One by one, until we’re done

It started with an e-mail I received Friday afternoon. It was sent to me by Marty Grohman, the man who sponsored my recent membership into the Biddeford-Saco Rotary Club.

Marty was looking for volunteers who would be willing to give up a few hours to help FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) at its Mobile Vaccination Unit (MVU), which is at Biddeford High School this week and ending on Wednesday evening.

There is an old saying: Many hands make light work. I joined Rotary because I wanted an opportunity to give back to my community, to the people who live, work and play in my hometown.

Photo by Marty Grohman

I signed myself up for three five-hour shifts, starting Monday and ending Wednesday. I finished my first shift this morning. When I first arrived I was warmly greeted by one of the many FEMA staff members. The gym became a giant, yet effective maze as people are screened, tested and then remained sitting at least 15 minutes before going on their way.

No appointment is required to receive the vaccine, which is the Johnson & Johnson version, commonly known as the “one and done” vaccine.

A FEMA staffer told me that they very much appreciated the presence and assistance from community volunteers, allowing them to focus on data collection and other tasks. I actually had a blast because I got to interact with just about every newly-vaccinated person. I manned the check-out station, collecting the data sheets and then informing patients that we would like them to hang out for 15 minutes. (By far, the longest part of the vaccination process.)

We averaged about 70 vaccinations per hour, more than one person every minute; and the process was stunning in its efficiency and design.

People came from all over, from Fryeburg to Sanford and from Turner to South Portland. I also saw a lot of familiar local faces and it was good to see them again. Everyone, it seemed, was in a good mood; happy to scratch the vaccine off their to-do list.

Some people are always quick to gripe or tell horror tales of bloated government bureaucracy. But what I saw this morning was a finely tuned model of efficiency and ease.

The object of Rotary is to “encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise.” I want to thank Marty and all the members of Rotary Clubs around the world (Yes, it’s a global organization.)

I know some people think that COVID-19 is a hoax, others say it is a tool of a tyrannical government. Those voices can yammer away all they want.

What I witnessed this morning was nothing short of a mosaic of humanity: young and old. Men and women, people of color and differing sexual orientation. And guess what? They all smiled today.

And for me, that was a beautiful thing. I got way more than I gave.

If you want a vaccination, they are free and available without an appointment. So, go ahead do your part: roll up your sleeve and take another bite out of this global killer.

Originally posted in Saco Bay News.April 26. 2021

When Irish eyes are smiling

Damn! I remember it like it was yesterday, but actually it was about a quarter century ago when I first met Vincent Keely and his son, Brian.

It was Halloween day and I had just started my new job as a reporter for the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier.

Back then, the Courier office was located on Washington Street in Biddeford, directly across the street from the Wonderbar restaurant.

At that time, the Wonderbar (as I would soon find out) was a political and social epicenter, where everyone felt comfortable knowing that their conversations were confidential, off-the-record and checked at the door. It was also a comfortable haven for those of Irish descent.

The Wonderbar restaurant 0n Washington Street in Biddeford

It was a place where political deals were struck, but more importantly it was a place where everybody knew your name, comforting and familiar, sort of like the television show Cheers.

And now it is for sale.

Back to Halloween 1998.

I left the office to pursue a feature story about downtown merchants handing out candy and other goodies to small children. Brian Keely was standing in the middle of the road, wearing a chef’s apron and clutching a rubber chicken in one hand and a toy axe in the other.

I had no way of knowing back then that Brian Keely and I would become close friends.

I soon became a regular at the Wonderbar. I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in my veins, but the Wonderbar became my home away from home.

I would marvel at the way that Mr. Keely — with his mischievous grin and a sparkle in his eyes — poured a pint of Guinness, forming a shamrock in the foam of the beer. That was a trademark of the Wonderbar that I have not seen since.

Every time, I met a new woman to date, I would bring her first to the Wonderbar for a drink. Following my date, Brian, Vincent and other regular customers would rate those women, always with a chuckle.

I recall late nights hanging out with former school superintendent Kent Webster and some members of the school board after school board meetings, and I remember watching Super Bowl games from my favorite seat at the bar.

Soon after my first date with my wife, Laura, I brought her to the Wonderbar for inspection and evaluation. On the next day, I got a unanimous thumbs up from Vince, Brian and some regular patrons. Who knew then that I would eventually become married to that woman?

