Got Those Post-Election Blues, Baby!

timejan10

The Two Guys Just Chatting post was really focused on pre-election commentary.  Now that we have entered a brave new world, it seems appropriate to start anew with post-election commentary.

Again, it will be George (blue) and, myself (red), and friends (green) who post their thoughts on these interesting times.

Below is a comment by our friend Steve who read our analyses of the election outcome.  He has a different emphasis. George responds to Steve.

I hope to add my own commentary later, when I am able, hopefully, to do something beside assume a fetal position, rock back and forth, and moan piteously.

Any formatting errors are on me.

George provides from links for those interested in the “swamp” that is Trump’s interactions with Russia.  In that vein, he provides a list of 10 questions that may come up if DJT really has a press conference

10 jAN 2017

TRUMP AND RUSSIA MEMO SHARED WITH DJT AND PRESIDENT

The document can be found on buzzfeed.com
Posted Document
TEN QUESTIONS
Articles on the Document

 

9 JAN 2017

Inside Baseball and the Light at the End of the Tunnel

You may be like me and heartsick about the recent revelations indicating that the Russians sank their bloody claws into the democratic process in the last election.  But, a bunch of folks follow the Trump line of “sour grapes.”  What an unsurprising disappointment.  See the NYT story below.
All this is just what we call “inside baseball” in the US.  For most people, it is too much in the weeds.  Instead, they think–He won, so let’s just get going.
I really do fear that we have somehow entered a “post-accountability age.”  All this criticism of conflicts of interests and cabinet picks is (as R Dahl might put it) just part of the sideshow in the great circus of life.
I fear that things may have to must really go off the rails before anyone realizes the light at the end of the tunnel that Trump promised is really a freight train filled with misery coming right at them. Progressives have a major problem for the next four years.  How do they convince independents and one time Democrats to see the light before that locomotive destroys the social safety net and the economy along with it?
I hope they have better ideas than I do at this point.

 

7 JAN 2017

TRUMP AND HACKING

Trump’s statement following today’s intelligence briefings was not just pitiful it shows total disregard for the security of our nation.

It is pitiful because all he was concerned with was that he won the election and that the hacking had no influence on the outcome. This was the clear focus of his statement. We are looking at a President-elect who holds his ego and narcissism in higher regard than our national security.

Instead of outrage and a clear message to foreign adversaries that there will be a heavy price to pay for any hacking that seeks to undermine our democracy or national security, the statement contained vague, generalized pablum about hacking and an intention to appoint a panel to look into the issue of hacking of any entity whether government or private.

His statement shows absolutely no acknowledgement — no less support for — the unanimous findings of our 16 intelligence agencies. It does not even mention Russia’s and Putin’s responsibility for the hacking.

The statement’s anemic response to Russia’s assault on our democracy and security sends the clear message to Russia and any other adversary that they should not fear retaliation from a Trump administration; that it is open season for cyberattacks on America. How else should our enemies interpret his failure to condemn Russia and call for retaliation?

We are left with but two alternative explanations. Either we have a President-elect who really does think his wounded ego is more important than America’s security or we have a President-elect who has important financial and/or other ties to Russia that can easily be threatened by the Kremlin.

By the way, a careful reading of the public version of the intelligence report signals that the intelligence investigation is far from over. While the cyberattacks and propaganda on Russian media require only Kremlin involvement, not so for much of the disinformation, fake news and false conspiracies traced to Russian sources. They require collaboration for their propagation. Our intelligence agencies already have traced the path of the email releases from Russia to WikiLeaks. You can bet your bottom dollar that they are hard at work tracing the paths of the disinformation, fake news and false conspiracies from Russia to collaborators, including domestic collaborators whether knowing or unwitting.

This surely is not making America great again. I would hope that everyone who voted for this pseudo-patriotic charlatan is at least beginning to realize the extent to which they were duped.

God help America.

3 January 2017

Though it has taken me longer to gather my thoughts than I anticipated, here are my predictions for the Trump Presidency.  Some are about facets of the administration as a whole (accountability) while others focus on specific policy areas.

The Trump Administration and Springsteen’s “The Promised Land.”

Bruce Springsteen’s fourth album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, released in 1978 is seen by many as his fullest embodiment of working class strife and emotion.  The same sense of disappointment and anomie that we hear in the dystopian lyrics of many of the songs on the album could have been a rallying cry for many of Trump’s supporters during the election.  Parts of “The Promised Land” are a fine example.

