Month: <span>March 2016</span>


For all the recent references to the aftereffects of the presidential runs of Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Democrat George McGovern in 1972, there’s been remarkably little comparison of how the two parties responded to those mega-losses.

And the responses were different, and those differences reverberate today.

The losses were roughly comparable in scope. Goldwater lost to incumbent Democrat Lyndon Johnson by 486-52, winning only his home state of Arizona and five states in the deep south (which historically had been deemed Democratic – this was a key point in their transition toward Republican). McGovern lost similarly in the popular vote, but even more heavily in the electoral, 520-17.

Both candidacies came from the philosophical edges of the respective parties, the Republican right and Democratic left. Both were preceded by warnings of leaving the vital center behind – big losses were widely predicted. And in each case the party’s center nominated the next president (Republican Richard Nixon, Democrat Jimmy Carter).

Just below the surface, other things happened.

The reaction of Goldwater’s supporters (not so much Goldwater himself) was not to give up and acknowledge they’d gone too far, but rather to double down and keep their eye on the long game. They did not heavily challenge for the presidency in 1968, though Ronald Reagan did make a significant appearance, but instead began building for the future: Media, think tanks, investments in personnel, whole new news media (eventually, talk radio, Fox News and much more), pushes to gradually move the party rightward and challenge liberal Republicans. It was a long game indeed, but it paid off. 16 years after Goldwater’s loss the right was triumphant, electing Reagan and launching a generation of politics in which something like Goldwater-style conservatism was the dominant driving political force in the country. Republicans did not always win, but even when Democrats did they had to respond to the world world of Goldwater and Reagan.

Compare that to the way Democrats responded after the McGovern loss. There was virtually no talk afterward of doubling down on moving leftward; nearly all the Democratic strategic talk was of trying to recapture the center, of moving right. In contrast to the infrastructure building on the right, the reaction on the left was more of a defensive crouch. Before the 70s the word “conservative” had been in some decline as a proud political description; from the mid-70s onward, it was owned by Republicans and waved as a proud banner. During that same period, the word “liberal,” which mostly had been happily embraced by liberals for years, was attacked and left undefended, and until very recently was avoided by most Democrats.

Times change, and both parties are struggling now with the changes they are coping with – that the country is pushing them through.

Organization Republicans now have, partly because their own preferences and partly because of the way Democrats have acted, a couple of generations of ideological inflexibility – it’s all they know. Now the Republican base has split wide as millions (many of those we call Donald Trump supporters) has recognized weaknesses (or at least, areas of strong disagreement) in the acceptable ideology. The logical end game for a politics based around Goldwaterism has come in view.

And Democrats? They’re more flexible, somewhat better able to manage changes, but still not easily. Even after the Barack Obama wins of 2008 and 2012 there’s still something of the defensive crouch, but only in part of the party. The Bernie Sanders campaign, and a movement (whether tightly or loosely organized over time) stand to move the party away from a defensive position, and put it more on offense for the first time in half a century. It is where the Democrats might have been a decade or more ago if it had taken some of the lessons movement Republican conservatives did way back when.

Or at least there’s the potential. 2016 seems to be a time of some philosophical crackup and realignment. It is one of those points when the tectonic plates stand to shift. Who will observe wisely, and who will be carried along? Who will be on defense, and who on offense?



Some weeks ago I chatted with several leading Idaho Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton for president. Asked why they preferred the former secretary of state over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the core of the answer was that Sanders would be too risky a nominee.

Meaning: He’s viewed as a left-wing extremist, and the “socialist” label would be death in, at least, Idaho. Clinton, in relative terms, was the more centrist and therefore “safer” choice. So far as I can tell, this was the prevailing view across most of the Idaho Democratic leadership.

Nationally, the odds favor Clinton winning the nomination over Sanders. But in the light of last week’s caucuses let’s revisit the subject of Sanders and Idaho. In those meetings, where turnout busted historical records, Sanders demolished Clinton, with 78 percent of the vote (and he won every county save for the smallish Lewis). And the same day in Utah, which bears some demographic similarity to southern Idaho, Sanders did even better. That’s not the general electorate, of course, only participants in the Democratic meetings. But their unusually large size (for caucuses) coupled with the overwhelming result surely carries a message.