My friendship with Brian Keely grew stronger with each passing day. We started a call-in political “talk show” on Biddeford’s public access television channel and later served together on Biddeford’s Downtown Development Commission.

I asked Brian to be the best man at my wedding. He readily agreed.

Laura and I held our wedding reception in a function room above the bar and restaurant.

The Wonderbar was and remains as an intrinsic part of my life. And although now it is for sale, I hope that my memories of the iconic business will endure.

I spoke by telephone with Mr. Keely a few days ago. He told me that he purchased the Wonderbar nearly 30 years ago in 1992 from Edward “Ted” Truman.

I asked why he was selling the business.

“It was a matter of time,” he said. “Covid didn’t help matters any.”

Keely will soon be celebrating his 87th birthday. He said he routinely has back pain and often feels weak when standing too long.

“I didn’t get any help from the city, the state or anyone else,” he said with a tone of frustration.

He said he has had several calls from potential buyers, but most of them were “tire-kickers.”

For me, the Wonderbar was always so much more than an Irish bar and pub. It was my home.

To Vincent and Brian, I offer this Irish blessing “May the road rise to meet you; May the wind be ever at your back; May the sunshine warm upon your face; And the rain fall soft upon your fields; And until we meet again; May God hold you in the palm of his hand.”

Slainte.

Originally published on March 24, 2021 in the Saco Bay News

Local water rates set to increase

Public water consumers in the Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach area will soon see a moderate spike in their monthly water bills.

According to Maine Water, a rate increase of 77 percent will be spread out over a three-year period and be used to help fund the upgrade of existing infrastructure and build a new treatment plant on outer South Street in Biddeford.

Rick Knowlton, president of Maine Water, said the typical residential water bill will increase about 20 cents per day in each of the next three years, roughly $5 to $6 per month in each of the three steps proposed. When the full rate increase process is complete, water service will cost about a penny per gallon.

“We understand this rate increase is significant,” Knowlton said. “There is never a good time to increase water bills. The project to replace the water treatment facility began years ago and construction is nearing completion. We delayed our rate filing for as long as we could in hopes of some relief from the pandemic. Filing now allows our customers the opportunity to phase in this increase gradually over three years. Delaying the filing further would increase water bills even more.”

In addition to assistance from local and state agencies, Maine Water has financial assistance available for customers that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, Knowlton said.

Maine Water purchased the Biddeford-Saco Water Company in 2012. Knowlton said his company knew that the existing treatment facility and water delivery systems would need significant upgrades.

The current treatment facility was built in 1884, and renovations to that facility were last made in 1936 in order to keep up with the growing demands of a robust manufacturing sector on the banks of the Saco River.

Knowlton said Maine Water hired an engineering firm to evaluate the company’s infrastructure in 2013. According to Knowlton, that report detailed a laundry list of needed improvements in order for the company to keep providing clean and safe drinking water.

Construction of the $53 million project began in 2020.  The new facility will be in service in the spring of 2022.

“With 40,000 people relying on one source of drinking water every day, we have to have the facilities in place that can deliver,” Knowlton said. “This project will provide reliable, resilient and efficient water service for decades to come.”

The new facility will produce high quality water more consistently, Knowlton said, pointing to the fact that the river water quality does change with the seasons and with storm events. He said the new facility will be better equipped to handle those natural variations. The new facility will be more efficient and use less labor, less power and less chemical to produce a gallon of drinking water than is used today.

Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant said that he and other municipal officials from Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach took a tour of the plant four years ago.

“I was shocked by what I saw,” Casavant said. “There was no question, whatsoever, that the plant was near the end of its useful operation.”

Casavant said the municipalities will not be making the decision about whether to approve the rate increase.

The rate increase proposal is now being reviewed by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Maine Water serves more than 40,000 people in Biddeford, Saco, OOB and the Pine Point area of Scarborough and the company employs 45 people in the Biddeford-Saco area.

Originally published in Saco Bay News

Joe Biden: The Comeback Kid?

A few days ago, I was drawn into yet another Facebook political debate. I can’t help it. I’m a political junkie and off my meds.

The debate was about the 2020 presidential campaign, and I made the comment that I identify as a “right-leaning moderate”

Within a few seconds after writing that post, some guy (a “friend of a friend” ) attacked me and said I was not a moderate . . .blah, blah, blah.  . . .because I am not a big fan of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential bid.

At first I thought that I should just move on. I don’t know the guy and we had never met or interacted before. But I could not help myself. I decided to defend my position and my lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden.

