terry smith | KBIA

terry smith

Commentary: Election Handicapping

Oct 28, 2020

I talked to my favorite Republican and Democrat last week about next week’s election.  Here’s what they said.

Both think Judy Baker will almost, but not quite, beat Caleb Rowden for the local state senate seat.   The Republican says Rowden is lucky Cooper County is part of the district.  The Democrat says Rowden’s outside money is crucial.


Commentary: The Electoral College

Oct 13, 2020

You may have heard of the Electoral College.  If certain unlikely but theoretically possible election scenarios play out on November 3, then in the near future you will hear more about the Electoral College than the law should allow.


Commentary: Short Takes

Oct 8, 2020

Every Saturday the St. Louis Post Dispatch does what they call “Short Takes” instead of a lengthy editorial.  This week’s commentary is short takes.


Commentary: Realignment Potential

Sep 17, 2020

In a July commentary I gave three of the nine reasons why America has a strong and durable two-party system, and why it is difficult for third parties to gain traction.  Sometimes they behave like supernova, blowing up an election, then going away almost without a trace.  But usually, to continue the astronomy analogy, they are just background radiation.


Commentary: Conversation with Insiders, Part 2

Sep 1, 2020

Last time my two political insiders and I looked at local and state races.  Now we’ll look at the national scene. 

We agree that there are more uncertainties and variables than ever before.  I would add that there is also less conventional wisdom to use as a crutch.  I’ll mention only two examples: The 240-Electoral Vote Lock that Democrats are supposed to have – and did until 2016 – just thirty short of the necessary  majority -- is one new uncertainty. 

Commentary: Conversation with Insiders, Part 1

Aug 18, 2020

Recently I got together with my two political insiders – one a progressive Democrat, the other a conservative Republican, both highly respected, well-connected and deeply informed – to survey the lay of the political land right before Labor Day.  I’ll try to condense an hour and a half of conversation and analysis.

Commentary: Two Party System (Part 2)

Jul 23, 2020

Last time I suggested our two-party system is deeply embedded in our political DNA.  In my American political parties class we examine the nine reasons for the persistence of the two-party system, but they can be summarized by three:

·      Most people feel an affinity, strong or mild, for either the Republicans or the Democrats, and the attachment is usually inherited.

Commentary: Two Party System (Part 1)

Jul 7, 2020

One of my favorite lectures to my students at Columbia College is about the stability and durability of the two-party system in America.  I draw a diagram across three whiteboards that dramatically demonstrates this.  It is two very long, almost uninterrupted parallel lines that begin in 1789 with the ratification of the Constitution and end with the present day.


Commentary: Handicapping the November Election

Jun 22, 2020

“Little doubt an election held today would be a Biden landslide/GOP wipeout,” an editor for the respected nonpartisan Cook Political Report said on June 8.

But by law national elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, despite Jared Kushner’s off-hand comment that the pandemic might change election day.  And there are at least seven reasons why no sane analyst would stake their reputation on predicting even a Trump/Republican defeat, not to mention a “wipeout.”  Here they are in no particular order.


Commentary: Rural America

May 14, 2020

Until I was eight years old I lived on the edge of a small town in eastern Illinois.  Every morning I looked out on big sky and corn or corn stubble.  I also lived as an adult in Kirksville for 18 years.  Kirksville is not as small as Oblong, Illinois but it is definitely rural.  All told I’ve lived half my life in rural America.

My early days in the country were especially formative.  I recall them being simple, quiet, safe and boring.  We did not farm, possibly the first generation of my line of Smiths not to.  Life was family-oriented: both sets of grandparents and an aunt and uncle lived on my one-mile walk between grade school and home.  One day was pretty much like the next.\


Commentary: Unlikelies

May 1, 2020

During the Easter egg hunt my two-year-old grandson announced that he had found a rooster egg.  This got me thinking: What are some fascinating but unlikely occurrences in the political world?  With the help of family and friends, here are some possibilities, and feel free to add to the list:


Commentary: Trump Explained

Mar 3, 2020

I’m old enough to remember when Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California.  The received wisdom at the time was: How did this second-rate, washed-up actor get elected governor of the biggest state in the country?  Fourteen years later a version of this same narrative wondered how he got elected president, except the pejorative “old” was added.


Commentary: History Rhymes

Jan 22, 2020

The president, a New Yorker, wins a very close and bitterly contested election and flips the party holding the White House.  His first term is controversial, with many contentious domestic and foreign issues.  The country is polarized, with major urban-rural divides, great income inequalities, and much anxiety in the working class.  Immigration is a huge issue.


From time to time I visit with two well-connected, well-informed, and well-respected local politicos, one a Democrat and the other a Republican.  We caught up even though it is way more than a year until the next national election, and a year in politics time is longer than the amount of time it takes light to reach Earth from the most distant observable galaxy.  Still, it’s good to check vital signs occasionally.


Commentary: The Angry Voter

Aug 7, 2019

When I attended the Midwest Political Science Association meeting in April I sat in on a number of good panels and brought back much good content for my classes at Columbia College and for these commentaries.  In a panel on the 2020 election one author made the case that the traditional metrics used to predict presidential elections may not apply in 2020, just as many of them failed in 2016.


In 1932 and 1933 Joseph Stalin deliberately starved between three and ten million residents of Ukraine – no one knows the number for sure – and he tried to keep it secret.  When a later official Soviet census showed a multi-million person decline in Ukraine’s population, Stalin did the only thing he could do.  He had the top officials of the census executed.