Many of the caucus meetings were much larger than expected, and many participants waited in long lines – four to five hours in Boise – to participate. The actual process often took more hours still, vastly unlike the normal duck-in-duck-out voting in primary and general elections. (A lot of Democrats have complained about the caucus procedures, which also excluded many who wanted to vote but, for illness, employment or other reasons, could not get to the sites on time.)

Consider too: These were public votes, not secret ballots. When Idaho Republicans cast ballots in their recent primary, no one ever saw who you supported. At the Democratic caucuses, you had to publicly endorse your candidate. If you were going to support that New York-accented Democratic socialist from Vermont, as nearly four out of five Idaho Democrats did, in the face of opposition not only from the majority Republicans in the county all around you but also most of the state’s Democratic leadership as well, you were doing it as publicly as if you’d taken out a display ad in the newspaper. More: You had to look those people in the eye.

That may not be so big a deal in Latah County or Blaine County, or in Boise. But think about those Democrats in Madison County – which has been called, with justification, the most Republican county in the nation – and in Cassia, Franklin, Lemhi, or Payette. The culture in these counties, in nearly all of Idaho, is overwhelmingly conservative and Republican. Local Democrats most typically keep their heads down. But in significant numbers, in support of a candidate labeled as far-left and “socialist,” they were visible last week.

One astonished Magic Valley woman commented at her caucus, “Hey, 140 people in Jerome. I am not alone.” What they did took serious fortitude. (As it would if you were a Republican caucusing for, say, Ted Cruz in an overwhelming liberal Democratic locale.)

What does this imply for politics in Idaho and beyond?

Maybe, maybe, that something is changing in Idaho. It may indicate that there are plenty of Democratic sympathizers out there, unorganized (“unchurched”?) who have little in common with most of the state’s Democratic establishment. Many Idaho Democrats for years have tried to position themselves not to lose, or at least lose badly, and shaped their message to mesh at least partly with that of the Republicans. Maybe these Democrats out there, and possibly others as well, are signaling now they would be more responsive to something else.

After the caucuses, state Democratic Chair Bert Marley, a superdelegate to the national convention with an unbound vote, said he would vote there for Sanders. That may be a first step to one of the most useful things leading Idaho Democrats could do in the months ahead: Make contact with these super-determined caucus goers, and find out whats motivating them. In many respects these people seem to be the new majority among Democrats in Idaho, and maybe elsewhere.



There’s a logic some political people embrace through the years that goes like this: When it comes to offices you’re highly unlikely to win, you’re better off if no one from your party files as a challenger for it. That way, you’ll be putting in fewer resources on loser races, and you can focus on the better prospects.

I’ve never bought it.

For one thing, a “placeholder” candidacy really doesn’t cost a lot more than the filing fee, and usually you can avoid that by collecting petition signatures – a good organizing tool in itself. For another, it demonstrates that members of that party really are around, a psychological lever. Even placeholders usually participate in debates and are profiled in news reports, good free media for the minority party. And placeholders tend to bring their own small group of supporters into the arena.

But among the various other reasons filling those slots is a good idea, there’s pre-eminently this: You never know what might happen to the majority party or its candidates in the months ahead.

What if, for example, the Larry Craig 2007 airport scandal, which surfaced in August that year, had surfaced instead in August (or later in) 2008? Before those reports, Craig would have been nearly unbeatable for re-election; afterward, with the right set of responses to the headlines, lightning might actually have struck for the Democrat. Or maybe not, but the possibility would have been real.

Idaho Democrats in recent years have had a tougher time filling major office ballot positions, and only days before the the filing deadline did party organizers produce candidates for the top three this year: Jerry Sturgill for the Senate (incumbent: Republican Mike Crapo), James Piotrowski for the first district House seat (incumbent: Republican Raul Labrador) and Jennifer Martinez for the second district (incumbent: Republican Mike Simpson). They seem to be good candidates, though by starting so late, they’re at a big disadvantage, and that only piles on top of other disadvantages facing all Democrats in recent years. Last cycle, Democrats produced candidates for major offices much earlier, and still generally lost in landslides.