In summary, I posted that I was indeed a moderate Republican — to the left of people such as Sean Hannity, former Maine governor Paul LePage and President Trump (even though I did vote for Trump in 2016). Before my ardent friends on the left hyperventilate, I will not be supporting Trump’s re-election campaign.

I voted twice for George W. Bush. I also voted for the John McCain/Sarah Palin ticket in 2008. I  posted that I identify with other moderate Republicans such as Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense (and former Maine Senator) William Cohen.

I voted for Barack Obama in 2012, yet I  still considered myself to be a so-called “moderate,” steering left of hyper conservatives such as Mitch  McConnell, Lindsay Graham and Rush Limbaugh, but  to the right of outspoken liberals, such as Rachel Maddow, Jimmy Kimmel and Chuck Schumer.

This year, I will hold my nose and cast my vote for Biden. But I am worried about his mental health and his ability to execute the duties of the president.

>>>>>>>

Jolting Joe has left and gone away

Joe Biden is all but assured to be the Democrats’ choice to prevent another four years of Donald Trump.

But is Biden really the best candidate for Democrats? After almost four years of the Trump Administration, the Democrats throw Biden into the ring to take down Trump? Really? That’s the best they got?

I have my own theory about why Biden came out on top: he is not an extremist. He is experienced and he is likable. But most of all, he is a moderate and may also be able to pull some fence-sitting, moderate Republicans like me: RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).

And here’s a conspiracy theory I have heard about:  The Democratic Party is banking on the probability that Biden (if elected) won’t be able to finish his first term; thus his vice presidential pick is critical — not to mention the need to fire up the Dems and increase voter turnout from younger voters who may otherwise stay at home on Election Day.

Several weeks ago there was an op-ed published in the Washington Post   that details several examples of behavior and missteps that lead to a troubling possibility: Biden may have some serious cognitive issues.

In fairness, the op-ed penned by Marc A. Thiessen also reminds us that President Reagan had his own cognitive issues.

Furthermore, Biden’s age could be another chink in his political armor. Thiessen points out the following:

“Joe Biden is 77, four years older than Reagan was during the 1984 campaign. If Biden is elected, he’ll be older on the day he takes office than Reagan was on the day he left office. So yes, his mental fitness is a legitimate issue.”

As I pointed out in my aforementioned Facebook post. I am a political junkie and a second-rate pundit with an internet connection and a keyboard.  But, over the course of my  professional roles (journalist, public policy and political consultant,) I know it is critically important to remember that voters are more likely drawn to voting FOR a candidate as opposed to voting AGAINST a candidate.

Then again, tapping Sarah Palin as a running mate didn’t accomplish much for John McCain. Why? Because voters were electrified by Barack Obama and his charisma. Obama could have picked Vito Corleone as his running mate and still would have won the race by a landslide.

In summary? Biden’s choice of a running mate is of paramount importance.

Joe Biden is no Barack Obama. He needs to widen his base, including young voters, progressives, the LGBTQ community and yes — even moderate Republicans like me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outrageous Fortune

Noam Galai | Getty ImagesEvery time I start to feel a bit of optimism about the future, the reality hammer drops on my head.

Today, we learned that restaurants in southern Maine will not be able to re-open as originally scheduled  because of ongoing concerns about the Cov-19 epidemic.

The social media reaction to this news has been swift from both sides of the political aisle, Republicans blame Janet Mills and Democrats blame President Trump.

There are posts calling for an armed revolution to overthrown Maine Governor Janet Mills.  “. . .Open up anyways and bring your guns!!! ,” wrote one poster on Facebook.

In the Shakespearean play Hamlet, the young prince contemplates suicide, best referenced within this famous soliloquy: To Be or Not to Be.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.
People on the right are still referencing mask wearers as “sheep,” unable to discern the truth.
People on the left use terms like “mouth breather,” to describe conservatives.
There doesn’t seem that there is any middle ground.
And now the news released today by the governor: dine-in restaurants in southern Maine will need to remain closed until further notice, as opposed to a cautious opening date of June 1.
Think of all those businesses that purchased food and supplies as they geared up for June 1. Think about the employees called back to work. What does the future hold?
From my perspective, the future looks pretty grim, so I have designed my own plan for businesses that want to open on June 1:
  • Let the restaurant owners decide if they want to open or not.
  • Let customers decide on whether they want to frequent these establishments
  • Let the employees decide whether they want to work.
  • For people who have a weakened immune system (like my wife) stay at home.
  • For people who do not want go to public places, do not go there. You can order groceries and food online.
This my five-point plan. What do you think?

