Two Guys Just Talking Politics

 

easiersaid

 

This is an ongoing email conversation between myself (Chas) and a knowledgeable friend (George) as we ponder the ins-and-outs of this presidential race.  I will put George’s contributions in blue, and I will put mine in red. We may occasionally be joined by other folks. You might enjoy this as much as we do.

I apologize for any formatting glitches.  All my bad. Chas.

15 November

Hey Charles, I like your post on sorting and the future. Here is a different but quite compatible view of the future.

But before we go any farther let’s deal a bit with the loss. There were multiple factors, and Comey’s letter surely was one of them. It turned a narrow win into a narrow loss. But that alone speaks volumes. Against a candidate like Trump, it should not have been close.

In my view two factors were determinative.

First, we nominated someone with negatives that were much too high – consistently in the low to mid 60% range. For all of his negatives, Trump easily capitalized on hers and turned the race into a contest of two distasteful candidates. Moreover, Hillary never effectively countered her negatives, starting with the fact that she never offered an inspiring view of the future. Like it or not Trump did, despite not supporting it with articulated policies and programs.

“Stronger Together” was hardly stirring. It did nothing to rally supporters or to supplant her negatives with an optimistic vision. On top of that, her own behavior magnified her negatives. It kept them in the news and in the voters’ minds. In almost every instance her instinct was to hope the issue would go away on its own. Rebuttals, explanations and apologies were slow in coming and trickled out in ineffective dribs and drabs. The result was that she was not able get any of the issues out of the news. She, in fact, helped her detractors to keep them front and center.

Next both Trump and Sanders saw the deep dissatisfaction and anger in the voters. They saw that white middle class people – men, in particular — felt left out as they saw the elite and the establishment benefiting and Hillary focusing on women and minorities. Not only did Hillary not see any of this anger, she forgot that many women and minorities also are working class and she ran behind Obama in garnering these votes. She did not even win a majority of white women’s votes; Trump did with 53%. As it turned out, not squarely addressing the concerns of the working class proved to be fatal. Any sincere, solid attempt would have reversed the outcome. A shift of 1% or less in each of PA, MI and WI would have given her 307 electoral college votes and the presidency.

The party which for decades had championed working class America lost its way. It ignored its base and Trump usurped it. The consequences could not have been greater. It wasn’t just the White House that was lost. The Republicans retained the Senate and with that the Supreme Court will be deeply conservative for decades. Also, the House of Representatives will be in yet tighter Republican control at least through 2030. The Republicans added to their leads in both Governors and state legislatures, rather certainly ensuring the spread of gerrymandering to yet more Congressional districts following the 2020 Census.

However depressing and disheartening, this is spilt milk. It is the future which must be ponder and prepared for.

To divine the future, many have been asking which is the real Donald Trump. The bombast who spewed lies and insulted about just about anyone and anything? Or the tweetless, on-script Trump of the last weeks of the campaign and his acceptance speech? The answer is neither. Trump is an amoral (rather than immoral) pragmatist, who will do or say whatever the moment necessitates.

Since the election, we have been watching an emerging battle between the swamp-draining disruptors and the insiders of the establishment. The smart money would appear to be on the establishment. Trump’s campaign was fought outside of Washington on the disrupters’ turf. The current battle is and will be inside the DC Beltway, entirely on the establishment’s turf.

Signs already are pointing to the primacy of the establishment. Pence, an insider, is now in-charge of the transition team – a team that already is filled with the inhabitants of the swamp Trump promised to drain. It is totally dominated by establishment insiders including numerous lobbyists whom Trump repeatedly castigated as central participants in the broken, corrupt system.

In rolling back many of his extreme positions, Trump is recognizing many, if not most, of his campaign promises won’t fly. Obamacare no longer will be scrapped and any new healthcare plan will retain several of its key provisions – no exclusion for pre-existing conditions, children will be covered under parents’ policies until they are 26, none of those covered by the ACA will lose their coverage. His rhetoric has shifted to cost. He no longer is promising a wall; it has softened to a combination of a wall and a fence, a fence and, in some statements, securing our borders. Many millions to be deported has shrunk to two million and maybe farther yet if his restriction to “criminals, drug dealers and gang members” is to be believed. Despite the chants of “Lock her up,” a special prosecutor to pursue Hillary seems very unlikely; he just stated on 60 Minutes that “I will think about it” and that “I don’t want to hurt them.” This list goes on.

[A quick aside. Trump may have boxed himself in on Obamacare. Retaining the prohibition on excluding those with pre-existing conditions means that he must come up with a way of getting healthy young people to enroll in whatever plan he offers. This is the very problem that is driving the costs of Obamacare.]

The appointment of long-time insider Reince Priebus as Chief-of-Staff is clearly an establishment victory and would appear to secure Paul Ryan, a friend, fellow Wisconsinite, and the establishment’s favorite policy wonk.

As much as these appointments and shifts herald the dominion of the establishment over the disruptors, Trump must walk a fine line. The disruptors and those wanting radical change elected him. If they come to believe that Trump conned them with lies, their reactions could be much stronger than protests in the streets; especially those people from the extreme such as the white supremacists, Klansmen, and militia members. He needs to let them down slowly, hoping they will fade away on their own. Good luck!

The appointment of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist – ostensibly Trump’s Carl Rove – is an acknowledgement by Trump on how he was elected, a testament to his known loyalty to those who help him, and a bone tossed to the alt-right. Bannon and Priebus are being billed as equals, but this is an unholy marriage that is unlikely to last. Their views are far apart and, on many issues, incompatible. GOP establishment figures, who are behind the appointment of Priebus and who dominate Congress and the Washington scene, are hardly enthralled by Bannon’s appointment. They already are expressing shock and dissatisfaction. If one was betting, Priebus will emerge as dominant. Trump also is known to divest himself of people who push back at him and repeatedly disagree with him. This will determine how long Bannon lasts.

While reneging on and pulling back on his more extreme campaign promises will not go down well with Bannon and the extreme right, other pullbacks are likely to exasperate and incense the working class. His tax plan and his jobs program are two examples.

All estimates forecast that Trump’s tax plan will add $7 trillion or more to the national debt over the next decade and within two or so years produce damaging inflation. Wall Street (as reflected in the bond market) fully agrees. Led by Ryan and McConnell, GOP conservatives are unlikely to go along with his budget-busting tax plan. and finding an offsetting equal amount – even fanciful offsets – that will pass will be close to impossible. Trump will get something passed. The issue is what must be left out to make it palatable to deficit-conscious Ryan and his colleagues. A good guess is that the brunt will be borne by those elements of his plan that most benefit the working class. Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy are core conservative orthodoxy.

Trump’s trillion dollar jobs plan to revive the working class may be another casualty. It is the same as Obama’s $800 billion program that the GOP decried and it is the same as those proposed by Clinton and Sanders. It is based on large scale – quite massive – federal funding for infrastructure projects. What makes anyone think that establishment conservatives suddenly are going to warm to this idea? Trump might get something but, when combined with his other deficit-driving proposals, it probably will be no more than a ghost of what he promised. Jobs growth will be relegated to the GOP’s trickle down theories

When all is said and done, I think that Trump’s presidency will reflect the amoral pragmatist in him. His ego, arrogance and narcissism will never let him go down in history as a radical who accomplished little. Trump is more than smart enough to know that he is now playing on the establishment’s turf and that his radical proposals from the campaign will have little traction in establishment Washington. Make no mistake, he wants as much change as he can get, but he also knows that compromise toward traditional conservativism will be the name of the game. The softening of his positions seem to be clear signals in this direction. Simply stated, Trump succeeds if he fails to deliver on his many extreme campaign promises.

Let’s be clear. None of this forecasts a bright future. Much damage will be done, but Trump’s government will not be the alt-right government that terrifies so many. Medicaid provides a clear example of the damage. It almost certainly will be converted to a block grant program. For years, Republicans have wanted this; Obama vetoed one attempt. Trump will laud it to his archconservative and alt-right supporters as a return to states’ rights, a shrinkage of big government and a huge cost savings. Many states, however, will use it to reduce the Medicaid roles and deprive large numbers of healthcare.

The one bright spot in this mess is that to succeed Trump must fail to deliver on his campaign promises. The more of these that working-class America was counting on, the greater the opening for the Democrats in the 2018 interim elections. Our focus must be on restructuring the Democratic agenda to recapture this base and not on recriminations about the horror of Trump. It is all important to recapture the Senate despite the large number of Democratic seats to be defended and the comparatively low number of GOP seats at risk. It also is imperative to reduce the number of GOP governors and state legislators prior to redistricting in 2020.

I like what George has to say. I have only a few tidbits to add.  

I think one important factor will be the degree that the right wing media (Fox, Breitbart, Drudge, Stormfront,etc.) give Trump slack.  These are the basic source of news for many of those folks who supported our president-elect.  If they back off on holding him to his campaign rhetoric, or play apologist, then I think it will make mobilizing Trump voters against Trump or an alternative very difficult.  

As for the future, we may need to go to the “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” mantra as a club to whack the administration.  It is not a bad campaign slogan, if things go as we suspect they will.  One of the realities, though, is that a bunch of good or bad things happen with no real connection to an administration.  But, part of a campaign’s success is tagging an administration with everything that goes wrong anywhere (Trump did this very well).  Progressive have to be prepared to do the same thing.

Finally, George’s concern about governors is right on the money.  The 2010 election created the horribly gerrymandered world that gave us such Republican strength during the last six years of the Obama administration.  I am not sure that the Ds are up for that fight in the way they need to be, and they will get no help from the Supreme Court on this, especially after Trump’s first appointment.  It is truly worrisome because it can create an electoral map that las (as George indicated) until 2030.

Finally, one what may be a high or a low note. David Brooks of the NYT believes that Trump will be impeached (racketeering charge related to Trump U) or resign in a year.  He may just being snarky, but it is not out of the question. While we might applaud that, we would then be faced with President Mike Pence.  Pence is a hardcore, true cultural, social, and economic conservative (with a big “C”) who is all-in with Paul Ryan’s deeply conservative agenda.

In all honesty, losing Trump might be worse than having him around for four years.  I can’t believe that I just wrote that.

13 November 2016

RUMBLINGS AND RAMBLINGS ABOUT NOVEMBER 8 AND THE FUTURE
American’s faith in their political institutions is at an all time low.  So, possibly we should not be surprised when the forces of anger and dissatisfaction ruled supreme on November 8.  It really didn’t seem to matter to many voters who or what carried the banner of  anger and the promise of change.  Half of the electorate was ready for any promise of change, even if from a charlatan and pathological liar.  
Over the next few years, commentators and analyst will offer up a variety of explanations, some better than others, for why this occurred.  Hillary wants to talk about the FBI and Putin; others will weight in as well with their own commentary. 
This post focuses on one aspect of the last election that deserves, and will receive, some attention. I write about it here because this is not really a terribly sexy explanation that will grasp headlines or make TV ratings soar. 
One of the dynamics that you sometimes hear discussed by commentators is the “sorting” of Americans.  All this means is that over time, more Americans are living in more homogeneous settings.  
The link at the end of this posting leads to a NYT story that provides considerable interesting data on the politics of this process and its correlates.  Just for a few tidbits, the NYT defines a homogeneous area as one in which a Republican or a Democrat dominated the vote for president by more than 20 percentage points.  I provide just a bit of the information in the NYT article below.

From 1992 to 2016, the number of Republican landslide counties nearly quadrupled, while those of Democrats declined.

Number of Democratic landslide counties     1992/532 counties  2016/242

Number of Republican landslide counties      1992/592 counties  2016/2,232

Both expanded their share of the vote, but the reddest counties increased more. 

Vote share of Democratic landslide counties   1992/22%     2016/38%

Vote share of Republican landslide counties    1992/10%      2016/31%

The article continues to demonstrate the social and economic differences between Republican and Democratic landslide counties.  

Much of this type of thinking derives from Bill Bishops’s book, The Big Sort, As one reviewer put it, 

“America may be more diverse than ever coast to coast, but the places where we live are becoming increasingly crowded with people who live, think, and vote like we do. This social transformation didn’t happen by accident. We’ve built a country where we can all choose the neighborhood and church and news show — most compatible with our lifestyle and beliefs. And we are living with the consequences of this way-of-life segregation. Our country has become so polarized, so ideologically inbred, that people don’t know and can’t understand those who live just a few miles away.” [emphasis added]

 

The term, the big sort, seems to conjure up an image of people being like cards shuffled and dealt out across our landscape.  It is really (for me) a much more complex and, I must admit, somewhat puzzling process.  

Much of this nation’s mobility over the last two decades has been a movement of younger persons to more large, urban areas, and the concentration of immigrant and minority populations in those same areas.  Also, the “new economy” built around technology and service has grown up in these areas.  Elements of the older economy like agriculture and manufacturing have remained outside these urban centers.

Those demographic and economic shifts explain part of this homogeneity.  But, what I think they miss is the importance of social norms and information sources.  With these  out-migrations, traditional settings have grown more homogeneous.  With that greater economic and social homogeneity comes, if sociologists are correct, a greater role for the importance of shared norms and the ability, through subtle or other means, to enforce or reinforce those norms and attitudes.

And, in this Facebook, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, MSNBC world, those norms and attitudes are strengthened tremendously by the use of common sources of information (Fox is, one must remember, the most watched news channel on cable).  These attitudes and norms are also reinforced by the ability to hold those norms without challenges from other people who have different values. How many of those who watch Fox News often interact in more than a superficial way with those who swear by MSNBC?  The reverse is true.  When faced with members of a different “tribe,” we usually just walk away shaking our heads, or we ask how the kids are doing.  

On those on the right of the political spectrum, the debasement of the concept of “truth” by their information sources also plays a role.  Most of us have, if we are still in contact with those on the right, gotten emails or Facebook posting that had their genesis in the fetid swamp of alt-right commentators and website? The birther movement is a fine example of such drivel.  

These sources ramped up considerably for the election.  The NRA was howling about the end of the 2nd Amendment.  The Russian hacking of the DNC and Democratic political activists provided enormous fuel for these fires.  At the same time, the Republican candidate used an exceptionally bully pulpit to spread these distortions.  

Our ancestors had slogans like “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember the Maine.”  This election brought us, “Lock her up; build a wall; drain the swamp.”  We truly are a nation divided by social and economic cleavages.  This election was won by a demagogue who was very canny at exploiting those cleavages.

To me, it seems that what all this bodes for the Democratic Party and progressives is not good.  We can’t reverse the demographic and economic trends that have built these divides.  The incoming president will do nothing to reduce the height of these walls we have build around ourselves.  

In addition, he will probably accept  traditional, conservative Republican policies that will make them even worse.  Those who looked to Trump to save them will be disappointed. Their jobs will not come back. The recognition and acceptance of our diversity may slow, but it will not be stymied. 

The final question I have for progressives like myself is not a happy query.  “When disaster hits, will we be able to lay the blame for it where it truly lies?”  Unfortunately, I doubt that much of the impending economic and social  disasters can be diverted when Republicans control of the House, Senate, and the Executive.

All progressives may be left with is trying to assure that they own the results of their actions. That may be the real task for 2018 and 2020.  

 

The link below provides a wealth of data on the growth of this political and social homogeneity.  See it for some eye-opening data.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/10/us/politics/red-blue-divide-grew-stronger-in-2016.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

28 October 2016

Roger Stone is a key supporter and paid campaign strategist for Donald Trump. By the admission of both, Stone speaks with Trump daily with but few exceptions.

 Stone has been trying to recruit volunteers from fringe sources such as the radio show audience of Alex Jones. Jones is the country’s leading conspiracy theorist and has claimed that 9/11, numerous school shootings, and other tragedies were perpetrated by the government.” [Media Matters10/12/1610/25/16]

 The Huffington. Post reported that Stone “planned voter intimidation using fake ID badges, fake exit polling. The Huffington Post’s Christina Wilkie reported that Vote Protectors, which has partnered with Stone and his Stop the Steal group, “planned voter intimidation using fake ID badges” and “fake exit polling”

“Stone’s group created an official-looking ID badge for its volunteers to wear, and its volunteers planned to videotape voters and conduct fake “exit polls,” efforts that election experts say risks intimidating and confusing voters. Or at least that’s what the group was planning to do before The Huffington Post asked Stone about it on Tuesday. The controversial Trump ally, long known for his bare-knuckled political tactics, said that key proposals on his group’s websites were there without his knowledge, and assured HuffPost that he would operate within the confines of election law.

[…]

A few hours later, Stone emailed HuffPost. “I have ordered them taken down. Bad idea, as is video taping. First I have heard of it. I am only interested in a valid, scientifically conducted exit poll.” Stone later noted that Vote Protectors was collaborating with his group, Stop the Steal, but he said they were not one and the same.

Stone said that unlike the model currently run by Vote Protectors, his group would “ask each poll worker to sign a sworn affidavit that the information they turn in for tabulation is true based on interviews.”

These affidavits, Stone told radio host Alex Jones Tuesday, could then be used by the Trump campaign to contest the election results.” [The Huffington Post, 10/25/16]

The hits just keep on coming.  The phony exit polls are an interesting new twist.  No matter what they show, any judge with half a brain would throw them out and accept exit polls from more reputable sources.  But, the targets for these pseudo-exit polls are not the courts; they are Trump supporters and the wing-nut conspiracy crowd who still think Bush was behind the attacks on 9/11 (for our international readers–yes, these folks do exist in non-trivial numbers).  

Voter intimidation is, however, an old Republican trick.  In fact, due to the Republican National Committees attempts to intimidate voters of color in a New Jersey election in the 1980s,  the RNC is now under a court order not to in any way engage in any activities that might even broadly be interpreted as voter intimidation. This specific court order is due to expire in 2017, but the Democratic National Committee has already filed suit to have it continued into the next decade because of the rhetoric from Trump. He is calling for his supporters to watch polling places in largely minority areas to deter voter fraud.  He has also especially asked police officers and sheriff’s deputies to participate in such activities, largely one suspects because they carry firearms).  The Vote Protectors plan would seem to be a direct result of that call.  

The only way that the RNC can avoid such a fate is to somehow convince a court that it was an intimidation effort totally divorced from RNC action or control.  If the court sees the RNC as the dog wagging that voter intimidation tail., then the RNC stays under court order and scrutiny for a number of future election cycles.

 

27 October 2016

Comments on The Republican Party After Trump.

I agree wholeheartedly with Charles. In addition, his historical references to the 19th Century birth of the Republican Party are spot on. I would add a few observations.

There is no doubt in my mind that, after the election, the GOP will return to its obstructionist, Just-Say-No ways. The party is such a fractured cacophony of voices that there is no policy agenda around which it possibly could coalesce. A perfect illustration is health care. For all their cries for the repeal of Obama, they never offered a substitute. The House never passed and sent to the Senate an alternative, even though they controlled the House and the Senate. The best they could muster were some vague mumblings about privatizing healthcare and the use of Medical Savings Accounts – an idiotic idea that was proposed and imploded on its own in the late 1990s. [Unbelievably Trump recently floated it again.]

It also is almost certain that they will have committees investigating anything and everything they can think of.  That’s all they could do in the past. That will be their first instincts.

However, there may be some moderating factors.

It seems likely that the Democrats will take control of the Senate. This will limit the GOP “investigations” to House committees. The Democrats could counter the Republican House committees with Democratic Senate committees investigating past and current actions by Republicans from Governors on up to the Bush White House – for example, an investigation of Bush’s email deletions if the GOP starts on Clinton’s deletions. Just the threat of such Senate investigations could be enough.

Next, just a few saner Republican heads in the Senate could make a big difference. There are more than a few GOP Senators whose tenure in office depends on centrist Republicans plus independents and crossover Democrats. A majority Democratic Senate could make things very uncomfortable for these Senators by forcing obstructionist Republicans to take to the floor in endless speeches, making Republican obstructionism clearly visible to the public and clearly affixing blame for gridlock on the GOP. As of today, Nate Sliver’s 538 forecast has the Democrats winning the Senate with the most likely outcomes being a 51 or 52 seat majority. Given Tim Kaine’s tiebreaker vote, it would only take 8 or 9 GOP Senators, who feared voter backlash in the 2018 midterms, to break gridlock on the Senate’s advise and consent powers – for example, Supreme Court and other nominees and treaties.

If the Democrats use all means possible to demonstrate Republican responsibility for gridlock, there could be sufficient voter backlash in the 2018 midterms to produce a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate and a Democratic House. Already, the GOP is expressing concern about losing the House in addition to the Senate in this election. Magnification of these fears as the midterms approach could break off moderate Republicans from the “wing nuts.”

Although I think it would be foolish to bet against the GOP initially going back to being the Party of No, I can’t see such a deeply fractured hodgepodge of a party holding together. A break seems inevitable. The question is when.

27 October 2016

Republicans’ Answer to the Uniting Their Party After the Trump Debacle

Oh Vey!  (Loosely Yiddish for ‘Oh, Woe is Me!)

Republicans know they are going to lose the presidency and maybe the senate. They also know that they can’t really pass any of the legislation that they promise voters.  This is not news to Republican politicians. They have known it for decades.

What IS new is that they know their party is horribly split.  On one side we find traditional conservative ‘country-club’ Republicans.  Then, we have the emergence of red meat Breitbart-Trump followers who lean to angry working or lower middle class whites, especially males, who are straining to vote against anything smacking of politics as usual. They don’t really care about the party platform or ideology; they have just decided they are “mad as Hell and won’t take this anymore” (see Paddy Chayefsky and his film, Network).

The Republicans know they are in trouble. These two elements of their voters hold irreconcilable policy positions. Traditional Republicans believe in free trade, borders that allow the easy movement of capital and resources, reduced tax rates for higher incomes, internationalism, and reduced entitlements, seasoned with a good dash of implicit racism and sexism.  The “new boys” in town believe in draconian trade restrictions, protecting entitlements, restricting the movement of capital, and closing our international borders, served up with a cup brimming full with explicit racism, nativism, xenophobia, and sexism.

We have seen this before in the history of this nation. This level of intra-party animosity was the problem for the Whig Party in the mid-19th century.  The party was split over north-south sectional issues that included economic issues and the expansion of slavery into the new territories and states in the west of the continent. 

Prior to the American Civil War, this dispute led to the death of the Whig Party and the emergence of the Republican Party, after a series of stutter steps with the birth and quick death of unsuccessful offshoot (e.g. Know Nothing and Constitutional Union) parties.

Republican office-holders this year know that they need both wings of their party to have a snowball’s chance in Hell of surviving as a party.  They also know the ONE thing that can unite the fractious elements of their party.  They ALL hate Hillary Clinton, and Republicans have spent the last six years learning about the new key to congressional power. The greatest power of the House of Representatives was always thought to be that its members held the purse strings that could be used to strangle liberal policies and protect those conservative policies so cherished by their supporters. The power of the US Senate was in the filibuster, where a minority of senators could stymie the progress of legislation supported by a majority of the House and the American public.

That was then. This is now. In the last six years, Republican members of Congress have discovered the real power of both houses of the US Congress is to block the president’s agenda and use its power to investigate anything and everything that plays well with the party’s base. They can set up special committees; they can use standing committees; they can set up commissions.  And, they can use those bodies to pitch large wrenches into the political works and shred the innards of the somewhat delicate processes of governance.

The substantive results of these witch hunts have, historically, been less than spectacular, even from Republicans’ own perspective. Newt Gingrich and Ken Starr spent millions of dollars and killed complete forests generating reports and charges that went nowhere.  The Whitewater investigation cost taxpayers $70 million.  That investigation “never laid a glove” on the Clintons.  The House Benghazi Committee spent $7 million trying, unsuccessfully, to smear Hillary Clinton.  Nonetheless, this tradition of “governance by obstruction and investigation” is now firmly implanted in the psyche of the Republicans in Congress.

Am I being a bit paranoid? Probably not. Judicial Watch is a self-righteous bunch of right wing legal “eagles” (vultures, really) that has been up HRC’s nose for decades.  Their most recent attacks have focused on her emails (conveniently forgetting George W’s White House deleted millions of emails and used private servers). Judicial Watch is now calling for Clinton’s impeachment before she is inaugurated. I have studies the chicken entrails; the portents are not good.

The Republican Party is in crisis. There is no clear path to uniting the disparate elements (oil & water) of the Republican party–except to wave the party banners high as they attack the Devil’s Spawn–President Hillary Clinton.  They will continue to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the White House walls in hopes that something sticks, or that (mixing metaphors here, I know) the voting public believes that where there is so much black smoke there has to be some kind of fire.  It worked with Benghazi; why won’t it keep on workin?.

So, what will the next four years hold?  Maybe some new Supreme Court Justices will be seated, if the Dems take the Senate.  As for substantive legislation?  I expect the Republican House to keep passing another bill to “repeal Obamacare” every week they are in DC. Any Dem reaching a hand across the aisle in search of compromise will have his or her knuckles soundly rapped.  Any Republican reaching across the aisle in an attempt to get something done will risk the wrath of at least one wing of her or his base and be considered a modern-day Neville Chamberlain.

The goal of the 2010 cadre of new Republican members of Congress was very clear. They were there to obstruct Obama’s every move.  They had no real policy agenda.  This effort was driven by the House members who would eventually form The Freedom Caucus in the House and senators like Ted Cruz, who engineered a government shutdown. 

This new movement in the 2017 Congress will be driven by Republican’s office holders’ fear that their party is about to splinter and leave them with no clear path to their political future. The Republican establishment will be desperate, and they will lash out.  They will take the easy path; they will use their investigative power like a cudgel and beat, as best they can, their version of the beast, President Hillary Clinton.

The new President, like Obama, will use her executive power, as best she can, to substitute for legislative action. The bloodied loser in all this will not just be the President; it will be our country and the vulnerable among us who depend on public action for their wellbeing.

Republican office-holders and officials won’t care; this whole “Republican Populism” is really an oxymoron. The party has spent decades fighting against every element of the social safety net, union organizing, and programs for vulnerable populations. They just want the power. They will try to take it any way they can over the next four years, and “devil take the hindmost.”

 

 

24 October 2016

POOR, POOR DONALD

Nobody loves me; everybody hates me; guess I’ll go eat worms.

Poor Donald, he is a victim, not a loser. Everybody is undermining him. Armies of conspirators are working day and night to deny him the presidency. The list is monumental and grows by the day. The media, pollsters, Paul Ryan, the RNC, the “establishment,” the FBI, international bankers, the women who have accused him of sexual assault and, of course, those terrible, criminal Clintons, sometimes scheming by themselves but more often in cahoots with one or more of these other corrupt entities. To this list, Trump just added Michelle Obama – unbelievable. Actually anyone who dares speak against him gets pasted on his list of corrupt conspirators.

Trump’s woeful cries of foul reached new heights on Saturday in a speech he gave in Gettysburg, PA. Although some pundits saw the speech as another Trump blunder and lost opportunity, the speech was in many respects a masterpiece of bolstering his base.  

To an audience of devoted acolytes, he opened with rants about various conspirators, voter fraud and all the liars whom he was going to sue after the election is stolen from him. This may look old hat, but it set the stage for the good stuff.

He enumerated an absurdly long and expensive list of things he was going to accomplish in his first 100 days. It was packed with more populist, ultranationalist, xenophobic, isolationist, racist, Islamophobic and anti-establishment programs and promises than one could imagine – 28 of them. He promised his believers everything they could ever hope for and then some. Even a moron would know that it was impossibly expensive and had no chance of getting past Congress, whether Democratic or Republican. But that didn’t matter. Donald was promising it. It was going to happen. As if this pile of ludicrous promises wasn’t enough, he topped it off with a multi-trillion-dollar tax cut featuring a 35% cut for the middle class. His enthralled devotees cheered.

Then in a con man’s masterstroke, he told them that if the election was stolen from him, they wouldn’t see any of this. The piece de resistance came next. He wasn’t running for president for himself. He didn’t need to be president. Campaigning was hard work and tiring. He was running for them. He was making the sacrifice because he loves his country. He wants to save them from the corrupt government, evil foreigners and myriad other terrible forces, and to provide for them all these wonderful things that will Make America Great Again. He even invoked Abraham Lincoln. He wants to restore America to a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

It seems safe to assume that Trump will sing this refrain of victimization and martyrdom until November 8th – if he can remember that November 8th is Election Day. On that day and in the days following, Trump will achieve new lows in one final outrage.

Trump’s narcissism will never allow him to be painted as a loser – and a much bigger loser than Romney whom he repeatedly has demeaned. All signs point to an electoral college landslide or near landslide for Clinton and a shamefully belittling loss for Trump. This can’t be his fault. It must be the work of all those conspirators. He absolutely must unearth “evidence” that the election was rigged and the presidency stolen. Otherwise all his claims of a rigged election and massive voter fraud will be exposed as hollow bombast. To his Breitbart-inspired team the solution was obvious – exit polls. When his exit polls do not match the election results, he has his evidence of voter fraud. And when they don’t match those of the media, he has his evidence of the media’s complicity in stealing the election.

This isn’t a joke. Under the guidance of Steven Bannon and especially Roger Stone, training of “exit pollsters” already is underway as is training of unofficial “poll watchers” who, although they cannot operate as true poll watchers within the polling place, will be on the lookout for voter fraud – in particular, ineligibles trying to vote. If you think that their training on profiling will be free of racial, ethnic or religious bias, there is a wonderful beachfront property for sale just waiting for you.

A recent poll shows that Trump already has convinced 45% of Republicans that the election results cannot be trusted. The man is of such low moral character that he now seems poised to tear the nation apart just to assuage his narcissistic ego and further his ambitions. His followers will have their evidence of a corrupt system and a rigged election, and he will have cemented them to him for whatever political or business venture he conjures up after the election.

The Republican leaders and members of Congress who continue to endorse him are a national disgrace.

 

22 October 2016

Old Snake Oil in a New Bottle:  Trump in 2016 and George Wallace in 1968

The excerpts below are from Wikipedia. I have noted some of the similarities with underlining.  References are available at Wikipedia. The clearest similarities are noted by bolded statements at the end of sections. My more general commentary on these similarities appears at the end of the Wikipedia material.

….

“Wallace ran a campaign supporting “law and order” and racial segregation that strongly appealed to rural white Southerners and blue-collar union workers in the North. Wallace was leading the three-way race in the Old Confederacy with 45% of the vote in mid-September. Wallace’s appeal to blue-collar workers and union members (who usually voted Democratic) hurt Hubert Humphrey in Northern states like Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A mid-September AFL-CIO internal poll showed that one in three union members supported Wallace, and a Chicago Sun-Times poll showed that Wallace had a plurality of 44% of white steelworkers in Chicago. [DJT-STRONGEST SUPPORT IS FROM LESS EDUCATED WHITE MEN AND RACISM IS A CLEAR ELEMENT IN HIS CAMPAIGN]

…..