They have to know, going in, that their odds are not good.

But Democrats were right to make the recruiting effort for these congressional level seats, and for many others at the legislative and other levels. The old caution that you never know what the months ahead might bring seems especially valid this year.

At this is written, businessman Donald Trump (who came in second place in the Idaho primary) looks most likely to become the Republican nominee for president. But will he? If he does, how do the more establishment or philosophically-oriented Republicans react – do they support him or, as some openly discuss, will they bolt and support an independent candidacy, or sit the race out? If Trump is denied the nomination, how do his supporters react?

Trump has built strong support within Republican-supporting ranks, but how will he be received in the general election voting population? (Probably a good deal differently.)

How will Idaho’s elected and party officials respond to a Trump candidacy, or the fallout from a battle over it? Almost none of Idaho’s elected officials have come out in public support of Trump, which may reflect what their constituents think. What will happen to Republican unity under those conditions?

Six months from now, how will people look at the two major parties – the same way they do today, or differently?

There are no easy answers. That’s why you’re wise to cover as many of the contingencies as you can.


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You’ve probably heard how most Indie authors now use something called “print on demand” that can make the printing process fast and inexpensive.

But how exactly does that work?   Let’s walk through it step by step.

Print on Demand Services

Many businesses—even some older, traditional printers—now offer digital (electronic) book printing, called  “print on demand” which allows as little as a single book to be printed to order.  Two companies dominate the field, partly because of their corporate connections.  CreateSpace is a subsidiary of, and working with Amazon through CreateSpace is not only seamless but has financial advantages.  IngramSpark is part of the Ingram Content Group, which among other things is the leading wholesaler for bookstores in the United States (more about IngramSpark here).  Both are customer-friendly and have good support services.  The distinctive advantages of CS and IS complement each other enough that I have sometimes used both to print a particular book title.

What follows is how an indie author can print a normal paperback book with a black and white interior.  As with most things, the details can become more complicated if you want extra features.  Here, I’ll mostly follow the basic CreateSpace process, but IngramSpark’s is similar.

The first thing you do at CreateSpace (or IngramSpark) is set up an account—you’ll see a tab suggesting this on the main page.  This setup is much like signing up with other web sites, from Facebook to PayPal, but you’ll need your credit card and shipping address information ready when you go there.  Later you’ll be ordering books and CS will need those instructions.

Before you do anything else at CreateSpace, get an ISBN number, probably from Bowker (though there are other options), and place it in your book on the verso page (after the title page) and on the back cover.

Then, when you think your book is ready to print—after it’s been edited and designed and other preliminary work is done—export your Word or other files into PDF files.  You’ll need one file for the book cover and a separate one for the interior.  These are what you’ll send to CreateSpace.

Data and Decisions

When you set up a CreateSpace account, you were given a “member dashboard,” which includes a list of “my projects”, which will be empty at first.  Next to it you’ll see a button saying “add new title,” and you begin the print-on-demand process by clicking it.

a print on demand primer for indie authors by Randy Stapilus for

From this point, working through several pages of forms, you’ll mainly be asked to supply information or make decisions.  Allow an hour, maybe a little more, to do this.

You’ll type in the name of the project—the title of the book—and whether this “project” is a paperback book, an audio CD, a DVD or a video download.  (CreateSpace produces all of these.)  You can take the book setup speedily through either an “expert” or “guided” process.  The guided approach takes a little longer, but you’ll be less likely to make mistakes.

You provide the book title and subtitle (if there is one), a book description, the names of the author(s) or editor(s) (whether just one or more than one), and the publication language and date.  You’ll be asked the “trim size” of the book—that is, it’s height and width, such as 6 x 9, or 8.5 by 11 inches.  If your book is part of a series, even a planned series, you can note that too.

a print on demand primer for indie authors by Randy Stapilus for

You’ll be asked for an ISBN number, which you should already have.  (Its validity will be checked.)  You’ll also have to set your book’s list price.