I’ve done my best to live the right way 
I get up every morning and go to work each day 
But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold 
Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode 
Explode and tear this town apart 
Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart 
Find somebody itching for something to start 

That emotion doesn’t refer to the one-third or so of Trump supporters who are fundamentally bigoted racists who still question President Obama’s legitimacy.  Their anger is different. Neither does the statement apply to those traditional Republican voters who held their noses and voted for a woefully unqualified presidential candidate to save a Republican Congress or create a Neanderthal majority on the Supreme Court.

Trump Democrats or Independents

I suppose I am talking about those Clinton or Obama voters who deserted the Democratic Party because they wanted change, something new, or just something different.  HRC seemed like both damaged goods and a promise of the “same old, same old’ in Washington.  Trump seems to have won 80 percent of those voters looking for change, per some exit polls.

Of course, what these defectors didn’t recognize was that they and others like them had benefitted tremendously from eight years of Obama’s brand of “same old.” 

  • The Affordable Care Act created insurance coverage for 20 million Americans.
  • He brought thousands of Americans in our armed forces out of harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • He supported increases in the minimum wage.
  • He supported criminal justice reform (rich people don’t go to jail).
  • He tried to extend overtime pay to millions of Americans.
  •  He assured two million home health workers minimum wages and overtime.
  • The list goes on. But, the important thing is that Trump Democrats or Independents gave him no credit for these achievements.  They simply stewed in their own frustration and were led by their collective noses by Fox Noise and other “anti-all things Obama or Democratic” information sources.

Now, those working class and middle income heroes who voted for Trump-style “change” are going to get, whether they knew it or not, what they asked for when they cast a vote for The Donald. 

And in doing so, they will hurt themselves and millions of other Americans.  That broad a claim demands more detailed support.  So, the following provides that detail. 

Trump and Accountability

But, for a bit, I will first give you my take on the Trump presidency in more personal terms.

Don’t for a minute think that being president will affect his behavior. His New Year tweet shows us that the 12-year-old narcissist we all thought Trump was during the campaign will be inhabiting the Oval Office. See his tweet, in all its glory, below.

“Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

He will also use Twitter to announce all the wonderful things that he is doing for the country.  The best examples of this are the Carrier jobs “saved” in Indiana.  He claimed credit for saving jobs from Mexico, but the entire claim was a charade, an episode of a reality show.  Pence, still governor of Indiana, got the state to cough up $6 million dollars over the next ten years for Carrier. 

This is the beginning, or the continuation, of government by anecdote.  Trump followers and the public generally will regularly be fed false information thru Twitter and the like, where no one can ask him or his acolytes any of those uncomfortable questions where the answer would cast him in a bad light or expose his lies.

Also, Trump worked during his entire campaign to discredit MSM sources, so that his followers and many others no longer trust any analysis from traditional news sources.  Instead, they tweet, re-tweet, and send each other emails and links filled with false news. 

DJT will use this distrust of MSM to his advantage to avoid responsibility for any untoward events in the next four years like lost jobs, lost health insurance, or foreign policy failures. Jake Tapper will show how he is hurting Americans, and The Donald will simply deflect the facts with a tweet about the dishonest media.

Many people thought that with the explosion of information on the web, transparency would be enhanced.  With that, they expected accountability to increase.  Unfortunately, if the Trump campaign taught us anything it is that accountability is an elusive thing.  Remember all the horrible things about Trump that came out in the campaign.  He was held to account for none of them. 

His clothing made out-of-country, his use of imported labor, his failure to pay contractors, his sleazy comments about women, and his multiple bankruptcies that put thousands out of work should have driven working class and middle income voters away from him like a class of the plague.  Yet, they (especially the men) were the core of his coalition.

Trump Presidency

In some ways this lack of responsibility on Trump’s part for the consequences of his actions will, in fact, be true for most of the policy changes ahead. 

The potentially apocryphal story of DJT’s son-in-law’s conversation when he was trying to woe John Kasich onto the ticket with DJT is instructive about what a Trump presidency will resemble. Kushner is said to have offered Kasich control over domestic and foreign policy. When Kasich asked with DJT would be doing, the answer was “making America great again.” 

Unlike Kasich, Mike Pence seems to have accepted the deal. He will now work with the Republican Majorities in the Congress to push through every right-wing policy position that has been sitting in the back of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s closets and gathering well-deserved dust for a decade. 