So the pollsters recently fired by President Trump because internal polling showed Trump was behind in several battleground states should consider themselves lucky.  But Trump has a point.  People: IT IS A YEAR AND A HALF UNTIL THE ELECTION.  


Commentary: The Realities of Clean Missouri

Jan 9, 2019

Missouri voters used to be in the news because we were the bellwether state for presidential elections.  For 100 years with one exception Missouri voted for the winner – until 2008.

Now we are in the news because we are a trending red state that votes for progressive ballot initiatives.  Republicans have super majorities in both houses of the state legislature, control all but one statewide office, including both Senate seats, and six of eight congressional seats.  Yet in 2018 voters defeated right-to-work, approved a state minimum wage, approved medical marijuana and passed the “Clean Missouri” amendment, strengthening ethics laws and changing the way state legislative districts are drawn.

Commentary: Missouri's Confused Political Culture

Aug 21, 2018

I am about to conclude that the reason we are called the Show Me State is because we Missourians are confused about our identity and need someone to show us who we are.  I’ve lived in Missouri most of my life and am as curious as anyone.

Commentary: Greitens and Trump

Jun 19, 2018

In early 2016 I watched the presidential and Missouri gubernatorial campaigns with great curiosity.  After the April GOP debate in Columbia not only did I believe that Eric Greitens would not be the nominee, I was fairly sure the most traditional candidate, Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, would be.  During the spring GOP presidential candidate debates I did not know who the nominee would be, but I was fairly sure it would not be Donald Trump.  Silly me.  Silly lots of us.

A year ago last week Donald Trump was officially chosen president by the Electoral College.  Had 77 thousand voters in three states – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – voted for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump, Ms. Clinton would have not only won the popular vote by three million, she would also have narrowly won the Electoral Vote. 

Commentary: Soccer and Foreign Policy

Nov 14, 2017

  President Trump’s Asia trip makes me think of – soccer. I love soccer. Columbia College has two nationally-ranked teams and I’m a big fan. I help my daughter coach a recreation league team here in Columbia that my granddaughters and grandson play on. I coached youth soccer for many years when we lived in Kirksville.

Commentary: Wendy Noren Did Her Job the Right Way

Jun 20, 2017

In the last six months Boone County has seen two exemplary public servants step down.  In January Karen Miller left the Southern District County Commission seat she had held for 24 years.  Last week Wendy Noren resigned from her position as Boone County Clerk after 35 years.

Commentary: Trump's Imprint

Jun 14, 2017

Please indulge a few seconds of personal history.  One of the reasons Columbia College, where I teach, has prospered in recent years is its online program.  I have been heavily involved in online from its first days in the late 1990s and now teach online classes.  I also update courses previously developed by other faculty.

As I speak I am redeveloping our online class on the presidency.  There are some, uh, challenges in updating a college course on the presidency in the summer of 2017.

Commentary: Two Wacky Weeks

May 19, 2017

Remember Pope Benedict the Sixteenth?  I’ll return to him in a moment.

The news is so dynamic just now.  It’s like waiting for the next shoe to drop from a centipede – not when but how many?  The humorist Dorothy Parker had an appropriate phrase: “What fresh Hell is this?”  

Commentary: Democratic Dilemmas

Apr 18, 2017

Here are three things Democrats should not do if they want to regain the majority.

They should not be like Donald Trump and use profanity in public.  Last week it was reported that the Democratic National Chairman said in public one of the words you can’t say on TV, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said one of the other ones, in its gerund form.  Lots of Millennials talk this way and for some reason Trump can get away with talking this way.  But “I am authentic because I am vulgar” is not a winning strategy for Democrats.

Commentary: The Fragility of the Trump Rebellion

Mar 30, 2017

During the 1991 Gulf War military commanders kept talking about a “target-rich environment” in Iraq and Kuwait.  And indeed it was.  And so is American politics in 2017.  There is no shortage of subjects for analysis.

So forgive me for returning to the same one repeatedly: President Trump.  My shorthand for explaining Trump – or at least describing him – I’m not sure anyone can explain him – still works.  In seven words: won’t change, doesn’t care, not a Republican.  Interestingly, this shorthand is also beginning to describe Trump supporters. 

Commentary: "A Proper Funeral"

Feb 14, 2017

An important part of the research I do for these commentaries is to listen – to my students and coworkers at Columbia College, at my church, over my dinner table.  Last summer and fall I was hearing.  But I wasn’t listening.  Had I actually been listening I would not have had Hillary Clinton all elected and inaugurated.  It was an embarrassing and humbling experience.  Here is – hopefully – a reset.

If, as the old saying goes, past performance is the best predictor of future behavior, then I have a pretty good idea of what we can expect from President Trump. 

Next week I’ll give you most of my predictions for key elections.  I’ll give you one today: Hillary Clinton will win the presidential election. 

I realize this revelation will send few of you to the fainting couch.  Most observers are predicting this outcome, and with good reason.

I have my reasons as well and I thought I’d look back at how I’ve been tracking the presidential race from this spot on the dial over the last year.

Last October I said: “Candidates who have the best organizations usually prevail.”  Yes, that’s one of the reasons Clinton will win.

Poor white people have been in the news a lot lately.  Most obviously they are a target voting group and natural constituency for Donald Trump.  But they are also the subject of some interesting recent non-fiction books.  One memoir entitled Hillbilly Elegy by a guy who grew up in rural Kentucky is actually a best seller, and a couple of others have had a real impact on how people think about this very large group of Americans.

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