You will choose whether your interior book pages can “bleed”—that is, whether pictures or other items on a page can run all the way off the page, or whether everything must be contained within a margin.  (Most of the time, unless you have some expertise or special reasons, you’ll probably want a margin.)  You also can choose between a glossy or matte cover finish.

Then you’ll be asked to upload your cover and interior PDF files.  A button you click lets you find those files on your computer, and select them.  When they’re fully received by CreateSpace, they’ll get an immediate automated review for any basic errors that either would interfere with publication, or could cause printing issues.  Some of these errors must be corrected before the book can be printed.  Others are relatively minor and need not hold up the book.  I have from time to time, for example, run pictures of quality low enough that CS flagged them for warning, but they still printed well enough.

After the automated review of the cover and interior, actual humans also review the interior file of the book for any problem areas.  This can take a day or even longer, though usually I have gotten responses back more quickly.

If you’re told corrections are needed, you’ll need to go back to your cover or interior file and make the needed changes, then send a new (corrected) file to replace the old one, and go through the review process again.

a print on demand primer for indie authors by Randy Stapilus for

Once CreateSpace has printable files from you, you’ll hit a page called “channels,” where you decide how your book will be distributed.  CreateSpace offers options including the Amazon store (automatically set up there through a one- button click), direct sales through CreateSpace (where you buy your own copies of the book at lower cost) and bookstore and library distribution.  IngramSpark has its own set of distribution options.

After that your book is live—available, at least within a few hours, to the world.

Does some of that walk-through the process raise brand new questions for you?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  Let me know what they are, and they might become the subject of another post here soon.

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Here, on Tuesday night and since, is a map to ponder: The Idaho split between counties whose Republicans voted for businessman Donald Trump and those who preferred Senator Ted Cruz.

I’ve been trying to align the collection of counties for either candidate with any other kind of lineup, and nothing obvious suggests itself. This may take a little creativity.

There were a dozen Trump counties, scooped out of the center of the state: from the north, Shoshone, Clearwater, Lewis, Idaho, Lemhi, Adams, Valley, Custer, Boise, Elmore, Blaine and Camas. They occupy roughly the geographic center of the state and its most lightly populated regions too; the state’s largest wilderness areas are there, but not one of the state’s 16 largest cities. (Mountain Home was the largest city in a county that went for Trump.)

But, although Cruz won all of the state’s larger cities, many of the state’s smallest, most sparsely populated and most rural counties, like Clark, Oneida, Owyhee, Lincoln, Butte and Adams, also were Cruz counties.

Analyses of counties that were more or less sparsely populated, or included more or fewer college graduates, didn’t seem to match closely with the county breakdowns.

The Trump counties included the state’s most Democratic county, Blaine, and one or two other relatively Democratic counties (Shoshone, Lewis), but Blaine Democrats are quite different from Shoshone Democrats (or those in most of the other counties). And most of these counties are as Republican as any in Idaho. Trump’s message on the economy and joblessness may have hit in some of these places, though, since counties like Adams, Clearwater and Shoshone have had especially consistent struggles with unemployment for a couple of decades.

The 32 Cruz counties occupy most of southern Idaho, including nearly all the areas touched by an interstate or near a regional center, and the north along Highway 95 and the Washington border from Lewiston to Canada. These regions, north and south, are very different kinds of areas.

The closest to uniformity was the fourth-place finish for Ohio Governor John Kasich in every county but Blaine – Idaho’s most Democratic.

The speculation that Mormons would tend to support Florida Senator Marco Rubio came to little, apart from the point that all of the counties where Rubio reached second place – like Bonneville, Bannock, Madison, Jefferson, Teton, and Oneida – were bunched in eastern Idaho, mostly in counties with a very strong LDS presence. Rubio’s stop in Idaho Falls, his one counterpart stop alongside Boise in the weekend before the election, was surely no accident. Nor were the endorsements from people either leading in (businessman Frank VanderSloot) or close to (Senator Jim Risch) the LDS community.

So why did Cruz prevail in those areas? The guess here is that last week was a bad news stretch for Rubio, and word spread that his chances of getting the nomination were crashing. That would have led to a choice between the ideological and church-oriented Cruz and the more free-form (and more secular) angry Trump. (Kasich, widely perceived – however inaccurately – as a moderate, likely wasn’t a serious factor.) In that framework, the choice for many Mormons probably would have become clear.