 

The war of the words

I am 56 years-old. I am a white man. I live in the suburbs. I have two healthy sons and an amazing wife.

I have nothing to complain about. But still I have a knack for finding political fights on social media platforms.

I used to be a journalist, and then a columnist. I put food on my family’s table by sharing my opinions every week.

Please, however, make no mistake, I am today a little more than a second-rate pundit with a boatload of opinions, a keyboard and an internet connection. Sadly, a lot of other people I know are in the same boat.

When I was growing up, I was taught that voting, and politics were private things. That’s why we have curtains at the voting booth: to keep our choices private. Back then, however, we didn’t have an internet and access to so many people.

According to Facebook, I have more than 1,100 “friends.” Let’s get real. I can count the number of my friends on two hands,

“We are reckless in our use of the lovely word friend,” or so wrote French author Romain Rolland in 1913.

I am guilty of being a political monger, easily sucked into meaningless debates on Facebook and Twitter. But I also like to think I am a political centrist, and that it would be difficult to discern my political orientation based on my social media postings.

Maybe I am kidding myself. Maybe not.

I find it curious that so many people spend so much time engaged in political debates on social media outlets, some of which become quite heated as these amateur pundits duke it out on the world-wide web.

Both Democrats and Republicans (in almost equal measure) line up in their own turf and pontificate why their points are absolute truth. Are these people trying to recruit more members? Are they hoping to influence our nation’s political discourse?

Following my career in journalism, I accepted a job as a public relations professional. Yes, social media is a powerful communications tool in today’s world of political engagement, but every PR pro knows that it must be handled with precision.

Do you really think that name calling, badgering and screeching hardcore positions will “convert” someone from a different camp?

How much time do you spend on social media platforms, engaged in political debates?

Is it worth it?

All Along the Watchtower

(previously published in Saco Bay News)

It seems ironic that this is “Sunshine Week.”

No, it has nothing to do with Daylight Saving Time, but as the world grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic it becomes even more important for the media to “keep a check” on our government whether federal, state or local.

Sunshine Week was founded in 2005, and its purpose is to provide the media (and the general public) with the tools and resources necessary to ensure that government operations are open and transparent. Sunshine as opposed to darkened backroom deals among government officials.

More than 200 years ago, during a debate in the British Parliament, Edmund Burke coined a phrase to describe the media: “The Fourth Estate.” It was a recognition of the media’s power and responsibilities. We have a system of checks and balances between the branches of our government in this country. The First Estate is the executive branch; the Second Estate is the legislature; and the Third Estate is the judiciary.

Spiderman comics coined the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility.”  But the media cannot exercise its power if the government operates in secret or manipulates the flow of information.

Fortunately, the media (and the general public) have an awesome and powerful tool in their arsenal.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966 just as the Viet Nam War was heating up. FOIA provides the media with legal muscle in order to keep the public informed about government affairs.

One of the earliest and most notable uses of the FOIA was its role in the Watergate scandal. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had to use extraordinary tactics, which included FOIA, in order to get to the truth that eventually crumbled Richard Nixon’s presidency.

The media plays an important role in disseminating the news. In fact, it is the media that frames the story, whether it’s a global issue like the Corona virus, a national story such the Democratic primary or a local issue such as the city of Biddeford’s plan to construct a parking garage.

All over the globe, the media has changed drastically over the last 30 years or so. Today, news consumers have more options than ever before. Today, we have a 24-hour news cycle that is voracious, supported by advertising and highly competitive. The days of Walter Cronkite and the neighborhood paperboy are behind us.

Today, consumers have a plethora of choices about where to get their news. You can watch CNN on your smart phone while riding the subway. But how do we know whether your choice of media is trustworthy? We don’t. The cure for this problem is for you to gather your news from a variety of news sources.

If we want the media to be fair, balanced and accurate, we must ensure that reporters (and even back yard pundits) have access to the information that allows them to keep the government in check because our representative government is obligated to be open and transparent.

This year, Sunshine Week runs from March 15 to March 21 (the first day of spring).

Open your windows and pull up your blinds. Let the sun shine into your life so that you can make informed decisions and choices.

Remember, it’s your government.

 

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Robert Johnson Album Cover
Robert Johnson Album Cover

I have a lot in common with my hometown of Biddeford.

