MAY 10, 2026

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Three Gaskill Op Ed Pieces &

Concluding Observations

The following three following pieces were published as Opinion pieces in the Post Register, as well as on The Policy Think Site.


ONE:                                   REBRANDING THE GOP?




Op ED / Commentary by Jay B Gaskill


APRIL 8, 2016 …Idaho GOP members decisively rejected Donald Trump. Clearly, “The Donald” has challenged the GOP establishment. But he is also questioning the very idea of conservatism.


From local talk shows, columns and letters one can glean very little about what it means, on any deep personal level, for someone to say “I am a conservative,” except that he or she is unhappy with the current president.


What is conservatism, really? Over the centuries, conservatives were opponents of change – liberals were advocates of change. America’s founders were liberals in that sense, as were their allies in the British parliament. But context always matters. In Soviet Russia, the ruling communists were called “conservatives” and their opponents were “liberals.” The Reagan administration supported the Russian “liberals.” But Reagan was a conservative, wasn’t he?


There are underlying conservative principles. One is at the core: the elevation of individual human dignity over the collective, coercive “social improvement” programs.  A conservative respect for individual human dignity translates to the right to earn and keep one’s property; the defense of the traditional family as an institution; and the robust commitment to law and order and national defense.  Conservatives are committed to the US constitution as a unique achievement in world history that is designed to protect individual human dignity from enemies, domestic and foreign, including from the government itself.


Our two political parties are brands:  The Republican Party brand emphasizes conservative values and goals, but not to the exclusion of some liberal ones. The Democratic Party brand emphasizes the progressive improvement of the human condition via large scale collective measures, but not to the exclusion of some conservative goals.  For republicans, the constitution is a bedrock boundary, a bulwark against tyranny. For many democrats, the constitution is a living instrument that must bend to suit the times. Few of us are “pure” partisans – life is too complicated. Neither party is purely conservative or liberal.


Party branding represents a social contract with voters. Trump would change the Republican brand. A few years from now we will remember how a celebrity with self-contradictory opinions sought to take over the GOP.  For now, we can’t know the outcome. We can’t even be sure whether a president Trump would care about the property rights of an Idaho landowner, or whether he would regard the US constitution as something more than a problem for his lawyers.


Most GOP officials have not lost the ability to count actual votes. Polls are volatile and inaccurate. Votes are real. A majority of individual republicans voting in the primaries have consistently rejected Donald Trump as their presidential candidate. You doubt this? Find one primary race where Donald Trump broke 50% among actual GOP voters. The delegate count exaggerates Trump’s successes because GOP mavens miscalculated. They planned on a Jeb Bush consensus. The gamed the playing field to facilitate that outcome. The unintended result was that a candidate with a minority of votes could run the table. Trump saw the opening and ran with it.


If Mr. Trump never gets a majority of individual GOP primary votes, he should never get the nomination.


If either party’s brand is to change, that should be left up to its voting members.


TWO:                              IT COMES DOWN TO THIS?



Op ED / Commentary by Jay B Gaskill


APRIL 27, 2016 Surprise: Peggy Noonan, Reagan’s speechwriter, and Marc Johnson, aide to Governor Andrus, agree.  Last week, Republican Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal and Democrat Johnson, writing in the Post Register, made the same point: Our fractious presidential campaign is a watershed. Noonan: “We have come to this moment”… one where “too much is being lost;” and where “the great choice in a nation of 350 million may come down to Crazy Man versus Criminal.” Johnson: We are “being led by people most of us don’t trust.” This “is the new normal.”


Maybe, maybe not. I’m thinking of the wisdom of the Yankee’s Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.”


The “Crazy Man” in Noonan’s piece is Donald. Trump who apparently thinks he’s riding a tide of popular support all the way to the GOP nomination. But Trump’s juggernaut is a public relations myth. Following the New York and “Amtrak” primaries Tuesday, Trump can claim a total of 11 million votes, give or take, as against about 13.6 million votes for the other GOP candidates. Trump is playing catch-up in the East, having finally won majorities among a small fraction of the GOP affiliated electorate. But he has yet to persuade a majority of all republicans, much less of all Americans, that he should be America’s next President.


The latest primary vote tallies conceal the large Trump voter gap among republicans. I predict that very few GOP non-Trump voters will embrace the Donald. Note that Senator Marco Rubio has merely suspended his candidacy, and still controls 169 delegates. Note that both Rubio and Kasich each poll stronger against Hillary than Trump.


Yogi Berra would not give up this game – not in the ninth inning, with two on base.


Trump takes the GOP nomination only if he locks down 1,237delegates before the first ballot.  But his negatives are big; and his support melts away if he falls short. If this happens, Trump prevails only if GOP leaders decide to hand him the keys, pretending that they have no other choice.