Wallace’s foreign policy positions set him apart from the other candidates in the field. “If the Vietnam War was not winnable within 90 days of his taking office, Wallace pledged an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. . . . Wallace also called foreign-aid money ‘poured down a rat hole’ and demanded that European and Asian allies pay more for their defense.[DJT-FOREIGN ENTANGLEMENTS ARE DISASTROUS, AND OUR ALLIES SHOULD PAY FOR THEIR OWN DEFENSE]

On October 24, 1968, Wallace spoke at Madison Square Garden before “the largest political rally held in New York City since Franklin Roosevelt had denounced the forces of ‘organized money’ from the same stage in 1936″. An overflow crowd of 20,000 packed the Garden while pro- and anti-Wallace protesters clashed with more than 1,000 police across the street. [DJT-RALLIES REEK OF POTENTIAL VIOLENCE]

In a now-famous reference to a protester that had lain down in front of Lyndon B. Johnson’s limousine the year before, Wallace stated, “I tell you when November comes, the first time they lie down in front of my limousine it’ll be the last one they ever lay down in front of; their day is over! [DJT-THREATENS PROTESTORS WITH PHYSICAL VIOLENCE]

Richard Strout, the influential columnist for the New Republic, sat in an upper balcony. For more than forty years, he had reported on the American political scene, under the by-line “T.R.B. from Washington,” but nothing had prepared him for the spectacle he encountered at the Garden that night. “There is menace in the blood shout of the crowds,” he wrote his readers. “You feel you have known this somewhere; never again will you read about Berlin in the 30’s without remembering this wild confrontation here of two irrational forces.” The American “sickness” had been localized in the person of George Wallace, the “ablest demagogue of our time, with a voice of venom and a gut knowledge of the prejudices of the low-income class.” He would not win, said Strout, and his strength was declining, “but sympathy for him is another matter. [THE SAME COMMENTARY OFFERED ABOUT DJT]

When asked what he considered the “biggest domestic issue for 1968,” Wallace replied:

It’s people—our fine American people, living their own lives, buying their own homes, educating their children, running their own farms, working the way they like to work, and not having the bureaucrats and intellectual morons trying to manage everything for them. It’s a matter of trusting the people to make their own decisions.  [PEOPLE IN GOVERNMENT ARE STUPID]

On the campaign trail, Wallace often repeated this theme, saying:

What are the Real issues that exist today in these United States? It is the trend of the pseudo-intellectual government, where a select, elite group have written guidelines in bureaus and court decisions, have spoken from some pulpits, some college campuses, some newspaper offices, looking down their noses at the average man on the street.” [THE ESTABLISHMENT IS SCREWING YOU OVER]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Wallace_presidential_campaign,_1968

It is all there in 1968.  The xenophobia, the hyper-nationalism, the class anger, the disdain for public service, and the vibrations of potential violence that surround his campaign rallies.  The right wing nutcases who stomp around in sheets or fascist uniforms loved Wallace, and they love The Donald.  David Duke of Ku Klux Klan fame in Louisiana calls Trump the savior of the white race.

So, my fellow Americans [as LBJ would say], we have seen this movie before.  It was disgusting then, and it is disgusting now. Trump is really just a better dressed George Wallace with a tanning bed and his own hairdresser.  

What brought Wallace to the fore was the end of legal segregation and the rise of the counter-culture.  What brought Trump to the fore was a president of color and the changing demographics of the nation that demonstrated the increasing fragility of a white dominated society in this country.  Half a century ago, the rallying cry for the “oppressed” was race; today, it is race yet again.

This is not to say that America has not made progress in its battle with racism.  We have. Unfortunately, there is, in our society, a hard nub of class anger intertwined with racism that still glows like the coals of a seemingly dying fire.  All one must do is brush away some of the ash, add a bit of new fuel, and blow on those goals.  They will blaze back into life.

One suspects that Trump, with his partner in crime Breitbart’s Bannon, will try to keep that flame alive after the election.  Trump will do it for the adulation and the money; Bannon will do it because it hates the rich multicultural mix that our society is becoming.

Like the cotton aristocracy of the Old South, these rich old men will frame the world as an us or them struggle and breathe fire into the hearts of less education, lower income whites in order to save the culture that keeps the aristocracy on top. People call Trump a populist; a true populist would spit in his bloated face.  He made his fortune in real estate using other people’s money while screwing them over as much as possible. The Trump phenomenon is just a political version of that strategy.  Use other people to your own personal ends, whether they be money or aggrandizement.

The Trump phenomenon is not a movement; it is a social virus.  Unfortunately, at this point, I don’t know where we will find the vaccine. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 October 2016

THEY STLL DON’T GET IT

They don’t get it. The Republican leadership simply cannot come to grips with the fact that Donald Trump is both their creation and their destruction. Doing so would require them to admit to themselves that they and their predecessors have spent the last 50 years of building the platform that he has commandeered. They would have to acknowledge that their recent actions, added to 50 years of failure to take the morally correct course, set the stage for Trump who now is dividing the Republican party.

PROVIDED THAT Democrats and independents come out and vote, this race is over. Hillary Clinton will be the nation’s first woman president. Nate Silver and his associates at 538, who have mis-forecast only one state in the 2008 and 2012 elections combined, now give Clinton an 87% chance of being president. They also give the Democrats a 73% chance of winning the Senate with an advantage of 51 to 53 seats without the VP’s tie breaking vote.

This election is now more about the survival of the Republican Party. It is difficult to see it continuing in its present or historic form. A badly diminished Republican Party is not something to wish for. A healthy, thriving democracy depends on the existent of at least two nationally relevant parties capable of putting checks and balances on the other’s excesses.

The Slippery Slope

The GOP’s present problems had their roots in the flagrantly racist Southern Strategy of the 1968 election. This strategy is summarized in the infamous statement from Nixon’s campaign strategist, Kevin Phillips: “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are.”

Racist without a doubt, but it worked, it elected Nixon and that’s all the GOP’s leaders saw. Had its racism been immediately rejected, the GOP would today be a healthy party and Trump would never have emerged as a candidate. However, they failed the test and built upon the racist base provided by the Southern Strategy.

The strategy also drew into the GOP the South’s evangelical Christians and, given the state of education in the South at that time, substantial numbers of non-college educated voters. Over the years and bit by bit the GOP was pulled further to the right to retain these groups as Republican voters. This slide to the right fueled the growth of social conservativism over fiscal conservativism, making the GOP yet more appealing to the xenophobes, ultranationalists, racists, misogynists, homophobes and other right wing extremists.

As the GOP steadily drifted to the right, the Tea Party emerged as a force and many of the views of the yet more extreme alt-right were validated. Traditional conservativism became but one faction in a disjoint hodgepodge that for convenience shared the Republican brand.

All along the Republican leadership could have rejected the far right but they didn’t. Instead of taking the moral position and one that was in the long-term good of the GOP, they saw only the short-term – the loss of voters from the extreme right resulting in the loss of elections until these voters could be replaced by voters more toward the center. And as the party drifted to the right, they adopted positions that appeased these voters but that were not palatable to the center, making the task of replacing lost right wing extremists yet more daunting.

With Neville Chamberlain’s infamous 1938 Munich Agreement with Hitler still in his mind, Winston Churchill defined an appeaser as “one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” Well, the CrocoDonald is now devouring the Republican party and its brand.

While its many year drift to right set the stage for Trump, the current GOP leaders have spent this campaign yet again ignoring the good of the nation and the long-term benefit of the party, instead focusing on “winning” the election at hand. At first they dismissed Trump; next they dreamt of managing him, and then they sought to appease him.

As the Republican primaries began, the GOPs leaders thought little of Trump. He was an aberration that would go away. They envisioned a tussle between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and maybe John Kasich. That’s not what Trump saw. He saw a Republican party that was not unified around any specific policies – except saying no. Rather he recognized that it was a fragile coalition of convenience running from far right extremists to moderates. He also saw the extent of anger among voters. Policy detail did not matter to them. What mattered was addressing their frustrations and assuaging their anger with promises of sweeping change.

This was supremely fertile ground for Trump. With so many in the race, he knew that he did not have to win 50% of the vote and that an early lead could be insurmountable if multiple contenders stayed well into the race – as they did. The anger in the voters meant that he did not have to run on policies and programs. He simply had to connect with that anger and promise change – which he did, unabashedly lying and inventing facts to make these connections and justify his promises. He follows the well-established recipe of the con man. He exaggerates or invents the problem, tells people why they should fear it, and claims that he knows how to solve it. Also like a good con man, Trump recognizes that once you have the marks buying into the small lies, they will swallow the big lies; in fact, the bigger the better – there is a global conspiracy of banks and the media led by the Clintons to deny him the presidency, Hillary should be jailed, the FBI colluded to keep her out of jail, the election is rigged and already fraught with widespread voter fraud.

Trump has broken off the right wing of the Republican base and combined it with these angry voters. Make no mistake, there is anger in substantial numbers of the voting public. They see many getting rich while their paychecks go nowhere. They see politicians locked in gridlock doing nothing to solve their problems. Fundamentally, they see the institutions of governing failing them in many ways.

The GOP’s leaders had to know that Trump would lose. After the 2012 election, they conducted an “autopsy” that clearly stated that the GOP had to move toward the center to attract independents and, in particular, to advocate policies that would attract women, minorities and youth. They had to be blind not to see that Trump was the antitheist of this. They had to know he was headed down a path detrimental to the party’s long-term good.

Nevertheless, they once again showed themselves to be timorous and not true to their convictions. They endorsed him with many like Paul Ryan trying pathetically to straddle endorsement and opposition. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus pulled out his “pledge.” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that they could deceive voters about Trump’s lack of qualifications and his true nature by having him follow scripts on a teleprompter – “He [Trump] needs someone highly experienced and extremely knowledgeable because it is pretty obvious that he doesn’t know a lot about the issues. You see that in the debates in which he’s participated. It is why I have argued with him publicly and privately that he ought to use a script more often – there is nothing wrong in having prepared texts.”

None of this worked as well demonstrated by Clinton’s 87% chance of winning and the Democrats’ 73% chance of controlling the Senate.

Trump steamrolled right over the GOP leadership. He usurped the party and the Republican brand. To understand the extent to which he has hijacked the GOP, one needs to look no further than a recent poll. When registered Republicans were asked whether Donald Trump or Paul Ryan better represented the views of the GOP, 51% said Trump and 33% said Ryan. Repairing the damage that Trump has done and is doing is not going to be easy and will require decisive action.

The GOP’s Bleak Future

As evidenced by their persistent support for Trump, the GOP’s leaders, members of Congress and other officials still do not seem to grasp that neither Trump nor his core supporters ever were or ever will be Republicans and conservatives, and that nothing Trump has done or is doing is for the good of the GOP. Donald is only about Donald.

Trump seems to know he has lost. He no longer is trying to win over the additional voters (independents, women, minorities and youth) that he needs to win. He is talking strictly to his base, hitting their hot button issues and ranting about massive voter fraud to provide the excuse for why he – and they – lost. All of his actions appear to be setting the stage for what comes next.

Almost no one thinks that Trump will go quietly into the night. Many, if not most, think that he will continue to fan the fires to his advantage, but it is difficult to foresee exactly what he will do after the election. Assuming that he persists, there are a couple of more probable scenarios including one that would be the GOP’s worst nightmare; namely, that Trump, in partnership with Steve Bannon of Breitbart, remains prominent in the public eye by starting a media network or show, presiding over a political movement or party, or both.

This particular scenario seems to fit Trump rather well. He obviously relishes the spotlight. He revels in the cheering crowds of dedicated devotees. This scenario keeps him in the spotlight and maintains his base for any further political ambitions. The media show or network not only satisfies his appetite for validation and esteem, it also is a business venture that could be a money maker – and Trump loves money. This scenario quite likely would be very appealing to Bannon. It has the potential for doing something that Breitbart has not been able to do – converting Breitbart from a crank website into a national voice.

In the polling data for this election, Trump has had a following within a few points of 40%. Even if half of these people migrate back to the GOP, the loss of the other half severely diminishes the GOP as a national force. The loss maybe suffered regardless of what Trump does next. This block of voters is likely to stick with Trump, if he remains politically active. If he does not, large numbers of these people might withdraw because Trump has convinced them that the political system and the election process are so rigged against them that their votes don’t count.

It would be a grave mistake for the GOP to underestimate how polarized these people have become at Trump’s hands. Like many other conservative commentators, William Kristol stated that he was astonished that so many Republicans have been able to justify Trump’s many character flaws and accept his often nonsensical formulations – some being fully neo-Fascist.

Nevertheless, some leading Republicans already are speaking about “healing” and “uniting” the GOP. This is one of the worst blunders they could make. It looks backward instead of forward. But more importantly, uniting means bonding with the far right and that is precisely what gave birth to the CrocoDonald and the GOP’s current problems. Once again they would have to appease the far right with policies that will not appeal to the voters needed to revitalize the GOP and that, in many cases, will be aversive to them. In addition, from a strictly pragmatic point of view, there are not enough voters on the right to overcome the majority in the center and on the left.

The ridiculous part of this is that for the last four years the GOP knew exactly what it had to do. After the losses in 2008 and 2012, the GOP undertook a rather probing review and analysis of what it had to do. This was published as the Growth and Opportunity Report that has become known as the “autopsy report.” With great irony, development of the report was led by Reince Priebus – the same Reince Priebus who now embraces Trump.

The report recognized that the 40-year-old recipe from the Reagan era of small government, tax cuts for the wealthy, high defense spending, reduced social spending, and the other tired mantras were badly out of date. The report stated: “It is no wonder that Republican policies can seem stale; they are very nearly identical to those offered up by the Party more than 30 years ago.”

At this same macro level, the report similarly advised that “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue. Instead of driving around in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac, we need a Party whose brand of conservatism invites and inspires new people to visit us.”

The report argued that the GOP needed to address the concerns and issues of the current generation. It focused on the need for policies that appealed to independents, the college-educated, women, minorities and youth. The number and power of these voters is only going to increase. By 2050, the US will be a majority-minority nation, the percentage of college graduates will increase, and women still will outnumber men and still vote in yet larger numbers than men.

When it comes to minorities, the report was clear that the GOP must adopt a forward-looking policy regarding immigration. It stated that “among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, must be to embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.” The report said rather prophetically that: “If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence. It doesn’t matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our Party’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door.”

The report wanted the GOP to reorient itself toward the middle class and away from favoring the wealthy and corporations – with, for example, tax cuts and breaks that favor them. It stated that “The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed.” It even went so far to say that “We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but the rank-and-file are left unemployed. We should speak out when C.E.O.s receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.”

The report recommended that the GOP should adopt a full range of remarkably forward looking policies and positions capable of attracting independents, women, minorities, and youth. The report even espoused reformist objections to current campaign financing.

“… outside groups — such as SuperPACs, 501(c) (4)s and 527s — use unlimited, and often unreported, amounts of the same money federal candidates and national parties are now prohibited from spending or raising. The result is an illogical system where candidates and their parties no longer have the loudest voices in campaigns or even the ability to determine the issues debated in campaigns. Outside groups now play an expanded role affecting federal races and, in some ways, overshadow state parties in primary and general elections. As a result, this environment has caused a splintered Congress with little party cohesion so that gridlock and polarization grow as the political parties lose their ability to rally their elected officeholders around a set of coherent governing policies.”

If key elements of the autopsy report had been adopted by the GOP, Washington would not have been in the grip of gridlock for the last four years. More than enough of its recommended positions would have drawn sufficient bipartisan support to have moved the nation forward. The GOP, however, turned a blind eye to the report. It hunkered down as the obstructionist Party of No and continued to promote the appeasement-based positions that gave life to the CrocoDonald.

To restore the GOP to a party that can contend at the national level and, given Trump-Bannon, even at the state level, the GOP must heed the report’s recommendations. The GOP must move toward the center. It would be self-defeating to re-embrace the hard right awakened by Trump.

Any move toward the center that makes inroads into these key voters will not be without pain and, consequently, will require courage and farsightedness. It will require a substantial shift in the GOP’s policies. In the short term, these new directions will cost the support of the more rightwing elements invigorated by Trump, especially if he remains politically active. Very likely this will entail losses in one or more election cycles before the GOP is rebuilt. In the longer term, however, it offers the only viable path to recreating the GOP as a national contender.

The GOP will need time to shed its current image (as degraded by Trump) and to define policies that appeal to independents, the college-educated, women, minorities and youth. Moreover, to win these voters back from the Democrats, the GOP’s new policies must displace those that have drawn these people into the Democratic fold. This is no mean task. The GOP needs to devise conservative policies that are yet more appealing to these voters than are those of the Democrats. This means addressing such issues as income inequality, equal pay, gender equality, gay and lesbian rights, women’s health rights, a path to citizenship, and the like – all of which have been anathema.

The transition to new positions could be accelerated by a mistake by the Democrats. They could slide so far toward the Sanders-Warren wing of the party than they hand over significant slices of the voters needed by the GOP.

If the GOP is wise, it will follow the blueprint of the Growth and Opportunity Report. This would be good for the nation as well as the party. A democracy does best with a contest of forward-looking ideas from a loyal opposition.

Regrettably, there already are signs that the GOP will return to its obstructionist ways. Senator McCain announced that the GOP will stonewall Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees. With a Senate that is Democratic but short of the 60 votes needed for cloture, this means endless GOP filibusters and continued gridlock. Because their actions will be so visible in a Democratic Senate, yet more of the public will blame the GOP. In the 2018 mid-terms, this may well translate into a Senate with a 60+ Democratic majority and a House led by the Democrats – further marginalizing the GOP,

They still don’t get it.

17 October 2016

Trump and his Reckless Dive into the (Very) Dark Side of American Politics

Many thoughtful commentators (like George and myself) have basically noted that DJT has the temperament of a spoiled child denied a wish.  Such children never consider whether the wish was outrageous or the denial was deserved because of their own behavior.  They always deflect any blame for such rational reasons with claims of unfairness or with threats (wait until my father hears about this). 

Such behavior is a pain from a snot-nosed ten-year-old.  But, when that behavior occurs in a 70-year-old narcissist who is running for president, it becomes an entirely different game and much more deeply troublesome.  Trump has been playing with fire since the campaign began; he has been calling on the devils that reside just beneath the surface of American society ─ racism, xenophobia, class anger ─ and the potential violence that each of those carries with it. 

His basic narrative throughout the campaign has been that people like his supporters have been getting screwed. They are the victims of bad trade deals, an ineffectual government, and some shady set of special interests whose intent is to bleed them dry and leave their empty husks to be scattered by the next strong wind.

Ask any psychologist what usually happens when most people don’t get what they want – they get angry.  What DJT doesn’t seem to care about is that some of those angry people he is inciting believe the shortest distance between themselves and what they want is a path cleared by a gun or a bomb. 

Breitbart’s Bannon, who is now basically running the campaign, knows all that very well.  He is an internet bomb thrower, whose greatest delight would be to see the nation fall into chaos, so that right-wing extremists like himself could rise to the top with promises of order (and revenge).

Three months ago, I would have read the words above and gone ─ “Oh, get serious. This is the USA.”  I am no longer so sanguine. America has always had its dark side. That is what journalist are now calling the “fever swamp of hard right (alt right) politics.”  Most people trudging through that swamp will do little other than yell “jail the bitch” at campaign rallies, mouth the lines they have been by this two-bit demagogue, and bitch over their beer.

There are others who have let this darkness seep into their hearts and attach itself to the deep injuries caused by the slings and arrows that they feel have hurt them in the past.  They are men who believe the real currency in this world is violence. 

On this blog, I reviewed Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove, a book about race and violence in Florida in the 1950s.  https://theleftcorner.com/2015/08/12/the-devil-still-lives-review-and-commentary-on-gilbert-kings-devil-in-the-grove-thurgood-marshall-the-groveland-boys-and-the-dawn-of-a-new-america/

The most chilling thing about the book is how the organized racial violence perpetuated by Whites in this era was motivated by the same hate and fear that motivates rabid Trump supporters. These criminal were “just doin’ what’s right.”  I fear that this same sense of entitlement to dominance and a willingness to use violence to prove it will be one of the products of Trump and Bannon’s tactics. 

As one of the links below indicates, men in Kansas City were just days ago arrested for planning to bomb an apartment complex largely populated by Somali refugees. Another linkspeaks of armed Trump “militia” standing outside a Democratic headquarters, while Trump calls for volunteers to “monitor” polling places (read that as those places where people of color vote) where fraud might steal the election from him.  The last link is from the conservative Black columnist, Charles Blow.  This is one of the few times I agree with him.

Alas, the violence is not only on the right.  Recently a Republican Party office in North Carolina was firebombed by people who left anti-Trump slogan on walls.

None of this is good for America.  Also, what does not bode well for America is no boon to the rest of the world. 

Sinead O’Connor’s lyrics from Black Boys on Mopeds are dark, cynical, and frightening.  The song is about the killing of five young Black men by English police.  But, part of the lyrics capture the trepidation that I feel now.

……

I’ve said this before now
You said I was childish and you’ll say it now
“Remember what I told you
If they hated me they will hate you”

…….

These are dangerous days
To say what you feel is to dig your own grave.

 

Let’s all hope I am over-reacting.

 

The links below are a combination of information pieces and commentaries on the Trump campaign, violence, and the de-legitimization of electoral politics.  A variety of perspectives; each worth a look.

[this is not a live link; paste into browser]

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/trump-campaign-flails-violence-worse-article-1.2832866

[Some of these links are live; others may not be. ]

http://www.salon.com/2016/10/14/armed-donald-trump-supporters-caught-menacing-democratic-campaign-office/

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/03/02/a_list_of_violent_incidents_at_donald_trump_rallies_and_events.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/17/opinion/donald-trump-the-worst-of-america.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fcharles-m-blow&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection&_r=0

17 October 2016

George shares insights into what is making Rudy Giuliani tick this year.

One of the things that has baffled me is Rudy Giuliani’s staunch support for Trump. At the time of 9/11, I had developed a positive image of him for how he handled himself in an unprecedented and horrific situation. It perplexed me as to how this man from 9/11 was now so rabid for Trump. I finally reached out to one of my best friends, a New Yorker and noted journalist, for some insight. He had spent time on 9/11 with Giuliani and had followed his political career. His response was right on target, especially the quote from Jimmy Breslin. 
 
Hey, George

Rudy is a terribly conflicted person.  He coveted and enjoyed a reputation as “America’s mayor” after 9/11, a symbol of unity that camouflaged his personality as a bombastic, vitriolic former federal prosecutor and rabid law-and-order politician who also managed to profess some socially liberal positions.

The piece I’ve attached sums him up very well.  But I’ve never heard a better description of Rudy than the one Jimmy Breslin gave him.  Breslin called him “a small man looking for a balcony.”

 

14 October 2016

I have looked at the latest CNN/ORC poll and attempted to glean what I consider interesting points.  In the end, I offer what up what I suggest for HRC’s emphasis in the next debate.

CNN/ORC Poll. Sept. 28-Oct. 2, 2016. N=1,335 registered voters nationwide. Margin of error ± 2.5.
 

Voters views of candidates on the issues.

COMMENTARY: Like all polls, respondents often give what seem to be contradictory answers to what seem like basically the same question.  For example, Hillary Clinton is the clear favorite in the general foreign policy question. At the same time, Trump has the presumptive (within the margin of error) lead in dealing with terrorism, while Clinton holds the presumptive lead in dealing with ISIS.

The basic rule I follow in such situations is that the answer to the more specific question tells the better tale.  In reality, one would need to know how important the issue is the voter to get a much clearer picture. Also, for the most part, I will eschew adding discussion of those items which are a statistical tie. END

“Now I’m going to mention a few issues and for each one, please tell me if you think Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would better handle that issue if they were elected president. …”

COMMENTARY: A surprising number of issues indicate a statistical tie between the two contenders.  But, no issue where there is a statistically clear difference gives Trump the edge.  While immigration policy may be “red meat” for die-hard Trump supporters; for the general public, HRC holds a clear lead in general confidence among registered voters.  The same is true for improving race relations, income inequality, and general foreign policy.

I would argue that improving race relations, income inequality, and immigration can be seen as a single cluster of issues that are part of dealing with social cleavages in our society. This has become more and more important as American society seems to becoming more polarized along racial, ethnic, and economic lines. One suspects data like these are the basis for Clinton’s Stronger Together campaign slogan.  END

Hillary
Clinton
Donald
Trump
Neither
(vol.)
Unsure
% % % %
“The economy”
9/28 – 10/2/16 46 50 4
“Terrorism” Form A (N=671; margin of error ± 4)
9/28 – 10/2/16 45 48 7
“Immigration”
9/28 – 10/2/16 52 43 5
 

 

“Foreign policy”
9/28 – 10/2/16 59 35 6 1
 
“Trade with other countries” Form A (N=671; margin of error ± 4)
9/28 – 10/2/16 45 49 6
“Taxes”
9/28 – 10/2/16 48 46 6
“ISIS” Form B (N=664; margin of error ± 4)
9/28 – 10/2/16 48 44 6 1
“The criminal justice system”
9/28 – 10/2/16 48 45 6 1
“Improving life for racial and ethnic minorities”
9/28 – 10/2/16 60 32 7 1
“The income gap between rich and poor” (error ± 4)
9/28 – 10/2/16 51 42 6 1
 

COMMENTARY: In the survey items below, one finds the source of the Clinton Campaign’s emphasis on leadership.  She holds a clear lead in presidential temperament, ability to handle the office, voter admiration, preparedness to handle office, and a clear vision of the country’s future. Thus, we have ads showing a former nuclear missile launch military officer expressing fear of a DJT presidency.

For most of us, however, the fact that DJT is seen as more trustworthy than HRC is somehow unimaginable.  But it is clear in this and other polls that came out before the revelations of DJT’s proclivity to engage and boast about sexual assault.  The effect of these revelations on this item are as yet unknown. The HRC campaign already has ads running to draw in women voters, one can only expect these to multiply and potentially become more graphic in coming days. END

 

“Thinking about the following characteristics and qualities, please say whether you think each one applies more to Hillary Clinton or more to Donald Trump. Please feel free to name a candidate even if you may not support him or her. …”
Hillary
Clinton
Donald
Trump
Both
(vol.)
Neither
(vol.)
Unsure
% % % % %
“Is a strong and decisive leader” Form A (N=671; margin of error ± 4)
9/28 – 10/2/16 45 43 2 10
“Has the temperament to serve effectively as president”
9/28 – 10/2/16 58 31 1 9
“Can better handle the responsibilities of commander in chief” Form B (N=664; margin of error ± 4)
9/28 – 10/2/16 55 39 1 5
“Is more honest and trustworthy”
9/28 – 10/2/16 39 46 15
“Is a person you admire”
9/28 – 10/2/16 40 30 1 29
“Is in touch with the problems facing middle class Americans today” Form A (N=671; margin of error ± 4)
9/28 – 10/2/16 53 36 1 11
“Has a clear vision for the country’s future” Form B (N=664; margin of error ± 4)
9/28 – 10/2/16 49 42 1 8
“Is prepared to handle the presidency”
9/28 – 10/2/16 56 34 2 8
COMMENTARY: DJT’s failure to produce tax returns and revelations about his seeming failure to pay federal income taxes is, it can be argued, another social cleavage.  Most people clearly resent the wealthy who use astute tax lawyers to give them a free ride, while the average citizen groans and grimaces as they file their own income tax.  The response above on “being in touch with middle class problems” seems to me to fit quite well into this narrative.

An interesting result in these data, though such interpretations must be taken with due care, is that more people trust DJT (46%) than HRC (40%).  Yet, it seems that all those who trust HRC (39%) may also admire her (40%). However, many of those who say DJT is honest and trustworthy (46%), may not admire the man (30%).  One suspects that the latter number will fall somewhat when polling detail is available from after the DJT sexual assault accusations. END

“Which better describes your view of paying taxes? It is every American’s civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes. Taxes are an unnecessary burden and Americans should do everything they can to pay as little as possible.” Options rotated

Civic duty
to pay
fair share
Should pay
as little as
possible
Unsure
% % %
9/28 – 10/2/16 86 12 1
“Do you think Donald Trump should or should not release his tax returns for public review?”
Should Should not Unsure
% % %
9/28 – 10/2/16 73 24 3
“Do you think Donald Trump has not released his tax returns because he is being audited by the IRS, or he is trying to hide something that he doesn’t want the public to know?”
Being
audited
Hiding
something
Unsure
% % %
9/28 – 10/2/16 33 57 10

 

 

 

http://www.pollingreport.com/wh16.htm is the source of the polling results.  The interpretations are, of course my own.

 

COMMENTARY:  DJT will undoubtedly be asked about the allegations of sexual assault in the next debate. I suspect he will rail at the Clinton campaign (bringing up accusations concerning Bill Clinton).  He will then blame the entire narrative on the media (liberals) and (international banking elites=Jews).  He may even bring in the Republican party establishment (Paul Ryan, et al.).  Whatever happens, it will be nasty, brutish, and hopefully short.  I hope Hillary keeps herself above this fray.

In her performance, it would seem to behoove HRC to emphasize her answer to divisive problems on the domestic front and question DJT’s leadership and temperament.

We shall see. END

28 September 20165

George does a comprehensive wrap-up on DJT’s campaign and his debate performance.

Immediately after Monday’s debate CNN/ORC conducted a telephone survey of those who watched the debate. By the whopping margin of 62% to 27% these viewers declared that Clinton won. Within the data is a telling observation. Forty-one percent of those interviewed were Democrats. Even if she got every Democratic vote, the gap between 62% and 41% indicates that many Republicans and independents thought she won.

On the other hand, the lack of a gap between 27% saying they were Republicans and 26% saying Trump won means either that Trump got only the votes of Republicans or that, if he received any votes from Democrats or independents, they were off-set by a loss of votes from Republicans who saw Hillary as the winner.

Hillary’s win extended to all three major areas included in the survey. The viewers thought she was stronger on the economy by a margin of 51% to 47%, the gap was larger on terrorism with Clinton favored 54% to 43% and, when it came to foreign policy, Clinton had an almost 2-to-1 lead of 62% to 35%.

This, however, is no reason for Democrats to get giddy. It is only the first debate. It should be kept in mind that Reagan lost the first debate to Mondale and Obama lost his first to Romney. Nevertheless, Trump’s loss was so substantial that it prompted Rudy Giuliani to state: “If I were Donald Trump I wouldn’t participate in another debate unless I was promised that a journalist would act like a journalist and not an incorrect, ignorant fact checker.” This advice is not surprising. Fact checking can only be embarrassing to Donald, and it takes away his biggest weapons – lying, fabrication and gross exaggeration.

Trump’s commitment to deceiving voters is so great that is disqualifying regardless of whether he does it by lying, fabricating facts and history, or exaggerating. If he is knowingly lying to our citizenry, he is morally bankrupt and is unfit to be president. It seems totally clear that he is intentionally lying when he denies provable facts about what he has said or done. These memories should be clear. The only other plausible explanation is a failing memory and that in itself is disqualifying. His falsehoods about issues other than those from his past could either be deliberate lies or markers of his ignorance of the issues and the facts, histories and policies surrounding them. It doesn’t make any difference as to whether he is lying or ignorant. Either makes him unfit to be president.

On the topic of lying and ignorance, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, finally said something that all can believe. Mika Brezezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, asked Conway to explain why Trump said that debate moderator Lester Holt is a Democrat when he is actually a registered Republican. “We’re asking why he lied about Lester Holt.” “He didn’t lie,” Conway said. Brzezinski repeated: “Um, I think he did.” To which Conway responded: “Mika, a lie would mean that he knew the man’s party registration.” ‘Nuff said.

After the debate, CNN fact-checked both candidates. For Trump, they complied the following:

Trump: “I did not support the war in Iraq.”

FALSE. In 2000 Trump is on tape supporting the war on the Howard Stern Show before Congress authorized it. He didn’t express any opposition until more than a year later, in an August 2004 interview. By then most all thinking adults realized that they had been tricked into support for the war by false claims about Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. Trump was far from the groundbreaker and seer that he claims to be.

Trump: “She was involved” in spreading birtherism.

FALSE. As every reputable news outlet has reported, there is not one shred of evidence for this assertion. His lie about her involvement has led to another lie. As he reiterated in the debate, Trump has repeatedly said that he only jumped on the birther issue to get Obama to release his birth certificate. Obama released his birth certificate in 2011 but Trump continued to promote the birther issue for another 5 years. Had his purpose been to get Obama to release his birth certificate, Trump would have dropped the birther issue in 2011. Thus, another lie by The Donald.

Trump: Stop-and-frisk wasn’t ruled unconstitutional.

FALSE. On August 12, 2013, a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional in Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. 