So, DJT may not be, in the most direct sense, responsible for the domestic and foreign policy horrors that await us.  But, it will all be done in his name, while he holds rallies and throws out anecdotes that make him look like the savior he promised to be. 

Having said all that about the political dynamics I expect for the next four years, now it is time to look at what policies, in a few crucial areas, we can expect from “Trump,” his proposed cabinet members, and the Republican-dominated Congress.  It is not a pretty picture.

Taxes

The Republicans will probably try the George W. Bush strategy here.  Give massive tax breaks to the rich but make sure that every Joe and Sally get at least a tiny taste of the pie.  Bush tax cuts, analyses by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicate, fed the rich very well; 24.2 percent of the Bush cuts went to households in the top one percent of income; 8.9 percent went to the middle 20 percent.  So much for the idea that Republicans are the champions of the middle class.

Included in that tax cut will probably be a reduction in the capital gains tax and possibly the abolition of the inheritance tax.  Both such measures further empty the government’s coffers and, obviously, favor the rich.

Spending

The Donald has promised increased military spending, increased spending on the VA, and updating our nuclear arsenal, and a massive increase in spending on infrastructure that is the key to his job program. All this spending, if it happens, will occur in conjunction with significant tax cuts.  That means a soaring national deficit, which is not on the agenda for Congressional Republicans. That can only mean reductions in expenditures in safety set programs and areas of discretionary spending.  Both are high on Paul Ryan’s to do list.

Safety Net Programs

Trump and the R Congress will do something about Obamacare.  Since they have no really feasible alternative, one suspects that they will “repeal and delay” as the alternative to a flat repeal.  While the folks at the Heritage Foundation are licking their chops at the possibilities for implementing their ideas, the figure most often pitched around is that 10 million Americans will lose coverage with the end of the ACA. 

How Rs can get away with the idea that we can assure health care with only the private insurance industry involved escapes me.  It didn’t work before (except for the insurance companies); it won’t work now.

On top of that, all those other wonderful options are now in play:  privatizing Medicare and privatizing Social Security.  We will clearly be seeing an attempt over the next few years to move all safety net programs into the “free market,” when all those programs were developed as government programs because of market failures.  

Also, the drive will be to move programs (like Medicaid) away from federal control and place them under much greater state-level control.  This will be done even though the federal government puts considerable resources into these programs and has exercised more and more federal control over the years.  This increase in federal involvement came largely because of the failings of state governments to do an adequate job of running these programs.  The Rs will want to forget that history, and follow their ideological program to strip the federal government of any power.

Banking

Say good-bye to Dodd/Frank and the Volcker Rule.  Banks and financial institutions will go back to the risky games they played that flattened the economy in 2007.  Unfortunately, they learned their lesson from that era ― you can make a ton of money and wreck the economy, but nobody goes to jail.

Federal Agencies, in general

There is a simple way of determining what will happen to your favorite Federal government agency.  Take that agency’s sphere of action; think of all the progressive things that have been done by the agency; prepare for all those policies to disappear.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

Steve now provides his own take on our three-way discussion on Trumpism, and I am still building up the courage to write about the Trump administration.

Unfortunately, I was unable to add Steve’s Venn diagram.  But, it discuss the three issues below as intertwined elements.

The Venn diagram suggests that all three factors contribute, which I think is true, as I suspect do you.  So let’s take each in order.

Legit grievances.  The loss of power and control (even if it is only perceived) certainly can be psychologically devastating, especially when combined with the loss or stagnation of income and benefits. So lashing out at the perceived source of that condition makes sense.  Maybe even more sense for retirees and near-retirees who have seen their pensions and health insurance benefits eroded by wealthy executives who receive bonuses while either clawing back those benefits or driving the companies that offered them out of business. But what about younger persons in the prime or beginning of their work life? Why are they stagnating when there are many good-paying unfilled jobs that require retraining and relocation? You might think the question elitist, but I have a friend who is the daughter of coal miners and steelworkers—the diggers and furnace operators—and she wonders the same thing. Remember that many of these white middle class Americans ask the same question of black welfare recipients (not so much about white recipients, though). The answer “Get a job” works both ways. I am not claiming that I can truly understand their frustration and anger or that I know how I would react in their situation, but I don’t think I would damage my country and the world by voting for an authoritarian bigot with fascist tendencies or claim that doing so is a justifiable response. Obama, Clinton, and a host of American politicians and citizens (but oddly enough, not Trump) claim that American exceptionalism makes fascism impossible. Germans might do it, but not Americans. Yet this is the most optimistic of the three explanations. If we accept it, then half the white American working class population is no different from the post-Weimer German population and the notion of American exceptionalism is dead. If we reject it, we have to move on to the next possible explanation, which, in the interest of saving time and space, I will boil down to its essence, as uncomfortable as that may be: stupidity.