Looked at that way, from a social and organizational point of view, the map starts to make more sense. The areas with large conservative (but not party) organizations, and those including the larger church organizations, tend to match up well with the Cruz counties. The small town areas relatively out of the pull of regional centers tended to go for Trump.

What will be worth watching is this: Will different kind of political appeals, different kinds of politics and campaigning, start to matter in these two types of areas?



In primary season, elections in this or that state often are called “pivotal.” Far fewer really are. We won’t know for sure (you never do) for a while, but in the Democratic race for president Michigan may have been an actual pivot.

There is of course the point that, had the polling been correct and Hillary Clinton won Michigan decisively (as she overwhelmingly won Mississippi the same day), Sanders would have been on the ropes. Even as matters stand, he’s presently far behind – by about 200 – in the delegate count. And he won Michigan only by a modest margin.

But, well, polling was not correct, and to a degree that will go down in political lore. Harry Enten at the FiveThirtyEight site reflected, “Bernie Sanders made folks like me eat a stack of humble pie on Tuesday night. He won the Michigan primary over Hillary Clinton, 50 percent to 48 percent, when not a single poll taken over the last month had Clinton leading by less than 5 percentage points. In fact, many had her lead at 20 percentage points or higher. Sanders’s win in Michigan was one of the greatest upsets in modern political history.”

That means, as people cast their ballots, they may pay a little less attention to the polling and to who’s ahead. (And yes, those expectation factors really do drive votes.)

The Democratic race had been getting less attention in the last couple of weeks than the Republican, which hurts Sanders. The Michigan result provides a compelling argument for increasing attention given to the Democrats.

And, while Mississippi is a lot like many of the southern states which have been voting (strongly) for Clinton, those states are all gone now – all voted. The big votes ahead, in states like Ohio, Illinois, New York, California, will be much more like Michigan than like those southern states. Is something going on there that Sanders may be tapping into?

None of this is a prediction for a Sanders win. But the presidential abruptly looks different than it did yesterday.



In this season so uncomfortable for many Republicans a new question may soon arise: What’s most important, party or philosophy?

On Tuesday, and then again possibly in November, we’ll get hard numbers on that, because what’s on the ballot will give Idaho’s Republicans, and their elected leaders, a choice.

Not in many, many years has a leading Republican candidate for president run so distant from what Idaho Republicans have for generations accepted as gospel: Less government, lower taxes, support business, oppose abortion, and so on. Reflection Reaganism, if you’re a Republican, and you’re golden.

In much of Idaho, there’s been a significant related factor: The close alliance between most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who account for about a third of the vote in Idaho and a much higher percentage of Republican voters, and orthodox Republicans. (The church itself takes no formal position on presidential or other political races.)

Enter now Donald Trump, the most probable Republican nominee for president and most significant Republican breaker of the mold since before Reagan.

He is not a reciter of the GOP mantra, not even close. He doesn’t see public policy through the small-government/lower-taxes lens. The main philosophy of Donald Trump’s campaign is Donald Trump, and even that changes from week to week. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who had overwhelming support in Idaho, remarked on Thursday, “There’s plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake. Mr. Trump has changed his positions not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign, and on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row.”

He also attached Trump to “the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss”.
In saying so, Romney probably did not run afoul of many of his fellow churchgoers.

On Tuesday, Christopher Cunningham, the content director of (a website not affiliated with the church but closely supportive of it) made what may be a powerful argument for church members. (You can read it at He described a 2014 interview of Trump by McKay Coppins: “Trump insisted that Mitt Romney lost because his faith was ‘alien.’ But as Trump’s thoughts on the Church turned negative, Coppins interrupted explaining that he was Mormon. Trump then changed his tune saying, ‘People don’t understand the Mormon thing. I do. I get it.’”

Cunningham also quoted a Trump spokesman, who was defending the candidate’s proposals to investigate and possibly close mosques, as adding (approvingly), “It’s no different than a Mormon Church. You’ve had the DOJ investigate Mormon Churches and shut them down.”