Trump: “Murders are up” in NYC.

FALSE. Murders are continuing to trend downward in New York City. They’re down 4.3% from this time last year, according to New York Police Department statistics.

Trump repeatedly denied he called climate change a hoax “created by the Chinese”

FALSE. Trump has tweeted on several occasions that climate change was “created by the Chinese” or “an expensive hoax.” For example, on November 6, 2012 he tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” He also told CNN last September that he’s “not a believer in climate change.”

Trump: “I am going to cut taxes big league and you are going to raise taxes big league. End of story.”

MOSTLY FALSE. Most Americans will see no change in their taxes as a result of Clinton’s tax plan. Nearly all of the increases will fall on the top 1% of taxpayers and the bottom 95% of taxpayers will see little or no change in their taxes, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Trump: “You’ve been fighting ISIS your entire adult life”

FALSE. ISIS only came into being in 2006 after splintering from al-Qaeda in Iraq. Clinton was born in 1947.

Trump: “Ford is leaving.” “Their small car division — thousands of jobs, leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio.”

FALSE. In his opening question, the Republican nominee alleged that Ford was “leaving” the United States and cutting thousands of jobs while moving production plants to Mexico. Ford is opening a new plant in Mexico, but they’re not cutting any US jobs to do it.

Trump denied calling pregnancy “an inconvenience” to employers

FALSE. Clinton lobbed the accusation, and Trump responded flatly, “I never said that.” But he did. In an Oct. 2004 interview, Trump said pregnancy “is a wonderful thing,” but “certainly an inconvenience for a business.” Tape exists showing that he said this.

Trump: Clinton called TPP “gold standard of trade deals”

PARTIALLY TRUE. In 2012 Clinton as Secretary of State said in a speech that the then existing draft Trans-Pacific Partnership deal “sets the gold standard in trade agreements.” Clinton recently announced her opposition the finalized deal.

In fact checking Clinton, they only found obfuscation about the TPP.

Incessant falsehoods are nothing new for Trump. It began in the Republican primaries and continues to this day. In one two week stretch beginning on September 15th  fact checks by respected news organizations documented well over 100 instances in which he lied, fabricated or grossly exaggerated (I stopped counting). What they found will not be enumerated here. The fact checks are easy to find on line. Here are two.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/09/2016-donald-trump-fact-check-week-214287

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/24/us/elections/donald-trump-statements.html

In addition to the falsehoods in Monday’s debate, Trump’s lack of policy and character stood out.

True to form, he exaggerated the issues and then offered very little in the way of policy solutions. His justice policy consisted of repetition of his campaign line that “law and order” is needed. His centerpiece policy remedy was that he would initiate stop-and-frisk in spite of extensive data that show it to be ineffective – hardly a policy to address the complexities of crime; not to mention that it is unconstitutional.

Toward the end of the debate, his answers were almost devoid of policy. When asked how he would prevent the use of the internet to radicalize people, he completely evaded any response and went off on an unrelated tangent about being endorsed by generals and admirals. Ideas on this topic have been glaringly absent from his rhetoric since the campaign began.

As the debate progressed his failings in temperament and character became more and more evident. He did not well handle the pressure of being questioned on policy and his answers deteriorated. His best performance was on his opening statement regarding taxes. However, he noticeably rattled when Clinton challenged his assertions on how they would benefit the economy and reduce the national debt. Interestingly she did so by employing numbers from the Wall Street Journal. “Including the costs of additional federal borrowing from Mr. Trump’s plans, the national debt would rise by $5.3 trillion over a decade relative to current policy, pushing the debt-to-GDP ratio to 105%, which is significantly higher than either Mrs. Clinton’s policies or the current trajectory for the debt ….”

As the pressure of the debate mounted, he moved deeper into falsehoods and exaggerations. He also abandoned his congenial start and began to show himself as rude and a bully. He interrupted Hillary 51 times, at points trying to drown her out.

Immediately following the debate, a large majority of respondents in focus groups cited his failings in temperament and character as one reason for their negative impression of him with some saying it tipped them to Hillary.

In spite of his loud denials Trump appears to recognize that he did not do well in the debate. As an example, immediately after the debate he said that Lester Holt did a good job as moderator. By Tuesday morning he was criticizing Holt for asking “hostile questions.”

He also came up with a preposterous, near laughable, excuse for his performance – that unspecified parties are conspiring against him. “I had a problem with a microphone that didn’t work,” he said on Fox and Friends. “My microphone was terrible. I wonder, was it set up that way on purpose? My microphone, in the room they couldn’t hear me, you know, it was going on and off. Which isn’t exactly great. I wonder if it was set up that way, but it was terrible.” “It was on and off, and it was much lower than hers. I don’t want to believe in conspiracy theories, of course, but it was much lower than hers and it was crackling, and she didn’t have that problem,” he added.

Both Reagan and Obama took their losses in their first debates as a wakeup call, regrouped and revised their approaches. Will Trump do what they did or will he double down on what he sees as a winning strategy from the primaries? It will be a tug of war with Donald and his Let-Trump-Be-Trump advisors on one side and his more conventional advisors on the other. In the 8 days between now and the next debate (minus time for campaign events) his challenge will be learning enough about the policies that they have devised for him to speak cogently about them. His first appearances on the campaign trail on Tuesday and Wednesday suggest that he will be doubling down on his strategy from the primaries. He was shallow on policy and on the attack with references to Crooked Hillary.

His extremely poor performance on Monday is not likely to chip away at his rabid core supporters. They are blindly committed as is clearly evident in their rejection of Clinton as untrustworthy while supporting a man who so openly lies to them and repeatedly seeks to deceive them. Any effects of his poor performance are more likely to appear in moving independents, undecideds and some traditional Republicans toward Hillary and in hardening the commitment of Hillary’s supporters, especially women and minorities.

Given the vagaries of the second and third debates and of events between now and November 8, Trump still could win. H. L. Mencken must be kept in mind: “No one in this world … has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

 

22 September 2016

PHILOTIMO: A BEAUTIFUL CONCEPT LOST

When I was a youngster, my first-generation Greek father endlessly preached philotimo to me. Although as a Greek I know what it means, if you look it up you will find that it is essentially impossible to translate into English or any other language. At its core, it means taking pride in doing the right thing. The best definition of it that I know of calls it a composite or union of “duty, loyalty, integrity, honor, love, trust, faith and, perhaps most important of all, the pride in being decent.”

What has happened to us? Politics is a rough and tumble business but this campaign has sunk to levels beyond all belief. The unacceptable has become acceptable. Honor, integrity and truth are being battered beyond recognition. The guilty parties are the candidates, the media and the party leaders

The Candidates

There is not one aspect of the above definition of philotimo reflected in Donald Trump. Time and again he proves himself to be the antithesis of decency and righteousness. He immediately dragged the Republican primary into the gutter. His campaign was almost totally devoid of policy. He substituted invective, personal attacks, lies, deceptions, name calling – Little Marco, Lying Ted, Carlie Forino’s looks, Jeb Bush was low energy, Ted Cruz’s father was linked to JFK’s assassination. The list is as long as it is vulgar.

Trump has continued into the general election with the added disgrace of his merger with the alt-right – clearly present in his decision to make Steve Bannon, Chairman of the Breibart News website, his campaign’s chief executive. Although his advisors are now trying to paint a smiley face on him, the personal attacks, falsehoods and demagoguery remain – Crooked Hillary, she should be in jail, Breitbart pushing the idea that the Clintons have had four people killed.

His campaign is based on lie after lie, denial of provable fact, and the invention of totally false facts and statistics. It is near pathological. In our lifetimes, only Senator Joseph McCarthy in his Communist witch hunts even approximated Trump’s level. Multiple fact-check organizations are finding that around 78% of what Trump says is untrue or largely untrue.

Ever the demagogue and manipulator, Trump knows that it is far easier to see the problem than it is grasp the solution especially to complex problems. Thus, he defines the problem in the most exaggerated often untruthful way that he can to maximize fear and concern. He then offers simple, easy to grasp solutions, however ineffective, superficial, unworkable or illegal they might be – I’m gonna build a wall to stop illegal immigration, use extreme screening to keep out terrorists, use profiling to identify terrorists, use extreme interrogation to get information. Trump is a deep believer in H. L. Mencken’s infamous guidance: “No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

Devoid of any respect for the truth, Trump continues with falsehoods. One of his latest came on last Wednesday in his much heralded announcement of his economic policy at the Economic Club of New York. Speaking about Ford’s plan to move small car production to Mexico, Trump stated: “They think they’re going to get away with this and they fire all their employees in the United States and…move to Mexico.” “When that car comes back across the border into our country that now comes in free, we’re gonna charge them a 35% tax. And you know what’s gonna happen, they’re never going to leave.”

It long has been known – especially to this Wall Street audience – that not one job will be lost at Ford. Small car production at the US plant will be replaced by production of new SUV and truck products. Post-speech feedback from attendees additionally noted that Trump’s claim that jobs were being moved overseas because of corporate tax rates was at best marginally true. The major reasons for building new plants outside of the US are lower real estate and construction costs for building the plants and lower labor costs for production. Tax rates are essentially an afterthought. Additionally, they pointed out that the last thing that is needed are trade wars induced by Trump’s tariffs given a global economy in which US manufacturers depend to a major extent on foreign sales.

Basically, Trump chose to deliver falsehoods and present uninformed policies to this audience whom he had to know would not believe or accept them. The con man in him knew that, aided by the credibility of the Wall Street forum, his lies and deceptive exaggerations would play well to his uninformed base. But among the Wall Streeters in attendance applause was tepid, and those who watched the broadcast of the speech may have spotted archconservative Larry Kudlow pointedly refusing to shake Trump’s outstretched hand.

Even when Trump purports to do something positive, he seems compelled to lie. With much fanfare on Friday, he announced that President Obama was born in the US. However, he had to add the total fabrication that Hillary initiated the birther issue.

Although not even close in proportion to Trump, Hillary has not been a paragon of philotimo. She has had problems with integrity and trust. In particular, she is displaying a large dose of Clinton Disease that first infected her husband. On too many occasions information and important details need to be dragged out of her. On Libya, on her emails, on her pneumonia, and on and on. As a result, she has been unable put anything behind her. There always remains the suspicion that more is hiding there if one keeps digging. Republicans seize on this to hammer away at her and keep alive issues that should have been long dead. It then is no surprise that voters have concerns about her truthfulness and trustworthiness.

The Media

Where in all of this is the press, especially the broadcast media? Failing on philotimo in its own way.

Chris Wallace’s recent statement about his role as the moderator for the first debate provides a perfect example of one of broadcast media’s central failings. He denied that he has a role as a fact checker when he knows full well that what is seen on TV is taken as gospel by large segments of the public. If the media is not a fact checker, if it does not challenge what is untrue or half true, it is simply providing a platform for the deception of its viewing or reading audience.

[As an aside, to balance having a Trump apologist like Chris Wallace moderating the first debate, I wonder if they will allow Elizabeth Warren to moderate the second.]

The job of the media is at its core to bring factual information to the public so that they can choose our president on what is true. Responsible mainstream media try hard to be accurate in their own journalism, but when they allow others either in interviewers or in their reporting on them to use their stage to spread unchallenged innuendo, half-truth and untruth, they become complicit in the deceit.

This is not to say that all in the media are remiss. There are some shining instances of journalists doing their job. Also, at this late date in the election cycle, more journalists seem to be mustering the sense of duty and righteousness to point out Trump’s fabrications and to challenge the untruths and half-truths of his surrogates.

Congratulations, for example, to Jake Tapper of CNN for repeatedly confronting Katrina Pierson for dissembling, denying demonstrable fact, misrepresenting HRC’s positions, and returning time and again to campaign talking points instead of addressing the issue at hand.

Another fine example of good journalism was the media’s response to Trump’s assertion that Hillary was the source of the birther issue. To their credit every reputable news outlet branded this as totally false.

Near the top of the good guy list is Bill Maher. He jumped all over Kellyanne Conway when she said she could never work for someone who lies. His first reaction was: “You are enabling evil,” and then “You just said you can’t support someone who ‘lies for a living,’ when I read a list of provable lies.” Hats off to Bill!

From another perspective, it is baffling how Conway, a graduate of Harvard law School and ostensibly an intelligent person, cannot see even the self-contradictory positions she must take to defend Trump. It doesn’t seem to bother her or any of her allies such as Kayliegh McEnerny or Katrina Pierson. Is the money that good? Are they so lacking in scruples? Are they that blind and close-minded?

Not fact checking and not challenging false innuendo, half-truth and untruth is not a neutral position. It tacitly supports the person spreading dishonesty.

Another problem afflicting the media – especially news stations like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC – arises from the fact that there is not enough new campaign news each day to fill the available time. Instead, they substitute endless repetitive analysis that blurs and often erases the line between what is fact and news and what is speculation and opinion. By constantly rehashing the same material, they grant credibility to and keep in front of the public issues that long since should have been laid to rest.

Next, some of their analysts have no business being elevated to the level of analyst. Cory Lewandowski and Kayleigh McEnerny are prime examples. The behavior of both is identical. They offer no analysis, they stick closely to campaign scripts, they turn the issue into an often unconnected rant about Hillary and, if challenged by another panelist, they talk loudly over the person trying to drown out what the person is trying to say. Lewandowski, who remains on Trump’s payroll, appears just to have played his role in a game. He doubled down on the birther issue while at the same time campaign staff, Conway included, are castigating the press for keeping the issue alive. The media may choose to interview these people, but promoting them to the level of analyst is far from doing the right thing; it is a major breach of philotimo.

Lastly, you have got to give it to The Donald. He excels at manipulating the media. From years as a reality show host, he knows that controversy and outrage attract viewers and he knows that high viewership is the Holy Grail of the broadcast industry. As a master con man, he knows precisely how to capitalize on this.

He plays the media like a fiddle. In the primaries, he was able to spend insignificant sums on his campaign. Knowing the media’s fondness for sensationalism and controversy, he baited the media into giving him hours and hours of free air time through one outrage after the next.

His media savvy was clearly evident in choosing to release his medical records on the Dr. Oz Show. It was brilliant. It provided a venue with great public appeal and one that was devoid of reporters who might ask challenging questions. He also got days of fanfare in the media about his transparency in releasing the records. Of course, he did not release them. He released a 3-page letter from the same physician who wrote that ridiculous half-page letter that did not contain any medically useful information and made the laughable assertion that Trump would be the healthiest president in US history. Nevertheless, Trump led the media into several days of free publicity that delivered the message to his base that he was being transparent in releasing his medical records.

He again led the media down the path on the birther issue. After several days of would-he-won’t-he fueled by conflicting statements from his campaign staff, he spent all of 7 seconds last Friday on accepting that Obama was born in Hawaii and then he blocked any reporters’ questions by fleeing. But he got what he wanted – 20 minutes of live TV to tout the endorsements of a group of veterans and to promote his new hotel. Bamboozled again. Hungry for the something outrageous or controversial, they are easy prey for the master of media.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about Trump trying to pivot but then reverting to form and blundering such as when he acknowledged that Obama was born in Hawaii but then botched it by adding that Hillary started the birther issue. I’m not so sure that this was a blunder. The first signs of a pattern seem to be emerging. As his poll numbers improve, Trump switches from Teleprompter Donald to Outrageous Donald. First he woos voters from the center and then he appeases his base. Shrewd. Something a master con man would do.

Party Leadership

GOP leadership has failed to do the right and decent thing for decades beginning with the racist Southern Strategy of the 1968 election. Year by year they converted a conservative party into one heavily dependent on the votes of a disjoint collection of jingoists, xenophobes, ultranationalists, racists, sexists, homophobes, Islamophobes, and extremists of every stripe plus religious zealots devoted to codifying their beliefs into law. Incongruously they seem befuddled by what they built. They similarly can’t seem to come to grips with the fact that Trump is the product of what they built.

After years of not doing the right thing, the GOP’s leaders now are showing themselves to be only a step or two behind Trump in lacking philotimo. They are proving themselves to be unprincipled and devoid of honor and integrity. Paul Ryan knows that Trump is unfit, has harshly criticized him, but endorses him anyway. Mitch McConnell was the among the first to publicly suggest that the real Trump could be hidden from the voters by scripted teleprompter speeches. Most recently RNC Chairman Rience Priebus went so far as to threaten lack of future support for those who do not endorse Trump. Such unprincipled behavior is not confined to these three leaders. It extends to the many members of the Republican congressional delegation and other officials who know Trump is unqualified but nonetheless endorse him.

There are, however, large and growing numbers of prominent Republicans who stand up for their convictions by labeling Trump for what he is and refusing to endorse him. Ex-president George H.W. Bush is the latest to say he will vote for Hillary. Much to John Kasich’s credit and that of his staff and Ohio’s GOP, when Priebus threatened withdrawal of support, they immediately put principles over politics and fired back at Priebus reiterating their opposition to Trump.

The same promotion of party over country that is leading so many to endorse Trump is at the heart of the Washington gridlock. The Republicans are in the vanguard, but both parties at fault. Lack of cooperation and compromise is not excused by the childish “but he did it first.”

The lack of philotimo in ignoring their duty to govern effectively is not confined to the Republican leadership. It also afflicts the Democratic leadership although on a lesser scale. The same failings that empowered those who seek change in Trump regardless of the price sparked the enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders’ revolution.

Our politicians and media really need a serious infusion of philotimo. Politics will never be clean; it is a blood sport. Nevertheless, the nation needs a return to basic bipartisan decency and civility that encourages politicians to do the right thing, to acknowledge the primacy of country over party, to respect those who hold opposing positions, and to embrace compromise that is essential to the proper functioning of a democracy.

This outcome is possible only with the help of the press. They need move away from sensationalism, controversy and the overuse of words such as scandal and crisis. They need to be staunch defenders of truth and fact, consistently challenging and correcting those who peddle falsehoods. Their vigilance is our single best defense against unscrupulous and manipulative politicians.

14 September 2016

Election Update 2016:  To quote Buffalo Springfield in its Stephen Stills and Neil Young Heyday”Something’s happening here. What it is ain’t Exactly Clear.”

If you are like me, you are really amazed at the recent polls and the ongoing commentary on this election.  Here are some notes and a hypothesis.

This election we have a proven politician who has spent so many years dodging arrows from so many different foes that her every move now seems to be made with her eyes shifting about for how someone might turn her that word or action against her.  Maureen Dowd, a seasoned Clinton hater, says HRC is like the Episcopal priest who thinks that she should live as well as his upper class parishioners and that it is her just desserts for serving God and the community.  She is then surprised when no one seems to agree.

That is Maureen Dowd. My interpretation is different.  I think that HRC is mystified and somewhat taken aback and maybe a bit frightened. How, she wonders, can any well-deserved kudos and respect for a life spent in service somehow be ignored, while her every dollar of income, every email message, and each cough dominates the new cycles.  And, these things dominate the media as she runs for the most important political position in the world, a position for which she is eminently qualified.

At the same time, the frightening part is that her opponent should by all rights be eating her electoral dust.  He is the poster boy for the DSM attributes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One of the most noticeable things about people with NPD is that so few of them see these attributes as a disorder or even a problem.  Since Trump is rich, he can claim to the gullible among us that these are the attributes that have made him so successful.  And, our society has a long history of giving misplaced credibility to people with bunches of money, believing that all that success must somehow make them special or better than others.

I am sure HRC keeps on wondering when the hell all DJT’s lies and bombastic rhetoric, laced with racism, xenophobia, and misogyny, will catch up with him.  The sad thing is that they won’t.  When HRC spoke of the “basket of deplorables,” she made the mistake of assailing persons, when she would have been on much safer ground saying that “too many Trump supporters drink far too deeply from the dark well of deplorable ideas.”

But, still, this guy has a one in three chance of being president.  How come?  I can’t get to the guts of poll data, but I have a good hypothesis. Folks can talk all they want about who is most disliked or who is seen as honest.  The reality is, I believe, that traditional R voters, who have to this point been very wary of Trump, are coming home.  The R elites have been drumming the Supreme Court drum, and the down-ticket losses with a Clinton victory. 

D voters have always said they would vote (in the low 90 percentiles) for Hillary.  Not so much for R voters, this time around.  But, I think that is changing.  I think traditional R voters are swallowing their bile and saying that they will now “pull the trigger” for Trump.    

Note: It seems my hypothesis is not totaling lacking in support. After writing this, I came upon the following discussion in a Reuters article about the Reuters/Ipsos poll from late August that had Clinton and Trump at 40 and 39, respectively.

Trump’s gains came as Republican support for their party’s candidate jumped by six percentage points over the past two weeks, to about 78 percent. That is still below the 85 percent support Republican nominee Mitt Romney enjoyed in the summer of 2012, but the improvement helps explain Trump’s rise in the poll.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-poll-idUSKCN1182PT?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=morefromreuters

5 September 2016

The options noted above are only a few collective nouns that might be used to describe The Donald’s new campaign team. Other options given due consideration were an unkindness of ravens, a knot of snakes, or a clew of worms.

I could go on, but you get the basic idea.  Whatever description of a group of animals one may decide is the most accurate description, these animals are a TRULY unsavory lot.  This is no pride of lions or an aerie of eagles.

To finalize your decision about what may be the most appropriate description, let’s share a few facts about these folks.

Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Bannon are member of the secretive right wing group, the National Policy Council (NPC).  In fact, the secret 2014 roll for that organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center obtained indicated sweet Kellyanne was a member of the group’s Executive Committee.  What does this mean?  Here is a bit from the SPLC report:

The CNP is not controversial so much for the conservatives who dominate it — activists of the religious right and the so-called “culture wars,” along with a smattering of wealthy financiers, Congressional operatives, right-wing consultants and Tea Party operatives — as for the many real extremists who are included.

 “They include people like Michael Peroutka, a neo-Confederate who for years was on the board of the white supremacist League of the South; Jerome Corsi, a strident Obama “birther” and the propagandist hit man responsible for the “Swift boating” of John Kerry; Joseph Farah, who runs the wildly conspiracist “news” operation known as WorldNetDaily; Mat Staver, the Liberty Counsel leader who has worked to re-criminalize gay sex; Philip Zodhaites, another anti-gay activist who is charged with helping a self-described former lesbian who kidnapped her daughter from her former partner and fled the country; and a large number of other similar characters.”

https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/08/31/revealed-conway-bannon-members-secretive-group?utm_campaign=HW%20Newsletter%20922016&utm_medium=email&utm_source=EOACLK

Then, of course, there is the assistance campaign manager, David Bossie.  So, our neo-populist Republican candidate hired the guy who runs Citizens United, to whom we owe the entrance of oodles of dark corporate money into American politics that his candidate so detests (unless of course it is his money or money for him).  Not only that, the guy is a notoriously unreliable HRC hater.

“After the Republicans won control of the United States House of Representatives in the 1994 elections Dan Burton, (R-IN), became chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. In 1997, he hired Mr. Bossie as chief investigator to look into a possible campaign finance abuses by U.S. President Bill Clinton.[4] By May 1998, Burton came under intense partisan pressure; even fellow Republicans complained that committee staff had published redacted tapes and transcripts of former United States Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell‘s prison telephone calls omitting some exculpatory passages. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich pressed Burton to seek Bossie’s resignation.[5] Shortly thereafter, Burton accepted Bossie’s resignation.[6]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bossie

To move away from the collective nouns for groups of animals, let’s go to sports.  This new campaign leadership is not “the dream team.” They are probably best thought of as the “the scream team.”

4 September 2016

Why I Abhor Lying, Crooked Hugh Hewitt and Little Kellyanne Conway (and am bewildered by Chris Matthews).

MSNBC’s Hardball has brought on a commentator, Hugh Hewitt, with a great radio voice and really nice hair.  Unfortunately,  he is just a broken record who, between offering up a few interesting tidbits of punditry, spends most of his time on Hardball spewing out mostly traditional but some Trumpian Republican applause lines at any opportunity.

He was sensible enough to leave Trump hanging on criticizing Gold Star families and that Obama found ISIS, but he can never resist an opportunity to talk about the gold star Moms the Trump trotted out to blame HRC for their sons’ deaths in Benghazi.  Of course, seven reports have cleared Hillary on any charges of wrongdoing.  But, Hugh is more interested in slinging mud than providing information. He is a right-wing foghorn that Matthews treats with kid gloves.

And, as Hewitt signs off each commentary, he almost always throws in every current and past international crisis that he can spew out in the remaining time and blames HRC.  Like many right wing zealots, It is like she is this arch-criminal who has been single-handed controlled international events for decades, and doing it so badly that the nation is a tailspin of epic portions (you know, like the ones about which Glenn Beck is always so “sincerely” preaching moist-eyed doom and gloom).

Seriously, Hewitt’s worked as an atty in the Reagan admin, but his greatest claim to fame seems to be that he oversaw the construction of the Nixon library and tried to ban from it all those untrustworthy and “irresponsible journalists” like, as the best example, the notoriously unprofessional (irony here, folks) Bob Woodward.

Then, we have Ms. Conway.  Almost every commentator has been falling over their tongues to praise her savvy and skills. Please get real.  She was part of a Ted Cruz PAC who showed the incredible moral courage of becoming Donald Trump’s campaign manager, managing the campaign of the guy who said Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.

Admittedly, she is not stupid. She is slick. But, she tries to sell BS like “bigot” really means HRC has supported policies that have disadvantaged African-Americans. She seems to forget she is working for a guy who took out a full page newspaper ad calling for reinstitution of the death penalty for the young black men who were wrongly convicted of the Central Park rape and whose real estate ventures have been mired in charges of discriminatory housing.

Yet, Chris Matthews seems to do what he often does for mysterious reasons–have his “favorites” who get special treatment.  Matthews, Mr Interruption and Mr. I Can Talk Over Anyone Since It Is My Show,  gives Hewitt and Conway completely undeserved deference.

19 August 2016

GET READY

Hey folks, get ready. Donald Trump is about to be cut loose. If you liked what you saw in the primaries, you are going to love this.

Donald flirted briefly with reining in his bombast but it was obvious that this wasn’t comfortable with it. In a recent interview on WKDT, he stated” “I am who I am. It’s me. I don’t want to change. Everyone talks about, ‘Oh are you going to pivot?’ I don’t want to pivot. You have to be you. If you start pivoting you are not being honest with people.”

It hardly seems a coincidence that the shakeup in his campaign’s leadership late on Tuesday followed immediately on the tails of scripted speeches on Monday and early Tuesday in which he tried to look presidential but that drew only polite but tepid reactions for his audiences.

On Monday, he delivered his much touted speech on foreign policy and national security. Except when he went to extremes, the audience reaction was muted. Cheering followed only such statements  as his intent to use “extreme, extreme vetting” of immigrants, and his proclamation that the US should hang on to Iraqi oil – “I was saying this constantly and to whoever would listen: keep the oil, keep the oil, keep the oil!” Never mind that this would involve a massive infusion of US troops to secure and occupy an area running from Iraq’s northernmost tip abutting Turkey to Basra on the Gulf in the south – the entire spine and eastern two-thirds of the country. And never mind that in the same speech he spoke of assembling a coalition of Arab nations to fight ISIS, upon hearing his proposal to occupy Iraq and keep the oil, no doubt these “partners” would only be wondering if they were to be next.

The audience reaction to his law and order speech on Tuesday hardly resembled the wild cheering that normally accompanies his unfettered, non-teleprompter diatribes. Incongruously, in this speech he called for support from the African-American community in spite of the fact that he traveled 40 miles north of Milwaukee to West Bend to deliver the speech in a community that is 95% white. He has never once campaigned in a community of color, and he turned down an invitation to address the NAACP’s June convention. And he claims to be reaching out to the African-American community?

The audience reactions to these two speeches would seem to have been the tipping point that drove Trump to shelve Paul Manafort and reset his campaign under Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. By the way, it has been reported that Trump did not consult his family before doing this, and that they are upset both with being left out and with the direction he is taking.

Steve Bannon is the Chairman of the Breitbart News website. Breitbart consistently reflects the most extreme right wing elements and routinely spreads false rumors and non-fact “facts.” It savagely attacks anyone who is but an inch further to the center, and the GOP’s core conservatives are regularly a target of their wrath. They have referred to Bill Kristol, the conservative pundit, as a “renegade Jew” and, in the recent Wisconsin primaries, they loudly back Paul Nehlen over Paul Ryan. Roger Stone, who is a Trump advisor and is at the forefront of spreading the falsehood that the Clinton’s are having people murdered, is a staple on Breitbart.

To his credit, Bill Kristol is undeterred: “It’s the merger of the Tramp campaign with the kooky right.” Make no mistake, this is in fact a merger. Bannon is not giving up his role at Breitbart. He will wear both hats. Terry Sullivan, who ran Rubio’s campaign, succinctly summed up the merger when he said that Trump and Breitbart “both play to the lowest common denominator of people’s fears. It is a match made in heaven.”

Kellyanne Conway is a long-time pollster whose role supposedly is to keep Trump on message as determined by polling data. She is supposed to do this in the face of the advice coming from Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Roger Ailes and others of the “Let Trump Be Trump” philosophy. Now that truly is a monumental task! She must love a challenge.

The has been a familiar face on TV defending Trump’s latest outrage. Just recently she appeared on CNN trying to sell the idea that Trump is better for African-Americans than Hillary Clinton, that his policies are just what African-Americans need, and that Hillary is the bigot. Either she is a Trump zealot and, thus, unlikely to counterweight Let Trump Be Trump, or she is someone who will say anything for a dollar.

There is no doubt that these two appointments and the direction that the campaign now will take will fire up Trump’s base of populists, evangelicals, single issue zealots, racial, ethnic and gender bigots and an array of other far right extremists. But this strategy is why he is trailing badly in recent national polls and polls in critical battleground states. It is exactly what has been costing him the support of women, those who are college-educated, minorities, independents and moderate Republicans. He cannot win without major support within these ranks and reverting to the strategy that is losing these voters would seem highly counterproductive. It only will drive away more of these voters.

 However, it may not be counterproductive in the eyes of those who simply believe in their extreme positions – that their brands for Christianity should be codified into law, that there is a “role” for women, that the LGBTQ community is to be abhorred and excluded, that there is no higher calling than hatred of the Clintons, and on and on. For those who simply believe in this fashion, Trump for the first time is giving their notions prominence on a national stage. He is a national figure that at last is validating their positions. This recognition would appear to be all that they want. It is not rational to think that this can carry a national election.

What will be most interesting is how the Republican leadership reacts. In making these appointments, Trump is thumbing his nose at Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and all of the GOP’s other leaders. He is uniting his campaign with Breitbart – an organization that consistently bashes them and decries their very existence. With these appointments, Trump is proclaiming that the Republican party is his and that he will do with it what he wants. This simply does not put cracks in the GOP; it opens chasms.

How far can the Republican leadership be pushed? To date they have been spineless. How long can down ballot candidates stick with a campaign that appears to be on a suicidal trajectory? If rationality pertains, the coming weeks may see many down ballot candidates recanting endorsements and jumping off Trump’s bandwagon. Because the leadership has long preached party discipline as a sine qua non, it may be slower to react. If recent history is the guide, a few may follow the path of those who with courage and integrity have renounced Trump as dangerous to America. Others in the leadership – possibly most – may hunker down and quietly acquiesce. They appear to be grasping at the vain hope that he can be contained. But he has just told them to take a hike.

Then there are the members of Congress and other national figures who are Trump believers and diehard supporters. They will double down on their endorsements. Ann Coulter is among these: “He doesn’t need any help formulating his message – his message is perfect.”

The question is whether the clear signal that Trump sees himself the de facto leader and voice of the GOP and free to rebrand it as Trump’s Party wakes up the GOP’s leadership. With the gauntlet so clearly thrown in their faces, it is difficult to see how they can continue with their endorsements. But then again, they promoted party over country to endorse him in the first place.