 Stupidity. Is it possible that half the white American working class is so stupid that they cannot recognize a scam when they see it? Obviously, some people—stupid, smart, naïve, sophisticated—get scammed. But we are talking about half the white working class. It might seem plausible when you consider that a score of 100 on standard IQ tests is pegged to the median of the distribution, but I have two other friends who both have a combination of developmental delays and traumatic brain injury who saw right through Trump and are able to make cogent arguments about his frauds. Let’s take Carrier. Trump assures us that any American firm exporting American jobs will be demonized and their products will be taxed at 35% upon arrival in the US. Following Trump’s intervention, Carrier ships 1,000 jobs to Mexico instead of the planned 1,700. Will their products be taxed at an additional 35%–Trump’s price for moving any jobs? No, they receive huge subsidies (my cynical guess would be about a 35% tax cut) in return for reducing the number they will export. So Trump wants to reward them for exporting 1,000 jobs. Do Trump’s white working-class supporters not understand the scam or do they understand what’s happened and not care? The farce of the deal—rewarding management for moving a large number of jobs to Mexico after making retaliation a centerpiece of his campaign—must be obvious to most of Trump’s working-class supporters; it’s just not that hard to see. So why does his popularity prevail? I suspect it is because jobs, income, wealth, and fairness were never the real issue, so reneging on them (just as he has reneged on his war on Wall Street and large corporations by loading his cabinet with members of that particular elite) doesn’t really matter to them. I suppose it might eventually be shown that I am wrong. The test will be how rapidly Trump’s support among the white working class diminishes. Fast will support George’s position that they just didn’t see it coming. Slow takes us to the final explanation.

 Authoritariphilia (how’s that for elitism) and xenophobia. If you accept that the white working class understood who they were voting for and that jobs aren’t really the issue (unemployment below 5%; many unfilled skilled jobs that could be filled by young and middle-aged white workers willing to relocate and retrain), then I think we are left with frustration over loss of control and status. How do you recover lost control and status when you are unable or unwilling to remake your life? If I can’t be the dominant figure I once was, then I can do it by identifying a strong man who will serve as my surrogate; otherwise known as a demagogue (or at the extreme, a fascist dictator). Americans have a long history of following demagogues at the state level—Huey Long, Joe McCarthy, half the Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia Congressional delegations and state legislatures—which is one reason I find the intentional choice of Demagogue Trump a plausible explanation. We have certainly elected corrupt presidents before (Harding and probably others), but I am not sure we have ever had one who would sacrifice the well-being of the country to his own narcissism. I might be wrong about that, but even so, seeing it happen in the US for the first time in my life and following so soon on the German experience is disturbing, disappointing, and depressing (note the elitist alliteration). It might be less so if the reason was legitimate grievance or stupidity, but I fear that choosing those options instead of a preference for authoritarianism might lead us to the wrong conclusions. Autocrats and their governments have a funny way of sneaking up on the public by manipulating the democratic process (Hitler, Putin), but they require a receptive plurality and I think it has become increasingly clear in every election since 2010 that we have one.

 

George provides his take on our three way discussion of Trumpism.  I will return in a few days with my discussion of the Trump administration.

Agreement, Actually

Actually, all three of us agree. We are just looking at different portions of the chain circumstances and events that led our nation to its current sad state.

First, however, let’s set aside the bottom of the barrel – the committed racists, white supremacists, misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes, and all of the other “deplorables.” Trump’s not so subtle dog whistles woke them up and they contributed to his win, but they were not the key. As all three of us agree, white middle class America was.

The chain begins with the anger in white middle class voters to which all three of us referred. I stayed with the word, anger; Charles saw it as ”a grievous sense of loss;” and Steve cited it as disenfranchisement – “screwed, betrayed by the country they love.” Both Trump and Sanders recognized the extent of their anger and alienation; Clinton didn’t and got baited into a contest of who was worse. Bernie was there to solve problems of the middle class to their benefit; Donald was there to manipulate their frustration to his benefit. He consistently focused on their anger, alienation, grievous sense of loss. He validated it and, in so doing, gave them the sense of empowerment to which Steve refers. Trump, the con man, then capitalized of the enormous complexity of the issues, probably not understanding the true extent of their complexity. He offered simplistic solutions that were easy to grasp, sounded catchy and fit nicely into sound bites. With Clinton missing the point, the middle class voted for Trump.