I am at a crossroads, and I have decided that all good things must come to an end. It’s been an incredibly fun ride, but it’s time for me to make some changes.

You may have already noticed, but last week I put All Along the Watchtower — my personal blog — to bed.

Going forward, this site will focus solely on my new business venture. The blog posts will be less personal and focused more on subjects such as public policy, politics, economic development, media trends and healthcare.

The timing for this seemed right. For many years, All Along the Watchtower focused primarily on the city of Biddeford and its political infrastructure. Because my wife was recently elected to the Biddeford City Council, it would be increasingly difficult to write about the city objectively.

And then, I decided to start my own business.

Many people have asked why I decided to launch Randy Seaver Consulting. A number of factors converged; some anticipated, some beyond my control.

Laura and I have been talking about doing this for more than a year, and finally the time seemed right. So, I find myself at a crossroads. A proverbial turning point in my life.

It is exciting and simultaneously terrifying. There is no safety net. Either I swim or I drown.

Now, with the disclosure out of the way, I would like to offer a few final thoughts on my hometown of Biddeford, a city that is facing its own crossroads; its own turning point.

Biddeford is in the midst of a renaissance, a revitalization that would be impossible to recognize 15 or 20 years ago. There is a new vibrancy here. The city’s narrative is changing and people all over Maine are noticing.

But still, there is an internal conflict in the city and it’s not so subtle sometimes.

I read something on Facebook recently that left me shaking my head. It was penned by a woman who claimed she moved here three weeks ago.

Essentially, this woman wrote that the city does not need a parking garage because downtown has nothing to offer but crime and crappy businesses. Who would want to come here? Why would they need parking? There is already plenty of street parking because Biddeford — basically — sucks.

I fought the urge to respond to this woman. I had a few questions for her. 1.) Why did you choose to move to Biddeford, if it is truly as bad as you say? 2.) Were you court-ordered to move here? 3.) Did someone force you to live here?

I understand that change is uncomfortable. I am experiencing my own incredible set of changes (and challenges). But change is part of growth while stagnation leads to decay.

I can appreciate the apprehension some people have about the city’s transformation. I also fully support the notion of constructive criticism from people who are worried about being priced out of their homes because of property taxes. These conversations happen in every community across the country.

But Biddeford has something unique, there is a strong element of self-loathing here.

Over the last few months, countless social media accounts have been set up for no other purpose than to spread negativity and vitriol through the city. No solutions are offered, none of these folks step forward to actually do anything other than gripe.

Self-hatred is prevalent here, and I wonder why more of our residents are not rooting for the city’s success. I don’t expect anyone to become a cheerleader. I respect different opinions and perspectives, but if you stay focused on the negative then you will find yourself in a negative place.

I am at a crossroads, and if I want to be successful, I must focus on success.

If I want my clients to succeed then I must keep my energy positive while also remaining open to constructive criticism.

It is the same for my hometown.

I am excited and anxious about my future. It’s no different in Biddeford.

 

 

What would you do?

reportersMany moons ago, when I was an editor at a weekly newspaper, we used to run a section in the paper that was known as the Police Notes.

It’s a common practice for smaller, local newspapers to run such police blotters, but we used to have a little fun with ours by giving each blurb a humorous sub headline,  and we never included names.

For example, a police report regarding a complaint about a neighbor’s dog doing his business in the neighbor’s yard might be titled “Canine Travels for Business” The blurb would read something like this ” An Elm Street man called police to report that a neighbor’s dog has been repeatedly defecating on his lawn.”

We sought out the most amusing police notes from the three communities we covered. More serious crimes were covered in other parts of the paper. But still, we had access to all police reports, so everything was theoretically fair game.

There are different standards when writing news stories. For example, if a city councilor were arrested for an OUI offense that story would likely be on the front page. If an average citizen were arrested for the same exact crime, it would likely end up in the police blotter without his name.

Police officers are also held to different standards than firefighters. Why? Because a police officer has authority over citizens and a sworn duty to uphold the law. A basic firefighter or public works employee has no such authority.

Bottom line: some people are treated differently by the media, most notably public officials and those who have thrust themselves into the public spotlight. An obituary for a long-time city volunteer and former school teacher would likely run longer than an obituary for someone who was not as well-known in the community.

These are always tough judgment calls for reporters and editors.

I remember one particular item that gave me pause. The adult child of a city official was arrested on a domestic violence charge.