In all, Cunningham said, “the uncorrected hostility between Donald Trump and Mormons is unprecedented in modern presidential politics. You may have to go back to Grover Cleveland in 1889 to find similar anti-Mormon sentiment from a presidential campaign.”

Few well-known Idaho political figures have signed on with Trump and offered a favorable counter-message. One who has is Skip Brandt, an Idaho County commissioner (and former legislator), who wrote in a letter to the editor: “The stakes could not be higher. The politically correct socialists are about to destroy our country. Donald Trump is the common-sense conservative who can change Washington, D.C. Donald Trump has the establishment (Democrats and Republicans alike) scared to death. Why? Because Trump is a private sector businessman that is used to saying ‘You’re fired.’”

So what message will Idahoans back on Tuesday? Polling has shown Trump running strong in the Gem State, well positioned to win as he has in many other deeply red states.

To the extent he does, Idaho’s political analysts will have their work cut out parsing an Idaho electorate that maybe didn’t care – all along – about many of the things its political leaders have assumed it does. And then the follow-up question: What about November?


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Some book marketing tools reside in the shadows, little-observed and not heavily used by Indie authors who could easily take advantage of them.

Kindle Instant Previews belongs in that category.

Do You Know About Kindle Instant Previews?

Originally launched as Kindle for the Web (in beta) in September 2010, has since evolved and became available as a mobile app called “Kindle Instant Previews” in 2015, that allows readers to read and share (and hopefully, purchase) eBook samples on their own devices.  Although it appears on a vast number of pages on the site, only in recent weeks have I spotted any widespread discussion of the mobile tool in a number of writing and publishing web sites, along with considerable author surprise that it exists.

What is this tool?

It’s a lot like one you’ve almost certainly seen and used on most book pages.  Toward the upper left of the book’s page you’ll see the familiar “Look Inside” feature.  When you click there, you get a new preview window that offers a look at the first several pages pages inside the book, giving you a sense of what the book contains and how it is written.  Numerous studies have shown that books including the “Look Inside” feature, which is a free promotional tool for many of the books sold on Amazon, (authors have the choice of enabling it or not) sell better than those without it.

But that’s old news; you probably know “Look Inside” has been around on Amazon for many years.

What you may not know is that you can post a similar “Look Inside” for your book on your own website, or other relevant websites.

How to Post a Preview

Amazon does not discourage this.  It calls these features “Kindle Instant Previews,” and makes them easy to install. Here’s how they work:

On your book’s Amazon page (make sure that a Kindle version is offered), look on the right-hand side for the “share” social media icons: email, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  Next to those you should see a mysterious and unexplained bracketed link, “<Embed>”.   If you click on this, you’ll go to a page that lets you “share or embed a free Kindle book preview.”  (Be aware: It is highly browser-sensitive, and you may get an error message if you try opening it while using an older version of Explorer, Firefox, Chrome or another browser.  If you have trouble, try using a different browser, or refresh your browser and clear the cache and cookies.)kindle instant previews tool

When you do open that “embed” page, you can get a URL link to the preview, or generate an embeddable code, like the “Buy Now” website codes PayPal uses.  With that URL or code in hand, go back to the web page where you’d like to place them, and paste either the URL or the embed code there.

That will let you offer prospective readers an Amazon-like preview on your own site.

On its descriptive web page, Amazon noted: “Kindle Instant Previews can be embedded on the web or shared as a link via email, text and other favorite apps. Anyone can start reading the preview for free by clicking on the link.”

It cited benefits including, “Free content to keep traffic on your site; Free access to a sample of the book; Adjustable font sizes for the readers’ comfort; Direct link to book purchase from Amazon.”

If you’ve signed up with the Amazon Associates program, you may be able to make some additional money through it when people click on your preview.

I’ve tried it, and you can see the result yourself for the embedded code on one of my web pages.  After experimenting a bit, I concluded that the URL might be the more useful option for other books, but your preferences could differ.

I’ve looked but haven’t yet found a similar preview service from other online retailers.  Don’t be surprised, however, if one or more of them eventually turns up.

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