Our three blurbs are but overlapping pieces in the same puzzle.

I recommend “Listen, Liberal” by Thomas Frank — $18 in hard cover on Amazon. It provides good insights into the plight of the middle class.

I have discussed the election. Now, it is time to slide into the more murky pool of the Trump movement.

THE TRUMP MOVEMENT

This section is something of an adjunct to the earlier commentaries by George and Steve.

To summarize Steve’s perspective, I think this paragraph from his commentary does it well.

Instead, it makes more sense to me that a very high percentage of the white middle class—men and women—actually like the sense of empowerment they receive from authoritarian bigots who denigrate the other, when the other is defined as not white, not Christian, and born outside the US.

George’s response can probably be summed up somewhat less succinctly.

Because the average consumer/voter has a difficult time properly defining the intricacies of problems and solutions, they are easily led. This is evident in the effectiveness of advertising and sound bites and it appears again in the emergence of dictators. 

….

The more complex the issues, the more susceptible the average voter is. Voter fraud is a serious threat to our democracy; we need photo ID. Manufacturing jobs are being stolen by foreigners and corporations that export jobs; we need to renegotiate our terrible trade deals, impose tariffs, and cut corporate taxes. Our ISIS strategy is a total failure; I would “bomb the shit out of them.” Hispanic rapists and criminals are getting a better deal than you, are stealing your jobs and are costing us millions in welfare; I am going to build a wall, round them up and deport them. Radical Islamic terrorists want to destroy the United States; we should block all Muslims from entry and register those already here. The pattern in every one of these is the same – recognize fears and concerns, lie about the problem and its causes, and offer simpleminded solutions.

I know that these summaries don’t do the details of their arguments justice, but they seem to be to capture their essence.

So, as I see it or bring it down to the nub, here it what I think my friends are saying.

Steve is concerned that we have a white middle class drunk on a sense of empowerment provided by a racist, misogynistic, bigoted demagogue who plays to their baser instincts. 

For George, voters, who are anxious and dissatisfied, are hoodwinked by a conman who offers slick, simple answers to complex questions that voters (and even experts) have difficulty addressing.

Let’s return to what we all wonder.  Basically, all of us (well, most of us) are wondering how that pompous asshat generated such a frenzy among a non-trivial portion of the electorate.  The many who simply held their nose and voted for Trump are not the issue here. They are not part of the Trump movement.  Instead, they are opportunistic pigs who put the success of their political party before the good of the country. Did I say Paul Ryan?

Instead, the movement, as I see it, is all those who truly bought into Trump’s BS ─ the believers in Trumpism.  These are the heart of the Trump movement.  They are the ones that didn’t really care what he said to whom or about whom.  It is those folks whom George and Steve are discussing.

Here, I am not sure where I fall on the George to Steve continuum.  Partially, I think that the true believers are just feeling so angry and, yes, so powerless that they don’t really care about much ─ except having someone blast their dissatisfaction out into the world and tell all those “insiders,” who think so little of them and have done so little for them, that “a new sheriff has come to town.”

Some of the true believers are sick, racist, misogynistic bigots that Trump brought out of the woodwork (HINT:  If ex-KKK Grand Lizard David Duke thinks you are the bees’ knees, then you are way over the edge of common decency).  For the first time in decades, those folks think that they have their motors running again. 

They will continue to foam at the mouth as they read each other’s email chains, tweets, suck up whatever crazies like Alan Jones (e.g., Bush did 9/11 and Sandy Hook school massacre was a fake) think up, and rant to each other on their Facebook posts.  But, they will always be fringy, no matter what they think. That doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous.  They are crazy and very well-armed, but their numbers are too small to drive a movement.

The other true believers are both more numerous, and I think scarier.  Here I have to draw on an earlier post (Trump’s Appeal Redux).  Trump picks up many of those voters whom PEW polling 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 and coined the phrase “aggrieved entitlement.”