Trump needs another 283 delegates to guarantee him the GOP nomination. Before June 7, there will be primaries in Indiana, Nebraska, West Virginia, Oregon, and Washington State, a total of 199 delegates.  Trump needs more than 199.


The last inning may be played in California on June 7 when its 174 delegates are up for grabs – winner-take-all. Will California be Trump’s Waterloo, or Trump’s coronation?


THREE:                              A “SETTLE-FOR” ELECTION?



Op ED / Commentary by Jay B Gaskill


MAY 4, 2016 Indiana was the Waterloo for Trump’s opponents. Cruz and Kasich have capitulated. As it looks today, California will be Mr. Trump’s coronation as the “best” the GOP can do. Trump still needs 190 delegates, and California republicans (a tiny minority in the state) will deliver 174 of them. So this is to be our “settle for” election. Polls are mere shadows compared to actual votes.  Donald Trump is still not the preferred choice of most GOP voters. By my count, Trump still lags significantly among GOP primary voters – by a million. You can check my estimate by adding up the popular vote totals on the site <>. That said, it does look like game over. How can this be? …Because GOP was sleeping at the gate. Because the winner-take-all delegates selection rules allowed a minority candidate to walk away with a majority of delegates. Why all the drop outs? It was never true that the exit of a Trump opponent made it easier for the remaining candidates to collectively out-poll Trump. It only made it harder for any one of them to lead the pack. Collectively they were strong enough to deny Trump a first-ballot win. But each candidate capitulated for one compelling reason that never was a consideration for Mr. Trump: He or she ran out of money. Political money is rarely about the good of the order; it’s typically about buying access to a winner. Consider the irony if the current GOP system produces a November loser.




Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian, classicist, a Central Valley California farm owner, a Hoover Scholar, and an astute, feet-on-the ground political analyst. He has written a spot-on take on the Trump phenomenon, a must read for thinking liberals and realistic conservatives. The title is TRUMP: SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SUN.


Here are two pull quotes:


Trump is a postmodern creation, for whom traditional and time-tested rules do not apply. He is neither brilliant nor unhinged, neither ecumenical nor just a polarizer, not a wrecker and not a savior of the Republican party, but something else altogether. He does not defy conventional wisdom. There simply is no convention and no wisdom applicable to Donald J. Trump. For years postmodernists have lectured us that there is no truth, no absolutes, no timeless protocols worthy of reverence; Trump is their Nemesis, who reifies their theories that truth is simply a narrative whose veracity is established by the degree of power and persuasion behind it.


Trump has no loyalty to the Republican establishment or to the conservative movement. The apparent greatest attraction for his supporters is that he drives crazy those who worship Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And if the Republican establishment implodes with the Obamism it did not stop, well, so goes collateral damage — and in the process, woe to us all.


Trump is for a brief season our long-haired Samson, and the two pillars of the temple he is yanking down are the Republicans to his right and the Democrats to his left — and it will all land on top of us, the Philistines beneath.


“And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life.” Judges 16.30.


Go to this link to read Professor Hanson’s full article:








Visit The Policy Think Site – – where conservatives and liberals are on speaking terms.




Both political parties are moribund – they survive as sad caricatures of their better days, having long ago sidelined their better angels. They are built around two disparate, mostly incompatible coalitions, each held together by shopworn slogans and a shared antagonism for the opposing party.


For many years now, America’s single most popular political affiliation remains none of the above.


Democrat and Republican elected federal officials have cooperated in the accumulation of a staggering national debt – whether tacitly, explicitly or by default no longer matters.[1] These same elites have led this country into global trade arrangements that, whatever their other merits and demerits, have led to the  massive loss of good paying American manufacturing jobs and the hollowing out of US manufacturing capacity in traditional core industries like steel. Because this cumulative damage remains unrepaired, a growing resentment is boiling up among disenchanted US voters.


I recently wrote this to one of my favorite correspondents —


I believe the Trump phenomenon fits into the larger picture in which nationalist, anti-global politicians are gaining more and more traction in Europe, the UK and elsewhere.


The governing, ‘we-always-know-better’ ruling elites have been tone deaf. It will be a double reckoning – for the elites and the trade and for fiscal policies they have spawned,


The coming international trade and monetary disruption may do more damage to the general polity than the Great Depression did. But the USA at least has a solid shot at emerging stronger than before. But my optimistic view depends on the survival of our constitution. Pray that the necessary wrenching economic “adjustments” don’t involve abandoning or seriously tinkering with our constitution.