JUST AN ADDENDUM FROM CHAS

An interesting scenario is now making the rounds among commentators.  They wonder if this new marriage made in the fevered swamps of American wing-nut conservatism (nationalistic, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, etc) is basically a brand being built for the period after the election — maybe a new political party or a new crazy, right wing TV channel.  

If it is, it will have to be built around Bannon. Trump will, I suspect, be completely satisfied to continue to sell his “brand” and snipe at the new President, occasionally claiming the election was rigged (people are saying, lots of people).  A new political party would be too much work for either of them.  This is especially true of Trump.  He revels in headlines, not organizing.

A new network touting the Trump brand might be something that Bannon would like, but maybe not, he has arguably the most popular political website (yes, scary isn’t it) on the internet.  Yet, who knows what fetid dreams of further glory live in the folds of his twisted brain? Stay tuned.

17 August 2016

In This Election Most Voters Will NOT Be Voting for the Lesser of Two Evils

Much has been made of how this is an election where voters are being forced to pick between the lesser of two evils.  We even have Noam Chomsky chiming in with a philosophical rationale for the next best choice, and others continuing with what seems like a frustrated progressive’s version of something like the late Texas bluesman Freddie King’s lament ─  ”I’m getting second best, baby, and that’s what hurts me so.”

It seems so true. A cursory examination of a few polling items this election can easily lead one to the conclusion that voting this year will be seen by voters as a “lesser of two evils” choice.  Nonetheless, a broader look at a wider range of voter beliefs and perceptions leads one to the conclusion that most voters (especially Clinton voters) in November will, in fact, be making a positive statement with their vote.

The most common evidence offered up for the lesser of two evils perspective is the low favorability and trust ratings for both candidates.  A recent Gallup poll has Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) at 53% unfavorable and Donald J. Trump (DJT) at 62%unfavorable. A recent CNN/ORC International poll has HRC honesty and trustworthiness at 34%, while DJT is at 35% in that same poll. 

That is all quite stunning, until one puts it into context. The same Gallup poll has Congress with a job disapproval rate of 87%, and another recent Gallup poll has the Supreme Court tying its highest ever disapproval rate at 58%.  President Obama had a 53% unfavorable rating in 2011 that rose to 58% in 2015 and has now settled just below 50% unfavorable (47%) as he leaves office. 

People in this country now have negative opinions of all federal governmental actors and agencies, except the US military.  They may love their own member of Congress or their state’s Governor, but none of that affection benefits political institutions. Even more generally, when Gallup asks people if they are satisfied with how “things are going” in the country, from surveys covering 2013 to 2016, we see only 20-30 percent of respondents expressing satisfaction with the current state of affairs, which means between 70 and 80 are dissatisfied. 

All of the above indicates that Americans are not happy campers when it comes to politicians, political institutions, or their country’s status.  So, why should we be surprised when the two leading politicians in this election have high unfavorable and low trust and honesty ratings?

When one looks beyond these two survey items, one finds ample evidence that, even though HRC and DJT share the same rating on perceived trust and honesty, American voters have a more generally favorable view of HRC as a potential president. In the CNN/ORC International poll conducted in late July, registered voters demonstrated a much more nuanced picture of the two candidates than we might be led to believe by the common “lesser of two evils” narrative.

CNN/ORC International Poll (July 29-31) of 894 Registered Voters

QUESTION CLINTON TRUMP
X has the right experience to be President

67%

31%

I would be proud to have X as President

45%

35%

X is in touch with ordinary Americans needs

50%

36%

X’s policies would be good for the USA

48%

43%

X as President will unite the USA

48%

33%

X as President would lead us in right direction

48%

38%

X is honest and trustworthy

34%

35%

Some, if not much, of what we see as a lack of trust in our two presidential candidates is reflective of a more general cynicism about government, and the status of the nation, that pervades our society at this time. HRC and DJT can’t escape that general malaise.

However, voters do recognize difference among the two candidates, and they are positive about what HRC would do for this country as president. Sixty-six percent of registered voters seem to distrust HRC (66%), but 45% would be proud to have her as president.  Almost half (48%) believe her policies would lead the country in the correct direction. Two-thirds think she has the right experience to be president.

Though some demographic differences in responses to the items above are clear (urban vs. rural, high school educated white men) the major differences reflect political affiliation and political ideology.  HRC soundly trounces DJT on all these items among liberals and Democrats.  DJT trounces HRC just as heavily on these items when looking at Republicans and political conservatives. 

Moderates and independents are a mixed bag that split much more evenly among the two candidates.  The exception to this rule are a clear majority among moderates and independents who believe that that HRC is has the right experience to be president and Donald Trump does not and that Clinton is more in touch with the needs of the average American.

More directly relevant to this issue of whether this race is among the lesser of two evils is the motivation for voters’ choices. When registered voters favoring Clinton were asked if their vote would be more in support of HRC or in opposition to DJT, 58% said it would be in more in support of HRC versus 41% who would be voting in opposition to DJT.  Granted, this is a reversal of earlier polls, but such reversals are important indicators of voting dynamics.

The DJT registered voters basically broke even on whether their Trump vote was for him or in opposition to HRC (47% for vs. 50% against), though earlier polls had more votes for Trump (57%) as votes against Clinton.  Those saying they were voting because of opposition to the other candidate can easily be considered “lesser of two evils” voters, and these recent results show that they are becoming less numerous among the electorate.

Also, remember that 52% of registered voters said they would vote for HRC, and 45% of the same group said they would be proud to have her as president. So, (as they say) if the election had been held at the time of the survey, most people (especially those voting for HRC) seem likely to have been voting as they would because they supported the candidate for whom they intended to cast their vote, not because they had two distasteful choices and chose the least awful.

Besides focusing on the issue of voters’ choices this year, this commentary should reinforce two more general and more important notions.  First, as political creatures, we hold attitudes more complex than our response to one or two questions.  I can, for example, believe that HRC shaded the truth (okay, lied) in an attempt to minimize the impact of her mistake in using a private server. 

At the same time, I can easily vote for her and be proud to have her as my president. I can believe she cares about issues I care about, and that he is competent as hell. In the end, the only single response in the political world that really matters is how we vote, but how we decide for whom to vote is, for most of us, not a simple or uni-dimensional phenomenon in this day and age. 

Second, popular narratives like the lesser of two evils often take on a life of their own, though they may be based on scant evidence or false assumptions. Most commentators share a common playbook, filled largely with each other’s comments, that playbook sets the frame for their investigations and is the place from which they most often draw their seemingly profound statements.  

So, levels of favorability and distrust for the leading candidate may be high, as they are for all our political institutions .  But, levels of support for HRC as a candidate are higher and represent positive support.  

 

References

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2016/images/08/01/2016.post-dem.convention.pdf

http://www.gallup.com/topic/politics.aspx

 

 

15 August 2016

AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY

If you look across the modern world and back into history, democracies function best as governments of the people by the people and for the people when two conditions pertain. At least two vital political parties are offering their views on what is best for the country, and the people and politicians alike understand that those who differ from you are neither your enemies nor unpatriotic. Donald Trump is putting both of these in jeopardy.

As I have said before, the Republican Party went off track in the 1968 election and this set the stage for what we see today.

Before 1968 the Republican Party had been the party of Lincoln while much about the Democratic Party was shaped by the Dixiecrats of the Deep South. John F. Kennedy and the subsequent passage under Lyndon Johnson of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 changed all of this. These two Acts enraged large numbers of Southerners and led to Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy in the 1968 election. The strategy was championed by his campaign strategist, Kevin Phillips, whose strategy is best summed up in his infamous quote: “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.” This openly racist strategy worked. Nixon was elected and since then the South has been a Republican stronghold.

The Southern Strategy also was in part a reaction to Barry Goldwater’s crushing loss to Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 election. One interpretation of this loss was that conservatism as then construed could not win national elections. Nixon’s victories in 1968 and 1972 reinforced this view and the Southern Strategy. What the GOP didn’t see, however, was that the strategy with its focus on “Negrophobe whites” would bring into to party large numbers of people with racist and bigoted beliefs – some overt and some subtle but nonetheless present.

They are represented today by those who would restrict voting rights and affirmative action, who would ban Muslims from entry into the country and who cheer the notion of a wall across the Mexican border. The strategy’s focus on the South also brought in a range of people who were not traditional political conservatives. It swept in large numbers of Southern Baptists and others who see no problem in canonizing their religious beliefs into law and many of whom are one and two issue voters – such as opposition to abortion and equality for gays. Especially back then, the southern states ranked low in the percent of residents who attended college – even today the large majority of southern states fall short of the national average of 39.3%.

Initially, conservative leaders kept the party on a course consistent with conservative principles but the party nevertheless was evolving as a disjoint collection of libertarians, populists, evangelicals, true conservatives and an array of single issue zealots including more than a few mired in racial, ethnic and gender prejudices. With such ideological fractionation, there was no positive, common-ground policy agenda around which to unite.

Instead, GOP leadership sought to bring the factions together by focusing on negatives, on matters that were of little or no national consequence, and on issues that they well knew were not supported by the majority of Americans – repeal of the Affordable Care Act as opposed to uniting around a Republican alternative, and efforts to smear and defame others such as the 10 Congressional Committees that investigated Benghazi. Although all of the time, effort and money spent by these committees turned up nothing, even notable Republicans still persist in baseless assertions blaming Clinton and Obama. The GOP became a party that ranted about what it was against but could not or would not offer constructive alternatives. Healthcare is a telling example. Paul Ryan has long had an alternative proposal on healthcare, but at no time, even with GOP control of both houses of Congress, did they bring it up for a vote, pass it and send it on to Obama. The disjoint collection of factions represented in their delegations blocked unity around healthcare policy or any other overarching policy of a positive character.

This negativism also took the GOP down another highly divisive path. It was but a few short steps from legitimately opposing ideas ─ to demonizing the ideas ─  to demonizing the people who hold those ideas. Thus, the exaggerated and personalized opposition to Obama and the encouragement of the Hillary haters culminated in Trump’s reckless incitement that “By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know,”

As a consequence of this evolution, today’s Republican party is not united around conservative principles. It is an amalgam of splinter factions either claiming to be Republicans as a matter of convenience or drawn into the GOP by years of political promises that sounded good on the stump and that kept them voting Republican. These people now are realizing that the politicians knew all along that they never could or never would deliver on all of their promises. These voters now are fed up with “insiders.” They are deeply angry with Washington and its establishment.

Donald Trump, a highly skilled and opportunistic con man, recognized this far earlier and far more than any of his primary opponents. He also saw that, with a field of 16, he did not need to capture 50% of the primary vote. He knew that even 30% to 35% would do. Early in his campaign he was winning with vote totals around 20%. As his rivals dropped out, his numbers grew to a final tally of 45% of the primary vote.

The GOP now has him. He is the product of leaders who sold out their conservative beliefs to get people elected under the Republican banner. Party was more important than conservative ideals and principles and, beyond that, more important than country.

To this day they fail to admit the path that got them to this point. The odds then are long that they can solve their problems without recognizing and directly addressing them.

The GOP is obviously fractured through and through, and Trump himself is the key evidence. He is not a conservative. He is not running on anything that vaguely resembles the conservative principles espoused by such as Paul Ryan and others. He is a clever demagogue who shows total ignorance of domestic and foreign policy, and who seems unable not to lie and offer outrageous fabrications – that Ted Cruz’s father was linked to the JFK assassination, that Hillary Clinton slept through the Benghazi attack, that an Iranian nuclear scientist who defected to the U.S. and reportedly became a CIA spy was executed in Iran “because of Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails,” and on and on.

The most recent outrage comes from one of Trump’s close advisors, Roger Stone. As Trump himself admits, Stone is a longtime supporter and advisor who speaks regularly with Trump and his senior staff and who heads the pro-Trump super PAC, Committee to Restore America’s Greatness. Trump regularly uses Stone’s advice. It was on Stone’s advice that Trump declared that the primaries and now the general election were “rigged” against him. Seizing on the murder of Seth Rich, a DNC staffer, Stone now is spreading the conspiracy theory that Rich was the most recent of four people murdered at the Clintons’ behest. On August 9th he tweeted: “Four more dead bodies in the Clintons’ wake. Coincidence? I think not.”

Roger Stone is the same asshat who just offered up these pearls of wisdom on The Milo Show:

“I think we have widespread voter fraud, but the first thing that Trump needs to do is begin talking about it constantly,” Stone said. “He needs to say for example, today would be a perfect example: ‘I am leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.’”

“If you can’t have an honest election, nothing else counts,” he continued. “I think he’s gotta put them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical, and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath. The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in. No, we will not stand for it. We will not stand for it.”[emphasis added]

Not “violence, but it will be a bloodbath?”  Sick stuff from a major Trump advisor. Remember Dr. Hunter Thompson’s words of wisdom, “when the going gets weird, the weird get going.” [I know I have used that phrase too much lately, but it is the only one that seems to fit, other than a stream of increasingly obscene invective. Chas]

12 August 2016

Death to Traitors! Make America Great Again! And the Power of One.

Donald Trump’s recklessness recently reached epic proportions when he suggested that if HRC won the election, it might be up to “the Second Amendment people” to deal with her.  Trump, of course, says all he meant, which is demonstrably false given the context of his full statement, was for those “people” to organize and to vote against her.  Instead, his comment was an astonishingly irresponsible wink and nod to the idea that the election of Clinton would so damage the nation that some might want to take action against her.

In the public discourse about DJT’s pronouncement, some commentators look to the assassination of Rabin in Israel for a historical parallel.  Rabin was killed by a politically motivated young man who was convinced that he was saving Israel from a “traitor” or “Nazi (epithets frequently thrown around by Rabin’s fervent opponents at the raucous rallies for Rabin’s opponent, Netanyahu). 

I think that comparison is appropriate, but one doesn’t have to look back almost a quarter of a century into the dark history of violence in the Middle East for a clear and relevant comparison.  We can simply look at the past year in a nation with which the USA has what has been called “a special relationship” and, in fact, has a special bond.

During the recent Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom, one hears the rhythms of Trumpian rhetoric in the language used by Britain First Party leaders about their opponents.  Jayda Fransen, the Party’s deputy leader, put it very clearly,

“They think they can get away with ruining our country, turning us into a Third World country, giving away our homes, jobs and heritage, but they will face the wrath of the Britain First movement, make no mistake about it!” Fransen threatened. She then went on to make clear how the party’s rivals would be treated.

“We will not rest until every traitor is punished for their crimes against our country,” she wrote. “And by punished, I mean good old fashioned British justice at the end of a rope!”

https://theintercept.com/2016/06/17/far-right-britain-first-party-tries-avoid-blame-lawmakers-assassination/

The end result of this heated, reckless rhetoric was the assassination of a Labour member of Parliament, Jo Cox.  She was shot and stabbed to death by Tommy Mair, a self-described political activist, who shouted “Britain First” as he killed Ms. Cox in cold blood.  When he was later brought before a judge, he clearly reiterated the political motivation for the killing, echoing the rhetoric of the Britain First movement by using its slogans during the proceedings: “Death to Traitors! Freedom for Britain!”

The idea that Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric falls on different, more stable political soil than elsewhere in the world is belied by the recordings of audience statements during his rallies. A sampler of those statements (quoted exactly) appears below:

  • Build a wall! Fuck those dirty beaners!
  • Fuck Islam!
  • Get out of here, you fag! (to a protestor at a rally)
  • Fuck that nigger! (as Trump mentions President Obama)

What, given Trump’s recent comments, is most disturbing are some of the comments about Hillary Clinton, when he mentions her name at rallies.

  • Hang the bitch!
  • Kill her!

Not all those at Trump rallies engage in such rants.  But, all his strong supporters (his fans really) see this election as an almost mythic contest between good and evil, as one Trump supporter put it:

“[Trump is our] last chance to preserve law and order and the culture I grew up in.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-rally-video_us_57a24878e4b0e1aac914894d

Trump has even gone farther.  Now, he knowingly spouts the incendiary position that “Obama is the founder of ISIS and that crooked Hillary is the co-founder of ISIS.”

When you have an advisor (who is a New Hampshire legislator, for God’s sake) who says that HRC should be put up against a wall and shot for her email misadventures, what does that say to the even less stable or more enraged elements in the Trump fan club?  The answer is simple. Just like the late Jo Cox, Hillary Clinton is a “traitor.”

And, it only takes one person to listen to this silly crap and believe it is a call to action. Remember, this is a country populated by more guns than people, and some of those people with those guns suffer from serious mental impairments.  If people get crazy enough to kill their spouses, children, and pets in a fit of rage, then there are some non-trivial number of people out their (as in Charlotte or Colorado) who will decide that the nation can only be saved by them and their gun.  It seems far-fetched until you look at our episodes of gun violence in this country.  Then, it seems shockingly plausible, and even likely.

DJT says that “this is a movement like people have never seen before.”  Of course, he is wrong.  We saw it in Israel; we saw it in Britain; we saw it in 1968 when George Wallace ran for president; we saw it in the speeches of Father Coughlin (an American fascist) during the Great Depression.

Watching Trump is like watching a child play with a loaded pistol he found in his parent’s bedroom. He points the gun at things and makes the noises he has heard on TV ─ bam! pow! 

Then he pulls the trigger. We all sigh with relief if the gun isn’t loaded.  If the gun is loaded, then the child wreaks havoc that he never expected but that we all knew was hanging in the air waiting for a chance to appear on the scene.

DJT has all the sense of responsibility of a child combined with the wildly inflated sense of self-worth that we see among narcissistic adults. Add to that his petty vindictive nature and his basic ignorance of the world outside his small circle of fans. 

In the end that makes him a bad kid, running through the house with a loaded pistol.  It will only be a matter of luck if no one is injured or killed.  

 

 

George and I have been quiet for a bit.  I think that may qualify as “stunned silence.” Now that The Donald is waving his freak flag high, I think it might be a good time to return to a piece I posted over a year ago.  I have edited it a bit to bring it up to date, but I consider it (okay, in my own arrogant way) a somewhat prescient piece of commentary about the Rs candidate for President.

3 September 2106

TRUMP AND THE AGGRIEVED

…..What has now become clear is that McTrump’s campaign is the latest and greatest wave of “symbolic politics.” Electoral politics becomes symbolic politics when a political entrepreneur (McTrump) uses very potent symbols (freedom, nationhood, liberty, etc.) to mobilize political support.  This entrepreneur attaches these symbols to issues or problems that may, or may not, at their core be that important.

But, the symbols attached to these issues transform the issues.  These issues become important because they are ‘symbolic” of some more deeply seated concerns of groups of individuals. Thus, immigration becomes an important issue among potential Republican primary voters in New Hampshire.

It is not just the immigration issue with which Trump is toying.  Trump is now the reigning master of symbolic politics in America. A glance at the Trump’s sound-bites below makes that clear:

Immigration is a terrible problem; immigrant crime is tremendous; a country without borders is not a country; I will build a wall; Make American great again (Ronald Reagan redux); Everyone (China, Mexico, Russia, and Iran) plays our country for chumps; we have become a nation of losers; The silent majority is back (Richard Nixon redux).

But, with whom do these symbolic issues resonate?  Media commentators have been spending what seem like endless hours of chatter searching for the magic formula Trump and his fellow-travelers possess. One analyst decided that Trump’s main support (I would include Carson’s and Cruz’s supporters here as well) is among what the PEW pollsters call the “disaffected.” They are younger, less well-educated, more likely to be male, more likely to identify as Republican or Independent and definitely more likely to be white.

I think that commentator is partially correct.  Trump does pick up many of those whom PEW classifies as disaffected.  But, to better understand Trump’s success, one must reach somewhat deeper than a polling category. Michael Kimmel, a sociologist who in his book, Angry White Men, looked at some men’s reactions to the women’s movement. His research led him to coin the phrase “aggrieved entitlement.”  Those filled with this negative emotion:

“…feel they have been screwed, betrayed by the country they love, discarded like trash on the side of the information superhighway. Theirs are the hands that built this country; theirs is the blood shed to defend it. And now, they feel, no one listens to them; they’ve been all but forgotten. In the great new multicultural American mosaic, they’re the bland white background that no one pays any attention to…[and] they’re mad as hell.”

While Kimmel was discussing a specific social group, these kinds of statements are exactly the concerns we hear voiced when Trump supporters are interviewed by the media. What we see in Trump, Cain, and Cruz devotees is exactly that sense of “aggrieved entitlement” or what I prefer to call “a grievous sense of loss.” 

Those who support Trump see themselves as de-valued in our society, and they see the de-valuation of the symbols they hold dear. For simplicity, for the remainder of this essay, all these people will be identified as—The Aggrieved.

The Aggrieved are fed the idea that illegal immigrants live here and receive all sorts of imagined benefits that detract from the welfare of “real” citizens like themselves. They see themselves being continually forced to navigate treacherous economic waters; they also understand that they are the first generation whose children will not do as well economically as they did.

All these realizations are painful. That pain leads to anger. They are not getting what they want; their kids won’t get what they want. Why should these illegals get what they want, largely at the expense of “real” Americans? Immigration thus becomes an issue that symbolizes their broader and deeper distress among The Aggrieved about their lives and the lives of their children.

Adding insult to injury, they as individuals may have fallen on harder times, but they have always believed that at least they could claim membership in an exclusive club with a blindingly sterling reputation. They might personally be struggling, but they were citizens of the United States, that unstoppable #1 World Power. That was something they could claim as their own and something to make them proud.

We have all seen wax figures melt when faced with heat and flame.  For the American public, the compelling myth of American invincibility began to melt on September 11. The stunning muddles we made of Afghanistan and Iraq led us to the growth of a potent new devil, ISIS. Even more shameful, America has to “negotiate with” rather than “dictate to” the leaders of Iran, whose favorite phrase in English seems to be “death to America.”

These people feel like a middle-aged White woman in the audience at what I think was a Tea Party town meeting in 2008.  When she was given the microphone, she was battling back tears because (I’m quoting from memory here) “I don’t recognize this country any more.  This is not my America.” In a very real sense, this statement encapsulates the worldview of The Aggrieved.

That woman was correct.  A Black man was on a road straight to the White House. Young people, Hispanics, and Blacks were stepping into the voting booth and the public’s eye in ways that were unheard of since the days of the Civil Rights Movement, which was an earlier generation’s wake up call to a changing America. All those Stars and Bars coming down now across the southern states went up largely in response to the Civil Rights movement last century. They were that earlier generation’s equivalent of members of this generation calling the President a Muslim.

This bitter sense of loss, combined with a good dose of implicit racism, is why over a third of Republicans, and many who identify as Independents, still cling to the belief that our President is not a citizen. While we now, outside the Old South, largely eschew the explicit racism of a Jim Crow world, the “race problem” remains a major issue in America. Implicit racism remains a problem. It gives us different responses to identical resumes based on whether the person’s name sounds African-American. Implicit racism makes up uncomfortable with the use of the “N” word, but we still see Black men as more threatening than Whites. Implicit racism feeds The Aggrieved’s sense that the world is somehow “out of joint.” When a Black man holds the loftiest honor this nation can bestow, it has to be some kind of trick or dirty deal. For them, no other explanation suffices.

To top it off, even among the general population, Congress has a popularity rating that vies with that of a colonoscopy.  The old joke, “Question: How can you tell a politician is lying? Answer: His lips are moving.” is no longer a joke.  For many people, it has become a compelling political stance.

All of this is why we have “the Teflon Don.”  He can say anything; he can say nothing.  It doesn’t matter.  Trump supporters love their man, but not really.  What they truly love is finally having someone holding center stage and channeling their grievous sense of loss and waving their flag of angry resistance.

The Aggrieved want their nation back; they want someone who buys into, and loudly sells, the myth that America really was at one time invincible domestically and abroad and can be again; they want no more of those slick politicians with their stump speeches, complex answers to complex questions, or carefully-worded position papers.

And, Trump is all the more attractive because he continually reminds everyone within earshot that he has the “fuck-you” money that all of them (us) dream of having. McTrump’s braggadocio is the swagger that The Aggrieved American wants to have as he strolls down the streets of his city.  The Aggrieved American heartily shares McTrump’s open disdain for professional politicians and the press. It is exactly what he or she would gladly display if anyone would just notice them and ask them.

The Aggrieved see a world around them that feeds into, and reinforces, that “bitter sense of loss” that motivates them. They often can’t really put their finger on the source of their distress, but they know something is deeply wrong. They feel it in their guts, in their souls. 

They know they have lost something important, so they pat their pockets to jog their memory of what might be missing. They now know they have no need to go so far. Trump tells them often and loudly, in no uncertain terms, what is gone. He then points his well-manicured finger at the dastardly sneak thieves who let it be stolen away, and the crowd roars its full-throated approval.

For those of us not among The Aggrieved, we can only hope that Trump’s campaign largely resembles the path taken by infectious diseases. The most troublesome infectious diseases are those that allow the patient to linger and infect others before killing their host. However, most infectious diseases are self-limiting. They seek out the vulnerable; do their worst; kill off their hosts; then disappear.

McTrump, has fashioned his electoral foothold among The Aggrieved and now carries along all those Rs who can’t abide HRC or just fear the loss of their party’s power.  Luckily, Trump seems incapable of organizing a campaign and incapable of controlling the devil who whispers in his ear, even as a looks at a grieving Gold Star mother.

It now seems that McTrump will go down in flames in November (from my lips to God’s ears).  But, Trump will not disappear.  He is already pitching a narrative that he will be cheated out of his due by a “rigged” general election.  Unfortunately, the man-boy with small hands will still be out there grabbing headlines at every tick of a Clinton administration, and as always he will be “good news” and get extraordinary amounts of ‘earned” air time on all the networks.

But, more worrisome is the issue of where will those aggrieved voters go?  Will they sink back into their Norman Rockwell fantasies and be satisfied with watching Gunsmoke re-runs?  It seems unlikely.  But, they will remain out their creeping around the edges of Republican politics. 

One only hopes that no more traditional politician who has some filter between his darker side and his mouth emerges who can both re-energize The Aggrieved in 2020 and, at the same time, claim the mantle of “true conservatism” that traditional Rs rant on about.  One also suspects that Trump’s most significant primary foe, Ted Cruz, is thinking just those sort of thoughts while resting somewhere on a rock in the Sun gathering his strength for a slide into the darkness known as right-wing Republican presidential politics..

 

 

11 July 2016

The VEEP Stakes:  Part II

George

The more I ponder HRC’s possible choices for a VP, the more I am drawn to the notion that she will surprise us with someone flying just below the radar. 

If we look at voting blocks, she will walk away with the votes of women, African-Americans and Latinos. She doesn’t need much help with these voters. She needs help in two directions. To win the White House, 1) she must take two of three critical swing states – Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and 2) she can’t lose the white, blue-collar male vote by an overwhelming majority; that is, she needs to blunt, even a bit, what Charles terms as the “bubba factor.”

This leads me both to Charlie Crist to bolster Florida and to Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania. Among Governors, John Bel Edwards (D-LA) might play well with white, blue-collar males as might Mark Dayton (D-MN and ex-Senator), or Jay Nixon (D-MO).

From the US House of Representatives, she could surprise us with someone like David Price (D-NC), Jim Cooper or Steve Cohen (both D-TN), Don Beyer (D-VA), Brad Ashford (D-NE), or John Yarmuth (D-KY).

Somehow I don’t think she will hand us one from the pundits’ lists. It would seem instinctive for Bill Clinton to steer her in a novel direction.

Chas

As for the Ds, if only Sherrod Brown had a D for a governor, I think her path would be clear.  But, even if Kasich doesn’t go to Cleveland, he would still be appointing Brown’s replacement.  Some good news is that Evan Bayh has entered the Senate race in Indiana, which puts that seat in serious play.  We only need four, folks.

As for DJT, I was thinking Gen. Flynn, but he had the audacity to say that women should have control of their own reproduction, so he is toast for the Rs.  My own bet now is Das Newt.  DJT can’t raise the needed money, and he will need all the earned (what a weird term from free media) media he can get.  Newt is always, like Donald, good for some attack dog shenanigans.  I think Pence is just too boring, though he would make traditional Rs more comfortable.  But, DJT knows that he has the traditional Rs (like Ryan) because they feel faint and break into a cold sweat contemplating President HRC.  But, supposedly, tomorrow we see how close I am to the mark.

11 July 2016

The VEEP Stakes:  Comments and Guesses

George

While Trump is scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find someone willing to join him on the ticket, speculation turns to people Hillary might pair with. I’ll leave it to others to assess potential VP partners. My thoughts turn to the key criteria that I think should be applied. There are two that I think top the list

Second only to defeating Trump and putting Hillary in the White House is gaining control of the Senate. This has so many important consequences not the least of which is approval of Hillary’s Supreme Court nominees. We cannot sacrifice a single Senate seat. This would eliminate from consideration as VP any Senator from a state with a Republican governor as that governor would replace a Democrat with a Republican. With Republicans holding the majority of governorships this eliminates people like Warren from Massachusetts and Sherrod from Ohio.

Second, let’s face it. In addition to carrying some baggage, Hillary is boring. She is highly qualified but hardly dynamic. She needs someone like Warren who turns on audiences and can inject excitement and energy into the campaign. Potential running mates like Thomas Perez and Terry McAuliffe fail this test.

I keep wondering if Hillary surprises us with someone we don’t expect like Charlie Crist, the ex-governor of Florida and ex-Republican who has appeal to both Republicans and Democrats and who could ensure that Florida falls into her column.

This is going to get interesting especially because she has the luxury of seeing Trump’s choice before she makes hers.

Chas

The basic reality of this race is that VPs won’t really matter much.  The major players just “weigh” too much.  At the edges, if it is a close race (please, no), one might make a difference.  For Trump, I suspect he will forgo Christie because the “bridgegate” litigation starts in September (bad timing).  He will forgo Gingrich, I think, because Das Newt is as narcissistic as DJT, and the two would find it hard to dance together.  Newt would have to ratchet back his ego a number of notches, and I would be surprised to see him do that.  But, he is a calculating, way ambitious, and vicious SOB, so he might convince DJT that he is the man.  He certainly knows the legislative process, since he is a “defrocked” Speaker of the House, which might mean something to DJT.  

The possibility of retired Gen Flynn (former DIA head who hates Obama and Hillary) might work, since almost everyone worries about DJT and nukes, but Flynn might be only a somewhat savvier Curtis LeMay (ran as Wallace’s VP in ’68) —a guy who is way smarter than LeMay but knows almost nothing about domestic policy and about Congress.  However, he does hate HRC, so that will be a big plus for DJT. Also, he is a dedicated mud-slinger.  Flynn is perfectly willing to shout the “crooked Hillary” line from here to November.  Also, never forget that DJT is a “man-boy” who thinks he is tough, so it might really appeal to him to have a guy watching his back who is the real deal–“Me and the General.”

But, none of these potential VP nominees help Trump with women, they just boost his “Bubba quotient” and might make a few more traditional Rs more at ease.

For the Ds, George is right.  No sitting D senator can be chosen, unless s/he has a sitting D governor, which makes it mighty slim pickings. Kaine, who looked pretty good, now has his own ethical issues to confront. Though he did nothing illegal, HRT doesn’t need any questions about the ethics of her running mate to add to her own baggage. As George suggested Crist might be a good pick, since he could make it a fight for Florida.  General Wesley Clark (ran in 2004) would be a good counterpoint to Flynn, if he is chosen.  And, unlike Flynn, he has a least a smattering of domestic policy knowledge. 

As for Hispanic candidates, I really like Xavier Becerra of California, head of House Democratic Caucus.  He would kill the “general” on domestic policy in debates and hold his own with any officeholder.  He is not that well-known outside of California, but that can be said of most VP candidates (only known locally) before their nomination, unless they have already run for President. He would cement the Hispanic vote. And, he displays more gravitas than either of the Castro others (the ones from TX, not Cuba).