Those men he interviewed and classified as aggrieved were filled with negative emotion:

“…[they] 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 and social movement, these kinds of statements are exactly the concerns we hear voiced when Trump supporters are interviewed by the media. What we see in Trump 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 devalued in our society, and they see the devaluation of the symbols they hold dear.

And, as Steve would argue, some of that sense of loss is mixed with racism and nativism. “Make America Great Again” resonated with the true believers because they feel assailed by changes over which they have no control. Unfortunately, the world they wish to recreate, the one where they and those like them were valued, was racist, sexist, and nativist.

They are also folks who are way pissed and love seeing some guy say the things to the powerful that they want to say. The Donald takes “nuthin” off nobody.  He will start a Twitter war at the drop of a negative comment. He will lambast anyone from the stage at his rallies.  Trump has that way of swaggering through the world (he is a performer who honed his craft on “reality” TV, after all) that they themselves would love to be able to pull off in their own lives.  They love Trump in part because he is the best show in town.

So, in the end, I guess that puts me closer to Steve than to George, but both commentaries have a lot to offer.

12 DEC 2016

THREE THINGS ABOUT TRUMP THAT WE MUST DISTINGUISH FROM EACH OTHER

All talk is about Trump, Trump, and more Trump (which is exactly what his narcissistic, shriveled, little heart desires).

But, let’s distinguish between three important aspect of Trump ─ the Trump electoral victory, the Trump movement, and the Trump administration.  I will deal with each of these in turn.

TRUMP’S ELECTORAL VICTORY

According to the great confabulator, “it was a landslide.”  Below, I use the best data I could cobble together to see what kinds of victory it really was.  Any errors in data and math are my responsibility. 

Basically, HRC lost because the traditional D states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania went R.  That means that she lost the election (see below) by 83,000 votes.  That is six tenths of one percent of the vote in those three states.  That is 83,000 out of a national total of just under 12,800,000 votes (where 83k is less than seven one hundredths of one percent).  That is the popular vote margin that gave him his victory in the electoral college

 VOTERS                              DIFFERENCE

4,549,000 Michigan               11,000 0.24% percent state vote  
            2,791,000 Wisconsin               27,000 0.97% percent state vote  
            5,727,000 Pennsylvania

45,000

0.79% percent state vote  
          13,067,000 3 STATE TOTAL

83,000

0.64% DIFFERENCE AS PERCENT OF  VOTES IN THREE STATES  

 

What that SMALL margin of “victory” means is that analysts will, over the next few months have potentially dozens of plausible scenarios (e.g., millennials stayed home; Rs came back to the nest in the last weeks; the FBI announcement did it; bad turnout did it; angry white males did it; first time voters did it; the Obama coalition didn’t turn out).  What is one to think?  Well, first, any discussion based on national voting patterns is worthless, since HRC didn’t lose the popular vote. 

So, it becomes a state-by-state analyses that will tell the tale.  However, I picked three states, but others could find a different combination (e.g., throw Florida in the mix).  Even with state-by-state analyses, such small margins make it difficult to point definitively to “the explanation.”  Changes in any of a dozen factors might have tipped the scales, when the differences are this small.  Plenty of meat for the commentators grinder, but not a ton of enlightenment about what to do to win next time.

Even in the electoral college, The Donald’s “landslide” was less than “huuuge.”  Below, you see the percentage of electoral college votes that went to the winners in the last six election.  The average of those six number is 62%.  The Donald won 57% of the electoral college votes in 2016.  His electoral college victory was about eight percent below the average differential for the last three decades. 

2012 62%
2008 68%
2004 53%
2000 50.4%
1996 71%
1992 69%

 

Let’s just for a moment, take a trip back to the popular vote.  Below you see the popular vote for the last four elections

    LARGEST VOTE TOTAL FOR ELECTION      
2016           65,250,000 51%
2012           65,915,795 51%
2008           69,498,516 53%
2004           62,040,610 51%

 

From 2004 to the present, two elections have been won with 51% of the popular vote.  In 2016, the Democrat lost with 51% of the popular vote. She LOST with a total margin of over 2.5 million votes, which constitute 2% of the total national vote.

So, that is my take on the least important of the three issues raised above ─ the electoral victory, the movement, the administration.  My next addition to the blog will be about the Trump movement.  Stay tuned.

5 DEC 2016

Steve’s thoughts on the election.

