon with zero filter. A man who said and did some of the most disturbing things in this election. A man whose ability to work with Congress and his own party is in question. And why, did he clinch the Republican nomination? Because the other GOP candidates where just that – a reaffirmation of the Grand Old Party – they did not represent fresh, new ideas as an alternative to the status quo and Washington swamp. Add on the fact that the Clinton campaign and the Obama Administration neglected the populations of the Bible Belt and Rust Belt and favored Washington and Hollywood insiders.

No one felt the country was fantastic, except for the traditional Democrats. The Progressives represented by Bernie Sanders, the Tea Party represented by Ted Cruz, and the traditional Republicans represented by Marco Rubio. But what about everyone else? Primarily the Moderates? And, if you are thinking that Gary Johnson was the guy this year for the moderates – c’mon. We may believe in ideas on both sides of the aisle, but we are not ignorant.

The Moderates are a significant population, they are the soccer and hockey moms and dads, the middle of the road folks who believe in healthcare options, view Secretary Clinton as symbol of corruption, and Trump as a raunchy Wall Street loudmouth. The population who fears government surveillance and 15-year wars, but would also like the US to regain its position of authority in the national arena.

The question is, what is the danger of a highly polarized environment and lack of representation for the Moderates? We will continue to have a division in our population that inhibits progress on public sector needs. A few comments we have heard:

  • “Registered Republicans need not apply” displayed on a dating profile
  • “I was never partisan before, but now I am and it is liberating”
  • “Glad I don’t live in Washington D.C. anymore, because I don’t want to be here when it becomes a Republican town”
  • “Democrats are so hypocritical, I didn’t have a choice but to vote Trump”
  • "All Republicans are insensitive crooks”
  •  “The Trump grandkids are going to be living in D.C. Barf.”
  • “I can’t deal with another Clinton in the White House”
  •  “I don’t agree with what Trump says, but I would do anything to keep Hillary out of the White House”
  • “It’s just locker room talk, he can do more for me in one month than Obama has done in 8 years”
  •  “People who don’t like Obama are racists in disguise”

The danger, we see in these comments, is legitimizing the echo chambers established over the past eight years and strengthened in the 2016 elections. If we plan to break down the echo chambers, give the moderates a place at the table and representation in Washington. The moderates who are pro-choice, believers in climate change, favors smaller government while also recognizing the need for regulation under conditions, advocates for retaliation against foreign aggression, and believe business is the best driver for improving the lives of others. Who represents this population?

The Lone Wolves

13 June 2016

What happened during those early Sunday hours in Orlando was nothing short of a heinous, cowardly, and unforgivable act. In the wake of these incidents, one is left saddened and angered; cringing at the recognition that other humans are capable of such atrocities.  The rapid response of our heroic law enforcement officers was commendable and probably saved the lives of many more innocent victims.

The so-called Islamic State is a problem that can and will be overcome with time.  This hateful group is without question contributing to a wave of radicalization across the globe and, while the details are still being investigated in Sunday’s incident, it appears increasingly likely that the Islamic State played some role in inspiring 29 year-old Omar Mateen.  

The FBI has now confirmed that Mateen was investigated for making statements in support of al-Qaida in 2013.  Around the same time he also made statements supporting the Lebanese Shia group Hizballah, a known terrorist organization that considers al-Qaida and the Islamic State to be enemies.  So it would appear Mateen’s extremism was not borne out of carefully practiced religion or ideology, but the tragic consequence of a disturbed young man who desired to commit a hateful act and found identity in the Islamic State’s prolific online propaganda.

The ‘lone wolf’ phenomenon is a difficult and thorny issue to comprehend and strategize against.  Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Aurora, Blacksburg, Charleston, Tuscon, Chattanooga, and now Orlando.  A common thread among these incidents is just how difficult they are to prevent.  Despite the training, technology, and capability available to our federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, disrupting every violent individual intent on killing many is no easy task today.  By their very nature, lone wolves have few associates, no support networks, and typically have zero communication with extremists abroad.  These are all traditional indicators the FBI relies on to help identify potential threats.  

The FBI legally classifies “terrorism” in two ways: Domestic or International.  Domestic terrorism is generally defined as an act of terror within the United States committed by a citizen or resident.  It is usually applied to anti-government separatists, right or left wing extremists, or those motivated by white supremacy.  However, regardless of the label, terror is terror and hate is hate; No label of ‘Islamic Extremist,’ ‘Hate Crime,’ or anything else will change that, despite our drive to consistently apply politically-driven labels.