Unfortunately, like my friend, I see no one on the Ds VP horizon who is really exciting, though a Hispanic nominee would excite Hispanic voters (not a bad thing in a number of swing states).

 

June 26, 2016

A contribution from another politics junkie (Cath) joins Two Guys for a whirlwind visit concerning DJT and the Rs

The Republican Diaspora: Trump’s Teetering Campaign

It’s hard to feel sorry for someone who can brag about having the greatest par three golf course in the history of golf courses, even when the twit congratulated Great Britain for its Brexit vote while speaking in Scotland which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.  And in an especially tone-deaf moment he noted that the falling value of the British pound will make the prices at his new golf club and luxury hotel more attractive to Non-British travelers (while completely missing the point that the diminished value of the pound will increase the misery of British people with fixed incomes, like retirees).

But truthfully, he’s had a rotten three weeks — poll numbers down, fundraising an embarrassment, more racially tinged controversies, an exodus of well-known Republicans, delegate seeking ways to escape having to vote for The Donald at the convention, an apparent inability to attract and hire many of the most experienced GOP campaign hands. And his initial comments on the tragic Orlando shootings displayed a breath-taking but sadly expected narcissism.

Not surprisingly, the angst in the Republican Party is intensifying, although it is hard to top the disdain expressed by every living President (the two Bushes, Carter, Clinton, and Obama) and the 2012 GOP nominee, Mitt Romney. But Sunday, Hank Paulson joined several others prominent advisors in the two Bush administrations in publicly rejecting Donald Trump and asserting that if Trump were the Republican nominee, he would vote for Hillary Clinton. In announcing his decision, Mr. Paulson, the Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush, said  that with Trump as the GOP  nominee, the Party was “endorsing a brand of populism rooted in ignorance, prejudice, fear and isolationism” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/06/24/the-exodus-continues-yet-another-top-bushie-henry-paulson-backs-clinton-over-trump/).  Brent Snowcroft, a a top national security adviser to several former Republican presidents endorsed Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign on Wednesday  (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/06/22/brent-scowcroft-endorses-clinton-for-president/).  And they are not alone. Richard Armitage, who served in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, told Politico reporter Michael Crowley, “If Donald Trump is the nominee, I would vote for Hillary Clinton. He doesn’t appear to be a Republican, he doesn’t appear to want to learn about issues. So, I’m going to vote for Mrs. Clinton.”

These top advisers are following the actions of several other key Republicans — Governors, members of Congress, and several Republican strategists and major donors have refused to endorse Trump (http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/donald-trump-receives-his-first-un-endorsementhttp://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/meet-the-republicans-speaking-out-against-trump). And this week, several prominent Republican business executives expressed growing concerns about Donald Trump. Many said they  have never before voted for a Democratic presidential candidate, but announced that this year they were supporting Hillary (http://fortune.com/2016/06/23/56-hillary-clinton-ceos-endorsements/). One, who worked in the White House for Presidents Reagan and Bush-41 said he had backed every GOP presidential candidate since 1976. “But this year I think it’s vital to put our country’s well being ahead of party…Hillary Clinton is experienced, qualified, and will make a fine president. The alternative, I fear, would set our nation on a very dark path” (http://www.wsj.com/articles/some-gop-business-leaders-are-backing-clinton-1466654976).

Those opposing Trump typically have cited a variety of issues, such as Trump’s lack of business acumen, his volatile temperament, his ignorance of key policy issues, his refusal to immediately reject the support of the Ku Klux Klan, and his divisive rhetoric about Mexicans and Muslims. Several were reportedly horrified by his criticism of an Indiana-born federal judge presiding over a lawsuit against Trump University, a criticism that focused on the judge’s Mexican heritage.

By contrast, those who endorsed Secretary Clinton generally cited her experience. For example, Scowcroft argued that, “As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton helped broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, assembled a global coalition to impose a sanctions regime on Iran, and played a crucial role in persuading Iran to accept limits on its nuclear program.”

June 23, 2016

George

Here Come the Makeup Artists

The Republicans are in a quandary. Actually they are dammed if they do, and dammed if they don’t.

Trump continues to issue bone-headed, obnoxious proclamations. Most recently he doubled down on his suggestion that Obama was somehow complicit in the slaughter at Orlando’s Pulse Club. Under strong criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, he posted on his Facebook page: “Hillary Clinton — is CROOKED! Hillary Clinton received a classified intelligence report stating that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.”

In addition, he upped the ante regarding Muslims. As is well known, he has proposed banning Muslims from entering the country (unconstitutional) and requiring all Muslims in the country to register (similarly unconstitutional). To this ridiculous nonsense, he has added banning entry to the US of people from areas where terrorism is active (a foreign policy nightmare) and profiling Muslims (unconstitutional).

These inflammatory notions are tying the GOP in knots. They see themselves being dragged down a path of dammed-if-you-do, dammed-if-you-don’t. Back Trump and the GOP is rebranded as the Trumplican Party and their down ballot candidates face uphill fights. Abandon Trump and the GOP is openly fractured and their down ballot candidates similarly face uphill fights.

What to do? The answer came in a phenomenally cynical statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “He [Trump] needs someone highly experienced and extremely knowledgeable because it is pretty obvious that he doesn’t know a lot about the issues. You see that in the debates in which he’s participated. It is why I have argued with him publically and privately that he ought to use a script more often – there is nothing wrong in having prepared texts.” In other words, the fact that Trump is a policy dummy and is unqualified to be President can be hidden from the voters.

And with that sorry insight, on came the makeup artists and fashion consultants putting lipstick on a pig. Or more completely:  “You can clean up a pig, put a ribbon on its tail, spray it with perfume, but it is still a pig.”

Suddenly the champion of Let Trump Be Trump, Corey Lewandowski, was fired and in came Paul Manafort, a rock solid, GOP Establishment strategist, to coordinate the lipstick, ribbons and perfume. First shot out of the box, Trump wasn’t Trump. He read a highly structured speech from the teleprompters. Although the speech was tame by all prior Trump standards, some in the press, focusing on controversy, called it a “blistering” and “scathing” attack on Hillary.

But what in particular caught my eye, or rather ear, was the tepid audience reaction. Trump audiences have been universally vocal, loud and constantly on their feet waving signs. Not this audience. Polite applause followed his key lines and interrupted him on but two or so occasions.

Does a pure bred, fashionista Duroc (i.e., American breed of pig) lose the rabid appeal that the mud-covered oinker had engendered? This may be Trump’s challenge. Can he and how does he retain the base that got him this far while being all gussied up and looking Establishment? Or must he revert and how quickly?

Against the gussied up version, Hillary’s challenge will be keeping fresh on voters’ minds that despite the lipstick, ribbons and perfume it is still the same old mud-wallower. Actually, the fashionista Duroc version opens the opportunity to point out the hypocrisy and cynicism in trying to deceive the voters about what Trump is and stands for. Then and now contrasts might go a long way to reveal the charlatan and con artist that he is.

Chas

“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

 George Bernard Shaw
Sound advice, except when you and a pig want the same tidbit, then battle is inevitable.  It will not be any prettier than Shaw suggests, but it will be necessary. Otherwise, you let pigs rule the world.

 

May 15, 2016

George provides insight into The Donald

IT’S ALL ABOUT DONALD

I recently spent several days with a close friend who I have known for over 50 years. A fellow New Yorker, he knows Trump personally. He said something to me that made all else fall into place. He said that “All Trump cares about is not losing.” Although he went on to say that Trump can be childish to the point of being infantile and can’t tolerate criticism, this was the missing piece. It explained and drew together his bullying, racism, lashing out, insensitivity, lack of morality, self-aggrandizement and all of the other traits that we have come to know all too well.

Trump’s racist rants about Judge Gonzalo Curiel are a perfect illustration of his insistence on never being seen as a loser. He cared less about how his remarks reflected on the Republican Party and how they might affect the GOP’s down ballot candidates. The idea that what he said was something that no President should ever say never crossed his mind. All that was on his mind were the law suits filed against Trump University – Cohen vs Trump, Low vs Trump University and the suit filed by NY State Attorney General Schneiderman. He knew that they would provide evidence validating the labels of “con man,” “phony” and “fraud” that Romney and others have pinned on him.

Worse yet for Donald, he had been loudly trumpeting that the suits were baseless but the judge had just authorized the release of documents that Trump knew would show that the suits clearly had merit and substance. Moreover, he knew that records and investigations would reveal that he repeatedly had attempted to settle the suits putting the lie to his proclamations that he would never do that because he was a winner who never gave up.

His attorneys already had told him that any motion to force the judge off the suits on the grounds of bias would be laughed out of court. What else could Donald do to discredit the suits but to slur the judge as a biased Mexican and “hater” who never should have let the suits go forward. He fully expected to get away with it and was publically upset when Paul Ryan called his statements “the text book definition of racist comments,” and a host of other GOP notables condemned and disavowed what he had to say.

Trump went well beyond this regarding similar suits against Trump University that were about to be filed in Florida. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, was considering joining in the class-action lawsuit in New York after receiving complaints that the seminars were worthless. Ms. Bondi personally approached Trump for a campaign donation. He donated $25,000 and she opted not to join in the suit, telling the complainants to proceed on their own. Florida’s Republican dominated legislature has blocked all attempts to investigate the issue as bribery. The US Justice Department has now been asked to look at the matter.

Quite revealing is the fact that the check to Ms. Bondi was drawn against the Trump Foundation. A complaint against the foundation has been filed with the IRS as charitable organizations are prohibited from making campaign contributions. Trump and his daughter have dismissed writing the check on the foundation as a “clerical error.”
In the case of Judge Curiel, Trump clearly put his personal and business interests ahead of the larger interests of the GOP and the nation. Because Trump has always been about Trump, this is a clear harbinger of how he will react in office. Presidents are supposed to put financial interests in blind trusts. Trump’s empire, however, will be in the hands of his daughter. If anyone thinks that he will not be fully informed by Ivanka at all times and, at the first sign of trouble, will not be knee deep in dealing with it, those people are off their meds.

During the debates, Sen. Rubio brought up the fact that Trump had knowingly hired illegal workers and grossly underpaid them. Trump denied it by simply repeating “Wrong, wrong.” However, Rubio was correct. During the building of Trump Tower, 200 undocumented laborers from Poland dubbed the “Polish Brigade” were brought in. They were off-the-books, working 12-hour shifts seven days a week for $4 to $5 an hour, with no overtime. Some workers were never paid what they were owed. Union members sued Trump, his contractor and a union boss for cheating the union out of pension and welfare funds by hiring the Polish Brigade. They claimed Trump owed the union pension fund $1 million. Trump blamed the violations on the contractor and denied knowing that the Polish workers were undocumented. The court ruled against Trump, saying that his representative “knew that the Polish workers were doing demolition work” and that his company participated in a “conspiracy” to cheat the union. Trump appealed and dragged the case out or another decade. Trump said he would not settle the case out of court “on principle,” but Trump quietly settled the case with the agreement placed under seal.

This was far from being the only instance of Trump screwing the little guy. Trump’s mania never to lose, to come out on top no matter the issue or the cost to others was made crystal clear by USA Today that reported that over 3,500 law suits have been filed against Trump and his various organizations for failure to pay their bills. These suits have been filed by individual contractors, companies of varying sizes, employees who were not paid for overtime, and even by lawyers hired by Trump to fight these suits. When questioned by reporters, Trump said that he never pays for inferior work. In his mind, he won; they lost.

But this also communicates a different message. If on over 3,500 occasions he hired inferior contractors who couldn’t do the job or employed inferior workers who soaked him for overtime, he is not a very good businessman and does not negotiate very good contracts – both contradicting claims that are central to his campaign.
Also putting the lie to his claims of being a great businessman is his history in Atlantic City. All four of his casinos went bankrupt and they failed at a time when other Atlantic City casinos were doing well. Donald insists that he made money in Atlantic City: “The money I took out of there was incredible.” In this he is correct. As reported by the New York Times, “He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments. The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who bet on his business acumen.” These people and organizations lost millions from loans not repaid and worthless junk bonds and stock. Again Donald sees himself as the smart winner and the investors, banks and little people who put up or loaned money and bought stocks or bonds as the dumb losers about whom he could care less.

Now he is asking the greatest nation in the world to bet on him. The outcome would be entirely predictable. He would be boasting about his “incredible” win and the nation would be paying the price.
As is evident by his avoidance of issues and policies, Trump knows he is thoroughly unprepared to be President. But that doesn’t matter to him. Like a good con man and huckster he saw an opening in a crowded field of 16 dwarf candidates. To win, he didn’t need to win a majority of votes. And win he did.

His ignorance of the issues and the vacuous and inflammatory mouthings that he passes off as policies are of no matter to him. Nor does it faze him that this makes him unqualified to be President. As ever, he is simply there to win. Like the con man and fraud that he is, he is counting on the old saying that “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

What is worse than his gross immorality is that the GOP leadership is fully aware of what he is and what he is doing. In speaking about a VP for Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell testified to Trump’s lack of qualifications. He said: “He [Trump] needs someone highly experienced and extremely knowledgeable because it is pretty obvious that he doesn’t know a lot about the issues. You see that in the debates in which he’s participated. It is why I have argued with him publically and privately that he ought to use a script more often – there is nothing wrong in having prepared texts.” In other words, the fact that he is unqualified can be hidden from the voters. And McConnell has the temerity to claim to represent the people.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan similarly knows exactly what Trump is. In addition to questioning Trump’s credentials as a conservative and Republican, he called Trump’s comments on Judge Curial “the text book definition of a racist comment.”

Yet McConnell, Ryan and so many more Republican leaders have sold out their principles and integrity by endorsing Trump. The have promoted the illusion of party unity over the good of the country. Embedded in much of what they are saying is the folly that they can somehow “manage” Trump by getting him the right VP, by picking his advisors and cabinet, by reining him in via Congress. This is the epitome of wishful thinking. Trump never has been reined in; his personality prohibits it.

In addition, as President he would have far too much independent power especially in foreign affairs and military matters. They may contain him on budget and some other domestic issues, but he can do a host of things by Presidential orders – commit troops, instigate trade wars, renege on treaties, and on and on. And what will they do when his thin skin and childish temper tantrums have him calling foreign leaders names on the order of Lying Ted, Little Marco and Crooked Hillary? How will they repair the damage? Send out apology notes?

Is it an exaggeration to say that this would be the future with POTUS Donald? Not in the least. He has little respect for our principles and law. His attacks on Judge Curiel are condemned by conservatives and liberals alike as blatant assaults on an independent judiciary. His proposed ban on Muslims entering the country is universally recognized as unconstitutional, while his disdain for First Amendment freedom of the press is clearly reflected in his attacks on Megyn Kelly of Fox News, his campaign’s revocation of the press credentials of the Washington Post and a roster of other news organizations, and his promise to change the libel laws to make it easier to sue the press and “make lots of money.”

One is clearly hallucinating to think that a man can be reined in whose history shows that he cares only about himself and not losing even if that means unethical, immoral or illegal actions.

Democracy operates best when there are at least two political parties that, while they may differ in approach, both hold dear the welfare of the nation. It bodes ill for America that GOP leadership is selling out the country in the vain hope of holding together a hopelessly fractured party. They would do best for their country and for their party by disclaiming Trump and focusing their efforts on getting good people elected to Congress; not one issue zealots, not rabid social conservatives, not unthinking Tea Partiers, but solid Republicans who have the nation’s good at heart and know that democracy works through compromise.

An Iowa Republican who has kept his wits about him summed it up quite well. “One average teleprompter speech, given this past Tuesday, isn’t going to suddenly change Donald Trump into an aspirational, magnanimous leader. He is what he is: a bully through and through, one that takes the low road at every opportunity. Someone who doesn’t understand or care about policy. And lest we forget, a racist.”

 

 

 

May 24, 2016

Campaign Finance Reform, Gerrymandering, and “that ol’ time Congress.”

Charles and I have just spoken about campaign finance reform and agree that true reform would be wonderful. But it would not be enough to create a fair and democratic election system. We need an additional and even more fundamental change. We need to eliminate gerrymandering. It poison to democracy. It denies voters their proper voice and results in a House of Representatives that does not have to listen to the people.

President Obama recently had the courage to speak up about it but, from the almost total absence of press coverage and pundit discussion, it seems that no one was listening. He pointed out that gerrymandering enables members of the House to choose their voters instead of allowing voters to choose them.

After every Decennial Census (next in 2020), the party in power in each state goes about redrawing the boundaries of the state’s Congressional districts. In every instance the goal is to do so in a manner that creates the greatest number of safe House seats for their party. They pack into as few districts as possible voters who are likely to vote for the other party. 

Although the Supreme Court has just ruled against Republican appeals in North Carolina and Virginia (my state) for so packing African-Americans into districts, current judicial remedies for gerrymandering fall short in two ways. Gerrymandering is not illegal in itself and, even if you can show discrimination against a protected class, obtaining a judicial remedy is a slow and costly legal slog.

Both parties have gerrymandering down to a science. They use the extensive data that are now so readily available — Decennial Census data, data from other major surveys (e.g., the American Community Survey, the Survey of Income and Program Participation, etc), voter registration roles, election and exit polls, and so on. With these data, the party in power in each state knows so much about voter characteristics and tendencies that it can draw Congressional district boundaries that maximize the number of safe seats for their party.

The fix to this utterly non-democratic practice is simple and obvious. We need to make illegal for drawing Congressional boundaries the use of any other numbers than the simple counts of the population in each state. Not a count of registered voters, not a count of those of voting age, but a count of everyone. Using only simple counts of the state’s population, each state would be required 1) to define a number of districts commensurate with their proportional share of House seats, and 2) to define these districts so as to be as compact and regular in shape as possible.

With Congressional districts no longer being defined to represent as many safe seats and as few opposition seats as possible, members of the House would much better reflect their states’ populations and would have to be responsive to the voters.

Wouldn’t it be marvelous to get back to democracy as our governing principle? Wasn’t the United States founded to be a democracy?

In spite of this, Congressional resistant to such change will be fierce. 

Part of the blame for this egregious violation of the democratic ethic (notice small ‘d’) falls on the courts that far too often approve these redistricting plans.  One ends up with dumbbell districts (no reference to whom they support but a reference to their shape) and worse.  Time to move back, or forward, to  non-partisan (yes, I know basically an oxymoron—but not completely or always) commissions to work from the databases George suggests could be the way out of this mess.  

And to make matters worse, even if the seats are “safe” member of Congress spend an immense amount of time raising money rather than considering legislation.  I think the answer to that may be giving Congress far fewer days out of Washington each year.  Keep them in town and working.  Cap campaign expenditures (need that new Supreme Court) or pay for them out of the public purse.

Also, let’s return to the old days when members brought their families to DC, lived among each other, and socialized together–often across party lines.  Hard to call someone a murderer and baby killer who teared up at the christening of your latest addition to the brood and hugged all the family.  Families should be things that connect Congress members with reality and with each other, not just props for campaign commercials (Yes, that is you, Senator Cruz).

May 23, 2016

George is back with us and gives his take on Hillary and Bernie, and some sage advice for HRC.  I have appended a script I magnanimously wrote for Hillary when she discusses Bernie.

Hillary most certainly will be the Democratic nominee regardless of what Bernie says or does. She has amassed millions more popular votes and has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates. His squawks about super delegates being undemocratic ignore the reality that he is losing because of these two central and very democratic facts.

When we look toward the general election, all signs point to an uncomfortably close race with Trump. Polls show that her lead over him has been trending down for some time and is now in the 3% to 6% range. Any misstep, any new revelation, even a chance news event could put Trump ahead of her. She needs Bernie and his voters, and she needs them active and energized.

As Charles has pointed out, Bernie is not being a good neighbor. His incessant hammering on her ties to Wall Street, to a rigged system that favors her, to her lack of judgement is not helping and is a contributor to her shrinking poll numbers. Her current strategy is essentially to ignore him – to fight a rearguard action against him while focusing on Trump. This is a mistake. It is a mistake that could cost her the election and a mistake that reflects a poor understanding of Bernie.

Bernie Sanders is nothing if not passionate about his beliefs. They are long held and well anchored in the activism of his youth. They led him into politics where he thought his voice would matter. However, he has spent the last 28 years in Congress as an unheard and nearly anonymous back-bencher. It is hard to imagine what a change this campaign has been for him. The accolades, the media attention, the large cheering crowds, the millions in donations have intoxicated him. They have convinced him that America believes along with him. As an activist, as a dedicated believer, he is committed to shaping America to his vision. He is not going to stop. Asking him to tone it down is a fool’s errand. He will continue through the convention doing all he can to see him dreams for America become reality.

In choosing to largely ignore him Hillary is allowing him to continue to chip away at her and letting Trump use Bernie against her. Hillary has a much more effective alternative. She can embrace Bernie. She should pick out those of his most successful themes that she sees as good for the country and jump on his band wagon. It will entirely co-opt him. For example:

  • She should go all out for campaign finance reform. She knows that the system is as broken and corrupt as Bernie is preaching. She needs to move aggressively beyond the issue of the Citizens United decision to comprehensive reform.
  • She should call vigorously for reform of the party’s nominating process including letting independents vote in all states and instituting voting in the caucus states.
  • She should become much more vocal about income inequality. In doing so, she not only should concur with Bernie’s moral concerns but add the pragmatic point that the lack of money in the hands of those who will spend it is a major drag on the economy.
  • She can and should get behind his Medicare for All policy. There is not just one road to Rome. Backing it as an option is both safe and smart for her. It likely will never pass but, even if it did, it would further her goal of healthcare for all. Also she has admitted that Obamacare needs substantial revision. The minute the public option was carved out of it, it sank into a morass of complexities that are proving to verge on unworkable. They also may be difficult to fix with one patch after another, even if she can get all of them passed. She has nothing to lose in endorsing Bernie’s Medicare for All as an option.

On all such points she should emphasize that she and Bernie agree, flattering him with credit for his insights. She should loudly acknowledge that these positions about which he cares so deeply are good for America, as they indeed are.

Actions such as these have only benefits for her. Bernie will have nothing left to rail about if she and he agree on his core issues. Additionally, such agreement allows him to declare an ideological victory, join her team, and tell his followers that they have the change they want. By adopting his core issues, she broadens her appeal to the young, to those who want change, and to the progressive wing of the party. Moreover, nothing she would be endorsing would alienate Democrats and the large majority of independents. Lastly, welcoming Bernie and his key messages to her team is the best way to ensure that he is out on the stump energizing his supporters and securing their votes for her.

Will Hillary do something like this? Somehow I doubt it. Throughout the campaign, she has not been big on smart or aggressive moves. Time and again she has been overly cautious. She seems to be trying to protect a lead instead of going all out to win. In sports, this is a sure fire way to lose to the weaker team. It is the same in the game of politics. The Republicans learned this the hard way. I hope Hillary doesn’t. The idea of POTUS Donald is reprehensible.

I think George’s strategy is really good. But, I think HRC needs, as well, to say this in an interview, in addition to moving in the directions indicated by George.  

HRC:

There is really an infinitesimal chance that the Senator will get the nomination. But, he wants to go on to the convention. That is fine with me. The people in the upcoming primary states want to vote. The Senator’s supporters want to be heard. They deserve to be heard. The Senator and his people have earned, and deserve, an important place at the convention.

All that being said, I have this real sense of deja vu. I have that feeling because in 2008, I was basically in the same position Senator Sanders is today. I had won the most recent primaries, and the polls showed that I ran better against the Republicans than did (then) Senator Obama.

All of that was very exciting, but we all know how that turned out. The reality was that I did not win the needed delegates, and it is delegate count that determines the nominee. In 2016, I have the delegate count, and the Senator does not.

Senator Sanders should go all the way to the convention. But, what I think he needs to be careful about is allowing his supporters to buy into the narrative that he has been cheated out of the nomination. We followed the rules, and so did he. Closed primaries have been part of the electoral process for decades. So have caucuses, arguably a much less inclusive process, and those are places where the Senator did quite well.

The Senator’s concern about PACs is a concern I share, but if he were in fact the nominee then he would, unless he wanted to guarantee a loss, be forced, just as Donald Trump is, to use PACs to raise the roughly one billion dollars needed to run a competitive general election campaign. PACs are an unpleasant aspect of our current politics, but a necessary one.

Nonetheless, Donald Trump has already begun to use what Senator Sanders has said about me and my campaign to attack me in his own campaign. That does none of us any good. I hope that in the future the Senator will maintain a sharp focus on policy issues that divide us both from Donald Trump. That is how he can best help his supporters and assure the defeat of Donald Trump in November.

 

MAY 18. 2016

classic Trump_editedPOTUS DONALD?

Whether the recent reports are true or not, Bill Clinton may have made Donald Trump the next President of the United States. You would think that after a near impeachment over Monica Lewinski and all of the troubles around Paula Jones, Bill Clinton would have had the common sense to stay totally clear of Jeffery Epstein. It is no secret that the billionaire is a registered sex offender and pedophile who was convicted of and served prison time for soliciting a minor for prostitution. It also is no secret that his private jet is referred to as the “Lolita Express.”

Even if there was nothing illicit about Bill’s association with him and even if Bill never took one of those reported two dozen or more rides on Epstein’s plane, the simple association against the background of his prior troubles with women is without a doubt damaging to Hillary’s campaign.

Although the general election is five months away, trends are important. Hillary’s lead over Trump has been trending downward due to high negatives and her admitted inability to communicate in a way that builds positive connections with voters. Recent polls have her lead over Trump down into the 3% to 6% range. To reverse this trend, she just essentially made Bill part of her ticket when she announced that she would put him in charge of revitalizing the economy. This was intended to tell audiences that, if you elect me, you also get my competent and much more likeable husband. It also brought this superb stump style officially into the campaign.

The question is how damaging are Bill’s links to Epstein? That depends on Trump. Will he go there? You bet he will.

Scurrilous attacks, name calling, innuendo and citing disreputable sources such as the National Enquirer are his campaign style. Bill’s association with Epstein is prefect fodder for him, even if it can be entirely debunked. Trump had no qualms about linking Cruz’s father to the Kennedy assassination. In our lifetimes, outright lies have affected presidential elections. Examples run from the lies about John Kerry’s service in Vietnam back to the falsehoods circulated about Ed Musky in the 1972 campaign that he was addicted to drugs, that he authored the Canuck Letter and that his wife was an alcoholic and foul-mouthed. None of what was said was true, but every bit of it had its intended effect to reduce their electoral chances.

True or not Bill’s reported association with Jeffery Epstein will boost Hillary’s negatives and also will boost Trump’s chances of winning the election.

Do the Democrats have a clear alternative to Hillary? Sanders, as he has repeated time and again, polls much better against Trump than Hillary. But much of this is due to the fact that the Republicans – Trump especially – have not focused on him. Trump, however, could easily jump on two pieces of low hanging fruit. First, that Bernie is a socialist. Trump already has called him a communist. I can hear Trump naming him Pinko Bernie. Trump also is certain to make as much as he can out of the fact that Bernie’s son, Levi, was born out of wedlock to a woman that Bernie never married.

Behind Bernie is Joe Biden. However, given Berne’s large public support and large number of delegates it would be nearly impossible to give the nomination to Joe.

You can be sure that the Democratic leadership, including the super delegates, will have their eyes on the polls. If Hillary’s negatives expand and her downward trend in the polls results in Trump taking the lead, the rather remote possibility of Bernie getting the nomination becomes a respectable probability. The specter of POTUS Donald is more than enough to change many minds.

I don’t necessarily agree with George about the amount of damage that will be done.  But, he is correct, The Donald will bring it up.  Here is something that gives you a hint of how I feel (though I am a strong HRC supporter) about Bill.  Since this was written in 2014, it should give readers a hint about how I have felt about Slick Willie for a while now.

THIS IS A DAILY KOS POST FROM JULY, 2014 FROM CHAS.

I must be a horrible curmudgeon.  Everyone is slobbering over Bill Clinton, and I think he is a charming snake oil salesman.  Having him near the White House again is my only real concern about supporting Hillary.

Think about it.  He is charming; he is eloquent; he seems empathetic; he is way smart; he is way unprincipled; he pursues his political goals with all the moral niceties of a rabid rat; he has only bad judgement where his zipper is concerned.

In Arkansas, he signed off on the execution of clearly mentally deficient convicts so as not to smudge his law and order record; As Pres, he gave us a booming economy that his financial “innovation” (derivates, etc) transformed into a booming recession. He signed the DOMA.  He screwed up national health care reform so badly it was on life support. His Omnibus crime bill widely expanded the death penalty. He gave us “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  He signed about 180 pardons and commutation on his last day in office (brave show there, Bill). He signed the 1998 bill supporting “regime change” in Iraq — sound familiar?  He played his role in “the war that knows no end and no boundaries” with cruise missile attacks in he Sudan and Afghanistan.  He signed the bill reducing legal immigration by almost half.  He wasted his entire second term defending his philandering and parsing of the sentences.  It was pretty much nothing else.

In 8 years, he and Hillary made maybe 100 million dollars after leaving White House–you do not get that kind of money without rubbing elbows with some shady characters (populist streak showing here).  

Now, folks can list all the wonderful things he did and has done.  They are right.  He has done some very good stuff, especially as a fat-cat philanthropist. As a “first dude,”  I am not so confident he will be a real asset.

Okay, a lot of this scree may be like the old Job joke, which I paraphrase here —

Texican, why doest though revile me?  

Bunch of reasons, but it may be that there is something about the Slick Willie part of you that just pisses me off and makes me trust you, as a politician, about as far as I can throw Chis Christie.”

APRIL 28, 2016

WILL IT BE CLINTON VS. TRUMP?

 It is certainly looks like it will be.

Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s victories Tuesday in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania have all but sealed the nomination for her, especially in light of her double digit margins in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Bernie knows it and he knew it even before these primaries. It was evident in statements from his campaign staff and his wife was clear about it. Jane Sanders, who by the way is a much better spokesperson than any of his campaign staff, was interviewed Tuesday afternoon on CNN by Wolf Blitzer. Her central theme across the interview was that Bernie would campaign right up to the convention because he believes that his core issues are important to democracy and must be voiced. Her undercurrent was that he knows Hillary will win and he would actively support her as the nominee. Bernie himself has been clear that he will support Hillary: “I will do everything in my power to make sure no Republican gets into the White House in this election.”

Both his actions and his words seem to be validating this statement. He has just released some 325 to 350 campaign workers and he is talking about staying in the race to shape the party platform. What he must do is refrain from any character attacks on Hillary, such as accepting payment for speeches or releasing transcripts of such speeches. Hillary’s major weakness is negatives on trustworthiness. He not only must not fuel this but he must work to repair the damage that he has done.

This said, it is important that he stays in the race up to the convention. Bernie clearly has energized a large and important block of under 35 voters. Their votes will be important in defeating Trump or any other Republican candidate. Both Hillary and Bernie know it. Bernie must keep this base energized and guide it both to Hillary’s corner and to the Democratic down-ballot.

In addition, those things that are near and dear to him are possible only if Hillary’s victory is accompanied by major Democratic gains in House and Senate seats. A Republican Congress that is pledged to repeal Obama care will never support Medicare for All or campaign reform or free college education or any of his campaign centerpieces. Simply inserting these planks in the platform is insufficient. Let’s hope that he realizes this and works hard for a Democratic landslide.

Trump

Trump appears to have achieved a realistic and workable path to the nomination. As it now stands, he has 987 pledged delegates. He needs 250 more of the 583 still available to reach 1,237. Coming primaries in New Jersey, West Virginia, Indiana and California can ensure that he reaches this total, especially if we also assume that he picks up some delegates in Arizona and Oregon even though Kasich wins both. For some time, polls have shown him with strong double digit leads in West Virginia and New Jersey, both winner-take-all states. Modest victories in Indiana and California then would put him over the top for a first ballot win. He has never trailed in polls in either of these states. Most recently, he has been comfortably ahead by 6% to 8% in Indiana and 10% to 12% in California.