Both of your recent posts on Left Corner make sense, but I don’t think parsing Hillary’s performance explains what happened, because it defines “what happened” as who became president-elect. Had Hillary focused more on working class whites and the middle of the country, she might indeed have done better in some places; maybe well enough to win a couple more states and the presidency.

For me, what happened is that the great American middle class intentionally chose to elevate a self-admitted sexual predator and his white supremacist friends to national leadership. Even if Hillary had won, half the electorate made this choice. Hillary’s strategies and negatives don’t explain why the white middle class would make that choice, when Donald’s negatives were consistently higher. Hillary is viewed negatively because she is secretive and because the guy with higher negatives threw falsehoods that stuck. Donald is viewed negatively because he is authoritarian, mean and insulting to vulnerable people, promotes racial and religious bigotry, and is known to screw people over money.

Why would the middle class prefer a bigoted, greedy, mean-spirited man to a secretive woman misleadingly labeled by someone they trusted even less? Misogyny explains some of it, but not enough unless you believe that 53% of white women voters are misogynists (which I find hard to believe).

Instead, it makes more sense to me that a very high percentage of the white middle class—men and women—actually like the sense of empowerment they receive from authoritarian bigots who denigrate the other, when the other is defined as not white, not Christian, and born outside the US.

Why else would so many who revere the military prefer Donald to the Khans? It seems to me that the Khans’ ethnicity, religion, and national origin carry more weight with white middle class Americans than the loss of their son in service to the country Donald’s supporters claim to love above all else.

If you accept the notion that the election swung on a preference for nationalism and bigotry, then the outcome would have been the same if Biden or anyone else who was unwilling to match Donald’s perfidy ran against him.

So this leaves us with a profoundly nationalistic and bigoted electorate led by powerful and power hungry nationalists and bigots; admittedly a much more pessimistic view than the belief that Hillary could have won had she behaved differently or if someone else had run instead.

On Friday afternoon, I listened to the host of the public radio show Marketplace and his two Wall-Street-analyst guests discuss the implications of Donald’s first few staff choices for the economy. The two analysts were almost hysterical in their condemnation of Donald’s economic proposals. They read verbatim from the Hollywood Reporter’s interview with Bannon and flipped out over things like his plan to put infrastructure funding into shipyards when commercial ships are being dismantled and sold for scrap as fast as the Bangladeshi’s can cut them up. Part of the quote went as follows:

“It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan Revolution — Conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

The commentators took him at his word and discussed how Donald’s plan compared to the New Deal. But one could easily see his mention of the 1930s as a reference to the rise of European and American fascism (e.g., Lindbergh) justified by economic grievance. Consider another quote from the interview that some might think supports this view:

“Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”

George responds to Steve

Steve, there is so much that is true and accurate in what you say but I can’t bring myself to agree “that the great American middle class intentionally chose to elevate a self-admitted sexual predator and his white supremacist friends to national leadership.” It is hard for me to be that pessimistic about the American people. I am more an optimist. While not head over heels with Pollyanna, I lean more toward her than to Eeyore, the dismal donkey.

Now I am going to say some things with which I believe Charles disagrees and brands as elitist. However, I think that they are realistic.

Many years ago, my boss at DuPont was Mal MacNiven. He was a superb manager and businessman as well as a scholar and fine scientist. One day Mal jumped all over me for attributing a line of reasoning and set of beliefs to the “average” consumer. His words still stick with me: “George, you are as aberrant in the population as a moron.” His point was that, while highly educated people can grasp complex problems and solutions, the average consumer (or voter) usually sees only the surface of problems and then in vague terms, and has even more difficulty in discerning and understanding solutions.

To prove his point, Mal assigned me under a DuPont program to follow up on about a dozen consumer complaints. I will recount one.

A consumer in Indiana complained that her new nylon carpet stained more readily than the wool carpet it replaced. Unless there was some manufacturing defect that we couldn’t imagine, this was physically impossible. Wool’s irregular surface traps particles in a way and volume that nylon’s hard, smooth surface cannot. 

When the homeowner opened the door, I looked down and immediately knew the problem. It turned out that she had replaced a rather dark blue wool with an off-white nylon. She never could grasp that it was the color and not the material that showed the dirt. All but one of the dozen or so complaints that I investigated were variants on this theme. [By the way, as I was authorized, I replaced her nylon carpet with wool as she insisted. She chose off-white.]

Because the average consumer/voter has a difficult time properly defining the intricacies of problems and solutions, they are easily led. This is evident in the effectiveness of advertising and sound bites and it appears again in the emergence of dictators.