Instead of believing that more money or fewer immigrants will be the avenues toward solving this problem, we should focus on forging strong relationships with communities, academic institutions, and even private sector partners to help thwart problems before they begin.  Lead agencies such as the FBI and DHS would be best served to provide counter-radicalization and messaging, to squash extremist thoughts and ideologies before they fester.  Then once law enforcement agencies or intelligence services obtain information or tips on a radicalized individual, pursue swiftly and aggressively.

Admittedly, it is somewhat concerning that the FBI was already aware of Mateen due to certain connections and claims in the workplace.  Hopefully a more complete picture of the FBI’s engagement and Mateen’s actions will come forth as an investigation ensues.  However, the FBI and other agencies have come under regular criticism due to civil rights infringements and surveillance.  This is an extremely challenging line to walk, and one can only imagine how difficult and arduous this task is for our police departments and intelligence services.  If a federal investigation confirms a legitimate network overseas relevant to known terrorist groups, so be it.

Now is a time for reflection and for mourning, to consider what has been done and what can be done better. We must not fall victim to rhetorical debates or political banter.  Our thoughts are with those slain and injured in Orlando.

It's Time to Panic, America

80% of Populist movements fail because they only have 20% of the population

March 2016


Representative democracies, like their constituencies, are fallible.  And that’s why it should alarm everyone that Mr. Trump is now poised to take the GOP nomination.

The founding fathers didn’t really trust “The People.”  Look at who could vote in 1789: white, male landowners.  Only 6% of our country’s population was eligible to vote for George Washington.  It’s not even until nearly sixty years later in 1848 when North Carolina became the last state to eliminate the “landownership” requirement from voting eligibility; another seventy years until women could join the ranks.  Inherent in these restrictions was a belief that the general public was ill-equipped to make equal and fair decisions.  Our founding fathers and framers purposefully instituted a limited representative republic for this very reason, where [so-called] educated intermediaries (eg: Congress) could legislate on behalf of the uneducated or greed-driven populace (eg: Joe the Plumber) leading to abuse, oppression, and a breakdown in democracy.

As abhorrent as these restrictions seem today, “The People” do have a mixed history when it comes to electing leaders, especially in tough economic times.  Consider that in just the past 100 years, Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Adolf Hitler, Robert Mugabe, Benito Mussolini, Vladimir Putin, Marine Le Pen, and Silvio Berlusconi, have all been elected to public office.  Each country was in some sort of economic distress.  Right-wing populists are on the rise throughout the Western world, including France, Germany, and Turkey - and now here in the US, due in large part to the sluggish and unequal recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.

While at first surprising in their successes, a closer look at Mr. Trump and Sen. Sanders shows they ultimately share similar themes in their messages.  Both represent “credible” outsiders, alien to the establishment, who have seized on a fear among the public that “the System” is broken and Washington should be nuked.  On the left, the “enemy” remains monied interests: Wall Street, corporate lawyers, oil companies, etc, who are corrupting elected officials and exploiting the revolving door between politics and lobbying to line their pockets and tip the rules and laws in their interest.  On the right, it’s immigrants, Muslims, the Chinese, moderate republicans, President Obama, and others who are weakening America and destroying the country’s future.

With Mr. Trump looking more certain to clinch, we should turn our attention to the general election and note that former Secretary Clinton is not bulletproof.  She’s already failed once at running in 2008, is plagued by questions about her honesty, and a vilified personality among the GOP.  Is it really possible that she, when so many others have failed, can stop Mr. Trump?  What in her candidacy thus far lends evidence to that?  Not much.  She couldn’t even fend off a 74 year old Democratic socialist, now a four letter word in US politics.  Certainly a strong debater and a self-described “wonk,” Mrs. Clinton could go toe-to-toe with Mr. Trump on substantive policy questions.  But sometimes it appears the truth and facts don’t matter to some voters.

And now, we are seeing a dramatic shift in Trump’s tone and policy anecdotes.  Once in awhile, Trump slips up in a debate or in a press conference and actually reveals that he knows the tax code, business law, and market demands. The American people have short-term memory loss and as Trump tones down his reality-TV persona and starts to act more presidential, as all commentators have said that he did during the Super Tuesday speech.

It’s time to wake up.  Americans cannot get swept up into the bombastic nature of a political reality show that is the 2016 presidential election.  As Chris Wallace said, the latest GOP debate was “an embarrassment to the Republican party”. A true leader needs to step up and demonstrate to the American people that they are poised, realistic, and balanced. As Trump’s tone changes and Hillary gains confidence, America should recognize that populist themes in the political theater is an unhealthy distraction to choosing a qualified presidential candidate.