These are going to be “white knuckle” months and years, not just for conservatives and republicans. They are going to be perilous times for Western Civilization itself. And the USA, all faults accounted for, is the linchpin on which the future of all law-driven, non-authoritarian governance depends.


Now I must add a caution:


There almost certainly will be an economic crisis, no doubt of epic proportions, and no doubt during the term of our next President. As a candidate, Mrs. Clinton presents the not-reassuring prospect of business-as-usual, while Trump’s candidacy promises “change.”  But what change?


Donald Trump is a television celebrity. He presents to us as the classic, supremely self-confident sales/developer/promoter a super salesman who is now selling the notion that Donald Trump can do anything he sets out to. Trump saw a political opportunity in the flawed GOP nominating process with an over-crowded field, and he cunningly exploited it. So now what?


Trump’s situation reminds me of that large barking dog that chases cars every day.  …Until the fateful moment when that large barking dog actually catches one.


I am left with the haunting impression that Mr. Trump is still unprepared for governance, that he’s is still playing catch up, that he’s still making things up as he goes along – covering his tracks by reassuring voters that he’s “flexible.”


I still wonder: Does Donald Trump have a true allegiance to the US constitution, or is it a mere legal obstacle to “getting things done”, a problem for the lawyers to fix? Does he have an understanding of proper constitutional limits? Does he even have a philosophy of government? One could go on with this line of questions for hours, but you get the idea.


There are many more questions about Donald Trump than answers.


It is one thing for a candidate to strategically airbrush his or her positions in order to gather in the widest possible coalition.  It is quite another for a shrewd opportunist to hide his ignorance behind vague, provocative verbal fog-balls. The most dangerous kind of ignorance is what Donald Rumsfeld called that of “the unknown, unknowns.” This is the kind of ignorance that bites you from behind – because you are so full of yourself that your “invincible” confidence prevents you from seeking help where a more humble intellect would readily get and heed advice.


As a politically connected California lawyer, I had privileged access to the process by which Ronald Reagan, a “mere” Hollywood actor, was able to transform himself into a world class governor of the nation’s most populous state.  Reagan’s California staff was among the very best blend of policy acumen, political experience and strategic savvy this country has ever seen. And he brought most of that team to the US Presidency, along with (count them) eight years of hands-on experience in governance – and even more years as a skilled, likeable political advocate.  Trump and Mrs. Clinton are not bringing that kind of experience to the table, let alone a world class staff.


Mrs. Clinton has troubling honesty and judgment problems. Mr. Trump has troubling resume and policy-cluelessness problems.  The election of either of them presents significant risks for everyone who cares about the future of the country.


Must we really settle for a roll of the dice?


The remaining six months of campaigning will fill in some of the blanks. But when the smoke settles and our new POTUS takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017?  I suspect that most of the really important questions will remain unanswered. Here are five to keep in mind:


  • Will either candidate be ready, willing and able to block Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb capability when, inevitably the current sanction regime fails; and the radical Iranian regime makes a sudden, clandestine rush to the point-of-no return nuclear armed power status?


  • Will either candidate be ready, willing and able to effectively defend Israel when its enemies, once again go for the jugular in one more horrendous attempt at the “final solution” to “the Jewish problem”?


  • Will either candidate be wise enough, astute enough and courageous enough to keep and employ an American military force that is ready, willing and fully able to accomplish the first two objectives


  • Will either candidate be wise enough, astute enough, courageous enough, and persuasive enough to thread the economic needle between sovereign fiscal bankruptcy and crippling austerity?


  • Will either candidate be able to survive in office long enough to succeed in any of these objectives?

► Survive as in medically? [Hillary is concealing potentially grave health issues, and Big Donald, greatly overweight and under exercised, has revealed no details about his so-called “excellent” heath.]

► Survive as in the inevitable impeachment attempts? [A Trump second term could look like Bill Clinton’s first and Richard Nixon’s last; and Hillary’s cover-ups may come apart during in her first term, especially when her popularity plummets.]




Copyright © 2016 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law


Jay B Gaskill


The three Post Register opinion pieces are also copyrighted by that newspaper.


The cited Victor Davis Hanson article is protected by his copyright. My pull quotes are just that, “fair comment” pull quotes.


A license to link to this article or to publish pull quotes from it (with full attribution) is hereby granted. For all other permissions and comments, please contact the author via email at


The author served as the chief Public Defender for the County of Alameda, CA, headquartered in Oakland for 10 years, following a long career as an Assistant Public Defender.


To learn more about Jay B Gaskill, attorney, analyst and author, visit “The Policy Think Site” at or navigate to the author’s professional profile at these links:  and / or .









[1] Refer to my piece, The Deficit Conspiracy at this link < >.

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