Germans cheered Hitler; Italians Mussolini; Spaniards Franco; and on and on. Apart from a radical, evil fringe, the cheering citizens were not all bad people. They were average Joes misled by power hungry masters of deceit who manufactured or exaggerated the problems, offered simplistic remedies, and usually scapegoated and demonized minorities and other handy targets.

The more complex the issues, the more susceptible the average voter is. Voter fraud is a serious threat to our democracy; we need photo ID. Manufacturing jobs are being stolen by foreigners and corporations that export jobs; we need to renegotiate our terrible trade deals, impose tariffs, and cut corporate taxes. Our ISIS strategy is a total failure; I would “bomb the shit out of them.” Hispanic rapists and criminals are getting a better deal than you, are stealing your jobs and are costing us millions in welfare; I am going to build a wall, round them up and deport them. Radical Islamic terrorists want to destroy the United States; we should block all Muslims from entry and register those already here. The pattern in every one of these is the same – recognize fears and concerns, lie about the problem and its causes, and offer simpleminded solutions.

The complexities of globalization, healthcare, job creation, global warming and the like stymie even great minds. They are, however, wonderfully fertile ground for a demagogue like Trump who lies for no other reason than to practice for the next lie.

Trump intentionally reached out for and awakened both the far-right wing nuts and various shades of political and social arch-conservatives. He did so openly as well as through every dog whittle he could manage. But he was shrewd enough to know that there are not enough of them to elect him. He needed a big slice of the middle class. Just like Bernie Sanders, Trump accurately read the frustration and anger that had built up in the middle class. Trump, however, was there to manipulate – not help.

In courting John and Jane Doe, Trump used the big con. Noting their grievances, he exaggerated the problems and invented related ones. He simplified them into glib phrases. He attributed them to false causes. He invented and demonized enemies. To deal with this, he offered not a single remedy capable of contending with the complex reality of today’s world. Rather in the simplest terms he fed John and Jane Doe nonsensical solutions while claiming that he and only he could implement them. Moreover, he told them repeatedly and with great bravado that he could get them implemented quickly and easily with little more than an authoritarian flick of a finger. Seeking relief from real and fanciful problems that had aggravated them for years, John and Jane Doe fell for it.

Trump followed a well-proven script. By preying on weakness, perceived grievances, and frustrations with government inaction, he conned good but exasperated and incensed people who can’t or struggle to see the real nature of the problems no less the complexities of the solutions. I don’t think that the 53% of white women who voted for Trump intentionally wanted a self-avowed sexual predator as their president.

What is frightening is that Hitler followed the same blueprint. He capitalized on the many grievances of the German people who were suffering under the punitive Treaty of Versailles and he recognized their frustration and anger with the Wiemar Republic’s failure to remedy them. By 1933, Hitler was in power blaming Jews, communists, socialists, international banking cartels, and a roster of European governments for Germany’s ills. He promised the populace that he would make Germany great again through his Thousand Year Reich and by reclaiming the 13% of Germany that was lopped off under the Treaty of Versailles. In frustration, many good people ignored his severe flaws and focused only on his promises to address their needs and bring back the good days.

In the dark corners of my mind where Eeyore hides, this specter haunts me.

 

Advertisements

2 Comments »

  1. This is great commentary. Another “big picture” view to add to the mix. For the past nearly 50 years there has been a concerted, determined, patient and extremely well-funded movement to change the popular and intellectual discourse from center left to off-the-charts right and to undermine the Federal government. Federal revenues have been slashed again and again while runaway budget deficits caused by those reductions have been dramatized and programs from the New Deal to the Great Society blamed. So, the Federal government doesn’t have the resources to make upward mobility for folks in poverty and the lower and middle, middle classes to advance. As a consequence, people feel trapped and powerless — because they, in fact, are. This has been possible because unimaginable wealth has been devoted to creating right-wing think tanks outside of and on university campuses, to supporting libertarianism (which supports individual freedom to smoke marajuana and sleep with who you want but does not support regulation to protect the environment or most government agencies and programs), to creating the Tea Party, and to getting Tea Party candidates (e.g. Cruz and Ryan as well as the NC state assembly) elected.

    Like

    • Good analysis. We have been dealing with the election, but the larger picture you paint is correct. It is now (to pervert Lincoln’s words) —“Government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.” And, unfortunately, event though we thought the last decade was bad, then “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s