These numbers are what panicked Cruz and Kasich into their odd and rather shaky alliance.

Although Cruz has been claiming that he can win in Indiana, the odds appear to be against it. First, he would have to pick up almost all of those who would have voted for Kasich. This is quite unlikely as polls have been showing that many, if not most, Kasich backers would switch to Trump before Cruz. On top of this, in a post-alliance interview, when asked several times if he would tell his supporters to vote for Cruz, Kasich evaded or declined to respond and finally stated that they should vote for him. So much for the alliance with Cruz. Second, Cruz must count on a big boost from Indiana’s evangelicals if he hopes to win, but polls repeatedly have Trump with a comfortable lead among these voters.

Speaking of panic, Ted Cruz is a poster child. Mathematically eliminated from obtaining sufficient first ballot votes and with his disapproval ratings among women in the tank, he announces Carly Fiorina as his VP even before he is the nominee. He must actually think this is going to peel women away from Trump and maybe even Clinton. He must be eating those funny mushrooms again, because his grip on reality is slipping.

Even if Trump was to fall 50 or so delegates short of the 1,237 that he needs, it is becoming more and more likely that an open convention will not yield anyone other than him. Dumping him on later ballots would take a highly divisive, highly public confrontation that could devastate the party and for no end because the GOP leadership has no acceptable alternative to Trump. Cruz is every bit as unpalatable to the leadership as Trump; the grassroots has unambiguously rejected Kasich; Ryan has definitively bowed out; and there is no other viable candidate. Worse yet, dumping Trump at the convention risks a third party run or large numbers of Trump supporters sitting out the election. The likely consequence of either is a larger down-ballot debacle than there would be if Trump is the nominee. It is beginning to look more likely that the leadership is resigned to Trump as the nominee and will give him his first ballot victory. However, this does not mean coalescing around him.

With the nomination within reach, one of Trump’s greatest and most pressing problems will be support from GOP leaders, officials, and funders. With a few exceptions such as Senator Jeff Sessions and Governor Chris Christie, all signs point to support being weak – largely lip service. Whether one casts Trump as the poison or the bullet, Lindsay Graham’s now infamous statement would appear to be operative. Even the big money might eschew him.

In the interview that Charles Koch gave on ABC last Sunday, he offered that the Hillary Clinton might make a better President than the Republican nominee. Many in the media reported this, but they failed to give the deserved coverage to how critical Koch was of Trump. For example, speaking about Trump’s statements on banning and registering Muslims, Koch said “That’s reminiscent of Nazi Germany. I mean, that’s monstrous.”

Because they see Trump as a clear loser to Clinton, it is a pretty good bet that members of the GOP leadership and big Republican contributors will not put their reputations and money on the line for him, or at least they will be very hesitant before they do so. It also is a fair assumption that they will want to extract a hefty price for any support that they might provide. It would seem most likely that their support for Trump will be tepid while they focus on doing all they can to avoid a down-ballot disaster. If they lose the Senate, they lose the Supreme Court. If they lose the House, they lose control of the budget. If they lose them both, they hand Hillary carte blanche.

Starting two to three months ago, GOP strategists were telling their Congressional candidates to distance themselves from Trump and to campaign on local issues and on core GOP issues and values. I don’t think the public is going to see a lot of video of Trump on the stump with or embracing GOP Congressional candidates. While taking their distance may be good for these candidates, it will be bad for The Donald, especially when contrasted with tons of video showing Hillary with every smiling and eager state and local politician she can find.

Another major problem for Trump in the general election may well be money if the big contributors and PACs focus on the down-ballot. In 2012, Obama and Romney spent a total of $2.6 billion, not counting the money spent on the primaries. For 2016 the race – exclusive of primaries – total costs are best estimated at $4.5 billion and Trump’s half at $2.25 billion. With a net worth around $4.3 billion dominated by illiquid assets, Trump is not wealthy enough to self-fund. He either campaigns at a financial disadvantage or gets outside money. But such outside money may flow mostly to down-ballot candidates and, if Trump accepts any, he loses his claim that has charmed his supporters; that he is an anti-Establishment outsider who is not bought and paid for.

Lastly, Trump has a problem of public persona. The Trump that his core constituents love is the uncouth, brash, insulting blowhard that the leadership abhors. Without the leadership in his corner, his political and financial support withers; without his core devotees, his loss to Clinton changes from probable to certain. Setting aside who he really is, the issue of who he should be presented as has already surfaced.

Trump’s new campaign advisor, Paul Manafort, recently told Republican leadership that Trump was “projecting an image,” that it was “an act” and that he would soon tone it down and look more Presidential. Trump seems to be rejecting this and, after a brief respite talking about Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich, he is back to Lying Ted and Crooked Hillary. He also is reported to be objecting to Manafort’s more traditional approach of major advertising buys and instead wants to continue to rely on grabbing media attention and capitalizing on the media’s greed for headlines and controversy by appearing on their talk shows whenever he pleases. This difference in approach may reflect Trump’s recognition that he cannot self-fund a traditional campaign and that big money donors may not put their money behind him or that he cannot accept it without repercussions in his base. Just yesterday he spoke to this point. Referring to Charles Koch, Trump stated: “What he says bears no relationship on what I do or say. I don’t need his money. I got my own money.” He added “And he can have his puppets, and they’re all over the place.”

Trump, however, may have boxed himself in. If he shifts to a more Presidential persona, he loses his base. If he doesn’t shift, he loses voter segments that he must penetrate to win – independents, women and minorities, and the leadership and donors take their distance.

Regardless, the biggest mistake the Democrats can make is to underestimate Donald Trump. His Republican rivals did.

WILL THIS ELECTION BE ABOUT WHOM DO WE DISLIKE THE LEAST?

In summarizing the polls on favorability, the Huff Post now has Trump’s unfavorables at 64% and HRC’s at 56% with Trump’s favorability at 30% and HRC’s at 39%.  These figures are from polls largely among likely voters or registered voters.  So, HRC has a “favorability gap” of 17 points, while Trump has a gap of 34 points. 

So, the good new is that Drumpf’s gap is twice that of Hillary’s, but the troubling part is that HRC has such high unfavorables. As a historical note, for Obama in 2008 the Huff Post had his favorable rating in January of that election year at 53% and in November just before the election it was 56%.   

I don’t find the Trump numbers too surprising or worrisome. The numbers for HRC, which are prior to her receiving “The Full Donald” in the campaign, are not surprising. The Rs have been beating on her for months and months because they knew their party would face her in November.  Nonetheless, they are worrisome.  The caveat here is that the real issue is the difference in favorability on Election Day in swing or purple states; that will be where the tale is told. But, that doesn’t make this a bad time to consider this issue.

The data show that the HRC campaign faces one clear path and one murky one. The clear path is making Drumpf even less likable.  As we say in Texas, “that don’t seem too high a fence to be jumpin’”.  The murky path is the direction to take to raise HRC’s favorable ratings.

I think an interesting part of this will be how she handles the debates.  We know that she can stand up to Trump’s school yard bullying and kick his ass on policy issues.  But, how is it that she does this with some measure of charm and warmth?  I have watched her in individual interviews with friendly media types, and she is great ─ warm, funny, and very likable.  But, on the stump, she seems to really have trouble bringing that part of herself to the fore.  I doubt that in the debates, which will probably be acrimonious, she will be able to deviate from her “campaign face.”

Her free TV may be one way she can do this, though Trump will have the advantage of quantity of coverage because he is such a good showman. She would do well to share the podium at events with folks who do better than her 39% favorability (Bernie, 48%; Biden, 47%; Obama, 48%; her spousal unit, over 50%) and some local popular local politicos.

Maybe the paid ads will have to do the job of bringing forth her more human side and making her more likable.  Some of her early ads handled this well.  Showing her in small groups seems to provide one good avenue for progress on this theme.  It is in those settings that her warmer, more human “self” comes through.

BUT, why all this attention to favorability over issues and positions? 

I think the reason is simple.  HRC has a very solid base in the traditional Democratic coalition.  Where she may be at risk and need to succeed is with independents and with younger voters in swing states, and those people don’t usually make the effort to go out to vote for someone they just don’t like. 

Hatred of Trump may motivate some; but I believe that they must at least feel somewhat favorably toward HRC for that disdain for Drumpf to translate into an electoral victory.

It may be that the most crucial factor is how (and if) Sanders translate the “Bern” into support for HRC and the Democratic party as a whole. The Senate controls Supreme Court; the House controls the budget.  If Berners stay home, then I fear the Ds ability to turn a marginal victory into a meaningful mandate becomes a very difficult trek.  

But, who knows? Some folks are going HRC vs. Trump is “easy-peasy” because he is such an absolute asshat and so many people seem to know it.  But, we need to remember that (as George indicated above) everyone who has so far felt that way is currently lying face down in the dust at the side of the road to the White House.

APRIL 21, AFTER NY PRIMARY

Hello Charles and Everyone,

 My expectations about the NY primary were not far from what transpired; both Clinton and Trump won. The only thing surprising was the scale of their victories – Trump by about 20% and Clinton by 16%. New York has not much altered the trajectories of either the Democrat or Republican primaries. It has, however, illuminated several important issues.

Trump and Sanders are showing some remarkable similarities. Bernie is emerging as the Trump of the left. Both are really excellent at identifying and capitalizing on the frustrations of many who are fed up with a Congress that promotes party over country, that prefers politics to progress, and that for the large majority of Republicans means saying no to anything President Obama proposes – even his most reasonable and politically neutral proposals. Anger and dissatisfaction are not confined to Trump followers. It is also present in liberals  and progressives, but it is less anger than frustration and dissatisfaction.

I for one feel that many of the issues that Sanders has been championing must be addressed. Income and wealth inequality must be addressed. The gap between rich and poor is well past morally indefensible. We have a broken criminal justice system in which convictions are more important than justice and where the solutions to our ills are criminalizing one thing after the next, imposing harsher penalties, and converting peace officers into militia. Our campaign finance system is a disgrace, and was so even before the Supreme Court decided that corporations were people, and Administration after Administration has permitted mergers to the point that we have many corporations that are too-big-to-fail, not just banks. Although Bernie and Donald are spot on in identifying our ills, they are very short on credible solutions. All of the above are centerpieces of Bernie’s campaign and all he can do is rail about them.  

Trade agreements that both Bernie and Donald assail for jobs moving overseas is another of Bernie’s central themes. Donald blames “terrible” US negotiators outmatched by wily foreigners. Bernie blames big banks and Wall Street.  Blame gets you nowhere; solutions do but, like Donald, Bernie has no idea on how to bring these jobs back. In fact, bringing them back is likely a pipedream. Our major corporations are international and compete internationally with companies that fight to keep their prices as competitive as they can. US corporations must match them.

The money needed to rebuild these jobs within the US is stashed overseas. The government is going to have to allow this money to be repatriated without an unacceptable tax bite. Next, the companies will have to be induced to use the money to build new manufacturing plants on real estate and with construction whose costs well exceed similar costs for building the same facilities outside the US. Once built, the facilities would be staffed by more expensive US labor that would get yet more expensive if Bernie’s wish for a $15.00/hour minimum wage becomes reality. Does either Bernie or Donald really think that major corporations are going to place their products at huge price disadvantages by subjecting them to higher real estate, construction and labor costs and to the US’s higher taxes? Pipedream!!! 

Without feasible policies to present and with an inability to expand beyond their core loyalists, both Trump and Sanders turned personal. If you can’t get ahead, drag your opponent back.  Bernie, I believe, entered the campaign with noble aspirations. He had long believed and fought as hard as he could for some really excellent causes. When no real competition formed against Hillary, he jumped into the fray. It gave him a forum he never had before, and early in the campaign he did all of us a service by illuminating some very important issues. But somewhere in the campaign Bernie mistook the enthusiasm of his core for the endorsement of the many. He began to believe that he could become President but, by that time, he also saw that his path to the nomination was verging on the impossible.

He became more and more bellicose in his attacks on Hillary and the press began to award him more and more Pinocchios for statements ranging from distortions to half-truths to full blown lies. It didn’t work. Hillary’s convincing double-digit victory in New York has ended any hope he has of securing the nomination. Hillary has a dominating lead in pledged delegates and an even more formidable lead in super-delegates. Recently Bernie and his campaign officials have spoken about swaying super-delegates to his cause. Super-delegates, however, are extremely unlikely to move to someone who is seeking to do as much damage as he can to the leading contender and to someone who never has campaigned for or raised money for other Democrats.

It is over for Bernie. He now faces a decision. Is he the man of high ideals who started the race or is he just another politician clawing for power? I truly hope it is the former. The Democratic Party needs to come together. 

For Trump, the big question on entering New York was could he break 50% so as to corral the majority of the delegates. He did far better than that. With 60% of the vote he probably with get 92 or so of the 95 delegates with Kasich getting 2 or 3 for narrowly carrying Manhattan. Cruz was vanquished with none. This win also bodes well for Trump victories in the five Northeast States in next Tuesday’s primaries.

The big prize is Pennsylvania where all recent polls show Trump with a solid 20% margin over Cruz with Kasich a point or so bend Cruz. Pennsylvania’s cache of 54 delegates will be unbound and, consequently, crucial to the Republican nominating process. With his victory in New York, the delegate math forecasts Trump entering the convention with 1,175 or so, and maybe better, pledged delegates. A big slice of Pennsylvania’s unbound delegates would be crucial to putting him over the top. Similarly, depriving him of these delegates would be essential to the continuing effort to block him. It is going to be very interesting to see which way the Republicans go with The Donald.

With a forecast that he will be within shouting distance of the 1,237 delegates needed for a first ballot victory, do they cease the stop Trump efforts and try to unite around him? Or do the efforts continue and even intensify? Right up to New York, the machinations and sentiments against him from party leaders has been unrelenting. On a recent talk show, Senate Majority Leader McConnell was one step shy of gleeful in saying that he thought that they had Trump blocked on the first ballot and that an unnamed someone selected on the second or third. Roughly 95% of delegates are bound on the first ballot. It falls to 43% on the second ballot and fades quickly after that. 

In State after State, the Republican Establishment appears intent in providing delegates who, though bound to Trump on the first ballot, will abandon him on later ballots. Trump is acutely aware of this and Florida just drove the point home. The key members of RNC Rules Committee that makes “recommendations” to the Convention Rules Committee have made public statements about retaining the 8-State rule that they used in 2012 to eliminate Rand Paul and ensure a landslide nomination for Mitt Romney. On the surface, this is being sold as a not changing the rules in the middle of the game.

But if one looks a little deeper it could have negative consequences for Trump. The Establishment’s favorite off-the-shelf alterative, House Speaker Paul Ryan, slammed the door on any consideration of him, and polls were showing that Hillary or Bernie would trounce other possibilities such as Condoleezza Rice, Mitt Romney, Scott Walker, Colin Powell, etc. With no viable alternative, stopping Trump means promoting either Cruz or Kasich. Retaining the 8-State rule would eliminate Kasich but retaining it would have no cost because the Republican voters were sending a clear message that Kasich was unacceptable. A few analysts have noted, and I tend to agree, that eliminating Kasich would favor Cruz as it is expected that his voters are more likely to turn to Cruz, helping him on later ballots.

The Stop Trump movement probably sees this too. Regardless of the Republican leadership’s maneuverings, it will become hard to stop Trump if he closes within anything past 100 or so delegates of the 1,237 needed to win on the first ballot. They would have to mount a very public all-out effort at the convention that most certainly will enrage a large block of voters who then might sit out the general election. They would risk an extremely damaging third party run by Trump, even if he runs spitefully as a spoiler and not vigorously as a contender. And they would be taking these risks to nominate Cruz, a candidate they far from treasure and who they forecast as losing to Clinton. Unless something changes, their motivations seem to be condensing to two: save their party and save their down-ballot candidates. Their dilemma is: Are these ends better achieved by stopping Donald or uniting behind him?

Just a tidbit on Bernie.  First, he said that the closed primaries in NY (only Ds and Rs can  vote in their party primaries) were undemocratic.  This is understandable since he is not a member of the Democratic or Republican party. 

Despite the  old Will Rogers line–“I don’t belong to any organized political party. I’m a Democrat,” there really is a party.  It has candidates and has pursued causes for decades.  Unlike Bernie, it also has a history of administrative and legislative success (Can it really be true that Bernie only authored three bills that passed Congress, and two of the bill were to name post offices?). Lest we forget, it is that organization and its members to whom HRC has given millions of dollars and at which Bernie has thumbed his nose.

Finally, after Bernie says NY primary was undemocratic, then Jeff Weaver said that if Bernie doesn’t win the needed number of pledged delegates, they will try to woo Super Delegates from the candidate who has won the most states and votes (10.5 million to less than 8 million).  My but “democracy must be in the eye of the beholder.”

I despair that George’s hopes for Bernie will be dashed.  He is now running for President in the same way that Hunter Thompson described HHH’s run in ’68– running for office like a rat in heat

Also, I think and deeply believe that Jeff Weaver needs to go back to Bernie’s offices in The Senate Office Building where people may really listen to his BS and believe it.  If you have partaken of the vision elixir, then he  speaks directly into God’s ear.  If you haven’t taken large swallows of the Kool-Aid, then he is just a blathering fool.

See the link below for a more scathing statement about this seeming inconsistency.

http://www.vox.com/2016/4/19/11465392/bernie-sanders-superdelegates

APRIL 18, BEFORE NY PRIMARY

APRIL 16, 2016, ALSO POSTED ON DAILY KOS

Dear Bernie and Bernie Supporters:

Thanks. The dialogue in this campaign would not have taken its progressive turn without you. You have done the Democratic Party and the American people a true favor. All progressive Ds and D socialists owe you a big debt.

That said, Hillary was going to be the party nominee when the your campaign began, and she will still be the nominee when the primary season ends. Bernie, you seem to have been sitting ignored on the back bench for so long that the glare of the spotlights has affected your cognition. You seem to think that if you hit Hillary hard enough you will really knock her out of the ring.

Bernie, remember this is the woman who sat in front of the Rs on the Benghazi committee for 11 hours and kicked their asses. She has put up with Bill Clinton for decades. You will not defeat her to become the nominee. Learn it; live with it.

But, what you CAN DO is demonize her to YOUR supporters to the degree that they stay home in the general election. Oh, you will (if you have any sense at all) make nice at the convention and tell your folks that she will be a monumental improvement over anyone the Rs might chose.

But, you will have already poisoned the apple if you keep attacking her character or her values. These attacks will have your folks looking at her and Donald Trump and going on Election Day– “it’s ‘tweedle dee vs. tweedle dum,’ so who wants pizza, while we watch these toadies of the capitalist system play out their sick games?”

IF you do that to her with your supporters, then you will have betrayed every principle and policy for which you have fought, lo these many years. If it is so important that you vanquish Hillary, why isn’t it equally important that she be in the best possible position to vanquish whatever repugnant purveyor of codswallop the Rs nominate.

Ralph Nader in 2000 pulled enough votes from Gore in Florida that he gave the next eight years to “The Shrub.” And, you know what W gave us and the world in those 8 long years. Bernie, if you do another version of that trick in 2016, then you will (if you own up to it) never forgive yourself–neither will I and a bunch of other folks like me.

With respect,

Chas

April 6, 2016 — After the Wisc. primary and before Wyoming and New York

IS THE BLOOM OFF THE ROSE?

It would seem like both front-runners are having their problems; not of the same origins but nevertheless serious for both of Trump and Clinton.

Trump’s Problems

From the start, Trump has had a major problem with policies and programs. Basically, he has had none, at least nothing coherent. He offers bombastic proclamations that too often are so far removed from reality that he has to “clarify” them. He been forced to “clarify” his positions on nuclear armed Japan and South Korea and on criminal penalties for women who have abortions. His latest assertion that he can get Mexico to pay for his wall by blocking remittance transfers back to Mexico is equally unsound and likely will be “clarified” several times in the weeks to come. It, of course, would be devastating to Mexico’s economy but most commentators and experts indicate that it is at best questionably legal and also most likely politically impossible.

Donald’s strength is that he is quite good at identifying the nation’s problems and especially those that are making people frustrated and angry. His weakness is that he is very short on realistic solutions. As this has become more evident, his appeal has been suffering.

His out-of-control mouth is his next problem. Some say that he should tone it down. In reality, it would be a mistake and he seems to know it. Just a few days ago he said that he will act more Presidential when he is President. If he was to shift now to a more considered demeanor, he would begin to lose his devoted base of angry people. Plus, any move toward a less belligerent posture offers him little gain. He has pretty much alienated the GOP’s traditional conservatives and centrists such that he would not pick up many of them. He is polarizing.

All of this, especially when added to the Never Trump super PAC ads and the many adverse comments from Republican notables, is taking its toll on Trump in the voting booth. Once 10 points up on Cruz in Wisconsin, he lost the State to Cruz by 13%. This should not be interpreted as an indication that Cruz can catch Trump. The next stop is New York where Trump is very likely to be on the winning end of a thrashing of Cruz. When it comes to delegates, a win by Trump in New York swamps Cruz’s win in Wisconsin. There is no chance that Cruz will reach 1,237 delegates. He would have to win about 92% of the remaining delegates.

The most important implication from the Wisconsin results is that they almost guarantee the open convention that the Never Trump leadership wants. Trump would have to win over 60% of the remaining delegates to achieve a first ballot victory. That sort of outcomes is only a theoretical possibility, and very unlikely to be reflected at ballot boxes.

It is looking more certain that there will be an open convention and that the Republican Establishment will use any means at its disposal to ensure it and deny Trump the nomination.

Recently the monkey business has been evident in the states. In Louisiana, the large majority of delegates appointed favored Cruz even though Trump won its primary. The shenanigans continued in Tennessee when the leadership made a last minute rules change to allow the selection of delegates to be conducted in a closed session with limited and selected invitees. Trump supporters arrived to find themselves locked out.

This manipulation is much more serious than one might imagine. Under GOP rules, only seven states allow the winning candidates to submit their own slate of delegates or to have a significant role in their selection. This accounts for only 15% of the convention’s 2,472 delegates. In all States, the GOP’s equivalents of Democrat super-delegates are automatically appointed as delegates – the three members of the Republican National Committee from each state and territory, the national committeeman, the national committeewoman and the state chairman. This constitutes 7% of the total delegates. The remaining 78% are chosen primarily by vote at state or district conventions and meetings. Who these people support, as in Louisiana and Tennessee, becomes extremely important.

Almost all States bind their delegates to those who won or received sufficient votes in the State’s primary. But only for the first ballot. By stacking each State’s block of delegates with people loyal to the Republican Establishment and not to Trump, the Establishment can be assured that Trump will be denied the nomination on the second and later ballots, unless he arrives with the number of delegates needed for a first ballot victory. The Never Trump PAC money and Never Trump statements and endorsement seem designed to head off that possibility.

[I have heard some disagreement on this.  States do what they want, some bind and some don’t, and the RNC seems to respect that.  However, I have heard a member of the RNC Rules Committee argue that the binding of delegates is a decision made the Rules Committee.  That Committee does pay deference to previous rules, but the new convention rules can be whatever the Committee wants.  His argument was that all this delegate counting is nice, but no one knows how many delegates anyone has until the Rules Committee has made the rules and seated delegations. The, the first ballot tell how many delegates each candidate really has.]

For a while it looked like the Republican Establishment might be content with Cruz. Lately they seem to be using Cruz as no more than another tool for denying Trump the nomination. Big name Republicans are telling voters to vote for Cruz but few are endorsing him. Another signal is a rule change for the convention.

In 2012, the GOP put in the 8-State Rule to lock out Ron Paul and ensure the nomination for Mitt Romney. The rule requires that to be nominated a candidate must receive a majority of the votes in eight primaries. All of those appointed to date to the 2016 Convention Rules Committee are unanimous in calling for this rule to be scrapped. At first glance, scrapping the 8-State rule would seem to be a boon to Cruz and Kasich. However, it also allows the convention to nominate someone who did not run in any primary.

The Republican Establishment’s unabashed distaste for Cruz suggests that they would much rather have someone other than him. When it comes to Kasich, the Establishment’s silence has been deafening. It seems safe to surmise that he will be bypassed, probably because he is not sufficiently conservative.

If not Trump, Cruz or Kasich, then who? Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney immediately come to mind. The recent polling data (below), however, are not showing either of them to be the GOP’s salvation.  Like Trump and Cruz, both Romney and Ryan trail both Clinton and Sanders. Romney’s very weak numbers are driven by his favorability rating of 23%/65% that is worse than Trump’s of 29%/63%.

The one candidate who appears to be capable of mounting a winning effort against Clinton or Sanders is Kasich, who is being totally disregarded by the GOP leadership.

 

GOP Candidate

Clinton

GOP Candidate

Sanders

Trump

41%

48%

40%

48%

Cruz

42%

45%

41%

48%

Kasich

45%

41%

44%

41%

Romney

32%

45%

31%

48%

Ryan

39%

44%

38%

45%

All of this brings us back to Trump. With no clear viable alternative, is the GOP boxed in with The Donald? Do they stick with him? Does this cost them the Senate? How does it affect the House in 2018? Does it pave the way for 4 or 5 Democratic choices to be placed on the Supreme Court? How does it affect Congressional redistricting following the 2020 Census? If these issues are not enough to consider, there are more. If they dump Trump, will he run as a third party, even in a few States simply as a spoiler? If he doesn’t run as a third party, what will his rabid supporters do? Never mind riots or violence, will they sit on their hands? Will this condemn whoever they put against the Democrat? Will it split the party? Is the party already split? Would going with Trump glue it back together? Could they get away with also bypassing Cruz and Kasich? What would be the consequences among the Republican rank and file? Is there an acceptable alternative candidate who can win against either Clinton or Sanders?

Just elaborating all of the issues that their primaries and convention are forcing on the Republican leadership brings on a migraine. Addressing them may require weeks of residence in a rehab center.

Clinton’s Problems

Hillary also is having problems.

First among them is that she is far from inspirational – a problem that she shares with Kasich. Like Kasich, she is a doer, a workhorse, a pragmatist. She has been consistently unable to enunciate a vision that captivates people. Bill could, Obama did in his campaign but not in the White House, and Bernie is very good at it. Most politicians become better at this with practice. Hillary seems to be an exception. Her inability to inspire cost her the 2008 primaries and she is having the same problem again.

Hillary also can’t shake issues that concern voters. Some see her as part of the Washington Establishment that has failed the country. Others disapprove of her closeness to the business and financial communities, of her actions around Bengazi, of her vote to invade Iraq, and of her use of her home email account. Her negatives remain high no matter what she does or says.

Lastly her campaign appears to have peaked and now is running flat while Sanders is surging. He has won seven of the last eight. The Wisconsin primary turned out almost exactly as the polls predicted. The latest polls had Sanders winning by about 10%. He won by 13%, but a margin of that size does little to help him with the delegate count. The delegate math is completely in Hillary’s favor. Bernie can win every remaining State 55% to Hillary’s 45% and still not be able to catch her. Bernie needs 70%-30% victories in the large majority of the remaining States and he needs wins of this magnitude in delegate-rich States including at least two of CA, NY and PA. Such a scenario is extremely unlikely.

To be the nominee, Bernie has to count on the super-delegates coming to the conclusions that Clinton cannot beat the Republican candidate but that he can. However, as David Axelrod noted, that is more of a prayer than a plan. However remote, the potential for any such shift will depend on who the Republicans nominate and on pre-convention data on how Clinton fares against him. What Bernie does or says is largely irrelevant.

Also in a fight to sway super-delegates, Clinton has the advantage that since the 1992 election she has stumped for and actively supported Democratic candidates across the nation. As an Independent, Sanders has never campaigned for Democratic candidates, raised money for them, or done anything to back their candidacy. The party owes a debt to Hillary but not to Bernie. When the chips are down, this counts.

[George makes a great point. Just a note, Hillary’s has given tens of millions to the DNC and state Democrat parties. Sanders supporters see this as yet another sign of her perfidious nature, but if you believe that down-ticket victories are important, then it may simply be a sign that she is a committed Democrat, unlike her opponent.  Bernie has not given a dime to any other Democratic campaign committee.  But, for a Bernite’s sanctimonious take on this, see (http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/01/how-hillary-clinton-bought-the-loyalty-of-33-state-democratic-parties/)%5D

Regardless of these considerations, no one should think that Clinton has a lock on the super-delegates. They were created specifically to avoid a loss in a general election. This remains their purpose. In the current election, they see the same high stakes as does the Republican Establishment: control of the Senate, the future of the Supreme Court, and the 2020 redistricting.

The national data still show Clinton as the weaker candidate against anyone other than Trump whom she beats handily. In fact, she is slipping against Cruz and Kasich. Sanders on the other hand shows strong. If the Republicans nominate Kasich or someone else with more broad-based appeal, the odds increase that the Democratic leadership will counter with Sanders even though they will do so with reluctance. They will worry about whether America is ready to elect a socialist and they will hesitate to nominate someone who is not a Democrat – rather a socialist who caucuses with them. Hillary’s recent statements that Bernie is not a Democrat appear to be playing in these sentiments.

[George and I continue to disagree about the importance of head-to-head match-ups in April.  I have less faith in them than he does. Some argue that polls in April have been very telling. I am not a believer.]

MARCH 24, 1216

DO THE DEMOCRATS HAVE IT RIGHT?

This posting repeatedly cites poll data. So let’s first acknowledge that this far before the conventions and the election, polls should not be taken as gospel. A Presidential election cycle is highly dynamic with issues popping up, events occurring and voters shifting constantly in response to the latest happenings and to what candidates do and don’t do, and say and don’t say. Thus, poll data about the eventual nominee and the general election should be taken with at least a few grains of salt.

Nevertheless, the poll data have validity and should start one thinking about possibilities and alternatives. That is what this posting is all about. It uses current poll data to surface and analyze issues and explore options.

Who’s Winning

Hillary Clinton has built a very large delegate lead over Bernie Sanders in delegates. From the primaries and caucuses, she leads 1,222 to 918 – a lead of 304 pledged delegates. When her whopping margin of 467 to 26 in super-delegates is counted, her lead expands to 1,689 to 944 – a lead of 745 delegates.

The road ahead for Bernie does not bode well for him. To close the gap of 304 pledged delegates, he would need to do two things. He must start winning states by very large margins (30% or more) so that he gets a very large share of the proportional allocations, and he must and post substantial wins in at least two of the three delegate-rich prizes –  California, New York and Pennsylvania. These, however, look to be in Hillary’s pocket, especially New York and Pennsylvania. If she wins these thee by anything near the below margins and adds wins in a few other States, her lead is essentially insurmountable. It seems safe to say that Hillary Clinton will enter the convention with more than enough delegates to emerge as the Democrats’ nominee.

  State Poll Date Clinton Sanders Diff
  California
  Field 1/3 46% 35% 11%
  New York
  Emerson 3/16 71% 23% 48%
  Sienna 3/3 55% 34% 21%
  Pennsylvania
  Harper 3/2 57% 27% 30%
  Franklin & Marshall 2/21 51% 29% 22%

The Right Opponent?

Both Clinton and Sanders as well as all other Democratic leaders and spokespersons have had a tight focus on running against Trump. But is he their proper target?

The Republican Establishment seems determined to deprive Trump of as many delegates as possible in order to ensure an open convention. Ever since Florida, the Republican Establishment has committed millions of dollars, the voices of party leaders, and key endorsements – even Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz. It is hard to conjure up any reason for their efforts other than they intend to sink Trump at the convention. Their dominance of the convention’s Rules Committee ensures that they can do what they please. You only have to look back at 2012 when they used the Rules Committee plus some questionable practices in both primary and caucus States to eliminate Rand Paul and ensure the nomination for Mitt Romney.