Was this “news” simply because of the relation to a city official? I eventually decided it was not. Typically, domestic violence reports were covered in our Police Notes, not in the news section of the paper.

But if you were a newspaper editor, where would you draw the line? Do the actions of a municipal official’s relative (sibling, child or parent) warrant a news story?

What if the governor’s brother were indicted on charges of mail fraud? For me, that’s an easier question to answer.

On a higher level, the media usually keeps a clear distance when reporting on the children of the President of the United States, but President Jimmy Carter’s brother, Billy, seemed like fair game.

These are all tough judgment calls, and they become more murky as we descend lower on the authority scale. Certainly a city councilor wields much less influence than a state senator or governor.

So, I made a choice. I decided not to pursue a story about this councilor’s adult son. The action’s of the son were not directly connected to the councilor. Thus, in my opinion, it was not fair game and would be in poor taste to publish such a news story. In short, it would be sensationalism and had no impact on residents in that community.

Where do you think the media should draw a line?

I never wonder whether I made the right choice. I am as confident in my decision today as I was 13 years ago.

But what would you have done?

The Outsiders

outsidersUp until two months ago, most political consultants within the DC Beltway would tell you that you need a “moderate” candidate in order to win an election. That candidate, the consultants would tell you, should be a centrist, an establishment-type, someone who makes most people safe and secure. Someone predictable.

Outsiders, consultants explain, are unknown quantities; unable to steal votes from the sacred independent, middle-of-the-road voters who often carry much weight in so-called purple states like Ohio.

Conventional wisdom dictates that in order to win the general election, the primary candidate has to draw from the middle to outpace his/her opponent.

This presidential race is unlike many other races in recent history, for both the Democrats and the Republicans. But is there any truth in the theory that moderate candidates are effective for either party?

The establishment didn’t work for the GOP

Republicans bristle at the idea of an “establishment” centrist candidate. They point to the last 20 years, in which they have won only two presidential elections after unsuccessfully nominating Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

In each of those Republican primaries, anti-establishment outsiders were quickly sent packing. Sam Brownback, Jim Gimore and Tom Trancedo were all anti-establishment outsiders in the 2008 GOP race. Rick Santorum, Buddy Roema, Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry were all anti-establishment, political outsiders. Where are they today?

The establishment rarely works for Democrats

In 2008, Senator Hillary Clinton’s star was shining brightly. She seemed to be the heir apparent for the Democratic nomination. She was, by definition, a Washington insider and portrayed herself in the same mold as her husband: a pragmatic moderate who could get things done.

But a war-weary electorate was looking for something fresh. They rejected all the insiders (Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards and Bill Richardson), instead rolling the dice on a virtual poltical unknown with almost no experience in Washington DC.

But the election of Barack Obama was an anomaly in politics. It defied conventional wisdom. Clinton’s campaign consultants wound up with egg on their faces.

In 2000, the Democrats took the safe bet with Al Gore, who is about as establishment as they come. Of course, we all know that Gore came within inches of winning that election, and that he was able to sway independent voters. But still, it was not enough.

Four years later, John Kerry, another insider and establishment type fended off political outsiders such as Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. He also beat other insiders Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman and Dennis Kucinich.

When outsiders make a splash

Many Republicans still blame billionaire Ross Perot for handing Democrat Bill Clinton a victory over President George HW Bush in 1992; and Democrats still seethe when they speculate about the damage that Ralph Nader played in 2000, supposedly stealing very critical votes from Al Gore.

This campaign cycle, both the Democratic Party and Republicans have their hands filled with so-called outsiders.

I don’t know how you describe Bernie Sanders as an “outsider” because he’s been a part of Washington’s infrastructure for nearly 16 years. But he is most certainly not an “establishment,” middle of the road candidate. He is a self-described socialist, but his poll numbers look good in both Iowa and New Hamshire. He will likely get crushed in South Carolina, but are Democrats fired up enough to “feel the bern” past Nevada?

And then there’s Donald Trump, a candidate who is all over the map. Trump defies every ounce of campaign logic known to man.

The establishment is beside itself. The National Review and Rich Lowry can’t stop him or slow him down. His off-the-cuff remarks about immigrants, Muslims and even war heroes only makes him more popular.

He is an egomaniac who has filed for bankruptcy four times. Yet, he describes himself as a fiscal conservative who can make “America Great Again.” (He’s just short on specifics)

So maybe, just maybe, this will be the year when Republican voters tell the consultants to just stuff it.