Think_80_20 hypothesizes that 80% of Populist movements fail because they only have 20% of the population.  As a result, the populist movement cannot maintain their initial momentum. 

This is What Happens When CNBC Hosts the GOP Debate

80% of CNBC debate questions were 20% substantive

29 October 2015


Last night’s GOP debacle…. I mean debate… wound up exceeding all expectations.  Not because the GOP candidacy has been somewhat of a circus so far, but this time due to CNBC’s catastrophic ability to manage a campaign debate.  Your hardline Democrats may still use this as an opportunity to poke fun at the Republican Party, but let’s be honest; anyone watching the debate should have been bewildered by the variety and style of questioning.  John Harwood being flat out rude (Thanks, Christie), Carl Quintanilla losing control of moderating, and Becky Quick literally having no clue what was going on.  While some questions appeared to be heading in the right direction, many were out in left field (eg: Fantasy Football) and included biased attacks on personal, unrelated topics.  In suit with Slate Magazine, the biggest loser of the CNBC GOP Debate was in fact CNBC itself – curious to see the next time they will hold a Presidential campaign debate.  Also, was it just me, or was John Kasich fidgeting a bit too much at his podium?

Here are Think 80 20’s top moments from the infamous CNBC-hosted GOP Debate:

1.     I do carry [a concealed weapon] on occasion.  Sometimes a lot.  But I like to be unpredictable – Donald Trump

2.     Ted Cruz offering Colorado ‘pot’ brownies to Carl Quintanilla

3.     I’m 7-0 in my fantasy football league – Jeb Bush

4.     Dr. Carson unable to understand questions and explain taxes

5.     Marco Rubio promoting his book’s availability on paperback

6.     I’ve got to tell you (John Harwood) the truth, even in New Jersey what you’re doing is called rude – Chris Christie

7.     Jeb Bush lashing out at Marco Rubio for not showing up to work

8.     Ted Cruz chastising moderators for treating the debate like a ‘cage match’

9.     Jim Cramer trying to save the other commentators

10.     CNBC’s failure to address important issues such as foreign policy, national security, economic concerns and the overall lack of preparation and professionalism exhibited by the network and its three moderators

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Recap of the Papal Visit

80% of the Pope's Appeal comes from 20% of His Deeds

September 2015

Pope Francis motivates and mesmerizes secular and religious crowds, unlike anyone since Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan, perhaps. The Pope’s 2015 USA tour, included stops in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. Unlike his predecessor Pope Benedict, Pope Francis has a unique ability to connect with people. Pope Francis proved to the world that the American people will take the time to slow down, listen to the Pope’s message, carve time out of their materialistically-driven lives to attend mass at Madison Square Garden or the Ben Franklin Parkway, or best yet, stop talking about Donald Trump. So, what makes Pope Francis such an astonishing and amiable person? 

#1: A Position for Good

Pope Francis is humble and doesn’t speak ill of others. Unlike the other most talked about man this summer, Donald Trump, the Pope doesn’t broadcast how everyone against him is a “loser”. The Father of the Catholic Church commands authority with respect, without being boastful, pretentious, or condescending. Pope Francis reminds us all that a leader can speak clearly, articulately, from the heart, without sounding arrogant or like a politician.

#2: Balancing Modernity with Antiquity  

Pope Francis has a sense of political acumen. He recognizes that if he doesn’t accept gays, lesbians, divorcees, and those that committed abortions into the church, then the church will become a historical, obsolete institution. Rather, let those that want to be part of the church be accepted. Religious streams, such as Presbyterians and Reform/Conservative Judaism that have accepted modernity are able to grow their communities and keep all ages and peoples engaged. Pope Francis is making religion cool, again.

#3: Accepting Imperfections

Despite all of the goodwill and ability to bridge relationships across communities, Pope Francis has some “frenemies”, including many who said he should have been more aggressive on women’s rights in the Church and a more immediate apology on the child abuse cases. Not to mention, politicians on the right who would rather see the Pope discuss abortion and the persecution of Christians across the world, instead of climate change action. The Pope does not have a one-track policy track, which makes him much more interesting, a lot less “perfect", and more attractive as a public figure.

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Bombastic. One Word to Describe the GOP’s First Debate

80% of the substance from the debate came from 20% of the candidates.

The 2016 Election cycle is in full swing. With one debate down, the personality, positions, qualifications, and talking points of each candidate is revealed. That said, who knows what happened at the “kids table” during the earlier debate; the focus was on the 9pm spectacular with Donald Trump front and center, exactly where he loves to be positioned. 