Although would be easy for them to do the same again, it doesn’t come without significant risk. Trump himself has not been shy about threatening a third party candidacy if he feels that he is being treated unfairly and just last week Sam Clovis, his National Co-Chairman and Policy Adviser, stated that he would walk out of the convention and leave the Republican Party, if Trump was unfairly deprived of the nomination.

In addition to determined opposition from the Republican leadership, Trump faces other obstacles, the most obvious of which is his narrow base.

On one hand, his utterances have given him his core strength in multi-person primaries. It has enchanted a committed block of supports who are fed up with what they see as lip service, broken promises and ineffective prattling about Obama’s faults and failures from the Republican Establishment. These are indeed committed people. They are as committed to Trump as the war protesters and civil rights activists of the 1960s and 1970s were to their causes. These committed supporters came in large enough numbers to ensure Trump victories when the remaining votes were splintered across multiple candidates. They are much less of an advantage now that the Republican field is down to three.

Trump’s rhetoric, however, has alienated yet larger blocks of voters – women, Latinos, African Americans, people of non-Christian faiths, and many independents. The Republican leadership knows that any Republican Presidential candidate must capture substantial numbers of these voters to win election.  

Trump also has a looming problem with campaign financing. Trump has been vocal about the fact that he is self-financing and that, as a result, he will be beholden to no one once in office. In 2012, Obama and Romney spent a total of $2.6 billion, not counting the money they spent on the primaries. For the 2016 Presidential race – exclusive of primaries – estimates are running from $3 billion to $5 billion with some being far higher. Estimating the 2016 costs at $4 billion to $5 billion with $4.5 billion as a midpoint estimate, Trump is not wealthy enough to self-finance his $2.25 billion share of general election campaign costs. His net worth is around $4.3 billion and the vast majority of his assets are not liquid.

Trump either campaigns at a financial disadvantage or he gets outside money. There is a question as to whether big money Republican donors will be willing to sink money into someone they originally contributed against and who trails both Democrat contenders by double digits in the polls. Also if he takes their money, he loses his claim that has charmed his supporters; that he is an anti-Establishment outsider who is not bought and paid for.

Trump’s last problem is that his fellow Republicans are doing a fine job of attacking him, revealing all of his flaws, and showing voters that he is unfit to lead this country.

Maybe it is time to let the Republicans whack away at Trump and for the Democrats to shift focus to the more formidable candidate, Ted Cruz. With all of the focus on Trump, Cruz has been getting a free ride and, consequently, is not badly blemished by attacks from the Democrats.

Also, as it gets more likely that the Republican Establishment will scuttle Trump at the convention, it becomes more likely that Cruz will emerge as the Republican nominee. Although he will enter the convention well behind Trump in delegates, he will be well ahead of Kasich. He most definitely is not a darling of the Republican leadership. As Lindsay Graham pointed out the difference between Cruz and Trump is the difference between being poisoned and shot. But does the leadership have the moxie to open the door for Cruz by eliminating Trump on second and later ballots? Dumping Trump risks either a third party run or having his committed supporters sit out the election – both major blows to the eventual candidate.

Although Cruz is on record unequivocally proclaiming that whoever enters the convention with the most delegates should be the nominee, his is obviously seeking to be the nominee once Trump is dumped. This is not an unrealistic expectation. The Republican leadership knows full well that the polls show Cruz faring much better against Clinton and Sanders than Trump.

But they also know that Kasich fares better yet. Although a very distant third and well behind Cruz, Kasich is hanging on in the hope that he is the latter ballot nominee who is more palatable to the Republican Establishment than Cruz. And maybe, just maybe, he has been told to hang on – shades of 2012.

But does the leadership have the chutzpah to tank Cruz too? Does Cruz take it and walk away quietly? That would be very unlike him. If Trump’s supporters sit out the election, do Cruz’s arch conservative supporters do the same? Could any of the Trump and Cruz voters ever be motivated to vote for Kasich? There are signs in polling data that this would be a very hard sell, and that gives rise to the next issue: Would they vote in large enough numbers to defeat the Democrat? Would it make any difference if the leadership wheeled out Paul Ryan and once again threw him under the bus? You can bet the farm that Ryan’s candidacy and maybe that of another one or two has been tested in confidential polls.

Some very nasty and risk-laden decisions are ahead for the GOP.

The Right Candidate?

Just as Trump may not be the right campaign target for the Democrats, an argument can be made that Clinton is not the right candidate, especially if Cruz or Kasich is the opponent. Some recent poll numbers tell the tale of how well Clinton and Sanders do against the Republican alternatives.

Both Hillary and Berne look like winners over Trump, but Bernie looks like a more convincing winner. When it comes to Cruz, Hillary is in a dead heat horse race while Bernie again looks like a winner. Kasich is an entirely different story. He has a decent lead over Clinton and appears to be neck and neck with Bernie.

Taken together these polling data support Sanders’ claim that he is the stronger candidate in the general election.

  VERSUS TRUMP        
  Poll Date Clinton Trump Diff
  NBC/Wall St Jrnl 3/6 51% 38% 13%
  ABC/Washngton Post 3/6 50% 41% 9%
  Rasmussen 3/1 41% 36% 5%
  CNN/ORC 2/27 52% 44% 8%
  FOX News 2/17 47% 42% 5%
  Poll Date Sanders Trump Diff
  NBC/Wall St Jrnl 3/6 55% 37% 18%
  CNN/ORC 2/27 55% 43% 12%
  FOX News 2/17 53% 38% 15%
           
  VERSUS CRUZ        
  Poll Date Clinton Cruz Diff
  NBC/Wall St Jrnl 3/6 47% 45% 2%
  CNN/ORC 2/27 48% 49% -1%
  FOX News 2/17 45% 46% -1%
  Quinniiac 2/15 43% 46% -3%
  USA Today/Suffolk 2/15 44% 45% -1%
  Poll Date Sanders Cruz Diff
  CNN/ORC 2/27 57% 40% 17%
  Quinniiac 2/15 49% 39% 10%
  USA Today/Suffolk 2/15 44% 42% 2%
           
  VERSUS KASICH        
  Poll Date Clinton Kasich Diff
  FOX News 2/17 44% 47% -3%
  Quinniiac 2/15 39% 47% -8%
  USA Today/Suffolk 2/15 38% 49% -11%
  Poll Date Sanders Kasich Diff
  Quinniiac 2/15 45% 41% 4%
  USA Today/Suffolk 2/15 41% 44% -3%

Clinton’s substantial delegate lead is due heavily to her large margin of 467 to 26 in super-delegates whom, by the way, Sanders is intensely trying to sway. These representatives of the Democratic leadership likely will control which of the two gets the nomination. The odds of them exercising their clout are increased by the timing of the Republican and Democratic Conventions. The Republicans gather in Cleveland on July 18 and the Democrats a week later in Philadelphia. The Democratic leadership has the luxury of seeing who the Republicans nominate before they have to make their choice. The intervening week also gives them all of the time they need for some last minute polls.

If Trump is the Republican nominee, then Hillary probably gets the nod. But if it is Cruz, Kasich or some other candidate, the situation changes and Bernie might well emerge with the nomination. With control of the Senate in play, four Supreme Court vacancies to be filled over the next eight years, and Congressional redistricting (gerrymandering) following the 2020 Census, you can be sure that the Democratic leadership will use the convention to maximize the chances for the Democrats.

If you think the choice of a nominee in either party is nearing conclusion, it is time to think again.

Electability, Head-To-Head Matchups, And Other Mindless Media Hype!

If you are like me, you are really tired of hearing commentators talk about polling that shows how the general election results look.  These “head-to-head matchups” are bogus crap.  They tend to make John Kasich and Bernie Sanders looks like the Gods of Politics because they do so well in these exercises. 

Headline: John Kasich beat Hillary Clinton in the latest Yada-Yada-Yada Poll; Bernie Sanders does better than HRC against this or that R in that same poll!

All that is meaningless.  “If the election were held today” means nothing because (surprise) the election isn’t being held today. None of the candidates have yet gone through the firestorm of a general election for President of the United States. 

Kasich and Sander do so well in these current match-ups in the polls for simple reasons.  Kasich has, because of the attention paid to front-runners, basically been able to run under the radar.  All those achievements he so proudly touts in debates have not been challenged for a moment—because no one in the R contest sees him as important enough to attack.  Those dubious claims (e.g., I balanced the Federal budget) will be dissected in any general election and shown to be the fluff that they truly are.  Also, his darker side (just signed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood) will be exposed.

Bernie has benefited from the relatively civilized tone of the D contests. The focus there is on issues.  But, there is a reason that Bernie spent twenty years in Congress and got pretty much nothing done.  He may excite young voters with his call for free college educations and rev up working class folks who want protectionist trade policy, but when he gets called on to flesh out those programs and policies, voters will see the bills that need to be paid to support these benefits. Also, like all the Rs, when pushed on foreign policy, his lack of experience and knowledge will make him much less appealing.

HRC comes the closest to having weathered the hell that is a general election for president in this country in that she endured two such campaigns with her spouse, and she has been a constant target of R attacks for her role as Secretary of State and as the presumed D candidate in 2016.  Everyone knows her, and everyone has heard something (true or not) bad about her.  That previous scrutiny is probably why her numbers seem low at this point in these early polls.  They probably won’t go up much in a general election, but what I am arguing here is that others will surely go down.

So, networks and polling organizations will keep doing these mindless exercises.  After all, they treat elections like horse races, and the pre-race odds are always a big part of the reporting.  But, you might want to wait until October to pay any attention to this drivel.  And, even then, you need to remember that it is the state-by-state votes in the electoral college (with its winner-take-all approach to state electors) that really counts, not the overall popular vote. 

An email conversation over the last few days between the dynamic duo.  Charles is in red; George is in blue

MARCH 21,2016

Even though he is now doing a fund-raiser for Cruz. Graham was correct. Choosing between Cruz and Trump is like the difference between being poisoned and being shot.

Graham speaks the truth.

Cruz is scarier to me than Trump. He is evil and sleazy but slick. Recent polls show Clinton beating Trump by somewhere around 13% to 15%, but she only leads Cruz by 2% to 5%.

What do you want to bet that Trump now brands Cruz as the Establishment candidate and as an insider. The more of the Republican leadership that, like Graham and Romney, speaks out about voting for Cruz, the more they will validate Trump’s accusations that Cruz is a pawn of the Establishment. At every turn they play into his hands. They remind me of the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

By being lily-livered and pitifully slow in taking on Trump, the Republican leadership really did a masterful job of boxing themselves in. No one, not even Trump, could have done it to them to the degree that they did it to themselves.

Right now my reading of the tea leaves says that they will dump Donald at the convention, put up someone else and Donald will go 3rd party. But the situation is very fluid and hard to predict, due largely to the awesome lack of principles among the Republican leadership.  

I think they will all drink the Kool-Aid and accept Drumpf and try to save the Senate.
I hope they take that path. If Hillary and her advisors keep their heads about them, Hillary wins against Trump and probably has big coattails. Trump’s appeal is quite narrow.

In addition, Republican Senate and House candidates will have to run against their Presidential candidate. The Republican leadership and campaign strategists already are advising them to do so. This will undercut Trump and it will anger Trump’s supporters who then likely as not will not vote for these candidates. This will not help save the Senate for the Republicans.

Think about it. What Senate or House candidate in his or her right mind will appear on stage with him? Who would join him as VP? Barry Goldwater, who was not as extreme as Trump, had to reach for Curtis Lemay, the General who thought a nuclear war was winnable. Do you remember that?

By allowing Trump to get this far, the GOP faces some miserable choices.

At one level I am so glad to see the GOP in such disarray. They deserve it for pandering to their wing nuts, for their racist opposition to Obama, and for a litany of other things. Nevertheless, I would hope that the Republican leadership uses this opportunity to purge the party of the wing nuts and those who put ideology before country. A well-functioning democracy requires an opposition, but a loyal opposition that keeps the nation in balance by keeping the party in power from drifting to extremes. Total fracturing of the GOP is not in the best long-term interests of America.

The problem for the Rs is that they have built a sizable portion of their electoral base on social issues and brought in, as voters, a bunch of folks who don’t really give a fig for or share the establishment Rs conservative orthodoxy.

To hear The Cruzzer talk about the middle class is just laughable and shows just how corruptly cynical he is.  Neither he nor the R establishment give a damn about working people. Never have; never will. They just beat the right wing cultural drums louder and louder—guns, God, grits and gravy BS—and have gotten people to vote against their economic interest for years now.

Some folks have finally caught on, and Trump offers them a real target for their deep-seated and growing frustration.  The establishment Rs have spent the last eight years doing nothing but pointing a finger at Obama–it’s finally an empty bag for Trumpeteers, the Emperor’s new clothes.  They know yelling “it is Obama’s fault” hasn’t really gotten them anything.  

They now want blood and red meat, and that is what Drumpf gives them.  But, I think the establishment Rs will dip their knee.  They will write-off the Prez and try to cut down ticket losses.

Your analysis of the GOP’s ills is right on and I hope your conclusion about them not dumping Donald proves correct. All along I have felt that this was a real possibility and that is why I have referred to the Republican leadership as spineless hypocrites. Trump as the nominee is the outcome for which I hope and pray

How Trump is handled in the convention likely will be determined by the size of his delegate lead. The closer he is to 1,237, the more likely it is that they kneel to kiss his ring. The bigger the gap, the more the Establishment may not be able to resist scuttling him.

A few more state primaries will tell the tale. Here’s the Trump as candidate scenario. Cruz runs out of evangelicals in the remaining States. Kasich doesn’t win Wisconsin and realizes that he is dead meat. On top of this, Trump proves as strong as he looks in delegate rich NY, NJ, PA, and CA in addition to a bunch of small States like AZ. If it plays out this way, the leadership will show up at the convention with their knee pads on.

I have been blithely expecting the convention to follow the path of the primaries.  But, as commentators have now begun to point out, the RNC basically operates like the Politburo ─ they have an outcome they want and bend and twist the rules to get it.  The convention rules are set just a week or so before the convention by the Rules Committee, and they can be anything the Rules Committee wants. 

Also, it seems that winning a primary means largely nothing when it comes to who is a delegate from a state.  Ron Paul taught them that lesson in 2012.  He lost primary after primary, only to have the most delegates from a number of states.  But, when he had garnered the on-the-floor support of six states required to give him a 15-minute speaking slot, they changed the rules to eight states to keep him off the podium.  They also sent most of his Maine delegates home and substituted Romney delegates. 

As one R said (I paraphrase), “All these ‘hypothetical’ delegate counts are interesting, but no one knows how many delegates any candidate has until the first ballot.”

Even though all these shenanigans could happen, this time the party regulars face a guy who is “clearing the table” in terms of primary wins. All the 2012 double-dealing was basically swept under the rug.  This time around, the media are primed, and Trump will scream like a stuck pig if they try to hose him over.  If they use skullduggery to deny the front-runner the nomination, they will be fully exposed for what they are ─ a bunch of political hacks whose commitment to democracy extends as far as the end of their own noses.

I think that the Republican Establishment would prefer to use their stacked Rules Committee as a last resort; it is so blatantly heavy-handed. However, a more important consideration to them is that use of the Rue Committee would almost certainly infuriate Trump and push him into a third party run. His campaign manager signaled this a few days ago when he said that, if Trump is blocked at the convention, he would walk out of the hall and leave the Republican Party forever.

In the run-up to the convention, the leadership will try every tactic that they can conjure to stop.

One current tactic that seems to be emerging is selective or strategic voting. Although Romney is far from being the only Establishment Republican counseling this, he is the most pubic about it. Going into Ohio, he said that, although he was not endorsing Kasich, he would be voting for him if he was an Ohio resident. He asked Ohioans to do the same. Now with his home State of Utah coming up, he has said he will vote for Cruz and is asking others to do the same and he added that this does not mean that he is endorsing Cruz.

For Ohio, the leadership got Rubio to ask his supporters to vote for Kasich. But so far they have not been able to get Cruz and Kasich to play the game of asking their supporters, in States where they are distinctly well behind in third place, to vote for the one of them who leads or is close to Trump. I don’t think that this will work. Cruz lusts for the Presidency and I think that Kasich just doesn’t like playing this sort of ball.

If the Republican leadership fails to eliminate Trump before the convention, they appear to be so committed to stopping him that, in spite of all of its negatives, there remains a good chance, maybe an excellnt chance, that they will use their Rules Committee as a last resort.

Wow, this is the best soap opera that has been on in a long time.

March 16,2016

George provides a great analysis of Super Tuesday Redux.  I am more interested in commenting on some of what I heard last night from R commentators, okay really just one. 

CHARLES

NICOLE WALLACE AND “HONORING TRUMP SUPPORTERS”

Last night on MSNBC, Nicole Wallace gave her version of who and what Drumpf and his voters mean.  For her they are “typical old-fashioned voters.”  As she put it these voters, “don’t like Trump because of his campaign’s racist or anti-Islamic overtones; they like him in spite of them.” They like him because he feels their needs and “tells it like it is.” According to this woman, we need to “honor Trump supporters.”

I was personally fascinated by this heartfelt empathy for those who support Trump.  Nicole seems so nice, and she has such a good haircut and cute nose.  But, she is full of s**t.  If your typical old fashioned voter is someone excited by Trump’s basic message, which (let’s get serious here) is “Make American White Again,” then Trump voters are those typical old fashioned racist and nativist voters whom the Rs have depended on for decades.  Trump is channeling his audiences’ anger that the establishment Rs have done nothing to keep America from changing, the most notable change being an African-American family in the White House that doesn’t have to serve White people lunch. 

The NYT exit polls for SC Rs primary showed that 78% of those who thought “telling it like it is” is the most important quality for a candidate voted for Drumpf.  But, anyone who pays any attention at all knows that he tells it like it “will play best” with disaffected Republicans and Independents. 

  • He will build a wall and Mexico will pay for it.
  • He will deport all illegals.
  • He will stop accepting Islamic immigrants.

None of that crap is “like it is.”  It is pandering to the worst fears and aspects of American political culture.  It is not some sort of random event that White Supremacists and the KKK support Trump so vigorously.  They hate “like it is.”  But, they love Trumps vision of “what it might be.”

Nicole, Trump’s voters don’t really like him in spite of his barely veiled racism (Get a job!); his pseudo-macho posturing (I’d like to punch him in the mouth!) or his Islamophobia.  They really do like him because of it. Try not to be a twit!

Nicole, you might try reading a bit and remembering some of it. Remember the Public Policy Polling results from September, 2015.  These are your typical old fashioned implicit (and explicit too) racist “Southern Strategy” R voters the party have told lies to since the late 1960s. The PPP results indicated that:

“Trump is benefiting from a GOP electorate that thinks Barack Obama is a Muslim and was born in another country, and that immigrant children should be deported. 66% of Trump’s supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim to just 12% that grant he’s a Christian. 61% think Obama was not born in the United States to only 21% who accept that he was. And 63% want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship, to only 20% who want to keep things the way they are.”

And, it was your typical establishment Rs that encouraged this crap, while it didn’t threaten their power in the party.  As one Middle Eastern cartoonist laid it out, “Trumpenstein” is just an escapee from the Republican Party laboratory dedicated to ginning up opposition to Obama—a toxic element that got out of hand.  

trumpenstein

It is all sort of like a perverted version of the 1995 movie “Outbreak.” That is the one where Dustin Hoffman and Renee Russo wear really ugly protective gear as they try to save a city from a deadly viral outbreak.  Except in this version, there is no CDC, and the Air Force can’t even threaten to incinerate those infected.

As my dear friend, Ms. Wallace, noted many Trump supporters are truly confused and in cultural pain. I get that. I understand that very clearly, and I know that Trump is exploiting them horribly. But, that gives them no license to fall so blindly for his bullshit and to strike out at others and at the values to which this country so rightfully aspires.

So, I am forced to admit my feelings about honoring Trump supporters are limited to hoping someone really nice, maybe an Iman (not the model) or a Salvadoran priest involved in the Sanctuary Movement, say a few kind words over the grave of their political aspirations and the presidential hopes of their conman standard bearer after this election.  That is all the honoring they deserve.

[GEORGE HASN’T SEEN THIS. SO AS THE SAYING GOES, ANY ERRORS OF FACT OR LAPSES IN GOOD MANNERS OR GOOD TASTE ARE THE FULL RESPONSIBILITY OF CHARLES]

Now here is another of George’s insightful contributions.

THE DAY AFTER

I have been focusing more on the Republicans but, with Super Tuesday in the books, it seems time to take a look at the Democrats before visiting what is becoming the Elephant exhibit.

Democrats

Last night’s results appear to have sealed Hillary’s nomination. She won Florida, North Carolina and Ohio convincingly, Illinois with a respectable edge considering Rom Emanuel, and although it is essentially a tie, she is leading in Missouri, a State on which Sanders was counting. Of particular note, Bernie lost Ohio to her by double digits even though he spent more time there and outspent her 3 to 2.

US ELECTORAL MAP

Earlier she posted wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. As shown in the map below, she has won in the north as well as the south and in red States, gray States and blue States. Rather clearly she stands a much better chance in November than Bernie of carrying competitive States like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Virginia. Such States have to fall to the Democrats if a Democrat is to be President

Sanders is essentially out of the running. He has scant to no chance of catching up to Hillary. Even in the unlikely event that he wins a substantial number of the remaining states, the proportional allocation makes it essentially impossible for him to gain the nomination. He would need repeated lopsided victories in states with large numbers of delegates, especially in all three of California, New York and Pennsylvania. It is hard to envision such a scenario.

There will be a chorus proclaiming that he should drop out. This, however, does not appear to be in Hillary’s best interest. Trump is a master of getting media attention. Without Sanders to run against, without head-to-head debates and town halls, without more primary races, the media has little incentive to cover Hillary. Can you really see them giving a lot of air time to her stump speeches? Without Bernie, Trump is left in command of the stage.

What the Democratic Party and Hillary should avoid are head-to-head debates in which the two can assail each other. The town hall format is a much better strategy for the November election.

The biggest mistake that the Democrats can make from here on out is to underestimate Trump. He is no buffoon. He just hijacked the Republican party with surprising ease.

REPUBLICANS

Trump has rather masterfully capitalize on the split in the GOP engendered when the Republican leadership allowed the party to drift too far to the right. Clinging to the illusion of party unity, they thought they could manage their far right and they kept deluding themselves that Trump would self-destruct. They badly underestimated how clever he can be. They then compounded the problem by not running anyone of substance or attractiveness against him. Rubio, their dream candidate, turned out to be what he was – an inexperienced rookie without great policy conviction who made too many rookie errors. Bush simply was boring, Christie offered nothing germane to the national level, Kasich was too far to the center for their national base, and on and on. It turns out that Trump’s main challenger is Cruz who is widely disliked and spurned by his colleagues in Congress.

Add to this that the Republican leadership failed to grasp the extent and implications of the anger generated in the electorate by Washington gridlock and you have Donald Trump in the lead and sure to remain there. With only 1,006 Republican delegates at stake in the remaining primaries, there are not enough for any candidate other than Trump to reach 1,237 on the first ballot.

The Republican leadership will be dining on Maalox right through the convention and the election. They face a daunting series of decisions and none of their choices portends a favorable outcome.

Do they continue their campaign to discredit him? Can they actually stop him? Does trying only deliver damaged goods for the November election? All signs point to a continuing effort to derail his candidacy.

How do they spend the many millions that they have amassed and are amassing to stop Trump? Undoubtedly a big piece will be used to pummel him. It seems very unlikely that they will surrender now and halt their efforts to deny him the 1,237 delegates he needs. But how should they spend the rest spent? On Cruz? On Kasich? Equally on the two? Unequally favoring one? Spending it only to assail Hillary can leave them without a viable non-Trump candidate after the convention.

Their next big problem is the rules they have set for their convention. The key rule requires candidates prove majority support among pledged delegates from at least eight state delegations. It also mandates that candidates meet the eight-state threshold not less than one hour prior to the placing of the names of candidates for nomination. Only Trump meets these criteria. It appears to be quite a stretch to imagine Cruz or Kasich getting 50% of the delegates in even a few of the remaining States. Neither Cruz nor Kasich reached 50% in their home States. The rule also blocks the leadership from pulling a candidate out of the woodwork. It would appear that the Republican Establishment will have to use its stacked Rues Committee to change that rule if it wants someone other than Trump. This is sure to infuriate him. Does it push him into a third party run? He hasn’t been coy about saying that it will.

Around whom would they coalesce? Looked at realistically, Kasich has a better chance of beating Clinton than does Cruz. Cruz, however, is likely to enter the convention with a significant delegate lead on Kasich. Given the Establishment’s disdain for Cruz, does the Establishment have the temerity run a convention that dumps both Trump and Cruz? What will Cruz do? Might he join Donald in a third part run? Will Trump and Cruz supporters go to the polls for the substitute in the numbers needed to defeat Hillary?

Rallying around Trump as the nominee is also far from a winning strategy. It places GOP in the horrible, quite untenable position of having its House and Senate candidates openly dissociating themselves from Trump in order for the party to prevent a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate and not to take significant losses in the House. It already is being reported that Establishment strategists are advising their candidates for Congress to distance themselves from Trump.

Even in the unlikely event Trump swallows his pride and chooses not to run as 3rd party, by dumping Trump in the convention, the Establishment will have alienated Trump’s core constituency many or most of whom likely will sit out the November election.

In the midst of this, the Republican Establishment would be wise not to once again underestimate The Donald.

Knowing full well the quandary into which he has herded them, Donald already is increasing the pressure. Referring to his constituency of millions, Trump this morning told Chris Cuomo on CNN: “If you disenfranchise those people, and you say, ‘I’m sorry, you’re 100 votes short’ … I think you’d have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen.” At another point in the interview he stated: “I think you’d have riots.”

Then he outfoxed them again later in the afternoon when he withdrew from the next debate. With his delegate lead safely tucked under his arm, why should he give air time to his rivals? He can get as much air time as he wants from the viewer-hungry media with one antic after the next. By staying clear of debates, he not only denies his rivals a forum, but he dodges a situation that is more dangerous to him that the previous debates. Trump is extremely thin on the details of the policies and programs to achieve his stated aims. One conservative talk show host recently commented that Trump could at least scan a briefing book.

That Trump’s policy proclamations are baseless fantasies is well illustrated in his “victory” speech following yesterday’s primaries. His claims about bringing jobs back to the US clearly illustrate this. Let’s take is claim that he will make Apple manufacture its products in the US. For this to happen:

  1. The law will have to be changed to allow Apple and other manufacturers to repatriate the money tax free. For years, there has been little true Republican support for this – a lot of talk but no legislation introduced.
  2. Apple and the other firms would have to be induced to build the factories needed to assemble their products in the US. Given high US real estate and construction costs, this will require very substantial tax breaks.
  3. The parts suppliers for the end goods made by Apple and others normally are located in the countries where their plants currently are located. Moving assembly back t the US will add shipping costs to goods produced in the US. Some relief would have to be provided to offset these new costs.
  4. The US does not have a labor force large enough to meet the needs of al of the US companies now manufacturing overseas.
  5. The US government would have to heavily subsidize the salaries of US workers to reduce production costs far enough to keep the prices of domestically manufactured goods competitive with firms that use cheap Third World labor,

Obviously this is not going to happen.

His claims about Pfizer, Carrier and the others are similarly fatally flawed. As a businessman, Trump has to know this. This is why Romney and other astute businessmen call him a con man. He is offering only words designed to fool the uninformed and unthinking.

In debates against Cruz and Kasich, they are sure to call him out on his many baseless and ill-formed policy and program pronouncements. Trump can’t risk this. If he does again share a stage with Cruz and Kasich, it most likely will use a town hall format in which they do not have direct access to him.

This is going to get very interesting.

 

MARCH 14, 2015

This is great. George writes extended thoughtful pieces and I get to kibitz.

GEORGE

THE LINES SHARPEN

Tuesday brings primaries in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio that could be decisive for both parties but especially for the Republicans.

REPUBLICANS

With Kasich moving ahead in Ohio by 6 points, the polls show Trump poised to sweep the remaining four. In Florida, multiple recent polls show him with a 2-to-1 lead over Rubio with Cruz and Kasich far back. In Illinois he is leading with 32% to 22% for Cruz, 21% for Rubio and 18% for Kasich while in Missouri Trump leads Cruz 36% to 29% with Rubio at 9% and Kasich at 8%. North Carolina seems a certainty for Trump. He leads Cruz 48% to 28% with Kasich at 12% and Rubio at 8%.

There are 367 Republican delegates at stake on Tuesday. If he gets only 60% of them, the Dump Trump forces would need to win about 65% of the remaining delegates to oust him in the convention. With the GOP’s winner-take-all rules dominating the remaining states including big states like California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Trump seems very much on pace to enter the convention with the 1,237 delegates that he needs to win on the first ballot.

What has the GOP Establishment so bent out of shape is that Trump also seems poised to take a drubbing in the general election. The polls they are watching show, with some variation, Clinton beating Trump by 13 points or so and Sanders beating him by about 18 points. But to their great distress, they also are seeing Cruz and Rubio within plus or minus 2% of Clinton.

Much of the criticism of Trump from Rs takes on a moralistic tone–“you can’t divide the country this way and expect to be a president.”  This is all patent Bullshit.  George is correct that what they really don’t want is this guy losing them the Prez and the Senate in 2016.  If his polls were better, they would be polishing his shoes with their ties.  The Rs lost any claim to the moral high-ground with their unprincipled attacks on President Obama. They loved Trump when he was just a clown spewing out sick venom that a segment of their base loved. I take this back to Gingrich and the attack on Bill Clinton. Since then, politics has been a fact-free fire zone where the loudest voices making the most  outrageous claims win the day.

And, the media are as much to blame as the Rs.  The media don’t give a shit for politics. They want ratings and entertainment.  The Donald got more free air time than all the other Rs put together.  He was a better show.  I can’t count the number of times, even on MSNBC. that their show included a major segment of free time for this vicious clown. Joe Scarborough should have just joined his campaign staff.

If they wish to dump The Donald, their choices are quickly being reduced to two, assuming that Tuesday plays out as the polls indicate. They can use their dominance of the convention’s Rules Committee to change the rules to block Truump or, in the greatest display of hypocrisy in memory, they can rally around the man that, in the bluntest of language, they called a charlatan and con man who is unfit to be our President.

Watch with wonder as these chameleons change color at the convention.  You saw the candidates drink the kool-aid at the debate.  The bosses will as well.  

 

DEMOCRATS

The Democratic race is an interesting battle between the passionate Sanders who is focused on what is wrong and the offenders and the pragmatic Clinton who wants to fix the problem. For example, this was quite clear when Bernie’s first statements on Flint’s water problems focused on the horror of the situation and on the resignation of Gov. Rick Snyder. Clinton’s first instincts led her to speak about on what needed to be done. Later Bernie moved to solutions and Clinton agreed on dumping Snyder.

Bernie’s focus on the scoundrels and reprobates also is plain in his thundering against Wall Street. This example additionally shows his proclivity to toss out the baby with the bath water. On one issue after the next, his villains are corporations and financial institutions that he intends to tax to pay for much of his core agenda – free college education, universal medical care, and the like. He seems to fail to grasp two key points about corporate taxes. First, corporations do not pay these taxes. Consumers do. Corporations treat taxes as a cost of doing business and pass them on in the price of their good and services. Second, the increased prices for their goods and services make American corporations less competitive with their foreign counterparts. This translates first into reduced sales and labor force reductions. It also reduces the revenue base on which the taxes are calculated with the consequence of less tax income to the government to fund the very programs that he wants to fund through his tax hikes. The higher he drives the tax rates to compensate for the reduced revenue base the more he pushes the situation toward a death spiral. It won’t get to this point but it does show that his plan is fatally flawed even if he could get it passed.

