No fooling, politics have become big news

I don?t know if this is an omen or not, but this column is being published on April Fool?s Day.

Wow, I could have a lot of fun with this one, but a publisher I worked for in another life, was totally against the April Fool?s stuff. So I am passing on my chance, although the temptation is there.

But since I plan to include some politics in this column, nobody will ever know whether this is an April Fool?s column or not, will they?

I?ve covered legislative forums and briefings for decades ? you know those Saturday morning sessions where our elected representatives meet with the constituents and relate what they have or what they have not done.

Each year, the lawmakers pledge to set the school funding early in the session. State law says it must be done before the end of February, so school districts can plug it into their next fiscal year budgets. Also, once the amount of supplemental school aid is set, the remainder of the state budget falls like dominoes. That is because education accounts for the lion?s share of the state budget.

School district fiscal year budgets must be filed with the state by April 15. In recent years, districts have had to pick a number to insert for supplemental state aid because the Iowa Legislature had reneged on its promise.

Nothing, unfortunately, can be done to make the Legislature keep its word. A conference committee, comprised of State Representatives and Senators, did reach a compromise March 22 at 2.25 percent funding for PK-12 school districts in fiscal 2017.

The bill still has to be passed in both chambers of the Legislature and signed by the governor, but that is a near certainty.

Switching gears from state to national politics, it will be an interesting summer with the National Republican and Democrat conventions and the 2016 Olympics beginning Aug. 5.

The Republicans, I believe, are in a can?t-win situation in 2016. The primary campaign thus far has done the party more harm than good. Much of that can be attributed to the presence of Donald Trump.

Trump is a loose canon. That?s because he has a ton of money and is not dependent upon any person or group for financial support. Not being ?owned? by any group is not a bad thing. If we had more of those, we would have far less problems in government.

Trump is reminiscent of another candidate, Ross Perot, from another era. However, unlike Perot, Trump has not faded as some expected. If the convention were held today, he would be the GOP nominee. That?s not a comforting thought.

He hasn?t faded because he has run a shrewd campaign. By saying what he thinks, regardless of the toes he steps on, he has attracted daily media attention. It is questionable whether his attacks and the degrading of his opponents and other politicians merits the attention it is receiving, but that is not my circus.

Those in the GOP establishment shudder at the prospect that Trump may be the nominee. I like the idea of an outsider, but wish the outsider were someone other than Trump. So what?s going to happen at the GOP convention? Plenty. I see a combative convention, which will damage the party so much that it will impact Republicans in November. It may not be the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, but it could be close.

While the Democrats have fewer problems, they have a front-runner, Hillary Clinton, who has a problem with the truth. Her husband, Bill, has made more headlines than her recently with his comments on the last eight years being a disaster in Washington.

The silver lining is that politics has seen a rebirth of sorts. Several years ago, political apathy was at its zenith, leading millions of voters to stay home.

Recently, I read a story on the election, headlined ?Greatest show on Earth: The presidential race.? Yes, politics, statistics show, are big-time entertainment this year. The most-watched cable channels for eight of the past nine weeks have been either Fox News or CNN, not ESPN and HBO. That?s somewhat amazing because ESPN is being beaten in the ratings despite conference basketball tournaments and the NCAA tournaments during the past several weeks.

So far in 2016, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC together average 5.7 million viewers in prime time on weekdays, the Nielsen company said. Last year at this time, the three networks were drawing an average of 3.4 million viewers each night.

One viewer, quoted in the story, said she is a big fan of the debates ? for the entertainment, not enlightenment, value. The March 3 GOP debate was the most-watched show on TV that week with 16.8 million viewers. The first GOP debate in August 2015 attracted 24 million people, about the same viewership as highly anticipated late-season NFL games.

That being said, this may be a presidential election that one of the choices should be ?none of the above.? But even if that is not a choice, you can always either plug your nose and vote, or simply leave it blank.

I am just going to sit back and watch?that is, when the Cubs are not being televised.