Trump’s lack of poise seems to be appealing to some in the GOP base, and, yes, it is refreshing. But, his anger and ego will get the best of him. He appears and conducts himself like an angry teenager. Regardless if you like Megyn Kelly or FoxNews much, what happened to being polite, Mr. Trump!? If Mr. Trump actually becomes the Commander in Chief, will he publically shame his cabinet members if they underperform or have a public snafu? C’mon… didn’t your mother teach you, “you get more with honey than you do with vinegar?"

We, as a society, are losing respect for our peers across political parties and clearly within political parties (although, as Ms. Kelly points out, when did Trump actually become a Republican).  Calm down, Mr. Trump, really. Who are yelling yet? This is a political debate not a shouting match. Didn’t you know the most intelligent person in the room usually says the least? Kasich, of all the candidates, came across as the empathetic guy, who is trying to shift the GOP base back to discussing fiscal issues rather than invoking Christian values at every turn.

Major results from the last debate:

  • Christie, why did you decline so fast? And why is your one and only target Rand Paul?
  • Trump, be quiet. Nuff said.
  • Jeb, do your thing.
  • Kasich, wow, you actually aren’t that bad for the GOP nominee.
  • Rubio, you are such a politician.
  • Carson, um… just stop wasting your money. But, good job on studying some foreign policy since last time. ‘A’ for effort!
  • Huckabee, you actually had a role as a conservative commentator – go back to that, you will have more sway.
  • Walker, conservative base guy but no charisma.
  • Cruz, you will be destroyed by the Dems… your call sticking around.
  • Paul, get off the stage.

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Trump 2016: Fact or Faux

20% of the GOP is 80% fed up with Trump

July 2015


When billionaire businessman Donald Trump expressed an interest in the 2010 Republican Presidential ticket most of the country chuckled at the notion, and they quickly went back to their normal routines.  But when Trump formally announced his candidacy last month, there was no joke to be had.  He is as sincere as ever and is taking no prisoners along the way.  The Apprentice… Presidential campaign style.

According to Washington Post-ABC News Polls, Donald Trump is leading the GOP with 24% support, trailed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at 13%.  Even after the ridiculous claims he made against Senator John McCain not being a war hero, Iowa polling found almost no significant change in support for Trump – placing him at second after Walker.  Mr. Trump: We are all still waiting for McCain’s apology!  But in all honesty, this one comment won’t change any playing fields for Republican candidates.

From one perspective, listening to “The Donald’s” campaign rants gives a sigh of relief.  Most candidate politicians offer, well, political statements.  At no junction has Trump ever conceded to political whim; he quite obviously speaks his mind unreservedly.  The Trump campaign has provided a slew of legitimate political positions, with an emphasis on foreign affairs, social security, and immigration – specifically stating he is going to make Mexico pay for the rest of the wall along the US-Mexico border.  Trump’s vitriolic statements and erratic behavior seems to have caught the attention of a large portion of the population; perhaps a sum of non-voters that live along the border region.  As Carly Fiorina, another GOP contender, mentions: Donald Trump is “tapping into angry voters.” When you are a billionaire, you can afford to lose a few donors.

If at any moment you have thought to yourself – there is no shot that Donald Trump can become President – think again.  There is no reason to doubt his seriousness. FiveThirtyEight provides a more quantitative analysis on Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign advancements, and shows the unlikeliness he will go away anytime soon.  The media has latched on to his story, and the more provocative he gets the better it is for the campaign.  After all, there is no such thing as bad publicity, right?  In poor form, the Huffington Post decided to shift Trump’s legitimate campaign story from their political section to the entertainment section.  How rude!  Trump is going to be at the 6 August GOP debates, like it or not.

But this is a problem for the GOP – an already highly fragmented party.  As CNN reports, the GOP has a brand they need to maintain.  Republican incumbents and the Republican National Committee are speaking out against their own party member, which is not making anyone look good – except maybe Trump himself.  This is either going to boost Trump’s status within his party, or express discord and help out the other team in the Democratic camp.  The Atlantic gives a brief explanation of why it is so difficult to discredit the Trump campaign, and it makes a lot of sense.

Let us face facts for a moment… Donald Trump could be an entertaining Commander in Chief, for maybe for a week?  The Donald Trump presidency is unclear: how can the businessman-turned-reality-TV-star run this great nation, which like any government is riddled with necessary and unnecessary bureaucracy?  We probably do not want Donald Trump as our next President, it is simply in no ones best interest.  A question of trial or travesty is not one that should be experimented in the seat of the Executive Branch, but it definitely poses some interesting scenarios.

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