This Tuesday seems to be headed in Hillary’s direction. Florida (60% to 34%) and North Carolina (58% to 34%) seems like sure wins for her and a recent poll shows her leading Sanders 47% to 40% in Missouri. Illinois and Ohio are more problematic or her. The last poll in Ohio shows her up on Sanders 52% to 43% but the specter of Michigan is still abroad. In Illinois she is burdened by Rom Emanuel and the last poll shows Sanders leading 48% to 46%.

Regardless of how many of the states that she wins, her lopsided wins in Florida and North Carolina coupled with being either a bit ahead or slightly behind Sanders in the other three states mean that her delegate lead on Berne will increase.

Any astute observer must surmise that Sanders is no longer running to win. He is all but mathematically out of the running; he certainly is in any practical terms. A dedicated socialist, he appears to be running to push the party to further left. To date, he has been very successful in doing this by capitalizing on the public’s anger over years of bad government due to gridlock, about which he joined the pan-party chorus erroneously blaming it on the Establishment. It wasn’t insiders that caused the gridlock. The Republicans didn’t even try to hide the fact that they intended to block anything promoted by Obama. This continues to this day in their avowed refusal to consider anyone who Obama might put forward for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. They even had an easy way out – consider the candidate and use their majority to deny consent. Rather they chose what they had been choosing; blind total opposition.

Bernie rather naturally joins in the anti-Establishment chorus. Although in Congress for 24 uninterrupted years since 1990, his views as a diehard socialist have made him a consummate outsider. In one respect, as a firm believer in socialist approaches, he is similar to those on the far right who similarly base their positions on beliefs rather than facts, information and careful thought.

Bernie has been quite successful in his quest to bring drive the issues farther to the left. He is losing the nomination but he is directing the issues. His quest, however, may be shortsighted. He has moved Hillary further to the left. But as a result, will it allow Trump to take more votes from the center than he otherwise would? I wonder if Bernie knows that he is playing with fire. I wonder whether, when the nomination is decided, he will go again on the stump to deliver his constituency to Hillary.

Bernie has lost.  But, he is intoxicated by this victories.  He spent over twenty years in the Congress and no one listened to him.  Now, he has his bully by-god pulpit.  He has done a good job of moving Hillary to the left.  BUT, he is continuing to campaign as if he has a chance of winning and doesn’t care what he does to the Ds in the general election.  He calls out Hillary on her speeches to Wall Street.  What does that do but sling mud and make her seem untrustworthy–which is exactly what the Rs want?  He runs the danger of slipping from a policy based opposition to a rat in heat running for office.  

March 5, 2016
GEORGE

To Split or Not to Split

Spurred by Romney’s address at the University of Utah, the week has been filled with loud and incessant attacks on Trump from GOP regulars coupled with various strategies on how to defeat him or block him at the July convention. Some fundamental misunderstandings underlie what we have been witnessing. To begin, Trump’s supporters are rather impervious to information and they are not traditional Reagan conservatives.

A hallmark of many of those drawn into the GOP at the time of Nixon’s Southern Strategy and in the decades since is that they anchor themselves in firm beliefs. These can be ardent commitments to religious and moral views, deeply held feelings about States’ rights, and strong beliefs on a range of political and social issues. On the extremes, they also can include prejudices, whether vocal or subtle, about race, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

The many pundits and Republican leaders who are trying to scuttle Trump cannot fathom why so many continue to support him in spite of what they see as an enormous range of obvious and serious faults –  his callousness, vulgarity, boorishness and dishonesty, as well as his lack of coherent views on the range of domestic and international issues. Traditional conservatives are baffled when his supporters stick with him even when his pronouncements on key issues flip-flop from one day to the next with the flimsiest of excuses.

What these pundits and Republican leaders fail to recognize is that beliefs can be immune to even sound information and the best reasoning and, at the very least, they are highly resistant to them. A few examples well illustrate this. In spite of all the evidence from cosmology, paleontology, geology and a host of other scientific disciplines many Creationists cling to the beliefs that the earth and universe were created in seven days, that their age can be calculated by counting the generations in the Bible, and that we co-existed with the dinosaurs (dragons). Similarly, beliefs about gender roles, sexuality and many more social and moral issues are well rooted in centuries of tradition and writings.

Trump’s supporters are believers and Donald recognizes this.

The pundits and leaders also cannot comprehend why Trump backers so easily walk away from conservative positions and policies, and why pointing out to them that he is not a conservative seems to have no impact. The fact is that those who so rabidly are supporting Trump never were traditional fiscal and political conservatives. They were and are social conservatives. Trump recognized this and, for example, knew that he could thumb his nose with impunity at Friday’s CPAC meeting. Initial reactions from Trump supporters are validating what Donald knew. They cheer him and decry CPAC as a collection of the insiders with whom they are fed up.

As others have pointed out, CPAC embraced Drumpf when he began his birther crusade. IT was an early part of his bully pulpit.  And, let us not forget, they certainly liked the taste of his $$$$.

On one issue the GOP regulars appear to be coming around. Many are recognizing and some are publicly admitting that Trump is not a conservative. In fact, he is not even a Republican. He is an opportunist who is flying the GOP’s colors because they were more available. Had there been a large, weak, chaotic field of Democrats pitted against a shoe-in Republican, it is not that far fetched to envision him campaigning under the Democratic banner.

 

With the Obama coalition, Drumpf would be hard-pressed to pull that off. And, it is the Obama coalition that is the big prize for Ds.  But, that doesn’t mean he might not try.  He just wouldn’t get very far.

This situation does not bode well either for blocking his nomination or for healing the GOP. How does one in a matter of weeks turn around voters who tend to promote beliefs over information and argument, and who never were traditional conservatives in the first place? In general, it can’t be done. The best that can be done is to scrape off some at the edges.

In all likelihood the GOP is headed for a brokered or contested convention or, more politely, an open convention. The GOP regulars are counting on this but it is not going to be easy. The odds-makers give Trump a 67% chance of being the nominee.

I would put it at 80%.  Folks may go into the convention with their home state and some delegates, but denying the front-runner the nomination would look worse than losing with the nitwit.

The Republican campaign is headed into the winner-take-all phase with Trump in the lead and poised to kick it off with a win in delegate-rich Florida. Cruz’s determination to deny Rubio his home State will help Trump corral these 99 delegates. The best chance to block Trump from the 1,237 delegates that he needs to win on the first ballot is to concentrate the non-Trump vote so as to deny him first place in the largest number of winner-take-all contests. The fly in this ointment is that all three of Cruz, Kasich and Rubio are dreaming of becoming the nominee on the second or later ballots.

 

I think that Kasich may be Trump’s running mate.  They have been gloves off through all of this.  Kasich would give Drumpf cred with real Rs, and he knows something, in fact a lot, about government, unlike Drumpf.  Plus, Ohio would be a hard win for Ds in the general election with Kasich on the ticket.  With Kasich on the ticket,  I think Hillary would have to think past the Castro brothers to Sherrod Brown, who would give Kasich a fight in Ohio and who is definitely a “steely-eyed” progressive Democrat.

Concentrating the non-Trump vote does not necessarily mean reducing the campaign to a two-person race. The most effective strategy is one that assesses which set of candidates can keep Trump out of first place in the greatest number of States. It would seem that Cruz and Kasich would be best with Rubio dropping out.

Even if GOP regulars succeed in stopping Trump on the first ballot, they are faced with a set of difficult choices. Regulars will control the Convention Rules Committee. Do they use it to ensure a lockout of Trump? Around whom do they coalesce on later ballots? Cruz? Kasich? Someone else?

My best guess is that they will coalesce around Trump. After denouncing him as unfit for office, as not being a conservative, as being destructive to America both domestically and internationally, and after getting their super PACs and the Koch brothers to spend hundreds of millions to defeat him, they will rally around The Donald in a display of hypocrisy unheard of even among spineless politicians. Chasing the illusion of party unity, they will once again promote party over country.

Look at the last debate, they all took a glass of the Kool-Aid and drank it down.  That simply foreshadows the convention.  But, GOD, do I hate the idea of that bloated  narcissistic demagogue as an honest-to-god candidate of a major party.  As I noted earlier, limbo rock is alive and well in the heart of the Rs.

What they fear most is the breakup of the GOP with all of the difficulties of rebuilding to capture independents and to generate appeal among women, Latinos, African-Americans and people of diverse faiths. Trump knows this. In his Saturday night press conference, he was not in the least bit subtle about running as a third party if denied the nomination. Cruz added to their woes by declaring that any attempt to block the front-runner would be thoroughly unacceptable to him and the voters. You can safely bet that this raises among the leadership and regulars the specter of a Trump-Cruz ticket running against their nominee.

Think of the astounding irony. By spinelessly caving in, they will offer to the voters the clearest proof that Washington insiders are no more than weak and deceitful opportunists without any conviction other than remaining in office – exactly what the voters are angry about and exactly what Trump The Outsider has been preaching against.

 

Too freaking true. Great piece of analysis.

Conversation after Republican debate (?)

GEORGE

After last night, I had a brainstorm for a bumper sticker.

HE SUCKS. VOTE FOR ME.

It would save a lot of money because it could be used universally by Trump, Rubio or Cruz.

CHARLES

Boy, what a bunch of guys!  This is a cluster**k of truly epic proportions.

Trump ─ They’ve got a guy whose relationship with the truth always hangs by a very thin thread and whose style of oratory makes us all harken back to those salad days on the school yard when the mean boys and girls were working out their verbal aggression on some poor sod.

Cruz ─ Another leader of the pack is a Joe McCarthyesque creep who is deeply and bone-chillingly devoted to a narrative that frightens the bejesus out of anyone who has half a brain. His concept of a good idea is screaming “no” to anything Obama even thought of while taking a smoke.  Plus, under the “original intent” doctrine of constitutional interpretation that he loves so much, he can’t even be elected president. 

Rubio ─ We then have Little Marco, who has in fact shown himself to the be the light-weight his opponent claims.  When this is over, he will notice that his great contribution to modern American discourse is to suggest his opponent has a small cock. 

Marco, you need to remember this stuff lives forever on the web.  You have made yourself an eternal poster-boy for politics gone way wrong.  His cock?  Oh, for heaven’s sake.  The only good thing to come out of that whole exchange is that he got the other guy to engage in the cock-size debate.

Not too much to brag about, fellas, not too much to proudly tell the grand-kids.

Kasich ─ The tail wagged by these other dogs is a guy who just hopes to hang on to his home state so he has some gas in his tank when the convention comes along.

This campaign is sort of like “limbo rock.”  Remember that one ─ “How low can you go?” Pretty freaking low, it seems. I think you are probably right the real message at this point in the campaign can be boiled down to your pithy phrase ─ He Sucks. Vote for Me.

Moving on

On a somewhat more elevated note, it seems that more and more pundits (even traditional Rs) are owning up to the truth of your (George’s) analysis about the roots of Trump’s success.  The Rs have been playing “dog-whistle” racist, misogynistic, nativistic, and just plain “ugly” politics that shows no respect for facts and logic for a long time now.

As one guy put it, to the Rs surprise, they now have a guy who threw the dog whistle off his private jet and started barking.  The traditional Rs all look at each other in bewilderment.  They wanted those yokels with all their bat-shit crazy ideas to show up at the polls and vote for them; they didn’t want them to run the party.  Gee, what do we do now?

Well, my great hope is that they continue to be stupid and try to take the nomination away from Trump at the convention.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they will be that dumb.  BUT, if they are, then Trump will almost undoubtedly go third party, and the Rs will basically have to figure out how to re-build a broken organization. [Plus, that means that Ds may be able to dominate down ticket in the Senate and some House races.]

More likely, they will just surrender to the beast they nurtured, and Drumpf (thank you, John Oliver) will be “their” candidate. That means a nasty, nasty general election.

With no reservations about mentioning his own penis, I doubt that he will be hesitant about mentioning the meanderings of Bill Clinton’s junk.

He will also play the “Email Non-Scandal Scandal” for all it is worth.  “She should be in jail. How can she run for President?”

But, since Hillary showed her mettle when she faced the Benghazi witch hunt, I think that she should make mincemeat out of Drumpf in the debates.  But, as everyone notes, you have no idea what he will come up with.  Before it is over, he will probably imply (“I am just saying that some people are saying, a bunch of people really that…) she is a devil-worshiping lesbian whose family foundation is selling American children to Muslim pedophiles.  Sounds far-fetched?  So did a lot of things when this show began.

 

I posted these at the end of my February 26 comments.  See George’s comments below that add needed context to these comments

Paul Krugman on the Rs and The Donald, NYT, 27/2/16

“Seriously, Republican political strategy has been exploiting racial antagonism, getting working-class whites to despise government because it dares to help Those People, for almost half a century. So it’s amazing to see the party’s elite utterly astonished by the success of a candidate who is just saying outright what they have consistently tried to convey with dog whistles.

“What I find even more amazing, however, are the Republican establishment’s delusions about what its own voters are for. You see, all indications are that the party elite imagines that base voters share its own faith in conservative principles, when that not only isn’t true, it never has been.

“Yet the Republican establishment still seems unable to understand that hardly any of its own voters, let alone the voters it would need to win in the general election, are committed to free-market, small-government ideology. Indeed, although Marco Rubio — the establishment’s last hope — has finally started to go after the front-runner, so far his attack seems to rest almost entirely on questioning the coiffed one’s ideological purity. Why does he imagine that voters care?

“ Oh, and the G.O.P. establishment was also sure that Mr. Trump would pay a heavy price for asserting that we were misled into Iraq — evidently unaware just how widespread that (correct) belief is among Americans of all political persuasions.

“So what’s the source of this obliviousness? The answer, I’d suggest, is that in recent years — and, in fact, for the past couple of decades — becoming a conservative activist has actually been a low-risk, comfortable career choice. Most Republican officeholders hold safe seats, which they can count on keeping if they are sufficiently orthodox. Moreover, if they should stumble, they can fall back on “wingnut welfare,” the array of positions at right-wing media organizations, think tanks and so on that are always there for loyal spear carriers.”

David Brooks, NYT, 27/2/16

….”People say that Trump is an unconventional candidate and that he represents a break from politics as usual. That’s not true. Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.

 

George

Some History

Reading the posts on this blog, I note two pieces inserted by Charles, I believe, that refer to the fact that the fracture of the GOP has its roots in decisions and events that are decades old — one piece is attributed to Paul Krugman and the other to David Brooks. The younger among us may not have as clear a picture of these roots as this 1960s college student.

The GOP’s current problems trace to Richard Nixon’s determination to gain the White House by whatever means it took. The means chosen was his infamous Southern Strategy. Conceived and championed for the 1968 election by his political strategist, Kevin Phillips, it was intended to capture the South by appealing to Southern Whites who were incensed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. Phillips was cynically blunt about it. “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are.” This most certainly happened and its effects persist to this day; just look at a red-blue map and see where the red States fall.

The Southern Strategy, successful in electing Nixon, has now gone awry.

In drawing in Southern Whites, the Republican Party not only incorporated a lot of racists who abhorred the facts that their world had integrated and that African-Americans were voting, but the GOP also incorporated other distinct groups, maybe most notably the religious fundamentalists and evangelicals of the South’s Baptist roots. Another hallmark of their pick-up was a population that was less educated. National education data from the period show how far behind the Southern States were in education; no matter how it is measured – educational attainment, HS graduation rates, etc. The South today still lags.

In drawing these people into the Party, the Republicans couldn’t and didn’t just sell them Republican ideas. They had to appeal to them, to bond with them, to show them that the GOP stood with them by incorporating many of their ideas and beliefs.

In the mix, social conservativism overwhelmed traditional fiscal conservativism. Note that not a single Republican Administration in the last half century has balanced a budget in any single year. Fiscal conservativism was reduced to a mantra of overly simple phrases – lower taxes, smaller government, less regulation – in spite of the fact that dealing with an economy as large as ours is remarkably complex. Social conservativism on the other hand was alive, thriving and continuously gaining power within the Party.

Year by year the GOP was on a steady march further and further to the right, embracing more and more of those with regressive and often truly odd beliefs about such as Christian American, White America, the supremacy of the States, immigration, environment and horribly backward prejudices about race, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation. This embrace by one of our two major Parties validated these beliefs and prejudices.

The Republican elite, Establishment if you will, mistakenly thought that they could contain and manage this wing of the Party and that the far right elements actually accepted and believed in traditional conservatism. They were wrong on both counts.

Year by year this voting block elected more and more members of Congress who pulled the GOP further to the right in a tug of war with the Establishment that was driven by an illusion of Party unity. The fall of John Boehner to the public glee of the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus finally exposed the fracture of the GOP into two major elements – one which is stuck in a world that has died over the last 150 years, and the other that recognizes that America is now more moderate and more tolerant of individual differences and whose demographics include a large population of Latinos and growing populations of diverse immigrants of non-Christian faiths.

The underlying cynicism and indeed malevolence of the Southern Strategy finally has come to roost.

Charles

George provides a nice piece of context.  The reaction to the passage of the Voting Right Act of 1965 was what created the impetus for the Southern Strategy.  As legend would have, after Lyndon Johnson signed the bill that he helped push so hard for as President, he said to his Democrat colleagues, “Well, we just lost the South for a decade.”  The prediction was correct, but his math was, unfortunately, way wrong.

 

FEBRUARY 26

 CHAS

What a week, huh?  Remember the time before you could only watch Mel Gibson movies wearing headphones in the dead of night when your family is asleep? Well, one of those dark pleasures is the last of his Mad Max series, the one where Tina Turner had the Thunder Dome where—

TWO MEN ENTER; ONE MAN LEAVES!

The CNN tag line for this week’s debate had bizarre echoes of that ominous line—

FIVE CANDIDATES!  ONE STAGE!

In this case though, the lights came up, and the five stooges emerged.  Curly, I mean Marco, tried to poke Trump in the eyes with two fingers but Moe, I mean Donald, put his hand in front of his nose and blocked the attempt.  Larry tried to kick Moe, I mean Ted tried to kick McTrump, but slipped on a banana peel and landed on own bony ass instead.  

Ben got in a plug for the movie about him–out on DVD and available in the lobby, and Johnny Boy kept asking like a kid in a road trip with his parents, “are we in Ohio yet?”

What a disgrace.  This is the kind of crap that got you a stern lecture from the Asst. Principal/ football coach in high school.

Then we get a look at the current New Jersey governor’s unique  plan for a well-funded retirement.  He will be Trump’s partner in crime and run as his VP.  Seriously, they were made for each other.  One is a lying egomaniac afraid to release his tax returns and the other is a not yet indicted, lying egomaniac [which I must say adds some logic to the rumor that he only wants to be Atty Gen in the Trump administration–so he can be the one who leads the investigation of himself.]

Glad it is Friday, don’t think I could take much more of this excitement. Seriously though, what is it that has turned this race into such a travesty?

GEORGE

For what it is worth, here’s my two cents.

The GOP race is a joke and a disgrace. But as I have said, it is one that they created all by themselves.

They misunderstood their base. It was not strong conservatives plus wing nuts; rather it was strong conservatives plus traditional more centrist Republicans.

In pandering to the Tea Partiers, the Freedom Caucus, evangelicals, racists, and other such extremists, they pushed the GOP further and further to the right and, in so doing, validated to the electorate all of the wacko ideas of the far right and the wing nuts.

With these elements of the Party so empowered and most likely to be the most active and committed in primary season, many potential candidates who were reasonable conservatives didn’t stand a chance, knew it, and never stepped forward. Just think about Lindsay Graham not being far enough to the right. In saying that he can’t back Trump or Cruz should either win, he has admitted this.

In pushing the Party to the far right with each election since 2004, more and more extreme right members were added to Congress, especially to the House. It eventually fractured the Party with the most visible symptom being the ousting of John Boehner.

The Party threw John under the bus when the illusion of Party unity trumped long-term strategy (pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist). Solid strategy would have dictated that they needed to bring centrist independents and Hispanics under the tent. The far right in the electorate would still vote for them because they have no where else to go.

The illusion of Party unity also cost them their most formidable candidate. They squandered Paul Ryan.

I do believe that Ryan would have walked away with the nomination and also with the Presidency. Instead, they have a Party that remains fractured, the Stooges for candidates, and Ryan on the sideline.

Faced with the embarrassing display of Thursday’s debate and the near certainty of Trump, the idea of a draft Ryan movement is now a matter of discussion should Trump reach the convention with less than the delegates needed to seal the nomination.

Desperation. But how do they block a third party run by Trump?

The level to which the GOP has sunk was highlighted today when Christie endorsed Trump. The Round One feared that his run in NJ was over. The bridge scandal among other things had put some very dark clouds on his horizon. Some reports say that he wants Attorney General in return should The Donald win. He sold his soul.

Christie’s closest political friend is Gov. Hogan of MD, a Republican in a dark blue state who has 63% approval among the voters. Hogan refused to go along with him when Christie asked and privately is horrified at Christie’s endorsement.

Any of Matt Taibbi’s piece in the Rolling Stone are worth reading. His latest is http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/taibbi-trump-unstoppable-because-american-elections-are-just-badly-acted-tv-shows%5D

and here are a few of the hits from NYT columnists

Gaile Collins, NYT, 26/2/16    [MY PERSONAL FAV]

“On Friday, Rubio was in his new Trumpian glory, strutting around a platform and telling his audience that the developer had gone into a “meltdown” backstage during the debate. “First he had this little makeup thing applying, like, makeup around his mustache because he had one of those sweat mustaches,” Rubio gloated. “Then he asked for a full-length mirror … maybe to make sure his pants weren’t wet.”

“Meanwhile Trump was reporting that Rubio had been putting on makeup “with a trowel.” This is perhaps the first instance of a presidential campaign running on dialogue more normally overheard in a junior high bathroom when the mean girls are doing their hair.” [emphasis add]

 Paul Krugman on the Rs and The Donald, NYT, 27/2/16

“Seriously, Republican political strategy has been exploiting racial antagonism, getting working-class whites to despise government because it dares to help Those People, for almost half a century. So it’s amazing to see the party’s elite utterly astonished by the success of a candidate who is just saying outright what they have consistently tried to convey with dog whistles.

“What I find even more amazing, however, are the Republican establishment’s delusions about what its own voters are for. You see, all indications are that the party elite imagines that base voters share its own faith in conservative principles, when that not only isn’t true, it never has been.

“Yet the Republican establishment still seems unable to understand that hardly any of its own voters, let alone the voters it would need to win in the general election, are committed to free-market, small-government ideology. Indeed, although Marco Rubio — the establishment’s last hope — has finally started to go after the front-runner, so far his attack seems to rest almost entirely on questioning the coiffed one’s ideological purity. Why does he imagine that voters care?

“ Oh, and the G.O.P. establishment was also sure that Mr. Trump would pay a heavy price for asserting that we were misled into Iraq — evidently unaware just how widespread that (correct) belief is among Americans of all political persuasions.

“So what’s the source of this obliviousness? The answer, I’d suggest, is that in recent years — and, in fact, for the past couple of decades — becoming a conservative activist has actually been a low-risk, comfortable career choice. Most Republican officeholders hold safe seats, which they can count on keeping if they are sufficiently orthodox. Moreover, if they should stumble, they can fall back on “wingnut welfare,” the array of positions at right-wing media organizations, think tanks and so on that are always there for loyal spear carriers.”

David Brooks, NYT, 27/2/16

….”People say that Trump is an unconventional candidate and that he represents a break from politics as usual. That’s not true. Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.

“Trump represents the path the founders rejected. There is a hint of violence undergirding his campaign. There is always a whiff, and sometimes more than a whiff, of “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

“I printed out a Times list of the insults Trump has hurled on Twitter. The list took up 33 pages [emphasis added]. Trump’s style is bashing and pummeling. Everyone who opposes or disagrees with him is an idiot, a moron or a loser. The implied promise of his campaign is that he will come to Washington and bully his way through.”

 

 

FEBRUARY 21, 2016

GEORGE

Hmmm, after tonight it is hard for me to see anything other than Clinton vs Trump.

Hillary should carry SC and the large majority of the Super Tuesday states. With that momentum and overwhelming support from the super-delegates, I can’t see how Bernie can win.

On the Republican side, Trump consistently has had the lead across the polls over the other 5 candidates. As the field shrinks, my guess is that Trump will still come out on top.

Suppose it gets down to two — Trump and Rubio. The question then is where do the supporters of Cruz, Carson, Bush and Kaisich go. If general, it would appear to be a fair assumption that the Cruz and Carson supporters will tend to migrate to Trump and the Bush and Kaisich supporters to Rubio. The total of Trump, Cruz and Carson keeps coming out in the polls as being 60% plus or minus a few %.

It also could be that the Republican race comes down to 3 — Trump, Cruz and Rubio with Trump leading over the other two. If these 3 all persist into the convention, I think Cruz would go to his grave before throwing his support and delegates to Rubio. Trump wins whether Cruz leads these delegates to Trump or simply cuts them loose.

A brokered convention in which multiple deals are cut to oust Trump also is a possibility. If this happens, I’ve got a dollar to a donut that Trump runs as a third party. He continues to threaten this — as recently as last week, and I think his monstrous ego will demand it.

Clinton wins handily in this case.

In a head-to-head contest between Clinton and Trump, I believe that Democratic turnout will be determinative. I hope Sanders is a big enough man to actively campaign to get his supporters to hit the voting booths for Hillary.

P.S. Cruz is the wildcard here. The question is: Is he so pissed at Trump for Trump’s attacks that he sets aside his longstanding abhorrence for Rubio? If he simply cuts his delegates loose, I believe the great majority will head for The Donald.

CHAS

Yeah, if the convention is brokered and Cruz tells his delegates to go forth and prosper, I suspect that is correct. Many will go to The Donald  But, that is giving away power, not in the beloved senator’s wheelhouse.  Be fun to watch, as long as whoever runs against HRC gets whupped. 

 I think Cruz is the “unhappy” camper in a convention (fact aside that he can’t really run for President). The Donald has said such bad stuff about Cruz that I find it hard to believe Cruz would throw his support to Trump, but as Hunter Thompson put it about HHH, “he is running for office like a rat in heat” so one can never tell I don’t think that the Constitution requires that the VP be a “natural born citizen, but a Rubio/Cruz ticket would be like JFK/LBJ ticket redux–bad karma all over the place.

Totally agree that if a brokered convention denies Trump the nomination, he will go as third-party candidate–The Donald Party.

 

FEBRUARY 24

GEORGE IS IN BLUE AND CHAS RESPONSES ARE ADDED IN RED

After yesterday’s Nevada caucuses, I think there can be no doubt that Trump will be the Republican nominee, especially considering that after Super Tuesday all of the Republican primaries are winner-take-all.

What has me nervous are four things.

First, regardless of how carefully he might try to tread, Bernie’s efforts to distinguish himself from Hillary cannot help but damage her in key voting blocks; in particular, the young and especially the white working class who may be more susceptible to Trump.

I am so pissed at Bernie Sanders. He knows that he has no chance to win. He is either simply savoring immensely his 15 minutes of fame, or he really thinks that he can move Hillary to the left in such a way that she is stuck with something close to his positions during her term as president.  You are correct. What he is not considering is the fact that he may drive some people away from her in the general election. 

The young can’t stay home because Bernie lost, and the frustrated workers can’t go to Trump. If they do, then I hope Bernie’s shoulders are broad enough the bear the weight of a Trump presidency for which he may bear considerable responsibility. Maybe he will kiss and make up after he loses and campaign like a bat-out-of-hell for her.  We can only hope.

Also, Bernie will force her to expend valuable resources that would be far better spent battling Trump.

Too true.

Second, once Trump gets past Super Tuesday, he can concentrate on Hillary while she has to deal with Bernie, giving Trump a free ride while he and Bernie attack her.

The only saving grace is that Rubio or Cruz may continue to attack Trump.  However, he knows they are light-weights and that his real opponent is HRC. 

Third, the brouhaha about her emails will not go away. It is a issue that can be nothing but damaging.

Having held security clearances, I was fully briefed several times that it was fine to use my home email for any email not marked Confidential or better. (I had to immediately report any classified email that I received on my home computer,  cell phone or other device.)

To date, not one of the emails that she received on her home computer was classified at the time it was sent. A small number are being retroactively classified, indicating that a classification officer made a mistake when the email was originally sent or that circumstances relevant to the email have changed since it was originally sent. I know of email that was not classified at the time that is now Top Secret. Post hoc reclassification is not unusual.

The public is not sensitive to any of these nuances.

On top of this, a Federal judge in response to a suit filed by the very conservative Judicial Watch has just ruled that Hillary’s aides can be required to give sworn testimony not only on the issue of classification but also on whether her use of home email and withholding private email constituted an attempt to get around Federal FOIA and other open document laws.

The good new here is that polls show the public doesn’t care too much about the emails.  They do care about trust.  However, for every misstep by HRC; Trump has at least one, so he may not be big on attacking her on the trust issue.  He is wide open if he does.

Fourth, it is too easy to underestimate Trump. I was just watching him in an interview at Regent University as Pat Robertson lobbed softballs at him. It was not the distasteful, boorish, shouting Trump of the stump, but a consummate actor giving the exact same stump answers but in a calm, studied, agreeable manner.

After he has the nomination, I am betting the farm that we will be seeing a lot more of this Trump. He knows that he has to win a big slice of centrist independents to have any chance at the White House.

He is a showman, who can change his attitude in a blink. He will go into the debates trying to be more presidential, but he is too much of an egotist not to want to hear the crowds roar at his big events.  He gets that roar and that adulation from his wild-ass stuff, so I would argue that he can’t completely drop it. 

On top of that, those fits of pique, those threat of physical violence, that smugness is all out there in the “ether” just waiting for someone to do a killer ad that bust him badly for what he really is.

String them all together–attacks on Mexicans, making fun of someone with a disability, attacks on Muslims, his approval of crowd violence, calling one opponent a pussy and another a liar, his bragging that he could commit murder or shoot someone on 5th Avenue and this supporters will still love him.  That stuff is here to stay.  All it needs is the proper frame and it should kick his ass.

And, he has just gotten started. His folks aren’t going to be satisfied with getting to yell “Mexico” for long; he needs to keep ramping up his rhetoric. He will need to do it throughout the primaries.  

So, “fasten your seat-belt; It looks like we are in for a bumpy ride.”

Also, if he changes too much for the general, all those folks who love him for “telling it like it is” may decide he is just another politician.

 

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3 Comments »

  1. I logged in to comment that the current Republican Party is the demon spawn of Nixon’s racist Southern Strategy and find that George beat me to it. How true. Catherine Rampell in yesterday’s Washington Post makes a reasonable argument that, if you take them issue by issue, it makes little difference which one of the stooges wins. So the question is no longer, will Trump run as an independent if he loses the nomination, but what will George H.W. Bush, Jamie Dimon, Brian Sandoval (hee hee) and others of the R Establishment do now? Will George W vote for his new best bud Bill’s wife? Probably not, but it’s time to think about whether the third party candidate will come from the Republican center, not the wingnuts, because the R mainstream is the wingnuts. Will the appalled Republican center launch a candidate it can support with a clear conscience, split the party for all time, and usher Hillary into office? Or will they not offer an alternative and either stay home or sell their souls (and usher Hillary into office)? What would Nelson Do?

    Like

  2. Time to think about the Republican platform. If Trump, or even Cruz, is the nominee, can the GOP bring itself to write a platform that conforms to the nominee’s vision and the positions that brought him the nomination? And if not, what?

    Like

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